Darwin Sampson's promising new live music club The Frequency opened its doors on Friday night with an invite-only preview show featuring Stephanie Rearick, Awesome Car Funmaker and The Treats. This varied lineup of bands represents the kind of musical diversity Sampson is hoping to bring to the club just off the Capitol Square as he books local bands to play every weekend this summer.
The space itself is a work in progress. Sampson is hoping to transform the stark walls with a live music theme featuring concert posters, old recording equipment and radios. A note on the jukebox symbolizes this almost, but not-quite-there state of things: "We'll be putting our own CDs in here next week. In the meantime, enjoy Trisha Yearwood."
Sampson himself embodies the note's good humor in the face of slower than expected renovations. As a long time member of the Madison music community, he is personally and genuinely invested in the club's success. Hopefully his passion will sustain The Frequency through the trials that have caused so many other venues of similar size to close in recent years.
One patron, Adrian Sullivan, seemed enthusiastic about the prospects as he grabbed some drinks at the bar, noting that he hopes this club can fill the void that the King Club has left. I think that the rest of the excited crowd, as well as the Madison music community at large, agrees.
One immediately visible change that will please both bands and fans is the placement of the stage. Anyone who visited the space when it was Adair's Lounge or the Slipper Club probably wondered about the inexplicable, awkward placement of the stage along a side wall in the back of the venue. Sampson has embraced logic by moving the stage to the back of the space, so that listeners can still enjoy the music from the back room, where a small bar is conveniently located, or can sit at the larger bar in front.
Along with moving the stage, Sampson has upgraded the sound system. I noticed the clearer sound immediately as I entered the club.
After his set, Justin Taylor of Awesome Car Funmaker said, "The sound is amazing for the first night. For the crowd and band, you hear everything." Taylor was also excited about the club's location just off the Square on West Main, noting that it's the kind of place you can pop into on any given night, just to see who's playing.
Sampson still has a week to work out the kinks in this ambitious project. He knows that he has a lot left to do, but he wanted to get the space open as early in the summer as possible.
Sure, I'm hoping that by the official opening on June 5, he'll be able to tell me exactly how much a tap beer costs. But I'm definitely willing to put up with a little disorganization and bizarre original décor (built in bookcases and a stone fireplace, anyone?) for a while if I can see more local music on a regular basis. The essential three components are definitely there: a well-placed stage, a good sound system and, of course, a vibrant local music scene.