Sunday, May 10, 2009

LaSalle Power Co

Hey, Fearless fans, during times of uncertainty within the current economic situation, a new nightclub / venue recently opened its doors in the River North area. Located in a prime spot on LaSalle Street, the LaSalle Power Co currently resides the space once occupied by His Airness, Michael Jordan. It’s a swanky place perfect for attracting the right clientele to be seen. However in SouthSide’s opinion, it’s overly swanky for any independent (rock) band she knows to ever perform on stage.

When you first arrive to LaSalle Power Co, it appears to be like any other restaurant in the area with outdoor seating when the weather’s nice. Go inside and you’ll notice there are three levels. The first level depicts itself in a nightclub atmosphere like its neighbor Excalibur. The second level is the sports bar area with dining, pool tables (still smelling new) and huge flat screens to watch the games. The third level is the independent music venue that is dark and ominous almost like the Darkroom.

It’s great conception – three separate levels …totally different from the other but in the long run, it’s a poor idea. LaSalle Power Co must decide one day what it truly wants to be in order to survive the coming summer entertainment season. Does it want to be a nightclub and compete against the already established hot spots like Spybar and Excalibur? Does it want to be the next ESPN Zone? Or does it want to be hottest independent music town compared to Metro and House of Blues? Trying to establish itself as all three at once is doomed to failure. Here’s why.

There’s a dress code to enter LaSalle Power Co. Upon arriving to the Metromix Rock “n” Vote show, this reviewer was told no sports jerseys are allowed inside. A dress code?! How is a tourist walking off the street supposed to know if there’s no sign posted stating to that effect? There was no mention of a dress code in Metromix flyer online either. SouthSide has never encountered a place where there’s a dress code to attend a rock show. That seems kind of strange since this place bills itself as a relaxing atmosphere for independent music. Not the case, Fearless fans. You have to casually or dress to impress to enter this place. Believe SouthSide, most rock fans don’t dress to impress anyone. They dress to be comfortable and to have a great time rocking out with their favorite band. Wearing a slinky black dress and heels is not typical rock gear. A dress code is better suited for places like its neighboring nightclubs in the same area. If it’s the average Joe and Jane who wears jeans, t-shirts and/or sports wear this venue wants to attract, then it will have to ease up on the dress code. Or be prepared for dwindling revenues because bands and fans seek of a more relaxed (non-dress code) vibe to rock and party.

The menu is simply uninspiring and priced unreasonably high. SouthSide enjoys (fine) dining out however she doesn’t enjoy dining where it will break her bank. She found nothing there to be relaxing, fun and sports-like atmosphere. The loud alternative music overshadowed the four screens showing the Sox, Cubs, NBA basketball and Hawks. How is an avid sports fan like SouthSide to enjoy a ballgame if there’s a Gorillaz song playing in the background? The pool tables appeared to be new and fresh off the factory floor as well as oddly placed close to the restroom entrance. The table setting screamed “you’re now dining at the Signature Room” with its square plating and cloth-rolled flatware. The wait staff was somewhat confusing. The servers who took your drink and/or food orders were dressed casual wearing the company t-shirts while the table servers looked more professional in their polished uniforms.

Hanging out at the bar will cost you too. SouthSide’s not a drinker but she knows paying five dollars for one bottle of beer is a bit pricey for the average rock band and fan. The menu was SouthSide’s biggest problem – it didn’t appeal to her taste buds. It didn’t impress the “dining on a dime” persona in her as she viewed the boring selection. Where’s the real greasy sports food like ribs? LaSalle Power Co should take a lesson in menu pricing from Reggie’s on the Southside. The clever menu design and wording keeps this reviewer coming back for more each visit. Also patrons can get more bang for their buck with daily specials like .25 cent wings on Tuesdays or half off any burger or sandwich on Thursdays. Though she didn’t sample the eats at the time for this review, she doesn’t see many munching down on a ten-dollar burger …not in today’s economy. There was no sports bar atmosphere to be found within this fine dining setting.

Lastly, the stage on the fourth floor is smaller than other stages at Double Door and Metro. Energetic rock bands that enjoy moving about won’t find much room unless you strut your stuff on the bar counter. Yet watch out for the beer taps on your way back to the stage with your long guitar cord. There are VIP tables (for a fee) along the wall. Bad idea – especially if bands like I Fight Dragons or Makeshift Prodigy bring their legions of fans. Take away the VIP booths and there would be more room for the audience to rock out. Also, there should be a green room for bands to store their equipment before and after the show. And having the bands’ merch tables on the first level (in a room where no one can visibly see them) instead of near the third level where the majority of fans will be is a very bad idea. One other suggestion – do away with the photographer’s / media pit. The stage as well as the venue is way too small to rope off space for that. Rowdy rock fans be forewarned – behave yourselves. The beefy security staff (and there’s plenty of them) stationed in various areas of the room watching your every move.

Amazingly there are a couple of pluses. The lighting and sound for the Metromix show was absolutely perfect. The guys did a wonderful job timing and coordinating the lights with the right songs performed by each band. SouthSide does see LaSalle Power Co rising to the status like other music venues such as Metro, Double Door or Elbo Room. However changes will have to be made if it wants to attract viable fan base with popular local bands. Nightly drink and beer specials would be a good start. Fans adore nightly bar specials during a show which in turns boosts the bar’s beer sales for the night. The cheaper the price of bottle the more they will buy throughout the night. And VIP – how can one be a VIP and see the show if there’s a crowd blocking your view? Management and owners need to rethink that idea.

Though it can less intimidating than House of Blues however LaSalle Power Co is notch higher in the target clientele than they’re actually looking for. There’s no laidback atmosphere to be had if you’re an average rock band and fan. The premiere location itself suggests you have to dress to impress if you want to be seen. It does run a risk of losing the ideal target base with its imposed dress code and fine dining for a sports bar / music venue theme. Yet what can you expect, Fearless fans, this is River North, an area known for upscale eating and nightlife …not for an independent music venue. Don’t expect SouthSide to be frequenting LaSalle Power Co during her adventures around town. It’s too uptight and swanky for her. She prefers the local yet smaller venues to review live shows without the fanciness which costs extra.

Until next time, Fearless fans, support local indie artists and music.



  1. Very accurate account of this new venue. I'm a bit concerned for their well-being, seeing as the entire two floors were empty while the show on the third floor was going on. It came off to me more as a House of Blues and less of a Metro or Double Door. Not to say it won't work, just that they have their work cut out for them.

  2. hey southside!
    i came across your post when looking up the dress code, we are playing a show there april 9 ... hope to see you there!


  3. Though this article is nearly 3 years old, it's the most widely read out of all my older On The Town blogs.
    Very Interesting...


Thank you for your feedback - SouthSide