Any concertgoer is aware of the delicate balance between a good music venue and their favorite bands. Chicago is home to a massive conglomerate of music; nearly every weekend, world-renowned bands and artists are hidden in every crevice of the city. You can find anything from hard rock to electronic and all within venues in close proximity to each other. The question is: Which of these venues is worth your admission?
Responsible for headlining national breakouts such as The Smashing Pumpkins and turning a small British gig called Oasis into a household name, Metro continuously curates both rising and well-established artists. The venue houses big, overpowering production sets for its intimate space, easily surprising newcomers and loyal attendees alike. Metro’s nights can go as late (or early) as 5am, thanks to its underground dance club called Smart Bar, which hosts recurring DJs such as James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem and Chicago underground house legend Derrick Carter. Blocks away from Wrigleyville’s bar scene, the options are endless even after the concert finishes.
On the southeast corner of Southport and Belmont, a former Schlitz brewery took the name of Schubas Tavern in 1988. The space of a 165 headcount carries the distinction of nurturing early acts, such as Dave Matthews and Modest Mouse. With easy accessibility between its old-fashioned bar and concert space, the venue feels more like a friend’s band debut in a cozy basement (if your friend happens to be apart of Feist or My Morning Jacket). Adjacent to the venue, Schubas houses its own restaurant named Harmony Grill. Do not pass up on the macaroni and cheese.
Arguably one of the most sterile, classy, and indie-friendly scenes on the North Side, six-year-old Lincoln Hall is an expansion of its successful counterpart, Schubas Tavern. Located next to DePaul University and across from the former Biograph Theatre, acts such as Mumford & Sons, M83 and Chvrches are no strangers to the college town venue. Split into two floors, Lincoln Hall regularly hosts concerts, comedy shows, and movie screenings. The venue also follows the Schuba brothers’ tradition of offering a great, affordable restaurant and bar.
Located in Ukrainian Village, The Empty Bottle is as intimate as it gets. From hip-hop to death metal, the venue offers a dizzying array of genres and artists. Although the venue has hosted names such as The Strokes and Animal Collective, it retains the vibe of a simple, concealed neighborhood bar. You can count on cheap drinks with deafening sound, complete with a pool table, photo booths, and pinball machines. Like the previous, intimate venues, it’s probably no coincidence that The Empty Bottle branches off into Bite Cafe, a neighboring restaurant with a knack for brunch.
A list of Chicago music venues isn’t complete without the blues; Kingston Mines is a famous blues nightclub located in Lincoln Park. When guests walk into the narrow entrance, it expands into a large space with long, narrow tables and a low ceiling, emitting an orange, welcoming glow among the crowd. The venue is most notable for its regular, headlining performers and gritty, Southern atmosphere. Among popular blues legends, Kingston Mines has hosted the talents of Eddie Shaw and Carl Weathersby. Patrons fill the space almost every night, so make sure you grab a seat very early.
Matthew Iammarino is a DePaul alumnus, film enthusiast, writer, and fighter for all suburbanites; topped with an affinity for travel and, admittedly, the city life. When he’s not writing for The Culture Trip, he is either “attempting” to write the next nine-figure blockbuster or hanging with friends at the bar that everyone overlooks. You can catch his film/humor blog at absolutefilmstuff.com.