Audio Slideshow: Jenny Lizak, director of publicity at Metro, and Jamie Miller and Pierce Burke of Chicago-based band Universe, talk about Metro and Subterranean and how the venues have helped promote local musicians.
By Ali Trumbull and Julian Zeng
Jamie Miller and Pierce Burke live in a city full of opportunities. Miller, 22, is the lead singer and songwriter of Chicago-based band Universe.
Burke, 20 is the drummer for the local band and he has been a united force with Miller for six years, helping him find the perfect members to help bring the lyrics to life. Singer and keyboardist Kat Smidt, 20; guitarist Paul Fleck, 25; and bassist Ryan White, 23, complete this alternative punk band that is fresh to the Chicago music scene.
Chicago boasts some of the most unique and well-known music venues in the country. These venues not only allow concertgoers to see some of their favorite national artists, but they allow local acts to perform and promote themselves in Chicago.
Interactive Map: Find locations of Chicago music venues and upcoming show performances. Dates are tentative and for summer 2010.
One music venue known for just that is Metro. Independently established in 1982, the North Side Chicago concert hall is a popular destination for fans in search of new, up-and-coming bands, as well as the music of established music groups. During Metro’s rise to prominence, it developed a continuing relationship with Chicago-based Jam Productions.
One of the nation’s few remaining independent concert promoters, Jam Productions has assisted Metro in staying true to its entrepreneurial roots by allowing it to continue working with performing artists moving on to larger venues.
“Hands down the venue we would love to play at would be the Metro and we would love to open for Alkaline Trio,” said Burke. “They are both real staples in Chicago.”
Playing at the Metro would be any aspiring artists’ dream when names like Fall Out Boy, R.E.M., Coldplay, and Smashing Pumpkins have graced the Metro stage. Jenny Lizak, Metro’s director of publicity, suggested that artists who want to play at Metro should just submit a demo.
“We have the same philosophy as we did in 1982 when Joe started the club and that is if you send your demo in or send a link to your mp3’s to us, every single one will be listened to,” Lizak said. “Sometimes it may take a couple of weeks, but we’ll listen to them all.”
Many local artists and DJ’s have performed at Metro or Smartbar, a nightlife hot spot located underneath Metro. Artists who have had great success on a national or international level after playing the Metro are known to return back to the venue to perform again.
“We treat everyone the same,” said Lizak. “Whether you’re Billy Corgan or a 16-year-old who is in his first band and this is the first time playing here, all our staff treats you exactly the same.”
Subterranean is a smaller, three-story venue located in the unique and eclectic Chicago neighborhood of Wicker Park. Just steps away from the Damen Blue Line stop, Subterranean’s convenient location is one of the many reasons the venue draws so many people looking for a show.
John Benetti is a talent buyer for House Call Entertainment, a booking agency that books Subterranean. Benetti looks for two key components when looking to book a band or artist.
“It’s a combination of things that are artistically interesting to us and then also, there has to be the business side of it,” said Benetti. “Finding a balance between what we like and what is relevant or important to the local music scene.”
Local musicians are extremely important to the venue but also to touring bands.
“Up-and-coming touring bands don’t have the following they need so they rely on working with locals and developing relationships of their own,” Benetti said.
Chicago musicians who play at the venue get a chance to network with touring bands. These connections prove to be very beneficial when touring to other cities. The music industry is all about networking and the connections you make along the way. Universe is certainly grateful for the exposure they got at Subterranean.
“The Subt has been great to us,” said Universe front man, Miller. “We set up two shows with them, one was in January and one was in May. Both of them were actually the most successful shows we’ve played yet and we got a ton of exposure through them.”
We can expect to see a lot from this ambitious, young, Chicago band. They plan on trying to release their debut album, Chances later this summer and they have already started working on a sophomore album.
“We hope our music will inspire people more than anything,” said Miller. “For us though, I guess it is just turning our passion and dream into a career.”