Best Chicago Neighborhoods for Music Lovers
Updated: Jan 27
There are numerous live music venues in Chicago. It is home to the House of Blues, the Chicago Theatre, the United Center, and so much more. The city comes alive with music festivals every summer: Lollapalooza, Grant Park Music Festival, Chicago SummerDance, and so on.
While there are excellent venues around the city, these neighborhoods stand out for their vibrant music scenes. From legendary concert halls to intimate stages, you’ll find a show to get excited about in one of Chicago’s top neighborhoods for music lovers.
Music venues abound in this Far North Side neighborhood. All three venues, the Aragon Ballroom, Riviera Theatre, and The Green Mill Cocktail Lounge, are within walking distance of each other. The Aragon Ballroom is a lavishly decorated space with crystal chandeliers. At this Uptown locale, both the music and the visuals are a delight. The Riv began as a movie theater, transitioned to a nightclub, and today showcases performances by a diverse range of musical performers. The Green Mill hosts regular jazz performances that span the spectrum from classic to current jazz.
This community even has its own recording studio for those interested in starting a music career: Uptown Recording.
It's known for wonderful shopping, beautiful Victorian houses, and one of the country's oldest free zoos. But there are other fantastic music venues in Lincoln Park, all within a few blocks of one other around Halsted Street. B.L.U.E.S. and Kingston Mines, sister venues, both host live blues concerts. With two stages, Kingston Mines is the larger of the two venues, with music performed every night, seven days a week. B.L.U.E.S is only open Mondays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays.
If you prefer Caribbean beats, travel a block north to the Wild Hare & Singing Armadillo Frog Sanctuary. Wild Hare has been bringing reggae and world-beat performers from all over the world to Lincoln Park for the past 30 years, earning them a devoted following of regulars. They also serve some delicious Caribbean-inspired cuisine.
Lincoln Hall is a great place to see indie and alternative music. It has served as a cinema theater and an auto garage since its construction in 1912. It is now one of the city's most popular performance venues on the north side. The intimate venue regularly hosts a slew of up-and-coming local talents as well as national touring acts.
Logan Square is a hipster hotspot with dive bars, art galleries, coffee shops, and cocktail lounges that residents appreciate. It's also where you'll discover the cutting edge of the local music scene, with places that don't shy away from showcasing unknown bands and experimental sounds.
Head to Milwaukee Avenue to get a sense of the area. With bar hoppers and concert attendees, the trendy thoroughfare stays bustling long after dark. That's where The Whistler can be found. It's easy to miss — there's no sign, just a front window with rotating art pieces and a long queue of residents waiting for no-cover events every night.
Head across the street to Cole's Bar if you're looking for a laid-back night in a neighborhood hangout. Grab a drink (and maybe a game of pool) in the front, then head to the cozy back room to listen to cover bands and folk musicians. Admission is always free, no matter who's on stage.
Concord Music Hall is just a few blocks away. The eclectic concert lineup, which includes nationally touring bands as well as up-and-coming acts, brings a young and stylish crowd to this mid-size venue. On any given weekend, a wide range of musical genres, including punk, electronic, indie, hip hop, metal, and everything in between, will take the stage.
Wicker Park, a refuge for artists and musicians, epitomizes the independent attitude. Around the six corners (the neighborhood's core, where North, Milwaukee, and Damen Avenues connect), you'll find music venues where you can see well-known bands or discover some of the newest local talents.
Subterranean on North Avenue is a two-story venue with a modest capacity. Keep an eye out for your favorite bands who may not yet have enough of a following to land one of the city's larger performing places. It also hosts an open-mic hip-hop night in addition to its regular concerts. If open-mic nights are more your style, Davenport's Piano Bar Cabaret is also a good option. This venue hosts open-mic evenings and cabaret performances on a regular basis.
Chop Shop, a one-of-a-kind location, is just a few doors down. Inside a 100-year-old former auto body shop, the industrial-chic building houses a restaurant, bar, butcher shop, and music venue. The concert area features 20-foot ceilings, exposed brick walls, and a cutting-edge sound system, making it an ideal venue for live performances (and maybe grab some house-roasted meats on your way out).
Two hidden jewels on the fringes of Wicker Park are well worth the drive from the heart of the neighborhood. The Hideout is a community pub and venue tucked away on a quiet street within a 100-year-old house. Almost every night of the week, there's live music and events, which often spill out onto the front lawn. And the Empty Bottle is a rarely-empty hole-in-the-wall on Chicago's west side that happens to be a musical institution, hosting a varied concert schedule with a side of grunge.