FREE! Chicago: Live Music

chicago free music
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Possibly the worst thing in the world I could do is to write this article. But I’m an unselfish type, and finding and sharing music is as imperative to my existence as, well, finding and sharing music. So I must get the word out: living in Chicago means you don’t have to know the band or have a press pass to catch some of the hottest bands across a variety of venues and genres for absolutely no cost. From the obvious locations to cutthroat Twitter following, here’s a breakdown of how to catch some great tunes without letting your wallet go empty.

Millennium Park

Alas, I am writing this from inside four walls protecting me from subfreezing temperatures, but my memory is not short enough to forget the great music Millennium Park hosts in the summertime. With lunch and evening showtimes, MP gives you the chance to catch Lollapalooza worthy acts without the Lollapalooza price. She & Him, the Thermals, and Javelin were but a few of the bands that performed at the Pritzker Pavillion in the 2010 summer engulfed in our cities’ astounding skyline. Buzzbands not your thing? Don’t worry: the park also hosts a variety of classical, jazz, and world artists as well for those of you who respond more positively to Fred Lonberg-Holm than Dan Snaith. But I shouldn’t get ahead of myself; it’s still December. Check back to Millenium Park’s website in the spring when they announce their summer lineup. And that’s not all: don’t let the giant park overshadow the myriad of weekend street festivals.


Admittedly, I was reluctant to the Twitter trend. But after hearing about a friend who got free tickets to the same show I had paid for like a chump, I decided it would be a worthwhile investment of time. Venues like Lincoln Hall and Schuba’s often have a daily “retweet by 4PM” to enter in a drawing, which means you’ve got to have access to your computer or smartphone in the afternoon. Do312 recently got approved guestlist spots for the likes of the Hold Steady, Edward Sharpe, and Rob Halford. Following these sites on Twitter is definitely the best way to get into the bigger shows, but you have to act fast and be committed. You never know just what show is going to be available or when the tweet comes so make sure to keep hitting refresh when you see new posts. Still can’t find what you’re looking for? Also, follow CHIRPRadio for free tickets as well as helpful event info.

Free Venues

This is the most reliably consistent of all the options. A no-cover show is the best way to catch some music and not feel as guilty for also getting a drink or four. My personal favorite is the Empty Bottle with their free Mondays. It’s the best way to stay up to date on the best local acts, as well as the occasional national touring group. There is also generally a show during the week that provides the email RSVP opportunity to get into a show for free as well. Always free is Logan Square’s the Whistler. Rated one of the top 25 cocktail bars in America by GQ, the music is as diverse as their monthly-altered drink menu. Another great place to keep up to date on current local music.

So get out there Chicago, and let us know what other places you love to go for free music.

Andrew Hertzberg

About Andrew Hertzberg

If identity is an illusion, I’m a magician in training. And although Emerson was right in pointing out that “with consistency, a great soul has simply nothing to do” the one constant I don’t mind in my life is Chicago. Yes, even the boredom of her suburbs couldn’t suppress the glow of the city, my attraction as a moth to flame. The future is unwritten, the characters are ever-expanding, and the plot is a perpetual foray through rising actions, conflicts and falling actions; the setting, however, remains the same.

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