Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Slowdown's conversion from indie club to sports bar

Other than the stage in the back of the room, Slowdown could be just any other sports bar.

Directly across the street from TD Ameritrade Park, Slowdown's back parking lot has been converted to a beer garden, food court and CWS merchandise heaven. Inside, the air conditioning offers respite from hot days as well as an enormous projection screen TV that hangs above the main stage.

Slowdown co-owner/operator Jason Kulbel told me that the place has been packed and the clientele was a 50/50 mix of hometown folks that seemed familiar with the club and people decked out in CWS gear that were obviously out-of-towners.

The only other obvious differences that I noticed were a scoreboard hanging from the building and a sign that read "Free Beer Garden AC Live Music."

If I were bumming around the CWS this week, Slowdown would probably be my spot. I'm familiar with it, it's right next to the stadium and it still maintains a cool vibe.

Update: I should have mentioned before that Slowdown resumes its "normal" programming on June 30, the day after the CWS is over. The first of the club's usual type of band will be locals The Beat Seekers on July 1 followed by Toad The Wet Sprocket on July 2.

* * *

Over the weekend, I heard that ASCAP and BMI representatives were in north downtown cracking down on venues with cover bands.

If you don't know how performance royalties work, it goes something like this: businesses that play music (as well as bands that play cover tunes) are obligated to pay something to the original songwriter and/or artist. ASCAP, BMI and SESAC are the companies that control performance royalties in the U.S. They gather annual fees from businesses (radio stations, retail stores, music venues, etc.) and give artists their cut.

If you're not paying the royalties, they'll also occasionally come into your business and demand you pay or file an injunction. That, supposedly, was what was going down at bars around TD Ameritrade Park.

Upon some investigation, it turned out to be just a rumor.

Slowdown, for example, pays an annual fee to ASCAP and BMI much like other businesses. For Slowdown, that fee also covers performances whether its a tribute band playing Led Zeppelin tunes for an hour or an indie group sneaking a cool cover into its set.

Kulbel said no ASCAP or BMI rep had been poking around, though they wouldn't have much reason to since the rock club pays its annual fee.

Over at the Union Pizzeria and Sports Bar, a manager told me no one had bothered them either. Cover bands were playing every night and would continue to through the CWS.

Farrell's and the Old Mattress Factory also appeared to be sticking to their schedules.

Photo © 2011 The Omaha World-Herald

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