Before they hit it big with summer soundtrack cornerstone, “Amber” and platinum-selling records, 311 were a welcomed fixture on the club circuit. The Omaha rockers had a whirlwind year in 1994, and Metro was one of many stops along the road to the fabled “big break.” Two years after Doug “SA” Martinez joined the roster to lend his vocals and turntable skills to the lineup, 311 hit Metro for their June 16, 1994, show. The Omaha quintet had just released their debut the year before and was dutifully awaiting the drop of their sophomore LP, Grassroots; but they managed to work well into the night with a packed 23-song set. Noodling around jazz inflections and reggae beats, the band fused oft-forgotten genres with classic rock tropes to forge an elastic, insistent breed of alt-rock. Not unlike their laidback musical lean, the show was left untethered by ego and bombast—none of the pomp of a soon-to-be platinum band, and all of the talent.
Often flacked with the title as “most consistent” rock band of the aughts, New Yorkers The National hit Metro with their melancholic jams on June 7, 2007, with Shapes & Sizes and Talkdemonic rounding out the bill. The post-punk loving Brooklynites had released their revelatory fourth album, Boxer, just a week before and were eager to hit the road. Lead vocalist Matt Berninger’s smooth-as-bourbon baritone poured out cryptic verses and tales of depression and isolation. With jabbing lyrics and intricate melodies, the quintet carved jagged passageways into Berninger’s innermost insecurities and neuroticisms, never sparing a single gritty detail. However gloomy, The National never fails to leave audiences satisfied, reveling in both blissful satisfaction and newfound clarity. Weren’t able to make it out? Check out this Flickr photo set from the show.
No strangers to the Metro stage, Queens of the Stone Age tore things up in Chicago yet again on June 7, 2002. In the midst of the recording Songs for the Deaf—the band’s most highly regarded album—QotSA brought the heat in front of a sold out Metro crowd. Honorary member of the band (and Foo Fighters frontman) Dave Grohl quickly soaked through and subsequently lost his shirt, serving as the driving force behind Queens’ heavy riff-centered rock. Fans at Metro brought their A Game, as the unrelenting mosh only fueled the blaze that had broken out on stage—there’s a reason Josh Homme emphatically described that night as “the best show of the entire tour.”
Before going on hiatus last summer, Thrice embarked on a farewell tour that saw them stopping at Metro for one of their final shows. On June 2, 2012, the Californian rockers didn’t hesitate to dip into their back catalogue, as they whipped out songs from all seven of their LPs, showcasing the group’s dynamic sound that was always in motion throughout their 14-year run. Though Thrice hasn’t ruled out the possibility of a reunion, their loyal Chicago fans showed up in legions to the show, which sold out months in advance. Something was in the air that night at Metro—footage of the concert comes close to capturing the sweaty, mosh-happy, fist-pumping atmosphere, as fans gave this band a hero’s sendoff.
After 8 years scraping through the Chicago punk scene, Naked Raygun had cropped up loyal fan bases across the country with their melodic punk cuts and hardcore roots. On May 29, 1988, Naked Raygun threw a spectacular homecoming from their West Coast tour alongside Lemonheads and locals Bhang Revival for an all ages performance. Having played 25 shows in a matter of 30 days, the band’s whirlwind tour had come to a close and the quartet was ready to be welcomed back to their home city with open arms. Just on the coattails of the release of their third album, Jettison, Naked Raygun had 12 new tracks to fill out their fist flailing sets. This vicious show bill encapsulated the piloted fury and electrifying showmanship that had come to define the punk scene at the time. Naked Raygun continued to cement their place in Chicago punk and are now considered one of the pinnacle defining bands of the genre—this show was only the beginning of a legacy for them.
Catch Naked Raygun next month for their two-night stint at Metro on June 28th and 29th.
After rising to fame outside of his creative cave in Portland, Oregon, with his heart-tapping lyrics and unfussy melodies, Elliott Smith became a face for a generation of confused and heartbroken minds. After a poignant performance in 1998 and a show backing XO the next year, Smith bowed on the Metro stage for the last time during his May 26, 2000, performance. Smith had just completed his second and final major label release, Figure 8, still booming with his plug-and-play pop but with the raw punk edge that cradled him in his early days. Even with channels mining into his musical roots, Smith’s performance was still electrified with the visceral trappings that brought him fame. The intricate weaving of vocals and melodies scattered throughout Metro, wielding such power that it was easy to forget that it was just a man and his guitar onstage. The performance takes on a new air of profoundness knowing that three years later, Smith would be the subject of tributes and memorials. Watch this performance of 2:45 AM, the final song of his set, and keep the sighs of mourning at bay.
When Al Jourgensen first strutted across Metro’s stage on May 25, 1984, no one in the sold out crowd could have predicted what would become of his band Ministry. Still a new wave group at the time, influential industrial metal records like Psalm 69 and The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste were just dark, angry twinkles in the back of Jourgensen’s head. Ministry synth-rocked the crowd with a dazzling and squeaky-clean show that even saw Jourgensen sporting a fake British accent. The band’s change in direction was welcomed with open arms by the Chicago music scene, as these pioneers of thrash, along with their various offshoots like The Revolting Cocks and Front 242, went on to slay the Metro stage a few more times before Ministry’s first breakup in 2008.
After they called a hiatus in 2002, there was barely a silver lining to speak of for Seattle metal heads Alice in Chains. The band was ailing from the death of lead singer Layne Staley and they hadn’t chugged out an album since an eponymous 1995 release. But the quartet obliterated every trace of doubt when they collided with the masses of Metro on May 21, 2006, for an amp blasting show. Inaugurating new frontman William Duvall, the grunge disciples took the new lineup for a spin with fantastic results. Hammering through a dense setlist of greatest hits and forgotten gems, they kept the crowd firing at all cylinders, never missing a beat, let alone stopping for a breath.
James Murphy has always had a flair for the dramatic. Last year’s Shut Up and Play The Hits, a tear jerker of a film that documents his band’s final, sold out show at Madison Square Garden, attests to this. That spark was evident throughout LCD Soundystem’s ten-year run, and very much present when they played Metro on May 19, 2005. Touring in support of their first self-titled record, with future arena fillers M.I.A. and Diplo opening, this show was something special. The band’s final concert at Madison Square Garden may have received the Hollywood treatment, but that stadium show pales in comparison to the connection that Murphy and company made with their early Chicago supporters at Metro eight years ago.
Shortly after wrapping up a series of shows as the openers for Bright Eyes, indie-poppers Rilo Kiley embarked on a headlining tour of their own. The band stopped at Metro in May of 2005, and proceeded to gently rock the house. Footage from that concert can be seen here, and shows a characteristically enthusiastic Metro crowd fueling these pioneers of the gratefully bashful stage presence. Rilo Kiley disbanded in 2011, but the mark that they left on indie-pop can still be felt today. Jenny Lewis, the band’s frontwoman, can be seen today on tour with The Postal Service.