This week’s column is an extension of the portion of Monday’s blog entry concerning Saddle Creek Bar’s Mike Coldewey, recently made notorious by his role in the all-ages/music venue controversy that led to last week’s historic City Council stripper discussion.
Column 170: Public Enemy
Hate for the right reasons.
Last Saturday night, I high-tailed it over to what is widely believed to be a den of pure evil — The Saddle Creek Bar. There, I consorted with The Dark Lord accused of high crimes and misdemeanors to the Omaha music scene, and retrieved my winnings. As I mentioned in last week’s column, I had a bet riding on the outcome of last Tuesday’s City Council meeting, a bet I won. I played Randolph Duke to Mike Coldewey’s Mortimer Duke, and he paid up: one dollar.
It was then that I realized that these days, people are hating Coldewey for all the wrong reasons.
If there’s a back story to the City Council vote that allows minors into bars for all-ages rock shows, it’s the demonization of Coldewey. But the fact is, before this whole thing got stirred up, few people who I know in the indie music scene liked the owner/operator of The Saddle Creek Bar or his brash, straight-forward approach.
Musicians already were avoiding SCB either because of its sound system, the lack of free booze for performers or Coldewey’s abrasive tell-it-like-it-is personality that refuses to suffer fools lightly. That he pushed the all-ages issue to the forefront by asking Omaha’s Finest what he can and can’t do all-ages-wise at his bar only made him more of a pariah to people who never went to his bar in the first place.
The story goes back to October of last year when Coldewey e-mailed me a copy of Omaha Municipal Code 15-41. Actually, it goes back even further than that, to the opening of The Slowdown almost a year ago. It was in a cover story I wrote for The Reader in June 2007 where the issue of all-ages shows was first discussed. There, Slowdown owner/operator Robb Nansel said his new club would allow clearly identified minors into shows. “Being all-ages is an important part of our business plan,” Nansel said in the story. “People under 21 go to shows. I was under 21 once and I went to shows, and I was really frustrated when I couldn’t get in because of my age.” I concluded by saying that conceivably, you could see 12 year olds walking around Slowdown on show nights.
This statement, like much of The Reader (unfortunately) must have gone unread by our city’s law enforcement personnel who clearly know that minors aren’t allowed in bars when alcohol is being served. We must assume that they didn’t read it, because the alternative is that they did read it and ignored it or decided to turn their eyes away from an obvious violation of city code.
But the statement didn’t go unnoticed by Coldewey, who (after a heated discussion a few evenings before at SCB) sent me a copy of the ordinance, highlighting all the juicy parts. Who knows who else received a similar e-mail from Coldewey, but I know that he did ask the city attorney to clarify the ordinance, which helped get this whole thing rolling.
A week after the April 1 Omaha City Council meeting where Councilman Jim Suttle introduced the so-called “music venue” ordinance, Coldewey outed his role in the controversy in a thread on the SLAM Omaha chatboard that accused him of having a vendetta against Slowdown and/or The Waiting Room.
Those accusations may or may not be true, but either way they’re laughable. SCB has never been (and never will be) a competitive threat to those businesses, and had nothing to gain by seeing them ticketed or lose their all-ages shows. Coldewey did have something to lose, however, if cops had busted him with minors in his bar — a bar that unlike Slowdown or The Waiting Room, is not being lauded by the City of Omaha as a cornerstone of neighborhood development. Considering the police presence in the SCB neighborhood, there’s little doubt that Coldewey would have been busted had he hosted an all-ages show, and we all would have ended up in the City Council chambers discussing a “live music” ordinance anyway. The only difference, of course, is that Coldewey would have been ticketed and/or lost his license and maybe his business. But who cares, right?
Well, I do, and it has nothing to do with Coldewey. My reasons are purely selfish — the Saddle Creek Bar is only a few blocks from my house. It’s convenient, and the Rolling Rock is cold and cheap. Fact is, I only swing by SCB for shows once every two or three months. Indie music doesn’t work well there probably because of its weird box-like stage and its step-back-in-time sound system. I’ve suggested that they forget about hosting indie music altogether. Coldewey will never be able to book (or afford) the top-flight touring indie bands handled by One Percent Productions, and all the local indie bands I know hate his guts, even moreso after all of this.
In fact, shortly after the SLAM thread, bands who never stepped foot in the Saddle Creek Bar before were calling for a boycott. And even a week after the book had been closed on the controversy, musicians were still telling me how they’d never go to SCB again.
People can boycott whomever or whatever they want. It’s a free country, but do it for the right reasons. Coldewey didn’t write the original ordinance. He merely asked a question that led to other questions that led to a new law. So if you’re going to hate Mike Coldewey, do it because you think he’s an asshole or because he said your band sucks or because he blames you instead of his sound system for the ear-piercing feedback on stage. Hate him because he made you buy drinks instead of giving you unlimited reign over his bar taps. Hate him because he can be a stubborn son of a bitch. But don’t hate him because he called out people for violating an ordinance that the city would never allow him to violate, an ordinance that, partially due to his actions, has been changed for the better.
Tonight at The Waiting Room it’s Neva Dinova’s sort of official CD release show for You May Already Be Dreaming (Read about the band and the CD here). Neva actually played a last-minute show at Slowdown Jr. a few weeks ago on the CD’s drop day, but this is the one that the band has been planning on for months. Opening is No Blood Orphan and Jagjaguwar recording artist Ladyhawk, who’s touring with Neva through June 1. $8, 9 p.m.
Also tonight, Slowdown Jr. is hosting a fund-raising concert for Democratic senate candidate Scott Kleeb featuring performances by The Night Gallery, Hyannis, Honeybee and Thunder Power!!! Suggested donation is $5; show starts at 8 p.m.
Also starting at 8 p.m., the Oscillations fund-raiser at PS Collective, mentioned in yesterday’s blog entry.
And finally, over at The Barley St. Tavern, it’s Sarah Benck and Matt Cox for a free show that starts at 9.
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