At Midwest Action, we go to a few shows – it kind of comes with the territory. Our Chicago crew has been to – and, consequently, enjoyed shows at – many, many Chicago venues, and we had to share a few of our favorite places to catch some live music. Whether you’re in the city or just passing through, we hope to see you somewhere below soon!
Don’t see your favorite on the list? Share your pick in the comments section below.
The Empty Bottle – Ukranian Village
“The secret is out, the Empty Bottle is not so empty these days. They’ve already made plenty of other end of the year lists so it may come as no surprise that they’ve made ours. I honestly can’t recall the first show I saw at the Empty Bottle, all I know is that I kept going back afterwards. It’s become Chicago’s Mecca for garage, punk, psych, and anything remotely experimental and interesting. Touring bands and locals alike grace the stage every night of the week. Their weekly “Free Mondays” bring out huge crowds and incredible lineups (and allow you to spend your extra cash on booze). If you haven’t been, find a reason to go, even if it’s just for Sunday Brunch or the incredible food at the conjoining restaurant Bite.” -Dan Jarvis
“I thought the Empty Bottle was pretty great, and then they put a claw machine inside and my head exploded. Home to great music and great shows, it amazes me consistently with a good draw even with next-to-zero public transit options nearby. I’ve seen folk shows there, I’ve seen psych shows there – the venue doesn’t discriminate, just books good bands ‘on the reg’, as they say. The set-up inside is interesting, allowing for good views of the band from nearly any vantage point, and offers a separate room for merch and general socializing, should the necessity arise. Good beer prices, too!” -Alyssa Lee
Emporium Arcade Bar – Wicker Park
“I went to my first show at Emporium this year, and damn was it a good time. Live music, video games, and a rotating menu of craft beer – c’mon, you’d have to be a straight-up fun-hater to not enjoy this place. On days when there’s no live music, enjoy some classic Pac-Man or play Burgertime and get in touch with your culinary side. Swing by on a Thursday or Friday night to catch some live music and the potentially awesome movie backdrop the band has chosen. We’ve seen Vaya play to TMNT, Evasive Backflip play to Powerpuff Girls, and Swimsuit Addition play to Tank Girl; sometimes their music was magically and perfectly the soundtrack to the backdrop. Highly recommended, ten-out-of-ten stars.” -Alyssa Lee
Tonic Room – Lincoln Park
“Home some excellent MWA shows in 2014 this is a venue where anything goes. You can catch local hip hop killing it one night and folk rock the next. From acts like Show You Suck to the hard rock of Mutts the Tonic Room always promises to deliver. Like in standard Chicago tradition, they have great drink specials. With a shot and a brew you can catch the act from practically anywhere in the room and still have a great view.” -Patrick David
Uncommon Ground on Clark – Wrigleyville
“The site of the sold out MWA Show featuring Wild Hands proved to be an excellent venue. While it is certainly on the smaller side, the atmosphere, craft beer, and table service is something unmatched by other venues. You get all the benefits of getting a sit in show (blasphemy for the hard rockers) and top quality sound and lights. If you’re headed up to get some dinner or some drinks make sure to request a table in the music room. But hurry because it sells out fast.” -Patrick David
Cole’s Bar – Logan Square
“First off, it’s free, always. Second off, the beer is cheap. The fact that they book some incredible acts makes Cole’s the perfect place to see some damn good music without spending much in the process. While the bar only books 8 shows a month (Friday’s and Saturday’s) they have a built-in crowd that pack the music room every night. They treat bands well also. Bartenders double as sound engineers during shows, eliminating the “production cost” and thus allowing bands to earn a fair share of the bar split. Bands let loose there and always seem to be having as good of a time as the crowd is. I’ve never had a bad time there and don’t expect to.” -Dan Jarvis