The New Fillmor
by Dave Keeffe on June 24th, 2010
I am a performer and I have played drums and percussion in several types of musical configurations from an orchestra pit at the Grand Theater, to rock and roll, blues, and ethnic music at various other downtown venues in Wausau, past and present. As such, I, of course, benefit from a vital downtown Wausau night life.
The news is awesome and welcome, that a new owner-operator for the beautiful Fillmore facility sitting idle downtown. Hopefully now I will get my first opportunity to perform on that great stage with some of the great local musicians I’ve had the honor of playing with over the years.
I have heard a rumor that it will become downtown Wausau’s first sports bar-themed venue (I can only assume if the venue does go sports bar its mission will still include imported and local musical acts and other performance art.) I think this is a valid idea, but not my personal favorite. I have played in venues that are otherwise sports bars, and it is pretty strange to be performing my craft while big screen TVs are turned on all over the place, sometimes with the audio still on, and one time right over our heads above the band. We actually had to ask the manager to turn it off.
Whatever the rumors might be, I have the following thoughts to share with the new owners.
The beautiful stage and sound engineering at the Fillmore, or whatever it will be called, is a diamond in the rough. I wish the new owner all the best and I do realize that they will have to engineer a creative and innovative money making theme/scheme in order to survive in this very fickle and, let’s face it, limited market. I hope they succeed and give us local musicians opportunities to perform there, in between the national and regional acts they will have to attract in order to use the facility to its potential. They should become a permanent target for people who are looking for what’s happening in downtown Wausau, or simply an attractive get-away that would bring them to our fair city.
I think something that would help it succeed is to make sure the theme is not too confined or narrow.
The new owners will have to have an attitude about the place as more of an exhibit hall/convention center, with occasional but regular performance art that would bring in people willing to invest in a $20-30 ticket versus the $50-90 ticket at the Grand Theater for their night of enjoyment and soul massage. In between those events, run an open utility center for whatever people or businesses might want to stage there. From Boy Scouts to Native American Powwows, from weddings to wakes, the idea being to place no limits on this variation by getting the interior ambiance overly invested in a single theme. Again, think exhibition hall, neutral themes, easily changed themes, and so on.
If something like big screen TVs, neon beer signs, poker machines, or karaoke become prevalent, the new owners will have missed the mark and the opportunity that is there for a unique and permanent contribution to the downtown’s vitality.
And of course, I believe they must work WITH the existing downtown entertainment establishments and eateries, as the owners of Malarkey’s Pub and The Intermission Bar so gracefully do, so that the options for the consumer are optimized when they are looking for something to do downtown. This cooperation is essential to surviving the fickle market that is downtown Wausau.
I can’t wait to get up on that stage!