In mid-March, this column was given over to pondering the effects late starting times in clubs – 11 p.m. or later, in some instances – might be having on the local music scene.
The response was vast and, frankly, not particularly varied. In a roughly 70-30 split, those of you who responded favored earlier starting times in clubs. In the original column, I expressed a certain amount of fondness for our “4 a.m. closing time” town and its late-night musical bachanals. Most of you disagreed, though some expressed enthusiasm for late-night shows on weekends, while simultaneously decrying such a schedule during the working week.
More than half of the responses pointed to the 4 a.m. closing time as detrimental to the health of our club scene, calling it outdated and no longer relevant, a throwback to a time when industrial workers frequented bars following the conclusion of their evening shifts. Many club owners and local promoters responded, too, and, even bearing their vested interest in mind, their responses were insightful. Most pointed to their own regular programming of early shows as a way of suggesting that there is a consistent attempt to cater to the scheduling demands of all types of clubgoers. There has even been the idea floated of forming a coalition between club owners, musicians and patrons to find some sort of working consensus on the topic.
The opening of this sort of discourse is nothing but encouraging, and I truly hope something tangible comes from such a proposition. In the meantime, it seems worthwhile to shine a light on the manner in which some clubs and concert establishments are dealing with the late/early dichotomy at present.
The Tralf Music Hall has long enforced early starting times, with most showcase bookings ending about 11 p.m, and a new weekly series is aimed at snagging the early crowd. “Rebel Tuesdays at the Tralf” will be, according to organizers, “a high-octane weekly live music and social event” celebrating “rockabilly music and culture.” The free series will boast a strict 7 p.m. starting time. (The Blue Ribbon Bastards will preside over Tuesday’s maiden voyage of the series.)
At the Sportsmen’s Tavern, things proceed as they have for some time now – with 3 p.m. matinees on weekends, early shows during the week (7 p.m. normally, but rarely later than 8 p.m.) and later starts on weekends or for special events. Bear in mind that a “late show” in Sportsmen’s parlance means a 9:30 p.m. start, not the 11 p.m. launch favored by some live music clubs.
In Allentown, Pausa Art House opened recently with a mandate to fill in the early hours in the neighborhood, with shows starting promptly at 8 p.m. and concluding by 10 p.m., thereby leaving patrons the opportunity to catch a later gig at nearby Nietzsche’s, Allen Street Hardware or Duke’s Bohemian Grove Bar.
Speaking of those other Allentown establishments, all of them offer their own early evening fare. The happy hour at Nietzsche’s, from 6 to 9 p.m. Fridays, is a time-honored tradition, as are Saturday matinees with the likes of Celtic Seisiuns, and regular early-start shows on Sundays. Duke’s runs a regular schedule of both early and late shows, with happy hour and dinner sets starting at 6 p.m., weekly to-dos like the successful Neo Soul Tuesdays slated for a 7 p.m. start, and 9 or 10 p.m. starts for late-night multibands bills or DJ packages. Allen Street Hardware shows generally start between 9 and 10 p.m.
The Waiting Room has a stocked roster with no show start later than 8 p.m. Shows at the Town Ballroom tend to start on time, too – opening acts generally take the stage by 8 p.m., and the whole affair is usually wrapped up around midnight. There are matinees and early start times spread across venues that cater to the blues, too – the Forvm at the Maple Entertainment Complex and the Armor Inn Tap Room are only two venues that regularly schedule both early and late shows, and the weekly Anita West Blues Thursdays at the Central Park Grill starts at 7 p.m.
All of this would suggest that there is plenty of choice available for the potential live music patron who’d prefer to be arriving home by midnight, instead of heading out the door at that hour. It would seem that, if all involved stick to their advertised starting times, things wouldn’t need to change too much. Perhaps you disagree. Either way, let’s keep the conversation going.