Six of the best music haunts in Chicago


One of Chicago's last standing, truly authentic blues clubs, Kingston Mines has been hosting its unique brand of foot-stomping Chicago Blues since its inception in 1968. The oldest continually operating blues club in the city, it offers live music seven nights a week with two bands playing two different stages. The vibe here is no frills with a friendly, local crowd and rustic memorabilia cluttering the walls. There's a decent selection of beer on tap and if you get hungry, Doc's Rib Joint serves up classic Southern fare, from shrimp and barbecue ribs to soups and grilled catfish. See 


Dig out your best trilby – this uptown cocktail lounge is hands-down the best place for live jazz in town. Known to be a favourite of Al Capone's – don't let that deter you – it's steeped in the sounds of the early 1930s and '40s, showcasing an impressive mix of contemporary, traditional and bebop jazz. The club's pedigree attracts some of the country's finest jazz musicians, with performances taking place every night, and even Poetry Slams on Sunday nights. Cover charges range from $US4-15 and while there's no official dress code, do you yourself a favour and swap the tracky pants for something a little sharper. See 


During its heyday between the mid-1950s and '60s, Chicago's legendary Chess Records was responsible for laying down some of the most significant blues recordings in history. Established by Polish immigrants Leonard and Phil Chess, it catapulted the careers of anyone from Etta James and Chuck Berry to The Rolling Stones and Muddy Waters. For many years the studios on 2120 South Michigan Avenue have been a shrine to those halcyon days and while tours are still available throughout the week, the museum has recently announced plans to invite a selection of artists (including The Rolling Stones) to record there again. Though not strictly a live music venue, a tour of the facility is a must and free live blues concerts take place every Thursday evening 6pm-7.30pm during summer months. See 


D01R4A Janelle Monae performing at Schubas Tavern in Chicago, Illinois. tra17-sixbestchicago

Janelle Monae performing at Schubas Tavern in Chicago, Illinois. Photo: Alamy

One of the best spots in town to see cutting-edge, up-and-coming bands in an intimate, hip environment that has that retro cool thing happening without being horribly contrived. For those people – like myself – who find live music is best enjoyed at smaller venues, this place ticks that box. The concert room has a maximum capacity of about 200, essentially acting as a launch pad for Schubas' sister venue, Lincoln Hall, where more successfully received bands will graduate on to. There are good restaurants in the area for a pre-show meal, but the front pub also serves decent food. See 


D0F4CP Arrested Development performing at Double Door in Chicago, Illinois. MAX HERMAN/ALAMY tra17-sixbestchicago

Arrested Development performing at Double Door in Chicago, Illinois. Photo: Alamy 

Situated in the fashionable Wicker Park neighbourhood on Milwaukee Avenue, Double Door is one of Chicago's more eclectic venues. On any given night you can expect to see anything from a funk or soul outfit to a thrashy punk band or hip-hop maestros. Catering to a maximum crowd of about 500, the venue is known for its flawless sound and colourful history; anyone from Sonic Youth to The Rolling Stones (playing a secret gig in the mid-1990s) have graced the stage. The vibe here is a little divey, but in a good way; the crowd are friendly and definitely know their music. See 


DBCMHJ CHICAGO - JULY 18: Orchestra Hall in downtown Chicago, shown here on July 18, 2013, ome of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra tra17-sixbestchicago

Orchestra Hall in downtown Chicago, the home of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Photo: Alamy

For perfect acoustics, it doesn't come much better than the Chicago Symphony Orchestra's home, but it isn't all monocle-wearing stiffs nodding sagely to Beethoven's Ninth. And while this is undoubtedly the city's best place to catch classical music, you can also experience anything from bluegrass and country bands to more mainstream artists here. The Orchestra Hall dates back to 1904 but underwent a $US110 million renovation in the mid-'90s to become yet another proud architectural wonder in a city renowned for its myriad architectural wonders. See 


Guy Wilkinson travelled at his own expense.