With live music venues around the country struggling and even closing, it's rare to see a new club start up, and practically inconceivable for one to emerge as part of a brand new mixed-use development in a medium-sized Midwestern city. But that's just what happened in Omaha last month, when the folks behind Saddle Creek records launched Slowdown, a 500-capacity venue. The club is part of a snazzy new two-building complex developed by the label (home to Bright Eyes, Cursive and The Faint) that houses their headquarters, apartments and an art-house theater, and soon, a restaurant, coffee house, and (cough) an Urban Outfitters. (Yeah, I know, I shop there too.)
It was a broiling hot Nebraska afternoon when I stopped by last week, but it was nice and cool inside Slowdown. The space is sleek and modern, complete with black tile and polished concrete; moreover, since the building is new, everything is, well, clean -- those of us used to clubs coated with 40 years of grime might feel a bit odd. Booker Val Nelson proudly showed me around the backstage area, built to their specifications: a driveway for load-in is mere feet from the stage, for instance, and the dressing room (complete with washer and dryer) is nicer than my apartment.
Mostly, though, it's just going to be a great place to see a band, with state-of-the-art sound and a comfortable layout. Groups like Built to Spill, Jimmy Eat World and the Rentals are already booked. Saddle Creek manager Jason Kulbel downplayed the significance of the label branching out, saying Slowdown just filled a gap: "Typical larger cities, and even some the same size of Omaha, often have many nice venues to choose from." Sure, but they don't have minor indie rock celebrities filling in as bartenders, and a record label for a landlord. Nebraska music fans, I never thought I'd say this, but I envy you.
Some photos and a calendar of upcoming shows after the jump.