Established in 2007, Nelarusky is a benefit concert for Special Olympics held at Chicago's iconic Metro, during Lollapalooza week as an 'Official Aftershow.' To date, Nelarusky has raised over $225,000 for the Special Olympics. Nelarusky's 10th Anniversary features a solo set from City and Colour's Dallas Green alongside Austin indie-rockers Wild Child and local favorites Marrow. We talked to Nelarusky founder Lauren McClusky about the event entering its 10th year, its origins and notable alumni like Imagine Dragons and Alabama Shakes.
As Nelarusky heads into its 10th year, when did it really start to feel like the event you wanted it to be?
Honestly, it has always been what I wanted it to be! When the event started, it was somewhat of a Battle of the Bands with High School artists that were all friends of mine, and that's exactly what I wanted as a Junior in High School. As I got older, the event developed into something else. Becoming a Lollapalooza Aftershow was the best thing that could have happened to Nelarusky, but it never would have gotten there if it hadn't started as a High School show!
What inspired Nelarusky, what's kept you motivated?
LM: A band called The Days is what inspired Nelarusky. They were in High School at the time and wanted to play a benefit show in Chicago. They needed some guidance, and that's kind of where the idea came from. What's kept me motivated is the excitement that surrounds the event each year! It's amazing that the show has sold out as many times as it has, that sponsors keep coming on board, and that people continue to support Special Olympics. The feeling that I have on the day of the show is indescribable.
What's your all-time favorite Nelarusky memory?
LM: Imagine Dragons in 2013. It was incredible that we could pull off such a huge name in such a small room (they really blew up between the time we booked them and the show.) The energy was great... there was colorful confetti... We also raised $50,000 that year, which is the most we've raised at one event. It was epic!
From high school bands to a big stage like the Metro? What's it like to host your event at a Chicago music landmark?
LM: Like I said above, the feeling of the room on the day of the show is indescribable. It's really great to give bands that wouldn't typically play at Metro a chance to perform on the Metro stage. Even after Nelarusky was no longer a high school show, we continued to showcase an upcoming Chicago artist on the bill each year.
Your list of past alumni (including Alabama Shakes, Imagine Dragons, Toro Y Moi) are impressive, how do you decide on acts that play?
LM: I am lucky to work with Huston Powell at C3 and Joe Shanahan at Metro --- the best of the best! The decision is a combination of what bands are on Lollapalooza, what bands are buzzing, what bands make sense at Metro, if they're passionate about Special Olympics, etc.
What can we expect from Nelarusky 2016?
LM: A very special solo performance from Dallas Green! His fan base loves a good City and Colour show, so I'm excited for such a "Special" night. The lineup flows really well this year. It's also the 10th Anniversary of Nelarusky!!!
Who are you some of your current favorite local Chicago acts? International acts? Who might we see on the stage Nelarusky 2017?
LM: Marrow! Part of why I'm so happy to have them on Nelarusky is because they're one of my favorite local acts right now... along with Whitney, Twin Peaks, PM Buys, Homme, to name a few. Outside of Chicago... that list is just way too long. As far as Nelarusky 2017, we will have to wait and see!