Five of the Top EDM Venues in Chicago

Over the last five years, Chicago’s EDM scene has truly come of age. World-renowned DJs including Calvin Harris, Spider, Bassnectar, EDX a.k.a. Maurizio Colella, and Tiësto have focused their gaze on the EDM temples of the River North district and cultivated, in the process, a new generation of dance music devotees.

Many of Chicago’s best EDM theme nights can be found far from River North’s preening crowds. Chicago’s north and west side are studded with below-the-radar clubs that marry first-rate DJ talent with an electrifying atmosphere and a welcoming, feel-good vibe.

In 2013, the power and profitability of Chicago’s EDM industry reached new heights with an extravagant lineup of dance-music festivals and events held throughout the city. In May, Chicago hosted for the first time the Electric Daisy Carnival, the largest electronic-dance festival in North America. Just one month later, a global gathering of top tier DJs, industry kingpins, and over 90,000 EDM disciples converged upon Soldier Field for the Spring Awakening Music Festival. In October, with no lack of symbolism, Kaskade transformed Chicago’s top (and unfailingly mainstream) tourist attraction—Navy Pier—into a neon-and-glowstick dance party.

For Chicagoan EDM fans, here are five of the best venues in town to party:

Smart Bar


Established in 1982 by music impresario Joe Shanahan, Smart Bar is a veteran of Chicago’s underground club scene. Forget models-and-bottles, VIP lounges, and wallet-hemorrhaging drink prices, no-frills Smart Bar keeps it real with its passionate appreciation of groundbreaking beats, and a raging dancefloor. A Chicago institution, Smart Bar draws big name DJs including Derrick Carter, DJ Harvey, Joe Smooth, Paul Oakenfold, and Fatboy Slim. Following a major revamp in 2008, Smart Bar now boasts a cutting-edge sound system—courtesy of UK audio giants Funktion One. Internationally, Smart Bar has established itself as a petri dish for up-and-coming EDM talent and the club continues to furnish local talent with much-coveted headline spots.

Spy Bar


In 2012, Rolling Stone magazine named Spy Bar one of the top ten dance clubs in the US. With its bombastic beats, plunging necklines, and in-the-know attitude, Spy Bar has been a dance club goer’s rite of passage for nearly 20 years. Spy Bar is featured on every serious EDM acolyte’s weekly calendar, cementing River North’s status as ground zero for electronic dance music and symbolizing the explosive growth (and profitability) of EDM in Chicago. Following a $1 million renovation in 2012, state-of-the-art technology and dramatic lighting has transformed the mammoth 4,200 square foot space into sheer sensory bliss. Top notch resident DJs include, Inphinity & Kalendr and Dustin Sheridan who whip the eclectic crowd into a frenzy every Friday and Saturday night.



Gone are the trumpets, ties, and supper club vibe, historic Green Dolphin Street (or Dolphin as it is now known) has emerged as one of Chicago’s hottest EDM dance clubs. Capitalizing on the success of the legendary “Boom Boom Room” dance music extravaganza—Green Dolphin’s mesmerizing Monday night fixture—Joey Swanson, the veteran DJ—has energized north side Chicago’s lack luster dance scene and created five electrifying spaces that cater to every mood and moment. For all its aesthetic extravagance, Dolphin is definitely not a case of style over substance. Resident DJs including Kevin Saunderson, Gene Farris, Diz, Martin Stoy, and Dustin Sheridan are quick to praise Dolphin’s superb sound system, video-mapping, and state-of-the-art laser shows.

Studio Paris


The unashamedly elitist Studio Paris club is a showcase for the world’s top earning EDM DJs, including Calvin Harris, Deadmau5, Avicii, Kaskade, and Spider. With its streamlined aesthetics—think black leather couches, flowing white drapes, dark floors, a few token palms and, why not, a grass wall—Studio Paris is firm testament to Chicago’s affinity with the style-centric EDM scenes of Las Vegas, Miami, and Ibiza. Studio Paris fashions itself as an elegant (or passive, depending on your perspective) way to experience the crème de la crème of EDM.

Danny’s Tavern


A diamond in the rough, Danny’s Tavern is the antidote to Chicago’s image conscious dance venues. Masquerading as a clapboard art-house on a Bucktown side street, Danny’s Tavern is cherished by its attendees as the last man standing of Bucktown’s pre-gentrification days. In the wee small hours, this snug pub, emblazoned with a classic neon “Schlitz on Tap” sign, is re-invented as a pulsating dance club featuring stellar local DJs spinning a mix of EDM, hip-hop, and rock. With its ill-assorted furnishings, bare light bulls, candlelit tables, personable bartenders, and show-me-the-love house party vibe, the only thing Danny’s takes seriously is the music, and it’s superb at that.


Join the discussion

comments powered by Disqus