Bottom Lounge exceeds expectations of small music venues

by Reyna Estrada / Sports Editor

Josh Katz, frontman of American rock band Badflower, takes the stage at Bottom Lounge. Photo by Reyna Estrada.

If there is anything I have learned throughout my years of attending a wide variety of concerts, it’s that a large venue does not necessarily equate to a higher quality show. I have visited all sorts of venues from stadiums to arenas and even outdoor festivals. But, while all types of concert venues have their strengths and weaknesses, there is nothing quite like hearing your favorite artists serenade you merely a few feet away in a small intimate venue. 

Often times, people underestimate the impact that a venue can have on the overall quality of a concert. There are many different factors that contribute to the experience of a good show. First and foremost is the artist itself—of course. However, there are certain things, such as the sound and lighting quality, the staff and the layout, and the overall atmosphere that can make or break the concert experience altogether. 

Bottom Lounge, a restaurant and bar that also features a seperate “music room,” is a perfect example of a deceptively small venue that acts as a hidden gem for concert goers. Bottom Lounge is located in Chicago’s West loop, and has welcomed a diverse array of artists to its stage since the venue’s reopening in 2012. 

When I found myself walking through the restaurant area and into the music room, excitedly anticipating seeing the rock band, Badflower, I was instantly taken with the retro design of the venue. It featured a laid back atmosphere with classic pinball arcade games scattered throughout the spacious room. The restaurant area was gently lit with dangling lights, busy but not too crowded with enough space for the clientele. The staff was exceptionally friendly and efficient, guiding the line of concert attendees into the music room, not without thanking each guest for being there.

The actual venue area invited concert goers into a sleek and almost underground environment with a small, yet wide shaped room including a relatively small stage at the front and center of the place. The show was sold out, and a cascade of fans made their way into the area. 

With a maximum capacity of 700, the space was crowded but not overwhelmingly small, with seemingly just enough space to accommodate for the masses of the crowd. The layout of the area was effective in providing the intimacy that a larger venue often lacks. 

As the opening bands Dead Poets Society and Weathers took the stage, it became clear that the venue held the sound quality of one much bigger, with their voices and instruments amplified clearly throughout the crowd. 

It was not until Badflower took the stage, however, that I became encaptivated with the impressive lighting of the venue. In my experience, lighting is often one of the downfalls of these smaller venues, as they usually lack the technologies and budget to match the lighting abilities of large venues. 

I was pleasantly surprised as the lighting perfectly framed the musicians while also creating a visually pleasing show, particularly through the use of purple and blue hues that created an almost gradient effect.

Despite the high quality visual and auditory experience, the bands were definitely hindered by the size of the stage. While the size of the music room in general was not an issue, as it held enough space to comfortably hold a sold out show, the stage itself was a bit narrow. While I appreciated the close proximity of the stage to the audience, a bigger stage would have really brought it all together and provided the artists with the necessary tools to put on a superb show. 

As a whole, the small size of Bottom Lounge was not entirely a disadvantage as the venue was effective in its ability to capture many of the skills that are usually reserved for larger areas. Yet, it was still able to maintain the quirks and atmosphere that conjures up a sense of nostalgia associated with attending a small, local concert. The staff was exceptionally friendly, and the structure was appealing to a variety of music fans, providing a great experience to the array of guests. 

8 out of 10 Torches. 



Categories: Arts & Entertainment

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