finding your place in the chicago music scene

ready to play the windy city? add these must-know, small cap venues and dive bars to your list of spots to hit up.

Finding the right venue to perform can be challenging, especially in a city as vibrant and diverse as Chicago. With its rich musical heritage and thriving music scene, it's no wonder that Chicago has become a hub for talented musicians and fans alike. Whether you're an up-and-coming artist or an established performer, booking a gig in the Windy City is an excellent way to showcase your talent and connect with a wider audience.

In this post, we'll take a look at some of our favorite 100-500 capacity venues in Chicago, to help you find the perfect place to perform and make a name for yourself in the thriving music scene.

2100 W. Belmont Avenue

Chicago, IL 60618

Beat Kitchen is a beloved little gem tucked away in the heart of Roscoe Village. A friendly corner bar that's made a name for itself as a breeding ground for new musical talent. With its down-to-earth back room and intimate setting, local and touring bands alike have made their debut on its stage, becoming part of Chicago's vibrant music scene. You can expect a lively atmosphere with a funky and relaxed vibe, featuring a diverse array of musical genres including indie rock, alternative, hip-hop, punk, and electronic dance music. The drinks are not only delicious, but also surprisingly affordable, making it the perfect spot for a night of music and fun. One of the best small venues in Chicago to play.

Chop Shop


2033 W. North Avenue

Chicago, IL 60647

(773) 537-4440

Located in the heart of Wicker Park, one of the coolest Chicago neighborhoods, the Chop Shop is a lively music venue known for its industrial chic design and eclectic atmosphere. Housed in a century-old former auto body shop, it is the only multi-level music venue, part butcher, deli, restaurant and bar in Chicago. Flaunting a stylish interior with high ceilings, exposed brick, and advanced audio-visual equipment, including modular staging and a professional production team. It also has a guest suite.

You’ll find almost any kind of act on stage. from country to emo/alt or house this place is perfectly suited for a diverse lineup of local, national, and international acts. Standing room only in the concert area, but not a bad "seat" in the house. This venue delivers with great meat, alcohol and music. What more does anyone need?

235 N. Ashland Avenue

Chicago, IL 60607

(312) 226-6300

a block north of Union Park, Cobra Lounge is a mainstay in the west town neighborhood with its can’t miss illuminated red and black serpent sign outside. Bar, restaurant, and music venue known for its friendly and welcoming atmosphere with a punk vibe. Showcasing regional underground and emerging music talent, Cobra Lounge is the perfect stage for musicians who love to bring the noise. Hard rock and heavy metal enthusiasts will feel right at home on this stage.

Cobra Lounge strives to do their part to help define their neighborhood as the working-class, community-driven area it has always been. from pristine office shoes to dirty construction boots, everyone is welcomed through their doors to join the party.

1035 N. Western Avenue

Chicago, IL 60622

(773) 276-3600

Once a cat-ridden hole-in-the-wall bar in Ukrainian Village (just south of Wicker Park)Empty Bottle has transformed into a super hip hangout that happens to be a cool dive bar. they host anything from indie rock to punk to experimental jazz, with an acoustic set thrown in for good measure. This grungy place with a stage and a bar is chicago’s premier indie rock club. A place where lesser known acts on the verge of stardom can get their footing. Just look at TV on the Radio or the Yeah Yeah Yeahs who played here early in their career.

Thanks to its budget-friendly prices, lack of pretentiousness, and steadfast patrons, this bar has been anything but empty, with an abundance of successful shows under their belt.

2447 N. Halstead Street

Chicago, IL 60614

(773) 857-0166

Built in 1894, this spot began its life as a tavern with a brothel upstairs. Recently shedding the Tonic Room name in favor of a new name, Golden Dagger, pays homage to the building’s history by combining “the Golden Dawn” — a secret society that met in the building’s basement in the early 1900s — with “dagger” in a nod to the large knife found within the building’s walls by the previous owner during a remodel of the basement.

Though most often frequented by students of the nearby DePaul University, it’s a favorite of many across Lincoln Park. Coming off of a thoughtful renovation during shutdown, Golden Dagger is one of the most artist-friendly music venues in the city. The atmosphere is cozy and inviting, both indoors and out on the patio. It’s a coffee shop too, so you can come back after the previous night for more fun.

1354 W. Wabansia Avenue

Chicago, IL 60642

(773) 227-4433

from their website: the hideout is not your dad’s bar, but your granddad’s bar. it is the bar that granddad went to when he was young and crazy. he did his best to hide that past from your dad, but you have found it. the old restless roots of hard-working, hard-playing creative artistic expression and intellectual freedom. more new deal and less new age. the hideout is small, and small is beautiful. it’s not for everyone, but for every one!

Hidden in an industrial park, it’s one of the best small venue meets dive bar in Chicago hands down. A fun, funky spot for all kinds of events: music, poetry, bingo, theater, talk shows, and everything in between. What else would you expect from a 100 year old balloon-frame house with a bar in the front and stage in the back? You’d be hard press to find a better spot to play. The booze is cheap and most of the time, the toilets are clean. Built in two days and still here a century later, this Chicago institution has roots.

2424 N. Lincoln Avenue

Chicago, IL 60614

A sibling venue to the renowned Schubas, Lincoln Hall is widely considered as one of the top performance destinations in the city. What’s not to love about this Lincoln Park venue that obviously prioritizes music above all else. Hailing from a rich history, Lincoln was originally established as a movie theater in 1912, and over the years has undergone several transformations, including serving as a post for FBI sharpshooters during the notorious John Dillinger incident and a garage and machine shop.

Both rising indie artists poised for fame and well-known acts seeking a more intimate performance setting have made Lincoln their go-to stage. Its standout feature, the wrap-around mezzanine balcony, offers great acoustics and a fantastic view, no matter where you stand. The venue's intimate size, coupled with an attentive and respectful crowd, creates an immersive musical experience for all.



5311 S. Lake Park Avenue

Chicago, IL 60615

(312) 801-2100

Nestled in the vibrant neighborhood of Hyde Park, Promontory celebrates the rich musical legacy and community spirit that defines the area. From its design inspired by the fire pit council rings at Promontory Point, to its commitment to showcasing local talent, every aspect of this venue reflects the unique character and cultural richness of Hyde Park. Dedicated to honoring the eras when spacious ballrooms and jumping jazz clubs made Chicago’s South Side the capital of American music, Promontory offers a welcoming and inclusive gathering place for the community. Visitors can come together to enjoy live music, share experiences, and create new memories. It's more than just a venue, it's a celebration of the vibrant and diverse spirit that makes Hyde Park truly special.



2109 S. State Street

Chicago, IL 60616

(312) 949-0120

From a dilapidated auto bumper repair shop to one of Chicago's hottest music scenes, Reggie's has become the place to rock. Jazz to metal, punk to blues, and everything in between, this venue is a celebration of sound and energy. The walls are adorned with historical artifacts, adding to the club's rich atmosphere. The intimate setting contributes to an energetic and inclusive atmosphere, ensuring that each performance is a unique and unforgettable experience.

This South Loop hotspot, which combines a bar, grill, record store, and rock club, is the ideal platform for experimental and forward-thinking bands.

106 N. Race Street

Urbana, IL 61801

(217) 367-7031

A downtown Urbana landmark since 1946, the legendary Rose Bowl Tavern offers a wide array of events, from DJ dance parties to jazz and poetry, making it a one-stop-shop for music and drinks. With live music a constant feature and a commitment to broaden their programming (and attract a wider more diverse audience), this honky-tonk and dive-bar is a stand out destination.

Emerging as a hotbed for jazz in recent years, local musicians frequently gather to perform here. This transformation from a "home for country music" to a sought-after "place for jazz" is due in large part to the efforts of the owners and staff who have deep roots in the local music scene and often have musical backgrounds themselves. The establishment has been a central gathering place for artists and musicians, both local and touring, for nearly 80 years. Great music. Great bar. Great staff. Great place.

3159 N. Southport Avenue

Chicago, IL 60657

(773) 525-2508

For over three decades, Schubas has cemented its status as as one of the best small music venues in the country, cultivating a passionate following of music lovers who appreciate an intimate atmosphere and exceptional sound. Built in 1903 as part of a project undertaken by the Schlitz Brewery, the building was one of hundreds erected at the turn of the century. Often known as "Tied Houses", Schubas remains one of a handful of these elegant buildings still operating as a saloon.

With heavy emphasis on booking smaller indie touring acts and local bands, its no-frills back room has served as a cornerstone for showcasing some of the music industry's most promising rising stars. it's not uncommon to experience the next big thing before they make it big. Boasting a diverse array of live music each night, from rock to jazz to pop, and hip hop, Schubas has gained fame as a legendary room for both emerging Chicago artists and prominent national acts. A performance on its stage, along with its sister venue Lincoln Hall's, is considered a must for many musicians in the city.

3734 W. Belmont Avenue

Chicago, IL 60618

(773) 654-3971

Don't let the exterior fool you, the interior of Sleeping Village in Avondale is a hidden gem full of ambiance. Since its debut in 2018, this neighborhood favorite has established a lively and vibrant scene (in a dark moody kind of way), despite its name suggesting otherwise. Ironically situated in a building that once printed the center labels on music records, Sleeping Village blends the best of a bar, beer garden, and music venue, offering an eclectic mix of music, including pop, art-rock, jazz, electronic dance music, folk and beyond. Laid back yet curated atmosphere. Good drink selection especially for beers. And for the sober crowd their list of non-alcoholic beverages is expansive.

2011 W. North Avenue

Chicago, IL 60647

(773) 278-6600

Sub-T is more than just a venue, it's pulse of the Chicago indie music scene. With a rich history dating back to the prohibition era, this iconic building at 2011 W North Ave has housed a brothel, a bathhouse, and even a wire room for gambling. From the checkered floor to the spiral staircase down from the green room, the venue is full of character both on and off the stage. The PBR flows freely. Mosh pits and stage dives are the norm. Hip hop to garage punk to drag, anything can be on deck. Sub-T has hosted some of the biggest names in music, including Dinosaur Jr, Lizzo, Built to Spill, Alabama Shakes and Pussy Riot, and is also home to long-running residencies like Thursday's Reggae Gold and the 606 Open Mic on Tuesdays.