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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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Tuesday, March 5

Gapers Block

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Andrew / April 27, 2005 11:44 PM

Performance = music/dance/theatre/spoken word/whatever.

Small = relative. Metro is not small, Schubas might be.

Personally, I like the Hideout, and although I'm not fond of the place, I think it'd be fun to see performances on the stage at the Rainbo.

mike / April 28, 2005 2:46 AM

Improv Olympic.
Laughing is cooler than indie bands and poetry.

jeff / April 28, 2005 6:55 AM


Tim / April 28, 2005 7:07 AM

LookingGlass. They can reconfigure this intimate space for each show. Flexible is good. And the acting is top-notch. I repeat, flexible is good...the mind wanders...

Tommy / April 28, 2005 8:10 AM

Schubas gets my vote. The wooden floor give the small room a big sound.

Michael / April 28, 2005 8:17 AM

The Green Mill Cocktail Lounge

It's Al Capone's old hangout and the birthplace of the poetry slam. It's cozy, stays open late and is one of the city's oldest jazz clubs.

ruthie / April 28, 2005 8:45 AM

I used to enjoy live performances in my dorm room. Now I enjoy them in my living room. It's just ideal: comfortable seating, good acoustics, no smoke, no chance of getting trapped behind an overly amorous couple or next to some overzealous slam-dancers. . .

Sarah / April 28, 2005 9:08 AM

Well, I'm extremely biased because I run the volunteer program there, but I love Links Hall in Wrigleyville. There is something really cool about packing 80 people in a small room, some sitting in chairs, some on cushions on the floor, to see a burlesque act and a contemporary puppet show, or to watch percussionists Hamid Drake and Michael Zerang drum the sun up by candlelight on the winter solstice.

Outside of Links, I would second the Hideout. I saw the Redmoon band, Mucca Pazza, there recently and between the band's mismatched polyesther uniforms and the hideout's decor it was like being at some weird sort of arty summer camp. I had a blast.

Michael / April 28, 2005 9:13 AM

Any given car on the Red Line.

Brenda / April 28, 2005 9:36 AM

It used to be the corner of Belmont and Broadway, when I lived there. Street theatre every night. "Transvestite Hookers on Crack" seemed to have an unlimited run on that corner.

tony / April 28, 2005 10:08 AM

Ahhh yes, the followup to "Cannibal Cheerleaders on Crack," which I believe showed just down Broadway near Diversey.

e_five / April 28, 2005 10:23 AM

A few...

The Green Mill
Phillis' Musical Inn
The Heartland Cafe
Beat Kitchen

I miss the old CrossCurrents space at Wilton and Belmont.

etcettera / April 28, 2005 10:29 AM

My favorite venue has to be the Empty Bottle, they always have great and unique live music there.

sarah / April 28, 2005 10:44 AM

for good food, great sound and friendly waitstaff, schubas...

for cheap beer/pool and great bands, the empty bottle...

for napping during bad openers, the subterranean...

for relatively easy street parking, the abbey pub...

for a smoke free evening w/ yummy dessert, the uncommon ground coffeehouse...

jen*nee / April 28, 2005 10:45 AM

I know this is meant to be a Chicago question, but to answer honestly I have to say Creepy Crawl in St. Louis. It's dark. It's dirty. They play Troma videos behind the bar and punk rock on the stage.

Feels like home to me.

Brenda / April 28, 2005 10:57 AM

look at jen*nee, representin for St. Louis (my home town). What 'hood is that in? Dogtown? CWE? I'll have to check it out next time I'm home visiting the 'rents.

Paula / April 28, 2005 11:13 AM

I like Fitzgerald's in Berwyn for the eclectic mix of bands that they book (and the excellent American Music Fest over July 4th weekend), and for a non-Chicago venue, Shank Hall in Milwaukee - it has the quaint feel of the living room from someone's scummy college garden apartment.

waleeta / April 28, 2005 11:15 AM

I second Mike - Improv Olympic. Laughing IS so much better than crowded, smokey bars.

Also, the smaller (upstairs?) stage at Steppenwolf. Feels very, very intimate.

jetgirl / April 28, 2005 11:52 AM

i'm going to have to give some love to the bottom lounge because i never have trouble finding a spot where i can see the stage there. i only wish that they a) only had 21+ shows and b) weren't going bye-bye when the belmont stop gets expanded.

Hal / April 28, 2005 11:54 AM

Thumbs up to both the Hideout and Fitzgeralds. On the theatre front, Lifeline is a new fave as well.

Thurston / April 28, 2005 12:24 PM

Wihtout a doubt, the non-profit venue HotHouse on Balbo between State and Wabash. A great room with options for both sitting and standing. Zero bogus hipster ironic-t-shirt-wearing contests going on in there a la the Bottle. They also now have many non-smoking shows now. They showcase primarily non-Anglo music, and without it we really wouldn't have access to progressive and contemporary non-Anglo touring bands in Chicago. They also host plays, have an art gallery and host other performance art from time to time. I'm a volunteer and member there, so admittedly I am biased.

konczal / April 28, 2005 1:05 PM

I love the Logan Square Auditorium, in all it's art-deco 1920s glory. but i don't know if it qualifies as small.

Eamon / April 28, 2005 1:27 PM

I'll second the HotHouse, although I've only been there a handful of times. Can we vote for most hated venue? Because that would be Cubby Bear, no question.

Anthony / April 28, 2005 1:32 PM

The HotHouse. Make sure it continues to exist by becoming a member. Other than that, I second the Green Mill. Sonotheque, Schuba's and Moreland are good, too. If it was still around, I'd include Big Wig.

Pops for Champagne is the worst place EVER, followed only by Lakeview Links or whatever that place is called now.

For theatre, check out The American Theatre Company.

Leelah / April 28, 2005 2:14 PM

Lounge Ax.

But, since that is long gone, I'll go with Schuba's. I like the Abbey, but does that qualify as "small"?

Mike / April 28, 2005 2:19 PM

HotHouse - I'm with ya'. Soooo comfy, great music. room to move, dance, etc.

I was going to go with the Park West, but that's probably a middle to middle-big venue. The PW is by far my favorite place for music.

Ohhhh wait, no one's brought up the two stages at the Cultural Center yet. Both rooms are lovely.

amyc / April 28, 2005 2:45 PM

The Old Town School of Folk Music (Lincoln branch) and Uncommon Ground are both cozy and acoustically lovely, not to mention smoke-free.

jima / April 28, 2005 3:41 PM

That Old Town School space really is lovely. It can seat a fair number of people, yet still feels intimate. One of the great pleasures in taking classes at the school is being able to stick around in the evenings for Second Half, where you get to play music with the instructors in that space. Feel like a rock star for one night, at least.

Erica / April 28, 2005 5:00 PM

MUTINY. Gosh, if you've never been, you must go. No cover, amateur bands, and cheapest beer I've seen in the city -- mini pitchers and monster mugs for super cheap. Totally trashy, dumpy and classic. You can take a ceiling panel home and paint it and they'll put it up. I am easily amused and entertained!

I enjoy Bottom Lounge on all levels. Sound is always good. I miss Fireside and it sucks BL is going away next.

I thought Congress' sound was terrible at the few shows I saw there -- anyone been there recently? Have they fixed the acoustics? Aragon, too, used to be terrible, but I saw Interpol there recently and thought the sound was much better.

Also, this is not a venue, but bands play there for the Play the Field event -- The Field Museum. What a terrible place to expect to hold live performances. Sounds like hell. Sue hates it, too.

Anthony / April 28, 2005 6:00 PM

i second the Park West as a great venue!

jason / April 28, 2005 6:28 PM

For performance I like Links Hall because they're always bringing in new and experimental stuff.

For music I dig Katerina's because its a relatively intimate space and they bring in killer jazz acts.

Nicole / April 28, 2005 7:44 PM

I have to pledge my undying love to the Empty Bottle. It's small, the stage is high and you can see it from virtually anywhere in the room, PBR is 1.75, the sound is decent (though loud), it's wonderfully dark and dirty, and they get without a doubt the best shows in the city, week after week. All the best shows I've ever seen have been at the EB.

Tim / April 29, 2005 6:42 AM

'NON-ANGLO MUSIC'? So the HotHouse features music not of the Anglo Saxon variety? Would this exclude that popular Anglo Saxon tradition of the performance of songs accompanied by a harp? 'NON-ANGLO MUSIC', give me a break.

Erica / April 29, 2005 8:38 AM

OK, I'm the gal that praised Mutiny, but I gotta do a 180 here and say, House of Blues, still somewhat intimate, has the best sound and ambiance. I love that place no matter how corporate and how expensive the beer is. I pre-drink to avoid paying up the wazoo there for liquor. Nothing like hanging on the main floor during a really high-energy show and feeling the floor bounce up and down. Very cool. The mosaics, art pieces, etc., are gorgeous. I could spend an hour just walking around and admiring its beauty. I'd love to meet whoever designed that place.

emily / April 29, 2005 8:56 AM

The Old Town School of Folk Music. Because: 1) It is Smoke Free. I don't go home smelling like an ashtray and my allergies thank me for that. 2) People go there to watch a performance, not to socialize. You actually get to hear the music, the banter, and sometimes interact with the performers. 3) Seats. When sitting down I don't have to worry about straining to see and instead get to really enjoy the performance.

Tanisha / April 29, 2005 10:26 AM

The Hothouse!

It has cozy booth seating, there's room to dance, and they always have the coolest lineup of artists you may not have heard of but are amazed when you see them.

emgee / April 29, 2005 10:32 AM

Thanks Tim. In my book, ironic trucker-hat-wearing hipsters and people who use terms like "non-anglo" are equally obnoxious.

katie / April 29, 2005 10:34 AM

i agree with erica about the mutiny - love the mini pitchers and giant mugs. i am a big fan of crappy dive bars and cheap beer.

but i must disagree on the house of blues. i absolutely HATE that place and will never go there again. the last show i went to there was way OVERSOLD to the point where you couldn't even find a place to stand let alone move around. that completely ruined the show and we left early wasting $30 bucks each on tickets not to mention the over priced beer. the corporate greed completely detracts from what would otherwise be a lovely venue (which makes it all the more frustrating!)

waleeta / April 29, 2005 10:43 AM

I thought ALL music was non-Anglo. I mean, if you go back far enough.


Perch / April 29, 2005 10:45 AM

Has anybody been to the brand new Harold Washington Cultural Center on MLK? I've read good things about it and they've hosted some pretty awesome performances but sadly I have not yet been. If you've been, how was it?

Nate / April 29, 2005 11:42 AM

from what I can see, no mentions of the many great loft/gallery spaces in Chi so far. Texas Ballroom, Buddy., Junk Shop

Tim / April 29, 2005 11:44 AM

I live around the corner (literally) from the HWCC (Harold Washington Cultural Center). They have had some national acts, but alas, the HWCC is awash in dirty Chicago politics. Alderperson D. Tillman (the crazy hat lady) installed her daughter to run this facility (she has no background in this kind of work), she also has her daughter running the coffee place across the street from the HWCC (again, she has no previous business experience along these lines, and wouldn't one of these jobs be enough work for a person?). None of this is suprising, as D. Tillman's fortress-like office is in an adjoining building. Rumors are that D. Tillman is setting up her retirement and positioning her daughter to take her place in city council. Chicago is like Syria in a way. See, te Southside is FUN.

Joe / April 29, 2005 11:59 AM

Sonotheque brings in the hottest acts in chicago, no question. To bad all the performers always get wasted and spin sub-par sets (i think i saw el-p fall over in the DJ booth and it was only like 11pm) but its still a great place.

Thurston / April 29, 2005 12:01 PM

Tim, if you'd take a glance at the HotHouse schedule you would see that it is overwhelmingly filled with music not sourced in Anglo-Saxon tradition. The music playing at HotHouse primarily comes from Nigeria, Morrocco, Senegal, Mexico, Brazil, Italy, France, Spain and sometimes spots in Asia. Yes, there are the occasional Northern European or American group thoroughly rooted in Anglo-Saxon musical traditions, which isn't a bad thing. But face it, despite the inevitable cross-pollination that happens between all music, most of the music hosted by HotHouse comes from non-Anglo Saxon traditions, whether it be of African, Latin American, or Iberian origin or otherwise. If you are wondering what I mean take a look at what I would call the largely Anglo music that plays at the Empty Bottle (a place I would agree does present good bills): generally, music there is focused on song-writing, composition and the trebble clef, and dancing there is rare, mainly because music sourced in those elements does not overwhelmingly inspire dancing. Further, it attracts, and is played by, a lot of Anlgo-Saxon people. Tattoos and shaggy hair cuts aside, the average Bottle show has about the least-diverse white-bread audience one could possibly imagine. On the other hand, HotHouse showcases many samba, salsa, afro-beat and other groups, whose work, often deeply rooted in African rhythms, turns most every instrument into a percussive one, and where rhythm reigns supreme, and advanced composition techniques are often not at play as much as pulsing repetition, which very much inspires dance. The non-Anglo lineup is reflected by the diverse crowd the HotHouse attracts. I'm not saying one is necessarily better than the other, but it is undeniably true that the HotHouse is perhaps the only venue in the city that regularly hosts music that is not sourced in irony, that is not played and enjoyed almost exclusively by upper-middle class white people, and that goes out of its way to showcase musical traditions from all corners of the globe (most of which, I might add, are not populated by Anglo-Saxons). Without it, there would be no natural spot for these band to play in the city. If you guys can't see the distinction, or are so over-sensitive that you are afraid to discuss music in terms of ethnicity, than I don't know what to say.

Tim / April 29, 2005 12:14 PM

'Thurston', I don't care where the music comes from, if it is good people will seek it out and the bands playing it will become rich and famous. Labels are horse-shit. I will see you at HotHouse when they feature some Harp driven Anglo-Saxon ROCK. Perhap you should try to listen to the music with your eyes closed, skill is color-blind.

Thurston / April 29, 2005 12:23 PM

Your missing my point entirely. My point isn't that some groups are better with music than others, but that ethnography plays into how music sounds, and that HotHouse is really the only spot that offers a diverse enough line up where this can be really explored - most other spots offer a pretty homogenous lineup. Oh well, I give up. Let's not seek to understand the origins of and differences between musical styles, and let's be afraid to criticize oursleves also.

JT / April 29, 2005 1:02 PM

The venues and shows tend to get tied up together for me. However, my faves include Park West (especially for the Milly's Orchid Shows), Schubas (Robert Cornelius, Poi Dog and Dag Juhlin), Hideout (Dag again), and Martyr's, because Mike Keneally plays there.

+mojan. / April 29, 2005 1:22 PM

Improv Olympic. It's so small that, especially if you're sitting in the front row, it feels like you're in someone's living room just watching friends be funny. There aren't a lot of places *that* laid back and intimate. Like it.

Christy / April 29, 2005 2:53 PM

hey, what about theatre?
the Neo-Futurarium at Ashland and Foster is a great space, hosting great plays

Profiles Theatre at 4147 N. Broadway is another.

and of course, music:
Schubas has so much in such a small space.
The Vic has it, too.

Mizzle / April 29, 2005 3:10 PM

Great Bands + $2 PBR = Empty Bottle is cool.

Seriously, who ever does their booking gets the best bands and artists consistently. Granted, I have a certain indie sensibility but they have some great jazz there very week as well. I have seen more awesome shows there than anywhere else in Chicago.

Plus, there's a pool table and a photobooth. Come on, no contest.

roderick / April 29, 2005 3:49 PM

Schuba's also has a photobooth. Here's proof.

I love Martyr's because I saw one of the best shows when I was there a year ago. Green Mill totally rocks, and it is a 4AM bar. Hothouse is cool too, but I've only been there once. Empty bottle is cool because I can cool down in the back and grab a cheap beer when my ears pop.

I love this city, so much to do. Except for the brown line closing, that is.

Emerson Dameron / April 29, 2005 4:26 PM

My grandest endorsement that doesn't smack of logrolling: The Neo-Futurarium.

The Hungry Brain and MoJoe's Cafe Lounge, both in Roscoe Village, have both graciously hosted my own song and dance, but I'd love them anyway.

Mister C / April 29, 2005 8:21 PM

Green Mill- always loved the Fri & Sat 1-5 am sessions, when players from around town (and sometimes out of town) show up after their gigs and sit in.

Jazz Showcase- almost seems more of a conservatory/museum than a club sometimes, but still the best (only?) place in town to catch those few remaining Giants (although Johhny Griffin doesn't come back for his birthday anymore).

Empty Bottle- Nothing like being close enough to a favorite band to be able to read the set list better than them.

Abby- if for nothing but the quality of their bookings. They seemed to pick up some of the old school indie mantle after Lounge Ax departed. Very nice "taverny" (if such a word exists) feel to it.

Old Town- Incredible performance venue. A bit annoying when sitting next to "members" who bought some subscription series & have no idea about the act onstage, however (that's Stephin Freakin' Merritt, beeotch!).

Schubas- They also picked up some of that post-Lounge Ax mojo for a bit, although I don't seem to end up there as much as I used to (Woven Hand is coming there soon, so that will change).

mike / April 29, 2005 9:43 PM

Non-anglo? That's sort of funny, especially since most people and thus musicians in the world aren't white.

anglo music is what? Classical? Indie? Nordic whaling songs?

i dont' get it.


Tim / April 30, 2005 9:02 AM

As 'Christy' said, what about theatre? I am going to vote again for LookingGlass, small, flexible space, with outstanding shows. 'Mike' gets it, why not you 'Thurston'? When you begin to use big, soft, fluffy terms like "ethnography" and "homogenous" it seems you are missing the point of music. If I want another degree I will go back to school, if I want to hear music I will go to a show to hear great music, with no regard for the blah, blah, blah...I just want to hear great music. Loosen up and love the music, put down the the PC bludgeon and listen with your heart.

Michael / April 30, 2005 9:44 AM

Perhaps all this petty quarreling over semantics could be avoided if we were to substitute non-anglo with international?

Drdick / April 30, 2005 10:33 AM

This is tough - but it comes down to tastes. Hothouse vs. Empty bottle. Those are the 2.

pinto / April 30, 2005 1:04 PM

Velvet Lounge

matt / April 30, 2005 9:08 PM

Schubas, far and away.
The sounds is lovely, and the fact that the main bar is segregated means you don't have to hear all the bustling and idle chatter in the background of people who are just there to hang out.

The only weird part is that, because there's no off-stage staging area, the act has to come from and then go outside. Small complaint, though.

Sean / May 1, 2005 7:33 PM

For Indie Rock = Empty Bottle - for all of the reasons mentioned above.

For Indie Theatre = The Viaduct Theatre near Western and Belmont - FUCKING A! That place is great!!!

Timmie / May 2, 2005 5:40 PM

Got to say Empty Bottle above all others. Great sound, friendly staff and cheap drinks to boot.

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