It's been four years since Tom Klein started a local music promotion company with a niche focus on all-ages shows.
Klein's Journey Music is a business that's proven resilient to the tough times the local club scene has endured as gas prices have soared.
"The worst show I've done this past year brought in 105 people," says Klein, 22. "With the economy the way it is right now, the people with the most money are teenagers who don't have to work."
Over the next seven days, Klein presents three major shows at the Loft, the performance space located inside the Lussier Teen Center on East Washington Avenue.
The schedule begins Thursday, Aug. 7, with an appearance by Ace Enders. Enders, 24, is a New Jersey-based indie-rock singer-songwriter and former guitarist with the Early November. Friday brings a visit by the five-piece Sacramento hardcore band Dance Gavin Dance. Then next Thursday, Aug. 14, Boston prog-rockers the Dear Hunter headline a five-band show that begins at 6:30 p.m.
Klein has revitalized the music scene at the Loft since the longtime Madison all-ages club was evicted from its former home on Fairchild Street in 2000 to make room for Overture Hall.
The move was a blow to the club, severing its proximity to the youth culture of State Street.
And while the Loft has never regained the kind of DIY teen spirit it sported in the '80s and '90s, Klein's efforts have kept the venue on the radar of high school music fans.
The Loft is a program of the Atwood Community Center and will begin the next phase of its existence in October when it moves into the center's new headquarters on Waubesa Street.
"I wouldn't quite say I have an exclusive arrangement with the Loft, but they like what I've done there," says Klein. "I do my own sound and bring in my own people to staff the door. They've allowed me to open up the venue to all-ages instead of just teens because we've kept the shows consistent with their mission."
Parents are always admitted free, adds Klein. "That's true whether it's parents of the band or the crowd. Why wouldn't we let them in free? They do us a service by driving the kids to the show."
Klein says some high-profile national bands like the Dillinger Escape Plan now request playing the Loft when they come to Madison.
Klein was a teenager himself when he started the Journey Music. He knows and appreciates the bands his audiences want to see.
Thursday's appearance by the Dear Hunter is a case in point. The band is a favorite of young audiences for its intensely emotional vibe and accessible melodies.
Led by songwriter Casey Crescenzo, the Dear Hunter's music tells stories. Their 2007 release is titled Act II: The Meaning Of, And All Things Regarding Ms. Leading.
It's the second installment of what the Dear Hunter say will be a six-album set. The collection will tell the story of the birth, life and abrupt death of a boy called the Dear Hunter who lived at the dawn of the 20th century.
One track from that disc, "Dear Ms. Leading," melds passionate guitar rock with words that resist sexual temptation. "Dear Ms. Leading," sings Crescenzo, "I hate to tell you that I no longer need your services; a bitter fabricating manufacturer of lust."
It's a coming-of-age soundtrack, and Klein can relate.
"In high school, I was pretty confused myself," says Klein. "Until I started seeing shows at a local club."