Live at the Venue

Appears in the April 2023 issue.

By Mike Thomas

Aurora’s surging music spot is resonating with locals

Meghan Murphy performing with Killer Queens
Meghan Murphy performing with Killer Queens

In June 2019, the Fox Valley Music Foundation added yet another feather to downtown Aurora’s cultural cap when it opened the Venue at 21 South Broadway. Housed in a former Woolworth’s, the meticulously designed 200-seat “listening room” is becoming a favorite performance space for local and national artists. It’s also connecting in a wider way with the surrounding community.

But getting to this point hasn’t been easy. Just nine months after the Venue opened, the pandemic shut it down—and kept it closed until concerts resumed on an outdoor stage in fall 2021. Indoor performances followed several months later, though with strict public health protocols in place. (Masks are still recommended but optional.)

Antony +The Tramps
Antony +The Tramps

“At the beginning of 2020, it felt like all of our 2019 work was starting to gain momentum,” says Scott Tipping, the Venue’s events producer and talent buyer. “Thankfully and beautifully, everyone stayed the course. It’s been very arduous, but it’s actually a beautiful thing as far as the power of music and the power of people wanting to keep music happening. Our team didn’t give up, and the artists that came in and played were super grateful for their assistance.”

As a new normal settles in, things are finally beginning to gel.

“Here we are in 2023, and it’s starting to feel like we’re finding our footing again,” Tipping says. “It’s taken a long time to rebuild, and it’s been a heck of a process.”

Wayne Baker Brooks Band
Wayne Baker Brooks Band

Because the Venue is a not-for-profit venture, Tipping’s team is largely volunteers. Aside from four full-time staffers and a rotating roster of paid sound designers, nearly everyone donates their services. While tickets bring in very modest revenues (they generally cost between $15 and $25), and a limited variety of booze and food is sold, it’s all about affordability and accessibility over profitability. Some events, like a monthly Friday showcase for local singer-songwriter duos, cost nothing or next to nothing. Dig out a fiver for the suggested donation, or don’t—your choice, no presh.

“There’s a more communal aspect about what we do because our volunteers are music lovers who just want to help facilitate a show as best as possible,” Tipping says. “And it’s fun for them, because they get to see some cool things. We also have little private parties and events for them. It’s a very friendly atmosphere. You get to meet some people and have a good time.”

Outside The Venue

The same goes for patrons, most of them locals, who stop in to kick back and catch a set.

“A little gem in downtown Aurora,” one online reviewer wrote.

“A beautiful new space, great acoustics, a classy yet comfortable music club vibe,” gushed another. “We can’t wait to return.”

That’s surely music to Tipping’s ears.


Photos courtesy of The Venue