4. Metro in Chicago
Chicago's 31-year-old North Side fixture opened with a $5 R.E.M. show – but it became a rock mecca when local heroes like Smashing Pumpkins, Liz Phair, Veruca Salt and Urge Overkill, not to mention out-of-towners like Nirvana and Pearl Jam, grew into headliners in the Nineties. From the outside, it looks like nothing more than a joint next to the sidewalk, but the front hallway opens into a huge room with a balcony that seems to float over the stage. (The prized location in the audience is front-row, second floor.) Chicago's a discerning crowd, too: "The room has a sense of drama to it, with the high stage," says Corin Tucker. "The audience can sometimes seem to be a bit standoffish at first, but if you hit the right notes, the right spots, people roar to life in there." And if a plain old rock club is too boring for you, check out the cutting-edge DJs in the basement SmartBar.
Fun Fact: At one Sleater-Kinney show, a "rock & roll psychic" was hanging around backstage. "He told me I needed to be very careful as there could be an accident in my future," Tucker recalls. "Come on! I was spending 10 hours a day in a van and was completely freaked out for the rest of the tour."