Chicago has a music scene steeped in history. Musical milestones through the ages map the cultural fabric of the city. It’s the birthplace of house music and home to a legendary blues scene. Combining “Chicago-style” Dixieland jazz and a vibrant alternative scene, the sounds of the city run deep. Discover all the musical styles that beat throughout the city at various live music venues. Like the musical legacy, the venues are legendary. Whether you prefer the vibe of an intimate club or the other-worldly ambiance of a historic concert hall, we reveal the most treasured places in town. Let’s run down the top spots to check out if you live in Chicago.
Alongside the historic uptown theatres is one of the city’s most unique live music venues. The Green Mill serves up Manhattans, martinis and jazz seven nights a week. Late-night jam sessions have been happening here for more than a century with jazz, blues, and swing bands. The 1940’s style haunt remains one of the last of its kind in the entire country. Make sure not to miss what is truly one of the most infamous jazz spots in Chicago today.
Smart Bar has the reputation of being one of the world’s best dance floors in house music’s homeland. These late-night destination programs the biggest and best DJs from around the globe. The venue is a mecca for serious dance music fans. The roster of residents over the years at this intimate 400 capacity club have included legends like Derrick Carter, The Black Madonna and Frankie Knuckles to name but a few. Located on the North Side of Chicago, its a hidden gem outside the of the mainstream club scene.
The acoustics are amazing at this live music venue located in the heart of the Lincoln Park neighborhood. Despite being a mid-sized formal concert hall, Lincoln Hall is known for having an intimate atmosphere. Cult local bands and international headliners make for a diverse range of artists to see. The renovated interiors feature modern furnishings and well-kept facilities. On-site drinking and dining options with table-service will get you fed and watered before seeing your favorite band.
This tiny dive bar, The Empty Bottle, is a staple venue of the Chicago music scene. From the era of 90s indie rock to European punk bands, this hole-in-the-wall venue has hosted it all. Cheap drinks, pool tables, a jukebox and bathroom graffiti signify all the hallmarks of legendary local drinking den/live-music spot. The atmosphere has been compared to New York City’s CBGB, with acts such as The Flaming Lips and Smoking Popes playing some of the best alternative music in the city.
If you want a stellar concert experience look no further than the Symphony Center, which is home to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. It’s revered as one of the greatest orchestras in the world. The most exciting and dynamic classical music can be experienced at this beautiful venue in the Chicago Loop neighborhood. Ticket holders can also enhance their visit with an (optional) complimentary pre-concert lecture.
The spring and summer seasons are synonymous with music festivals in Chicago, with all kinds during the weekends to take your pick from.
This free entry festival during a weekend in June celebrates the sounds of the blues past, present, and future. The Chicago Blues Festival is located lakeside by Grant Park and is actually the biggest jazz and blues festival in the world. Expect to see local and national artists of the same ilk. Legendary soul stars, such as Bettye LaVette, share the bill with a new generation of homegrown talent like Mojo Morganfield & The Mannish Boyz.
During a weekend in July, the hip Pitchfork Music Festival takes place in Union Park near the city’s trendy West Loop neighborhood. Three stages of live music are programmed with contemporary and emerging acts such as 90’s avant-pop band Stereolab. Alongside idiosyncratic rapper Earl Sweatshirt and Swedish pop icon Robyn on the colorful lineups.
This relatively new festival on the block is a Latin American live music event held during a long weekend in July at the Addams/Medill Park. The lineup at Rudio Fest presents an eclectic range of the Spanish speaking world most alternative Latin artists. It’s a rare chance to catch so many contemporary Latino artists in one place. Chilean powerhouse Francisca Valenzuela, new wave Barcelona band Dorian, and Mexican rock act Fobia are a taste of what to you can look forward to hearing.
If you’re arriving in the city over the summer, a rental by Blueground in Chicago can be an ideal base to show up and start exploring the city. Available for mid to long-term stays, they make the dream crash pad to come home to post music festivals. It’s easier to recover comfortably with premium mattresses, and hotel-quality linens and towels at home. Furthermore, if you’re hibernating during the winter months when festival season is over, you’ll have high-quality wireless speakers for soundtracking those cozy nights in.