Exterior of Thalia Hall, on 18th Street in Chicago, which will soon re-open… ((Terrence Antonio James/Chicago…)
Last year, Bruce Finkelman (Empty Bottle) and Craig Golden (Longman & Eagle, Space) teamed up to reopen Thalia Hall, a Chicago landmark originally opened in 1892 at the corner of 18th and Allport streets to serve as a community arts center for Pilsen. Dusek's, the venue's restaurant, and Punch House, the basement bar, quickly gained citywide attention. Now, the owners are adding a live music destination to a South Side largely lacking in the packed music venues and nightclubs that thrived in the `50s and `60s.
On Wednesday, Thalia Hall launches as a music venue with a sold-out show from Animal Collective member Panda Bear (real name: Noah Lennox). The space's upcoming schedule is as unpredictable as Panda Bear, with acts ranging from veterans like Shawn Colvin and Steve Earle (June 6) to newer bands like bizarre Swedish rockers Goat (June 13.) Thalia Hall talent booker Brent Heyl, who compares the venue's space to Metro, says the eclectic offerings are deliberate.
"There's a great art scene and a culture of music, and there's not a centralized music venue for people to go to in this neighborhood," he says. "What we're doing is revisiting the original concept that the building served when it opened. The goal is to not only feature music but also other cultural events like theater and art combined in one space. We're not going to say, `Oh, we're only putting on electronic dance music or punk rock shows.' You see Panda Bear, but then we're doing a cumbia night the next week, then a band like Goat. Our goal is to present good music."
Some might wonder what a new venue could do to stand out in a city full of renowned spots for live music. Heyl says the goal is long-term loyalty over short-term hype.
"With these newer acts, we want the opportunity to grow with these bands. For instance, we did a show with Nils Frahm in February where he sold out the Chopin Theater. That's 100 seats. Next thing you know, he's selling out Lincoln Hall, and now he'll be at Thalia [Nov. 16]. Goat sold out Empty Bottle. These acts might not be ready for these huge rooms, but we're the next step to get to that point."
Panda Bear, 7 p.m. Wednesday at Thalia Hall. Sold out.
Three Sound Board-approved to watch on the Thalia Hall schedule
The Mavericks, June 8, $36.
Mixing the best of genres like Tejano, garage rock and American country, this Florida-based band rocks and might get you dancing.
Goat, June 13, $12-$22.
They're an experimental rock band from Sweden that wears wild costumes and claim to be under the influence of voodoo. What else do you need?
Gregory Porter, Oct. 14, $35-$450.
The jazz singer is an underrated gem with an easily embraced approach to a classic genre. Start with 2013's "Liquid Spirit," a wonderful introduction to his style.