Chicago is home to a number of rock venues whose reputation precede them including the iconic, independently-owned Metro, the world-famous incubator for the best in independent music, the Empty Bottle, the Aragon Ballroom (and its legendary Capone-era underground tunnels), and many more. Rock lovers in Chicago are lucky though, these beloved clubs are just the tip of the iceberg in a city that offers concertgoers live rock music 365 days a year. We've gone above and beyond the typical concert listings to rounded up some of our favorite small clubs and other hot spots for live music.
Tucked away in Logan Square, The Burlington quickly became one of Chicago's tastemaking music venues since it started hosting live shows just a few years ago. Come with an open mind to experience some of the best emerging avant-garde rock, metal, indie, psychedelic, jazz, and electronic-pop bands, as well as DJs of all kinds.
Located near the Ashland and Lake train stop, the Cobra Lounge has become one of the city's premiere spots for underground heavy metal and punk rock since it opened in 2006. Along with regular live music, the club hosts regular DJ nights (rock ‘n' roll and related styles), has a full restaurant menu, and in warmer months, a spacious patio. If you're visiting for Pitchfork Festival or Riot Fest, you're definitely going to want to check out their aftershow offerings.
Located just off the corner of Western and Fullerton in Logan Square, The Mutiny has been an institution in Chicago's punk community for twenty-something years, and the hosts local and touring rock bands of all varieties several nights of the week. All shows are free, booze is very reasonably priced, the clientele is friendly, and the jukebox has a pretty rad selection of rock ‘n' roll. If you're looking for a no-frills rock dive for any occasion, this is the place. Celebrity chef / old school punk rocker Anthony Bourdain was so impressed he featured The Mutiny on his travel show, The Layover.
While The Hideout may be most famous for its Americana and folk concerts, it's a favorite haunt for virtually every style of independent music and cultural events. The world-class, intimate club is located in an industrial corridor near North and Elston, making it a little hard to find (hence the name), so if you don't come by car or bike you may want to have a number for a cab company on hand for the way home. Logistics aside, the one-of-a-kind ambiance and friendly vibe make it worth the effort to check out, regardless of who is playing. Locals love the Hideout; you're practically guaranteed to love it too.
Located in Rogers Park, just down the street from the Morse "L" stop and next door to the popular, vegetarian-friendly Heartland Cafe, the super cozy Red Line Tap hosts live music most nights of the week. No genre is out of bounds, so whether you're feeling alt-country, punk, metal, indie rock, or anything else, make sure to stop by. Even if the band doesn't match your taste, chances are one of the best record stores in Chicago.
Logan Square's popular late-night bar (which in Chicago means open until 4 AM most days and 5 AM on Saturday) The Owl hosts occasional free concerts featuring exploratory rock, noise, synth-pop and more. On the nights where there isn't a show, there's a good chance a local DJ will be spinning vinyl all night, so your rock 'n' roll needs will be satisfied either way.
As in many cities, Chicago's independent record stores have been known to host an in-store promotional show or two. These free events are held early enough in the day to not thwart your evening concert plans. Check in with Permanent Records in Ukranian Village, Reckless Records' Lakeview and Wicker Park locations, and saki in Logan Square, among others to see what's happening while you're in town. While you're at it, pick up some new records! Interested in learning more about our record store scene here in Chicago? Check out last month's round up of the
House Shows / D.I.Y. (Do-It-Yourself) Spaces
Maybe the best way to do "Chicago like a local" is to think like one. The underground concert scene is thriving like never before and things are especially alive and well in the rock community. Whether you're into hardcore, metal, psych, garage, noise, or other outsider fare, chances are there's a neighborhood basement show, a "session" at a local recording studio, or a music event at an offbeat art gallery while you're in town. Chicagoans are known for their friendliness, so if you're curious, just ask around (maybe not your hotel concierge, although you never know...). And don't forget to check social media!