Skip to main content

The Blue Note

Discover music, art and good reads in downtown Columbia, Missouri

written by Jackie Tucker


My husband, Jake, and I are massive music fans. The 9th Street Summerfest in Columbia, Missouri, is one of our favorite music festivals of the year. We buy our tickets early, clear our calendars and drive two hours from St. Louis to enjoy warm summer nights filled with all our favorite music. Last year, we tried something new. Instead of just heading downtown for the concert in the evening, we had decided to make a day of it. As many times as we had been to Summerfest, we had never taken the time to explore the surrounding downtown area of Columbia—The District.

“Why have we not done this before?” I remembered Jake asking as we wandered down streets filled with sidewalk cafes, art studios and gorgeous old buildings.

Maybe it was the freedom of a summer day with no set agenda, or maybe it was the anticipation of the concert later, but the city seemed to be giving off a warm, energetic vibe that I was embracing wholeheartedly.

A good story

“Jake, look!” I pointed out a store window full of books.

I can’t pass up a good bookstore, and I could tell there was something special about Yellow Dog Bookshop. From the adorable name to the two children who were laughing as they walked out of the shop with their parents, I knew we had to go inside.

As Jake held the door open for me, he said (a little overdramatically), “All this happened, more or less.”

It was a running joke between us. I have this quirky knack for remembering the first lines of famous novels, and Jake always tries to one-up me. As I walked in, I responded with one of my favorites from Pride and Prejudice. “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.”

Jake grinned as he browsed through a stack of books on a table by the door. He picked one up and cleared his throat.

“Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show.”

“All right, you win!” I laughed. It’s hard to compete with Dickens.

I made my way along the rows of shelves filled with everything from new releases to beloved childhood favorites. The smell of old books and the soft shuffling of pages took me back to afternoons spent at the library after school. And then, I saw my favorite book as a little girl—The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams. It wasn’t new, but it was in excellent condition. On the inside cover an inscription read, “To Anna: I hope you enjoy this story as much as I did (and still do). Love, Aunt Sarah.”

And even though I already had three copies of the book, I bought this one, too.

Local art scene

A few blocks away we discovered the Columbia Art League, a gallery of work from talented national and local artists. The art was eclectic and vibrant, a reflection of The District itself. There seemed to be something for everyone—paintings, sculptures and even handcrafted items. It was a visual feast that ranged from contemporary art to funky folklore.

“I don’t understand it, but I like it.” Jake admired a rather psychedelic painting with a turtle in front of a cityscape on a bright blue background. “It looks like it should be an album cover.” Jake is a graphic designer, and I could see his mind spinning with ideas. It was fun to watch his creative process at work.

As we explored the rest of the art in the gallery, I began to appreciate the fact that local artists created all these pieces. While I am certainly no artist myself, I do enjoy it and admire organizations such as the Columbia Art League that involve national and local talent and give emerging and accomplished artists a place to showcase their work together.

Music and lyrics

We spent the rest of the afternoon strolling the streets of The District, delighted by the lovely shops and restaurants around every corner. After a quick bite to eat at Flat Branch Pub & Brewing, we made our way to The Blue Note. A crowd was filling the streets around the outdoor stage and the excitement was growing.

The Blue Note was the perfect spot for live music performances, small with a great bar. Jake and I discovered a couple of our favorite new bands there. It’s standing room only by the stage and the balcony seating is where it’s at if you want a great view. The intimate venue had amazing acoustics, but for 9th Street Summerfest, they took the party outside so more people could get in on the action.

Jake and I made our way to the stage, weaving in and out of the crowd. The energy was contagious. The band hit the stage and we joined in with all the other screaming fans. This may have been what we came for, but Columbia had delivered more than just a great concert and we certainly looked forward to returning in 2018.

Discover The District in Columbia.

Continue reading...

I’m Taylor, and I’m the Sports Sales Manager at the Columbia Convention and Visitors Bureau. I came to Columbia in 2009 to attend Mizzou. I love to travel, hike, watch/play basketball and golf, and listen to music. Fortunately, Columbia has options for all that and more, which is why I love this place. Music is a huge passion of mine and every month I’ll be sharing my favorites from each month of shows and upcoming ones you shouldn’t miss.


The month of April was filled with quite the array of music. Genres ranging from alternate rock and country to tribute bands honoring some of the greats like Chuck Berry, Pink Floyd, and the Beastie Boys.  Attending concerts at opens in a new windowThe Blue Note and opens in a new windowRose Music Hall has become a monthly priority for myself and many others. Experiencing live music from local artists, national artists, or even tribute bands is entirely different than listening to them on your device. The atmosphere created during a live concert between the musicians and the audience is electric, no matter what the genre.

Interstellar Overdrive (credit: Scott Peterson “That Guy with the Camera”)

While I was only able to attend two of the fifteen concerts at The Blue Note in the month of April, the lineup of artists was amazing. The Los Angeles-based alternative-rock band, Local Natives kicked off the month, bringing their Sunlit Youth tour to Columbia. Following them were two recognizable country concerts, the Josh Abbott Band and a sold out show for Chase Rice. A Salute to Chuck Berry, and Interstellar Overdrive kept the middle of the month rocking with phenomenal tributes to two of rock and roll’s best artists. Closing out the month was yet another tribute to a legendary band. My Posse In Effect honored legendary New York hip-hop group the Beastie Boys. If you closed your eyes and just listened you would have thought it was the real thing! Established country artist, Chris Stapleton, also filled Mizzou Arena to close out a great month of music.

Chase Rice and his sold out trophy (credit: The Blue Note)

Columbia is known for bringing in artists of all genres and decades. One thing that has become a constant lately has been the infatuation with old school hip-hop from the 80s and 90s. Coming up on Saturday, May 13th is the third installment of this type of event at The Blue Note. 80s vs. 90s Old School  Hip-Hop Edition will feature two of Columbia’s finest DJs, taking you on a musical journey through the greatest decades of hip-hop. You don’t want to miss this battle of hip-hop music!

Other highlights for May:

Continue reading...

Happy Friday! I’m Taylor, and I’m the Sports Sales Manager at the Columbia Convention and Visitors Bureau. I came to Columbia in 2009 to attend Mizzou. I love to travel, hike, watch/play basketball and golf, and listen to music. Fortunately, Columbia has options for all that and more, which is why I love this place. Music is a huge passion of mine and every month I’ll be sharing my favorites from each month of shows and upcoming ones you shouldn’t miss.


Picking up where January left off, there was no shortage of fireworks from the Columbia music scene in February. The second month of 2017 provided amazing talent ranging from locally-established bands and DJs to nationally known artists – from underground hip-hop all the way to Ben Folds and his piano and everything in between. The Blue Note alone sold out six shows.

Mega-artist, Florida Georgia Line, kicked off this month by rocking the crowd at Mizzou Arena. Back-to-back sold out shows at The Blue Note from producer/DJ Datsik and country artist, Dylan Scott, started a trend of peak attendance shows in the middle of the month. Boston-based rapper, Sammy Adams, capped off an amazing month of music with his Senioritis Tour, which had the crowd bobbing up and down like they had just gotten off a cruise ship.  

I was able to attend four performances in Columbia this month, hearing four different types of music. My month of live music started off by witnessing my personal favorite artist, Atmosphere, at The Blue Note. This hip-hop duo, who hail from Minneapolis, Minnesota, have brought their tours to Columbia nearly every year since their formation 20+ years ago. They tour with artists from their self-created, independent record label, Rhymesayers, spreading positive and relatable lyrics and creating an energetic atmosphere that has the crowd engaged from the opening acts. Next up was a band I had never heard of but has a loyal following since forming in Portland in 2008. STRFKR is an alternative rock/dance band known for their energetic live performances, putting meaning behind dance beats.

Turning to the local scene, Rose Music Hall hosted three of Columbia’s best artists. Don’t Mind Dying, Decadent Nation, and The Royal Furs put on an amazing performance of rock and blues, and the entrance fee was only $5! With the well established talent in Columbia, that price is hard to beat anywhere. Capping off my month of February music, The Blue Note took us back to the original emcees of the hip-hop scene. DJ Requiem hosted a great show, playing 80s and 90s hip-hop from the pioneers who helped build the genre.

Here are some highlights for next month:

  • Kicking off the month, on March 1st, is some soulful, indie, alternative rock by Lotus.
  • On March 2-5, The Blue Note will host a number of films during the True/False Film Fest. I’ll be attending the festival for the first time and have heard nothing but greatness from those who have been before.
  • Fans of 80s rock ‘n’ roll, including Journey, Def Leppard, Blondie, and more, will enjoy The Cherry Pistols, Missouri’s premier 80s tribute band, on March 10th.
  • The Revivalists will bring their New Orleans funk to town on March 14th.
  • Louis the Child, an electronic duo who make music that makes people happy, will grace the stage on March 16th.
  • Maybe the biggest band to come to Columbia on March 17th is an alternative rock band, the Cold War Kids, whose hit single “First” was #1 for eight weeks on the Alternative radio charts.  
  • On March 31st, four Missouri bands (in parentheses) will perform a tribute to four of Seattle’s best rock bands, Alice in Chains (The Hipnecks), Soundgarden (The Many Colored Death), Pearl Jam (Decadent Nation), and Nirvana (Madora/Down Side Up). Seattle Royal III, returning for the third time as the name implies, is sure to rock the house to close out a great month of shows.

Check out opens in a new windowThe Blue Note’s website, opens in a new windowRose Music Hall’s website, or Visit Columbia MO for all your upcoming music needs!

Continue reading...

So far this summer, opens in a new windowThe Blue Note 9th Street Summerfests have included artists ranging from Girl Talk to Ana Popovic. But just because the weather will turn cooler soon means the fun is over. This year, Summerfest will be extending through September, with some incredible acts filling downtown Columbia with music.

opens in a new windowCracker

August 8th-Free!

Cracker

Cracker, the group that veritably introduced brash irreverence and irony into alt-rock, are back and in top form on their 429 Records debut, Sunrise In The Land Of Milk And Honey.

This rich new trove of sharp-witted songs showcases a bristling, late 70’s – early 80’s power pop punk aesthetic which hits as hard as it did at the band’s formation 17 years ago. Eight albums (one platinum and three gold) and a barrel full of anthemic hit songs later, Cracker endures, using their ability to weave decades of influences into an album that is seamlessly riveting.

opens in a new windowWilco

September 16th-Tickets $35

Wilco

Last time Wilco graced the stage on 9th Street, it was a memorable summer evening and the street was packed. The night was hot but breezy, Wilco was incredible and we almost smacked into Jeff Tweedy as he was running for his tour bus (really, we did!).

Though not officially a ‘Summerfest’ show, this time around, Wilco is back after a long break to promote their  album ‘The Whole Love’ and Columbia will be ready to pack 9th Street again. Wilco truly loves Columbia and we’re so excited to welcome them back.

opens in a new windowThe Head and the Heart

September 29th-Tickets $22 in advance

Head and the Heart

Leaving a variety of day jobs and academic pursuits, The Head and the Heart came together in the summer of 2009, during frequent visits to the open mic night at Conor Byrne in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood. California-transplant Josiah Johnson and Virginia-native Jonathan Russell formed the core songwriting partnership, quickly adding keyboardist Kenny Hensley to the mix. Kenny, then 21, had packed up his piano and moved up to Seattle from California to pursue musical score-writing. The luminous Charity Rose Thielen, violin and vocals, had just returned from a year of studying and playing music in Paris. Drummer Tyler Williams cold left a successful band in Virginia after Jon sent him the demo of “Down in the Valley,” relocating across states to be a part of this. Finally, Chris Zasche, was bartending at Conor Byrne and mentioned one day that he’d be happy to play bass for the nascent band. It all felt right: The Head and the Heart was born.

As with all Summerfest shows, the entrance gate is on the north end of 9th Street and 9th at Walnut and you can purchase beverages inside the gates. The events are rain or shine, and all standing room is first come first serve. No chairs, pets, bikes, or backpacks with the event area please. We’ll see you on 9th Street!

Continue reading...

If you’re looking to have a true Columbia experience, be sure to schedule your visit during a 9th Street Summerfest. Every summer, opens in a new windowThe Blue Note closes down the street outside their venue (9th Street between Walnut and Broadway) for spectacular nights of music. Everyone from Wilco to Snoop Dogg have been a part of Summerfest and this year’s lineup is equally outstanding.

June 15th: Girl Talk

A former biomedical engineer, Pittsburgh artist Gregg Gillis (aka Girl Talk) has scrupulously created music from samples for over eight years. His fourth album, Feed the Animals, continues his sonic evolution towards his party-infested live show. Shows are nonstop hours of music, dancing and sweat. opens in a new windowTickets are only $25.

July 20th: Ana Popovic

Come see one of the world’s best female guitarists in the FREE Summerfest show! With a new album coming out in August, expect new and old favorites from this incredible artist. No ticket hassle for this show…just come out and enjoy!

August 8th: Cracker

Formed over 17 years ago, Cracker returns to Columbia for a FREE Summerfest show! Soak in their sharp-witted songs influenced by late 70s and early 80s sounds with a pop-punk aesthetic.

No matter which Summerfest you attend (Just go to all of them!), you’ll find a group of enthusiastic show goers sipping beer, spending time with friends and dancing in the street in downtown Columbia. It will give you a taste of what summer in Columbia feels like.

Continue reading...