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« Preview: Lollapalooza 2012 - Saturday Highlights Preview: Lollapalooza 2012 - Sunday Highlights »

Interview Wed Aug 01 2012

Concert for a Cause: Interview with Nelarusky's Lauren McClusky

Each year, Lollapalooza's pre-shows seem to gain more and more buildup; which of Lolla's prized acts will be featured at a more intimate setting before the festival begins? This year, Lollapalooza pre-shows sold out in mere minutes, seemingly becoming more in demand than ever before. Young entrepreneur Lauren McClusky has forged her own path for her fledgling benefit concert turned Lollapalooza pre-show, known as Nelarusky, which this year features headliner Alabama Shakes, as it has transformed into a powerful benefit concert event positively impacting the Chicago music scene, and the world beyond.

Lauren McClusky has traversed the music scene well over early on in her career; after working in publicity, at venues, and in planning Nelarusky year after year, McClusky has distinguished Nelarusky as a strong annual music event. The term "Nelarusky" itself is a combination of the letters in Lauren McClusky's name, after a squabble with McDonald's left the original event name "McFest" back in the dust.

"We were trying to come up with a new name and one of the volunteers shouted it out. It kind of just stuck, because people thought having a name like that would stand out a little more than something else," McClusky stated.

Not only has Nelarusky grown immensely over its six year run, but it also provides music while making a difference; proceeds from the concert go directly towards the Special Olympics charity. McClusky stated that Special Olympics has been a special organization in the hearts of her family, as they traveled over the U.S. and different parts of the world volunteering for the cause. Therefore, there was no question in her mind when choosing the charity to be the beneficiary of the concert's success.

Nelarusky sprung from humble beginnings to grow to where it is today; when McClusky was a junior in high school, she was friends with a local band that was interested in putting on a benefit concert. Collaborating with the owner of the Metro and others, McClusky was able to put on the first benefit concert event. "At first it was just a big local high school event. Obviously I wanted to continue doing it after that. The same year it became Nelarusky, C3 took it under its wing as a Lollapalooza pre-show, and it pretty much just grew from there," McClusky explained.

The connection to Lollapalooza afforded McClusky and team a greater choice of options to headline the event, but still allowed them to keep a focus on local artists, a pillar of Nelarusky. McClusky aimed to showcase larger bands, but also to introduce bands fresh to the Chicago music scene to the benefit concert's audience. This year, McClusky chose group Alabama Shakes to headline, with opening acts First Aid Kit, Dry the River, and Filligar.

"We booked [Alabama Shakes] a long time ago, and it was kind of with the prediction that they would explode just because of all the buzz that was starting. I saw them live just before we decided to go with them and I was blown away by their live show. I just felt strongly that they would be a great decision," McClusky proclaimed. She had also seen First Aid Kit put on a stellar live show recently, and felt that the sound of Dry the River and Filligar fit perfectly with the two initial picks.

Now you've likely heard about Alabama Shakes a good deal, but Nelarusky's three opening acts are all up-and-coming forces to be reckoned with. First Aid Kit, Swedish sister duo, released album The Lion's Roar this year, which features beautiful harmonies and an impassioned folk style. Their songs reflect subjects of heartache and pain, with some light folk numbers sprinkled amidst the heavier material. Catch First Aid Kit as Lollapalooza's first act of the day on Friday, beginning at 12pm at the Playstation Stage. Take a listen to "Blue" below to get a sense of their fresh folk style:

Dry the River is a group hailing from London, featuring a more hushed, introspective folk style. Fans of Bon Iver and Mumford and Sons will quickly appreciate Dry the River's sound, which combines strong rock backdrops with amplified vocals. They released their latest album, Shallow Bed, this year as well, and will delight concertgoers with their style that will no doubt draw everyone's attention. Check out their sound for yourself at Lollapalooza on Friday, with a set starting at 3:20pm at the BMI stage.

Keeping an emphasis on local talent, native group Filligar embodies a more gritty, alt-rock sound. Their vibe is upbeat and energetic, with their catalog influenced by a range of musical styles, from blues, to rock, and even to breathtakingly beautiful instrumental numbers. All three of these acts will become a must-see this evening at Nelarusky.

McClusky spoke about a moment that resonates with her every year: a defining moment of Nelarusky, and how the fusion of music and charitable giving has culminated in one amazing evening year after year.

"We always have a Special Olympics global messenger speak at the event. I was standing on stage next to her, and she was just beaming. She would take pauses every so often, and the crowd was just cheering for her. It was so exciting to be a part of all of that," McClusky noted.

This year's Nelarusky has already surpassed its fundraising goal, and is proud to continue efforts for the Special Olympics. Though the concert is sold out, you can still aid the cause by donating to Nelarusky via the event website.

Nelarusky will be held at the Metro tonight, with headlining act Alabama Shakes and opening acts First Aid Kit, Dry the River, and Filligar. Doors open at 6pm, with music beginning at 7pm. This show is currently sold out. The Metro is located at 3730 N. Clark, (773) 549-4140.

 
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