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Tuesday, May 28

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Feature Thu May 28 2009

Alley Ways: The Legacy of Off the Alley

For an occasional series in Transmission, we'll be revisiting the legacy of old music venues in the Chicago area that have since closed down — places long gone, boarded up and turned into condominiums or shiny storefronts. The places that once contained the voices of the passionate few who crammed themselves in compact spaces night after night to see their favorite underground band play that first chord. Starting off the series, Transmission looks at Off the Alley, an all-ages club in south suburban Homewood that was one of the first venues to host several influential punk bands, including The Queers, Alkaline Trio and Winepress. E-mail suggestions about clubs you would like to see featured to


What remains: a storefront turned into a martial arts center, and, behind that, an alley, with three conspicuous blue garbage bins, overflowing with this week's trash from yesterday's memories. In three windows, there are painted images of familiar cartoon characters — one that looks like Clifford the Big Red Dog, Tweety Bird and Sylvester the Cat. Behind a No Parking sign, a "South Side Anger" sticker remains attached to the post.

Twenty years ago, teens from the south suburbs and northwest Indiana considered this alleyway their second home. When Fridays and the weekends finally came around, they drove or walked to this alley to check out Off the Alley, an all-ages music and dance club that opened in the fall of 1989 in downtown Homewood. A small October 13, 1989 Chicago Tribune news brief begins, "Homewood's first juice bar and dance club for teenagers will open in the back of a record store next month."

That record store is Record Swap, formerly at 18061 Dixie Hwy., now home to the Draco Academy of Martial Arts. The village board approved the club unanimously but only under certain conditions: owners Theodore and Robert Diener were required to have at least four security guards on duty while the club was open, "particularly to discourage customers from loitering in the alley and to enforce curfew restrictions."

A few years later, and all of these mundane village ordinance details didn't really matter anymore: Off the Alley was now a club, slowly attracting anyone with a punk heart or desire to dance away inhibitions. Part of its story begins with the people who danced.


Jessica Wolfe, 36, Chicago

Sometimes, a conga line would form. Wolfe loved the music at the club, but she also remembers spending hours dressing up with her sister to "to get our hair to do those unnatural things like get into spikes or teased up Siouxsie Sioux style. It was a bit of a punk-rock fashion show for us girls, and we loved it." All this for preparation for a night of dancing and music.

Wolfe began going to Off the Alley in the late 1980s, when she was 14 years old. She split her time between Off the Alley and Medusa's, another all-ages club.

"I used to find it fun when an impromptu conga line would happen to bands like Nitzer Ebb or Front 242," she remembers.

Wolfe grew up in nearby Park Forest and started going to Record Swap just as bands like The Cure and Depeche Mode began dominating her record collection.

"Back when I attended, it was mostly music, but I remember that it was a great place for dancing and I would play suggestions and music I couldn't hear anywhere else," she says.

DJs would spin anything from Bad Brains, or The Specials, to the Sisters of Mercy, and "they were not afraid to play the stuff that the radio wouldn't play, but what I was listening to."

Wolfe describes herself as someone who was "a bit of a nerd" back then, but at Off the Alley, she could wear her "black clothing, and dance around like a fool, and not feel too out of place." Teens like Wolfe, and many others, began to feel in place.

OTA_dance_courtesy Paul Rogers.jpg

Off The Alley Dance (Courtesy Paul Rogers)

Paul Rogers, 35, Alsip

Rogers began going to the club in 1990 when he was 17 years old. He and his friends often shopped at Record Swap, run by the same owners as Off the Alley. "My friends and I used to always go shopping there and would hear the music always coming from the back of the store," Rogers says in an e-mail interview. "One day, we decided to check it out. It was great because it was an underage juice bar and it was some place for us to go on the weekends."

Even though the club didn't sell alcohol, Rogers and his friends would drink across the street before going to the club. He liked the club so much that he began working for Record Swap in 1992. In 1994, he began DJ'ing under the name DJ Nitz, spinning New Wave music from the '80s. Off the Alley was more than an important place for him at an important time — it was part of a movement too fluid to classify.

"Before Grunge," he recalls, "there were a lot of people already wearing flannels, Doc Marten boots, chains attached to wallets, piercing in weird places, people who'd wear all black (Goth), men who'd wear make-up! We kind of classified ourselves as Alternative back in the day. But recently that word has been thrown around and abused. It's not even worth using anymore. The crowd that hung around Off the Alley always seemed to be ahead of the times. What we were then is what Grunge and Goth became a few years later. This was a place we could all go and have a good time and listen to music that not many people have heard of at the time."

But the live bands, it turns out, weren't what first attracted Rogers to the club.

"I've never seen any concerts there," he says. "I just really enjoyed setting up the club. I used to have to set up the lights so the disco ball would shine just right. I would have to fill the smoke machine and make sure it worked. I'd also have to make sure the levels on the mix board were set right. I would lay out a set list to make sure I kept people dancing all night."

Kristen (Ulrich) Erickson, 34, Des Moines, Iowa

The dancing, it turns out, also attracted Erickson, who lived within walking distance to the club in the late '80s and early '90s. Erickson went to the club most Friday and Saturday nights, eager to move her way to the dance floor and meet new people beyond her classmates at Homewood-Flossmoor High School. "I feel like I was there all the time," she laughs in a phone interview from her home in Iowa.

Erickson and her family moved from Dolton to Homewood when she was in 7th grade because of the stronger education system. But her family was not as affluent as some of the families who lived in the area then, so she found herself feeling a little alienated in school.

"I was kind of quiet, nerdy and shy until right around age 15," she says. "I changed to a whole different group of friends and started feeling better about myself...I got more self-confident around then. Some people hit that point in college, some people when they're older. I hit it when I was 15."

Off the Alley, in Erickson's mind, was a place for these outsiders to hang out, even if they only saw each other at the club. "It was a great thing for me," she says. "I feel like it fit really well with my needs at the time."

Walking into the club, Erickson recalls turning into an alley in downtown Homewood and walking into a non-descript hallway. Turn left, and she would see a big room with a juice bar, a video screen and the dance floor. This club belonged to them.

"Although it was an all ages club, it really made me feel like I was going to a real club," she continues. "It had the feel of being a real legitimate club, and not being a thing for kids, even though it was for kids as an all-ages club."

Nearly every weekend, Erickson pressed her feet against large rectangular designs on the dance floor, where guys in combat boots would create mock mosh pits that were more polite than aggressive. She remembers Erasure songs playing often in the background.

While some people outside of the club took drugs and drank, Erickson said she never felt the pressure, "which was kind of nice."

"I did not drink. I did not do drugs. I didn't have sex then, and I didn't feel like that was a problem," she says.

And while a lot of beginning punk bands played Off the Alley, Erickson says she was more into the dance scene, but she never felt alienated from the punks.

"I'm 5 '2 and 115 pounds," she says. "I'm a tiny, little person. I was into the alternative music...but not super into the punk. I was more into the dancy kind of stuff. There was a whole mix of people there. I never felt like the people who listened to punk music had anything bad to say about me dancing."

Off the Alley- courtesy of Steven Barick.jpg

Off The Alley (Courtesy of Steven Barick)

Young Punks

Another part of the story begins with the people who were there for the music. Pretty soon, an article in the Chicago Sun-Times would label them "young punks," and the "new generation of rock 'n' rollers."

David Stein, 32, Dyer, Ind.

Stein was there for the music. He started going to the club in the fall of 1992. He was a teenager at the time and living in Dyer, Ind., about 20 minutes from Homewood.

Before he and his friends had licenses to drive, they would hang out at The Rink, an indoor skating club in Merrillville, Ind. But, Stein says in an e-mail, they all knew that "Off the Alley to us was the little big time. It had an entire audience outside of the kids we knew that were into the same music as us. It had a real stage and a sound guy and even employees serving expensive pop."

Stein played guitar in a band called Catch 22, and frequented Off the Alley on weekends to hear his favorite bands. Some of Stein's favorite bands playing there included The Queers, Snap Judgment, Sled, Winepress, The Bollweevils and Waco 51.

Catch 22 played its first show at the club in 1993, though Stein recalls that he wasn't sure how they would be perceived "because our style of punk was more of the early 80's LA style" à la Black Flag, Circle Jerks and The Germs, whereas a lot of the other bands playing the club liked the more melodic punk sound of bands such as The Queers and Screeching Weasel. "[We were] kids from northwest Indiana who wanted to make a name for ourselves and our scene," he remembers.

Stein also recalls the inside of the club, a kind of second home to many teenagers. "I remember it smelled like Clove cigarettes, and it was hot as hell," he says. "It had a small back room to store the equipment before the shows, which is where the bands would hang out. There [were] a few booths along the back wall, but mostly, it was standing room."

By the mid-'90s, Off the Alley had slowly established itself as a destination club. In a 1995 Chicago Sun-Times article on all-age clubs, freelance writer Mo Ryan describes Off the Alley as the club where kids "sport the dyed hair or suspenders-and-Doc Martens skinhead look of punk's first wave, and a few of them recycle the elitist attitudes that drove the punk scene into the musical fringes in the late '80s and early '90s." She quotes one unnamed high school student who jokes, "My mom used to think they sacrificed animals here. She thinks a lot of freaks hang out here."

In her article, Ryan points to the importance of the all-ages scene, quoting a young promoter who says he tells up-coming bands to play the local all-ages circuit first before setting eyes on bigger clubs such as the Metro. She also points to a problem that would haunt Off the Alley: the lack of money in all-ages venues because they cannot sell alcohol.

One of the kids quoted in the article is 15-year-old Eric Boyle, who played in several bands, including Johnny One Note, The Laxatives, Stillwell and Kotter. Boyle told Ryan, "I come here to support bands because when I'm in a band, I want people to come and see me. It's important to support the bands, even if they're bad. If people tell them they (stink), they'll get better." Boyle, now 29, still remembers how Off the Alley affected him.

Eric Boyle playing in Stillwell.jpg

Eric Boyle playing in Stillwell

Eric Boyle, 29, Chicago

Boyle grew up in Homewood, about a mile away from OTA. He was about 13 when he first started going the club, lured to the club by his brother Mike's friends.

"The first time I went was with one of my brother's friends. He was walking past our house on his way there and asked me if I wanted to go. I didn't go again for at least a year after that," he remembers in an e-mail interview.

That changed, however, during Boyle's freshman year of high school. One day, he and his friend Jesse Haskell were hanging out at Record Swap a lot, talking about music and starting a band. They chatted with Ryan DeYoung, who worked at Record Swap and booked bands for OTA, "and he invited us to see his band Winepress at Off the Alley. From then on I was pretty much a regular," Boyle recalls.

He and Haskell played their first show on December 31, 1993. Inside, he remembers mostly black walls "with some gray accents here and there." The inside of neo on Clark Street reminds him a bit of the club.

Beyond his band playing there, Boyle says some of the most memorable shows he saw there included Jawbreaker, some time in spring of 1994, and Lifetime in summer 1997. Though he says the club had a tendency to short change bands, this didn't stop a lot of great bands from playing there.

"OTA exposed us to underground music and really changed our lives in a lot of ways," he says. "I can't imagine what music I'd be listening to right now without it. It showed me that there was a lot of great music that wasn't getting played on the radio and MTV. I'm sure I'd be a completely different person if OTA never existed."

Boyle recently started playing music again in a band called Needle Age with some other musicians who played Off the Alley, though Boyle only met them recently.

John Benetti, 29, Chicago

Benetti began going to Off the Alley in 1992, when he was 13. A friend's band was playing, and he was "scared shitless," but he was still drawn to the club. "I was definitely an outcast and a place like that had a lot of appeal to me," he says in an e-mail interview. He ended up working at Record Swap and at Off the Alley from 1997 to 1999, booking bands and managing the sound.

What made the club special in Benetti's mind? "All ages / no booze / cheap tickets / great bands / strong scene. You don't see that combo anymore in Chicago," he says.

Every time he walked in the club, he remembers it being dark, and "it was always pretty full and smokey. It was also very intimidating when I was 13/14. [There were] a lot of older people who all seemed to know each other. Years later, you realized that everyone pretty much felt the same way."

Some of his favorite bands included Jawbreaker, "the band that defined that era for me," The Bollweevils and Winepress.

Aaron Keefner, 27, Chicago

One of the youngest among the group, Keefner started going to the club in 1993, when he was just 11 years old. He grew up in Glenwood, a small suburb neighboring Homewood. "I was attracted to Off The Alley because it had such a cool scene that hung out there," he recalls in an e-mail interview. "I loved the music they showcased and even if the bands sucked, it was a good place to spend a Friday or Saturday night."

When you first entered the club, Keefner remembers it being "totally black inside. You walked through the door, went down a short hallway, the bar was in front of you on the right, there was a small stage in the left front corner, and then booths in the back and this tall black thing in the back corner. I used to hop up on it and watch shows from up there."

Some of his favorite bands that played there included Alkaline Trio, who played some of their first shows there, as well as Tuesday, Mushuganas, Zoinks!, Boris The Sprinkler and two bands from H-F: Kotter, which Boyle played in, and AYA.

Like a lot of people who frequented Off the Alley, Keefner reiterates one simple thing about the club: "There really is no club like OTA anymore."

"A Pair"

Off the Alley closed when Record Swap went out of business in January 2000, just as all-ages clubs became less popular around the city and owning an independent record store became more challenging. Benetti, who worked at both Off the Alley and Record Swap, blames part of its demise on "bad management, stealing employees, and an overall sense of 'spread too thin.'" He remembers that Winepress may have been booked to play one of the last shows on Halloween or November 1. Though Winepress's exact playlist that night isn't known, it's likely the band may have played "Stay Awhile," now up on the band's MySpace page: "Well I've tried so hard for so long/And now nothing can go wrong/You and me, we make a pair/They say it's wrong, but I don't care/I'll meet you there."

Off the Alley Playlists:

Jessica Wolfe:
Front 242, "Headhunter"
Pailhead, "I Will Refuse"
Ministry, "Everyday is Halloween"
KMFDM, "More and Faster"
Soft Cell, "Tainted Love"
Nitzer Ebb, "Join in the Chant"
Thrill Kill Kult, "Kooler than Jesus"
Siouxsie and the Banshees, "Cities in Dust"
Depeche Mode, "Personal Jesus" (We'd always stomp the beat out very loudly when this came on)
The Smiths, "How Soon in Now" (always very popular)

Kristen Erickson:
Front 242, "Headhunter"
Deee-lite, "Groove Is in the Heart"
Siouxsie & the Banshees, "Cities in Dust"
PTP, "Rubber Glove Seduction"
Nitzer Ebb, "Join in the Chant"
Joey Beltram, "Energy Flash"
My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult, "Kooler Than Jesus"
Ministry, "Stigmata"
The Stone Roses, "Fool's Gold"
Pailhead, "I Will Refuse"
Front 242, "Welcome to Paradise"
Soft Cell, "Tainted Love"
The Cure, "Why Can't I Be You?"
Sisters of Mercy, "This Corrosion"
Nine Inch Nails, "Head Like a Hole"
Depeche Mode, "Personal Jesus"
The Smiths, "How Soon Is Now?"
The Shamen, "Progen"
Meat Beat Manifesto, "Psyche-Out"

Paul Rogers:
"When the night would start kicking, I would not play just '80s. Here is what I usually played when the place was at its peak."

Blur, "Boy and Girls"
NIN, "Closer"
My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult, "Kooler Than Jesus"
The Shamen, "Boss Drum (Beatmaster's mix)"
Dexy's Midnight Runners, "Come On Eileen"
Kon Kan, "I Beg Your Pardon"
Bjork, "Big Time Sensuality"
Deee-Lite, "Groove is In the Heart"
K.M.F.D.M., "Lights"
M.A.R.R.S., "Pump Up the Volume"
Madonna, "Justify My Love"
Morrissey, "Interesting Drug"
Opus III, "It's a Fine Day"

"This list would keep people dancing non-stop!"

Eric Boyle:
The Bollweevils, "999 Stoney"
Oblivion, "Fear of China"
Lifetime, "The Boy's No Good"
Winepress, "Winona"
The Mushuganas, "Iowa"
Jawbreaker, "Do You Still Hate Me?"
The Smoking Popes, "Not That Kind of Girlfriend"

About the Author:

Sheila Burt is a freelance writer based in Chicago and Gapers Block contributor.

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Sarah / May 28, 2009 2:56 PM

Loved the article! I have SO many pictures from Off The Alley...Used to go there all the time! Thank you for writing this, made me smile and get all scentimental sitting at work.

jessica / May 28, 2009 9:13 PM

I guess it was 1989, not 1988 when I started going there, given it didn't even open until 1989. Heh, they say the mind is the first to go ... I could have sworn it was 1988 when I first went. Loved the article. Thanks for the memories.

Lauren / May 29, 2009 7:23 AM

Yay for Fridays with DJ Shy at Off the Alley! I miss those days. :)

Rebecca / May 29, 2009 8:03 AM

Excellent, Sheila. This really took me back. Morrissey, The Smiths, The Cure, Nitzer Ebb, etc. I only went to Off The Alley my first two years of high school, but the music stuck with me the rest of my high school career. My sister and I loved Record Swap, and when we learned to drive, it was one of our main destinations. I was sorry to see it close, as I was exposed to so much great music through that store, and it was music I could afford, since they sold used.
Great writing here. I am feeling a little nostalgic right now...

Lisa / May 29, 2009 8:07 AM

Off the Alley was a blast. Almost broke my wrist when I got caught up in a mosh pit, but it was lots of fun anyway.

Chris / May 29, 2009 8:51 AM

Ahh, OTA. I worked at Record Swap for just over four years, right before OTA opened until late '93. Even though OTA wasn't a part of my youth (aside from selling lots of Depeche Mode, Nitzer Ebb and Wax Trax records to the kids), it was a great shot in the arm for an otherwise sleepy suburb. Nice article.

greg / May 29, 2009 10:47 AM

if the random gray hairs didnt make me feel old, this sure as hell did. thanks for this, though. sure opened up a floodgate of hazy memories.

used to date a girl that dragged me to ota all the time, and even though i put up a fight, i always secretly liked going. after we broke up, i dont think i ever went to ota again. but i would hit up record swap on a weekly basis, and spend hours digging for music i never knew i needed. this kind of behaviour lasted longer than i would care to admit.

i dont think there was a selfishly sadder day for me than the day i drove out to the swap in homewood from my apartment in the ukranian village to find that it had closed.

again, thanks...

Anne / May 29, 2009 10:47 AM

Thanks for the comments, everyone. If you have photos, feel free to add them to our Transmission Flickr pool.

James / May 29, 2009 11:49 AM

Great piece. Since I'm not originally from Chicago, I'll really be looking forward to more of this series. Even though I'm not familiar with OTA, these comments echo my memories of similar clubs I went to during those years.

JackW / May 29, 2009 1:53 PM

I really like the place and bugged the owner(s) to hire me as a bouncer. Being tall and skinny I was told 'no' but if I could cut a tape they'd consider me as a DJ. So I did and I DJ'd there from 1991 to 1994 as "Hate and Construction" focusing on Industrial music. I was attending school at Purdue at the time and would drive up every so often to spin. Often I'd spin one night then head into Chicago the next. Those were great days!

Sheila Burt / May 29, 2009 3:52 PM

Thanks for the comments, everyone!

Chris Hall / May 29, 2009 5:48 PM

I worked at Record Swap from `91 to `93 (with the other Chris who posted above) and again from `98 until the store and club closed. The only time I ever went in to OTA was to grab a mop or to eat lunch during the day, so it's interesting to read how much that little room meant to some people. I've forwarded the link to this article to one of the girls who ran the bar at OTA in the early `90s... maybe she'll have something interesting to ad.

Rich from Austin TX / May 29, 2009 10:02 PM

I bought my first punk record, Dead Kennedys - Bedtime For Democracy from record Swap around 1987. It changed my life, although I kept the mullet. I was too old to hang out at OTA but I saw some great shows. The Hush Drops and Wesley Willis to name a few. My old band The Jack Dempseys played there as well. It's like they say...They really don't make them like they used to.

Lara, R. Alsip, IL / June 1, 2009 1:58 AM

Very cool article...Even though I was not actually there, I appreciate the memories and comments on the artists played and the fans who showed support...

erin p - beverly hood / June 2, 2009 5:02 PM

Great article, brings me back (but I don't remember much from those days) - All I remember was being there often between '94 and '96, and that there were always great bands and FANTASTIC DJs. Thx for posting some of their sets - it's the same music I still dance to, with a few I've forgotten (i think?) :)

Jim - Rochester, NY / June 2, 2009 10:28 PM

Great article! It completely captures the spirit of what it was like to be there on a Friday or Saturday night. Off the Alley was a great (and safe) place to learn about how weird we all really are. Fantastic music and fantastic people to hang out with. Thanks for the memories!

Robbie Q. Telfer / June 7, 2009 1:22 AM

OTA was so important to my growth into whatever i am now. i actually wrote and perform a poem about my first experience there. it can be found here:

Rik / June 17, 2009 1:47 PM

There is a Facebook "fan" page for OTA with lots of pics. Link text

M / January 2, 2010 1:21 PM

This is an amazing article, if it wasn't for Off The Alley, I would have never felt like I belonged anywhere as a teenager. Thank you for the stroll down memory lane.

Kathryn / March 16, 2010 6:06 PM

Thank you for this article! If it wasn't for off the alley (and my older sister Jessica) I would have never been exposed to punk rock and true emo. Because of OTA i got to see many bands that kids today wish they had a chance to see. What a home away from home!

A.R. Siek / March 26, 2010 10:10 PM

I worked @ "Record Swap Homewood" from 01/95-12/96 and found this as I was looking up the old address. Great article!

Mike / July 19, 2010 7:37 PM

THANK YOU FOR THIS! It's been ages since I thought about Off The Alley but WHAT a scene that was! We used to go there from NW Indiana in the early 90s and stomp around to Pailhead and Front 242. I bought my first record at Record Swap - Siouxie & The Banshees "Peekaboo". So sad that they're gone. All-ages clubs are so important for nurturing musical scenes. Anyway, THANKS for the memories.

Saj Rudolf 36 Chicago / October 25, 2010 7:32 PM

I began OTA in 1990. I was a regular on Fridays until I switched to raves in late 1992. So many of the above opinions I share 100% Recently I was riding my bike from Chicago to Kankakee and I stopped by the old venue to reminis for a moment. I took notice to the South Side Anger sticker still there. I have to mention the cool clothing store Halloween that was there too. I would not be the same person without OTA either. I enjoyed this article, thanks.

Amy and Jolene / April 5, 2011 1:44 PM

Off the Alley was our regular Friday night hang out spot from '92 to '95. We couldn't wait for Fridays to come. We would spend the week deciding what to wear. Anything black would do accompanied by our clove cigarettes as the perfect accessories. Upon arrival, we were graciously greeted by Dave, the bouncer. Dave the bouncer was always so nice and friendly and because we built up a rapport with him, he would let us in free of charge. This article brings back tons of memories as well as hauntings of ex-boyfriends who have apparently posted comments about OTA.

Mike Johnson / August 1, 2011 2:35 AM

Fun times and great place to hang out with the old group. And being Dj Nitz fill in and replacement when he stepped down . Just filling the place every Friday night was well worth it back then.

Jenny Machura / January 6, 2013 7:56 PM

I miss that place, there are so many memories (both good and bad) and this article brought a lot of them back. If it weren't for that place and the people there and the music, I wouldn't be the same person.

John / March 22, 2013 1:20 PM

I played in Snap Judgment, and OTA was our home away from home. Lots of great shows, great memories and friends from Off The Alley.

KT Joy / March 23, 2013 1:48 PM

Thank you for writing this article. This club and the culture of this time period was a huge part of my teenage years. I really appreciate the club owners for providing a place for us all to hear music and dance at such a critical time in our formative years. I wish there were more places like this foor teenagers today. I look forward to the entire series of articles. There were so many great places back then, Off the Alley, Medusas, Fireside Bowl, that one place on Randolph St. where Zoe Orgamsa used to host Friday nights..Anyway,those were the places and the moments that really shaped so many lives when we were all so young. The music that came out of that time period was incredible. I still remember seeing Jawbreaker on there "24 Hour Revenge Therapy" tour at Off the Alley when I was maybe 14. That show is still one of the best shows I have ever seen in my life. Thanks to everyone who was a part of that time period. What an incredible group of weird, punk rock, alternative kids who took big risks to be themselves. I'm so lucky I was/am part of a culture created by people who needed to express themselves through art and music and dance.

Living Dead Girl Nicole / August 28, 2013 10:28 AM

Off the Alley.... man does that take me back!!! Now the suburbia kids have Another Hole In The Wall in Steger but Off The Alley was the place to rock out when I was younger.

Bill / December 9, 2013 9:17 AM

The band I played with moved practices spaces from Chicago to Homewood partly for Off the Alley and partly for the feta omelets at the diner around the corner. What was that diner called?

So many good people in Homewood, Benetti, DeYoung and Johnny.

Jaime Williams / December 9, 2013 9:22 AM


I saw this on Facebook, read your name at the top and was pleasantly surprised! - Great piece!

Ray / December 9, 2013 1:03 PM

great article. im kinda confused by something though -the ages next to the names of the people interview often dont add up. how can someone be 17 in 1990, but 35 now?

Sean / December 9, 2013 8:39 PM

I really wish they would have mentioned Dave the bouncer. When I started going in 1991 he really help look out for all of us kids and kept us out of trouble both inside and out. It's a shame to see Record Swap go, that place was bad ass. Until I started going to the Dummy Room, that was the best place to get music. I used to look forward to getting my shitty McDonalds paycheck and rolling there on the Metra from Richton Park. Fuck I feel old.

Mike McMillan / December 9, 2013 8:47 PM

So many great memories at Off The Alley!!! Can not believe no one made mention of AYA!

Wish they would have a reunion show of all the big bands from back in the day.

Amazing article!!

Jessica / December 9, 2013 9:08 PM

Ray - The article was written in 2009.

Rich Borys (Effect) / December 10, 2013 10:24 AM

Off the Alley was home to a lot of kids and young adults! But we can't forget that not only was off the Alley the home of punk but it was also home to the Hardcore underground scene and those who really were "true" to the Alley were there til the end. The Alley paved the way to the underground scene.

Chris Envy / December 10, 2013 8:02 PM

Wow, OTA. If not for Off The Alley my life would have been completely different. I never would have started AYA or Showoff, never lived the life I had. I see comments up there from an ex of mine too. Hope you are all doing well. Cool article even if it is from 4 years ago.

Michael Wright / December 13, 2013 6:30 PM

OTA was a great place to hang out.
OTA was a juice bar.
OTA had many juices but I never had 1.
Dancing on top of the box in the center of the floor made you feel like Dancing Queen.
OTA had a DJ booth.
Naked Ape
Mad Science is the crew that you must hear...
OTA had a band stage.
OTA had As Slow As Snails.
"Rock and Roll in Homewood"
"Rock and Roll in Homewood"
"Rock and Roll in Homewood"
"Rock and Roll in Homewood"
"Rock and Roll in Homewood"

electrikbill / February 25, 2014 9:01 PM

I was the Friday night DJ there from late 89ish to early 93. It is one of my favorite memories/experiences and helped shape who I am today. I'm thankful for all the friends I made there many of them I'm still close with today.

Mike / May 9, 2014 1:02 PM

Great Memories!!! I remember the first time my friends and I went to OTA in '93. I walk in and immediately saw Dave the bouncer who I knew well from my Hazel Crest days but hadn't seen in years...And by the end of the night I was hired as a bouncer. I got exposed to so much great music, met some great people, and have some great memories!

Terry / June 4, 2014 12:33 PM

I have the big neon outdoor sign that was mounted on the wall. It's in many pieces, but not broken. I was hoping to find a photo of the sign, but so far, no luck.

David J Chagoya / December 9, 2014 8:46 PM

Wow!!! talk about memories. working there was one of the most memorable times of my life. I had met some of the coolest people there.

Chris Junkie / December 29, 2014 12:10 PM

Ya! I remember OTA! Ive played there in some bands I was in (Saltine Junkie, Bleeding Emily, Gays in the Military- A Propaghandi Cover Band). Good times from my youth. The music is still with me today although Im more a metal head now since my college days. Ive since moved far away. I wounder if the buikding is still up/remodeled or completely gone! good times!

Matt / May 14, 2015 6:07 PM

i didnt start going until near the end, but i was there a lot at 14. I also hung out at record swap and annoyed the shit out of whomever was working that day. thats what us little punks did on the daily. i remember one of the employees, i think john, used to listen to cheap trick all the time , gave me four cigs and told me i could sleep in the garage in the alley as there was a hole in the door from a snowblower. i did not have a great relationship with my folks at the time, one could imagine. either way that was good service. thanks dude.

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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

Our Final Transmission Days

By The Gapers Block Transmission Staff

Transmission staffers share their most cherished memories and moments while writing for Gapers Block.

Read this feature »


  Chicago Music Media

Alarm Magazine
Big Rock Candy Mountain
Boxx Magazine
Brooklyn Vegan Chicago
Can You See The Sunset From The Southside
Chicago Reader Music
Chicagoist Arts & Events
Chicago Music Guide
Chicago Singles Club
Country Music Chicago
Cream Team
Dark Jive
The Deli Chicago
Jim DeRogatis
Fake Shore Drive
Gowhere Hip Hop
The Hood Internet
Jaded in Chicago
Largehearted Boy
Little White Earbuds
Live Fix Blog
Live Music Blog
Loud Loop Press
Oh My Rockness
Pop 'stache
Pop Matters
Resident Advisor
Sound Opinions
Sun-Times Music Blog
Theft Liable to Prosecution
Tribune Music
UR Chicago
Victim Of Time
WFMU's Beware of the Blog
Windy City Rock


Abbey Pub
Andy's Jazz Club
Aragon Ballroom
Auditorium Theatre
Beat Kitchen
Bottom Lounge
Buddy Guy's Legends
The Burlington
California Clipper
Concord Music Hall
Congress Theater
Cubby Bear
Double Door
Elbo Room
Empty Bottle
Green Mill
The Hideout
Honky Tonk BBQ
House of Blues
Kingston Mines
Lincoln Hall
Logan Square Auditorium
Mayne Stage
The Mutiny
Old Town School of Folk Music
Park West
The Promontory
Red Line Tap
Reggie's Rock Club & Music Joint
The Riviera
Thalia Hall
The Shrine
Symphony Center
Tonic Room
Uncommon Ground
The Vic
The Whistler

  Labels, Promoters
  & Shops:

Alligator Records
Beverly Records
Bloodshot Records
Dave's Records
Delmark Records
Drag City
Dusty Groove
Flameshovel Records
Groove Distribution
He Who Corrupts
Jam Productions
Jazz Record Mart
Kranky Records
Laurie's Planet of Sound
Minty Fresh
Numero Group
mP Shows
Permanent Records
Reckless Records
Smog Veil Records
Southport & Northport Records
Thick Records
Thrill Jockey Records Touch & Go/Quarterstick Records
Victory Records

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Transmission is the music section of Gapers Block. It aims to highlight Chicago music in its many varied forms, as well as cover touring acts performing in the city. More...
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