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A Decade of Music

Iota marks 10 years of expansion, poetry and music.

Music was taped, not live on Monday night at Iota Club and Café. But the tiny club was still packed with fans who came to celebrate Iota’s 10th anniversary.

Regulars greeted each other in astonishment, marveling at the sight of someone dressed in work clothes, not in a concert T-shirt.

The club on Monday, March 15, was a far cry from the Iota that opened on March 15, 1994. That restaurant and bar was one-third the size, with a small stage. Since then, it has played host to punk and indie mainstays, and young turks: Frank Black, Dale Watson, Norah Jones, Juliana Hatfield, the Mekons and the lead singers of Squeeze and Men at Work.

But brother-and-sister owners Stephen Negrey and Jane Negrey Inge said that 10 years ago, they wouldn’t have been surprised to find out their club would one day triple in size. “Our space was so small,” said Negrey. “We knew we had to expand,” said Inge.

<b>BORN IN ARLINGTON,</b> the two opened Iota as a music venue for singer-songwriters, artists in a mix of genres, including alt-country, rock, indie pop and world music.

In 1996, the two bought the space next door to the original Iota, adding a separate dining area while expanding the stage and bar area.

“We tried to make it the same, but bigger,” said Inge.

It helped finding space next door. “It worked out so well, to be able to renovate and get the same building style next door,” said Negrey, “and not to have to give up what we liked about the little space.”

Even after it expanded, Iota’s performance space stayed true to its name, and many acts have sold out the club, making it hard to pick any one band as the biggest draw in a decade. “There’s so many,” said Inge. “I would have to pick between maybe 20 artists” “Or more,” said Negrey.

In September, Iota will mark another 10-year anniversary for its Poetry Series, hosted by local poet Miles David Moore, who has hosted the monthly poetry nights since September 1994. To mark that anniversary, Moore said, “we’re going to try to record a live CD with poets” reciting their work from the Iota stage.

“There are so many great ideas,” said Inge. “Music is still our main focus. We want to keep presenting great shows.”