For this last blog on Chicago area venues, we are going to stay in the suburbs and look at venues that book original music. Although there are far fewer original music venues than Chicago proper, there are some good spots to play.
Original music venues in the suburbs are similar to the city venues but share traits of the cover venues too. Some are bar/pubs that host music on the weekends, some are large theater-style venues and some are coffeehouses. Again, I’ll grade the venues, but for this list, the qualities of the bands that play are not such a large factor. I say that because I’ve seen great bands play lousy rooms and awful bands play theaters. Because the market is so crowded, original bands will play and get booked just about anywhere they can, just like the city. The difference is that the talent buyers seem less savvy than in the city and the bands seem less talented (of course, not the bands of anybody reading this blog!!!). I also suspect that good original bands know that their market (young, hip unmarried folk) migrate to the city where the original music venues are more established and ‘cool’. I also think that original bands know that making an impact in the city is much more of an accomplishment than in the burbs given the ‘snobby’ tastes of the city crowd and the number of other original bands competing for attention. I’ll factor in the size of the venue as the main criteria for a grade. After that, I consider the venues history and the quality of the experience I’ve had playing them. Almost all the venues on this list I’ve played more than twice with different bands and styles.
Gigging at these venues share traits of both the city circuit and the suburban cover circuit. Like the city, bands play may play a 45 minute set, or may play 3 hours like cover bands (or get a friends band to split the bill with). Most of the venues consider music to be a priority so usually there aren’t any hassles like the cover circuit. Generally, I’ve found to be playing these gigs pleasant and mostly fun. Usually there’s plenty of parking (take that Chicago), you can get real drinks on the house (not just PBR!!!), the food can be really awesome at the pubs and the crowds are usually okay (but not always).
The money situation can also be a hybrid of both the city original circuit and suburban cover circuit. Some places pay a guarantee (although much smaller than what cover bands usually get) and some pay a cut of the door charge. The clout of the band has a lot to do with money, like anywhere else.
These venues are large and usually need bands to bring a large audience with them. But I have seen touring and local bands with no draw play them as well. I’ve had good experiences at all of them.
Fitzgerald’s (Berwyn), House Café (DeKalb), Kingpin (W. Chicago) Otto’s (DeKalb), Stage 83 (Lemont), Clearwater Theatre (Dundee),
My Favs: All of them
Like the cover band circuit, these venues range from awesome to lame, but they are mostly pretty cool.
Tiger O’Stylie’s (Berwyn), Penny Road Pub (Barrington), O’Malley’s (Alsip), Chicago St. Pub (Joliet), Liquid Blues (Woodstock-awesome food too), North Beach (Lombard), Harlem Ave Lounge (Blues music-Berwyn), Lunar Brewing (St. Charles) Bungalow Joe’s (Hanover Pk.), Gus’s Roadhouse (Woodstock)
My Favs: Tiger O’Stylie’s (probably because I live 5 minuets away from it), Liquid Blues (awesome food) and Chicago St. Pub (awesome food too!)
These venues are places that allow kids a place for their garage bands to play out. All of them are C Level in my book. But hey, the youngsters gotta get a taste of the life at some point! Enjoy.
Swing State (Lake Villa), Nite Light (Berwyn), Ashbury Coffeehouse (Willow Springs)
My Fav: the single craziest/strangest gig I’ve ever played in my life was at the Ashbury Coffeehouse so it gets my vote for Fav!