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Monday, January 26, 2015 |  Madison, WI: 24.0° F  Light Snow Fog/Mist
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The Argus goes underground
Midweek gigs bring new crowd to downtown bar
The intimate basement space hosts tunes Wednesdays and Thursdays.
The intimate basement space hosts tunes Wednesdays and Thursdays.

When Rick Brahmer and Gwen Cassis bought the Argus in 2007 and started booking local bands for midweek shows, they had a plan.

"We wanted to support local music by giving younger audiences an affordable option for a night out," says Brahmer. He and Cassis are married and co-own the downtown bar and grill located a block off the Capitol Square at 123 E. Main St.

"We don't charge a cover, and you can drink for a very reasonable price," he adds. "We feed the musicians, give them some drinks and a place to play."

Two years in, Brahmer says the Argus has succeeded in becoming a late-night downtown destination "for the young and the hip."

Brahmer managed the Paradise Lounge on the west side of the Square for eight years in the '90s. Then he moved to Fort Collins, Colo., where he and Cassis operated a music club from 1998 to 2002.

"I play blues guitar myself and have been booking the artists directly so I can get to know local music and support it," says Brahmer.

Argus shows are held in an intimate basement space below the bar and grill on Wednesdays and Thursdays starting at 10 p.m. The space inspired Brahmer and Cassis to name the midweek concert series Argus Underground.

Recent acts have included the bluegrass band SweetGrass and the rock quartet Full Vinyl Treatment.

"The old Argus kind of let nightlife slide," says Brahmer. "We're just trying to make it a little different from anything else going on downtown.

"I work the door and have been getting to know our customers. It's been great to see people come out for a show, then come back just to be here."

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