This list is totally subjective, and is based on my experience here in Chicago.
I lived on the South Side in the early and mid-eighties. At the time, I frequented blues and jazz clubs on the north side, and totally missed the whole Urge Overkill and Ministry scene. Those two bands, and especially Urge Overkill, are extremely influential on the Chicago alternative scene.
Later, in the late eighties through the nineties, I lived in center city: St. Bens, Lakeview, and Lincoln Park. There, I was exposed to the north side scene. Favorite venues include Aragon Ballroom, CabaretMetro/SmartBar, Gaspars/Schubas, Lounge Ax, Park West, the Riv (Rivera), and the Vic. The proximity of these venues and the influence of Wax Trax! Records, shaped my view of the Chicago music scene.
This list is neither reflective of the best or west of the Chicago scene. They are simply my favorite Chicago bands from the era. Click on the links to read more details and see photos.