The Metro: Venue Spotlight

In the heart of the Chicago's Wrigleyville neighborhood sits the unassuming Metro, originally called Stages, and then Cabaret Metro.

Despite having intense competition from the nearby Cubby Bear that was older and even closer to the cathedral that is Wrigley Field, The Metro helped launch the careers of many once-underground bands of the '80s and '90s.

The outside of the Metro in Wrigleyville – By Joi Ito

Starting way back in 1982, the first two shows at the Metro that we have in our database were both by the alternative darlings, REM, who were on their debut tour supporting Chronic Town.

Promoted by nearby Northwestern University's WNUR radio, and their label IRS (which put out hits by The Go-Go's, Los Lobos, Oingo Boingo and The Fine Young Cannibals), R.E.M. played in both July and September of '82 and perfectly Christened the joint.

“After I did that show with R.E.M., [we] had legs," Metro founder Joe Shanahan told Spin.

"They’d be in Seattle and somebody would ask Mike Mills, ‘where’d you play in Chicago?’ ‘Oh, we played this new place called Metro.They treat people really fairly there.’” he explained. “I had R.E.M. as my pulling guard. The same thing happened with Pearl Jam, the Chili Peppers, Liz Phair. That whole era, when they were all coming up, most of those bands played for us numerous times.”

1983 would see the club hosting harder, louder bands like Misfits, Black Flag, The Ramones, and T.S.O.L.

Gene Ambo, the Chicago-based photographer whose career began in 1983, talks about the laid-back vibe of the Metro.

This attracted a young band on their first tour to perform there, Metallica, who rocked the joint just nine days after singer James Hetfield's 20th birthday. Lars was 19. Cliff Burton wasn't yet 21. So yes, baby Metallica.

"In case you didn't know, the footage you are about to see is f---ing legendary," Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich said about the video that was recorded at that gig that ended up getting turned into a bonus DVD in 2016, as part of the Kill 'em All deluxe box set.

Metallica's first show in Chicago was at the Metro in '83.

Let that sink in, just a year into having a venue and you already have booked some of the youngest talent who would go on to great things.

In 1984 things only got better. One standout was it was the venue that hosted one of the handful of live performances of Spinal Tap who were supporting their film This Is Spinal Tap.

"The concert was scheduled for the Wrigleyville, 1,100 capacity venue known as Cabaret Metro," Morrison said on Facebook along with this photo of his ticket stub.

"It was a hot summer day. Oh, and back in those days, Cabaret Metro did not have any air-conditioning. I swear I lost a few pounds every time I attended a summer show at that place, just from sweating my ass off," he continued.

"The concert was fantastic. The boys in the band never broke character. And yes, they actually played all of their own instruments, as they did in the film. Such a great time." he said.

Two years later The Replacements, on their Tim Tour, stopped by the club and belted out a show so strong it, too, was included on a recent box set.

2023's re-mixed, re-mastered Tim: Let It Bleed Edition box set contained four CDs: the Ed Stasium remix of the band's major label debut, a remastered version, and a disc of rarities and demos.

The fourth cd is Paul, Tommy, Chris, and Bob's visit to the Cabaret Metro on January 11, 1986, just a week before they were to perform their infamous appearance on Saturday Night Live that would get them banned from the show forever.

As far as Replacements shows go, they played a bunch of their own material - which weirdly was not always typical. The boys were notorious for being inebriated and simply taking sloppy requests which would either nosedive immediately or miraculously take flight and soar, defying gravity and logic, and then crash suddenly, to applause.

But that night they were probably feeling the joy of having new anthems like "Bastards of Young" "Little Mascara," and "Dose of Thunder," to rub shoulders with tracks from Let It Be, Hootenanny and a smattering of covers.

Soon grungier bands would make their way to the Metro, many of whom were inspired by The Replacements.

There is none more grungy than Nirvana who played the joint a couple times.

Was Nevermind inspired from the Replacements' "Never Mind" from Pleased To Meet Me? Probably.

What matters is when Nirvana rocked the house in 1989 they came out hard, fast, and loud.

Nirvana at the Cabaret Metro in 1989.

When they returned two years later to support Nevermind, which needed no support, they rocked just as hard.

Six months after his body was found in their Seattle home, Kurt's wife, Courtney Love, headlined the Metro in support of Hole's new album Live Through This.

Four years after the huge success of that album, the pinnacle of riot grrl popularity, Love came out with a new album, Celebrity Skin, whose title track was co-written by Billy Corgan of Smashing Pumpkins, who also provided the riff.

If anyone knows the Metro, it's Corgan.

The Smashing Pumpkins have played there 39 times, most recently September of 2022 where they kicked off their Spirits Of Fire Tour.

What a better place to do a warm-up club date before you head out on a 30+ date arena tour?

The Metro celebrated it's 40th anniversary by having some of the big bands it helped launch come back for pop-up and special shows.

Fall Out Boy, who have played the Metro nine times beginning in 2002 stopped by 21 years later to honor the room and their roots.

Fall Out Boy returns to the Metro, January 25, 2023.

"It feels very good to be back at the Metro," bassist Pete Wentz told the crowd in January of this year. "It's crazy. Walking up those stairs back there is the closest thing our band will have to church."

The Metro will have Beach Fossils on 11/15 and Sky Ferreira on 12/6. Get your tickets on the Metro's website.

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