Live Music Venues Throughout Chicago Rock Every Night of the Week

The power of live music is on full display at a host of Chicago clubs, music theaters and even in restaurants. If listening to bands and vocalists show off their skills is how you like to spend an evening, you'll find that Chicago does it up right. Multiple options let you tap into the venues that 10Best readers favor, like Lincoln Hall or longtime favorites like Green Mill. While the local music scene can’t be found in one particular area, it’s not hard to find your favorite sound since hundreds of venues play live music almost every single night from blues and jazz to rock and roll and folk.

Great bands can be found playing in small, divey venues to elegant, old-world speakeasy lounges like Green Mill and Untitled Supper Club. Just outside the city’s borders, fans head to FitzGerald’s in Berwyn to hear the best in Americana and Zydeco and Evanston SPACE for its intimate experience.

Most people know the Old Town School of Folk Music for its outstanding offerings of music classes but its line up of alt-country and world music draws sold-out crowds to its elegant and acoustically appealing concert hall.

Whatever your taste in live music, you can easily find first-rate performers and a comfortable venue to enjoy it in Chicago. 


Lincoln Park

Small enough for an intimate listening experience, Lincoln Hall never feels overcrowded even when the show is a sell out. It's just a great place to enjoy a diverse line up of bands. Fans love the solid acoustics and sight lines from both the main and upstairs levels. Drinks (which include a good draft list) are reasonably priced. The venue is near the Fullerton Red/Purple/Brown elevated train station. Local restaurants (some BYOB) make it easy to get a decent meal before you head to the show offering everything from Venezuelan and Mexican to Italian and Middle Eastern food. Tickets sell out quickly so be sure to order them online (all tickets are will call) before arriving so you're not disappointed. Since it's close to DePaul, the crowd tends to skew young.

Recommended for Live Music because: Intimate yet large enough to get a great live music experience, Lincoln Hall books a wide range of acts to appeal to several musical tastes.

Jacky's expert tip: If standing for a couple hours to listen to live music has lost its charm, get to the venue early enough to grab a seat on the balcony.

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The 350 capacity venue is a neighborhood gathering spot where locals linger for coffee, wi-fi, snacks and beer by day and everyone comes for live music and beer by night (the bar has 56-draft lines of local, regional and international ales, stouts, barleys, and ciders). Expect an array of ticketed and free events showcasing national and global performers of pop, art-rock, psych, folk, electronic, jazz and everything in between and beyond. The performance venue has great acoustics, the lighting is spot-on and the space feels intimate but never cramped. When the weather turns cheery, the patio is open and it's dog-friendly during the day.

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Don't let the name of the place fool you - while it has folky performers, this excellent, intimate concert hall offers shows ranging from African music to a full Cuban salsa band (with dancing!). The venue recently hosted Steve Earle, Lucinda Williams, Patti Smith and other cutting edge artists, too. There's not a bad seat in the theater, so don't hesitate to buy seats in the upper level. The venue, which is also a music school, was built by musicians for musicians. Ticket prices are extremely reasonable and even more so if you're a member. Parking is available across the street in a lot or along the street (both are metered). There are more than a few excellent restaurants on the block, so consider grabbing dinner before or after a show for a completely wonderful evening in Chicago.

Recommended for Live Music because: The Old Town School of Folk Music is an intimate, comfortable room presenting a lot more than folk music in a great Chicago neighborhood.

Jacky's expert tip: There are many stellar restaurants in the neighborhood within walking distance.

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Who better to design a space to play than musicians themselves? That was the goal when creating SPACE (which stands for Society for the Preservation of Art & Culture) located just north of Chicago in Evanston. Every part of the venue, from the aesthetics to the audio and lighting technology, was designed to allow for great creative expression. The result is sound that keeps musicians and fans coming back, sight lines that allow everyone to enjoy the show and no seats that are more than 40 feet from the stage which allow a level of intimacy rarely found these days. SPACE hosts local and national touring acts like The Lumineers, Alabama Shakes, Graham Parker, Nick Lowe, Dr. John and Lucinda Williams, among others.

Recommended for Live Music because: With no seat more than 40 feet from the stage, you get an up close and personal experience at the shows.

Jacky's expert tip: Order a pie from Union Pizzeria, the restaurant in front of the building, and bring it with you to the show.

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Untitled Supper Club is an upscale dining and entertainment spot with a prohibition-era atmosphere. In addition to an American supper club menu, the venue boasts the country's largest collection of curated American Whiskeys (more than 550) which should get you in the mood for live music.Have a drink in the lounge that features a classic movie screened the wall. Performances are rooted in American genres like soul, funk, rock and jazz so it's likely you'll be head bobbing in no time flat. You might want to return on a Thursday night for the stimulating cabaret-style show, Unbridled, presented by Michelle L'amour, that includes burlesque dancers. Shorter versions of these provocative performances also take place on Friday and Saturday evenings.

Recommended for Live Music because: With the atmosphere of a classic speakeasy, Untitled is a complete evening with good food, an incredible whiskey roster and live music.

Jacky's expert tip: Live music is presented at Untitled Wednesday through Saturday evenings.

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Green Mill Cocktail Lounge
Photo courtesy of Photo courtesy of Choose Chicago

Trendy folks and jazz aficionados regularly flock to this cool joint. Once a hangout of Al Capone, Charlie Chaplin and Gloria Swanson, the place has tons of character. It was also a speakeasy during Prohibition, meaning that Green Mill retains a past-days air of the Roaring '20s. Swing music is offered Tuesday and Thursday, Wednesday night is their gyspy jazz band although jazz crops up almost nightly, and Sunday features poetry slams. Cocktails are inexpensive but if you want to enjoy them from a table, get there early and definitely before the bands go on otherwise you'll be out of luck because this place gets packed.

Recommended for Live Music because: It's a unique, historic venue that's unlike anything else in Chicago, and once a hangout for famed gangster Al Capone.

Jacky's expert tip: If you want a table, get there early and enjoy some cocktails or whiskey before the bands go on.

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Modeled after the Prague opera house and designed as a public hall for the community in 1892, Thalia Hall hosts live music practically every night of the week. The landmark space welcomes barn dance tunes to well known singer-songwriters, 80's rockers good-time California rock. Audiences are chill and respectful, the stage is attractive, beverages are snacks are reasonably priced and the sound is fantastic. There are many great eateries in Pilsen to enjoy before or after the show or you can't go wrong with the on site Dusek's gatropub.

Recommended for Live Music because: Thalia Hall hosts live music nearly every night of the week in a landmark space with great acoustics.

Jacky's expert tip: Weekend mornings feature the Rock and Roll Playhouse for kids, an introduction to live music and rock and roll from Led Zeppelin to the Grateful Dead.

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Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Photo courtesy of 4/09 Image emailed from CSO. - Lisa

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra's Symphony Center is a grand space with great acoustics and beautiful architecture. Add to that one of the country's best orchestras (they've won more Grammy Awards than any other ensemble in the world) and seeing a show here will likely be a night to remember. While classical music is the focus, Symphony Center hosts guest performers like the cast of NPR's Live from Here, various chamber and civic orchestras, and unusual acts such as The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain. There are also Q&A sessions with conductors and creative directors, as well as multimedia presentations. Even those who don't like classical music will marvel at the architecture and sound. Student prices and special kids shows are available, too.

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The venue that the New York Times calls "a musical gem" is standing room only but even when it's packed it's a fabulous room for live music. Some of the biggest names as well as emerging artists in folk, swing, Zydeco, big band, country, blues and rock play this Berwyn venue. Don't overlook it because it's not in the city proper. Public transportation is nearby (it's six blocks from the Forest Park blue line stop at Oak Park Avenue) but there are also parking spots nearby. Fitzgerald's doesn't serve food so hit up a nearby restaurant first if you're hungry - Oak Park has plenty. There's an Italian place right next door to the venue that will deliver your food to the club, too. Bartenders are attentive and drinks are very reasonable. An outside patio with chairs and tables makes it easy to take a break.

Recommended for Live Music because: No matter what night of the week you show up, there's bound to be a live band performing in this friendly Berwyn club.

Jacky's expert tip: The venue's annual American Music Festival taking place over Independence Day weekend has become a tradition for thousands of music fans.

Read more about FitzGerald's Nightclub →

Jay Pritzker Pavilion is not only an architecturally stunning venue in downtown Chicago, but it has an outstanding sound system and provides a wide variety of high-caliber concerts for free, if you sit on the lawn. The Grammy-nominated Grant Park Symphony Orchestra and Chorus often perform here, but so have names like Idina Menzel, Wilco, Tori Amos and the Lyric Opera of Chicago. In 2019, the Grant Park Music Festival celebrates its 85th season while Millennium Park celebrates its 15th birthday. Among the 30 spectacular Festival concerts at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in 2019 are Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake, Gershwin's Piano Concerto and, of course, the annual Independence Day Salute. t's a perfect place to bring a blanket, camping chairs, food and drinks and enjoy a summer night. Take in excellent live music, the pavilion's stunning architecture and the gorgeous city skyline as a backdrop.

Recommended for Live Music because: It's a beautiful outdoor concert venue in the heart of downtown Chicago, and if you sit on the lawn, the shows are free.

Jacky's expert tip: While lawn seats are free, tickets are required for seats in the pavilion for some shows, so check the schedule beforehand.

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Meet Jacky Runice

Born in Bucktown when bulletproof was a home safety choice and not a coffee order, Jacky Runice has been knocking around Chicago as a professional print, online and broadcast journalist and...  More About Jacky