[caption id="attachment_7378" align="alignnone" width="445" caption="Photo by Bill Selak"]
There's something comforting about an open mic. Have a little acoustic ditty you'd like to share with an audience? Then sign up, and hit the stage. Too timid to play in front of a crowd just yet? Then head on over, grab a beer or a cup o' joe and feel the scene, man. One thing's for sure, we're exceptionally lucky to live in a city with a wealth of great open mics for musicians (Sorry, comedians. Maybe next time). Here, in no particular order, are 10 of our favorite spots to see some very talented locals play their hearts out...
(Ed. Note) This post was originally published on March 11, 2010. Some of the information may be outdated. Please check with the venue before heading over.
Subterranean holds two open mics during the week – just in case you couldn’t get enough of one. On Monday nights from 9pm – 2am the lounge has an acoustic open mic hosted by Ciso Lobo. Musicians are requested to do their own pieces and not get up there with a whole lot of covers.
On Tuesdays, Hip-Hop mic night takes over, presented by 606 Entertainment
and hosted by Strike III of The Pacifics
and Undecided 1. Claiming to be one of the most influential Hip Hop open mics, Subterranean opens its doors (and mics) to underground musicians and poets of the Hip Hop persuasion.
Subterranean gives you the best of both open mic worlds two nights in a row. Open mic is on Monday and Tuesday from 9 p.m. - 2 a.m. Subterranean is located at 2011 W. North Avenue.
Quenchers Monday Night Open Mic
, which started as Indie Rock Open Mic Night in 2002, is a loose and open affair. Currently hosted by Darren Amaya, Quenchers welcomes anyone and everyone to the stage. Feel free to bring your own instruments (except drum kits but who would lug one of those around) or saddle on up to their historic August Cross of Chicago upright piano and get your 15 minutes of fame. Open mic starts at 10:30 p.m. every Monday night. Quenchers is located at 2401 North Western Avenue.
3. Uncommon Ground
On Monday nights SHURE Microphones
sponsors an open mic at Uncommon Ground on Clark St. It’s a hushed and personal atmosphere filled with the delicate finger picking of acoustic guitars, quiet moan of harmonicas and beautiful voices of all types. Musicians like Arthi Meera from Fair and Kind
, and Genevieve Schatz from Company of Thieves
started out as regulars and quickly rose as favorites among the crowds. At the end of the show, the crowd picks their favorite performer for that night and they get some tip money and a chance to be in the running to perform at a showcase. The open mic normally starts around 7 p.m., but I suggest arriving a little early to get a good seat and a good time slot on the card. Open mic is on Monday nights from. 7 p.m - 9 p.m. Uncommon Ground is located at 3800 North Clark Street.
4. Gallery Cabaret
Named Best Open Mic
by the Chicago Reader in 2008, Gallery Cabaret's Sunday night double set is filled with acts that consistently defy expectations. The crowd is eclectic and supportive, the music is generally above usual open mic standards, and the $5 Leinenkugel Pitchers and free dinner buffet are hard to pass up. The early open mic is more welcoming to newcomers, and space is limited so don't expect to find a seat easily after dinner's been served. Sunday open mics are from 7:00 - 9:00 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. - close. Dinner served around 7:00 - 8:00 p.m. with a rarely enforced 2 drink minimum. Gallery Cabaret is located at 2020 N. Oakley.
5. Bucktown Pub
On Sunday nights, John Kimler
hosts a rowdy, exciting open mic at Bucktown Pub complete with free popcorn. With an endless variety of musical styles and a room full of jaw-dropping regulars, the open mic here is always an adventure. The crowds here are very relaxed and you really can feel the excitement they have for new musicians. The open mic regulars are always extremely impressive, but are the most humble and personable people in the room. It’s like one big family in there and everyone seems to want to help everyone else out and give them a big round of applause at the end. Open mic is on Sunday nights and starts at 9:30 p.m. Bucktown Pub is located at 1658 W. Cortland.
6. Town Hall Pub
Directly after the Uncommon Ground open mic ends, Ryan Suzuka
starts up the Town Hall Pub open mic on Monday nights. Suzuka usually performs his beautiful but melancholy songs done on a ukulele with his powerful and lush Jeff Buckley-esque vocals. Unlike Uncommon Ground, Town Hall Pub is a place where open mic-ers get to let their hair down and turn loose on the crowd. Suzuka gives them plenty of time and lots of freedom to perform just as they like. At Town Hall Pub, musicians are encouraged to be loud, diverse and a little wild. Open mic is every Monday night at 10 p.m. Town Hall Pub is located at 3340 N Halsted St.
7. Red Line Tap
Every Thursday night at The Red Line Tap is the Flatts & Sharpe open mic presented by the, oddly enough, Flatts & Sharpe Music Company
. The night is hosted by Micki Croisant. Again, performers are asked to bring their own instruments, but a drum kit is provided. Need some liquid courage to get up there and let free your inner rock star? The Red Line Taps gives every performer one free drink (draft beer and well drinks only, folks). You might also win a snappy little prize courtesy of your friends at Flatts & Sharpe. Open mic is on Thursday nights. Sign up is at 8:00 and performers hit the stage beginning at 9:00 p.m. Red Line Tap is located at 7006 N.Glenwood.
8. The Store
Never been to the Store? Maybe you have but your memory is hazy because it was at 3:34 a.m. after stopping at several other bars only to stumble upon the one that was open until 4 a.m.? Well, The Store (til 4) hosts an open mic on Monday nights in the Lincoln Park neighborhood and is definitely worth checking out in a more coherent state of mind. Founded in 2004 by owner Kevin Kostelecky and Rick LaCour this open mic has a cool feature in that each musician is recorded and given a free CD of their performance moments after they leave the stage. There’s a house guitar, keyboard and top notch PA system available to use. Each performer is given 3 songs and 15 minutes to play. Past Mondays have seen members of Hello Dave, Umphrey’s McGee
and even the late Vince Welnick of the Grateful Dead get up on stage to play a few songs. If that’s not enough they have $2.00 pints on sale all night long. Open mic starts around 9 p.m. with sign-up at 8:30 p.m. The Store is located at 2002 N. Halsted St.
9. Windy City Open Mic
Hosted by the lovely Kat Fitzgerald of A Left Turn At Albuquerque
, Windy City Open Mic happens every Monday at Uptown Lounge
. Knowing the musical company that Fitzgerald keeps as a drummer for A Left Turn At Albuquerque
(Jeff Churchwell and his heavenly tenor voice), the amount of singer/songwriter talent that comes across the stage is very impressive. Yet, Fitzgerald’s philosophical endless love of music makes sure that everyone gets their chance and support at this open mic. It’s a breath of fresh air to see a hostess who is there to mentor and support the newcomers as they step on stage for the first time. Additionally, every performer gets a free drink! How cool is that? And at the end of the night a winning performer is picked by audience applause and receives a $25 Uptown Lounge bar tab as well as entered in to the Finals Competition set for January 2011! Top Prize is $1000! Oh Yeah! Open mic is on Moday nights. Sign up at 7 p.m. open mic starts at 8 p.m. Uptown Lounge is located at 1136 W. Lawrence.
10. Tonic Room
“Dan the Man”
Chris Zonada opens up the rockin’ PA system at Tonic Room on Monday nights for their open mic. Not only do they provide you with a good sound system, they also offer up plenty of mics, various cables, and even a guitar for your performing needs. Tonic Room welcomes more than just acoustic performers, they also encourage rap artists, comedians and rock groups to come in and take a whack at it. Performers like Arthi Meera
, Adam Hitchell
, and The Gorilla Press
have all played there. The Tonic Room has a relatively less intimidating stage, with it’s size leaning on the small side, the room being very dim and the crowd being an arms length away. It makes for an intimate setting that will calm the nerves a little more. Tonic Room is always looking for talent to perform the rest of the week, so if you have a set and want to play let them know. Open mic is on Monday nights. Sign up at 9:00pm open mic starts at 10pm. Tonic Room is located at 2447 N. Halsted.