by Colleen Seisser
Chicago is famous for it’s rich history of Blues music. However, like many urban areas today, there is some fantastic music being made in Chicago. On the right night, walking into any local bar or restaurant can be a treat for your ears. I got in touch with a local Chicago musician, Tim Seisser, and asked him for some recommendations for great venues for live music in Chicago. Tim has been playing bass all over the Chicagoland area for about ten years, so he knows a thing or two about the Chicago music scene. Here are some of his picks and why:
Reggie’s is located in the South Loop and has two venues (Reggie’s Rock Club: the bigger stage and Reggie’s Music joint: the restaurant/bar with live music), while also housing Record Breakers, a huge record store onsite. Parking is ample around Reggies, and it is easy access via public transportation. You never know what you are going to hear at Reggie’s–Rock, Punk, Rockabilly, Blues, Jazz–it is an establishment that is made for a music fan.
Tim says: Reggies is a great south loop location with amazing food, consistent good music, and a large variety of good beer on tap. Cover is usually pretty cheap.
2. The Green Mill
The Green Mill is a historic institution in Chicago. Located in the Uptown neighborhood, it is over 100 years old and its history lies in its reputation as a speakeasy frequented by Al Capone during the Prohibition era. Rejuvenated in 1986, by current owner Dave Jemilo, it is now known as the place in Chicago for Jazz music. It is also famous for having the first poetry slam in 1986, and continues to this day to host poetry slams every Sunday from 7-10 p.m.
Tim says: The Green Mill is a good destination for those who are doing the tourism thing, although it is quite a cab/el ride from downtown. Cover is usually reasonable and the vibe is really cool.
3. Empty Bottle
Empty Bottle is located west of the loop in the Ukrainian Village neighborhood. Best described as a place to enjoy Chicago’s Alternative music scene, Empty Bottle was named one of the best clubs in America by Rolling Stone in March. Punk and Indie Rock fans should make the trip to Empty Bottle if they are in Chicago.
Tim says: For the hipster/Rock crowd there is Empty Bottle in Ukranian Village. Usually there is cheap cover, pretty good rock bands, and a gritty vibe. PBR galore (hahaha!).
4. City Winery
City Winery opened its doors in the West loop last summer, and has been impressing Chicagoans ever since. The original idea for this winery/music venue began in NYC. Chicago is the second location for this unique way to consume music, and it is definitely worth a visit for wine lovers and music lovers alike.
Tim says: There is a new place that just opened recently called City Winery. It is a little fancy and upscale, but it has a really good wine list and some cool bands/artists have come through there since it’s opened. I haven’t been yet but it has a great reputation from what I hear.
5. The Whistler
The Whistler is as much about good music as it is about a good drink. Located in the Logan Square neighborhood, The Whistler is a little ways outside of the downtown area. However, it is worth the trip. The Whistler combines local music, art (with installations that change monthly), and expertly mixed drinks to create a unique experience that critics praise.
Tim says: In Logan Square there is The Whistler. It serves some of the finest cocktails in Chicago. They have a lot of cool events including short story readings, music, etc. Cover is usually cheap, but The Whistler is small so a little wait is expected.
Buddy Guy’s Legends is where you go to hear authentic Chicago Blues music. This nationally renown club, located in the South Loop, attracts all those who are fans of the Blues. Unfortunately, Buddy only plays at the club in January, but fortunately the authentic cajun food and local Blues performers/bands will not disappoint.
Tim says: Buddy Guys is the Blues spot in Chicago. It is located near Printers Row, and it is reliable for providing good blues music. Cover is reasonable.
If you can’t make it to Buddy Guy’s Legends, or if you want to hear more great Blues music, take the trip north to Lincoln Park and check out Kingston Mines. Kingston Mines opened its doors in 1968, and has made a commitment to preserving the Blues in Chicago. Touting that it serves “Chicago’s Best BBQ”, Kingston Mines also has two stages and the music is played until 4-5 a.m. on Saturday nights!
Tim says: Kingston Mines is on the north side, and is also a pretty historic blues/reggae spot.
Finally, here are a couple websites that will keep you posted on live music in Chicago.