There's something to be said for doing one thing and simply doing it well. That maxim certainly applies to Kingston Mines, one of Chicago's most notable blues clubs. The no-frills music house has two modest stages, both of which are large enough to accommodate a full band but small enough to keep the musicians connected to the audience. Concerts play on the two stages simultaneously, with a bar separating the blues bands dueling nightly. The artists are ordinarily old hands, and five-decade blues veterans are not uncommon.
The atmosphere is far more social than at the average music house. The audience, which amounts to no more than a few hundred in either hall, sits around community-style tables rather than in assigned seats, the lights are only slightly dimmed, and the music is not so loud that you can't hear your neighbor. The brick floors and murals spanning the walls (a river boat on one side, bright building facades on the other) put the finishing touches on a comfortably grungy atmosphere.
Kingston Mines gets to be pretty crowded, so it's best to arrive early to sidestep lines. The queue for the bathroom will not always be so easy to avoid; be prepared to wait. Tickets are bought at the door, typically $12 during the week and $15 on weekends. The food is brought to you by Doc's Rib Joint, located under the same roof as the music itself. The Doc will cook you up any of his hearty options: burgers, chicken wings, beef tips, catfish, chicken, polish sausage and, of course, ribs. The meals are all cheaper than the price of admission, with most checking in at about $7-$9. If money is still burning a hole in your pocket, the in-house store offers a wide range of Kingston Mines merchandise. Come to for the music, leave with the club's name emblazoned on the chest of your brand new t-shirt.
Centerstage Reviewer: Patrick Corcoran