Architecture and Chicago are pretty synonymous in most travel guides but aside from awe-inspiring sky scrapers, The Windy City is one of the foremost music destinations in the United States.

How could it not be? Throughout its history Chicago has seen just about every genre rise in popularity at some point.

But the hallmarks of Chicago’s music scene come from a historically important event known as the ‘Great Migration’, where poor black workers from the south were shifted to America’s industrial cities in the early 1900s.

The workers brought traditional jazz and blues music with them, which became the foundations of the city’s music heritage.

Blues greats like Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf are names that need no introduction and their influence has never left the city, with most of Chicago’s current blues artists playing the same music as these greats did years ago.

Nat King Cole and Bud Freeman are just a few of the city’s jazz legends, but at the height of the ‘Chicago-style’ Dixieland Jazz era there were a plethora of musicians that contributed to the golden age of jazz.

The height of the jazz and blues scene is relived for tourists and music fans alike, with Chicago having a countless amounts of bars and lounges that hosts such live acts.

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Both  soul and folk rose to prominence in the 60s and 70s, while rock music became popular in the two decades afterwards.

The diversified growth of the city’s music scene is evidenced by the fact that Chicago is the birthplace of house music. It is a commonly held belief that the genre took its name from the club where it all started, the now defunct West Side nightclub “The Warehouse”.

So it should come as little surprise that Chicago has rich culture of nightclubs with DJs playing their own music.

While there is a growing underground heavy metal scene, hip-hop is the biggest music to emerge from Chicago in the past ten years.

This is much in thanks to the worldwide success of local artists like Kanye West and Lupe Fiasco, although the scene is still very much growing in the hip-hop and rap community.

Because of Chicago’s diverse music history, bands and artists from a wide range of backgrounds and music styles are coming out of the woodwork. While the city is often regarded as the home of blues, the actual musicality of Chicago has never been more difficult to describe.

As the third largest city in America, the live music scene is non-stop, seven days a week.

Apart from hosting some of the biggest tours from around the country as well festivals that are renowned worldwide, the city’s small bars and music spots host shows from local musicians every night of the week.

Chicago’s nightlife is teeming with music spots and nightclubs that almost guarantee a hangover.

With an addiction to cocktail bars, it might also be an idea to test out the city’s mixologists before you sample some live music.

Chicago is a city that appeals to all music listeners. From dive bars with a focus on rock or blues music to nightclubs that live up to the city’s title as the birthplace of house music, enthusiasts will find something to love, that rivals the city’s love of architecture.

Chicago Festivals/Conferences

Lollapalooza: Along with Glastonbury, this festival consistently boasts the biggest and best lineups every year. When the bill is announced, to say our envy of Chicago is incredible is an understatement. The 2012 lineup featured Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Black Keys, Black Sabbath and Jack White just to name a few. Three day passes will set you back around $230 for this August event.

Pitchfork Music Festival: If you find your music taste to be a little more towards the left than Lollapalooza, then Pitchfork’s Chicago festival should be right up your alley. Held annually since 2005, this three day event is usually run in mid July. This year, acts such as Feist, Grimes, Beach House and Vampire Weekend headlined.

Chicago Blues Festival: Not only one of the largest blues festivals in the world, this event is also the largest of it’s kind to be free to the general public. With audiences of over 500,000 people, musicians play over three days in early June over five stages. Ray Charles, Bonnie Ratt and B.B. King have all played here in the past.
Chicago Blues Festival Website

Chicago Record Stores

2nd Hand Tunes, 800 Dempster St. 

With new and used music and movies for sale, this record store might not seem all that special at first glance, however the stores’ wall of rare and expensive vinyl, is enough to attract any music fan. You can find Beatles rarities, strange Metallica EPs and rare pre-Credences Clearwater Fogarty. 2nd Hand Tunes is as much a museum as it is a record store.

Laurie’s Planet Of Sound, 4639 N. Lincoln Ave
It’s been named as one of the best record stores in the country and it’s not just because of their collection and expertise. Laurie’s Planet of Sound also stocks old magazines and rare DVDs – including vintage erotica if thats what you’re into. Or perhaps boardgames from the 80s are more your style? Whatever you’r into, chances are Laurie’s has it.

Dave’s Records, 2604 N. Clark St

Out the front of this record store is a sign which reads “No CD’s, Never Had Em’! Never Will!!!”. Dave’s store might be small but because of the man’s expertise, Rolling Stone named his store as one of the best in America. This space is filled with quality vinyl, just another reason as to why this should be the first record store you visit in Chicago.

Chicago Bars

The Empty Bottle, 105 North Western Avenue
Right off the famed Route 30, this infamous bar is right in the crosshairs of two of Chicago’s most lively suburbs. Having played host to some of Chicago’s (and the world’s) most iconic left-of-centre acts. Opening back in 1992 at the height of Chicago’s underground house music scene, The Empty Bottle has continually stayed true to its rock n roll roots and will continue to be known as Chicago’s coolest dive bar.

Reggies – 2105 South State Street
Reggies is a large building which splits off into different parts all dedicated to music and fine food and drinks. Reggies Music Joint is an outdoor grill with live music, Reggies Rock Club is just as the name suggests, Reggies Record Breakers sells vinyl, while Reggies Roof Deck is a rooftop bar. The venue also has a bus company which runs to local events and entertainment elsewhere in Chicago.

Underground Wonder Bar, 710 North Clark Street
Opened in 1989 this venue has since moved location, now with two floors and three stages. It is widely regarded as one of the best music bars in Chicago. Open ’til 5am on Saturday’s the bands play music which ranges from jazz, blues and reggae. In this dimly lit venue, the crowd can either find a table and let the array of house bands be their background music, or move up to the stage in the early hours of the morning to enjoy the spectacle.

The Whistler, 2421 N. Milwaukee Av
Blink and you might just miss it. From the outside, The Whistler resembles any general venue, but not your average bar.  Its popularity isn’t hard to fathom, the venue features not only electronic acts from their own label, Whistler Records, but from around the country. With art on the walls, an impressive cocktail menu and a backyard beer garden, the line out the front is definitely worth putting up with.

Chicago Acts You Should Check Out

Bare Mutants – Soundcloud 
This five-piece might be new but it’s members are well entrenched in the Chicago scene. Go no further than lead singer Jered Gunmere who achieved considerable success with The Ponys. You can listen to their debut single below, released earlier this year, which oozes a graceful shoegaze rock sound.

Summer Girlfriends – Soundcloud 
These garage indie pop-rock ladies started in one of Chicago’s most crippling Winters. Their cheery music has gained them a following in a short amount of time. This has lead to the release of their debut album, Shockwaves. Check out the title track below.

Thin Hymms – Soundcloud
Their EP Logic and Theory was released this year with experimental and minimalist pop elements entwined. The art-pop quartet cites influences such as Deerhoof and Talking Heads. Listen to the title track from the EP below.

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