Iron Horse Music Hall: Heartbeat of Northampton’s music scene

By taylor white

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Robert Rigo/Daily Collegian

(Robert Rigo/Daily Collegian)

From the outside, the storefront is unassuming and could be dismissed as just another quaint shop in downtown Northampton. The Iron Horse, however, is no ordinary venue. Behind its doors lives a room rich with the history, culture and diversity of generations of musicians.

The music hall has occupied its space in Northampton since 1979, conceived by founders Jordi Herold and John Riley. Its extensive and unique history is palpable in the atmosphere of the main room, with autographed pictures of past performers adorning the walls. Livingston Taylor, Suzanne Vega, John Mayer and Tracey Chapman are just a few of the faces that hang above the audiences.

The Iron Horse has, over the years, fostered an environment of creativity and unity across expansive bounds of musical genres and styles.

The owners of the club attribute this singular success to the small town of Northampton. Current owner Eric Suher attributes some of the club’s notoriety to a special run by WGBY on the club’s 35th anniversary, but locals have helped its popularity.
“If you step back and look at the history of the Iron Horse and the history of Northampton, it’s a very symbiotic relationship. They both kind of grew up together,” Suher said.

The club has been able to showcase an exceptionally broad range of artists, ranging from African folk performers to classically trained violinists, all while attracting audiences large enough to keep the venue at capacity.

Acts are not picked for their ability to draw crowds, but for the authenticity of their music and for the energy they put forth during a performance. The Horse has hosted famous singers like Dar Williams as well as start-up musicians whose names are largely unknown, but that does not deter the crowds.

University of Massachusetts student Michaela Dunn attended a performance of Crystal Bowersox, a former competitor on season nine of American Idol, without any prior knowledge of the main performer or the opening acts. Dunn said her unfamiliarity with the artist was a surprise, not a negative impact on her experience.

“I would say it made it even better because I was so impressed at the level of talent the place brought in,” Dunn said. Not only does the Horse offer exceptional musical entertainment, but its food is outstanding. Keeping with their commitment to provide a warm and folksy atmosphere, they provide a gourmet twist on classic American fare.

Tickets are also priced affordably, which entices local college students to attend a show.


Taylor White can be reached at [email protected].