Sunday nights are notoriously slow for many Madison bars, especially during the summer. So Darwin Sampson, owner of the Frequency, 121 W. Main St., has been using a senior center staple - bingo - to get folks off their porches and to his downtown club. He calls it Band Bingo.
"I really love the idea of free shows with a circus-like atmosphere, gaming and prizes," Sampson says. Bingo seemed like the perfect way to combine these elements and help folks forget their Monday-morning commitments for a little while.
Beginning at 8:45 p.m. on Sundays and other sleepy nights, the bar eschews cover charges and hands out bingo cards for $2 a pop. Each card lets a patron compete for a variety of prizes, ranging from concert tickets and drink coupons to T-shirts and other merch from the bands. Between sets, bar staffers holler out letter-number combinations, until one lucky player completes a row on his or her card and yells the magic word.
Each Band Bingo night features four rounds of the game and at least three bands from different parts of the country. Plus, the lineup often contains some unlikely musical pairings, such as this Sunday's combination of mathy metalheads Formosa Triangle and acoustic singer-songwriter JC Wainstead, adding a bit of intrigue to the event and exposing visitors to sounds they may not have sampled before.
Sampson plans to keep Band Bingo going in the fall, hoping cool bands and hot prizes will be a winning combination when the students head back to campus.
"We'll add different prizes as we go, hoping to get bigger and better as we go along," he says.