Monday, January 20, 2014

Inside the Double Door

By Cristina Alonso

If the walls at this Wicker Park venue could talk – or sing – they’d have 20 years of rock stories to share. We take a backstage tour through the club’s history, featuring local indie acts, legendary Halloween parties, and a certain up-and-coming band called the Rolling Stones.

Photo courtesy of Double Door
The Double Door has witnessed some of the most memorable events in Chicago’s music history, but to Dan Wade (Art Director and Social Media Manager) and Genna Saccomonto (Events Coordinator), the heart of the venue lies in its vibe. “It’s just a really fun, intimate musical experience,” says Genna. “It also happens to be a very lived-in dive bar,” adds Dan. “One of our owners, Joe Shanahan, affectionately refers to this place as ‘the CBGB of Chicago.’”

Giving the club such a nickname carries a lot of weight, but a look back at the acts who’ve graced the stage makes it clear why it is deserving. Back in 1995, the Smashing Pumpkins played four concerts in the span of two weeks here, performing unreleased songs that turned out to be the tunes from their classic Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. Two years later, the Rolling Stones picked the Double Door to kick off their tour with a secret show, feeling like it was the kind of small space they played when they just started out. The tickets were $7.

Photo courtesy of Double Door
But it’s not all about the big names. “We’ve had some great up-and-coming acts like Rah Rah from Canada, or Miles Nielsen and the Rusted Hearts, who’s a really great folk singer,” says Dan. The musical variety means that the crowd can completely transform from a night to another. “We had Turbo Negro last year, and everyone was wearing denim jackets with patches on the back, and drinking cheap beer out of cans,” says Dan. “It looked like a convention for biker gang. And then we had Raheem DeVaughn, who does sexy-sounding slow jams, so it was like a bachelorette party.” Other memorable gigs include Swedish rockers The Sounds last October, and Cypress Hill in November 2012. “A lot of people said that it was one of the best hip-hop shows they’d ever seen,” Genna says.

Locals also love the Double Door for its holiday spirit. For 17 years, they’ve hosted legendary Halloween bashes, inviting a favorite local act to tribute a classic rock band. “In 2013 we had punk rockers AM Taxi covering the Cars,” says Dan. “They dressed as them and performed in character. And our customers always come in wild Halloween costumes.”

Their trademark New Year’s Eve shows are favorites in town, too. To end 2013, circus-punk marching band Mucca Pazza took over the venue with their colorful extravaganza, marking the beginning of an amazing twentieth year for the Double Door. “We’re going to have a bunch of special shows this year,” says Dan. “People should definitely stay tuned and check out our calendar.”

Here’s to many, many more decades of rocking Chicago.

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