It’s no secret that Chicago has a huge music scene. Rise Against, Kanye West, Fall Out Boy and The Plain White Tee’s all started here, and we have some great venues to go along with them. Everyone has their favorite place to rock out, but now things like how quickly you can get to the bar takes precedence over how close you can get to the performers. Over the years we lost some great ones, most recently Double Door (RIP), but below are a few of my current & past favorites.
Bottom Lounge: The Bottom Lounge is my absolute favorite venue in all of Chicago. No matter where you stand, you can see the performers and hear them perfectly. The room is huge, and you will have a great spot from where ever you stand, even if its a full house. The acoustics are also great. The high ceilings and spacious standing room allows for the sound to carry all the way to the back perfectly. The front of the house is a bar/restaurant area with some arcade games throughout. The back room where the shows take place also has a small bar, making it pretty easy to get to and from. The merch area is a little tight, as it is set up in the corridor that leads to the bathrooms, but It doesn’t bother me much. I mostly love that between sets I can leave the show area and head to the front bar and hang out/grab a beer. Not to mention the location is great, free parking really close by and a ton of great bars and restaurants within walking distance. Bottom Lounge is located at 1375 W. Lake St.
Beat Kitchen: The Beat Kitchen is a nostalgic favorite, not as top ranked due to it’s small size. First of all, the bartender Christina is bad ass. Over the years she has always taken care of me, so if you have the pleasure of seeing her, tip her well! The BK brings in all kinds of shows including comedy, kids shows, local bands and big names. You easily can be there for an acoustic show at 7, and by 10 a metal band has started to set up. The front bar has some booths and limited seating, but it’s a great place to hang in between sets. The downstairs show area is pretty small and the merch area is always really tightly squeezed by the front doors, but the tiny bar in the back is KEY, and super convenient for quick refills. On the menu: Try the tater tots, maybe It’s because I’m usually drinking but they are always on point. The Beat Kitchen is located at 2100 W Belmont Ave.
Metro: The Metro is easily one of my least favorite venues. I get a little bummed out when I see that a show I want to go to is being played there. Unless you would like to be a sardine and stand smack dab in the middle of the floor with a 100 other people, it’s not the best set up for actually viewing the performance. There are big pillars surrounding the main floor, so standing in the back seems great until you have to choose space or a good view. It seems like having the second floor/balcony would be great, but unless you are first on the actual rail up there, you wont able to see a damn thing. The bar on the second floor is great, but it’s more of a social gathering most of the time. If you want to hear the music, I would suggest staying on the main floor and trying to grab a spot on the sides for the best view. Metro is located at 3730 N. Clark St.
Thalia Hall: I have only been to two shows at Thalia Hall, but they have both been great. It’s spacious, has great acoustics, and even “VIP” balcony for a really enhanced experience. There is a small bar in the back that is easy to get to, and a really spacious merch area just outside of the main hall. They also have a huge second floor that overhangs the main, and allows for a huge occupancy. There is a really cool restaurant/bar in the lower level that is great for meeting/eating before and after shows. The downfall of this venue is it’s location. Unless you live in Pilsen, it’s probably going to be hike for you to get to. Thalia Hall is located at 1807 S Allport St.
House of Blues: The House of Blues used to be my favorite when I was younger, but has easily become one of my least. When I was 16 and didn’t care that people were breathing down my neck, I didn’t mind standing on the floor with about 300 other people. But if you are like me and like to have at least a little personal space, you pretty much have no where to go. The main floor is always jam packed, and standing near the bar seems like a better choice, but people will be walking by you throughout the entire show. The balcony is also a horrible choice. It’s really small and dense, so if you aren’t in the first “row” of people, you will hear the show, but won’t see it. Seeing a show at the House of Blues is basically finding a spot you can bare for longer than an hour. Drinks are also insanely over priced, but it comes with the name. The best thing about the entire place is the vibrations you get from the floor boards during the show, and the amazingly decorated high ceilings & decor. House of Blues is located at 329 N. Dearborn St.
Concord Hall: Concord is probably the venue I visit the most, and is also the most spacious. A huge main floor, a spacious balcony and multiple bars surrounding. It is a really big venue with a first floor ticket window and merch store, a separate coat check room, and then a spacious main floor. You can choose to stand in the back or on the sides, or stay on the balcony level where there is room to both sit or stand, as there is a few tall bar tables. You never have to wait more than a minute for a drink due to the 3 huge bars surrounding the main floor. More importantly, they have an amazing speaker system, and each show I’ve seen sounds great. Between DJ sets and rock shows, the acoustics sound perfect each time. Concord Hall is located at 2047 N Milwaukee Ave.
Last but not least…..
Sub T: The Subterranean is such a great venue in terms of location & atmosphere, but talk about small! Usually small is a bad thing, but the great thing about the size of Sub T is that no matter where you are, you can see & hear perfectly. The main floor is pretty small, but luckily there is a second floor with a U-shaped balcony. The balcony area upstairs is just big enough that you can peer over to the main floor/stage really easily. They also have a small TV in the back end of the balcony so you can see the performer while you wait for the restroom or are in line to buy merch. The one downfall; you should expect a pretty long wait for a drink here. Usually there is only 1-2 bartenders, a really tiny bar, and not a great selection. Subterranean is located at 2011 W North Ave.
There are so many other venues to visit in Chicago both big and small, so get out there and see a show! Form your own opinions on these iconic venues. No matter the size of the line, the wait to use the restroom or the over priced drinks, we all visit these venues for the same reason; the music. If you’re seeing a talented performer, you really can’t go wrong at any venue in Chicago 🙂
Other notables: Lincoln Hall, Aragon Ballroom & Schuba’s Tavern