Peter Shapiro was in a meeting where someone asked, “What if live music goes out of style?”
“And we paused. And we looked at each other,” he remembers, repeating the question with a tone of disbelief.
Shapiro would find the question incredulous because his whole world is live music.
He is the publisher of Relix magazine, the jam band bible. He made a hit of the Brooklyn Bowl concert club and more recently reopened the historic Capitol Theatre in New York, before agreeing to build an 80,000-square-foot version of the Brooklyn Bowl in Las Vegas.
The restaurant, music and, yes, bowling complex opens Saturday with a two-night stand by Soulive, before a grand opening March 14-16 with Elvis Costello and The Roots.
Beyond the giant High Roller observation wheel, the Brooklyn Bowl serves as the anchor of The Linq, a $550 million faux street scene filling the former alley and parking garage between the Quad and Flamingo hotels, and representing Caesars Entertainment’s bid to rejuvenate its center-Strip properties.
No pressure there.
Which brings us back to the live music question, and why it wasn’t completely crazy. Nightclubs, DJs and electronic dance music culture have so conquered the Strip, there has been very little concern for the nightlife needs of customers too old to care about Hardwell or David Guetta.
Boomers and Gen-Xers have plenty of early evening concerts, shows and stand-up comics to choose from. Who cares if there’s nothing for them after 11 p.m.? The wrapping lines in front of the nightclubs make it a nonissue.
From that vantage point, live music — at least the kind played by Cake or Galactic — has already gone out of style on the Strip.
So, to explain who is going to come to the Brooklyn Bowl, Shapiro goes beyond Las Vegas for the answer.
“Think about all the people who go to Jazz Fest in New Orleans. That’s a megaevent. Huge bands. Eighty (thousand) to 100,000 people,” he says. “That crowd is a similar crowd that goes to Vegas, but they’re 40 (and older). People who love having fun but not going to see Calvin Harris. Not what you were brought up on.”
The Brooklyn Bowl will compete with other local music venues for some of the concert names that spur advance ticket sales. Early bookings for the general admission space that holds about 1,800 people include The Avett Brothers — who have played the Silverton and Cosmopolitan — Steve Winwood and Phil Lesh, who have both played the Palms.
But the club will often be booked with both early and late shows by different acts. And the schedule, particularly for the late slot, is heavy on jam bands and party-starting acts aimed at luring a walk-up crowd in from the street: Trombone Shorty, The Infamous Stringdusters, Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk.
Plus, there’s bowling. Shapiro and partner Charlie Ryan realized with the original Brooklyn Bowl the value of time-shifting and not letting a space sit empty by day. “Most venues are just a stage and a bar. I just wanted to try and do that a little differently,” he says of the daytime operation that begins March 16.
The Las Vegas location doubles the number of bowling lanes to 32 — divided into two levels of 16 — just to the left of the concert area.
Dining space operated by the Bromberg Brothers’ Blue Ribbon Restaurants — who entered the market with Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar &Grill at The Cosmopolitan — adds more daytime traffic and serves as a spillover area at night. The bars will serve a host of micro and craft beers (but no bottles or cans) and there’s a balcony overlooking the instant street scene that is The Linq.
“It’s a model that works well,” Shapiro says of the multiple revenue streams. “It’s a place to bring kids, and a place to dance till 5 in the morning.”
The deliberately weathered theater marquee outside and the exposed ductwork, warehouse interior both echo the original Brooklyn Bowl, which Shapiro and Ryan fashioned from a 130-year-old warehouse in the Williamsburg district in 2009.
The partners’ real estate broker, Mark Masinter, was the mutual connection to Caruso Affiliated, The Linq developer also behind The Grove shopping center adjacent to the Farmer’s Market in Los Angeles. Shapiro says Greg Miller, the Caesars executive over domestic development, was instrumental in picking the Brooklyn Bowl as the anchor tenant for a mostly second-floor space with street-level shops underneath.
The bowling never shuts down, but the acoustics are such that you won’t hear the strikes and spares during a show, Shapiro says. During an amplified show, that is. Add bowling to the fact that all shows are general admission and standing room only (except for the upsell bowling lanes and a mezzanine area) means The Brooklyn Bowl won’t be competing for stand-up comedians or musicians doing acoustic concerts.
The Las Vegas location builds upon the smaller Brooklyn location’s schedule with bigger names. This weekend will be the first test of how bands such as the jazz-funk trio Soulive, which does eight- and 10-night stands in Brooklyn, will translate their followings to Las Vegas.
The initial schedule is loaded with multinight bookings, such as Galactic (March 26-29, April 2-5 and April 9-12), Jane’s Addiction (May 8-10) and Primus (May 1-3). The practice that stems from Shapiro’s jam-band experience; fans travel to see their favorites.
“This is about creating a destination. ‘Let’s go to Vegas,’ ” he says. “I think Avetts for three nights (Aug. 29-31) is better than Avetts for one night. Because people will travel. We’re betting on this. One night, not many are going to travel.”
Time will tell whether a ground-up Las Vegas construction can rekindle the indigenous Brooklyn culture. But one difference which Shapiro noticed early on works in his favor.
In most places, he says, being a bartender or food server is “a second gig. You want to be an actor. You want to be a writer. You want to be a painter, but you do this on the side.”
In Vegas, “These are pros. These people have some serious chops and they’re proud of it. We met some people who are like, ‘This is what I do. I’m really good at it. I really like it.’ We’ve been able to see that in a pretty cool way.”
Contact reporter Mike Weatherford at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0288.