Monday, February 23, 2009

Music in the Park – Rogers Park

Kate and I got home late last night after a long (and fun) week in San Francisco. In between the work functions I was out there for, we found a lot of good places to eat. A couple of which had music, but for the most part, we didn’t partake of any live music. Nor did we make it to my favorite club, the DNA Lounge. (To whom you should donate a buck or two, since they’re currently being hassled by the man.)

I regret reading (most of) the neighborhood blogs while I was gone. The Morse Theatre’s investor troubles lead to a mountain of speculation about what the Morse is or isn’t, and what it should be or shouldn’t be.

The Morse Theatre is a beautiful space. If it closes, I’m going to be saddened. I hope that it gets another shot at life – someday, somehow. Bloggers and commenters speculate about what would happen if it were opened up to those awful “rock-n-roll” shows, waving sadly aged concerns about a “Neil Peart”-loving crowd overrunning the corner of Morse and Glenwood, and all the implied damage that implies to the event space and the neighborhood.

Yeah, what? I don’t get it either. First, they were already doing shows other than jazz. There was/is definitely some stunt-booking going on. And I don’t blame Andy & co. for going that route. Starting up a new music venue is tough, and never guaranteed to do anything but lose money. The only ways to be even worse off are to open up in an economic downturn, and try to focus on jazz exclusively. I imagine that the negative impression Morse Avenue doesn’t help too much, either. (And that’s sad, because we need more stuff like the Morse Theatre to succeed, if that area is going to improve.)

I used to work for a jazz club in Minnesota – doing whatever I can to help get more people into the club. Working for free, running their website, trying to come up with occasional promotional opportunities. It was never easy – and the club in Minnesota was on a much more solid footing (read: “life was tough but relatively debt-free”) than the Morse is.

A jazz club is almost a losing proposition from day 1, in this day and age. Like some of the other commenters, I think it might benefit the club to open themselves up to more of the alt-rock indie-rock crowd a bit. I don't think it can hurt. (The real question is, are there shows out there to book, shows that'll make money. The economy is clamping down hard on entertainment dollars.)

If I ran the Morse, would I have done a lot of things differently? Sure, I would have. (And I would have started by complete discarding the restaurant’s wacky sausage-laden menu.) But, I don’t have any clue that anything I would have done would have helped them to prevent the situation they’re in. And, I strongly commend Andy McGhee for everything he’s done. And I wish I could have done something to help it succeed, something beyond dropping in for a show periodically. I guess the best thing I can do now is stop in a few more times, have a few drinks, and wait and see what the future brings.

On an unrelated topic, is Morseland a "hip hop nightclub"? Yeah, what? Angry Blogger is convinced of it, but I'm not so sure. Kate and I stopped in last night, for a late dinner after getting home from the airport, they were playing some pretty cool deep house and older dance music. You know. Music. From a vinyl record. Like a lot of bars do. Yes, they did play “Everyday People” by Arrested Development last night, but this does not make a venue a hip hop night club. Not even on Dirty Thursdays. (Actually, should I care if it’s a hip hop night club? I’m not sure that I do. I think this might actually be a cloaked concern about the kind of clientele that might attend a “hip hop club” – and I think that’s as much as I’ll say on that topic.)

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