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Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Sunday, May 19

Gapers Block

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jennifer / September 29, 2004 11:42 AM

I try to go to as many as my budget will allow. In the next few months there are at least ten good shows coming up. I really enjoy any show at the Empty Bottle. The sound is good, the drinks are cheap.
I really like the Metro only if i'm on the second floor right on the railing, and I've yet to have a decent experience at the Logan Square Auditorium. The Aragon is hands down the worst venue.

Andrew / September 29, 2004 11:51 AM

I need to get to more shows. The only ones I've been to in the past year have been at the Empty Bottle -- which is funny, because for some reason I hadn't been there before this winter. I, too, prefer the balcony at the Metro -- the accoustics are a little better, and I'm old enough to no longer enjoy being crushed by fans on the first floor.

As for favorite venue, I love Schuba's. So intimate and comfortable! Unfortunately I'm not into very many of the acts that tend to play there, so it's not a regular visit for me.

miss ellen / September 29, 2004 11:52 AM

i'm a live music junkie. mostly stick to jambands, hip-hop & random stuff like ween, beck, radiohead (alternative, i guess; is that still a genre?), etc.

tend to go out for more of the national touring acts, so i don't go to shows every week.

some chicago venues i love - abbey pub, logan square auditorium, chicago theatre, empty bottle, park west - and many others are pretty decent. and, even though it's located on chicago's version of disneyland, the skyline stage is a pretty awesome place to see a summertime show!

i spent a good chunk of time touring with phish, so i can tell you that the american airlines arena in miami is HOTT, madison square garden is a wonder unto itself, lakewood amphiteater in atlanta really is in the ghetto (you know when you get there), and the thomas & mack center in vegas is not as close to the strip as it looks.

my one complaint about chicago: many times, you get a great weekend that ends up with about 3 or 4 shows that you have to pick & choose.

ditto on the aragon taking the prize for worst venue in chicago.

Kris / September 29, 2004 12:05 PM

Andrew beat me to it (but he probably posted the question), but Schuba's is my favorite venue in town, and I do like most of the acts that go in there. I also like the Metro and the Vic. Never been to the Aragon, but I've had two bad experiences at the Riviera.

Mike / September 29, 2004 12:29 PM

I like the Abbey, the Metro and the Double Door.
Even though half of Chicago would hate me for saying this, I don't think the Empty Bottle is a very good venue. They book the best bands, but once that place gets crowded, there's a 15 min. wait for a beer and no where to sit. Being on your feet and only getting 2 or 3 overpriced Old Styles for a 4-5 hour period is really aggrivating.

Michael / September 29, 2004 12:30 PM

I like the Metro (upstairs) and the Riviera. For jazz though, nothing beats the Green Mill.

Audrey / September 29, 2004 12:54 PM

I end up going to more jazz concerts than anything else, so I find myself at the Jazz Showcase or Green Mill at least six or seven times a year. The ability to sit is an added bonus.

The House of Blues isn't bad if one of your favorite performers is there, like Richard Thompson in June.

Naz / September 29, 2004 12:56 PM

Empty Bottle is consistently my favourite venue. Good sound, good drinks and the layout is interesting. And there's always small pool to play or a bite to eat next door if you're bored.

Agreed on the Metro tip, upper balcony please.

I've been to the Riv thrice - I saw an odd array of acts over the three times. Last one was Coldplay so many moons ago. First one was Snapcase/Quicksand/Deftones. I think the accoustics in there hold up well.

I like, like, like the Fireside. The sound there used to be better (and they're not even doing shows anymore so this is moot) but towards the end got tinny. Playing there is a lot of fun.

Oh, and the Bottom Lounge - saw two shows there and was actually impressed. Sort of Metro meets Bottle in a way without the sleaze of the Fireside.

Carly / September 29, 2004 12:57 PM

Concert-going goes in spurts. Sometimes I'll catch a few shows in one month, then have a dry spell.

There are a lot of shows coming up, but I think I'm a bit dismayed that I just plunked down $27 to see Blonde Redhead at the Metro.

I much prefer the $10-15 range.

I don't mind going to Abbey Pub, Empty Bottle and Metro.

Schubas is OK as long as the talking doesn't overwhelm the band. Once I saw Low and people had the nerve to talk through the whole show.

I'm not a huge fan of House of Blues.

Naz / September 29, 2004 12:58 PM

Oh, and like many others have mentioned - seats please. Getting all cranky standing at shows these days. Give me a good drink, a good seat and nice accoustics (which when sitting at the bar or where there usually is seating correlates).

steven / September 29, 2004 1:02 PM

back in the teen years (15 years ago) i used to drive up 3-4 times a week for shows. now i'm lucky if i see 1 show a month. going to see pj harvey this sat at the riv, should be a good one.

favorite venues are vic, metro, riviera. among the smaller venues...abbey, schubas, double door.

best venue ever? grant park for the radiohead show a few years back. great band, super sound, beautiful night and a great skyline.

and the aragon blows.

Craig / September 29, 2004 1:16 PM

Don't go to as many live shows as I used to-- once a month (give or take) is usually sufficient. Too many great recording artists don't translate that talent into an engaging live show, so I almost prefer spending the money on more recordings. Too many times have I watched a band I love play songs that sound just like the record. (or worse, due to lack of nuance, detail, and dynamics) Not to mention the density of smoke in the average Chicago club! A smoking ban cannot come soon enough. (No apologies due to you smokers, quit now and you'll be ready for the impending ban...)

That said, the most enjoyable shows for me this year have been in non-rock clubs: Magnetic Fields at the Old Town (amazing show!), Tortoise at Pritzker, French Kicks at Damen/North, Hideout Street Fest, Jazz Fest, etc.

amyc / September 29, 2004 1:26 PM

Old Town School is my favorite -- it's downright cozy, and the sound is wonderful. Schuba's is also a lovely little joint. But almost none of the bands I like play at those places, so I spend most of my concert-goin' time at Metro or Empty Bottle. And I just don't feel the love for those places that the rest of you do. I think it's the smoke. The Bottle especially -- one of the worst-ventilated venues in town (although it has gotten better).

Side note: I recently got to be inside the Metro before the doors opened, and I was amazed how tiny it is when it's not crammed with people. And how pretty the stage is.

amyc / September 29, 2004 1:30 PM

Oh, and my least favorite place: The Vic. It's gorgeous inside, but those black-shirted pricks on their concert staff suck ass. I got frisked and interrogated about my inhaler like I was trying to smuggle a pipe bomb into the PJ Harvey show a few years ago. Never been back.

Thurston / September 29, 2004 2:02 PM

I find myself at a concert about once a week. As such, I've developed some pretty strong opinions about different venues. I still listen to some indie rock but I'm getting pretty sick of all the arrogance that surrounds it. As such, the Empty Bottle has been on my shit list lately, despite the good shows they have, because I always recieve attitude from their staff and patrons, and I suspect it is because I do not have the standard issue star tattoo on my forearm and do not dress with enough ersatz ironic flair. Despite the bogusness that often surrounds the Empty Bottle, I'd say the worst venues in the city hands down are the Aragon (bad acoustics, $6 beers) and the Bottom Lounge (too many kids, was not allowed to bring my beer to the stage area from the closed off bar on the second floor).
I think the best venue is HotHouse, however this venue focuses primarily on non-Anglo music. The shows are reasonable priced, the venue is terrific, there are seats, it's easily accessible via public transportation and it attracts a more grown-up and less pretentious crowd. And if you become a member of this non-profit for $50/year, you can go to three free shows (of their choice) a month. If it weren't for HotHouse, Chicago would have virtually no opportunities to hear music from outside the country save for the occasional European DJ.

Kevin / September 29, 2004 2:08 PM

Old Town School is by far, the best place to see a show. I wish they'd book "harder" acts because I'd love to see those rafters get rocked. From a performance standpoint, it was and always will be out favorite place to play in Chicago. Martyr's has the best site-lines and awesome dressing rooms (couches, bathroom, etc.) Abbey Pub is ok. Only saving grace is the balcony seating which is similar to the Subterreanean. We play most of the other places but I absolutely cannot stand to go see a show anymore unless I can sit and have a good view of the stage. I used to looooooove Kingston Mines and B.L.U.E.S. etc for that vibe.

Mike / September 29, 2004 3:09 PM


I will second that comment about the Vic. It really is a beautiful space, it's almost surreal to see movies there. As far as it goes for live music though, the accoustics are really bad and layout is a little rough.
Sonic Youth played there over the summer, and that type of volume can really get muddy in a place like that. Also, there is something absolutely wrong with paying $5 a pop for a can of beer.

Jennifer / September 29, 2004 3:24 PM

I've been to pretty much every venue in Chicago in the last three years, and my favorites are The Metro (for more upbeat, make-you-want-to-move-around shows) and the Empty Bottle (for more thought-provoking, sit-on-a-barstool shows). Though I hear the Old Town School is a great place to see that latter type of show, and sadly, I've yet to go there. Oh, and I hate the Vic.

Though this is off-topic, NEVER go see a show at the Rave in Milwaukee. The sound is crap, and they cram way too many people in there.

margots / September 29, 2004 3:27 PM

I second the HotHouse. I went there to see Antibalas and the HotHouse's version of "sold out" still allows for plenty of room to dance and go get drinks, etc. Great time.

Some other favorites of mine are Park West (Charlie Hunter usually swings through there, although never often enough), Metro and Martyrs.

miss ellen / September 29, 2004 3:38 PM

yummmmmmm, charlie hunter! haven't seen him in awhile. he's drool-licious ;)

margots / September 29, 2004 3:40 PM

no kidding! he'll be at the park west on nov. 12th for the new music seminar.

Jonathan / September 29, 2004 3:43 PM

The Mutiny. Personal pitchers of Old Style and dirt on the walls.

andrew / September 29, 2004 4:48 PM

my concert-going comes in spurts, usually surrounding paydays. if i had the money, i would be at shows three times a week. as it is, i probably average once a week.

my favorite venue in chicago, hands down, is the empty bottle. the drinks are reasonable (don't know any other venue where you can get beer cheaper than $1.25) and the calendar is so varied. i've seen hardcore acts, electronic acts, shoegaze, free jazz... schubas is also good, they have some great shows coming up in october. i used to love the fireside, and am expecting great things from the renovated logan square auditorium (new sound system like whoa). i try not to go to the metro too often, likewise with the abbey pub (i've had bad experiences with their staff). i refuse to pay more than $15 for a show, so i don't have experiences--good or bad--at the riv, aragon, house of blues, and so on.

vit / September 29, 2004 4:59 PM

Were do i begin. sometimes it is hard to seperate the venue from the show. Seriously, I know the vic is crap, but I saw Bad Brains there when I was 15 so it is rough to come down too hard on the place.

I like empty bottle quite a bit but the patrons can get on my nerves. I also like the Metro (again, I first darkened the door of that place in 1988 and, well, I was just there two weeks ago). Abby pub is a nice place, as is Old Town (nice sound, but the choice of music isn't quite my cup of tea). For the most part I agree with all of you. And yes, the Riv and the Brawlroom both leave a bit to be desired there too.

Recently Double Door has been going downhill but I do like Subterranean.

steve_sleeve / September 29, 2004 5:00 PM

i go to way more shows than my budget allows and not nearly as many as i'd like to. some time ago on we discussed what our individual priorities were in deciding which shows to go to. one of my main points that i listed (aside from cost and location) was proximity that the band tours.

for example, sloan seems to only play chicago once per album they release, and since that's about every two years, i'll go see them every time they're here (unless they're touring with jet), but the shins have been here twice since they released "chutes too narrow," and while they're one of my current favorite bands, do i need to see essentially the same show at a packed house of blues less than a year since the last time i saw them? the show would probably be good, but because of the "proximity rule" (and HOB's ticket prices) i'll try to spend show money on something else.

venues i like in chicago: hideout, abbey, metro (given the same second floor balcony requirement that jennifer mentioned), empty bottle, old town school, schuba's. all of those are better if they're not too packed. not a big fan of the double door, and the bottom lounge is OK but has some fairly obtrusive support beams. and the allstate arena is great, but only if you're going there to see prince.

Maggie / September 29, 2004 6:32 PM

My concert going also is in spurts - but I love to go as much as possible. I love Schubas - though I have had my car towed while attending a show there. I also greatly enjoy Double Door, Subterranean and Wise Fools.

Worst venue - maybe we don't consider this a venue as much as a warehouse - the United Center.

Michael Nameche / September 29, 2004 9:39 PM

The Park West is a palace here in town. I am amazed how many folks that have lived here five - ten years have never made it there. If there is anyone you are even remotely interested in seeing that performs there it is worth it to see that room in action. That place is swanky. Great sound and not a bad line of sight in the house.

The fact about the Metro is this-the balcony may offer the better line of sight but the main floor sounds way better. My wife is 5 foot 2 inches tall so we end up at the balcony 9 times out of ten but I am always amazed how much better it sounds on the main floor.

I made it a point to try different venues a couple of years ago. I managed to make it to a The Butcher Shop and Dead Tech before I realized that I valued even overpriced beer in comparison to none.

Absolute worst venue: The Fireside - those fucking kids would smoke so many cigarettes that I could never last through a show no matter how bad I wanted to see the band. I once saw Tortoise there and I watched my friend shed a tear full of ash from second hand smoke. And while we are on the subject, the dear departed Lounge Ax was like a lunchbox sitting on hell's grill. Christ that place could get hot!

Ken / September 29, 2004 11:29 PM

Granted, I'm fairly biased, but my favorite venue for electronic music has to be Sonotheque.

Anthony Ina / September 30, 2004 9:48 AM

As a fan of electronic music, I'd have to say the best venues are now sonotheque and (unfortunately) smartBar. Some of the commercial places are probably alright, but I'm not of the school that enjoys shell out $20, waiting in line for a 30 minutes, paying $8 per drink, and chilling with suburban crowd.

I'm also morning the closing of BigWig, which according to rumor is just a remodeling.

paulette / September 30, 2004 10:33 AM

I average about one show per week (mostly indie rock/pop/experimental) and I love the empty bottle. mostly bc it's very close to my house, but the staff has always been friendly to me and I like having the pool room to get a breather in (that place does get smoky).

ever since the White stripes show last new year's I've had a rule that I'm never returning to the Aragon again (it's a death trap that charges for tap water!).

Schuba's is charming but recently I've been annoyed by chatty audience members who seem to have wandered in off the street and don't even know who the act is.

vic/riv/metro I can take or leave.

who's booking the double door these days and why do they suck so much?

Pete / September 30, 2004 11:12 AM

Nostalgic me still misses Lounge Ax, while Schuba's is my favorite venue still in operation. And Metro is still my favorite of the larger venues.

jennifer / September 30, 2004 11:54 AM

"who's booking the double door these days and why do they suck so much?"

I'd like to know the answer to this as well. Seems that two years ago, there were some decent shows there. Now, not so much. Maybe the upcoming Hot Snakes show is a sign of good things to come?

miss ellen / September 30, 2004 1:30 PM

however, tonight @ double door is a bangin' show ---- soulive from NYC (handily linked on the events calendar).

Mike / September 30, 2004 1:42 PM

Har-Mar Superstar at the Double Door, Oct. 21st.

emily / September 30, 2004 4:30 PM

Any outdoor festival/venue for the fresh air and ability to walk around, and The Old Town School of Folk Music because I can sit comfortably, hear the band without people yelling over the music trying to pick each other up, and not get cancer from social chain smokers. I am in full favor of a Chicago smoking ban. I would go out so much more if I could breathe.

Maureen / September 30, 2004 4:52 PM

For electronic music, Smartbar is the best. Haven't been to Slick's since it burned down and re-built itself, but I've heard good things about Thursday nights. Metro and Schuba's are in the top spots, but I don't know enough about bands/groups these days to know what/where to check stuff out. I did just see Ocean Blue at Schuba's last Friday, and that was the best live show I've seen in a long time.

Biggest reasons for not attending more shows? Too much smoke, not enough seating, too many young kids. :P I'm getting old!

Lyle / September 30, 2004 11:51 PM

WWYDTGTTFOTS? is the operative question. What Would You Do To Get To The Front Of The Stage? Let's talk about the not-so-niceties of that guts-to-glory slither. Because if you're willing to brush up against (squeeze through) the sweaty outer boundaries of the dozens of individual passive-aggressive obstacle zones we shall call The People Between You And There -- and maybe, inadvertently, and literally, "step on a few toes" along the way -- you can see an awesome show at any venue, from the Metro to the Bottle to Schubas to etc. (I didn't say "hear" said show . . .)

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