By Madeline Higgins
North Coast and Riot Fest dominated the first half of Chicago's music calendar in September, but the latter half of the month which bridges into October offers a fresh season's worth of treasures. At the end of Riot Fest comes the last breath of summer: the air begins to nibble, though not yet bite, driving local musicians and music-lovers into the comfort of cozy cafés, underground bars, and other warm and intimate spaces.
Many such spaces hold open-mics and other opportunities for local performers to get some experience in front of an audience. Check out a few of these venues below - before the cold sneaks up and you have no other choice.
Quenchers Saloon (2401 N. Western Ave.)
This tiny Logan Square establishment hosts a more-than-impressive variety of beer and shows constant support for local artists by keeping a full event calendar and hosting open mics every Monday. All live shows at Quenchers are free (but they still pay the performing bands). The only restriction on open mic sets prohibits full drum sets, keeping the atmosphere quieter and restraining setup time (thus allowing more performers to take the stage).
Subterranean (2011 W. North Ave.)
Though it's not so small and cozy as other venues on this list, Subterranean is just as welcoming and likely better equipped to host live music. It also provides musicians the unique experience of performing on the same stage that many other, more established artists have previously graced. Show up on Tuesday evenings for hip-hop open mics.
The Burlington Bar (3425 W. Fullerton Ave.)
The Burlington used to be a popular bar; since it renovated the back room into a by-donation music venue, it's become a really popular bar. The performance space is sleek and up-to-date while the performers are carefully selected. When the artists are DJs, they're almost always local. Head on over and see what the buzz is about.
The Elbo Room (2871 N. Lincoln Ave.)
A large, lively, and well-known venue, Elbo Room has it all: Karaoke, game nights, comedy and a constant stream of live events. The venue hosts open mics on Wednesdays beginning at 8 p.m. If nothing else, you're certain to have a large (and hopefully receptive) audience at an Elbo Room open mic.
Reggies (2105 S. State St.)
Reggies, a Chicago staple, is known as a stepping stone for local artists on the verge of breaking into the mainstream. Many of Chicago's finest - particularly its young hip-hop artists - got their start playing regular shows at this grungy South loop joint. It's worth checking out more than once; you never know which future-Chance the Rapper will be blessing the audience at any given time.
Lemming's Tavern (1850 N. Damen Ave.)
Bucktown's Lemming's hosts regular open mic nights at 9:30 p.m. every Sunday. An unassuming space with an even less pretentious crowd, Lemming's is a relief from the madness of Wicker Park's six corners down the road. It's a neighborhood joint, but it welcomes newcomers and regulars alike.
Township (2200 N. California Ave.)
If you could only choose one recreational establishment to patronize for the rest of your life, Township might be your best bet. The Logan Square corner venue serves as a café, restaurant, bar and live music venue all in one. Aside from its award-winning brunch (served until 3 p.m., and with live jazz accompaniment on Sundays), Township hosts an eclectic variety of quality musicians. The venue makes a concerted effort to keep performing artists and the genres they represent diverse and enjoyable. Shows typically start at 9 p.m.
LiveWire Lounge (3394 N. Milwaukee Ave.)
The former home of the Peacock Lounge, LiveWire Lounge has a slightly darker atmosphere (in physical lighting, musical booking and general ambience). The venue is well laid-out for a smaller bar, providing ample performance (and performance-viewing) space in addition to general seating and a sleek wooden bar. Their calendar is kept full with up-and-coming local and touring bands.