Chicago is known for it’s bar scene. In a city of over three million, sometimes, it feels like there is a bar on every corner. From a dingy neighborhood spot, to high end clubs making cocktails with pomegranate. Live music is also a major artery of the entertainment body of Chicago’s Bar scene. Seven days a week you can find yourself at any number of venues and dive bars around the city big and small that have local and national and even international artists performing. No genre of music goes unrepresented. A city like Chicago, so diverse, and so culturally lush, it can’t help but be at the forefront.
A pillar in the live music community of Chicago. It smells and looks like a place one might get hep C from, but it is also where you might catch the show of the year. The Empty Bottle has been home to Chicago punk since it’s inception in the early 90’s. It sits off of famous Western Avenue in Ukranian Village and doesn’t stop rockin…ever. The staff are veteran hip kids that double as musicians who often play at The Bottle.
Famous bands have made this place there home and the venue has never shied away from getting it’s hands dirty. Drinks are reasonably priced and there are no frills to their service or their decorum. Noteable Band Performances: DEATH, The Black Keys, and Blood Orange.
Every Tuesday night at midnight, Subterranean Lounge has their hip hop open mike. Where local MC’s from all over the city and beyond come to freestyle and battle. Hosted by ShadowMaster a long-time veteran of the Chicago hip hop scene and DJ Norm Rockwell they set the stage for a night of lyrical sword play that isn’t seen often in many parts of the world. Subterranean Lounge also hosts a myriad of beat battles and rap battles as well as a damn good Reggae Night. But for me the open mike on Tuesday nights is where it’s at. It isn’t out of the realm of possibility to run into hip hop legends like Bushwick Bill, or DJ Jazzy Jeff. When the legends come from out of town they pay homage at this site. The CBGB’s of Chicago hip hop.
This is another gem that sits on Western Avenue in Logan Square. The first craft beer bar in Chicago. People like to talk about Map Room, but in my opinion Quenchers Saloon will forever stand out and above over the competition in Bucktown and in fact all of Chicago. This is my favorite bar and a place that I called home for several years. Quenchers is a no BS atmosphere. They cater to all and cast no judgements. Musically, they have a similar style of booking to a place like Empty Bottle. And of course they have Uncle Ray and Tater Tot Pizza. They are the only ones on this list who have Uncle Ray and Tater Tot Pizza.
Here we have a place that at once I used to despise…honestly I did, but recently it has come under new ownership and things really seem to have picked up. They installed a new sound system and with owner Steveo coming in to help bring the right talent to the stage, They have an extremely eclectic and well balanced calendar. Hip Hop, Punk, R&B, Alt Country, Folk, Bluegrass, Dj’s and lions and bears oh my. Township sits underneath the California Blue line stop in the heart of Logan Square.
Double Door, even though it’s closing, is on this list…fuck the city, they will always be on the list. Some of the best shows I’ve ever seen were at Double Door. They are what used to make Wicker Park great. Artists big and small flocked to this joint. I’ve seen Method Man walk on the crowd and dance on the bar in Double Door. I’ve seen Mix Master Mike make hipsters go into spasm there. Their Dre Day event is some of the best entertainment in Chicago and their Soul Summit thrown by Impala Sound Champions brings out thousands of people to dance to some of the greatest records spun in the city. Thank you Double Door.