After 10 years in Madison’s downtown area, local music venue The Frequency will be closing on June 30.
When Darwin Sampson started concert venue, he hoped the venue could act as a stepping stone for small local bands and occasionally host touring acts as they passed through Madison on their way to larger cities.
“That’s the whole concept of The Frequency, it’s just that next step for that band in the basement that has aspirations to maybe up their game a little bit,” Sampson said. “We’ve been able to do that and we’ve been fortunate enough to host some other bigger stuff too. Those are just cherries on top of the local stuff.”
After hosting early concerts for groups like Macklemore, The Lumineers and Wisconsin’s own Phox, Sampson has surpassed that goal, but rising business costs and decreased revenue have forced the small rock club into “storage,” according to Sampson.
“I just look at a lot of these bands kind of like family, I’m proud of all of them,” Sampson said. “I’m really grateful to all the bands and all the people who have come through these doors.”
A changing music scene and rising downtown rent has made the business model of a small rock club like The Frequency hard to sustain. Because the venue is only open for shows, there are not many opportunities to increase revenue, and with show attendance steadily decreasing since late last year, The Frequency has struggled to keep its doors open.
Sampson, who lives on Madison’s north side, said he has no plans to reopen now but is open to looking for new, cheaper locations to keep the “concept” of The Frequency alive. There’s been an increase in the local art scene on Madison’s north and east sides, where rent is cheaper and reopening The Frequency could be a possibility, according to Sampson.
But for now, Sampson is focused on celebrating the end of The Frequency in its current form.
The Frequency will remain open until June 30, 2018. Shows booked after the 30th are currently suspended. Two nights of live music, in the form of a celebration of the venue’s past 10 years, will take place on June 8 and 9.
“I’m really just focused on making the last 2.5 months really fun,” Sampson said.
Funding to start the venue was donated by Madison musicians and philanthropists Terrin and Ricky Reimer, but Sampson says he is grateful for every musician, employee or concertgoer to ever walk through the doors of The Frequency.
“It’s been a great 10 years and I feel like I’m the luckiest person definitely in Madison,” Sampson said. “[Madison’s music scene] just has a soft spot in my heart.”