"House of Blues overwhelmed the Madrid with huge shows," says the venue's manager, Kirk Dahnke. "They just pushed them in when the neighborhood was already fighting them."
House of Blues' Jeff Fortier has a slightly different take. "It was too much, too soon -- if you're in a fascist country," he says. "Ten shows in the first five months of being open. That's pretty fucking weak."
In any event, the relationship between the Madrid and the Old Hyde Park neighborhood deteriorated, with concertgoers hogging side-street parking and peeing in yards and homeowners harassing Madrid customers and employees. Fortier decided to cut his losses -- which he says were the size of a down payment on a home. "You can make more money somewhere else and have less hassles," he explains. "I have nothing against the fuddy-duddies."
While House of Blues was hosting its last shows in November, Dahnke was drawing up a new battle plan. In April, the Madrid announced a schedule that included top regional draws (Baloney Ponyz, Hairy Apes BMX, Season to Risk, Thrust, Shiner, the Anniversary) and cult heroes (Prong, Jello Biafra). Though these shows didn't come close to Puddle of Mudd's record crowd, they did sneak under the protesters' radar.
Working with events that drew between 200 and 300 people, the Madrid found its niche. With 250 parking spaces available, patrons didn't need to take to the streets. Cruising off-duty policemen replaced the previous security detail, which involved "guys in ponytails and sneakers who were licensed to carry guns," Dahnke says. Neighbors shelved their picket signs, and shows went on without incident.
In an odd twist, after the furor dissipated, the Madrid started hosting increasingly controversial acts. Extenuating circumstances notwithstanding, it's amusing that the same folks who objected to mild-mannered King Crimson and Five for Fighting fans were nowhere to be seen when the Pornhuskers and GWAR's Dave Brockie entertained seedier crowds.
"One of the Pornhuskers' dancers left, and some random guy put on her outfit, and his nuts were hanging out everywhere," Dahnke recalls. "Then some chick jumped on stage and started taking off her clothes."
At least one promoter hopes the Moral Majority arrives in full force to protest Mission UK, the sweetly melodic Sisters of Mercy offshoot that plays the Madrid on Monday, September 23.
"I was telling my friend Rogue [from the band CruxShadows] that this show might blow up in my face," says Father FA-Q, the DJ who originated Monday-night goth/industrial showcases at Davey's Uptown. "He said, 'You're going about this all wrong. You need to call the newspaper and tell them you're a concerned parent and you don't want your kid going to a goth show. Then you call the local Christian coalitions and get them to come out and protest, and you'll sell a lot of tickets.'"
Maybe the protesters could rail against FA-Q himself. He once burned Bibles, simulated crucifixions and poured hot wax on half-naked women in nun habits -- at Gee Coffee all-ages shows. Won't somebody please think of the children?
Mission UK, which released its stellar new disc Aura just a week ago, and the Damned, another pioneering goth/punk act scheduled to play the Madrid on October 20, figure to draw medium crowds that fit within the venue's comfort zone.
Eventually, Dahnke says, the Madrid might test the waters with more big-time events. For now, the Madrid's situation marks a rare truce between the music community and neighborhood quiet-life advocates. It's just another retelling of The Odd Couple, this time starring a goth fan and a middle-aged man who will let the crazy kids have their fun -- as long as they keep it off his block.