The ambitious house-music residency has three installments left.
House Of Love, a weekly Friday residency that has frequently brought exceptional house and techno artists to Madison’s Cardinal Bar, is coming to an end this month. Plans are set for House Of Love’s last three nights are set, with San Francisco DJ Mindrive (who got his start in Madison in the 1990s) headlining this Friday, several of the night's Madison-based resident DJs (Wyatt Agard, DJ Lovecract, Ashoka, and Ginjahvitiz) taking the helm on October 16, and Mazi and Lance Matthew visiting for the final installment on October 23.
Bookers and resident DJs Tim Thompson and Wyatt Agard, who talked with us in May about their work on House Of Love, have aimed high over the residency’s 18-month run (starting at Jolly Bob’s and moving to the Cardinal after Jolly Bob’s closed last winter), snagging DJ sets and occasional live-PA sets from respected electronic-music figures who otherwise might not make it up to Madison very often, if at all. Some of House Of Love’s bigger gets have included Paul Johnson, Derrick Carter, Jesse Saunders, and Mystic Bill. Madison has an enviable bunch of locally based DJs who spin regularly at local clubs and bars—including Phil Money, Vilas Park Sniper, DJ Zukas, and Nick Nice—but it’s still surprising to see internationally known electronic artists, the kind of people who played important roles in developing house music, playing up here on a regular basis. That very ambition made House Of Love hard to pay for, and made it hard to keep an audience interested.
“Maintaining it every week meant that every day on Saturday as soon as I finished one party—and we’re financially obligated to these artists—it was a big rush of making sure we could get enough people in to cover it without losing money, which we often did,” Thompson told me this week. “There’s only so many times you can say ‘We have a legend coming this week' before people stop listening, even if it’s true.”
Thompson, who also DJs as DJ Lovecraft, and Agard wanted to take a step back from the grind of booking a weekly residency and try to figure out more sustainable ways to keep booking regional and national house artists, both at the Cardinal and elsewhere. Agard also has been putting more time into a new studio and synth-restoration space.
Cardinal Bar owner Ricardo Gonzalez notes that the venue has had house music in one form or another since 1988, and he’d like to keep it in the mix. Gonzalez was generally pleased with how House Of Love nights turned out, but says that it’s hard to compete consistently on Friday nights.
“The issue was Friday night itself,” Gonzalez says. “As a club, we need certain numbers on a weekend night and HOL was not hitting as well as we expected, so we had to make adjustments.”
Gonzalez also says a night like House Of Love needs more resourceful promotion, and admits that the promoters didn’t often get the word out about specific artists far enough in advance. (I can back this up; often House Of Love would score an exciting artist, but you’d only start hearing about it a week or two ahead of the gig.) "A big-name DJ can still do well on a Friday if given the right promo, but you have to work at it,” Gonzalez says.
Thompson admits that he and Agard could have done a better job at promoting House Of Love, but both promoters will leave it feeling positive about the audience response and the enthusiasm of their big-name guest DJs.
“DJs come to House Of Love and have a really good time,” Lovecraft says. “They want to come back for far lower money than they were getting elsewhere, because this community that showed up and danced just really made it happen for them.”
Agard notes that House Of Love was far more short-lived than other nights he’s hosted around town, but still counts it as a big accomplishment.
“As a teen sneaking into the Cardinal, I always wanted to host a weekend weekly there,” Agard says. "And I did. So the goal was achieved. For that I am proud.”