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Young Camelot Club Shut Down After Party Spins Out of Control, Man Attacked

By Alisa Hauser | January 21, 2016 6:36am
 Young Camelot, an under-the-radar
Young Camelot, an under-the-radar "DIY"music venue at 2733 W. Hirsch St. in Humboldt Park
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DNAinfo/Alisa Hauser

HUMBOLDT PARK — The violent night that got the underground Young Camelot club in Humboldt Park shut down this month wasn't supposed to play out the way it did, one of its founders says.

What was supposed to be an after-party for fans coming from a show at the Metro turned into a bigger-than-expected bash, bringing out the police and leading to a fight that left a Florida man nearly unconscious and with a broken jaw.

One witness described the scene as "pandemonium" after police tried to clear out the Jan. 9-10 party inside a converted Jehovah's Witness church at 2733 W. Hirsch St.

But the night wasn't in keeping with Young Camelot's tradition as a "DIY" arts collective that hosts small shows, co-founder Joey Eichler insisted.

"It was a one-in-a-million thing that ended up being really, really bad," said Eichler, who started Young Camelot out of a Logan Square apartment with roommates before moving it to the old church, where he lives ... for now.

Eichler said his lease at the converted church had been terminated as a result of the incident.  

"We are part of a collective here; it's also our residence for a short time longer," Eichler said of the group, which has about 12 members (not all of whom live onsite, he said) and provides a venue for independent artists to put on concerts, film screenings, art shows and plays.

The building's property manager said he didn't know the 4,500 square-foot venue was being used for concerts until the police broke up an after-party featuring DJs connected to rapper Kirk Night, who'd performed earlier in the night at the Metro.

Eichler said Young Camelot was not a music club, but more of "an idea place" to host small events of an artistic nature, mostly music.

And the Jan. 9 show was supposed to be another small event — and a private one, Eichler said.

"This is the first time we ever worked with an outside promoter. It was freezing cold; we were expecting it to be a small event," he said.

But Eichler said "It dawned on us around midnight that every time you looked up, another group of people were showing up. They were treating it like a club; we didn't want to antagonize new audience members and turn them away."

About 1 a.m. Jan. 10, police arrived to break up the party and about 200 people were streaming out, witnesses said.

That's when 19-year-old Andrew Ahrens, who was at the party, said he was attacked.

The last thing Ahrens says he remembers is "everyone was moving toward the door" of the old church, which is not licensed for hosting performances.

"Everyone was pushing me and the person in front of me misread the push," sparking an attack, he said.

"I'm so confused with the whole situation. I'm still in shock," Ahrens said Tuesday, adding he thinks he was struck by "multiple people, not just one person."

"It happened so fast," he said.

Eichler, a musician and member of the band Soddy Daisy, said the impetus for forming Young Camelot was Chicago's artistic infrastructure, which is hard to get into, especially in fields like film.

"With a DIY spirit, if you can get friends together to put up a screen, it's a great way for filmmakers and artists to get their work seen," Eichler said.

Before moving into the church three years ago, the group hosted shows in a five-room apartment in Logan Square. Eichler told Logan Squarist in May 2012 that Young Camelot was looking for a new location because they wanted to expand.

"We have always tried to be conscious of our neighbors. The first thing we did when we got [to the church] was sound test it," Eichler said.

On the night of the crowded show, Eichler said he and other collective members were patrolling outside the house to be sure people were not vandalizing property or drinking in the street.

Though Young Camelot does not have a liquor license, a Logan Square man who asked not to be named and said he attended dozens of shows there, said the group sells beer but not liquor and checks IDs to make sure beer drinkers are over 21.

When asked why they never pursued getting a Public Place of Amusement license from the city, which could legally allow events such as the ones Young Camelot was hosting, Eichler responded, "We spend our time creating and facilitating art ...  We'd rather not say much else at this time.  We just wanted to illustrate that [the Jan. 9-10 event] was not in keeping with our tradition."

Eichler declined to share images of events at Young Camelot with DNAinfo but sent photos of canned food that was collected by the group, which made a Christmas-time donation to the Greater Chicago Food Bank; a photo of a mural that a South Side Latina art collective painted or a women's art festival at the venue and a backyard vegetable garden.

Photos shared by Eichler to show Young Camelot's community impact [Young Camelot]

On Neighborhood Square, several readers were saddened over the apparent shutdown of Young Camelot.

"It is truly unfortunate to see YC go down this way. I've attended many shows and have always admired their dedication to maintaining a safe and welcoming environment," one reader said.

Greg Stephen Reigh, a filmmaker, said that he participated in Young Camelot's monthly film screening series, "The Wretched Nobles of the Exiled Dynasty," which chooses a theme each month and reaches out to the local filmmaking community for entries.

"All entries into the screening series are completely free of charge and the event collects donations as part of a filmmaker fund to help fund local independent and underground cinema," Reigh said.


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