Rock On: Your guide to Chicago's hottest music venues
Published: Friday, May 11, 2012
Updated: Monday, August 27, 2012 16:08
A concert’s success relies as much on the venue as it does on the music. An artist’s space can make or break the entire concert experience — from acoustics to crowd interaction. And with the vast array of venues scattered throughout the city, from dingy nightclubs to architecturally captivating theaters, each venue offers its own unique experience.
Whether you’re looking for an adrenaline-pumping arena rock show vibe or a low-key coffee shop show feel, this guide will help you navigate the plethora of venues that Chicago has to offer.
Lincoln Hall - 2424 N. Lincoln Ave.
Lincoln Hall offers a unique concert experience due to its small, intimate space. The main floor presents fans with an opportunity to interact with the band, or those looking for a more laid-back show can relax on the upper balcony.
If you’re free in the hours approaching the concert, it’s not uncommon to find band members catching a smoke in the alley behind the venue, possibly resulting in a unique meet-and-greet. Just steps away from DePaul’s Lincoln Park campus, Lincoln Hall is the perfect venue for discovering cutting-edge new music for a low price.
The Victoria Theatre (“The Vic”) - 3145 N. Sheffield Ave.
Located around the corner from the Belmont L stop, The Vic offers a piece of architectural history and surprisingly intimate shows.
Originally a five-story vaudeville house, The Vic features ornate molding and retro architecture. Despite occupancy of 1400, the incredibly crisp acoustics create an intimate environment to enjoy your favorite artists.
When the venue isn’t featuring live music, it offers the Brew & View, transforming the space into a movie theater for second- and third-run films.
The Riviera Theatre (“The Riv”) - 4746 N. Racine Ave.
Jump off the Lawrence L stop and you’ll be greeted by two architecturally grand concert venues — The Riviera and The Aragon Ballroom. The Riv’s acoustics are far superior to that of The Aragon, where music becomes lost in the rafters of the ornately painted domes. The staff is not the friendliest and braving the line for the bathroom is sure to consume the length of an entire opening act. But the beauty of the theater and grandeur of the musical acts more than compensates for these shortcomings.
The Aragon Ballroom - 1106 W. Lawrence Ave.
Aptly nicknamed the “brawl-room,” attending a show at the Aragon can be a risk. Fans at the more rough-and-tumble concerts, most recently Flogging Molly, are more than willing to fight for their spots on the floor. Perching on the balcony ensures a more relaxed concert but not always the best sound — the nuances of the live performance become muddled in the vastness of the ballroom. Be ready to fight a rambunctious and recently-deafened crowd when making your way back on the L — things can get pretty competitive at Lawrence’s two entrance checkpoints.
Music Box Theatre - 3733 N. Southport Ave.
While not a music venue, The Music Box features many reasonably priced movie showings with a focus on independent and foreign films. The building itself is beautifully worn and features breathtaking architectural details that are forgone in today’s movie theaters. Reaching the theater can turn into quite the trek, but with many local cafes and shops nearby, it makes for an enjoyable jaunt through Lakeview. If you’re looking to see indie flicks and foreign epics in a stunning environment, The Music Box is a great choice.
Charter One Pavilion at Northerly Island - 1300 S. Linn White Drive
Open only during the summer months for outdoor concerts, Charter One has the arena feel without the possible problems that arise with expansive venues. Located next to the Lakeshore and Soldier Field, the pavilion offers a perfect vantage point for enjoying a picturesque view of the city. Offering a wide range of acts, from Barenaked Ladies to Styx, Charter One is sure to please music fans of all preferences.
The Metro - 3730 N. Clark St.
Holding the prestige as Chicago’s first official rock club, the Metro has stayed true to its indie artist roots and often supports up-and-coming talent. The small floor space and cramped bar area can be a hassle to navigate but always provides an unforgettable show. Featuring superstar acts (Prince, Iggy Pop) and under-the-radar bands (Wild Flag, The Naked & Famous), the Metro offers the perfect array of cutting-edge music.