The United Center, Soldier Field, Allstate Arena, and Wrigley Field may bring in the biggest acts, but when it comes to atmosphere and sound quality, there are some hidden gems that take the cake. When you want to get up close and personal with your favorite musicians, these are the spots you need to check out.
The Empty Bottle
This is one of the most classic Chicago spots. The Empty Bottle is featured in many Chicago-based movies, and it has a dive bar feel while supporting a top-notch sound system. Whether your favorite band is playing here or you’re stopping in to see a new act, The Empty Bottle is a must.
It seems like every new band rising up the Chicago music scene ranks has to play at Lincoln Hall—it’s practically a rite of passage. They serve some great food, have an amazing beer list, and the crowd is always lively.
What makes this venue one of the best of the best is its mix of big and small acts. One night you could find a medley of local bands in a variety of genres for free, and the next night you could pay $20 at the door for a legendary 90s band. There’s not a bad seat in the house, so even if you’re in the back of the room, you still feel like you’re right there with the band.
Logan Square is a great neighborhood, and it has an underground music scene that pulsates with passion. Township is your spot if you’re looking to discover a new band or DJ.
The name speaks for itself. It’s a lesser-known venue, and it’s located in no-man’s land on a street that even native Chicagoans probably haven’t heard of. The venue space is a little tight, but it’s your chance to get an amazing view of the band and make a few friends.
Kind of cliché, but if you’re going to “The Bean” anyway, you might as well check out a show at Millennium Park. It’s an incredible piece of architecture surrounded by one of the most breathtaking skylines in the United States.
Buddy Guy’s Legends
Chicago and Blues go hand in hand. It may not have been invented here, but Chicago is where it reached incredible heights, and Buddy Guy himself was one of the strongest voices in the scene. Now, this spot is the go-to Blues establishment in the city.
Wicker Park has established itself as one of the trendiest neighborhoods with some of the coolest places to see music. Double Door has set its claws deep into the music culture of the city, consistently hosting some truly excellent acts.
The Green Mill hosts acts in a variety of genres, but what it’s most famous for is its jazz acts. Going to Green Mill is like going back in time. Even Al Capone was a regular at this spot!
The Chicago Theatre
The Chicago Theatre is an iconic structure, and the interior has antique architecture and artwork that really makes it a jaw-dropper. It hosts some of the biggest acts in music, comedy, theater, TV, and more, and it’s the kind of venue that sells tickets almost as coveted as the stage time itself.