The Burlington (Venue, Logan Square)

the burlington
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Ok, so Logan Square really doesn’t need any more nightlife attractions, but what the hell, I’ll take it. The Burlington’s been around for a bit, but has recently emerged as one of the better, newer music clubs in the city, with a focus on underground and experimental acts. The bar itself has been kicking around since 2007, but they’ve recently been hosting more shows. Its distance from a convenient train line or 24 hour bus route may make it seem like a pain to get to, but it’s often highly worth the effort.

Let’s start with the bar. You walk in and it’s darker than the street you came in off of. There’s sparse seating to your left and the bar to the right. Admittedly, the seating really isn’t the most comfortable. The benches are often compared to church pews and the stools seem inappropriate for the body proportions of a clientele that is necessarily over 21. But the cheap drinks and variety thereof make up for it. $4 IPAs and well drinks all day, and sometimes cheaper on special. Of course there are $2 PBRs, but that really doesn’t need to be mentioned in this neighborhood. Don’t be afraid to try one of the many micro- and craft-brewed drafts, bottles or cans they provide as well. If you’re there a night that a DJ is spinning, notice the “No Requests” lite-brite. Yeah, a bit pretentious, but keep in mind this is a place that lists Amstel, Miller, and Stella under the ‘water’ category. Besides, you want to be somewhere where you can trust the DJ anyway.

Now, moving to the backroom that qualifies as the venue. It looks like it could be any unfinished basement, and is equally as dark as the front room. Cover is generally $5 with two or three bands, many of which would be just as comfortable at the Beat Kitchen or Empty Bottle. Surprisingly, the sound is actually pretty good for a small room without much acoustic treatment, and in fact may be even better than my beloved Bottle (hearsay!). From what I’ve read, the Burlington has gone through a rotation of periods of hosting events, so it’s hard to say how long they’ll keep these going for. As long as they keep booking solid locals, I’m sure they’ll maintain a following within and out of West Logan Square.

The Essentials:
Location: 3425 W Fullerton
Phone: 773.384.3243

The Harris Theater at Millennium Park

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There are several destination theaters in Chicago. These are venues where the physical space itself provides substantial incentive when choosing whether or not to attend a particular event. We’re talking place like the Chicago Theater, Symphony Center, Pritzker Pavilion, Charter One Pavilion on Northerly Island, just to name a few. Great sound, great seating, great architecture, great overall floorplan — these are things which can greatly enhance (or detract from in the opposite case) a theatergoer’s experience. Situated directly behind the Pritzker Pavilion, the Harris Theater is one of the gems in the Millennium Park crown and, as of 2003, one of the great venues in Chicago for viewing dance and music events.

Architecturally, the Harris is nothing like the collection of flowing steel bands which makes up the Gehry designed Pritzker Pavilion, but the smaller theater provides a cozy and practical companion piece to its more muscular partner. With its rectangular wall of windows looking in upon an enormous but minimalist abstract art construction, the Harris entryway suggests an aesthetic mission of clean simplicity. The initial introduction is nevertheless deceptive, as much of the theater lies below Randolph Drive and once past the modest but sleek, modern lobby and lower hallways the attendee is ushered into an expansive and elegant seating area overlooking a large stage. Making good use of the latest design styles and techniques, the theater itself is a contemporary marvel: the seats are comfortable, every line of sight in the theater is a good one, and the sound system and overall sound design is top notch.

The clean simplicity of the building’s aesthetics carryover to the organization’s artistic mission as well. The Harris Theater is a nonprofit endeavor which partners with several different troupes and companies throughout the area in an effort to promote and grow local dance and music culture. The Harris theater provides guidance, space, and equipment to many resident companies including the Chicago Jazz Ensemble, Chicago Children’s Choir, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, Puerto Rican Arts Alliance, Music of the Baroque, Old Town School of Folk Music, Luna Negra Dance Theater, Ballet Chicago, and Fulcrum Point New Music Project.

Ticket prices are reasonable for downtown (sometimes as low as $10 a pop for even the best seats) and there is a continuous rotation of interesting and exciting performances held several times a week.

Upcoming events include: The Musical of World Charles Mingus, The Vienna Symphony Orchestra, The Quatro Festival, and Harold and the Purple Crayon: A Dance Adventure. With its great location, packed calendar of music and dance events, and ambitious promotion of artistic culture, the Harris Theater provides a perfect indoor complement to the spectacular outdoor pavilion in back.

The California Clipper (Bar & Music Venue, Humboldt Park)

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Location: 1002 N. California Ave.
Phone: (773) 384-clip

The Clipper is red. Very, very red. And there’s never a cover. And they make a mean Brandy Alexander. That really is all you need to know. I mean really, who makes a Brandy Alexander?

We dropped into The California Clipper on our Humboldt Park Bar Crawl, grabbed a comfortable booth and a stack of board games. We settled on The Worst Case Scenario Board Game, which was filled with questions about how to fight a bear, treat snakebites and use nature as a compass. You know, the kind of things urban life doesn’t really prepare you for. If memory serves me correctly (when does it ever?) Tessa (shocking due to her distaste for the outdoorsy lifestyle) and Molly (Unfair, she’s from Michigan. They don’t even have paved roads there) jumped out to a massive lead. As there were only four playing pieces, Andrew and I formed Team Boi!, only to be quickly left in the dust.

Our game (read: series of comically wrong answers) was interrupted by movie night, which takes place every Tuesday. This retro bar (originally home to a movie theater) has been open since 1937 and features plenty of great live music from all genres. Throw in a friendly staff and excellent drinks and you’ve got a wonderful place to relax on a weeknight.

You can read more about The Clipper’s place in the neighborhood, as well as get a taste of the live music scene here in David’s review.

This article first appeared in UPchicago’s Humboldt Park Bar Crawl


Joe’s Bar On Weed Street (Bar/Concert Venue, Lincoln Park)

Location: 940 W. Weed Street
Phone: 312.337.3486

It may not appear so from the street, but Joe’s is a 20,000 square foot building separated into different rooms, each offering a different vibe from the next. Those who would like a more intimate setting would enjoy the rooms apart from the main area of the bar. People who want to be part of the action would enjoy the main floor/stage where the walls are covered with flat screens and the floor offers two full-service bars — so you never have to wait long to order a drink. Anyone who feels like they want to experience something in between would enjoy the Red Room, a private area that features an eagle’s eye view of the main stage. Of course, if you don’t feel like being inside, Joe’s offers a spacious outdoor patio and beer garden.

Don’t forget this venue is also a restaurant offering various pizzas, burgers, sandwiches, soups, salads and desserts. Joe’s is sports heaven, and its the place to go Monday nights during football season. Some of my favorite nights out often entail going out for some good grub before heading out to the bar. Joe’s makes it easy to do all of this under one roof.

The deals at Joe’s are great during the week. Customers can take advantage of $1 Thursdays — the choice of any well drink or longneck bottle for a buck. Tuesday deals boast quarter beers, $2 pitchers, half-price pizza from 5PM-9PM and DJ Gusto — the lights dim and the bar turns into a club similar to one you would typically have to travel downtown to find.

My first experience at Joe’s came last winter when my friends and I enjoyed a Bulls game over $2 pitchers and half-priced pizzas. As Joe’s takes reservations for big sporting events, this place is popular for playoff games. Joe’s far surpassed any expectations I had for another bar with a DJ and a dance floor. Usually, by 8:30 or 9pm, there’s a line well out the door and down the block to get in, and the dance floor is packed with people having a great time.

Yes, Joe’s offers a great environment in sports, deals and space, but what really sets this place apart is live music. Every weekend the bar features live entertainment which usually consists of local musicians and sometimes even comedians. However, Joe’s has also hosted nationally recognized music acts such as OAR, Run DMC, Keith Urban, Dierks Bentley, Michelle Branch and the Rascal Flatts. For a calendar of events or more details, visit


Hungry Brain (Bar & Music Venue, Roscoe Village)

Location: 2319 W. Belmont Ave.
Phone:  773-935-2118
Website: (for info on shows)

Photo Credit: Jackie Berkery

Do brains not get hungry on Wednesdays? Our second attempt to start drinking at Hungry Brain was successful, we did get beer, but we were all alone.  Is everyone at home watching Modern Family? Fine. Fine. Be that way. I don’t need you here to have a good time. The jukebox has Shellac, the Dead Guy is cold and the UPChicago crew are plenty fun.

The plus to drinking at the Brain when it’s relatively empty is that you have your choice of comfy couches and booths. The furniture here seems like it was bought from Heaven’s estate sale. It’s all retro kitsch in the greatest, most mismatchediest way. Throw in a book exchange, a Ms. Pac Man/Galaga machine and Arkanoid by the bathroom and I’m good.

Drinks are pretty cheap and the staff is always friendly, the rare exception to the latter being if you drop by on a Sunday night for Hungry Brain’s jazz series. That isn’t to say that they spit on you when you walk in the door, but the bartenders have a tendency to get very Green Mill-hushy at anyone speaking louder than sign language. That said, even on busy nights this isn’t the kind of establishment where you’re going to find anyone yelling above loud music and trashy pick-up lines.

The ability to completely lose track of time without being hammered is one of the hallmarks of a great bar. There are some places that you just want to relax at without thinking about anything in particular, and the Hungry Brain is perfect for such an evening. The art on the walls often looks like something puked-up from a high school class in complete mess-ism, but fuck it, that kind of stuff always looks better after a few drinks anyway.

This article first appeared in UPchicago Bar Crawl #7: Roscoe Village


Reggie’s Music Joint & Rock Club (Music Venue, South Loop)

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The first time I walked into Reggie’s Music Joint, the televisions were playing the Powerpuff Girls next to the Blackhawks game, which was below live footage of Queen performing in front of a 50s Flash Gordon projection subtitled in German. Alright, I thought to myself, this is my kind of place. Hey, what’s that? Friday night and you’ve still got 312 for three dollars? Not bad, Reggie.

The second time I visited Reggie’s, I was greeted by a stranger: “Welcome to heavy metal fucking heaven.” I didn’t want to tell him the live music that I had come to see that night was going to be dance, funk, and hip-hop. But it does attest to the diversity of the bands that play. When Reggie’s first opened, I couldn’t help but think I could have been a regular there in high school (well, for the all ages shows at least). Alas, when it opened in 2007, long after I escaped my punk rock phase, I neglected to ever really check out the bill there, as I was busy blowing whatever pocket money I had at the more timetested venues. These days I’m either I’m more open-minded, the venue has expanded its variety or I’m actually just paying better attention, but Reggie’s can play host to a diverse crowd. It has certainly claimed its name as the mid-sized go-to venue for touring punk and metal acts to stop by, but don’t be surprised to find more and more hip-hop, acoustic and even stand-up comedy acts.

It would be remiss to only speak of Reggie’s as a music venue. Of course the most genius part of the establishment is the record store, with vinyl, CDs, DVDs, shirts, posters and more. The selection is constantly updated, and the location holds its own in an otherwise music-purchasing desert. Open till 11pm every day, you can satisfy your vinyl hunger at pretty much any time. A different type of hunger you’re looking to satiate?  The food in the Joint is classic American comfort, appropriately surrounded by the brick interior and communal wooden benches. The Joint doubles surprisingly as a fine sports bar for the area, with 17 flat screen plasmas to catch any game happening. The walls alternate between memorabilia and posters from both the athletic and music worlds. Likewise, lining the bar, you’re just as likely to find a Cheap Trick ticket stub as one from a 1990s Bulls game. The Rock Club next door is the one hosting the more well-known bands with a more industrial feel to it, as well as local graffiti artists taking over the walls.

Other bonuses to Reggie’s? Live band karaoke every Wednesday at the Joint as well as a shuttle bus transporting between sporting events, and even concerts at other venues. Reggie’s has already  proved itself to be the full package to music lovers. Still an infant in the Chicago scene, its all-or-nothing ethos certainly deserves its “best reason to venture outside your ‘hood” nod. And though it may not be going anywhere for some time, I highly recommend taking that venture sooner rather than later.

The Essentials:
Location: 2105-9 S State St., South Loop
Phone: 312-949-0121 (Rock Club), 312-949-0125 (Record Store)