The “Wild Hare and Singing Armadillo Frog Sanctuary,” (Wild Hare, for short) has been one of the premier reggae clubs in the country since 1986. While nearby bars like Exodus II, B.L.U.E.S., and even the Underground Wonder Bar offer excellent reggae bands, the Wild Hare edges them out with their variety of national and international acts, music seven nights a week, and a huge space to groove in. Run by Jamaicans and financed by venture capitalists (prior to the dot-com rise and fall), the Wild Hare is sure to appease anyone looking for a bit of Jamaica in the heart of the Wrigleyville.
Like the Kingston Mines, you need to purchase tickets around the corner from the front door at the ticket booth. Once as much as $20 after Cub games (half-off for cute women), once can now expect to pay up $10 on Fridays (half-off for students) and $12 on Saturdays. Once you have tickets, give them to the bouncer and head inside through the large wooden door. There is a small bar on your right that is always crowded, so expect to fight for the bartender’s attention.
The Wild Hare offers quite a large room, with no furnishings to maximize dancing space. The room was expanded in 1991 and now is two-stories high with an elevated stage, and is almost a quarter of a block long. If you want to get up front to see the band, there is usually room enough to get yourself pretty close, as the band looks very small when you’re by the bar. The walls are painted black and are adorned with black-light paintings of Bob Marley and other reggae musicians. The $100,000 sound system is quite good and you’ll leave without your ears ringing. There is also an upstairs, which is booked strictly for private and corporate parties. The upstairs non-smoking room offers a view of the main stage as well as it’s own private bar and full catered menu of Caribbean food. The bathrooms are accessible to the right of the stage, down the stairs. There are attendants down there so have a $1 tip handy for a paper towel and a mint.
The bands are some of the best reggae acts you’ll find in Chicago and the Midwest, so be ready to shake your booty. Such groups include Shabba Ranks, Rita Marley, Kwame & Wan Afrika, Aswah Greggorri and the Enforcers, Gizzae, Tony Reble, and Yellow Man. Doors open at 8:00 p.m., and bands typically take the stage around 9:30.
The crowd primarily consists of those coming from all parts of the city and suburbs to check out the scene, and is fairly diverse with dreadlocks mixing with khakis. People at the Hare tend to be some of the most polite people I’ve run across at a bar, with people routinely saying, “Excuse me,” as they walk past instead of pushing you like they do at all the other bars in the area.
The Wild Hare is located on Clark, across from Sluggers and next to John Barleycorn Wrigleyville and just south of Wrigley Field. It is a reggae oasis surrounded by sports bars filled with drunk Cubs fans in the summertime. Some Cubs fans filter into the Hare, but most of the crowd are reggae fans – people that know where to go for the best reggae around. Just look for the sign with the half-lidded rabbit chilling out with a beer-toting armadillo, and you’ve found the self-billed, “Reggae capital of America. “What happened to the frog? We don’t know… If you like Wild Hare, you’ll probably like Exodus II across the street for even more reggae. For upcoming shows and more information, check out the Wild Hare website. Ya, mon.