As an avid concert-goer, I’m surprised I hadn’t made it out to a show since coming to ICO. Finally, the Chicago House of Blues (HOB) became the first venue I ever saw a show at in the Windy City. If the name “House of Blues” sounds familiar to you, it might be because you also have one near you. House of Blues is actually a chain of concert halls with locations in cities such as Anaheim, Cleveland, Boston, and Orlando. While most of them maintain a similar aura, they all have characteristics unique to their location. I just want to share my HOB experience with any other curious music junkies who’d like to make the trek out there.
Now, obviously, if you’re seeing a band you really like, you’re probably going to have fun no matter the venue. Still, there are certain things a venue can provide which can potentially enhance that experience. Therefore, I’m just going to be focusing on the venue itself and not the specific bands I saw. Let’s get it.
The HOB is located right in the heart of downtown so it’s pretty easy to get to there by public transit. You can take the Green Line at the Bronzeville/IIT stop, Red Line at Sox and 35th, or the 29 bus at State and 33rd. Whichever means you utilize, you’ll get well within walking distance of the venue. Driving from ICO is only 15 minutes as well without too much traffic. Parking didn’t look too fun, though. I took the train so I wouldn’t have to deal with all that tomfoolery, and I think it was a smart move. It’s located pretty close to the Riverwalk so you also can get some pretty cool views of the city while you’re there.
Now, when I originally found out this was a part of a chain, I was a little skeptical. I thought everything was going to look disingenuous and manufactured, but man was I wrong. As the name of the venue suggests, they’re pretty big on the whole bluesy vibe. I found out the original HOB is located in the French Quarter of New Orleans, and it obviously shows at the Chicago one. All the grandeur of Bourbon Street is evidenced in the splendorous balconies and colorful décor. From the outside, it looks a little more modern and mechanical, so this was not something I was expecting once I went inside. The staff there were also really cool and helpful. As I had never been there before, I had no idea where anything was so they helped this confused little boy find his way around.
The pit area was a lot smaller than I thought it was going to be! They have a couple floors of balconies and a bar area in the back where you can stand, but c’mon, I want to be down where the action is. We were packed like sardines the whole time. This wasn’t really the venue’s fault; if the artist had been less popular, I would not have noticed as much.
As a mentioned, they have a bar area. I didn’t try any of the food, but the pricing was basically what you could expect at any concert. I simply went to a Subway after the show which was literally 200 feet away, so keep in mind that’s right there. There’s also a million other places downtown you can hit up for some post-concert food runs.
HOB also had a downstairs area with a gift shop and a restaurant with another, separate stage. In this downstairs restaurant, they have different acts performing most nights. This seems to be where the venue gets its name from because pretty much all the acts in the restaurant area are blues artists. Overall, it was cool getting to explore the multiple levels of the venue and see all the other entertainment they offered.
If a band or artist you like comes through to the HOB, go see them! Trust me, you’re going to have a good time, and you’ll get to check out a pretty unique venue. For me personally, music has always been my escape when the nonsense of life starts to pile up. I really wish I would have gone to see a show sooner. I kept putting it off because I was so worried about falling behind with school. I finally decided to throw caution to the wind and make time to go rock out for a few hours. I realized at the end of the show how badly I’d needed a break.
Now, what I’m not saying to do is completely ignore school, but rather, to make time for yourself. I can’t stress how important that is. It’s incredibly easy to get caught up in all the stress, but don’t let that come at the cost of other things you love to do. You best believe you’re going to find me at HOB again soon. Maybe I’ll see you there, too. 🎶