The Empty Bottle (Bar & Music Venue, Ukrainian Village)

Flickr Credit:  matthannigan


Can’t go wrong with that.

If you’re looking to catch a rock show in Chicago you’d be hard-pressed to find a better venue than The Empty Bottle. Located at the corner of Western and Cortez, The Bottle has excellent live music seven nights week, usually with a very affordable cover.

As you walk in the first room you encounter has sort of a hangout/clubhouse vibe to it. A Ms. Pac-Man machine, a pool table, the merchandise table, a photo booth and a couch all have drinks and 20-somethings scattered around them. While you can hear the music from the other room you can also maintain a conversation with the person next to you, which is especially excellent on nights when the opening band is a little lacking.

Through the hallway, past the men’s washroom (which like any good rock club washroom is equipped with an adult novelty dispenser) you’ll find another Ms. Pac-Man machine, an old cigarette vending machine and two giant water coolers for the dehydrated and sweaty masses. The adjacent main room is home to a small stage with big sound and a long bar with a beer selection ranging from hipster-tonic PBR to some nicer draft beers like Goose Island Green Line. The liquor selection is equally diverse: Cuervo Reserva de la Familia and Glendronach 12 Year share the shelf with local-muck-booze Malört.

Better than the alcohol or the sound or the people is the booking. The Bottle has a reputation for hosting some of the best music in Chicago. The weekly jazz series spiraled into The Empty Bottle Festival of Jazz and Improvised Music, and Free Mondays offer a cover-less line-up of mostly local acts with an appropriate $1.25 PBR special. Gritty older acts like Throbbing Gristle and Teenage Jesus & the Jerks find as much of a home in The Bottle as more recent acts like the Chinese Stars and Enon or local favorites Pit Er Pat and the Bitter Tears. Whew! That small list alone includes the dance-rock, no-wave, synth-pop and drunken sea shanty genres. Just a hint of what you’ll hear blasting through the speakers on any given night.

When visiting The Bottle, be sure to take a moment and pay your respects to Radley, the little black cat who wandered the bar from it’s opening in 1993 until August of 2009. He was a lover of tamales and indie-rock and one of the friendliest creatures ever to walk the earth. His face is plastered all over the men’s washroom, lest we forget him, and sometimes you can still see him balled up on the couch or slinking across the bar, depending on how much you’ve had to drink.

RIP Radley – 1990-2009

Photo Credit: Radley’s MySpace

The Essentials:
Location: 1035 N. Western Ave.
Phone: 773.276.3600


Gene Wagendorf III

About Gene Wagendorf III

Gene is a writer who has spent his entire quarter century of life as a resident of Chicago. When not exploring the city he can be found wandering flea markets and garage sales or having a cigarette between classes at Northeastern Illinois University, where he hopes to acquire a degree in the next quarter century. His favorite smells are old books and bowling alleys. His poetry (how embarrassing!) can be found in issues of Kill Poet, Ditch, Word Riot, O Sweet Flowery Roses and Vowel Movements.

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