When I travel alone, I am usually a total homebody at night, unless I am with a group of people. Probably the best thing about visiting a city where I already had a friend was a built in activity buddy for night. Since my friend was in grad school, she rarely went out and wanted to listen to some music, which of course I was game for so for the two of the nights I was in town, we went and saw live music.
The Friday I was in town, we went and saw jazz music at the Green Mill, which apparently is one of the best places in town to see it. We arrived early, before the cover charge started, only to discover that they clear out the place and then impose the charge ($12), so it was pointless to get there early. The place does not serve food, so we left for a bit and grabbed a slice of horrible pizza next door. But hey, it was cheap. We immediatly went back in, paid the cover charge and waited for the music to start. Even though the place was empty and filled in slowly once the music began, about halfway through the first set, a couple came over and shared our booth near the front. When the first set ended, I looked back and the place was packed!
The music was pretty awesome. My friend went to undergrad in New Orleans and loves jazz music and was prepared for the music and setting, but I hadn’t listened to jazz since high school and was slightly unprepared for the strictness of it all. But I got used to and quite enjoyed myself. During the break in between the first and second set, we chatted with the couple who was sharing our booth and they were awesome! They apparently flew up a jazz band that my friend had seen and loved in New Orleans, from New Orleans to Chicago for the women’s birthday. It was interesting chatting with a totally hip 40 year old couple who went to school in Ohio and loved Chicago and the midwest. They were the first people to tell us that “Chicago is awesome in the summer”. Just all around awesome. The waitress service was great, cash only (well, some cards just not MC/Visa), decently priced beer and an okay selection. We left after the second set as the bus stopped running around 12:30am and we had to get back.
The next night, my friend suggested a blues club that she had been wanting to go to, so we hit up B.L.U.E.S and it was definatly more my speed. There was a cover charge ($10) We found seats at the bar and there was a lot going on there. The band was singing, asking for audience participation, there was a tv on at the bar, with the sound off of course but closed captioned on and I didn’t feel bad chatting with my friend every so often as the band played as I did the night before. The service at this place was great too, didn’t hurt that we sat at the bar. They took cards, but I think they had a service charge on them, so we paid cash all night. I am all about drinking the local beer when available. I knew Goose Island is local and the waitress suggested the 312 and it was awesome!! I really need to find some in LA. This place was great for awesome, classic blues music. Get there early for a seat as it filled up very quickly! I had a great time. The sets were longer at this place and we only stayed for one, as we had to get back to the bus before the last service.
Moral: I loved how I spent my nights doing super touristy, classic Chicago things. You can’t get more classic then small, packed in clubs! We tried to go Second City but it was expensive and sold out anyway and I am way glad we saw music instead. If you are looking to get out the city center (which by the way is State and Madison and all the numbers go out from there) and get the real Chicago music scene, I highly recomend both of these places. And don’t forget to drink local!