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Stage Buzz: Nelarusky

| July 30, 2013

Lollapalooza’s official for-charity preshow Nelarusky returns to the Metro on July 31, this year with headliners Imagine Dragons and Icona Pop. Now in its seventh year, Nelarusky has raised over $150,000 for Special Olympics Illinois. Last week, event founder Lauren McClusky sat down with Illinois Entertainer to tell us how Nelarusky went from a high school pet project to an annually sold-out rock concert.

Lauren McClusky

Illinois Entertainer: When did you organize your first Nelarusky?
Lauren McClusky: 2007, when I was a junior in high school. Some of my friends in a band really wanted to play a benefit concert. It [began as] a random idea to try and put something together for them, and turned into a benefit concert for Special Olympics. We booked a bunch of high school bands – friends of ours, basically. The first few years was a lot of high school, college, and local talent, and it grew from there. It became Nelarusky in 2010, after a settlement with McDonald’s, and Lollapalooza got involved the next year.

IE: You started as a junior in high school – that makes you how old, now?
LM: Twenty-three.

IE: You mentioned that you first organized the event as a showcase for your friends’ band. What inspired you to donate proceeds to charity? How did you decide on Special Olympics?
LM: My family has always been really involved with Special Olympics. I grew up volunteering – I’ve been to Ireland, China, and, Alaska for [Special Olympics] events, so it was a no-brainer because of how close my family is to the organization.

IE: How did you first hook up with Lollapalooza?
LM: My Dad [Jeff McClusky] is an independent radio promoter and he knew them, so he put us in front of them. It was a fortunate meeting.

IE: You’ve got some pretty serious names on the bill this year – Imagine Dragons, Icona Pop – how did you decide on these acts and how did you go about booking them?
LM: Imagine Dragons I’ve been a fan of for a long time. By the time we booked them, they were already a pretty big name, so it was exciting that we even had the chance to work with them. Icona Pop, though, at the time we booked them, weren’t well-known. I just really loved their music and sort of predicted that they were going to do well. It was lucky timing. And, obviously, we book the show through Lollapalooza, so that was a huge help.

IE: Tickets to this year’s event sold out in one minute; do you envision Nelarusky growing into something larger than a one-night event? Would you ever consider a venue larger than the Metro?
LM: Because of the Metro’s support throughout the years, it’s hard to think of having it anywhere else. We definitely have an appreciation for them and we’d love to continue there. But I might want to grow to other cities. That’s the only thing I’ve really thought about – taking it elsewhere in addition to Chicago.

IE: Anything you’d like to add about this year’s event?
LM: We’re currently pushing the Pledge Music campaign. which has VIP tickets available. That’s a way for people to get tickets if they missed it and want to donate to Special Olympics.

IE: What does a VIP ticket include?
LM: The upstairs area [of the Metro] is designated VIP only. We have sponsors present in the VIP lounge, and there will be giveaways for VIP members.

Imagine Dragons and Icona Pop appear as part of Nelarusky on July 31 at Metro (3730 N. Clark) in Chicago.

–Matt Pollock

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