You want an authentic Chicago blues experience? Oh, OK. Well, how about cramming into a tiny South Side bar with a six-person band jamming two feet away from you, while they break out classics like "Strokin'," "Members Only" and "While You Were Steppin Out, Someone Else is Steppin In"? Sound good?
Artis's Lounge on 87th Street has been in operation for nineteen years. Its walls are covered almost entirely in mirrors and windows, maybe to make it appear larger than it is, or maybe to showcase the blues bands that play, sans stage, in the front window. Most of the small venue is taken up by the circular bar in the middle, and customers cluster around it during performances. The bar offers the basics, so stick with beer and hard liquor: No wine snobs allowed. There's a mighty fine jukebox with classic blues and soul albums, but most evenings live music is happening, and that's the real reason to visit.
On Thursdays, Artis's showcases "Old-School House and Stepping Music," Wednesday is karaoke night, and Sunday nights offer regular performances by Tre' and the BlueKnights Blues Band. Artis's postcard advertising the BlueKnights reads, simply, "All will Jam," and it's not kidding. Tre', (known for his ability to beautifully straddle the line between traditional blues and rock n' roll), leads up the band and they are seasoned and tight.
A word to the wise: if you're not a native South-Sider, you'll be in the minority here. There is a social contract while a guest at Artis's: Sit where the bartender directs you, tip well (hey, there's usually no cover, and keep in mind that it's cash-only), and be attentive to the performers. Dignified behavior on your part will reap the rewards of a unique and musically exhilarating experience.
Centerstage Reviewer: Gretchen Kalwinski