The Midwest is home to many venues, each of them unique in their own way. While I’d love to travel the Midwest and review each in its entirety, for now I am just going to cover the awesome music spots we have here in the old Windy City.
If you ask any music-enthusiast in Chicago, they’ll each tell you their favorite spot to grab a brew and listen to a band or two rock. That can mean that there are potentially a hundred or so to cover. That’s a little intimidating, so instead enjoy five that gave me a pretty great music-going experience in 2013:
The Hideout – 1354 W Wabansia Ave, Chicago, IL 60642
Hidden in the industrial park of Chicago is one of my favorite venues to head out to. The atmosphere alone is enough to secure it a spot on my list, but there’s definitely more to this once notorious establishment. Home to 1930s bootleggers and the everyday man of the past to the musicians of today, this is an establishment dripping with Chicago history. A city of mobsters built it, and a city of indie rockers have transformed it into a great place for music. The bar is always serving great brews and the music is always top notch. There’s no sign, there’s no advertisement telling you “this way!”, you just have to know where it is (or you can just pop in the address to your GPS). Tell them MWA sent you.
- January 4: Jonas Friddle & The Majority
- January 23-25: Chicago Psych Fest V with Verma, Outer Minds, Velcro Lewis Group
- January 30: Screaming Females, White Mystery
The Empty Bottle – 1035 N Western Ave, Chicago, IL 60622
The Empty Bottle is the place where you can see local kids from down the street or the touring dynamo that is looking to book a more intimate show. Located in the heart of Chicago and south of Wicker Park, this venue has quickly become one of the best hot spots in Chicago. Cheap beer and great tunes makes this venue one of the best in the city. They have music 7 days a week, and every night is a great time. Friends to Midwest Action, and honestly friends to everyone, this is a venue where an artist can get their start and then keep coming back for more great performances. People chat outside over smokes like old friends (and, hell, some of them are) and inside it’s always a party. If you have the chance to hit up the Empty Bottle, you definitely want to.
- January 7: Notes and Bolts presents Charlatan, Cochise Soulstar, + freestyle rap battle
- January 9: Midwest Action Party with Sidewalk Chalk, Midwest Hype, + friends
- January 16: Sunjacket, Ghastly Menace, Brontosaurus
The Double Door – 572 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL 60622
Hidden near the EL tracks in the middle of Wicker Park is the Double Door. This is a great venue for some cold beer and amazing artists. While they are known for being a breeding ground for up-and-coming artists, they’re also known for the secret shows they throw with artists that’ll make your jaw drop. In ’97, the Rolling Stones and the Smashing Pumpkins surprised us with a secret show; another time, Sonic Youth. Muse has also been known to drop in from time to time. Arguably one of the best secret shows was a last-minute Rise Against appearance in 2003. No matter who takes the stage, the Double Door promises good times.
- January 24: Brother George, Jonny Drake, Santah
- January 31: Carbon Tigers, Suns, Secret Colours, Wedding Dress
Goose Island in Wrigleyville – 35 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60657
Some might contest this next choice, but for me this is a personal favorite. The stage has seen some of the best local acts that the city has to offer and the bar, owned and operated by Goose Island, offers some of the best local brews you can get. Everything from the famous 312 Urban Wheat Ale to their speciality of the month, this place equal parts brewery and venue. You can get a perfect view of the stage no matter where you’re standing, and the sound is impeccable. They’re not rocking 7 days a week like some of the venues mentioned, but when they are I encourage you to grab a locally-brewed beer and check out the show.
The Suberranean – 2011 W North Ave, Chicago, IL 60647
The final venue on my list is the famous SubT. This venue has been around since ’96 and has been bringing amazing music to the city ever since it opened. You’ll find everything from DJs spinning dance music to hard rock bands that will shake the walls. There is always something going on at the SubT. The building that the SubT occupies is over 110 years old and they own all of it. The lower level always serves food and booze and generally has a DJ playing something to the crowd’s liking. Up a quick flight of stairs you’ll find The Cabaret Room. Complete with chandelier in the middle, this two-story venue is one of the best places to party and catch a show in the city. I have seen everything from hip hop artists to punk shows here and all of it fit the venue perfectly. Sure, it can be tough to see if you don’t get a good spot on the 2nd floor rail or close to the stage on the 1st floor, but the cheap beer and good people make up for it. While the rumor is that the city would love to see the SubT’s doors close for good, they fly open each and every night, and the crowds continue to flock to this iconic Chicago venue.
- January 11: Maritime, The Sweeps, When Clouds Attack
- January 23: Red Francis, the Uglies
- February 22: Moon Taxi, Daniel Ellsworth & The Great Lakes, Santah
Who knows what 2014 is going to hold, but for now you’ll always be able to find me at with a beer in hand at any of these five venues, ready to not only listen to good music but talk music. Come find me and let me know your favorite spot in Chicago, or even better, toss us a venue location in the comments and we’ll all check it out!