Midtown Reno is in the midst of a resurgence. Decades ago, the neighborhood was not the most inviting, passed over as people teemed along the highway for the bright lights of downtown. However, in the last decade, more money and attention have been poured into the area and it boasts new and revitalized shops, bars and other attractions. Now you can find just as many people poking around midtown on a Saturday night out as you might flowing under the Reno Arch.
Midtown is the area between Plumb Lane and Liberty Street to the North and South and Arlington Avenue and Holcomb Avenue. Two of its most prominent businesses during this uptick have been The Saint and St. James Infirmary.
St. James Infirmary bills itself as “one of the few places where the craft beer and cocktail movement began in Reno,” and enthusiastically serves beer from one of Reno’s own breweries, Brasserie St. James. Where might this beer be coming from? Well, The Saint is the taphouse for Brasserie St. James and has a barrelhouse of its beers that can house about 300 barrels of hoppy nectar. If you need a great place for a pour, you wouldn’t need to look much farther than these two spots.
As well as being fixtures on the beer and cocktail scene, The Saint and St. James Infirmary have begun to cultivate a rapidly rising music scene in Reno. Both venues participate in the city-wide Off Beat Reno Festival. St. James Infirmary hosts a slew of shows that revolve around the more experimental sonic spheres, including a weekly Sunday showcase of local musicians with Reverend Rory Dowd. Low-key and intimate, it epitomizes dive-bar entertainment.
The Saint is becoming one of the best places to see music in Reno and is a rising indie act magnet. Indie stalwart El Ten Eleven has a show this Saturday, Sept. 8, at the venue and past acts have included Steve Gunn, Palehound and Five Alarm Funk. October will showcase acclaimed session drummer Chris Dave and songstress Esmé Patterson. In addition to nationally touring headliner entertainment, The Saint just began hosting weekly salsa music nights every Thursday and will add blues nights every Wednesday, starting this week.
Tahoe Onstage was fortunate enough to catch up with the two venues’ booking agent and promoter, David Hadel. He’s the man tasked with bringing music to midtown and he gave us the skinny on some of his musical highlights, what he’s looking for in performers and what his dreams are for The Saint and St. James Infirmary. As midtown continues to dance to the beat of its own music, David Hadel will be providing the soundtrack.
When did you start seeing music as a fan? Who were you seeing? Where were you seeing them?
The first live concert I had attended was with my parents: Guns N’ Roses with the Brian May Band at Lawlor Events Center in 1993. I was 8 years old, but the concert made a huge impact on me. Growing up in Reno as a teenager, I would check out bands at Ark-Aik, which was an all ages cafe and music venue on 4th Street with a record store in the front. There were upcoming acts like Dirt Bike Annie, Captured by Robots, Sucka Punch and an assortment of touring / local punk, metal and rock bands. New Oasis in Sparks brought in bands like Suicidal Tendencies, Flogging Molly, The (new) Misfits, The Sounds; I saw a lot of amazing shows there. The Killers played a free show back in 2004 when they were just getting started.
What aspect of being a booking agent are you most drawn to? What part suits your qualities and skills?
I’ve been a part of the music community in Reno for most of my life in one form or another; producing my podcast “All Independent Reno,” which features interviews with local and touring bands, emcee at the Reno Block Party at Wingfield Park and now with the St. James group. My goal has always been to enrich the music community in our area. I’ve learned a lot about scheduling, communicating with bands, agents and publicists. Now that I’m in a position to book shows at both of our amazing venues, this venture is an exciting opportunity to connect fans with unique live music experiences.
What are some of the shows you are proudest about booking or being a part of in general? Who is on your wishlist right now? What are some shows/types of events you still want to put on that you haven’t?
The sold-out English Beat show was a fantastic experience. The fans were incredibly happy to see them play and English Beat was thrilled to perform for them. I have a wishlist of artists we’d love to have such as Ryan Adams, Kurt Vile, Deer Tick and others, but we have to be realistic with the capacity, as well. Considering the size of the venue, Ryan Adams may be out of reach, but it doesn’t hurt to try, right?
You book with The Saint and St. James Infirmary, correct? How did you link up with those venues?
When I was more active with “All Independent Reno” podcast, which is on the backburner for now, I would schedule interviews at The Saint with the talent buyer at the time and the bands’ publicists. We set up remote interviews on site with several bands and eventually developed a relationship with the management at The Saint. When the talent-buyer position became available, I was at a point in my life where it made sense for me to step in a take over the role.
What do you see as the musical identity of each venue? What kinds of shows are you trying to put on in each place? What do you see as the musical identity of Reno?
The Infirmary has become an institution. It’s the quintessential dive bar, which has a classy, jazzy yet dark and cozy backdrop. It has been home to punk, jazz, acoustic, rock and dance music alike. It will always be an upbeat and experimental musical format with a nod to the classics. The Saint was built as an Americana country music hall, but the format ventured a bit. We will still book large varied acts midweek, but the country element will be coming back on the weekends.
I’m sure it ranges depending on the situation, but what qualities/information are you looking at to determine whether or not to book bands at your venue, especially people who are new to you?
In this market, it can be difficult to project a draw for certain acts, especially on school/work nights. We’re not San Francisco or Portland,
so what may work there may not draw a big turnout here in Reno. The electronic press kit (EPK) and music links that a band sends our way is the No. 1 determining factor; great music is great music, period. Social media numbers, prior show turnout and activity on social media makes a huge difference, as well. For touring bands, we send a list of local acts for them to connect with that will help draw the local crowd and expose Reno fans to an upcoming act. It’s fun to see fans introduce themselves to the touring bands after the show and buying merch like a T-shirt, vinyl record or cassette tape.
What is the current direction/path that you see The Saint/St. James heading in the next six months? In the next year? What are your goals as a venue?
The Saint will be moving into the direction of country starting soon. The Infirmary will be seeing more dance heavy throwback DJ nights on the weekend as well as a smattering of live rock, soul, jazz and blues acts peppering up the month.
At the Saint, we want to establish ourselves as the home for country music lovers to watch live acts, to line dance and boogie all night to their country favorites. They need a place that they can call their own, which was initially built for them, maybe even throw in a mechanical bull. We are also starting a weekly blues night every Wednesday and salsa lessons with dance party following the group lesson every Thursday night.
In the schedule you have right now, what shows do you see as highlights? What are the sleeper-pick shows that have the potential to really surprise or impress?
Chris Dave and the Drumhedz on Oct. 18 at The Saint will be an amazing show. He has been the touring and in-studio drummer for D’Angelo and the Vanguards and is the session drummer for artists such as Adele, Justin Bieber and Ed Sheeran.
Esmé Patterson on Oct. 20 will be a special treat. She was previously in the Denver-based folk group Paper Birds and is the female vocalist in the Shakey Graves’ breakout hit “Dearly Departed.” Her Tiny Desk concert with NPR is amazing and we are excited to have her and Chris Dave perform at The Saint.
Any other comments or points you would like to make about what you do or the shows at The Saint/St. James?
I’m a huge fan of music and I am thrilled to be involved with music as a career. It doesn’t feel like a job because I love what I do, but it’s still hard work and there are a lot of people counting on my team and I to provide outstanding, memorable entertainment in Reno. The Saint and St. James Infirmary are evolving our entertainment schedule to help contribute to our music community in Reno. We want to invite music fans from every genre to come out and see live music. We want to provide a unique music experience that stands out among your entertainment options on any given evening.
— Garrett Bethmann