Berwyn rocks with arrival of new club Wire
BY DAVE HOEKSTRA Staff Reporter September 26, 2013 4:25PM
Local musicians Tracey Dear of the Waco Brothers and Tributosaurus' Chris Neville are opening a new music venue The Wire in Berwyn. | Dave Hoekstra~Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 28, 2013 6:45AM
Asound wire is a connector.
The new Wire music complex, 6815 W. Roosevelt Rd. in Berwyn, will link live concerts with education, a recording studio to be completed next year and a Music Row that includes FitzGerald’s, 6615 W. Roosevelt Rd., and the Friendly Tap, 6733 W. Roosevelt Rd.
Wire opens at 7 p.m. Oct. 4 with a performance by Tributosaurus, covering Electric Light Orchestra songs (9 p.m., $20 cover; www.ticketfly.com/venue/9923-wire). The next night, Axes of Evil opens for Mr. Blotto at 7 p.m. ($15 cover).
The 400-seat venue is in the former Oakwyn Theater, built in 1934. The moviehouse closed in the 1950s, and its most recent incarnation was a Teamsters union hall.
Chris Neville, vocalist-keyboardist of Tributosaurus, is the conceptual founder of Wire. The club reflects changes in the music world.
“Five years ago I was thinking how the music industry is dying,” Neville said earlier this week. “Because the nature of creating music has changed. Everybody has a computer in their basement, and people do their own thing. Big studios where musicians were able to congregate and play together seemed to be disapppearing. That bothered me.”
Managing partners are Paul Bolger of Mr. Blotto (also musical director at the Evanston School of Rock), recording engineer-producer Jon Smith (Ministry, the Police) and Tracey Dear of the Waco Brothers and founder of the architectural lighting design firm Dear Productions. Dear has lit the tours of Elvis Costello, Emmylou Harris and others. On Oct. 16 he is lighting the La Salle Street Bridge in Chicago pink in honor of breast cancer month,
The Wire team has spent more than $1 million in the buildout to create a high-tech space of community. The 10,000-square-foot venue includes a rear upstairs area that will house the studio and a mezzanine level with offices and a VIP area. Six small private classrooms and a student lounge are on the main level behind the stage.
People will be able to see the stage from the street. The old theater roof peaks at 26 feet.
“A lot of ‘rock schools’ perform a show or recital, and that’s good,” Neville said. “But here, you’ll be able to go through the whole thing and learn what it takes to actually put a show together from production and lighting through live sound and the management end of it.”
Neville said that once the studio is up, Wire will have its own independent label. Wire will also offer a monthly or quarterly membership fee allowing access to special events and extra studio sessions.
Dear and Neville are currently booking the club.
“Obviously we’re going to be a rock club,” Neville said. “We’re rock players. But we will have world music. Latin music. Jazz. Blues. A ton of musicians live out here. Half of the CSO lives here.”
The Waco Brothers, Tributosaurus and Mr. Blotto all have been mainstays at FitzGerald’s down the street. Tributosaurus is tentatively booked to play as Bruce Springsteen on Thanksgiving Eve at Wire.
Is their relationship with FitzGerald’s frayed with the opening of Wire?
“We’re here to try and make it work together,” Neville said. “FitzGerald’s is one of our inspirations. Going head to head is unavoidable, but with the variety we’re trying to put in here it is going to be less of a head-to-head thing. We’ve talked about doing collaborative things.”
Dear added, “One of FitzGerald’s’ acts could come over here in the afternoon and do a class.”
Bill FitzGerald, owner of the FitzGerald’s roots club, said, “What worries me is that although they talk about having a different booking policy, all those guys are in roots music bands. But if you look at where Roosevelt Road has been and all the money the city has spent on streetscaping, it does seem like it’s on the uptick. We’re a big part of that. And Wire is a great addition to that.”
The best popular music clubs in Chicago are in Berwyn (FitzGerald’s) and Evanston (S.P.A.C.E.) Is it easier to get things done in Berwyn? The city’s mayor, Robert Lovero, will host the ceremonial ribbon cutting in a private grand opening on Thursday.
“We haven’t had to wait on any permits,” answered Neville, an Oak Park resident. “If we have a safety question the police chief is here. If we have a health question the health inspector is here. We were looking in Oak Park and had trouble getting anything done there. Berwyn is very business-active.
“I would never bad-mouth the city of Chicago. We hope to draw people from there. But there’s a lot of entrenched citizens in the city of Chicago, and it is hard to work around that. Sometimes it is more expensive, sometimes it doesn’t necessarily make the most sense.”