Local Current Blog

Eight great places to hear live music at the University of Minnesota

First Aid Kit at the Varsity Theater in June. Photo by Steven Cohen for MPR.

As a live music enthusiast who’s also a high school senior trying to figure out how to pay for college, I have become very good at finding affordable shows. This is a list of eight great places to hear live music on the University of Minnesota—Twin Cities campus. This list includes a wide variety of venues, prices, and genres that will appeal to all sorts of people: these are by no means student-exclusive!

Varsity Theater

Conveniently located on 4th Street in Dinkytown, featuring affordable shows by a variety of worldwide musicians and bands, and home to some of the best bathrooms in the nation, the Varsity is a favored place for college students wanting to hear live music. The architecture, interior design, and lighting make for a moody, memorable vibe.

Whole Music Club

From what was originally a little coffeehouse to the widely acclaimed venue it is today, the Whole—run by the Student Union—has grown significantly since its opening in the 60s. The bands that play here are quite eclectic, but are typically hip-hop, punk, and indie/alt rock. Artists from across the nation come to play here, giving students another affordable option to see some live music.


Northrop now includes 13 different galleries, theaters, lounges, and other rooms. Recently renovated to improve acoustics, views, and seating, Northrop now holds up to 2,700 people and has upcoming bookings for big names such as the Decemberists and Damien Rice. Although shows here can be a bit more expensive, student discounts are offered, and people can enjoy a plethora of free concerts and productions.

Northrop Plaza

Northrop’s exterior space is also a great place to hear music. The Plaza is a very popular hangout during the warmer months, great for outdoor lunches and studying. It has been home to summer music festivals and has hosted countless local bands and artists—and many of the events are free!

Weisman Art Museum

Not regularly thought of when it comes to music venues, the Weisman Art Museum has hosted a multitude of concerts and events featuring live music. WAM-O-Rama, probably the most popular event, is an annual school-year-kick-off celebration with live music, predominantly featuring local artists. It’s a good idea to keep an eye on their events page if you’re looking for affordable live music.

Ted Mann Concert Hall

This one’s primarily for classical music lovers, with a few exceptions. Ted Mann is a beautiful auditorium seating just over 1,000. A full concert schedule features solely student and faculty musicians of the music school, another schedule is for guest performers, and nearly every concert is free admission.

TCF Bank Stadium

Although much more popular when it comes to football, TCF Bank Stadium has hosted a few high-profile artists including U2, Iggy Azalea, Passion Pit, Imagine Dragons, and even Minneapolis’s own Atmosphere. Shows here tend to be very large and a bit more pricey depending on who’s playing; the upcoming One Direction show is selling forty dollars and up per ticket. An obvious place to see big name artists, not intimate, but still an overall well-respected venue.

House parties

This one is half an insignificant side note, and half a very serious suggestion. I asked Jake Luppen of Hippo Campus about venues they’ve played, and he said, “House parties usually can’t be beat.” Most college students would find it hard to disagree.

Maia Jacobson is a high school senior who takes college courses at the University of Minnesota—Twin Cities.

  • Bob Tuff

    Greetings from Guadalajara, Maia! I’m listening to the Kris Kristopherson interview on American Routes and reminiscing about all the amazing acts I caught at the Whole when I was a U student in the 1970’s – Odetta, Steve Goodman, New Riders of the Purple Sage, Country Gazette….. I’m a hopeless folkie. Thanks for posting and rekindling the memories. Bob Tuff