Happy Birthday to Metro

Happy Birthday to Metro

Metro on Chicago's North Side. (Flickr/vxla)

Bob Dylan, R.E.M, James Brown, Nirvana, Iggy Pop and Prince: Those are some of the big names that have graced the stage of Chicago’s venerable independent music venue Metro Chicago over the past three decades.

I should be able to say I saw one of those bands, but I didn’t and here’s why: When R.E.M. played Metro back in 1982, they were hardly a household name. In fact, the Athens, Georgia band was an opener that night for the British band Gang of Four. That was the band I was excited to see; having just purchased their seminal Entertainment! record at Val’s Halla in Oak Park. So I didn’t even bother trying to make it for the R.E.M. set. At that time, their music was a bit too mellow for me compared to the jagged punk funk of Gang of Four.

Even before that show, there was Depeche Mode and Ministry sharing a bill at what was still called Stages Music Hall; I had never seen a group of guys singing to recorded music before that. The reel to reel tape machines were on stage behind them! What did we care? We were 18 years old and had gotten into a 21 and over show dancing to one of our favorite bands. And Ministry was in its earliest incarnations.

Black Flag, Skinny Puppy, Naked Raygun; those were some of the shows I’d seen during the early days of what was then called Cabaret Metro. By the late ’80s through the early ’90s, my excursions to that great big music room had dwindled considerably due to fatherhood and a busy work/school schedule. But by the late ’90s I was back and one memorable show was the acid jazz ensemble The Greyboy All-Stars; funky!

It’s amazing when you look back at the history of this place and realize all of the bands that have played Metro. So I tip a glass and toast the main man behind all my fun at Metro — Joe Shanahan. Here’s to your dedication and love of music and of course, your curiosity and courage to take chances on so many artists.