Chicago programming for Independent Venue Week includes Lincoln Hall livestreams by Sen Morimoto (left) and Califone with dance troupe Robyn Mineko Williams & Artists. Credit: Photos courtesy Lincoln Hall and Audiotree

Independent Venue Week is a national celebration of live music to benefit the country’s independent music venues, many of which have been shuttered since March due to the COVID-19 pandemic—and many of which will close permanently if help doesn’t arrive soon.

The folks who organize IVW also helped pull together the National Association of Independent Venues (NIVA) as it launched in March—you can learn more about the organization’s relationship with Chicago venues from Sleeping Village’s Billy Helmkamp.

Originally planned for July, this year’s Independent Venue Week runs from Saturday, October 24, through Friday, October 30. IVW is presenting concerts at more than 100 venues across the country, including four in Chicago: Detroit glam-punk mainstay Ricky Rat playing (and streaming) a free afternoon gig on the rooftop deck at Reggies’ (Saturday, October 24), an album-release livestream for local polymath Sen Morimoto at Lincoln Hall (Saturday, October 24), the rootsy, subversive rock of Califone with multidisciplinary dance company Robyn Mineko Williams & Artists, also livestreaming from Lincoln Hall (Tuesday, October 27), and the Afro Fusion Halloween party at the Promontory, which requires patrons to reserve a private, socially distanced section of the indoor venue (two sessions on Friday, October 30).

In addition to livestreamed and distanced in-person shows, IVW includes daytime industry panels, a memorabilia auction, and a full day of programming called Get Schooled on October 29 that’s aimed at students interested in entering the music business (details will be shared on IVW’s website as they are announced). Proceeds from the events benefit NIVA’s Emergency Relief Fund, which provides assistance to venues and promoters.

In honor of the occasion—and of all Chicago’s independent music venues—we’ve dug around in the Reader archives to present these stories about some of the city’s most beloved live music spots, past and present.

The Aragon

Fighting the Power

Cops Against Kids Outside the Aragon: What Happened? (January 17, 1991)

The Blue Note

Blue Note Memories

In the 50s, jazz was hip, the Loop was alight, and Frank Holzfeind’s joint was jumping. (August 17, 1989)

Carol’s Pub

Longtime Carol’s house band Diamondback brings new fans and old regulars to the resuscitated country bar

December 24, 2018

The Empty Bottle

An oral history of the Empty Bottle

Staff members and musicians share stories of the venerable nightclub in this excerpt from The Empty Bottle Chicago: 21+ Years of Music / Friendly / Dancing. (April 20, 2016)

The Exit

At the Entrance of the Exit

Everyone knows Steve. Hey, Steve, have a burrito. (September 8, 1988)

The Green Mill

An oral history of the Green Mill

The neon-lit bar at Lawrence and Broadway, now a legendary jazz club, has been around for 107 years—and has more stories than any tavern in town. Here are a few from the past three decades. (March 20, 2014)

The Hungry Brain

Beloved jazz venue the Hungry Brain reopens (slowly) in Roscoe Village

December 4, 2015

Lounge Ax

Electronica in the House/The Ax Finally Falls

December 16, 1999

Lounge Ax’s Legacy

January 6, 2000


Dave ‘Medusa’ Shelton was a fairy godmother to Chicago’s club scene

He didn’t just found the legendary Medusa’s—he also helped everyone in his orbit shine like a star. (August 14, 2020)


Metro’s backstage past

The well-known Wrigleyville concert venue has a green room that’s dealt with its fair share of rock stars, Kurt and Courtney among them. (January 30, 2014)

The Mutiny

Chicago rockers share their Mutiny memories, foggy and otherwise

December 12, 2018

The Palm Tavern

In Billy Branch’s blues, the legendary Palm Tavern still stands

Gerri Oliver’s bar, once a crown jewel of Bronzeville, was shut down by the city in 2001. But blues harpist Billy Branch remains dedicated to preserving the history and culture it embodied. (February 2, 2015)

Rosa’s Lounge

Rosa of Rosa’s Lounge brought the blues to Logan Square

The Italian immigrant and her son have logged 31 years on Armitage. (March 12, 2015)


Oldest black-owned nightclub in city faces an uncertain future

For decades, Taste has been a required stop for black Chicagoans and visiting luminaries, including Harold Washington, Muhammad Ali, and Rick James. (May 2, 2018)

Taylor Street Tap

Former Buddy Guy’s Legends manager opens a blues bar in Little Italy

May 31, 2018

Multiple venues

Chicago punk was born queer

How three gay bars—La Mere Vipere, O’Banion’s, and Oz—became the cradle of the city’s punk scene. (June 23, 2020)

Plugging into Chicago’s forgotten house venues

For decades, house music has shaped pop worldwide—but many of the spaces that birthed it here disappeared so quickly they barely left a trace. (May 21, 2019)  v