21 Chicago Music Venues You Should Visit

Chicago’s relationship with music goes all the way back to the 20th century, when poor black workers from Southern America to industrial cities in the North, with Chicago being a preferred hotspot for many. Bringing with them vibrant cultures and sounds, these migrants went on to produce their own genre of music, and continue to influence Chicagoan’s relationships with music to this day.


Since then, Chicago music venues have exploded onto the scene, with new ones opening their doors every year. It’s predicted that there where as many as 225 incredible Chicago music venues in 2017, and we’re sure the number has only continued to grow since.


While this is great news for the music scene in Chicago, it does leave Chicagoans and visiting tourists asking themselves where the best music venues in Chicago are. Perhaps this is where you’re at currently, researching to see if you can find an ultimate list of venues.


This is where we come to help. Having browsed through a number of different listings for Chicago music venues, we have come up with a comprehensive list that perfectly encapsulates the music scene locals and tourists alike have grown to love.


Our list of 21 different Chicago music venues, listed below, will take you on a journey across genres and locations, allowing you to experiment with new tastes and expand your musical interests.


1 Green Mill Jazz Club
If you’re looking for a music venue in Chicago that mixes character with a rich history, then the Green Mill Jazz Club is perfect for you. Once the go-to hangout spot for gangsters including the likes of Al Capone and his cronies, it was returned to its original luster in the 1980s by owner Dave Jemilo, and is now all about the music.
Opened: 1907
Genre(s): Jazz
2 Blue Chicago
Blue Chicago has been presenting the most authentic Chicago Blues artists in a warm and friendly atmosphere since 1985. Slightly different to conventional blues music, Chicago Blues is more electric, and is most common in Southern and Midwestern America.
Opened: 1985
Genre(s): Chicago Blues
3 Chicago Cultural Center Music Venue
Located opposite Millennium Park, the Chicago Cultural Center is a multiuse building that hosts a number of more contemporary music events throughout the year. With traditional architecture, including a stained glass dome and an eccentric staircase, you’ll feel like you’re going back in time as you enjoy a wonderful night of classical, jazz or blues music.
Opened: 1897
Genre(s): Classical, Jazz, Blues
4 Schubas Tavern
The Schubas Tavern is a small, family-owned club operated by the Schubas brothers. In a historic building with much of its older interior still intact, this venue perfectly sets the tone for the touring indie bands and singer-songwriter artists that commonly frequent it.
Opened: 1988
Genre(s): Acoustic, Singer-Songwriter
5 Lincoln Hall
Created by Chris and Mike Schubas to be a bigger version of Schubas Tavern in 2009, Lincoln Hall fast became one of the most well loved music venues in Chicago. This venue is typically taken over by artists who are about to blow up, or by those who have already found success who wish to play to a smaller audience for a change.
Opened: 2009
Genre(s): Intimate, Indie, Up & Coming
6 Thalia Hall
Owned by the same people as another popular music venue in Chicago, Empty Bottle, Thalia Hall is housed in the historic bohemian public hall and reopened in 2014 as an Americana and Psych-rock venue.
Opened: 2014
Genre(s): Americana, Psych-rock
7 Old Town School Of Folk Music
Founded in 1957, The Old School Of Folk Music is a not-for-profit organization that provides 700 accredited class offerings, private lessons and workshops that aim to expose Chicagoans to an array of artistic genres. They do this through music, dance, theatre, and visual arts courses that are available to people of all ages, abilities and backgrounds.
Opened: 1957
Genre(s): Various
8 Park West
Park West is a nationally treasured concert hall, and is considered to be one of the best places in Chicago to see a show or host an event. This status means that they have been able to host shows for some of the most established singers, with a focus towards those who were popular in the 1970’s and 1980’s.
Opened: 1977
Genre(s): Various
9 The Vic Theatre
Known to locals as The Vic, this theatre—sometimes referred to as a club—has hosted a number of successful rock acts over the years, including everything from the Breeders to Jeff Tweedy. Easily accessible via public transport, this venue is perfect for those looking for a music venue that they can spend a few hours at without fussing about how they’ll get home.
Opened: 1912
Genre(s): Rock
10 Chicago Theatre
The Chicago Theatre, best known for its iconic marquee from its days as a French baroque-style movie palace, has been renovated to cater for a number of modern-day performances throughout the year. With one of the largest capacities of all music venues in Chicago at 3600 people, it is often the music venue of choice for superstar bands and artists who visit the city.
Opened: 1921
Genre(s): Pop, Rock, Indie
11 Cobra Lounge
The Cobra Lounge is the perfect music venue in Chicago if you’re looking for the best regional underground and emerging musical talent. With dynamic sound, an intimate feel, and a friendly atmosphere, many up and coming bands of all genres choose this venue as one of their favorites to visit in all of Chicago.
Opened: 2006
Genre(s): Rock & Roll
12 Empty Bottle
Though the Empty Bottle may not look too impressive from the outside, you’re bound to experience a good evening if you choose this venue for your next night out. Known as a premier indie-rock club by locals, this music venue hosts a number of local, regional and occasionally international cutting-edge bands for you to get to know.
Opened: 1993
Genre(s): Indie Rock
13 Metro
Being on the larger side in terms of capacity across music venues in Chicago, Metro can cater for 1100 people between its main floor and balcony. For these reasons, as well as attracting many local and national acts, it also attracts the occasional superstar bands for shows that have a tendency to sell out in minutes.
Opened: 1982
Genre(s): Various
14 Smartbar
Located below the popular Metro music venue in Chicago, the Smartbar is perfect for those looking to celebrate new and exciting dance music and cutting edge DJ’s from around the globe. Open seven days a week, this basement music venue is great for those looking to experience a safe and inviting night club experience.
Opened: 1982
Genre(s): Dance, Drum N Base
15 Jay Pritzker Pavilion
Named after Jay Pritzker, famously known for owning the Hyatt Hotels, the Jay Pritzker Pavilion is a bandshell in Millennium Park located on the south side of Randolph Street. Designed by architect Frank Gehry over the course of five years, the Pavilion was finally unveiled in July of 2004.
Opened: 2004
Genre(s): Jazz, Electronica, Indie Rock, Blues
16 Kingston Mines
If you’re looking for somewhere to experience what music means to Chicago, the Kingston Mines is the perfect venue. Having opened its doors for the first time in 1968, it has since been blessed with performances from some of the best local, regional and national blues artists that have ever lived.
Opened: 1968
Genre(s): Blues
17 Subterranean
Subterranean, known by Chicago regulars as ‘Sub-T’, is one of Chicago’s best music venues for underground hip-hop and indie rock artists. With an upstairs area that holds around 400 people, and a smaller room with a capacity of 100 down below, this music venue in Chicago offers several different levels of intimacy that allow small bands to showcase their talents to fans and new listeners alike.
Opened: 1996
Genre(s): Indie Rock, Underground Hip-Hop
18 Buddy Guy’s Legends
Buddy Guy’s Legends is a famous venue among Chicagoans and tourists alike, not least because it is owned by popular blues musician Buddy Guy, who continues to perform a month of shows throughout January.
Opened: 1989
Genre(s): Blues
19 Bottom Lounge
Bottom Lounge is a diverse venue that offers a number of different events throughout the year, with a vast majority of those being alternative and indie live band performances. With their main concert hall having a capacity of 700 people, this is the perfect opportunity for bands and fans who want to experience an intimate, friendly experience throughout their night.
Opened: 2008
Genre(s): Alternative, Indie
20 Petrillo Music Shell
The Petrillo Music Shell, sometimes referred to as the Petrillo Bandshell, is an outdoor atmosphere theatre in the Grand Park area of Chicago. The current structure, which was created to face the Butler Field at Monroe and Columbus after the demolishment of the original, opened in 1978.
Opened: 1978
Genre(s): Blues, Jazz, Festivals
21 The Wild Hare
The Wild Hare has been known as the Reggae Capital of the US for nearly 30 years, with regular performances within their venue that showcase the diversity of the reggae genre. With local, regional and international artists performing every Tuesday through to Sunday from 9PM, you’re bound to find a reggae artist you’ve yet to discover or are keen to hear more of.
Opened: 1940
Genre(s): Reggae
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