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Metro: Chicago's Independent Concert Venue

Updated on November 26, 2012

Metro: Chicago's Independent Concert Venue

Metro is one of the country's most renowned independent concert venues. Established in July 1982, Metro has become a playground for new and developing local artists as well as showcasing the best cutting edge bands from around the globe for over two decades. Read below for a history of Metro, photos, video and more!

All About Chicago's Best Concert Venue

Celebrating 25 Years of Emerging Artists

Metro's mission is to bring a cross-platform of the best local, regional and national emerging artists to Chicago. Since, 1982, Metro has accomplished this goal repeatedly and established itself as one of the country's premier, cutting edge new music venues. At the cusp of a quarter century of bringing new music to Chicago, its time to take a look back at how Metro has come so far.

Throwing Parties for Friends: The Beginning of a Dream

Owner Joe Shanahan left his hometown of Chicago for New York City in the late 1970s, intending to explore by immersion the developing art, music and dance culture taking over the city at the time. At the conclusion of one year, he returned to Chicago and realized that there wasn't a club that brought together the visual, performing, experimental and fringe arts communities.

Seeking to fill that void, Shanahan drew upon his friends and travel experiences, and began to host parties for the arts and performing community in his loft. Exploiting the camaraderie in the local art community, Shanahan began to combine these DJ-driven parties with local gallery openings and live music venues. Attendance ballooned, and the parties quickly outgrew his loft space.

Finding A Home at 3730 North Clark

An infamous local promoter directed Shanahan to 3730 North Clark Street, the building that would become Metro and SmartBar. Originally built in 1927 as a Swedish Community Center, the building was a jazz/folk club called Stages when Shanahan came upon it. Shanahan was enamored with the space, and opened Metro in July of 1982 on the top floor of the building.

"The Big Room": Metro's Debut

In August of 1982, Shanahan had the opportunity to promote a show in "the big room" with a little known band he met in New York. Using the name of his production company, Latest Creations, he placed his first advertisement in the Chicago Reader, and drew posters and flyers. For five bucks a head, Chicago saw this show featuring a little-known band from Athens, Georgia - R.E.M.

The show was a success and Shanahan began booking and promoting the club's weekend slots. Shanahan and a small staff of like-minded music fans gradually took over the main floor of Stages, moving SmartBar from the fourth floor (which currently hosts the Metro offices) to the basement of the building. Metro was re-opened as a live music venue in its current space. It would, Shanahan vowed, be a place that focused on local and emerging talent from the region, nation, and ultimately the world.

The 1980s: Metro Makes Its Mark

Metro began making its mark on Chicago by booking new local bands like Naked Raygun and Big Black. Drawing on the strength of the local music community, Metro provided a space for bands to hone and develop their craft. Local bands supported the venue as well, using it as a jumping off point for their careers. It was at this time that nights such as "Rock Against Depression", featuring three bands for $5, became popular weekly events at Metro.

As audiences responded to the new emerging music from Chicago bands, Metro began to look to other cities for music from their scenes. From New York, Metro booked Sonic Youth and the Ramones. Athens brought R.E.M. and Pylon. Minneapolis sent the Replacements, Husker Du and Soul Asylum. X and the Bangles came from California. Soon, bands from all over the world graced the Metro stage - in just the first year of the club's existence, Metro hosted future music heavyweights New Order, Depeche Mode, Killing Joke, Billy Idol and O.M.D.

During this time, Metro began a long-standing relationship with Chicago's own Jam Productions. This symbiotic relationship with one of the country's last independent concert promoters has helped Metro remain true to it's own independent entrepreneurial roots. It allows Metro to take it's promotional sensibility outside it's four walls to continue working with artists as they move to larger venues.

The 1990's: Explosion of Alternative

The 1990s brought the rise of grunge and alternative music, and Metro was at the forefront of the movement. Chicagoans The Smashing Pumpkins, Urge Overkill, Liz Phair and Veruca Salt began their careers on the Metro stage. From Seattle, Nirvana, Soundgarden and Mudhoney came to play to Chicago audiences. Los Angeles brought Jane's Addiction and a relationship with Perry Farrell that continues to this today.

At this time, the spotlight was on Chicago because of the visable music scene here. With clubs like Metro and Lounge Ax hosting sold out shows with exciting new bands every week, the music industry discovered our city, and Chicago's commitment to independent music.

The New Millenium: Continuing the Tradition

One of Metro's strengths has been its ability to evolve with music and art over time, constantly seeking out the best new and emerging artists. As a result, today's music history makers have also cut their teeth at Metro. Fall Out Boy, No Doubt, Pete Yorn, Disturbed, Travis, David Gray, Limp Bizkit, Stereophonics, Korn, Moby, Tori Amos - just a short list of notable contemporary artists who have paid their dues on the Metro stage.

The Metro 20th anniversary celebration in 2002 provided the club with the opportunity to celebrate with twenty special shows over the course of the year, including Stephen Malkmus, The Faint, Bright Eyes, Indigo Girls, Sea & Cake, Sonic Youth, Zwan, Tortoise, The Flaming Lips, Thrill Kill Kult, Alkaline Trio, Bob Mould, the Foo Fighters and Wire.

Recognizing Our Heritage, Celebrating Our Roots

While Metro and SmartBar seek to expose new artists, the clubs also seek to recognize and celebrate the American and British roots of rock and roll. Legendary artists including James Brown, Iggy Pop, George Clinton, Joe Strummer, Bob Dylan, New Order, The Ramones, Depeche Mode, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Metallica and Prince have all performed for the Metro crowd.

To Be Continued

From July 2007 through July 2008, Metro and SmartBar celebrated 25 years of showcasing new and developing local artists, cutting edge DJ's and new genres of music. On July 22, 2007, Metro celebrated its 25th Anniversary. The 25th anniversary year kicked off with a free public concert at Millennium Park's Pritkzer Pavilion with the Decemberists backed by the Grant Park Orchestra. On July 21, 2007, Metro held an employee reunion and public party to count down the hours to the official anniversary at midnight on July 22, 2007. On October 11, 2007, Metro's owner Joe Shanahan was awarded a Recording Academy Honors from the Chicago Chapter of The Recording Academy in recognition of Metro's 25 years in the Chicago music community.

Live at Metro: Albums recorded live at Metro

Nothing compares to the live experience, and you can relive it with these albums, songs, and downloads...

Live at Metro: FILMED live at Metro - Re-live these great concerts on DVD

Read More: Metro-related Books

Read more about Metro in these books...

What was your favorite Metro concert experience?

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    • profile image

      anonymous 

      8 years ago

      Tip: Here's a good place to find tickets on eBay.

      You'll find tickets for bands, concerts, travel, sporting events and more.

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