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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Where to find music in Madison

Live entertainment'there's nothing like it. Whether you're buckling your favorite punk belt and lacing up your Doc Martens or putting on a black turtleneck and pleather pants, Madison pretty much attracts bands that fit your mold. There's no question that bands are coming into Madtown, but where are they plugging in their amps? Madison is home to several live entertainment venues, each with its own trademark characteristics.  




Not many people choose a show for its venue, but there are some things concert-goers can look forward to and be wary of at each establishment. Let's take a peek at the high and low points of some downtown venues (in no particular order) as well as some new venues popping up around Madison, and some venues that I wish would build a stage. 






Connected to the Regent Street Retreat, 1206 Regent St., The Annex offers a wide variety of acts each week. The Annex is no niche venue, featuring everything from metal to indie to acoustic lineups. Some memorable shows at the Regent Street club include Sleater Kinney, Man or Astro Man?, Juliana Hatfield, and most recently BRMC. The Annex isn't afraid to welcome local bands to its stage, which is quite honorable for a bar. Other establishments bank on the mass purchase of alcohol in order to make money and will only allow entertainers in that have a proven crowd draw.  


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Speaking of alcohol, however, The Annex doesn't usually offer all-ages shows. It is a bar and selling drinks is its main source of income, but it's not fair that the audience needs to be 21 to enjoy good music. If you're 19 and like the rock and roll, you'd better start growing a mustache. The only bonus of being a bar is that The Annex can pierce your eardrums with unlimited sound levels, and the downside is also that The Annex can pierce your eardrums with unlimited sound levels.  




The atmosphere at the Annex is overwhelmingly plain. It's a large room with black walls and floors and a bar (neon sign and all) at the back. The stage is well lit, but the surroundings are nothing to speak of. The clientele varies from show to show depending on the act. There is no real core audience. Admission prices also vary.  






Now here's a niche venue. Club 770, in Union South, traditionally offers two things: DJs and indie rock. If you're into either then you're in luck. Club 770 does an excellent job of pulling in the hottest indie acts from across the country. If it wasn't for the student-run music committee that books these bands, I'm sure none of the rockers would even put Madison on their tour map. Some of the more memorable shows at 770 include Dismemberment Plan, Rainer Maria and Burning Airlines. Another bonus is that almost every show at 770 is free. So save your pennies to buy a beer after the show because the club is alcohol and smoke free. But being alcohol free makes Club 770 all ages, all the time.  




Club 770's atmosphere is none too exciting. Think high school cafeteria. It's pretty cold and not aesthetically pleasing, with its linoleum floors and wooden tables and booths. Just stare dreamily into your favorite indie boy's emo glasses and you'll forget all about the surroundings.  






By day a coffeehouse, by night a homey, artsy venue. Electric Earth, 515 W. Washington Ave., houses many diverse acts from rock to jam and local to national. Some would picture the stereotypical coffeehouse beat poets complete with finger snaps and acoustic six-strings, but come on, Electric is right in the venue's name. Some shows worth reminiscing about are the Firebird Band, Aloha and countless local bands. One of the nicest things about Electric Earth is that the audience can choose its own adventure, so to speak. The employee at the door asks if you're drinking or not. If yes, they look at your ID and put a big black X on your hand, if no'no X for you. Wow, what a great idea. I think it's about time other venues follow the Electric Earth's lead (nudge, nudge). 




To top it all off, the double E surrounds concertgoers with blue walls and original paintings and offers cushy couches for heightened relaxation. The atmosphere is welcoming, comfortable and homey and the clientele is laid-back. Prices of shows vary but I've never paid more than $6 to walk through the door.  






The Atwood Ave. theater just ain't what it used to be. Nowadays it seems the jam band circuit has taken over. Really, how many times can Madison see the Big Wu or the Pink Floyd laser light show? Niche can be good, but at a large venue like the Barrymore, 2090 Atwood Ave., variety and balance should be observed. The latest and greatest shows at the Barrymore would have to be Sunny Day Real Estate last Halloween and Le Tigre this summer. The atmosphere at the Barrymore is usually pleasing, with an old-time-movie-theater aesthetic and shining star ceiling. It's big enough for bands that have a large following yet still intimate enough for everyone to really enjoy the show. Concertgoers can choose between folding seats in the balcony or on the floor, and the hard-core few can stand in the cramped open area in front of the stage. Shows are mostly to all-ages, but the option to buy beer is wide open. Barrymore shows are a bit pricier, but depending on the night it could be well worth the extra cash.  






The Orpheum, 216 State St., and the Civic Center, 211 State St., can be grouped under the same umbrella. They're both theaters more suited for acting and the big screen than live shows. But I can't blame them for using their space to display live entertainment. The Orpheum and Civic Center attract an older crowd with their more classic and acoustic rock lineups. Ticket prices get pretty steep around these parts, but if the theaters ever pique your interest with their acts, it might be worth investing. Just don't be surprised if you feel young. I think we all know what the Memorial Union Terrace is like, I'll skip that for now. I've never seen shows at the Inferno or the Cardinal Bar so I can offer no insight. 






So, there's a sampling of what's in Madison today, but let's look ahead to the near future. With the loss of O'Cayz Corral, The New Loft and The Mango Grill, many were left asking what would fill the void. I'm glad you asked, and I'm glad you keep asking. Someone is listening, as we shall see... 






Last summer good news finally came out of the ashes of both Club DuWash and O'Cayz Corral. Both of the clubs had the same fate, burning down in two separate incidents. After much public support for both venues, plans are in the works for the clubs to join forces and relocate on East Washington Avenue where the Buy and Sell Shop currently sits. The establishment got its liquor license approved this summer and seems to be getting off the ground without a hitch. Who knows when La Cherise will open, but one thing's for sure'it will bring local and national entertainment back to Madtown in a big way, as well as a sense of victory and renewed spirit for many.  






Formerly Dudley's on Park Street, this newly opened bar is determined to display local acts. The venue, 614 S. Park St., is highly dedicated to the blues as a carryover from Dudley's, but is also open to anything rock. Watch for fliers with band lineups in your area.  






Now that we've looked at all the facts, let's dive into my fantasy world of venues that I wish would build a stage and buy a PA.  






This bar just screams live entertainment. The clientele is already hip enough to pump the jukebox for a variety of tunes; why not give it to them live? It may get a little rowdy at times, but come on, that's exactly what Madison needs'raw, in-your-face entertainment.  






Give me some live Celtic, please! Drinkin' and dancin' the night away the old Irish way sounds like a match made in heaven to me. 






You already have swank booths, why not just add some live music to the lounge atmosphere?  






Maybe someday my wishes will come true. Until then I'll just go wherever my favorite bands may be'like it or not.

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