Diving by the lake – VenuesNow


ACT OF FAITH: Dan O’Conor, whose dives in Lake Michigan raised funds for independent venues, is often accompanied by Chicago musicians, including Bruce Lamont on saxophone. (Derick Smith / Courtesy of Dan O’Conor)

How the Great Lake Jumper benefited Chicago sites

By Dan O’Conor

In June 2020, I started making a daily jump to Lake Michigan to momentarily escape the turmoil, divisions and stress of the pandemic (as well as my son’s high school graduation hangover. the day before). Little did I know it would turn into more than 365 consecutive days, through Chicago winds, rains, snow and ice (which had to be cracked with a shovel) and ended up raising money for independent sites.

WAVES OF SUPPORT: Johnny Russo (with guitar) and Tim and Katie Tuten of Hideout and the Chicago Independent Venue League with O’Conor. (Derick Smith / Courtesy of Dan O’Conor)

I am a fan of live music and have seen over 6,800 shows during my time on this earth. From Schubas and the Metro to the Mercury Lounge to Stubbs and well beyond, I know firsthand the importance of small independent clubs in the American touring ecosystem.

It is from these small stages that groups can learn their craft and grow to attract larger crowds. These small businesses are the testing ground for a multi-billion dollar business. Sadly, they were also the first to close and the last to reopen during this pandemic.

I started playing musicians at the Chicago Lakefront in January and partnered with CIVLChicago.com, which is affiliated with the National Independent Venue Association, to

ness and money for local Chicago sites. I’ve had over 90 artists performing with my jumps including members of Windy City royalty like Jon Langford, Jeff Tweedy, and even Steve Albini. In the process, we have raised over $ 10,000 and are counting towards the sites.

If my little feat of jumping into the lake raised awareness of these creative opportunities and moved the needle, then I’m happy to be a part of this evolving story. I’ve seen the Black Keys, Kings of Leon, Cage the Elephant, My Morning Jacket, Foo Fighters and many more at these general admission clubs. And it’s a pleasure to see them climb to great heights and world stages. This, of course, would not be possible without the small independent club system in America.

Dan O’Conor is the founder of DtoxDesigns, which makes stenciled rock products and can be found posting @TheRealDtox on Instagram. T-shirt purchases for the benefit of the Chicago Independent Venue League can be made at www.DtoxDesigns.com.


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