In the Frunchroom: Joe Shanahan

Our next Frunchroom reader is a South Sider who’s been a true cultural creator and innovator.

Joe Shanahan has spent the past 35 years contributing to the shaping of Chicago’s music community from his post on North Clark Street. Comprised of Metro, Smartbar and GMan Tavern, the family of music venues he and his devoted team have spent decades building has become one of few remaining independently owned and operated music venues in the country.

Born and bred on the South Side, Joe’s allegiance to his Chicago roots has never wavered. Determined to turn his love for the arts from a passion to a profession, he studied photography and design at Southern Illinois University and Columbia College Chicago. Ambition soon outgrew the classroom, though, spurring creative pilgrimages to New York City and New Orleans. He returned home with an “act local, think global” business philosophy and a zest for curating events throughout Chicago. It wasn’t long before the events demanded a space all their own—that’s when Joe was directed to 3730 North Clark Street, the future home of Metro and Smartbar.

With Smartbar stationed on the fourth floor, the club’s small and dedicated staff began etching their imprint on every floor of the building one show at a time, hosting top Chicago DJs like Frankie Knuckles, Ralphi Rosario and Derrick Carter. July 1982 marked the team’s first show in the space now known as Metro. With a five-dollar ticket and a small crowd of likeminded music fans, college rock up-and-comers R.E.M. inaugurated a legacy that has prevailed for 35 years and counting. In the years since, Metro has planted its roots in that intimate auditorium, hosting new wave lynchpins New Order, Depeche Mode, and more. Smartbar migrated down a few floors and remains a mecca for electronic music, continuing its dedication to promoting house music. Neighboring watering hole GMan Tavern, with its cozy bar and music room, was added to the fold in 2012, hosting legendary acts including Chrissie Hynde and Mavis Staples.

Joe’s pursuits span far beyond music. He is the recipient of a Columbia College Chicago honorary Ph.D and a Grammy Honor from the Chicago Chapter of The Recording Academy. Committed to giving back to the community that has given him so much, he also fills his calendar with civic commitments benefitting The Chicago Children’s Choir, The Frankie Knuckles Foundation, Imerman Angels, The Lakeview Pantry, Planned Parenthood, The Society for Contemporary Art, and Young Chicago Authors.

Joe will tell a story about how the South Side shaped his work ethic. Don’t miss this show on Thursday at 730pm at Beverly Arts Center.

RSVP on Facebook for this event

About Scott Smith

Chicagoan, husband, father, writer.
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