Cozy up and unplug. Unique venues are going intimate with live bands, songwriters and drinks that warm from the inside out.

By Timothy Meinch
HomeDitty

Think small. Low ceilings and battered bar tops in a lounge. A makeshift platform, or no stage at all, in a historic hotel. Listeners gathered in a family room, hanging on to every sung word and a beer they brought from home. Scaled- down new spaces (and some old) are creating intimate music experiences. After the holiday commotion, they feel like a warm blanket for the cold, darkest months of the year.

You can hear jazz over weekend brunch at a Kansas City bar. Summon the barefoot vibes of summer at an indoor music fest. Or catch an exclusive house show featuring a national act. Better yet, you could host one at your own place, thanks to a new Des Moines start-up. The band gets all the proceeds; you get all the bragging rights.

Got a spacious home or barn? You could host a touring band with the help of HomeDitty. Photo: Justin Salem Meyer.

The Music List

1. Ozark Mountain Music Festival, Eureka Springs, Arkansas

Follow the sounds of folk, bluegrass and Americana through the historic halls of the Basin Park Hotel. The Barefoot Ballroom and two other stages channel the spirit of an outdoor fest under one roof. Skip the sunscreen, but bring your light-up Hula-Hoop and tie-dye for the sixth annual OzMoMu fest January 17–20, 2019. The festival's popular Late Night Jam will return to Chelsea's Corner Cafe and Bar nearby Friday and Saturday.

Winter lineup Headliners include the Kitchen Dwellers and Nashville's Hogslop String Band.

DiMeTrip playing Ozark Mountain Music Festival. Photo: Jamie Seed Photography.

2. Gaslight Lounge, St. Louis

By putting a recording studio right in a public bar, JB Anderson is shaking up how albums get made. Over cocktails and local beer, Gaslight patrons can watch live recording sessions through a large viewing window. Located in The Hill, the first-of-its-kind venue recently launched a record label to promote rising St. Louis artists.

Winter lineup Local and national bands, such as Spoon, record any day of the week. Sundays are open mic night.

Gaslight Lounge. Photo: Courtesy of Gaslight.

3. The Hideout,Chicago

This legendary haunt embodies what every grimy, tiny music dive strives for. Lore says bootleggers built the two-story house in two days 100 years ago. And it's still standing in an industrial area near Bucktown. Grab a can of High Life or Old Style before squeezing into the back room. The stage, framed by twinkly lights in the rafters, has hosted Billy Corgan, Andrew Bird and The White Stripes.

Winter lineup TNK Fest hits The Hideout, Lincoln Hall and four other local venues January 16–20, 2019, with comedy and music acts.

The Hideout, Chicago. Photo: Adam Alexander.

4. HomeDitty, Iowa and beyond

Like a dating site, HomeDitty connects touring bands with homeowners for private acoustic concerts. The core mission is to support artists, who keep all proceeds from each show. (HomeDitty processes the payments.) Since the service launched in Des Moines in 2017, more than 250 urban lofts, suburban dens and even restored barns have become pop-up venues. BYOB and potluck-style snacks are common, and the host decides who's invited.

Winter lineup Visit homeditty.com for more info about hosting shows, which are not listed publicly.

Drop In for Tunes

Swing by these throwback spots for a drink, and you'll get a dose of live music on the side.

5. Baker's Keyboard Lounge,Detroit

The world's oldest jazz club turns 85 in 2019. Just north of downtown, this Motor City music hub has hosted Ella Fitzgerald, Miles Davis and Nat King Cole. Live bands and artists still play Tuesday through Sunday nights. And a Wednesday karaoke event draws a phenomenal cast of Detroit vocalists.

Baker's Keyboard Lounge. Photo: Wolfgang Kaehler/Lightrocket via Getty Images

6. The Phoenix, Kansas City, Missouri

Saturdays and Sundays, covers of oldies like Van Morrison's "Tupelo Honey" fill the brick interior of this downtown jazz institution. Live brunch music starts at 10 a.m., with $15 mimosa pitchers, a full menu of cheap diner classics and no entry fee. Plus the new 21c Museum Hotel Kansas City just opened a block away.

7. The Blind Lemon,Cincinnati

This hopeless romantic of hole-in-the-wall bars prides itself on live music: seven days a week, every week of the year. A special cocktail menu features hot drinks for winter. A firepit keeps the garden open year-round. And some of the autographed celeb photos lining the walls look like they've been here since it opened in 1963.

Our Playlist

Find Cozy Midwest Winter at midwestliving.com/spotify to hear artists who have played these stages (or will soon!). A sampling:

1. "Ocean Eyes" by The Burney Sisters, Missouri folk duo (11- and 13-year-old sisters) on Gaslight Records.

2. "Visions of Mohr" by Kitchen Dwellers, headlining Ozark Mountain Music Festival.

3. "I Wish I was the Moon" by Neko Case, past performer at The Hideout.

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