Where We Live: Subterranean – Chicago, IL

It’s dark and it’s steamy. If it weren’t for the industrial fans blowing like an airplane engine behind you, the throngs of people would be unbearable. Luckily, you’re looking down on everybody else, and as you hear the first pop of chord meeting guitar that all-familiar enviable rush of joy crashes down upon you. You’re at Subterranean.

Once rumored to be a brothel, SubT’s located in the hipster friendly Wicker Park area of Chicago. Nestled just down the block from the oft adored Double Door, easily accessible by train or car — although parking is not easy, its unassuming storefront entrance will at most times be crowded with smokers donning tight jeans and funny hats, probably complaining about the weather or the cover charge. Frat boys need not attend. Cans is just down the street, fellas.

When you think about rock clubs, you think of a dingy musky basement — a la the Elbo Room — and yes, SubT is dingy, and the poster adorned walls, black painted stairs, and bars give it a college basement type of feel – but it is not in a basement. The stage is actually located on the second floor, with the third floor containing a balcony, some bathrooms and another bar, providing those of us with sensitive ears and thirsty stomachs a reprieve from the sound and lighting fast access to some interesting beers. Berghoff, anyone? Both floors are long, thin, and tall — you can think of it like a shoebox set on its side — and although the stage is not the biggest in the city, it is tall enough to provide everybody on the second floor and those lucky enough to grab a railing spot on the third some great sight lines. The sound is top notch for a smaller club. (It seems the engineers actually care about what they are doing when they are behind the boards.) The venue gives you an opportunity to see bands that aren’t quite huge yet and, if you get there early enough, literally be close enough to touch them on the stage.

Okay, okay, so maybe a three guitar band thrashing and jumping into the audience isn’t your thang, per se? Head down to the first floor and get ready to do that little shimmy you’ve been practicing in the mirror; dancers, you’re welcome here too. The first floor hosts more contemporary urban and electronic acts on some nights and has some room for dancing — but don’t start getting all clubby on me now. You won’t be getting many facebook messages saying, “Come check out DJ Megamix and the Miller Lite girls at SubT tonight!” No, no. The pretense of the downtown club scene is scrubbed dry. Besides being a dance haven for the indie kids, what kind of club would it be if it didn’t host an open mic? On Mondays guys (or gals) can go in and get his (or her) acoustic-guitar-playing-love-song on for that girl (or guy, or girl, or…) he’s (she’s) been trying to meet for the past four weeks, or they can just sit back, relax, and enjoy the reasonably priced food served there. Hip Hop heads, you aren’t left out either: Tuesdays is your time to shine at their unique Hip Hop open mic.

Unfortunately, prices are not the best, and a ten dollar cover charge is the norm. But with acts such as the recently reviewed The Antlers, mc chris, Cage the Elephant, Cold War Kids, Grizzly Bear, Of Montreal, Shellac and Okkervil River having played there, can you blame them?

If ever I’m bored on a Friday or Saturday night, Subterranean’s the first place I look to catch a show — less popular than the Metro, but just indie enough for my liking.

2011 W North Ave
Chicago, IL 60647
(773) 278-6600

Upcoming Events:
09/19 – Brooke Waggoner / Denison Witmer
09/21 – The Antlers
09/22 – These Arms Are Snakes
09/25 – Scout Niblett
09/27 – Os Mutantes
09/28 – Mic Terror


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