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Where We Live: Underground Lounge – Chicago, IL

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It’s small, it’s grimy, it’s dark, and for some odd reason there’s this damp mist to the air inside. But, for plenty of local acts around Chicago, it’s the only place to call home. Smudged in the oddball, if not forgettable corner of Clark, Sheffield, and Newport, the Underground Lounge plays host to plenty of neighborhood regulars and a variety of hardcore and garage-punk acts around. Actually, anyone can play there. They’ve opened the bar to plenty of folk singer-songwriters and hundreds of indie acts. However, at its heart, the Lounge acts as the jagged tooth to the rather obnoxious mouth that is Wrigleyville.

Aside from the Metro, or the Gingerman, Wrigleyville isn’t really a great place to be on a Saturday night. Not only does the ground shake from drunken post-frat boy morons, but people spill out into the streets, blocking traffic and creating even more chaos. Any given weekend – especially over the summer, good lord – you’ll see several inebriated twentysomethings attempting to copulate outside the Cubby Bear. Down the street, you’ll probably catch a good fight between two people over god knows what – usually involving some ill-informed topic surrounding the ’80s Bears or, um, girl issues. Regardless, you’ll see fists thrown, you’ll hear sirens, and you’ll probably see more cleavage than you would in Maxim‘s Year-End Report. Even in March. No joke.

home rotating 4 Where We Live: Underground Lounge   Chicago, ILThat’s why the Underground Lounge remains an icon. It’s right at the lower bend of all of that mess, but somehow it’s evaded it. Well, it’s not really that much of a mystery. For one, it’s tucked away down some rickety stairs, and it shares a street with a dusty ol’ convenience store (think of Half Baked‘s Bodegas) and some whacko breakfast-American-Asian cuisine clusterfuck called, Hamburger King. Yeah, don’t ask. So, really, if you’re a Wrigleyville regular, there’s absolutely no reason to hit up the Lounge.

But odds are, you’re not a Wrigleyville regular. So, while Lounge owner Don Ridge receives a bitter end of the stick when it comes to popularity in the neighborhood, he wins in points for originality. With an old-school, vintage look, the interior of the actual basement bar remains static. Nothing has changed. There’s one bathroom (consult Yelp, it’s everyone’s main complaint), a small DJ booth, and the stage is at level with the ground, for the most part. There’s a pool table area in one corner, separated by some Deco-styled glass, but don’t expect several people to watch your game. It’s small. Cozy, if you will.

As for the bar, it’s your everyman bar. It’s not pretentious like half of the joints in Wicker Park/Bucktown, and you’re more than likely to jump into a pretty awesome conversation with the bartenders. If you’re lucky, you might even hang out with a band or two whose touring manager somehow booked them there. (They don’t advertise their potential gigging. But, it’s a keeper.) Some nights they host burlesque shows, while others you’ll see honest and starving songwriters share a bill with a traveling death metal act. Very eclectic. At its best, the bar works wonders for one-man acts. One of the venue’s friendly faces, Bill Neylon, performs there, too. Working under the title Terrapin, Neylon fiddles around with loops, accordions, guitars, and mandolins. It makes for one hell of a show, especially in the murky-yet-intimate confines of the Lounge.

So, if you’re from out of town, it’s unlikely you’ll visit. But, if you’re living here in Chicago, you might want to make a trip out sometime. Don’t look at any schedules, though. Just walk in, even if it’s the fourth bar you’ll hit on a late Saturday night. After all, the Underground Lounge stays open ’til three a.m., which should come in handy once you’ve expired all your choices around two in the morning. A good plan would be to stay late, talk hard, and then grab some breakfast nearby at the trendy-as-fuck-yet-tasty-as-hell Pick Me Up. (Choose the Star Wars table.) Then, you can go home with whoever you’ve met, be it a friend or just “someone special.”

Aww.

undergroundmap Where We Live: Underground Lounge   Chicago, ILUnderground Lounge
952 W. Newport Ave.
Chicago, IL 60657
(773) 327-2739

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