The Metro (Music Venue, Wrigleyville)

Metro Chicago music
Photo Credit

At one point or another, everyone seems to take a turn with the Metro as their favorite music venue. For some it may be the historical performances that have taken place there. For others it may have to do with their perpetual booking of solid local up-and-comers as well as bands that have helped defined genres. For me, it was a chance to escape the suburbs and experience all of the punk and ska bands I couldn’t get enough of. Whichever the reason, the Metro is a great place to get introduced to Chicago’s music scene.

Wanting to use a space that would tie together the emerging music, art, and dance scenes in the early 80s, Joe Shanahan opened up shop at 3730 N. Clark St. in Wrigleyville. The space would go on to do just that, exposing Chicago to bands that were blowing up other parts of the States, most notably Sonic Youth, R.E.M., and the Replacements among a throng of others. The club was instrumental in supporting the emerging dance scene that was taking over pop culture as well, hosting bands like Depeche Mode and New Order. The venue along with Smart Bar, the famed nightclub that now dwells in the basement of the same building, also played a large role in exposing the new industrial sound that Trent Reznor, Ministry and others were developing at the time. The fact that these two spaces could occupy the same building represents the entire idea of the Metro, a place for those from varied backgrounds to co-exist and compliment their different perspectives. The 90s saw another major boom for the venue, as alternative rock took off, especially in Chicago where the Smashing Pumpkins, Veruca Sault and Urge Overkill were leading the way, as well as the ever-expanding house scene which was developing simultaneously.

The majority of why the Metro is held in such high esteem comes from its history. It was opened in the right place at the right time by a guy who knew what was happening and what was about to happen. Very few mid-sized venues can say that Iggy Pop, James Brown, Prince, and Bob Dylan have graced their stage. The venue consistently books shows that sell out its 1100 person capacity. Even as I look over the calendar at the time of writing, the following months included such diverse acts as Jonathan Richman, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Femi Kuti, and Wire. The elaborate architectural decoration framing the stage makes these already well-revered artists feel like kings at the throne, while likewise equating them with the musicians performing at the occasional local showcase.

For all of the great history the Metro has been lucky enough to have been a part of, I have to admit over the years it has lost a lot of personal stock. Ticket prices seem only to be going up, customer service has been continually criticized (for example, long waits in a line outside after the show has already started), and you can’t hit below the $6 mark for even the cheapest of alcoholic beverages. For those under-21 who used to find the Metro a music haven, the selection of all ages shows has decreased over the years as well. But barring all the issues, at the end of the day, you’re going to choose the show of an artist you want to see. For that reason, as long as Joe Shanahan is in business, I’ll never be able to shrug off the Metro completely.

The Essentials:
Location: 3730 N Clark St.
Phone: 773.549.4140


Andrew Hertzberg

About Andrew Hertzberg

If identity is an illusion, I’m a magician in training. And although Emerson was right in pointing out that “with consistency, a great soul has simply nothing to do” the one constant I don’t mind in my life is Chicago. Yes, even the boredom of her suburbs couldn’t suppress the glow of the city, my attraction as a moth to flame. The future is unwritten, the characters are ever-expanding, and the plot is a perpetual foray through rising actions, conflicts and falling actions; the setting, however, remains the same.

One Comment

  • March 5, 2011 | Permalink | Reply

    They oversell the place, too, so it’s usually too crowded. Lincoln Hall has more breathing room and a better beer selection.

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