From rock to hip-hop, Chicago has long been at the epicenter of innovative music—in fact, the blues, Chicago-style jazz, gospel, and house music all have their roots in the Windy City. So it’s no wonder that fans of live music flock to the city to take in performances by some of their favorite artists. There’s no shortage of venues: Institutions and indie rooms host both local acts and industry legends, while large music festivals draw crowds from across the country. The James Chicago has all of the details to help you make the most of Chicago’s lively music scene.


Double Door (1572 N. Milwaukee Avenue): For more than 20 years, this club in the heart of Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood has hosted a variety of eclectic artists, including surprise and “secret” shows by acts like the Rolling Stones and Sonic Youth.

The Empty Bottle (1035 N. Western Avenue): Casual venue where you can catch an underground show—hardcore, garage, electronica, and more—on the cheap or even for free.

Buddy Guy’s Legends  (700 S. Wabash): Founded by the blues legend in 1989, this venue has indeed hosted true legends, including Eric Clapton, Lou Rawls, and BB King, as well as Buddy Guy himself.

Lincoln Hall (2424 N. Lincoln Avenue): A go-to venue for dinner and a show—think performances by small indie acts as well as bigger-name artists such as Wilco, Charlie XCX, and Of Montreal.

Metro (3730 N. Clark Street): Savvy Chicagoans know that this longtime favorite is the place to see bands on the cusp of greatness; It hosted acts like REM, New Order, and Depeche Mode just before they hit it big.

Reggie’s  (2105 S. State Street): This regularly packed club screams “dive bar”—it’s dark and dingy—but the talent, which ranges from punk and metal to hip-hop and hardcore, is worth the trip.

Symphony Center (220 S. Michigan Avenue): Home to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, this acoustically superior venue hosts classical, jazz, bluegrass, and country performances.

Thalia Hall (1807 S. Allport Street): Modeled after the Opera House in Prague, this landmark 1893 building has been fully remodeled and now hosts both local and established acts, including Gang of Four, The Dandy Warhols, and Old 97s.

The Vic (3145 N. Sheffield Avenue): This large venue is the place to see rock, pop, and R&B artists (think Miguel, Emmy Lou Harris, The Fratellis) and all-ages shows.


The sunny days and warm nights of late summer and early fall make it the perfect season to soak up your favorite tunes at an outdoor music festival. Known as “summer’s last stand,” the North Coast Music Festival kicks off every Labor Day weekend with a three-day showcase of the world’s hottest electronic, house, indie, and hip-hop acts. If improvisational, brass-heavy tunes are more your thing, check out the Chicago Jazz Festival, now in its 37th year. And Riot Fest pays homage to punk, alternative, rock, metal, and hip-hop with a slew of performances by big-name bands and niche artists alike.


Your musical experience doesn’t have to end when the shows close. At The James, we have our own Spotify profile (thejameshotels) to help enhance your stay. And you can take your favorite tunes with you, even after you’ve checked out. Post your favorite songs and artists to Facebook with the hashtag #musicatthejames and our very own music curator, Jared Dietch, will develop one-of-a-kind playlists based on your preferences.

To make the most of all that Chicago’s music scene has to offer, book a room at The James Chicago.