Things to do in Chicago

Exploring Chicago’s Dynamic Live Music Scene

Chicago is home to a variety of music scenes, with a distinct flavor for every fan.

Chicago's music scene, home to beloved acts like Sam Cooke and The Smashing Pumpkins, is an adventure for music fans alike looking for things to do in Chicago. It draws innovative musicians from all over, making it a top attraction. From country music to indie bands and outdoor music festivals, Chicago offers a diverse live music experience.

Popular Live Music Venues in Chicago

Music venues dot the Windy City, many of them renowned as hosts of the past century's hottest headlining names. Here are some of the perfect spots in Chicago to visit for live music that moves you.

Photographer: marchello74

Metro

Over the years, this historic venue has hosted an impressive lineup of artists. It all began with a last-minute performance by the still-fledgling group R.E.M., setting them on a path to musical stardom. Since then, Metro has risen as one of Chicago's most popular live music spots.

Fans can enjoy an up-close view of their favorite artists in this intimate auditorium within a 100-year-old building. The stage features indie, alternative, and rock bands delivering raw, universal emotion through their music. Concert-goers can choose between the standing room and the balcony for the show. Also, there's an in-house bar for drinks before the performance begins.

House of Blues

House of Blues leans hard into its carefree, eclectic style to build a concert venue music lovers travel miles to congregate in. Take a walk across these hallowed, hardwood floors and marvel at the exuberant decor in each hallway. You'll find life-sized statues of the Blues Brothers and concert memorabilia from days gone by.

Rock and blues reign supreme here, once the regular home of legends such as Albert King and the Rolling Stones. But artists of every genre have taken the House of Blues stage, including pop, rap, and electronica. An attached Southern-inspired restaurant offers a mouthwatering place to refuel after the show. Indulge in house smash burgers, spicy fried chicken sandwich, and decadent baby back ribs.

Thalia Hall

Established in 1892, Thalia Hall's founder aimed to create a music hub for the Chicago community. Today, over 100 years later, that dream endures. Designed as an opera house, Thalia Hall has hosted a diverse range of musical acts, from the Red Hot Chili Peppers and James Brown to the Grateful Dead.

Inspired by the iconic Prague Opera House, the spire-topped building retains its distinctive look. Dusek's Tavern, within, is renowned as one of Chicago's top burger restaurants. Adjacent, the Tack Room bar offers stylish drinks, live piano melodies, and a relaxed atmosphere.

The Chicago Theatre

You'll know you've reached The Chicago Theatre when the 60-foot triumphal arch motif comes into view. With its French Baroque-inspired architecture, the venue itself is just as spectacular as the artists who appear here.

Musicians of all genres have commanded this historic stage. Aretha Franklin, Alicia Keys, Kelly Clarkson, and Dolly Parton—country, R&B, pop, and more have been well-represented here. Today's guests sit in the auditorium beneath sparkling chandeliers and ten hand-painted murals. Amidst architectural grandeur, live music at The Chicago Theatre possesses majestic allure.

Photographer: FeyginFoto

The Empty Bottle

For 3 decades, The Empty Bottle has been a haven for alternative and rock devotees.Loud music, cuddly bar cats, and stiff drinks define this intimate artistic hotspot in Chicago's Ukrainian Village. Night after night, crowds flock to the small space to nab a vantage point before the spectacle begins.

The Strokes, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and The White Stripes are just some of the bands to stun the crowd at this friendly neighborhood bar. Performances here don't hold back — on sound or stunts. Expect anything but the ordinary at The Empty Bottle, where acts have been known to incorporate everything from glitter to fire as props.

The Vic

In a neighborhood marked by change, The Vic is one century-old constant. Originally named The Victoria Theater when it opened in 1912, this venue began as a vaudeville stage. It has since evolved into an intimate auditorium, welcoming both local and nationally beloved artists.

With a capacity of just 1,400, live music at The Vic is a close-knit and wholly captivating experience. The venue offers unobstructed views of the stage, allowing fans to fully enjoy their favorite bands. This unique experience has attracted artists like Ariana Grande and Los Lobos. It's a place where both the audience and performers are captivated by the music.

Schubas Tavern

Few things are more pleasurable than a great selection of beer and chill music. Schubas Tavern, a former Schlitz brewery, embraces its neo-Gothic architecture to set the perfect stage for indie and jazz musicians

Acoustic sets and smooth crooning color every drink at Schubas in a dim, romantic light. On an otherwise quiet street, this vintage cocktail lounge showcases acts both inspired and nostalgic. Plus, it serves up cozy comfort food with vibrant, punchy flavors. Come for the music; stay for the chicken wings.

The Hideout

Chicago boasts a variety of speakeasies, from enduring originals to inspired imitations of Prohibition-era bars.One such establishment is The Hideout. It opened one year after alcohol re-legalization. True to its Prohibition roots, it maintains a dimly lit atmosphere, perfect for the unique, fun-loving crowd that gathers after dark.

The stage at The Hideout, illuminated by a sea of overhead string lights, has hosted legends like Jimmy Martin and Billy Corgan. Music fills the air from the bar's windows every Saturday night. Any day of the week, you can immerse yourself in the establishment's delightfully irregular history.

Aragon Ballroom

The Aragon Ballroom has been a mainstay in the Windy City music scene since its opening in 1926. Its prime position just north of Downtown gives Chicagoans easy access to live shows. The crisp acoustics enhance the experience, delivering supersonic melodies and an energetic atmosphere.

Strobe lights bounce and smoke machines whir while fans sing along with their favorite bands. The venue hosts artists from every genre — including Janelle Monáe, Journey, Lil Yachty, and Kesha — making it a one-stop shop for music lovers of all types. Adorned with Spanish Baroque detailing and spotted with handcrafted murals, the Aragon Ballroom's antique flair remains the perfect backdrop for modern, lyrical wizards.

Lincoln Hall

An auto garage and a 3-penny cinema may seem unrelated, but they both share a history at 2424 North Lincoln Avenue. This building is now known as Lincoln Hall, a music venue and the sister of Schubas Tavern.

Lincoln Hall maintains its eclectic charm, boasting a retro facade and minimalistic decor. The venue provides great views of emerging and established artists, offering seating and standing-only levels.

Park West

Established in 1916, Park West housed a vaudeville theater before transitioning to close-knit concerts in the 1970s. The small venue boasts tall ceilings and a wide standing area that makes the auditorium feel spacious. No genre is unheard of here — from reggae to country, all music lovers have a home at Park West.

Enjoy unobstructed views and fully immerse yourself in every note from the rising artist of the night. Multiple bars offer house-made cocktails, and attentive table service ensures uninterrupted enjoyment of the music. Choose a cozy booth on the top level or stand inches away from the evening's entrancing entertainer on the lower floor.

A Night Out in Chicago: Tips for Music Lovers

The perfect night of live music in Chicago takes more than just choosing the right venue. Ensure your outing is smooth and groovy with a little planning ahead. If you're looking for an experience beyond a single show, consider attending a Chicago music festival, where the city's vibrant sounds come to life in a communal celebration.

When the day of the show arrives, kick off the evening with a fabulous meal at one of Chicago's mouthwatering restaurants. Local favorites include Galit, for its Middle Eastern shareable plates, and Virtue, southern comfort with an upscale twist. Not ready to end the night? Pop into clubs TAO Chicago or Electric Hotel to get your groove on the dance floor.

Photographer: PopTika

Hidden Gems of the Chicago Live Music Scen

The glint and gleam of Chicago's most popular venues are more than worth a ticket. But the Windy City's live music scene doesn't end there. Chicago boasts a thriving indie music scene, with notable artists such as Horsegirl, Friko, and Post Office Winter gracing local stages at increasingly frequent gigs.

To see some of the city's undiscovered wonders for yourself, lesser-known venues are the next stop. Try Subterranean, a longstanding hole-in-the-wall that comes alive after dark. It’s powered by the soulful sound of dedicated artists feeding off an energetic crowd. Also notable are Bassment and Spybar, both hotspots for local flavor.

Beyond Downtown: Neighborhood Live Music in Chicago

In a city as culturally rich as Chicago, the music scene twists and transforms with each vibrant neighborhood, taking in the stories and convictions of the Chicagoans around it. Here's the kind of musical mojo you can expect from these Windy City neighborhoods.

Wicker Park

This hip neighborhood features minimalist cafes, specialty shops, and a vibrant music scene. Subterranean, at the heart of Chicago's indie movement, calls it home. Wicker Park's nights showcase local acts across a wide selection of genres. And don’t forget to check out Bordel’s jazz performers and burlesque dancers.

Just a few doors down lies Chop Shop — a butcher shop and music venue — housed in a former auto body shop. Phenomenal acoustics make for a built-in sound system to rival any arena, just the place for local talent to start their musical journey. Come for the music and leave with a pound of delicious meats roasted in-house.

Photographer: James Andrews1

Pilsen

The artsy neighborhood of Pilsen wears its creativity on its sleeve, with a whimsical collection of public art installations and murals covering every spare concrete slab. Just as notable are the area's musical maestros.

At the Tack Room, you'll find fast-fingered pianists and sultry cabaret singers performing in an 1800s horse stable. Simone's, an eclectic bar, features live music and DJs, often with breathtaking dancers. For a rocking evening, visit Honky Tonk BBQ for live bluegrass, rockabilly, soul, and western swing, along with hearty southern fare.

Bronzeville

Bronzeville is a vibrant hub for artists of all mediums, with a strong affinity for jazz clubs and soul food. It has been home to legends like Nat "King" Cole and Muddy Waters and continues to foster musicians with distinct styles.

Discover your next favorite spot as contemporary artists perform at various lively venues. Head to Radius after dark for a legendary show featuring some of the city's top DJs. Stop by Bernice's Tavern for a drink and a casual serenade from an up-and-coming Chicago crooner.

Lincoln Park

Home to marvelous Victorian architecture and lush green spaces, Lincoln Park's music scene is just as stunning as its visuals. Kingston Mines is a must-visit for a peek at Chicago's blues legacy. With two indoor stages, every night at this blues club is a double concert where the music stops for absolutely nothing.

For beats that will move even the least enthusiastic dancer in your group, head to The Wild Hare & Singing Armadillo Frog Sanctuary. Here, reggae and world beat artists take the stage every night with lively melodies and easy beats that provide the perfect accompaniment to the fantastic Creole-Caribbean BBQ meal you'll feel compelled to order.

Photographer: Felix Mizioznikov

Live Music's Impact on Chicago Culture

The buzzing recording industry of 1920s Chicago brought musical hopefuls to the Windy City from across the country. Amidst the turmoil of Prohibition, Chicago was hungry for entertainment, which it found in a blossoming jazz and blues scene. As the city rose to national prominence, so did its musical pursuits.

Today, this lyrical inclination continues to influence Chicago's cultural landscape, augmented by the ever-expanding diversity of its community. A flourishing live music scene is just one sign of Chicagoans' connection to their soulful roots.

Discover the Best in Chicago Live Music Entertainment

Chicago's lively streets host established superstars and up-and-coming artists, delivering emotionally stirring performances. We captivate Windy City audiences with high-flying feats and fantastical storytelling. Our shows combine stunning visuals with exhilarating soundtracks, leaving the audience in awe.

Ready to be blown away by the sights and sounds of our Chicago shows?

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