Some of the most notable Chicago events consist of live music played at colorful neighborhood locales. These divey but intimate venues often feature artists who are working their way up to the big time. But what’s perhaps most exciting is that these show-oriented bars also attract the occasional internationally known band, who love to test new material on the true fans who congregate there. So where should you go when you need a taste of funk, punk, soul, or the blues? Here are five top options for live music in the Windy City.
Chicago’s underground punk music scene has a home at the Cobra Lounge. Located 10 minutes west of downtown, the bustling lounge is actually three venues in one: gastropub, music hall, and brew house/beer hall. The kitchen cranks out pub grub boasting local and sustainable ingredients—something not commonly found at an underground punk music dive bar. From smoked Amish chicken wings to burgers made with grass-fed beef, the menu is full of tasty, eco-conscientious surprises. And when your favorite punk or heavy metal band starts their set, you’ll notice that the Cobra Lounge offers some of the best acoustics in town. If you’re in the mood for a frosty beverage, you can check out All Rise Brewing Co., the venue’s very own brew house. The brewmaster maintains 12 house beers, with the signature Wonder Beer on tap at all times. Lucky for you, all of these beers are available in the music hall, as well.
One thing’s for certain: MVie is not an easy find and the owners prefer it that way. Since there’s no signage on the building’s exterior, you must be very astute and determined to find MVie on the mostly residential block. Once you make your way inside, you’re met with a warm and inviting interior made up of a dining room and a space carved out for live entertainment. After opening up the menu, your mouth will water at the list of Southern-inspired dishes, including shrimp and grits, fried oysters, and grilled pork chops. While bands perform on most nights, you might want to make your way over on a Tuesday to see the Moe Fitz Project. The talented trio knocks out classic soul ranging from Stevie Wonder to Earth, Wind & Fire. Performances at MVie are some of the most buzzed-about Chicago events for industry tastemakers, and so it’s never a surprise when touring musicians take the mic.
In the two years since its second coming, Thalia Hall—a historic landmark that was built in 1892—has made quite a name for itself. After all, it’s the only live music venue that boasts a Michelin-starred restaurant: the casual American-focused eatery, Dusek’s. The sprawling venue has been instrumental in putting the Pilsen neighborhood in the spotlight as a viable dining destination. And the spacious venue features shows for all ages. Depending on the night, your ears may be graced with anything from old-school hip-hop to alternative rock or up-and-coming pop. Once the show is over, you should stick around and make your way down to the lower-level bar, Punch House. You can take a seat on the vintage-inspired cushy sofas and booths and order a cocktail as the deejay spins some beats in the corner.
Underground Wonder Bar
When all of the other downtown live music venues close for the night, Underground Wonder Bar is still going strong. With a 5:00 a.m. license, this venue attracts an elite industry crowd and plenty of traveling professional musicians. When you take a seat in this two-level lounge, you hear music ranging from rock to reggae. You might even get to enjoy a cameo on-stage appearance. After taking in the show, you can make your way down to the downstairs bar, which houses a smaller stage and offers room for dancing.
Untitled Supper Club
This soul sensation caters to a variety of tastes by offering four rooms with varying atmospheres: a whiskey bar that showcases one of the largest whiskey selections in town, a champagne lounge that features rare and vintage bubbly, a live entertainment room, and a dining room filled with contemporary American fare. When you make your way inside the Untitled Supper Club, you may get to enjoy anything from a monthly burlesque show—one of the hottest Chicago events—to regular jam sessions featuring blues, R&B, and jazz bands.