Just over the river, Lisa Curtis runs the monthly open mic night at the Montrose Saloon. It has a dive bar meets musician hangout that features live music and $2 shots of peppermint schnapps. Everyone’s on a first name basis, and when a young mandolin player from Kentucky walks in, Curtis tries to cajole him to join the musicians on stage.
“We have a great group of musicians,” Curtis says. “We all get along. It really gets going around 10 and then keeps going until the place closes.”
The music begins at 8:30 p.m. with Curtis doing a Patsy Cline meet Janis Joplin performance, but like true musicians, nothing really gets started until after 10 p.m., when musicians start filtering in with their guitar hard cases and the sign-up list in the spiral notebook starts to fill up.
If you’re looking for a place where musicians can try out new material while the rest of us get free live music, the Montrose Saloon is just one of several places in the area that host an open mic night. And if you’re one of those people that still want to get on stage but don’t know how to play any instruments, there are a few places that do karaoke so you can unleash your inner rock star.
Recently we canvassed the neighborhood for where to go. Here’s what we found.
Montrose Saloon - 2933 W. Montrose Ave.
This dive bar meets music hothouse by Horner Park features live music and open mics several nights of the month. Led by Lisa Curtis, the open mic plays mostly to a Van Morrison open jam acoustic set that gets really heated up after 11 p.m. Featuring music and poetry, the open mic has a consistent set of players. Grab a seat at the bar, order a $2 special shot of Peppermint Schnapps or whatever is on special, and get a clear shot of the music happening in the back.
When: First and fourth Wednesdays of every month at 8:00 p.m.
The Grafton - 4530 N. Lincoln Ave.
This Irish pub is named for the famous street in Dublin that is home to buskers playing for shoppers and tourists. At this Lincoln Square location, this open mic is hosted by Michael Riser.
When: Second and fourth Monday of every month.
The Globe Pub – 1934 W. Irving Park Rd.
This pub on
Lawrence Ave. Irving Park Rd. made its name by being one of the premier Chicago destinations for watching soccer. However, it’s not all about the pitch. Among the TV screens and soccer scarves, The Globe has live entertainment, including an open mic on Wednesday hosted by Coz.
When: Wednesdays at 9:00 p.m. with Coz.
Windy City Inn - 2257 W. Irving Park Rd.
Cheap beer. Eclectic decoration. Free BBQ. This place is the epitome of local dive bar with a cast of characters and weekly music. The Wednesday open mics are hosted by Nancy Stone where jamming and collaborations are to be expected.
When: Wednesday at 9:00 p.m. with Nancy Stone.
Celtic Crown - 4301 N. Western Ave.
This sports bar disguised as an Irish pub is usually the place to catch the game over cheap burgers and cheaper beer. But during the week, the bar turns down the thumping music and musicians filter in to provide the entertainment.
When: Thursdays at 9:00 p.m.
Lincoln Square Lanes - 4874 N. Lincoln Ave
This bowling alley on top of a hardware store is a throwback bar with a WPA mural, narrow seating and an absurdly large bar. The Polkaholics make this a frequent stop and the music must be rubbing off. There’s already an open mic on Sundays at 7 p.m. with John Fritzel and there’s plans to feature acoustic and bluegrass music on Saturdays from 2 to 6, a comedy night on Fridays and an open jam on Thursdays.
When: Sundays at 7:00 p.m. with John Fritzel. Saturdays featuring acoustic and bluegrass from 2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. Upcoming: Thursdays open jam and Friday comedy night
Have a need to sing, but don’t know how to play any instruments? These places allow you to indulge your inner diva or rock star voice sans instrument.
Lincoln Karaoke - 5526 N. Lincoln Ave.
You can round up your friends, get them into a private room and force them to listen to your artistic rendition of Tiny Dancer at this Karaoke-focused establishment.
Spyners Pub - 4623 N. Western Ave.
This small bar just south of the Brown line offers double-duty karaoke on Friday and Saturday nights. The pub boasts a song list of more than 10,000, enough to riff on a song even your most music-obsessed friend won’t know.
Hidden Cove - 5338 N. Lincoln Ave.
This place is renowned for its eclectic mix of customers and for having karaoke every night of the week.