Lollapalooza is one of Chicago's biggest parties, but the fun doesn't stop every night after Grant Park shuts down. The annual slew of official after-parties are almost as anticipated as the festival's lineup itself. One of these after show's annual benefits extend far beyond the people in attendance though.
For the eight consecutive year Nelarusky is back on Wednesday, July 30, at the Metro. This year's show features smooth new wave pop singer Twin Shadow, breezy electronic duo Sylvan Esso and slick local indie rockers Santah. What makes Nelarusky truly unique is its tradition of benefiting the Special Olympics.
The benefit show's founder Lauren McClusky has been producing concerts to benefit Special Olympics Illinois since she was just 17 years old.
With a nice nudge from her father, McClusky began putting on shows around town and raising money for a cause very close to her and her family.
"When I was in high school my friend was managing a band called The Days," McClusky told Chicago Like A Local. "They came to my dad's office (He frequently works with Special Olympics as well.) and were talking about how they were interested in doing a benefit show in Chicago. My dad turned to me and said, ‘Lauren will help you out.' That's how I got into it."
By 2011, McClusky had partnered her annual Nelarusky show [named by combining McClusky's first and last names] with Lollapalooza and was selling out her shows. Last year with the help of a dynamite bill that included Imagine Dragons and Icona Pop, Nelarusky raised $50,000 for Special Olympics. In total, McClusky's annual concert has raised around $177,000.
"Last year was crazy," McClusky recounted. "When we booked the bands in December or January they were buzzing and by the time August came around they were huge. It was really exciting knowing we had them for the show but not being able to tell anybody."
Now that she's working with Lollapalooza, who handles the yearly show's booking, the shows keep getting better. Other past performers have included the Alabama Shakes, Filigar and the Cold War Kids. McClusky is passionate about having at least one local band scheduled to play every year as well.
Nelarusky's ticket sales and small business donations make up a substantial portion of the fundraising but there are also plenty of ways to make personal donations to the cause. There will be cash donation buckets and an auction (featuring Lollapalooza tickets) at the show on Wednesday. You can also visit Nelarusky's website for more donation information.
Buy tickets to the show before it sells out for $25. Nelarusky is an 18+ show and starts at 7 p.m. on July 30. The Metro is located at 3730 N. Clark.