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Empty Bottle

Robert Murphy


Betty’s Blue Star Lounge A welcome source of excitement in an otherwise dreary part of the neighborhood, this retro-stylish 4 AM bar books a fair number of quality DJs (and, on Thursday nights, decent local bands). Betty’s maintains a long-running house night (Sundays) and a dancehall/reggae night (Tuesdays), and on Fridays it often plays host to juke hero Gant-Man. For the dance-music averse, Wednesdays are devoted to punk, ska, and rock. Arrow 1600 W. Grand, 312-243-1699 or —Miles Raymer

Club Foot At Chuck Uchida and Lauree Rohrig’s punk-rock clubhouse (see also Bars), the nightly DJs favor vintage punk and indie rock, and the crowd will still go off when a Buzzcocks single comes on even though they’ve probably heard it a hundred times before. Arrow 1824 W. Augusta, 773-489-0379 or —MR

Darkroom The almost schizophrenically eclectic music schedule at this dim, red-lit bar includes indie-rock bands, rappers, reggae DJs, jazz combos, house DJs (including veteran Jesse de la Peña), dance parties like Life During Wartime, and frequent apparitions of the funky spectacle that is DJ LA Jesus. Notable upcoming headliners include the Heavy (5/9), Clique Talk (5/16), and Screamin’ Rachael (5/20). Arrow 2210 W. Chicago, 773-276-1411 or —MR

Empty Bottle Opened in 1992 as a regular old bar exactly one block south, the Empty Bottle moved to its current location 15 years ago to become a rock club. Now it’s a neighborhood landmark and indie-rock mecca, not only bringing in a dizzying variety of national touring acts (including more than a few who’ve gone on to play much larger venues) but also helping nurture Chicago’s jazz and experimental communities. These days the Bottle is its own worst competition, promoting shows at a cluster of satellite venues (Sonotheque, AV-aerie, Logan Square Auditorium, Lakeshore Theater, the Mansion), but back at home base the drinks are still cheap, the decor is still divey, and these days Monday-night shows are usually free. There’s hardly ever a bad night at the Bottle, and just this week Reader critics are recommending three of its shows on the List: Johnny & the Limelites (5/8), Cloudland Canyon (5/9), and Clinic (5/12). The Bottle also booked the main stage at this year’s Do-Division street fest (5/31 and 6/1), where Lucero and Ted Leo + Pharmacists headline. Arrow 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or —MR

Evil Olive This fairly new club is succeeding where Big Wig and IV, the previous tenants in its space, failed—unlike them it’s not trying to be a mini megaclub in the unglitzy Polish Triangle. With a pool table upstairs and PBR in cans, Evil Olive is a bit easier to get along with, but it’s also prepared to meet the needs of devoted clubgoers with its serious sound system and steady schedule of quality DJs—which includes locals like Jordan Z and Willy Joy and out-of-towners like the Rapture and Franki Chan. Evil Olive’s weekly Rehab party (on 5/12 resident DJs Jordan Z and Derek Berry spin “80s vs. 90s”) has already become a see-and-be-seen event for the local hipsterati, and is almost too much fun for a Monday night. Arrow 1551 W. Division, 773-235-9100 or —MR

Inner Town Pub This longtime neighborhood fixture (see Bars), once a Prohibition-era speak­easy, is home to popular open mikes on Thursday and Sunday. They’re more orderly and eclectic than the norm, but hardly reliable entertainment—as with any open mike, your odds of enjoying yourself (at least as a non­participant) get better the more of your friends are playing and the more you’ve all had to drink. Arrow 1935 W. Thomas, 773-235-9795. —MR

Moonshine Moonshine seems designed for a very particular niche market: hard-core clubgoers looking to kick back and chill. At least that would explain its combination of high-end house DJs—the kind you’d normally find behind the decks at turbo-glitzy joints like Crobar—with earthy, funky decor and rib-stickin’ Tex-Mex-influenced comfort food (see Restaurants). Now that it’s spring Moonshine has resumed its Wednesday-night Mamby series, and upcoming guests include FFM (5/14) and Kate Simko (5/21).Arrow 1824 W. Division, 773-862-8686 or —MR

Phyllis’ Musical Inn Phyllis’ Musical Inn opened in 1954, back when its strip of Division was known as the Polish Broadway. Proprietor Phyllis Jaskot, an accordion player, booked plenty of polka bands, and Nelson Algren sometimes hung out there—presumably the source of the mistaken but widely circulated notion that his mother once ran the place. (The bar has in fact never left the Jaskot family—Phyllis’s son Clem, a former bike messenger, manages it now.) In the 80s and 90s acts like Souled American and Veruca Salt got their start at Phyllis’, but these days music isn’t the best reason to go there: the local acts on its schedule tend to be cut-rate alt-rock bands, and the smattering of blues and jazz artists aren’t exactly top-shelf either. What I like about Phyllis’ is the cozily run-down vibe—sometimes I wonder how many of the fixtures have been replaced since 1954—and the regular contingent of dedicated neighborhood drinkers it attracts. The rowdy atmosphere those folks can kick up—and the basketball hoop in the beer garden, which is always begging for a drunken game of H-O-R-S-E—more than compensate for the music. Upcoming gigs include the Flabby Hoffman Show (5/8) and the Red Wigglers (5/9). Arrow 1800 W. Division, 773-486-9862. —MR

Smoke Daddy This reliable if not exactly rustic barbecue joint (see Restaurants) opened in 1994, just as Division Street was beginning its transformation from no-man’s-land to boutique row, and it’s been booking raucous roots music almost every night since. Decked out in checkered tile and old-school banquettes and festooned with a jumble of 50s artifacts, it’s a cluttered space, and the bands get wedged onto a tiny stage in front, with their backs to the glass-brick facade and a couple members usually standing on the floor. The programming focuses on blues and R & B, but there’s also a fair amount of jazz and country. Believe it or not, cornetist Rob Mazurek (of Exploding Star Orchestra and the Chicago Underground groups) used to play here frequently in the mid-90s, at one point holding down a weekly gig with Tortoise guitarist Jeff Parker. Upcoming shows include Billy Flynn (5/9), the Luciano Antonio Trio (5/10), Joel Paterson (5/16), and the Chicago Bound Blues Band (5/17). Arrow 1804 W. Division, 773-772-6656 or —Peter Margasak

Tuman’s The makeover that turned Tuman’s (see Bars) from grimy uberdive to respectable watering hole stripped the place of a lot of its soul, but it did have some positive side effects: first, it demolished that toxic old men’s room, and second, it allowed the bar to become a much-needed home base for local DJs who don’t cater to the bottle-service crowd. (Full disclosure: I’m one of them, and spin here the second Saturday of every month.) Matt Roan’s popular Dance Party Magic has moved on to greener (or at least bigger) pastures at Le Passage, but shameless booty shaker Major Taylor and the up-and-coming duo Gutter Butter are still part of the regular rotation that keeps the bar’s ridiculously small dance floor jumping. Major Taylor spins every Friday, Gutter Butter usually spins at least the first Saturday of every month, and upcoming guest DJs include Jessica Gonyea of Office (5/31). Arrow 2159 W. Chicago, 773-782-1400. —MR

Vintage Wine Bar Chicago has a challenging, fascinating jazz scene that ranks as one of the best in the world. Of course, it also has plenty of places like Vintage, where you can hear the kind of jazz that won’t distract you from a glass of wine or a cheese plate. Though Vintage occasionally books a musician to be reckoned with—Von Freeman’s brother, guitarist George Freeman, plays 5/18 with his group the Chi-Town Express—it’s got a ways to go before the jazz is a bigger draw than the bar.Arrow 1942 W. Division, 773-772-3400 or —MR

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