When a band is too big for Vaudeville Mews, House of Bricks or The Gas Lamp, but not quite big enough for People’s, placing them in the right venue can be difficult. That’s a dilemma First Fleet Concerts owner Sam Summers has faced for years. Putting them in a smaller venue means a packed, lively room, but also leaving money on the table while a larger venue might make it seem like a band is playing to an empty room.
Summers, 28, decided to fill that middle ground himself, along with Josh Ivey and Rafe Mater, who book shows at The Blue Moose Tap House in Iowa City. Their new venue, Wooly’s, has a capacity of 680 people. It opened last week in the East Village.
Wooly’s concert calendar has been filling up since the venue was announced in January. Upcoming shows include varied acts like Leon Russell (April 12), The English Beat (April 16), Margot and the Nuclear So and So’s (May 12) and Grouplove (May 16). The bar is open every Friday and Saturday, plus any weeknight in which a show is booked.
The space seems vastly improved from when the 504 Club briefly occupied it. When you enter you see a large black wall to help dampen sound from hitting Wooly’s East Village neighbors. The stage is both taller and wider than the previous venue’s, with massive pillars of speakers on each side.
While it’s not something most patrons will experience first-hand, Wooly’s has a cool, elevated green room for bands with a two-way mirror so they can look out over the crowd. The space even comes with a washer and dryer. Sorry, music fans, you’ll have to do your wash at home, but a band might put on a slightly better show if they aren’t wearing the same stinky clothes for the eighth straight day.
The bar has a very high ceiling, with multiple floor-to-ceiling poles holding it in place. If you’re at just the wrong spot,they can be a minor obstruction, but move an inch to the left or right and your view of the stage should be clear again. A half dozen booths line the east wall, and there are tables around the venue, and even portable pool tables that can be cleared out to make space for larger crowds.
Summers also helps put on the Nitefall on the River summer concert series, and said Wooly’s will serve as a rain location for some acts, as well as hosting Nitefall after-parties with music by similar acts.
The bar itself features three flat-screens and more than 20 beers on tap. New Belgium brews are prominent, along with old favorites like Bud Light and Coors Light. The cooler has an impressive assortment of cans and bottles, including tallboys from the Davenport-based Great River Brewery.
Summers clearly knows the concert business, and from the looks of it, seems to have the bar thing down pretty well, too. The excellent lineup of acts should get people in the door, and the amenities and fine beer selection should keep fans coming back.
See more photos from Wooly’s opening in the photo gallery. http://desmoines.metromix.com/music/standard_photo_gallery/first-look-woolys/3024161/content
Who: Lez Zeppelin (female Led Zeppelin tribute)
When: 7 p.m. Thursday
Cost: $12 in advance, $15 at the door.
Who: The $nack$ (Chewi Lockhart birthday party)
When: 8 p.m. Friday.
Who: The Envy Corps
When: 8 p.m. Saturday
Cost: $8 in advance, $10 at the door.
Where: 504 E. Locust St.
Hours: Open 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, plus any night with a show
Info: woolysdm.com, ticketfly.com for tickets