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An Overview of Chicagoland Music Venues

The primary aim of this post is to provide an overview of the music venues in the Chicagoland region that I have visited over the years. I have organized the venues according to their size (Large, Mid-Size, Small, etc.), provided information on their capacity and whether they are indoor, outdoor, or a combination of both. Lastly, I have included my personal insights on each venue based on my firsthand experiences.

If you have tickets for an upcoming show or are thinking about attending a concert at a venue that is unfamiliar to you, revisit this post to get an idea of what to expect.

The Largest Venues - 20,000 plus capacity

  • Grant Park, Chicago IL - 100,000 plus capacity, all outdoor

    • My Take: This location is not a specific venue but rather a vast park that includes the Petrillo Music Shell in downtown Chicago. It is famous for hosting Lollapalooza, one of the biggest music festivals globally. Previously, it also accommodated other annual music festivals like the Chicago Gospel Music Festival and Blues Fest. However, most of these smaller events relocated from the Petrillo Music Shell to Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park in 2017. I have always enjoyed attending Lollapalooza, and there is no other place in Chicago capable of hosting such a large festival. The organizers excel in providing excellent sound quality and setting up various areas for purchasing food and drinks, as well as offering relaxed, shaded spots to escape the sun.

  • Soldier Field, Chicago IL - 60,000 plus capacity, all outdoor

    • My Take: This is an NFL stadium made for stadium rock and huge shows like the Rolling Stones, Chris Stapleton, Metallica and Taylor Swift. It's not the easiest venue to get to and is a bit big for my tastes, but if you want to see really popular bands that can sell these many tickets, this is likely your only option.

  • Wrigley Field, Chicago IL - 40,000 plus capacity, all outdoor

    • My Take: The venue offers excellent sound quality and a fantastic atmosphere, surrounded by the vibrant Wrigleyville neighborhood. I have attended incredible concerts here, including performances by Green Day, Foo Fighters, and Lumineers, which rank among the best I've ever seen. While the venue is spacious, it maintains an intimate feel unlike the larger Soldier Field. Watching a concert within the confines of a neighborhood stadium is a unique experience that is hard to surpass. I imagine that attending a concert at Fenway in Boston would offer a similar vibe.

  • Credit Union 1 Amphitheater, Tinley Park, IL - 28,000 capacity (17,000 lawn, 11,000 seated under a covered pavilion), all outdoor

    • My Take: This is the largest amphitheater in the Chicago metro area. It has undergone a few name changes over the years but has been a longstanding fixture. Due to it's size, they do get a wide variety of acts. In my opinion, the sound quality is so-so and my overall experiences at the venue have been okay. I have attended concerts both in the Pavilion to see the Black Keys and on the lawn for performances by Weezer and the Pixies and Tesla and Firehouse. I would go see a show on the lawn if I found some good value tickets for a band I really like, but wouldn't spend big bucks to see a concert at this average venue. The American Family Insurance Amphitheater in Milwaukee, just an hour away, offers a far superior amphitheater experience compared to Tinley Park.

  • Huntington Bank Pavilion, Chicago IL - 30,000 plus capacity (22,000 lawn, 8,000 seated on bleachers), all outdoor

    • My Take: Stunning location offering impressive views of the Lake on one side and the city skyline on the other. The venue attracts top-notch performers and boasts good sound quality. The only downside is that it isn't the easiest place to get to.

  • United Center, Chicago IL - 24,000 capacity, all indoor

    • My Take: This venue may not be my top choice as I prefer outdoor locations, but it has the best sound system for bands and artists that require top-notch acoustics. The United Center has a history of hosting major sporting events, such as NBA and NHL finals series, and features a superior sound system. This is the largest indoor venue in Chicago, making it suitable for artists with a substantial fan base. I have been to two Muse concerts at this venue, and the upcoming events scheduled for 2024 at the United Center will feature a variety of artists such as Usher, Justin Timberlake, Billie Eilish, and comedian Sebastian Maniscalco, highlighting the wide range of performers who take the stage at the UC.

  • American Family Insurance Amphitheater, Milwaukee, Wisconsin - 23,000 capacity (14,000 lawn, 9,000 seated under a covered pavilion), all outdoor

    • My Take: Amazing venue. One of my favorite outdoor venues situated on the shores of Lake Michigan within the Henry Maier Festival Park. It's easy to get in and out of and is located near some fun areas in Milwaukee that are within walking distance. The sound system is excellent, and the lawn experience is the most enjoyable I have ever had. Weezer/Green Day and Lumineers are memorable shows I've seen here. Although this isn't located in Chicago, I have visited this venue several times and it offers an amazing concert experience.

Big Venues - 10 to 20,000 capacity

  • Allstate Arena, Rosemont, IL - 18,500 all indoor

    • My Take: While this indoor venue isn't my favorite, I have attended several shows here, including one by Neil Young, over the years. The sound quality is acceptable, and its location just outside Chicago is convenient. Nowadays, they host a diverse range of shows, featuring tribute acts and performances by artists like Barry Manilow, Chicago, and Earth, Wind and Fire. Access to the venue is easy, as it is located right next to the highway.

  • Ravinia Festival, Highland Park, IL - 16,200 capacity (3200 fixed seats under a covered pavilion, 13,000 lawn seats), all outdoor

    • My Take: Ravinia is a popular destination where guests can bring their own picnic, drinks, blankets, and chairs to unwind on the grass while listening to music under the stars. The venue showcases a diverse range of performances spanning various music genres. For example, the 2024 schedule includes artists such as Roger Daltrey, Clint Black & Lyle Lovett, Norah Jones, The Roots, and the Gipsy Kings, alongside numerous violin and orchestral shows. Although conveniently located near a Metra stop for easy accessibility, this may vary depending on your starting point. From my experiences during three visits, it seems that many attendees are equally interested in socializing with friends as they are in the musical performances. As someone who primarily attends for the music, this could be why I don't visit the venue as frequently.

  • Jay Pritzker Pavillion, Chicago IL - 11,000 capacity (4000 fixed seats under the covered pavilion, 7,000 lawn seats), all outdoor

    • My Take: Situated in a fantastic downtown Chicago location near Millennium Park, this venue offers exceptional acoustics that suit technical bands like Wilco (my favorite Wilco show took place here) and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, a frequent performer here. Access is easy, and guests are welcome to bring their own food for a picnic on the lawn. Although it is one of my favorite outdoor venues, the number of concerts held here is limited, and the capacity may be restrictive for larger artists.

  • Credit Union 1 Arena at UIC, Chicago IL - 10,000 capacity, all indoors

    • My Take: This facility at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) serves as the primary location for UIC sporting events, seminars and graduations. It is also used as a concert venue. It's in a decent location with plenty to do around the area, including Little Italy and Taylor Street, and the West Loop isn't too far away. They get okay shows, have okay sound and it's an okay venue. I've been here a few times and would go back for the right show, but this venue doesn't draw me in. It's kind of like a smaller and slightly less impressive Allstate Arena in a better location.

Mid-Size Venues - up to 5,000 capacity

  • Aragon Ballroom - 5,000 capacity, all indoor

    • My Take: Ornamental and old school with a cool balcony, several distinctive private booths, and a wealth of character. This venue's walls have seen a lot. I have had the privilege of witnessing some of the most unforgettable performances of my life here, from Jack White to Mumford and Sons and The Black Crowes. It is currently facing intense competition from the new Salt Shed, which offers a starkly different atmosphere compared to the gritty, carpeted in places ballroom setting. I enjoy the experience at both venues, but find myself slightly more drawn to the no frills, hairs-down ballroom experience, especially for rock and hard rock shows.

  • Salt Shed - 5000 capacity for outdoor shows, 3600 capacity for indoor shows

    • My Take: This is the newest and hottest venue in Chicago, equipped with all the modern amenities, such as real bars, trendy shops, and a spacious layout that has revolutionized the music scene in Chicago. Situated near Goose Island on the Chicago River, it is under the ownership of the same group that operates Thalia Hall, and offers a comparable experience in a much larger setting. Over the past two years, it has directly challenged the Aragon Ballroom and Riviera, the only venues of similar size, and has taken much of their business. Many popular bands that play to this capacity (including Mt. Joy, Black Pumas, Modest Mouse, The Revivalists, Tyler Childers, Sturgill Simpson....just to name a few) have migrated to this venue.

  • Riviera Theater - 2500, all indoor

    • My Take: Also ornamental and old school and terrific. I've seen some great concerts here over the years including Bob Dylan, Wilco and Aha. Everything written about the Aragon Ballroom pretty much applies to The Riv, except the The Riv is smaller and more intimate.

Smaller Indoor Venues - 1,000 to 2,000 capacity, all in Chicago

  • Concord Music Hall - 1500

    • My Take:  Situated on Milwaukee Avenue in the vibrant Logan Square neighborhood, this venue is in a fantastic location. I attended a Snoop Dogg concert here a couple of years ago and had a good time, despite the venue feeling a bit dull and the sound quality being average. Nonetheless, I would definitely return for the right event, as the location is tough to beat if you want to add some pre and post concert fun to your evening.

  • The Vic - 1400

    • My Take: Terrific old school venue where you can get up close with the music in the heart of Lakeview not far from Wrigleyville. I saw a terrific show by Caamp here in 2022 that I'll never forget.

  • Thalia Hall - 1300

    • My Take:  The Salt Shed owners hit their first Grand Slam with this terrific small venue that boasts modern amenities, including a genuine bar serving hand poured drinks and draft beer. This newer establishment offers excellent sound quality and provides the chance for a close and intimate experience, whether you are on the ground floor or in the balcony. Artists frequently interact with the audience here, sometimes even venturing into the crowd or ascending to the balcony to perform a song or two. Attending a performance at Thalia Hall presents an excellent chance to spend an evening exploring one of Chicago's trendiest neighborhoods, Pilsen.

  • House of Blues - 1300

    • My Take: Cool nationwide chain venue with good sound and a cool vibe. It's downtown near the financial hub of Chicago and the Chicago river. With Chicago being blessed with so many cool music venues, it seems to get lost in the shuffle and is bypassed by many bands.

  • Metro - 1150

    • My Take:  One of the cooler small venues in Chicago. I saw The Revivalists here in 2023 and was thrilled to see a band this good at a venue this small. Located a couple blocks from Wrigley Field, this is one of the best small, old school venues in Chicago to get up close with the music.

Even Smaller Indoor Venues - Less than 1,000, all in Chicago

  • Park West - 900

    • My Take:  This is an interesting venue that feels more like a lounge and features round tables you can sit at with table service in addition to standing areas. I've seen Morcheeba here twice a long time ago. Pretty cool neighborhood spot in Lincoln Park a stones throw away from the zoo that is kind of unique compared to the other venues noted.

  • Bottom Lounge - 700

    • My Take:  This is a bar and restaurant with a concert hall attached behind a closed door. It can hold a pretty large audience and is popular with the underground music scene. It's in a cool area close to Fulton Market.

  • Lincoln Hall - 500

    • My Take:  Located in a quieter area of Lincoln Park on Lincoln Avenue, it doesn't seem to get a ton of shows that interest me, but I was impressed with the venue when I was lucky enough to see Wilco play a show supporting Inspiration Corporation here in 2011.

  • Old Town School of Music - 425

    • My Take: This intimate space specializes in hosting folk artists, international music, and bluegrass bands, boasting an exceptional sound system. I have attended various performances here, such as those by the Del McRoury Band, flamenco shows, and the Irish folk band Altan. Situated within the music school, this venue offers outstanding acoustics, making it an ideal spot to appreciate music.

  • Empty bottle - 400

    • My Take:  This small indie rock dive bar and music venue on Western Avenue, nestled between Humboldt Park and Ukrainian Village, is known for hosting some great shows. A long-standing favorite among the music community, it showcases a mix of local bands and notable acts often heard on alternative radio like The Flaming Lips, Veruca Salt, Waxahatchee, Local H, and Dehd. Occasionally, even big-time artists like Jack White, who performed a pop-up post-concert show here in 2023, grace its stage.

  • Schubas - 200

    • My Take:  Owned by the same group as Lincoln Hall but smaller in size, this Lakeview venue provides a comparable and fun experience for visitors.

  • The Green Mill - 150

    • My Take:  An iconic establishment in Uptown Chicago that epitomizes old-school charm. If it feels like guys like Frank Sinatra used to drink here when they were in town, they probably did. It's cash only and features house bands that play nearly every week so everyone knows the band and set they will see every Friday or Saturday. You have to go to this place at least once.



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