In the most recent issue of Elmore Magazine, Arnie Goodman and photographer Paul Natkin ranked their favorite cities for live music. Natkin went one step further and compiled a list of his favorite venues in his hometown of Chicago, Illinois. If you happen to disagree with Paul or if your favorite venue was left out, feel free to make your voice heard on Elmore’s Facebook page or reply to us on Twitter.
Uncommon Ground: Ground zero for the singer/songwriter movement, Uncommon Ground’s two locations are the starting points for any Chicago singer/songwriter’s career, with plenty of open mic nights and three-act bills. Extras bonus: both locations are among the greenest restaurants in America, having received the ultimate four-star designation from the Green Restaurant Association.
Green Mill: Chicago’s premier jazz club. Built during the Depression and a frequent haunt of Al Capone, there are supposed to be tunnels under the building for Capone to have made his escape in the event of a raid. Live jazz seven nights a week, with national and local artists in a surreally early 20th century environment.
Schuba’s: A former Schlitz company bar, Schuba’s Tavern is the first stop for many national acts starting out their careers in Chicago. The Civil Wars, for example, sold out a two-night stand here right before they took off. And Harmony Grill, attached to the venue, is a perfect place for a meal before the show.
The Hideout: Chicago’s hidden gem, the Hideout is a tiny bar located next to the North Side refueling station for city vehicles. The small music room in the back has hosted some of the best shows in Chicago for the last ten years. Kelly Hogan (who used to work there as a bartender) got her Chicago start at the Hideout, and did a residency here before recently going out to LA to start recording her major label debut. Every September, the Hideout (partnering with The A.V. Club) runs a two-day festival in the parking lot across the street (where the city parks garbage trucks) —the best ten dollars anyone can spend, with all the proceeds given to charity! Headliners this year will include Young The Giant, Neko Case, Mavis Staples, the Hold Steady and Superchunk.
Buddy Guy’s Legends: Chicago’s top blues club, now celebrating its 24th year and a new and improved location. Its namesake, guitar legend Buddy Guy, can often be seen sitting at the bar, ready to talk, share a drink or sign an autograph. Home to many nationally-known touring bands and local artists alike, Legends programs music seven nights a week. Monday night is Jam night—bring an instrument and get paired up with other like-minded people to go on stage and play a few songs! Every January, one of the most spectacular events in Chicago music takes place as Guy himself plays here Thursday through Sunday for the month’s four weekends. Tickets are hard to come by, but well worth it.
Old Town School of Folk Music: Two buildings on either side of the street program roots and world music seven days a week on multiple stages. In addition, inside their classrooms you can learn everything from Wilco songs to belly dancing. You will see masses of people with guitars over their shoulders walking around outside at all hours of the day and night.