Chicago Rocks Tour
Phil Rockrohr schools us in alt, indie, punk and synth-rock.
According to the old music-biz adage, it’s not what you know, but who you know. Fortunately for the small group traveling on this bus tour, guide Phil Rockrohr has formed relationships with A-list musicians like Leroy Bach, formerly of Wilco (Rockrohr’s Wicker Park neighbor during the late 1980s).
Dressed in jeans and a sweatshirt, Rockrohr—King College Prep’s writing-center director—looks more like a family guy than a rock fan or musician (he’s played in ten bands). At our first stop, Schubas’ back room, Rockrohr dives in, explaining how the bar, during the 1970s and 1980s, was one of the first establishments in Lakeview to transition from fusion jazz to new wave and punk. The area, in turn, attracted “Mohawk, combat boot–wearing punks in police jackets.”
We board the short black bus, decked with throwback concert flyers from acts including Urge Overkill and Veruca Salt. Rockrohr whips out his iPod. The handy MP3 player serves as musical accompaniment to sights and stops.
This is how the tour operates from Lakeview to Lincoln Park to Wicker Park to Irving Park. We disembark at the former Avalon nightclub (now Milios Hair Salon, wooden-floor stage intact), the Metro and Nick’s Beergarden—with no shortage of interesting stories. While looking at Billy Corgan’s old, purple-painted house in Avondale, we learn that Metro owner Joe Shanahan asked him to nix the drum machine if he wanted to get booked.
Though a good portion of the excursion involves filling in the blanks (many venues no longer exist), the tour still makes the grade. Credit the iPod soundtrack—old-school punk music from Al Jourgensen, Big Black and Steve Albini, and Naked Raygun—and the tales of debauchery, including drug abuse, accusations of selling out, bar fights and a look at the Jeff Tweedy/Jay Bennett fallout.
We have time for a beer stop at the Rainbo Club, where on a single Monday night in 1993, Phil Rockrohr says he ran into indie songwriter Liz Phair, Material Issue frontman Jim Ellison and Eleventh Dream Day guitarist Rick Rizzo. Rockrohr’s tooting his own horn. But he can consider his bus riders impressed.
The bus rolls out from Schubas Tavern at 3159 N Southport Ave. Sat 15 3:30pm. $28.