Zaragoza has once again been left out of the world tour of Rosalía, the most internationally recognized Spanish singer. nor his despisenor his cupcake they will sound live in Aragonese lands, but it will in another Aragón, a little further away, 7,000 kilometers away. The Barcelona singer will perform next September 28 in Chicago, in one of the most mythical dance halls of this great American city and whose name is extremely familiar. The Aragon Ballroom It is an emblematic venue that has welcomed the main stars in rock history since its opening in 1926 and shares the name of the autonomous community. Probably, very few of the pedestrians who pass through 1106 W. Lawrence Avenue, the street in the north of the city where it is located, wonder about the origin of the name that appears on a colorful sign of the no less colorful facade that unites Aragón with this enclosure, and possibly they are unaware that it is due to the fact that it is freely inspired by the architectural style of La Aljafería. The moldings of its ceilings, the columns in an Andalusian patio that recreates in a sui generis way the main patio of the Muslim palace and the layout of the spaces belong to an architectural style that caused a furor at the beginning of the 20th century, the neo-Moorish.
The owners of this room, two brothers of Greek origin who had emigrated to the United States, Andrew and William Karzas, spared no expense for its construction and invested up to two million dollars at the time. The Karzas brothers had another prestigious venue in downtown Chicago, the Trianon, inspired by the French palaces of Versailles. Thanks to the rapid success of the Trianon, they embarked on the adventure of founding another to the north of the city. For this they had the architects Ralph Huszagh, Boyd Hill and John Eberson, renowned architects and specialists in concert halls. Charles A. Sengstock, in his book That Toddlin’ Town: Chicago’s White Dance Bands and Orchestras, 1900-1950 explains the remote inspiration that these architects had when building the Aragon Ballroom: “The architects conceived the design of the place imitating the courtyard and interiors of a Muslim castle in Aragon, an ancient kingdom that preceded present-day Spain.” This is one of the few references that directly mention the origin of this room and why its name.
Several decades after its opening, in 1963, Andy Karzas, son of one of the owners, mentions the origin of the premises on a radio show on the Studs Terkel mentions the origin of his premises, although in this case he confuses the name of the palace: “In the Aragon there are many memories of Spain, because it is inspired by the Alhambra, the Palace of Aragon”. The current managers of the premises admit that there are few references. Speaking to eldiario.es, the manager of the Aragon Ballroom, Erasmo Ibarra, states: “There is hardly any documentation, but we do know that the Karzas brothers made a trip to various cities in Spain. They were fascinated by their culture and when they arrived in Chicago they wanted to pay homage to what they saw by creating this room”.
Obviously, the inspiration for both the Alhambra and the Aljafería is remote, interpreted by some architects whose premise was to build a prestigious venue, which would put an end to the bad reputation of the fashionable venues of the time, linked to prostitution and consumption of drugs. To the Aragon Ballroom It was accessed by a neo-Moorish style carpeted staircase and pompous decorative figures and had several floors. In the early years there were daily performances by the big jazz bands for a venue that had a capacity of between 700 and 4,000 people. You couldn’t dance close together and men had to wear a suit and tie. The women, evening dresses. A large courtyard was intended to simulate the open spaces of the Muslim palace, although the effect is not entirely successful. Despite the prestige that was intended with this room, and which declined in the 60s of the last century, legend has it that Al Capone himself was a regular at the parties that were held there.
In the Aragon Ballroom, before Rosalía, the main music stars of the last century and the great rock bands have performed. From Frank Sinatra to The Doors, through Bob Dylan, Nirvana, Joe Cocker, The Gratefull Dead, Aerosmith, Metallica, The Flamming Lips, Muddy Waters, REM or The Clash, among other great music figures.
Aragonese who have played in the Aragon
The Chicago room has also hosted performances by Aragonese who are already included in the prestigious list of performers who have passed through this venue. This is the case of Distrito 14, which performed twice in 1999, once with Los Fabulosos Cadillacs and another with the Mexican band Jaguares; and Enrique Bunbury, who has also done it twice: in 2011 and 2014. Chicago is precisely the place where the ex-Heroes del Silencio singer decided to cancel his tour this year due to problems with his voice and which later meant his retirement , for the moment definitive.