Aragon Ballroom (Chicago)

41°58′10.03″N 87°39′29.28″W / 41.9694528°N 87.6581333°W / 41.9694528; -87.6581333

Aragon Ballroom
Facade in 2019
Former namesAragon Ballroom (1926-66; 1968-2014)
Cheetah Club (1966-68)
Aragon Entertainment Center (2014-19)
Byline Bank Aragon (2019-present)
Address1106 W Lawrence Ave
Chicago, IL 60640-5026
  • Luis Rossi †

    Ivan Fernandez

    Alma Rossi
OperatorLive Nation
OpenedJuly 15, 1926 (1926-07-15)
Construction cost$2 million
($33.4 million in 2022 dollars[1])
BuilderPlotke & Grosby

The Byline Bank Aragon Ballroom[2] is an arena located in Chicago in the Uptown neighborhood, approximately 5 miles (8 km) north of Downtown.

History Edit

Ballroom interior in 2009

The Aragon Ballroom was built by brothers Andrew and William Karzas, who turned to ballrooms after making their early fortunes in nickelodeons and movie theaters.[3] Their first dance hall project was the 1922 Trianon Ballroom in Chicago designed by renowned theater architects Rapp & Rapp. With hopes of duplicating the success of the Trianon, the brothers opened the Aragon on July 15, 1926, once again turning to movie theater experts for building design. Architects Huszagh & Hill designed the Aragon’s stucco exterior in Spanish Baroque style while movie palace designer John Eberson decorated the interior to resemnble the courtyard of a Moorish castle.[4][5][6]

Named for a region of Spain, the Aragon was an immediate success and has remained a popular Chicago music attraction for many decades. The Aragon's proximity to the Chicago 'L' train provided patrons with easy access, and often crowds in excess of 18,000 would attend during each six-day business week. Each night, powerhouse radio station WGN broadcast an hour-long program from the hall to audiences throughout the United States and Canada. Some reports indicate the broadcast was heard overseas in Britain.

According to legend, the secret tunnels under the nearby Green Mill bar, a Prohibition-era hangout of Al Capone, lead to the Aragon's basement.[citation needed]

A fire at an adjacent cocktail lounge in 1958 forced the Aragon to close for several months. After the reopening, crowds declined significantly, to the point that regular dancing ended in 1964. A succession of new owners used the Aragon as a roller skating rink, a boxing venue, and a discothèque,[7][8] among other uses. There were also occasional efforts to revive it as a traditional ballroom.

The Aragon hosted nearly all of the top names of the big band era. Hal Pearl known as the "The King of the Organ" was the resident organist during that era, playing with and during the intermissions of the sets of the visiting artists. Shows were radio broadcast nationally and even heard in Europe. During the 1970s, the Aragon was home to "monster rock" shows which were marathons of rock music acts often lasting six hours or more.

In 1973, Latin promoters Willy Miranda and Jose Palomar, who had promoted Hispanic dances and concerts in Chicago for years, became owners of the Aragon. They soon teamed up with rock promoters Arny Granat and Jerry Mickelson (owners of Chicago-based Jam Productions, which by 2017 claimed to be the "largest independent producer of live entertainment in the United States"), who used the hall for their rock concerts.[9][10][11]

World championship boxing made its way to the Aragon Ballroom on December 15, 1982, when the World Boxing Association's world Cruiserweight champion, Puerto Rican Ossie Ocasio, successfully defended his title by beating challenger Eddie Taylor by a 15 rounds decision.[12]

In the late 1990s, Luis Rossi (former owner of La Raza newspaper), Ivan Fernandez, and Mercedes Fernandez purchased the Aragon. In September 2014, Mercedes Fernandez sold all her interests in the Aragon. Under the name "Aragon Entertainment Center", the hall continued to host a variety of Spanish language and Vietnamese language shows as well as English language rock concerts. It still hosts occasional boxing events.

In 2015, the theatre was used in the filming of Zack Snyder's Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, doubling as the theatre where Thomas (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and Martha Wayne (Lauren Cohan) get shot.[13] The sign for the venue and the marquee was temporarily reconstructed, and removed once the filming had been completed.[14]

As of late 2017, Live Nation owns the Aragon Ballroom, and produces a variety of English language and Spanish language pop and rock concerts there.[15][16]

Exterior of venue (c.2018)

The Aragon has hosted the following Chicago bands: In 1968, it had Shadows of Knight. In 1969, it separately hosted Howlin' Wolf, Buddy Guy, The Buckinghams, and The Five Stairsteps. In 1973, it hosted Muddy Waters, in 1975 it had Styx, and in 1976 it had REO Speedwagon (from Champaign). In 1978 Van Halen kicked off their first World Tour here. In 1979 it hosted the Clash, Bo Diddley and the Undertones on the same bill. In 1982 it hosted the Jam and the Professionals, then—over two consecutive nights—the Clash, the Elvis Brothers and Defunkt. In 1983, it had Cheap Trick (from Rockford), and in 1984 it had Ministry. In 1997, it had Smashing Pumpkins and Local H (from Zion) separately. In 2004 and 2021 it had Chevelle. In 2005 it had Twista with Ludacris (raised in Illinois), (and separately) Fall Out Boy (from Wilmette), Plain White T's (from DuPage County), Disturbed (from the Southwest Side), and Wilco. In 2007, it had OK Go. In 2009, it had jam band Umphrey's McGee (from South Bend). In 2011, it had Rise Against, and in 2013 had Alkaline Trio. In 2013, it had EDM group Krewella (from Northbrook) and rapper Lupe Fiasco. In 2015, K. Flay (from Wilmette) performed there. DJ Kaskade (also from Northbrook) performed there in 2017. Juice Wrld from Homewood performed there in 2019.

The Aragon has hosted the following bands from Wisconsin: Steve Miller Band in 1969, BoDeans in 1994, and Garbage in 1998. Tommy James & the Shondells from Niles, MI played there in 1968.

Live recordings Edit

On April 19, 1975, electronic band Kraftwerk played at the Aragon Ballroom to an audience of 3000 spectators.

In March 1978, classic rock band Aerosmith played at the Aragon Ballroom, later releasing the recordings of "Sweet Emotion" and "Lord of the Thighs" on their 1978 Live! Bootleg album.

The 2009 Deluxe Edition of R.E.M.'s Reckoning album includes a live concert taped at the Aragon Ballroom on July 7, 1984, and broadcast on WXRT in Chicago. The opening act was the California band The Dream Syndicate.

On May 25, 1986, thrash metal band Metallica played here for their Damage, Inc. Tour. They used the live recording in the 2017 remaster box set of their 1986 studio album Master of Puppets.

On October 23 and 25, 1993, grunge band Nirvana played at the Aragon for their final two shows in Chicago. During the show on the 23rd the band played the song "You Know You're Right" for the first and only time live. A recording of the song from this show was bootlegged for nine years until they decided to release the studio version on October 8, 2002, as part of the greatest hits album Nirvana.

On November 18, 1994, punk rock band Green Day's performance to a sold-out crowd at the Aragon was recorded for MTV as "MTV Jaded in Chicago".[17]

On August 22, 1995, a Soul Asylum concert was recorded at the Aragon for the Album Network and two songs were released on the "Promises Broken" CD single.

On June 26, 2004, funk metal band Primus filmed their first concert DVD, Hallucino-Genetics, at the Aragon.

During a performance on October 17, 2009, sludge metal band Mastodon recorded a live album and concert DVD at the venue. Live at the Aragon was released on March 15, 2011.

In June 2013, Third Man Records released a live album of The White Stripes' performance at the venue from July 2, 2003, as part of their From the Vault series.

See also Edit

External links Edit

References Edit

  1. ^ 1634–1699: McCusker, J. J. (1997). How Much Is That in Real Money? A Historical Price Index for Use as a Deflator of Money Values in the Economy of the United States: Addenda et Corrigenda (PDF). American Antiquarian Society. 1700–1799: McCusker, J. J. (1992). How Much Is That in Real Money? A Historical Price Index for Use as a Deflator of Money Values in the Economy of the United States (PDF). American Antiquarian Society. 1800–present: Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. "Consumer Price Index (estimate) 1800–". Retrieved May 28, 2023.
  2. ^ Roti, Jessi (August 14, 2019). "Aragon Ballroom to become Byline Bank Aragon Ballroom". Chicago Tribune. Tribune Publishing. Archived from the original on December 27, 2019. Retrieved December 27, 2019.
  3. ^ "Aragon Ballroom". 21 April 2015.
  4. ^ "Byline Bank Aragon Ballroom".
  5. ^ "An Uptown Favorite: The Aragon Ballroom".
  6. ^ "Aragon Ballroom | Louis Grell Foundation".
  7. ^ "Chicago Cheetah Club Opener". Jet. 3 November 1966. Retrieved 12 June 2010.
  8. ^ Behrens, Jack (2006). Big Bands and Great Ballrooms: America is Dancing Again. AuthorHouse. p. 204. ISBN 978-1425969776. Retrieved 12 June 2010.
  9. ^ Connors, Joe (April 17, 2017). "INTERVIEW: Jerry Mickelson – founder of Jam Productions". Chicago Music Magazine. Archived from the original on September 18, 2017. Retrieved September 18, 2016.
  10. ^ McGhee, Josh (October 20, 2016). "Fired Stagehands File Unfair Labor Charges Against Riviera, Jam Productions". DNAinfo. Archived from the original on 2017-09-18. Retrieved 2016-09-18.
  11. ^ "Who We Are..." Jam Productions. Retrieved 2016-09-18.
  12. ^ "Ossie Ocasio vs. Young Joe Louis". Retrieved 2018-02-22.
  13. ^ "Proof Batman v Superman Will Kill Off Bruce Wayne's Parents". November 12, 2014. Retrieved 2016-02-28.
  14. ^ "Aragon Ballroom Sign Returns to Dilapidated Look After 'Batman' Makeover". DNAinfo Chicago. Archived from the original on 2016-05-08. Retrieved 2016-04-21.
  15. ^ "What's On". Aragon Ballroom: An Independent Guide. Retrieved 2016-09-18.
  16. ^ "Aragon Ballroom". Live Nation. Retrieved 2016-09-18.
  17. ^ "Green Day - Jaded in Chicago MTV 1994 Full Concert (High Quality)". Archived from the original on 2021-12-21. Retrieved December 9, 2020 – via YouTube.