Live music is back at 624 University Ave.
The location is well known to veteran Madison concertgoers who remember Headliners, the venerable 1980s venue that hosted legendary bands like U2, the Replacements, Sonic Youth and the Ramones.
"I think it's kind of meant to be that music is part of this place," says Brota Oroian, who started booking shows last month for Segredo, the latest live-music destination to take up residence here.
Segredo opened 10 months ago as a Brazilian-style bowling boutique. This summer, a building inspector discovered the bowling equipment was not up to code. Now Segredo is trading in its bowling shoes for a sound and lights system and inviting bands in to play.
"We had some metal bands at our first show," says Oroian. "It was Halloween night, and even though most people had already tied one on the night before, we did okay."
Segredo is a return to music for Oroian, too. After years of bartending and booking music for the Annex, Oroian took a break from that role earlier this year.
"I called here looking for some bartending hours," says Oroian. "They said, we were just about to call you. We want to do live music, and we know you're the guy to talk to."
Last week I sat down with Oroian inside Segredo to talk about his plans for music at the club.
What nights of the week will you be hosting live shows?
Right now we're willing to book any night of the week except Fridays. Initially, I'm booking for Thursdays and Saturdays. Friday, we're going to keep it a traditional dance club. We don't want to totally just do live music. The reason is, we don't just want to be a music club, we want to be an entertainment venue. We have a couple of charity art shows coming up, too.
What kind of music will you book?
We like the rock crowd, the reggae crowd, the hippie jam crowd. I've learned some things from the other venues I've booked. You don't want to book the same genre two nights in a row. You don't want to compete for the same crowd on the same night as another venue. We have [Sublime tribute act] Jose and Sumlimes on Saturday, Nov. 13. We have the Minneapolis funk-rock band Roster McCabe here on Thursday, Nov. 18. I'd like to eventually get national bands in here, too.
What distinguishes Segredo from other Madison music venues?
Sheer size, for one thing. This place is big. Once everything gets rolling here, we're going to be looking at a place the size of the Majestic or the Barrymore, actually. Our capacity is 600, but now we've added all this space from moving out the bowling lanes. So I expect it's going to go up to 800. It's up to the city, but that's what I project.
We want to put up a stage and a marquee on the side of the building. It's a great setup, because no matter where you are, you can see the music. We have a private party room off to the side. You can go in there and see the entire place.
We're in student central. We have a lot of walk-up traffic. We're fortunate to be located in front of [the Lake Street] parking ramp. So those kinds of things we want to take advantage of, for sure.
There's a lot of Madison music history here, too.
I think this place has been a lot of places over time. It was Headliners. It was Bullwinkle's. My buddy, when he came in and looked at the place, he said, "Oh, God, do you know where you work?" He started walking around saying, "I saw the Ramones right there, and I saw U2 right there, and Pat Benatar was right there. Up there was a balcony." We're going to keep adding lights and sound over time and just keep making improvements. We're glad to be bringing music back here.