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Why Wicker Park Needs Double Door

As the stalwart club faces potential eviction, one wonders where its fringiest events might land.

Photo: Martha Williams

As Chicago performance venues go, Double Door falls squarely in the middle of the pack. It possesses neither the beauty of the Chicago Theatre nor the defining subculture found at the electronic music haven Smart Bar. But for two decades, the Wicker Park dive has been a hub for progressive culture and consistently served as a respite for the diverse and underappreciated bubbling just outside the mainstream. Which is why, as Double Door faces eviction, the club’s legacy deserves a second look.

When Double Door opened in 1994, Wicker Park was just entering the early stages of gentrification. At the time the neighborhood—famously the playground for such alt-rock stars as Liz Phair and Billy Corgan—was Chicago’s home for cutting-edge culture. A lot has changed in the past two decades—more million-dollar condos, fewer grungy bars—but Wicker Park is still the site for one of the most culturally rich scenes in the city, and at its center sits Double Door.

Take CumbiaSazo!, a roving cumbia and tropical bass night that planted roots at Double Door in 2011. The monthly (-ish) party is anchored by tropical music and dance. Over the past five years, CumbiaSazo! has found a strong local audience and has even expanded and launched a national touring version of the party. There’s also Push Beats, another regular party at Double Door, featuring DJs as its main attraction rather than veiled keepers of the playlist. Though Chicago is considered the birthplace of house music, the city has fewer and fewer places where old-school fans of the genre can find off-center music to groove to. Push Beats, for now, fills that void.

Similarly, Double Door’s venue within a venue, Door No. 3, serves as a club for those who eschew clubs. As chichi retail inches toward ubiquity in Wicker Park, Door No. 3 remains a throwback to the tavern-like bars that saw the rise of Chicago’s music scene.

It’s niches like these that represent the new face of Double Door—one that morphed to reflect the changing Chicago. The venue has housed an array of fringe subcultures in its existence, and without it, who knows where they might land. Chicagoans deserve a place like Double Door, for now and forever.

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