Live music came up in conversation yesterday in a “should we or shouldn’t we” chat at The Darby. When you build a joint nowadays versatility is a must. There must be a place for an act—even a small one—to perform. There must be visuals to go with audio. Maybe that’s simply a pull-down projection screen to watch the big game, but non traditional revenue streams are often necessary to survive. We in the club biz used to say “all’s we’re really selling is air and booze.” That’s when people paid admission for entry.
Nobody I know ever admits they paid to get into one of my joints, but a 75% pay on a weekend was common. I miss my beautiful, lying following sometimes. Now very few places even think about having cashier booths. Expanding the hours from the traditional 10pm to 4am is essential. In the restaurant game, going late and picking up revenues from a pickup bar scene often pays the landlord. Early events like “happy hours,” late night bar menus, and a well-placed TV help.
For a century, pinball, bowling games, and pool tables paid for the electricity. Specialty cocktails, which are more often than not diabolical chemistry experiments, get people spending 18 dollars for a drink rather than 10. They also require lots of extra room on bars. Drink rails, which used to be 4 inches wide, now need to be 10 inches to accommodate rhubarb, specialty olives, and crushed exotic nuts and vegetables. More refrigeration behind and under the bar is needed to accommodate bottles of never-used-before juices and mixers. It’s all to separate the consumer from his or her cash, and it’s all in fun anyway. Few complain, and those that do are content with their PBRs and shots.
The weekend brunch has been a goldmine for many, sometimes taking in cash that dwarfs normal hours profits. As the weather improves, joints that have outdoor spaces and even swimming pools become more of a factor. With fast-track licenses on the horizon for restaurants, why would anyone open just a club? With very few joints being built with cashier booths anymore, owners turned aggressively to bottle service, the super hero of revenue streams for a decade.
Will more restaurants concentrate on live show to have an edge on the competition? Darby opened its “lounge” last night, while upstairs a rather large band entertained diners. Will many more restaurants follow suit? The costs involved might prove prohibitive. Space and sight lines are always a factor. In order to really do it right, a separate and costly sound system has to exist. Lighting, to show off the talent, needs to be purchased. Maybe a piano or drum set, and certainly a supply of microphones need to be ready so a spontaneous act can strut, and so you’re not renting everyday. A proper stage must be built, and that takes up valuable real estate from the dining or drinking room. Booths and tables need to be configured so people can see the show. Soundproofing and acoustical treatments need to be considered during design. After all that, you actually have to pay for the entertainment and possibly an employee to book it and then market it. All in all, it’s a game for the brave. All around town Bingo and Karaoke and trivia games are filling in blanks at places looking for a few extra bucks. Club and restaurant operators know that the Jack Daniels sold at their swanky joint is the same Jack sold at the dive bar. Atmosphere, which we used to call air, is the reason they can triple the price.
With that in mind, what better venue is there for this than Brooklyn Bowl? World class sushi and other tid-bits, great DJs, live acts, and bowling make this a unique venue that I keep returning to. Tonight I will attend the Perpetual Groove/Zoogma offering. These are southern (Athens, Georgia/Memphis,Tennessee/Oxford, Mississippi) rock bands with solid followings. My friend Barrett Beard is tempting me to attend. He caught up with Zoogma after their show in Connecticut last night and sent me this to tell their story:
Zoogma is a 5 piece live electronic rock band based out of Oxford MS / Memphis TN that strives to bridge the gap between the sonic palette and precise execution of high energy electronic dance music with the immediacy and spontaneity of a rock band. Zoogma combines drum machines, synthesizers, guitars, live drums, sequencers and bone-crushing bass in their live shows to take the audience through a broad spectrum of musical styles ranging from progressive house, trip-hop, drum and bass, dubstep, and electro with a heavy emphasis on improvisation delivering audiences unique shows night after night. The Brooklyn Bowl show is night 3 of a short Northeast tour with Perpetual Groove with other stops including great venues in Philadelphia and Richmond. We feel this tour is a testament that two southern towns, both rich in musical history (Athens Ga, ; Memphis Tn) are still producing unique and intriguing sounds that are enjoyed nationwide. Zoogma has traveled everywhere between NYC and Colorado. The band has plans to tour the west coast in the near future. In just 3 short years, Zoogma has become one of the southeast’s biggest exports. Much of this success is due to the availability of their music. The band gives fans the opportunity to download ALL of their music for free from their website at zoogma.net.
Perpetual Groove headlines the event tonight, and my people who know about these things say I must attend. Here is what Brooklyn Bowl’s crew sent me about them:
Perpetual Groove has become a rock band. That’s the impression fans got when they heard one of the rock & roll tracks from Perpetual Groove’s new album, LiveLoveDie at the band’s sold out New Year’s Eve performance.The album was produced by Grammy winner Robert Hannon (Outkast – Speakerboxxx/The Love Below) and Perpetual Groove. The album was produced with renewable energy through Perpetual Groove’s partnership with Tree Sound Studios, Sustainable Waves, and Green Mountain Energy Company, and is being released by the environmentally progressive label, Tree Leaf Music. Fans call their sound “trance arena rock,” and with a funky blend of jazz-rock, neo-psychedelia, R&B, trance electronica, progressive rock and anthemic arena rock, the Bonnaroo veterans have conquered the festival circuit and continue to tour relentlessly.