So, Sunn O))) Walks Into A Church And...

by Matthew Dean, Director, University Chapels (AB '00)
photos by Eden Sabala and James Richards IV

Since 2015, Rockefeller Chapel has curated concert experiences for students and all Chicagoans thanks to a partnership with Empty Bottle Presents (EBP), the production and curatorial arm of Empty Bottle. This community collaboration originally centered on a scaling up of imagination from what was possible at EBP’s bustling Hyde Park venue, The Promontory.

“Rockefeller Chapel in and of itself is breathtaking,” says Brent Heyl, Partner, Empty Bottle Presents. “Empty Bottle Presents is constantly seeking out beautiful and unique spaces in which to produce concerts, and Rockefeller feels to be the crown jewel of those pursuits. Every show feels like a special moment in time. Without fail, people mention that it was an experience they will never forget.”

In true neo-Gothic style, the concerts are filled to the vaulting with fog and light, awe-inspiring to those taking the stage, and ecstatically reviewed in the rock press. Students first in line or working the concerts have been able to see talent like Low and Peter Murphy for free. Community members have discovered they can attend the space by day for carillon tower climbs, Zen meditation, or Sunday services, and have returned. Artists using our Chapel offices for green rooms have reflected on getting a start performing in churches and basements and campus backyards. Shared social causes are even articulated: Tegan and Sara and their concert rider helped the chapel make the case for a new accessible gender-neutral restroom and green room opening fall 2019 in the lower level. 

By the numbers

12 concerts
8000+ attendees
20 major outlet reviews
1 Rockefeller wedding from a first date at these concerts

2018_Rockefeller_Kranky_LightShow_Eden Sabala_43.JPG

Talent over the years

Jose Gonzalez
Godspeed You! Black Emperor
Tegan and Sara
Kranky label retrospective with Ambient Church 
Peter Murphy of Bauhaus
Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile
Sunn O)))

For more information on upcoming events, visit and sign up for the Empty Bottle Presents mailing list at