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Chicago Concerts & Music Venues

15 Jul

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Our favorite Chicago concert venues:

B.L.U.E.S.

Music genre: Blues

Neighborhood: Lincoln Park

Best way to get there: Walk

2519 N. Halsted

(773) 528-1012

This popular blues club opened in 1979. Some of the best Chicago artists play here every night. This club remains unequaled for blues ambiance. Blues fans of every conceivable type CROWD this cozy room (which seats about 150) to hear stalwart Chicago blues acts such as Eddie Shaw, Magic Slim, Otis Clay & Jimmy Johnson lay down the real deal.
Show up early (before 9) or late (after midnight) if you want to get in, because the line outside can get lengthy.
Average Cover: $5-8

Elbo Room

Music genre: Rock

Neighborhood: Lincoln Park

Best way to get there: Walk up Lincoln Ave. and stop at a few bars along the way. Or taxi ($8-$10)

2871 N. Lincoln

(773) 549-5549

The beer selection is huge and the crowd is unpretentious. Most of the bands are local, but Elbo Room does see a few national acts (rock, reggae, funk, punk). You can go practically any night of the week for live music, although I would recommend Tuesday nights so you can stop by Ole Lounge across the street for their $1 sangria on Tuesdays (both red and white varieties and half off any tapas priced $7 or less). Tickets run a modest $5-$8.

Joe’s Bar

Music genre: Mixed, mostly rock

Neighborhood: Lincoln Park

Best way to get there: Taxi (about $8-$10)

940 W. Weed

(312) 337-3486

You need to visit Joe’s Bar, if for no other reason than quarter beer Tuesdays. That’s right, drafts are only 25 cents and an entire pitcher is a mere $2. The special runs from 5 p.m. to close and those who stop by before 9 p.m. also get to nosh on Joe’s pizzas for half price (they regularly start at $15).

This place is a sports fan’s dream with 120-plus televisions streaming just about any game you could want. Weekends feature occasional rock and R&B bands and has hosted a number of big-name rockers, from Eddie Money and Rick Springfield to The New Bohemians and Run DMC.

Kingston Mines

Music genre: Blues

Neighborhood: Lincoln Park

Best way to get there: Walk

2548 N. Halsted

(773) 477-4646

A Chicago blues institution that encourages its patrons to “hear the blues, drink booze and talk loud,” Kingston Mines is a prime site forviewing celebrities out for a night on the town. With 35 years in the business, and a multitude of blues clubs following in its wake, the Mines feels like an elder statesman — albeit a somewhat eccentric, rough-edged statesman. After an ambitious recent expansion, it now encompasses three storefronts and a kitchen. Two stages in adjoining rooms present nonstop blues all night long (anticipate a round of musical chairs at the end of every set, as the crowd scrambles over to the other side). The Mines is the only blues haunt with a 4 a.m. license (5 a.m. on Saturday) — meaning you might bump into your favorite blues artists relaxing after they complete their own gigs, and the crowd can be a bit boisterous after 2 a.m., when patrons migrate in from other establishments.

Park West

Music genre: Mixed, rock mostly

Neighborhood: Lincoln Park

Best way to get there: Walk

322 W. Armitage

(773) 929-1322

This venue hosts nationally and internationally known bands and singers. Once you’re through the doors, you’ll see why it’s a much-loved venue for the audience as well as performers. With incredible sound quality, an intimate setting (meaning you can see the performers’ faces) and seating options that don’t make you feel like you’re lined up in movie theater rows, this place will have you checking upcoming listings simply because you like the space so much.

Wise Fools Pub

Music genre: Rock, jam bands

Neighborhood: Lincoln Park

Best way to get there: Walk

2270 N. Lincoln

(773) 929-1300

Six flat-screen TVs keep sports fans happy, a state-of-the-art sound system pumps up the volume when rock bands take on occasional Thursday and Friday nights, and the tattered wood that was both charming and run-down was replaced by diamond plating and stainless steel accents. Two full bars keep the crowd watered with 30 draft selections and more than 45 beers by the bottle.

Metro

Music genre: Rock, punk, DJs

Neighborhood: Lakeview

Best way to get there: Redline to Addison

3730 N. Clark

773-549-0203

An old theater with the floor seating removed, Metro presents loud local and international acts in a fairly intimate venue. Formerly called Cabaret Metro, it dropped the “Cabaret” but remains one of the best live music venues in Chicago — the starting point for Smashing Pumpkins, Ministry and many others.

Vic Theater

Music genre: Mixed, rock, comedy

Neighborhood: Lakeview

Best way to get there: Redline to Belmont

3145 N. Sheffield

Phone: 773-472-0449

The Vic Theater is a great venue with a great location off of Belmont Ave. This is a larger venue that caters to national acts. Brew & View nights are also recommended when you sit at a table, sip some beer and eat pizza while watching second-run films for a fraction of the price.

Double Door

Music genre: Rock

Neighborhood: Wicker Park

Best way to get there: Taxi (about $10-$12)

1572 N. Milwaukee

(773) 489-3160

This is a primarily rock club for people who like to see live music in intimate quarters, though the club’s hip-hop, Latin, new-country, and electronic offerings are equally successful. Offering everything from local bands with promise to established touring acts to superstars like the Rolling Stones (fer real — the STONES!), Double Door’s booking power is unequalled for a club its size. With the feel of a rehearsal room/basement, the club’s sound system and layout are prime for music lovers (though sometimes harder on shorter music fans stuck in the back). You’ll stand, with drink in hand, but the raised stage, open view, and mostly excellent bookings are worth it.

Empty Bottle

Music genre: Rock

Neighborhood: West Town

Best way to get there: Taxi (about $12-$15)

1035 N. Western

(773) 276-3600

Still THE place to see live bands in Chicago, the Empty Bottle is everything a rock club should be: crowded, loud, dirty, intimate and irresistible. With live music nearly every night of the week, ranging from experimental jazz to garage rock, you can always count on two things: variety and quality. The crowd ranges from style-conscious college kids to friendly urban hippies, and the sense of musical community is palpable. Tickets rarely cost more than $15, and there’s usually a beer on special for under $2.

Wild Hare

Music genre: Reggae

Neighborhood: Lakeview

Best way to get there: Redline to Belmont

3530 N. Clark

(773) 327-0868

The Wild Hare hosts reggae heavy-hitters, from locals to international acts such as Shabba Ranks. There are often two performances per night on weekends, one at 9:30pm, the other at midnight. Cover can be as high as $20 for big-name performers such as Yellow Man. DJs spin between sets or when no band is booked. The bar serves Jamaica’s favorite beer, Red Stripe, as well as Caribbean-style mixed drinks.

Green Mill

Music genre: Jazz

Neighborhood: Uptown

Best way to get there: Redline to Lawrence. Take a taxi if you are going late ($10-$15)

4802 N. Broadway

(773) 878-5552

This is a MUST! It is a little out of the way but well worth the trip.  Gangsters and celebrities haunted this nearly century-old club in its early days. Now well-heeled jazz enthusiasts and urban hipsters make the scene. Touring and local acts, from cool jazz to big band, take the stage each weekend; local performers play regular slots on school nights. Every Sunday since 1986, the Green Mill has hosted the Uptown Poetry Slam, the verse performance competition that sparked the poetry slam movement.  The club fills up quickly on weekends, so come early to get a view of the stage — and even earlier if you expect to get a seat.

If you wish to talk with your friends and avoid a cover charge, get there after 2am (open until 5am on weekends). The late night house band is usually very entertaining and the crowd is more rambunctious than during the early set. During the early set, the staff will “shush” you if you are talking too loudly and cover is typically $10-$20.

Blue Chicago (two locations)

Music genre: Blues

Neighborhood: River North

Best way to get there: Clark Street bus (22)

736 N. Clark

(312) 462-6261

536 N. Clark

(312) 661-0100

There are two locations but they are only two blocks away from each other. Blue Chicago features local acts highlighting such female blues singers as Lynne Jordan, Bonnie Lee, Shirley Johnson and Patricia Scott–”women with huge voices belting out the blues . . . I think that’s what the blues is all about,” says Gino Battaglia, co-owner with his wife, Bernadette. An annual Blues Women’s Festival is held on the second weekend of each May. This club, which opened in April 1995, attracts tourists and conventioneers desiring a taste of Chicago blues, which invariably includes audience participation for “Meet Me With Your Black Drawers On” and “Sweet Home, Chicago.” The decor is pure Hollywood backlot blues club, right down to the burlap-sack sound baffles in the rafters and the red brick walls.

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