Our StoryFront of building photo by Joe Pellegrini

In October of 1994, after eating lunch at a diner, I drove 10 blocks North on Lincoln Avenue past 48 closed storefronts to sign a lease on the old post office building at 3855 North Lincoln. After 5 years of booking bands, promoting concerts, mixing live sound and studio projects on the North side of this city, I felt confident about creating a good venue in this space. I had done every restaurant and bar job from bus boy, dishwasher, bartender, cook, fine dining waiter, and front of house manager since grade school and played hundreds of gigs, but I had no cash- just a business plan that didn’t include failure.

SidAlong with 3 friends, who were my partners for the first 2 years, and a crew of fellow Annoyance Theatre members, we attacked the building with hammers and pry bars, quoting lines from ”Full Metal Jacket” and drinking what was left of the 6 month old beer from a former failed business at this address.

The demolition went quickly, but there was still no cash. Thankfully, through small loans from some friends and family, we were able to keep the rent paid and buy some materials. Up to the day of the lease signing, there was still no name for the business plan. My partners and I could not agree on a name; so, I wrote Martyrs’ on the plan, in reference to Miles the leap of faith we were taking and jobs we were leaving to make this project happen.

Despite the name, the business plan looked good enough for the SBA to loan us enough money to buy a sound system, pay our workers and get the doors open. I passed out tabletops to some artistic friends, who painted them with portraits of their favorite musicians. Since the name was Martyrs’, I told them they had to be dead musicians. Now, like a song that writes itself, there was a concept in place. Martyrs’ would be dedicated to the musicians who give WhitleyChris Whitley photo by Flynn their life to their art.

Great shows started happening immediately, and over the years, there have been many magical performances: Chris Whitley’s abstract blues power, the pure musical beauty that is Oregon, the ferocity of a first rocket ship launch in the playing of John Entwistle or Sonny Fortune, the joy of Adrian Belew creating sounds with electric guitar never imagined until seconds before we heard it here in this room, Pete Townshend telling his arrhythmic audience “I'd prefer if you didn't clap” as he shows us why he is so deservedly a rock icon, the absolute silence of a capacity crowd to Saul Williams’s piquant words only minutes after he worked that same crowd into a loud screaming frenzy with his band, the profound rhythm of Arty McGlynn’s guitar accompaniment or Dennis Chambers at the drums.


Gov't MuleGov’t Mule photo by Will ByingtonThe underplays and high profile shows are always exciting, but what is most satisfying for me is to see the progression of young musicians over the years as they hone their craft and achieve success. The regular weekly, monthly and quarterly gigs here have given the artist a stage to figure it out. Martyrs’ is the birthplace of the hilarious and musically excellent Brian O’Hern and the Model Citizens. And, with your support, John Kadlecik has gone from Hairball Willie to Dark Star Orchestra to playing with Phil Lesh and Bob Weir in Furthur, Glenn Kotche has played with Paul K. and Wilco, Andrew Bird hosted folk shows on Sundays, played with Squirrel Nut Zippers, with Kevin O’Donnell in Bowl of Fire, and on to indie pop stardom. Dana Hall is an internationally respected master of the drums and cymbals. And soon the world will recognize the potent songwriting talent of Jeffery Ham.

Martyrs’ would not be possible without the work and daily commitment of its staff and the support of our neighborhood and city. We are fortunate to be in the world’s greatest music city. Artists in Chicago have developed communities in so many different genres- rock, blues, jazz, classical, hip hop, house, reggae, folk, country & numerous traditional ethnic styles- performed daily at their highest level. We’ve heard them together on this stage. Thanks for checking it out.

     Rock hard. Ride free.

     Ray Quinn

Past Shows/ArtistsPete Townsend photo by John "Nunu" Zomot

Adele Adrian Belew Adrian Legg Albert Lee Alejandro Escovedo Alan White Alexi Murdoch Allan Holdsworth ALO Andrew Bird Andy Summers Angus & Julia Stone TheAnimals Image
Spoon photo by Will Byington Antigone Rising Aqualung The Aristocrats Arty McGlynn Assembly of Dust Auktyon Autumn Defense Baaba Maal Back Door Slam TheBad Plus La Banda Manzanera Beck Benevento/Russo Duo Bernie Worrell Bert Jansch Bill Bruford Bill Kreutzmann Billy Sheehan The Black Keys Bloque Blue Rodeo Bob Schneider Bob Mould Bobby Cochran Boban Markovic Orkestar Bobby Broom Bonerama Brandon Flowers Brand X Brett Dennen Bruce Cockburn Cake Califone California Guitar Trio Chris Squire Chris Whitley Charlie Hunter The Coral Cornmeal Dale Watson Dark Star Orchestra Darryl Jones Dave Pegg Dave Weckl David Lindley Derek Trucks Dead Kenny G's with Les Claypool and Larry LaLonde of Primus Death Cab for Cutie Dengue Fever Dennis Chambers Dirty Dozen Brass Band Disco Bicuits Dishwalla Disturbed Ditty Bops Diverse Donal Lunny Donna the Buffalo Doodlebug Drums & Tuba The Duhks Ed Harcourt Eddi Reader Edie Brickell & New Bohemians Ekoostik Hookah Image
Beck & MGMT photo by Will Byington Eels Extra Golden Frank Marino & Mahogany Rush
Fishbone Freddy Jones Band Fred Armisen Freedy Johnston Gaelic Storm Garage A Trois Garaj Mahal Gavin Harrison Gem Gilbey Clarke Givers Glen Hansard Glen Yarlborough The Gourds Gov't Mule Grace Potter & the Nocturnals Graham Parker The Greenhornes Hanggai Hank Williams III Hot Buttered Rum Hot Tuna Howard Levy Ian Hunter Ian Moore ICP Orchestra Ike Reilly Imelda May Ingrid Michaelson  Ivan Neville's Dumpstaphunk Jack Johnson Jackie Greene James Hunter James Burton James McMurtry James Morrison Jay Farrar Image
The Pretenders photo by Will Byington Jeff Tweedy Jesse Malin Jet Jimmy Carl Black Jimmy Chamberlain Joe Ely Joe Firstman John Entwistle John Hammond Johnny Frigo Jon Brion Jon Fishman Jon McLaughlin Johnny Society Joshua Redman Justin Nozuka Karan Kasey Kasey Chambers Karsh Kale Kathleen Edwards Kevin Burke Keane King King's X Laura Mvula Laurence Nugent Leftover Salmon Liz Carroll Local H Los Hombres Calientes Los Lobos Los Van Van Lotus Lunasa Mad Professor Magma Mantwila Francois Nyombo Martin Hayes & Dennis Cahill Mason Jennings Mekons Mercury Rev Me'Shell Ndegeocello MGMT Micheal Franti Mike Clark Mike Doughty Mike Keneally Image
Deathcab for Cutie photo
by Will Byington
Mike Stern Missy Higgins Mofro Monte Montgomery Mucca Pazza M Ward Nels Cline Singers Niacin Nice Peter Of Monsters and Men Oregon Oteil & the Peacemakers OURS Pardoner Pat & Jimmy of the Smithereens Paul Kelley Pepe Kalle & Rigo Star Pete Townshend Pete Yorn Peter Blegvad Peter Erskine Peter Green Pierre Bensusan PJ Wright Poi Dog Pondering Porcupine Tree Present The Pretenders Project Object feat. Ike Willis, Napolean Murphy Brock, & Don Preston Rachel Barton Railroad Earth RAQ Ray Anderson Razorlight Regina Spektor Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers Rebirth Brass Band Reverend Horton Heat Rhymefest Ricky Skaggs Richard Pinhas Robbie Fulks Robert Walters 20th Congress Ron Sexsmith Rose Hill Drive Rufus Wainright The Samples Sara Bareilles Saul Williams Scott Henderson/Gary Willis & Tribal Tech Scrawl Shelby Lynne Shellac Image
Imelda May photo
by Will Byington
Sia Sierra Leone's Refugee Allstars Slavic Soul Party Solas Sonia Dada Son Volt Sonny Landreth Spoon Steve Earle Steve Kimock Band Steve Smith Strangefolk Stu Hamm Suzanne Vega Toubab Krewe Tabu Ley Rochereau Tegan and Sara Terry Bozzio Thomas Dolby Tim Finn Tim O'Brien Tiny Tim Todd Snider Tony Levin Tragically Hip Trey Gunn Umphrey's McGee The UnGnomes Van Hunt VAST Vic Chesnutt Vieux Farka Toure Vince Gill Vince Welnick Vital Information Vinnie Colaiuta Waco Brothers Wanda Jackson Wallflowers Warren Haynes Wayne Kramer Wayne Krants Wilco Yard Dogs Road Show The Yardbirds Yerba Buena Zakk Wilde Zap Mama