Madison may have a lot of futons, but touring bands don't always know their owners, which can present a challenge when they need a place to crash after shows. Same goes for music fans who travel here to see performances. Lodging prices can make or break concert-going plans for those on a shoestring budget.
Some bands and fans are finding a solution at Hostelling International Madison, 141 S. Butler St., just above Cafe Costa Rica.
"Not every act has a tour bus, and many can't afford to stay at a hotel," says hostel manager Carlos Lewison. The hostel staff has been brainstorming how to become even more musician-friendly, from offering discounts to bands that perform a quick set in the inn's lounge to partnering with local venues to provide accommodations for international acts that come to town.
The 31-bed hostel is already a destination for concertgoers who travel to Madison from Chicago, Milwaukee and beyond.
"I've seen people from South Carolina come to see a show at the Majestic. That happens quite a bit, actually," says Lewison.
Wyndham Manning, the hostel's assistant manager and de facto innkeeper, points to recent guestbook entries like this one: "We came to Madison from Duluth to see Wolf Parade. It was sooooo good!"
For music lovers, staying at the hostel just makes sense, especially during nasty weather or a nasty economy, says Manning. "It's cheap, and a lot of people don't feel like driving home after seeing a show at the Majestic, which is just a block away. We're not doing a headcount, but there seem to be a lot of Chicago people staying here after shows."
Manning says visitors with tickets to big shows at the Overture Center and the Alliant Center's Coliseum also frequent the hostel.
"There were some people who stayed here for Wicked. It's funny and kind of awesome to see them walking out of their room all dressed up for a musical," he says.
Since he's been living above the hostel for the past six months, Manning has gotten to know many of the guests and sometimes hits shows with them. He's also made a point of keeping the inn's activities board stocked with concert announcements and pointing summer visitors toward the Memorial Union Terrace.
He'd like to alert more bands to the hostel's budget-friendly accommodations. "We've got these four-bed rooms that are the perfect size for a band, and they're really cheap," he says. "It's way better than a couch."