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Uncle Slayton’s closing July 27: Bands lose Kesslers’ professionalism; fans lose quality venue

by Michael Tierney

Uncle Slayton’s and its co-owner Rebecca Kessler will host Leora Nosko, Small Time Napoleon and Alex Wright & The Maven Down on Sat., July 27.

And that will be it.

That show will be the venue’s last under Kessler, who opted to not renew the lease.

Kessler on her decision:

We nearly didn’t renew last year but kept on partly due to lease conditions, and partly out of continuing that ‘good vibe’ for those who’d discovered us. We all deserved a second year. That said, we made the decision back in January to finish out the current lease and either a) move on to a larger space with a 250-300 (person) capacity (nearly non-existent in Louisville) and take on a third partner; b) turnkey or sell the business at the current location; or c) liquidate and move on from there.

At this point, Kessler said, all she knows is that she and her husband/business partner Bill Kessler won’t renew the lease.

The Kesslers completely renovated two buildings at 1017 E. Broadway two years ago, creating a small but sophisticated music hall out of what had been “Skull Alley” nightclub.

Rebecca Kessler hopes that after all the renovation work they put into the building, that someone snatches it up, seeing the value in the building.

“We hope it’ll remain a music venue in one form or another,” she said.

“It’s easily ready as a turnkey business – or hey, maybe it’ll revert back to a massage parlor!”

I had an opportunity to play Uncle Slayton’s and have to say, Louisville bands are losing an ally with Slayton’s closing.

There isn’t an owner/manager as engaging as Rebecca Kessler pre-show: she’s in constant contact about tech requirements, she opens doors early for full and proper sound-checks for each band on the bill and is always giving away free hugs.

Dylan Curry, Slayton’s sound engineer, is a true professional. Curry’s demeanor, sobriety and cooperation were at levels I’ve yet to experience elsewhere in Louisville.

Kessler also holds Curry in very high regard.

“Perhaps most of all, though, we’ll miss Dylan Curry, our sound engineer. Cannot say enough good things about him,” she says.

Curry behind the board, the brick walls, high ceilings, nice-sized stage and top-of-the-line sound equipment made Slayton’s an ideal place to play.

“Given the space’s naturally strong acoustics, we’ve become the city’s primary listening room, although we’re able to crank up the party, too,” said Kessler.

The “not so green room” as Kessler called it, is a private room for bands to hang out on comfortable chairs and couches, make tea and coffee, and drink free bottles of water in.

Bands from all over flocked to Slayton’s as it became one of the go-to places to play for out of town acts. Just this past week Slayton’s featured notable acts James McCartney– Paul McCartney’s son– as well as Zach Vinson, a talented singer-songwriter from Nashville who had heard good word of Slayton’s.

When I first began writing “Honey, It’s the Weekend” for Insider Louisville, Uncle Slayton’s was my go-to venue for quality events, as the talent level of acts booked was too good to go unmentioned.

Kessler’s dedication won over acts, as well as media support as the venue was a WFPK favorite.

Slayton’s was one of the best places to catch a Louisville act; Andrea Davidson and A Lion Named Roar were two of the many bands to find a home at the venue.

Bands lose a venue with southern hospitality in Louisville.

Live music fans in Louisville will lose a fun, affordable and slightly upscale venue.

Kessler had experience prior to Slayton’s with booking and production via her LLC, Pilgrim Productions. But she admitted, owning a music venue in Louisville was “a different beast.”

“The hardest part has been keeping pace (and patience) without dropping of sheer exhaustion,” she said. “We wear many hats both day and night, and there are only two of us.”

Uncle Slayton’s faced parking disadvantages, new venue adversity and a probably a relatively high overhead because of the quality of its equipment.

We’ll see if someone views Uncle Slayton’s ability to make bands sound and look good as a worthy investment.

Until then, Louisville will be without one of its top venues for both bands and fans starting at the end of next month.

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