Find Your Scene

Located in Chicago’s south suburbs, the building that now houses Moon Monkey Coffee Company has an interesting history. Until three years ago, the turn of the century Victorian home was a floral shop, and before that, a private residence. These days, beans from around the world are fresh-roasted in the basement, while the second floor is often littered with acoustic guitars and college students. Trevor, 30, co-owns the place. If you take the time to talk to him, his two passions will quickly rise to the surface: coffee and indie music. Before landing in Bourbonnais, IL, Trevor bounced around a bit, brewing lattes and booking then-newcomers like Jon McLaughlin and Dave Barnes for crowds of less than 150 people.

Now that Trevor’s got his own shop, he makes sure that it features live music at least three nights a week, a decision that’s well supported in this college town. On any given month, the roster is a mash-up of local talent, regional acts, and the occasional “black sheep” artist (such as Timbre, a harpist best known for her work with MeWithoutYou).

Locally owned (non-corporate) music venues have always been an intregal part of the music culture, helping to establish trends and break new artists (New York’s Gaslight Café helped birth modern folk by giving the world Bob Dylan, and punk venue helped shape the genre by booking acts like The Ramones, Patti Smith, and the Talking Heads).

Two years ago, many artists believed that myspace would become the “great equalizer,” giving independent and smaller artists the same power as major-label acts. Now that the social networking site has swelled to more than 8 million artists, musicians are realizing that it takes more than an eye-candy page with four streaming songs to connect with potential fans. This means that playing live still the most reliable way of finding with and maintaining fans. So artists are relying on guys like Trevor, and on places like Moon Monkey Coffee Company to connect music to the fans.

Our always-online generation tends to find new music online through blogs, websites, and streaming audio. While there is nothing wrong with this, I encourage you to also go out and experience music at the local venues in your city. In addition to helping the community, this also makes music a social experience again, rather than just a product to be consumed via your laptop. Plus, any band that’s worth your time sounds better live than on the CD.

I’m going to post a few of my favorite venues here. I’d love for you to list your city and it’s music venues in the comments section.

Schuba’s Tavern
Address: 3159 N. Southport, Chicago
Located on the north side of Chicago, this family resturant/music venue holds less than 150 people, and is known by the locals as having a knack for booking artists before they get “big” (past performers include John Mayer, Matthew Sweet, Death Cab for Cuties, The New Amsterdams, and Drive-By Truckers). Satuday night Schuba’s will be hosting indie-pop songstress (and Sufjan Stevens guitarist) St. Vincent. It’s a sold out show, but the rumor is that you can get in anyway by buying the guy at the door a Jim Bean on the rocks. Most events are all-ages.

The Metro
Address: 3730 N Clark St, Chicago
Just a half block from Wrigley Field (home to the most cursed team in baseball), this venue is most famous as the place that Smashing Pumpkins played the first and last shows of their career (the latter lasting four and a half hours). It holds 1800 people, and every one of them is within 28 feet of the stage. Thrice and Nada Surf are both playing there this spring.

Moon Monkey Coffee Company
Address: 577 Main St, Bourbonnais, IL
My unofficial writing office, this is a great place to hang and hear local and regional acts.

Kingston Mines
Address: 2548 N Halsted St, Chicago
One of the best blues clubs in Chicago. Just a warning, it packed with tourists on Thursday-Saturday nights. Check it out Monday-Wednesday for a better experience (it’s also free on these nights with a college ID).

See Also

The Green Mill
Address: 4802 Broadway St., Chicago
Originally owned by Al Capone, this 1940’s styled venue still has some of the best jazz musicians in Chicago.

MoJo’s Rock House (no website)
Address: 7537 W 159th St, Tinley Park IL
Catch Ataris frontman Kris Roe playing a solo show here March 25th. Get their early for up-and-comers Made Avail.

The Union
Address: 129 W. Benton Ave, Naperville IL
A college venue located inside an old church, The Union books indie bands like Sleeping at Last, Derek Webb, Shawn McDonald, and Alli Rogers. This weekend, it’s hosting a forum on the art of music videos.

Kiss the Sky
Address: 301 W. State St, Geneva IL
While not technically a music venue, this local record shop is an important part of the music scene in Chicagoland, provides very satisfying shopping experience, and offers a large assortment of titles on vinyl.

Now, show your city and music scene some love by sharing your favorite venues…

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