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Ask A Chicago Expert: Best Ways To Discover New Music

There's a lot more to Chicago's music scene then Lollapalooza. The mega festival sells out each year, but you know that a city that has produced Buddy Guy, Herbie Hancock, Muddy Waters, Styx, Smashing Pumpkins, Rise Against and Kanye West likely has the next trend producer playing at a local joint. Indeed, the city overflows with bars and even BBQ storefronts that welcome, as they say, "live music." BTW Rhino Fest, the theater event that pays tribute to playwright Eugene Ionesco's "Rhinoceros," will also showcase musicians you might want to hear in its Tuesday Music Series running through Feb. 28, 2016. Sponsored by Crooked Mouth, it includes fab musician Jeff kowalkowski. So how can an ordinary guy or gal who loves music but isn't sure where to look or listen find out about events, new bands and albums or up-coming musicians?  WBEZ's Jim DeRogatis has some ideas.
Jim DeRogatis
WBEZ 91.5 Public Radio
848 E. Grand Ave.
Chicago, IL 60611
(312) 948-0000

Author of nine books, Columbia College lecturer and former Sun Times music critic Jim DeRogatis does a weekly rock 'n' roll show with Chicago Tribune music critic Greg Kot on WBEZ called "Sound Opinions." They talk about what's going on in the music industry and discuss trends, review new releases and interview musicians, singers and song writers. DeRogatis also does music commentary in his blog, Pop N Stuff, on the WBEZ website. Asked about the state of new music in Chicago, he said, "It's very healthy. Underground Rock scene, hip hop, country, are as vital as ever. You will never find a shortage of good, new music in Chicago." However, he added a caveat. "That's not saying it's easy to find. It takes work. It takes a little effort. The following ideas are ways DeRogatis thinks music lovers can stay current.

Visit Clubs And Other Venues Where Musicians Play And Jam

DeRogatis knows Chicago's music scene so well that the venues recommended mounted up to the dozens. Among those named are The Empty Bottle, Metro, Schubas Tavern and Green Mill Jazz club. The Empty Bottle in the Ukranian Village neighborhood is good and inexpensive. It's a good place to catch the underground music scene. Shows are free on Mondays but seldom cost more than $10 other times. Metro, in the Wrigleyville neighborhood, prides itself on booking bands just before they hit it big. Green Mill Jazz Club, in the Uptown neighborhood, also called the Green Mill Cocktail Lounge, has a 1940s vibe that is comfortable and sophisticated. It still is among the best places to hear jazz ranging from improvisational and traditional to bebop and contemporary. Schubas Tavern, at a former brewery tap house in the Lakeview neighborhood, books musicians before they become so big they are heard in the larger Lincoln Hall.

Visit Record Stores

Record stores — not the clean, orderly CD corners of chain book stores, but those independent places that are still hanging on in Chicago — are a great resource to learn about new albums, new musicians and new good music, according to DeRogatis. He said the owners and staff are happy to talk about and recommend an album in the genre that interests you. Among those he named are Reckless Records, Dusty-Groove and Laurie's Planet of Sound.

Tune Into Music Criticism

Read music criticism such as Greg Kot's columns in the Chicago Tribune and DeRogatis' blog on WBEZ. DeRogatis also pointed out that Sound Opinions is a way for listeners to stay up to date, and they can voice their own opinion on the show. He also recommended checking CHIRP Radio, a volunteer-operated online station. "Their specialty is new sounds," said DeRogatis. Turn the dial to107.1 FM, where CHIRP expects to be broadcasting sometime in 2016.

Related: Best Record Shops In Chicago

Look On You Tube And Check iTunes

"Go to You Tube. You will find new releases. You can play them to see what you like. And best of all its free," said DeRogatis. Click here to see a sample of new music on You Tube. Some are just audio and others are video. The Playlist also has links to iTunes and Amazon and notes viewers' thumbs up and down.

Read The Music Publications

De Rogatis suggested checking out "Pitchfork Media," an online publication that does music industry news, interviews and has a "best new music" list. He also recommended "Consequence of Sound," another online publication that covers the music scene (and does film). Both Pitchfork and Consequence are based in Chicago. "Rolling Stone" was also mentioned. The magazine does cover more than music, but it lists hot new albums, covers music industry news and does music interviews.

Related: Best Up-And-Coming Bands To Check Out In 2016

Jodie Jacobs is a veteran journalist who loves writing about Chicago, art, theater, museums and travel. Her work can be found on
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