The House of Blues might be a Chicago icon, but the real beat of the Windy City comes out of the up-and-coming bands playing the small, dimly lit clubs hidden all over the grid. There are so many underground music venues in Chicago that I keep discovering new ones every couple of weeks when I screen the city for promising shows. After a couple of years of concert-hopping, I now have established my favorite regular spots to catch the latest on the Chicago scene.
Located in the heart of Wicker Park, this small, second-floor bar boasts some of the finest lineups in local music. Any given night at Subt is bound to offer fresh new sounds that span genre. Whether you come for a laid back, folksy evening or a full-on rock show, the performances will be sharp. I'm a big fan of the balcony overlooking the stage and the spiral staircase that descends from the green room.
Tucked away on a quiet street between Old Town and Wicker Park, The Hideout is geographically true to its name. It retains a divey feel while offering solid rock, blues, folk, and bluegrass lineups. Plenty of classic American sounds emanate from the Hideout's homey back room. Keep an eye out for their special events, which include dance parties, readings, and evenings of comedy.
Belmont's hottest spot for local music, Schubas's bright, wood-finished back stage has been a springboard for many a rising indie band. This joint packs quite a crowd on weekends, when there's usually a full lineup of the city's best. On off-nights, the front bar area also offers flat-screen TVs to catch the game. Check out their sister venue, Lincoln Hall, for an equally sweet sampling of local flavor.
Reggie's Rock Club
Are you nostalgic for days of rock gone by? Do you find the current scene of bearded boys with acoustic guitars and tambourines too wimpy for your tastes? For those of you who require a healthy dose of testosterone in your rock 'n roll, think of Reggie's as your haven. With regularly scheduled punk, metal, and experimental rock shows, they're one loud club. And for those south of the loop, the venue is an easy ride on the red line, just off the Chinatown stop. The drinks may be pricey, but Reggies is one of the few smaller venues that will still allow for a good-sized mosh pit--and that's worth a lot.
Beer nerds take note: you won't find a better selection of imports and microbrews than at Quenchers. In addition to boasting six or seven seasonals on tap at any given time, they've got a vault of rare bottles behind the bar. You can happily sip on a Scottish Skullsplitter or the latest limited release from Bell's Brewery while enjoying a diverse range of local music. Chicago rock is their specialty, but Quenchers will occasionally boast a full jazz band or a night of comedy. They host some great holiday-specific events too--last Halloween they brought in a pair of DJs and a Misfits cover band.
There are so many hidden venues in the city that I'm sure I've missed out on some good stuff. Where are your favorite places to catch a show?
(Photo courtesy Orangebeautiful)