May 2nd, 2009 by Chris Morrow

Chicago Original Music Venues (Part II)

euphony-productions-photo-chris-morrowOriginal Music Lives and Breathes in the Burbs

So the city is a bit too wild for you?   Are you more a suburbs kind of band? Let’s take a trip down the Chicago suburban music scene then. The burbs of Chicago is a very large area covering many different neighborhoods and venues that are home to a huge variety of music. There are original music venues, cover band venues, ‘all ages’ spots and bars/pubs that hire bands of all types. We’ll examine some of the venues and bars/pubs that hire cover bands.

fans-in-crowd-pictureThe Types of Venues Around

All the venues listed here are bar-type establishments that either feature music as a major draw or hire out bands for weekends or special engagements. Like my previous Blog, I’ll give the venues an A, B or C grade to reflect my opinion of the venue. Once again, the single biggest factor for my grading is the quality of the bands playing the venues. I also consider the area the venues can be found in, the natural draws they command, quality of the stage/sound system and experience in general that I’ve found playing there.


Bands typically are hired to play for at least 3 hours and typically bar owners want cover/top-40 music the patrons are familiar with. Most of these venues have patrons that come in spite of the music but don’t get discouraged. The venue management can also have varying degrees of apathy concerning the bands. Some of the venues the production of music seriously and some of them consider them a big hassle.  If the venues only have music on the weekends and are very small then the staff might not be to happy about a bunch of musicians taking up the space where paying customers could be sitting, making noise and possibly driving off business. In those situations, bands need to be professional, courteous to the staff and make the gig as fun as possible.


Show Me The Money!

Because the bands are ‘hired’ the venues typically pay a flat fee somewhere between $200-$600. Very popular, established bands can command fees in the thousands and of course the number of people the band brings, the quality of the performance and size of the venue are all factors that determine this pay structure. Some venues also pay a percentage of what the bar takes in when the band is performing.

cubby-bear“A” Level Venues

Again, these are larger rooms that have serious stages, serious sound systems, and lights. Music is typically a major production at these venues so there are sometimes backstage areas, drinks and meals thrown in and a lot of other perks. These types of venues are usually booked by more established bands that draw a large crowd. These venues are often booked by booking agents that know what the bands can draw. Nice work if you can get it.   In Chicago Joey DiMarco of United Talent books a lot of the music venues.

Walter Payton’s Roundhouse (Aurora), Durty Nellie’s (Palatine), Cubby Bear (Lincolnshire), Frankie’s Blue Room (Naperville), 115 Bourbon St. (Marionette Pk.)

My favs: Frankie’s Blue room and Walter Payton’s Roundhouse

quigleys“B” level venues

The B level venues cover a wide spectrum of spots that range from large to small and awesome to lame. This seems to be where most bands compete for gigs, to get audiences, and to earn their spot in the A venues. There seem to be enough gigs to go around so don’t sweat about it just work on tuning up the machine, getting that tight sound, and picking material the crowd will like not you that is if you want to get to the “A” level venues. This list will change a lot due to venues changing names and management this is the most up to date list I have. These venues are usually booked by the bands themselves so put on your salesman cap and go for it!

Mickey Finns (Libertyville), Austin’s Fuel Room (Libertyville), Quigley’s (Naperville), Lamplighter Inn (Palatine), Lilly’s at Pheasant Run (St. Charles), Liquid Blues (Woodstock), Curly’s (Glen Ellyn), CJ Arthurs (Wilmette), Ballydoyle (Aurora and Downers Groove), Sam Maguire’s (Orland Pk.), Maple Ave Pub (Lisle), Chicago City Limits (Schaumburg), Shark City (Glendale Heights),

My favs: Curly’s and Quigley’s

johns-buffet“C” level venues

The C level venues usually aren’t all that bad to play, tend to be very small, pay smaller amounts, and book local bands that know about the area and can bring small but enthusiastic crowds. These tend to be where a lot of first-timers go to pay dues and get their acts going. Everybody’s got to start somewhere so get out there and take your lashes and earn some stripes.

Brixie’s (Brookfield), John’s Buffet (Winfield)

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