Joe's Bar a slice of Nashville in Chicago

October 31, 2012 10:00:00 PM PDT
He's one of country music's hottest rising stars, but you can barely hear Eric Church's voice over the crowd singing along at Joe's Bar. The intimate concert stage at Joe's has become country music's home in Chicago, a taste of Nashville in the Windy City.

It's where stars like Dierks Bentley feel comfortable enough to crowd surf among the fans that jam into the room.

"People normally stereotype country music as a southern thing but Chicago is one of the biggest country music venues in the country," said fan Brian Balinski.

Country music stars have also sold out huge venues in Chicago like Soldier Field, the United Center and Wrigley Field. For a music genre usually associated with the South, country is hot in the Midwest with all ages, from fans of Taylor Swift to George Strait. Drew Walker hosts the afternoon drive on what they bill as the most listened to country music radio station in the US.

"You have moms and dads who are listening to music that are now hearing music that their kids love and it's a chance to hear the songs together and enjoy the music and connect with it," said US 99.5's Drew Walker.

"Especially in today's country music there's something for everybody," said countrymusicchicago.com's Scott Winteroff.

Winteroff runs a country website dedicated to the Chicago country music scene. And that scene, he says, is centered at Joe's Bar. Co-owner Ed Warm first started booking country acts here a decade ago.

"At the beginning people didn't think we could do country music and a lot of people scoffed at us," Warm said. "But we dug in our cowboy boots and believed in it."

"There's no other place that's so special, so intimate in all of America that Nashville artists want to come play."

And the fans respond to the cozy setting perfect for a genre where the song lyrics drive the music.

"Tell a story," said country music fan Bob Pansa. "It takes you somewhere. I think that's what country music does."

The popularity of country music in Chicago continues to grow. Taylor Swift will fill Soldier Field next summer and Jason Aldean is going to pack Wrigley Field.


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