Interview Music

Too Hot to be Cool?

Over the course of Chicago music’s history we have seen the rise and fall of several great clubs and venues. Some have risen high and quickly but at the end fell due to the changing times and economic down turns. Others have shown the staying power over the years. The truth of the matter is no one can tell what will stay or really anticipate why it goes. We’ve lost some legendary places just recently: Neo, Excalibur (kind of), The Congress, Crobar. But, with venues such as Metro, Aragon, Cubbie Bear, Legends, Green Mill, Schubas, The Abby, Concord we stay loyal because we know that at some point the music we love will find itself there and us with it.
Well, boys and girls there’s a new joint in town that has the potential to make itself one of our new music mayhem stations and join the others in campaign to bring solid sounds to local clubs. It’s a little bit of motor city lined with a touch of LA and topped with a Chicago Pizza. HVAC (Heating and Cooling) deep in the heart of Wrigleyville, just doors away from the Cubbie Bear where last year David Grohl brought the Foo Fighters on the Sonic Highways Tour, has now, since they have been open, a few boasted chart appearing artists. Artists like Ryan Cabrera, Dee Snider from Twisted Sister, The Three Kings (Jason Aldine’s band) with School of Rock and slew of local talent. We were fortunate enough to catch BIG DATA pull a DJ set last month on July 3rd, and sat with him after for a few moments.
BIG DATA played to a half packed room until people on the street caught wind of who was spinning. By the end of a well-curated mix set HVAC was rocking out with people to the walls. Alan Wilkis gave the low down on his start in the music industry, coming out of Harvard with an English degree, his collaborations all the way to his rise to “Dangerous” heights on the charts.
I asked him pretty bluntly,” So… Harvard… What was that like?”
“A lot of studying…”
“Fair. So, how did the degree play into this project or did you just turn from it all together?”
Wilkis revealed, “Well, I graduated with a major in English language, so, it has some influence. Maybe not as much as I like but I am doing alright.” (under statement) I started to ask a bit more on what it’s like to transition to topping charts so quickly?
“It’s been kinda wild.” Wilkis mentioned, “There has been a lot of change and collaborations.”
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Wilkis seemed pretty excited about the night commenting on the set at HVAC, “This venue’s cool. The crowd was pretty responsive. Really dig the art here (referring to the famous photographer Paul Natkin and the overall motorcycle chic). This was a nice stop to come to Chicago. I’m really happy Damon called me up and asked me to play.”
“Wait what? Called you up? Like come hang out and chill?” I said. “
“That’s right.”

Damon Ranger(Left) seen here interviewing Perry Farrell (Right)

Damon Ranger, Oscar/Grammy/Emmy artist, called him up, as friends usually do, and said “Hey come play at my new club.” So, it seems that Damon, a Chicago born resident, is the curator and part owner of this new take on Rock Club Pizza Joints. And his way of getting his friends to come play is by calling them up and having them over for beer and pizza. What a Concept! No brainer right? Well, with the company that Damon keeps, and it goes deep into the music world, I wondered what he had in mind when opening up HVAC. Damon stated, “I wanted to make a Chicago type of Viper Room.” I mean when you make a business of winning Grammys for collaborating with artists like Kanye West and taking stages at Riot and Lollapolooza what could you possibly anticipate? It seems Meat Puppets are set to play this week Saturday, August 29th directly after the Foo Fighters at Wrigley Field for an after Party. Catch my drift. This place has the legs and the backing to become a destination spot for greater music makers in a more organic way of drawing them to play Chicago. Not a lot of places like that here any more. Buddy Guy’s Legends is probably the only other one I can think of that has the same type of feel and way about it. Carmen Rossi and Adolfo Garcia restaurateur owners of a few other prominent clubs in Chicago like Pearl Tavern and Hubbard Inn, having been friends with Damon from years ago decided to all get together and bring their passions with them.
From the inception of this club HVAC has surrounded itself with strong talented friends, committed to bringing in big acts and support local music with talented high quality artist. Even though they are in their proving stages it seems like a recipe for success. Go check out the Meat Puppets if you can. But, even if you miss it make sure to stop through you never know who will show up.
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