From Union Park to Schubas: Your Chicago Concerts Survival Guide

Chicago Concert Guide And TipsNo matter what kind of music you enjoy, there’s a great experience waiting for you at a show or concert in Chicago. You can find a quiet weeknight show at a relaxed neighborhood bar like Schubas, or if you’re a party animal, you can camp out and rock for days on end at massive Chicago festivals like Lollapalooza and Pitchfork! Concerts are a great way to enjoy an evening with friends and maybe even discover your new favorite band.

Just like any other event, concerts require some preparation – especially those that last all day or multiple days – so it’s vital to think ahead. The following suggestions will prepare you for making the most of your concert experience, from beginning to end:

Ahead of Time

From your clothes to your cash, everything you have on you at a concert can affect the experience, and a night can be ruined if some logistical tangle prevents a member of your party from entering the show. Check over the following tips before your favorite Chicago concerts to make sure you’re prepared:

  • If your party includes children, or anyone with special needs, call the venue or check their website ahead of time so you know what to expect. Some older venues in Chicago might not be handicap-accessible or might require a reservation for a seat, and plenty have age restrictions. Even if a show seems appropriate for kids, many venues (especially bars like The Empty Bottle or Reggie’s) are subject to laws that don’t permit minors.

  • Don’t forget about ear protection! Speaking of minors, consider bringing earplugs or other ear protection for any kids in the group. If you don’t want your ears ringing for days after your favorite Chicago concerts, bring earplugs of your own, as well.

  • Plan where you’ll park, so that you don’t get stuck paying for an expensive event parking lot or walking so far you miss the opening act. Also, different venues and festivals might not allow re-entry, which limits your options for stashing something in the car and retrieving it later.

  • Plan your clothes so they’re low-maintenance and comfortable, and avoid wearing shoes that make standing or walking around for long periods unpleasant. Especially if you’ll be up in front at a crowded rock show, wear shoes that you’re stable in, and clothing that won’t be destroyed if a drink gets spilled on you.

  • Pocket-check your essentials, like your driver’s license, your cash (don’t bring extra cards if you can help it), keys, and maybe your earplugs and anything else you might need. Also, get cash before the show, so that you can support local bands by buying merch – and tip your bartender – while avoiding ATM fees.

  • For big festivals, make sure you bring enough water, food, sunscreen, and phone chargers, and don’t forget to look at the schedule ahead of time (and resign yourself to missing at least half the artists, if there are multiple stages).

  • Most importantly, remember your tickets! Printouts are one of the safest choices, although some venues can scan your ticket barcode from your smartphone now. Don’t assume this is always going to be the case, though. If you ordered your tickets for will call pickup, make sure you know where and when to get them.

During the Show

Make the most of your Chicago concert experience by relaxing and enjoying the night while you’re there.

  • Explore the venue. Famous performers have been playing legendary shows in the Windy City since back when jazz was edgy, and the many music venues in Chicago are chock-full of history and amazing stories. Look for old posters on the walls, and other exhibits the venue might have on display.

  • Identify your rendezvous points right away: bathrooms, the entrance or lobby, or smoking area(s) all make for easy-to-find options. If someone gets disconnected from the group, these are generally the best places to meet up.

  • Save your phone battery by turning off Wi-Fi, extra apps, or – if you’re really feeling wild and crazy – the entire phone! With your group under fine control from the previous step, you can take a set or two to relax and immerse yourself in the music.

  • Pace yourself so the good times last. Resist the urge to drink too fast, mosh too hard for the openers, or try to say hi to all your friends at the show right away when you arrive. Make sure you’re actually taking the time to enjoy the concert experience!

Making it Last

After you’ve caught a guitar pick or drum stick – and the lights come up to indicate that this time it is, in fact, not a pretend break before an encore – it can be disappointing to feel like the night is over. Make the memories last, and maybe meet one of your favorite band members, by following up with these post-show ideas:

  • Stop by the bar on your way out. Generally the cleanup crew will need you off the floor so they can do their jobs and go home, but some bars may offer a late-night special, so the fun doesn’t have to end just yet!

  • See if you can snag an extra concert posters! Sometimes, since these are officially outdated the minute the show is over, venues give posters away for free. (Just make sure to ask, not steal!)

  • Find or throw an afterparty, or at least invite everyone out for appetizers or coffee at your favorite diner.

  • Save your ticket stubs, wristbands, handouts, demos, and stickers. It’s always fun to look back on all of the concerts you’ve attended!

  • Talk about the great time you had online. Bands and venues always appreciate reviews, and your friends who attended will love your pictures and tags. You can also do a lot to support bands and artists you liked by following their social networking sites, visiting their web pages, and telling your friends about them.

Forget your worries for one night, and head out to a concert in Chicago for a breath of fresh air that you deserve! It’s good for your heart, stress levels, and mind to get out and enjoy live music. Whether you’re looking for a glitzy, giant show like the superstars that hit the Aragon, want to swim in the soulful tunes of a diva at the Chicago Theatre, or are off to bang your head and thrash around the pit at the Vic, Chicago concerts are always a fun experience.


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Photo by Seth Anderson

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