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Neo Reunion!

When it opened in July of 1979, the creators of the Chicago nightclub Neo never dreamed that it would last 36 years, contribute to the development of the notable music genres goth and industrial, and be cherished by literally generations of Chicago's unconventional clubgoers.

Formerly located down the alley at 2350 N. Clark Street, Neo closed its doors in July 2015, but patrons still lament its loss. They will have a chance to reminisce when 800 people will celebrate 40 years since their home away from home opened. Neo Reunion; 4 Decades, featuring six original Neo DJs, will be held at another iconic Chicago music venue, the Metro, 3630 N. Clark Street, on Saturday July 20th.

NeoFrontSIgnDanielleAeschbacher.jpgIconic photo by Danielle Aeschbacher

"I've played music at a lot of clubs through the years, but there was no place like Neo," said Neo's last DJ, Jeff Moyer. "It was the music, the people, and the community they created that made it special to so many of us."

Neo founder and the club's first DJ Suzanne Shelton agrees. "We didn't expect it to last five years, let alone 36. It was created as a stylish place to dance to music you couldn't hear anywhere else in 1979, but became an alternative culture that endured for decades. Neo people are family even if they don't know each other."

As the '80s were dawning, seemingly overnight there emerged pivotal nightclubs across the US with DJs who were transforming dance club music by playing records from the new wave music genre instead of, or mixed with, disco. Chicago's Neo was front and center.

The original concept was developed by Shelton, who talked the original owners Larry Acciari and Eric Larson into giving the concept a chance. Acciari and Larson sold the hugely successful club in late 1982 to Cal Fortis of Big Time Productions, who owned Neo until it closed after losing its lease in July 2015.

Neo was kept unflinchingly unconventional by a series of custodians, in the form of DJs, managers, security people, and bartenders who did the marketing and promotion. It became one of the first bastions of goth in the '90s with the world-famous event Nocturna, hosted by Scary Lady Sarah (who still holds the event monthly at the Metro) and Thom Ayers.

Neo-LastNight2350downTheBlockSuz copy.jpgThe line down the street the last night/Suzanne Shelton

The people who formed pivotal industrial bands Ministry and My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult were Neo regulars before they launched those bands.

When Wax Trax! opened the record store and later launched the legendary Industrial music label in Chicago, there was frequent interaction between the two influential places that were just blocks apart.

Planet Earth, the popular '80s new wave night by Dave Roberts, was a Thursday night staple at Neo for many years.

Neo was on the itinerary for many well-informed people who visited Chicago and was the first place record label representatives brought their artists.

Celebrities who partied at Neo include David Bowie, Iggy Pop, David Byrne, Todd Rundgren, Duran Duran, the Stray Cats, Divine, Kevin Kostner, Alice Cooper, Matt Dillon, Bill Murray, Tom Cruise, The Clash, Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, Prince, U2, Depeche Mode, Kraftwerk, Adam & The Ants, Devo, Madness, the B52s, Ultravox, Siouxie & the Banshees, Bauhaus, and many more.

While rumors of a new Neo in development continue to circulate, former patrons embrace other ways to revisit their past: tickets to a reunion event at Metro last July sold out. Chicago filmmaker Eric Richter made a well-received documentary about the club, 2350 Last Call: The Neo Story, which has been touring the film festival circuit and will in time be distributed.

Music featured at Neo Reunion: 4 Decades will include such genres as punk, post-punk, new wave, industrial, ska, rockabilly, and goth. Neo DJs, who are busy either sorting through vinyl or updating their computers to have the songs they played down the alley include:

* Suzanne Shelton (Neo DJ 1979 - 1982)

* Glenn Russell (Neo DJ 1983 - 1985)

* Scary Lady Sarah (Neo DJ 1988 - 1996)

* Bill Saveley (Neo DJ 1989 - 1993)

* Carrie Monster (Neo DJ 1996 - 1999, 2001 - 2003)

* Jeff Moyer (Neo DJ 1989 - 1992, 2001 - 2015)

A portion of the proceeds will benefit Darkest Before Dawn, a non-profit organization providing mental and emotional support resources for entertainment and hospitality industry workers.

Doors at 8 p.m., music until 3 a.m., 18+.

Tickets at the Metro.


See also:

* Tribune: The Miracle Of Neo - Three Decades Long.

* Chicago Bar Project: Neo.

* DNAinfo Chicago: Neo Closing Iconic Lincoln Park Location After 36 Years.


Comments welcome.


Posted on July 15, 2019

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