We are hoping to have events that are really purposeful, where your coming down and making a night of it, paying attention to what is happening on the stage, whether it be a comedy show…or acoustic duos…

Matt Mahlum

Manager, The Main - An Event Space

We are talking to Matt Mahlum, a musician himself who recently kicked off The Main – An Event Space, a new event and performance venue in downtown La Crosse, we talk about starting a venue during covid, what’s coming up for the space and where can people find out more.

Amy Gabay 00:04
We’re talking to Matt Mahlum, a musician himself who recently kicked off The Main, a new event and performance venue in downtown La Crosse. We talked about starting a venue during COVID, what’s coming up for the space, and where people can find out more. You can find more conversations, food reviews, live music and events on our website, lacrosselocal.com. I’m Amy.

Brent Hanifl 00:24
I’m Brent.

Amy Gabay 00:25
And this is La Crosse Local.

Brent Hanifl 00:28
We’re talking to Matt Mahlum. You know, Matt, you’re also a musician yourself. You’ve done our series of Garage Sessions before. You’re also one of the first folks we interviewed way back on Podcast 55.

Matt Mahlum 00:41
That was a long time ago.

Brent Hanifl 00:41
So it was. So since then, though, we’ve been you know, you’ve been doing a number of gigs. I see you on different albums, keeping busy. But now you have your hands full with The Main, which is an event space, live music venue. Been seeing a lot about it online. So what is The Main?

Matt Mahlum 00:59
So The Main is a new concert venue, comedy space, event space, all around cool room here in downtown La Crosse right at 422 Main Street. A lot of people in the community might know the location as Crossfire, they were around for many, many years. And they had a lot of benefit donors who really, really came in and beautified a space that it was an, it’s an old building a lot of exposed brick, beautiful walls and things. But you know, over the years, it got to be old. And they remodeled the place shortly before they left. And so they basically built a place that they could have worship, they could have fellowship, but then they could also have like Christian rock shows. And so there’s a sound system completely built into the room and from what I understand. I don’t know personally, I didn’t experience it personally. But from what I understand they used to have some pretty rockin shows here, some pretty cool Christian shows back in the day. And so they ended up vacating the space and my partners bought the building. And now here we are trying to, you know, take slow calculated steps to make this room just an incredible space for people to come and enjoy live music or, you know, comedy events. Or, you know, gosh, if you want to have a retirement party or a birthday party we’ve talked about, we’ve talked with a couple brides and grooms about, you know, having parts of their their nuptials here, whether it be rehearsal dinner, or the rehearsal, the service itself, we’re really kind of open to ideas and just kind of want people to come in and see the space and ask how we can make their event awesome. On top of a whole other things. I mean, there’s a lot for me to talk about, but I’ll let you ask some questions.

Brent Hanifl 02:52
You’ll let me chat a little bit?

Matt Mahlum 02:53
Yeah I’ll let you talk a bit.

Brent Hanifl 02:55
Well I got to look at it you know before you actually open you know, we just heard about this and I was down at Downtown Main Street the office, that’s right next door?

Matt Mahlum 03:03
Yeah, you’re correct.

Brent Hanifl 03:04
Those kind of historic buildings, those historic spaces, it looks like a great setup. What sort of like investments did you put into it, you know, already it looked like a place that was ready to go for live music?

Matt Mahlum 03:15
Well, I gotta tell you, we were very fortunate again, in walking into a space that was basically built out for us. The sound system was built into the room and essentially came with the purchase of the building. Everything was here. So we put a few $1,000 into making sure that the sound system was up to snuff and we had Commercial AV come in and Dana and his crew came in and made sure the sound and lights were up and running. We got a couple more lights just because some of the stuff that they had was a little bit outdated, you know and donated again. So it’s like you know sometimes with the donated stuff you just you take what you get. We’re just so fortunate in that everything was here the, I mean we’re talking more than the bones I mean, the bare bones were here but the you know the pants and the shirt are on the building as well. We put some curtains up and I mean honestly that’s about it. It’s just such an incredible space.

Brent Hanifl 04:20
So you know I’d like to talk about the Rucksack Revolution who’s coming, which is a show and some you know some openers, including Dan Sebranek and John Smith.

Matt Mahlum 04:29
Yeah. All great friends of mine. Yeah, definitely.

Brent Hanifl 04:32
Yeah, it’s nice to see this sort of, you know, just different sort of music that isn’t traditionally around the area in some ways you know, I guess it well it is around the area but in a venue where people can actually sit down and enjoy it.

Matt Mahlum 04:44
Right well one thing that we’re looking to do here and I can explain our three legged table approach to our business. But one of the big things one of those legs in our business approach is bringing cool, fun, different things to downtown La Crosse. And you know, we’re very fortunate in this area to have an incredible music scene a lot of really high level musicians both locally here in the La Crosse area, but also regionally. We’ve got places like the Popcorn Tavern, which has always been just a mainstay in the music scene. But it’s a lot of you know, it’s a bar and it’s a lot of bar band stuff and really great regionally touring bands. But that’s, that’s a place you’re going to go in on most nights and you’re going to have some drinks and maybe do some dancing and have a little bit more of that social experience. Whereas we’re hoping to have events where it’s really purposeful. Where you’re coming in, you’re making a night of coming down and you’re going to come in you’re going to pay attention to what’s happening on the stage. Whether it be a comedy show or whether it be you know, these acoustic duo’s where you have to really come in and really sit down and take it in and really soak it in. And I think this room really bodes well for that. We had a you know three time Grammy winner Bill Miller in here in December and man the the energy in the room and just the way that the bricks soaks up some of the sound like it bounces around don’t get me wrong, but like, just soaks up that energy. So it’s a special place and for a group like Rucksack Revolution or a duo like Dan and John. Man, it’s just such a place where you can, there’s not a bad place to sit in the house. There’s not a bad viewpoint. A couple poles maybe but I mean, it’s such a cool place. But yeah, the idea of bringing different things and interesting things to downtown La Crosse to kind of shake the hand of a place like the Popcorn Tavern and the Cavalier Theater. Where you know, the Cavalier can bring in, you know, some of those larger acts and the Popcorn can bring in, you know, mid level to some of those more regional acts. But downtown has been lacking a place to have that like beautiful mid level sized venue where, you know, 200, 300 people can come or 100 people seated, can come in and see something different. There’s not a lot of places right downtown where you can go see a comedy show or a hypnotist or a mentalist, like we’re looking at bringing in later in the spring. And then, you know, some again, still doing some of those stripped down acoustic shows with the singer songwriters. And, you know, my brother Cheech, coming in and doing some of the tribute stuff that he’s done and is going to continue to do album releases and things like that. Really just trying to do it all.

Brent Hanifl 07:34
You know, one thing I like about it, you know, I grew up going to the Popcorn and grew up going to you know, various different venues, even the Warehouse and my youth-

Matt Mahlum 07:42
Oh I was a Warehouse kid for sure. Shout out to Space Bike, Enormous Headache, and all those bands back in the day.

Brent Hanifl 07:48
Absolutely. But also what I love about this is, you know, I have three kids now, I’m in my 40s. You know, I like to go to bed at like 10pm even on a Friday and Saturday. So having shows start at six or seven, to me is just, that’s where I’m at in my life.

Matt Mahlum 08:04
Yeah man. And I think that that’s important, too. I’m you and I are the same age, relatively speaking. You know, I’m the same way I’ve got two kids and my partner Bailey, she’s got three kids. So we got five kids in the house and, you know, working jobs and just aging. I’m gonna be 40 in July. So yeah, man, I don’t like to be too late. And again, you know, you got a place right around the corner, like the Popcorn Tavern, the Cavalier Lounge, you got, you know, the Crow and Animal House and the State Room, all these places that cater to that late night crowd, we want you to come in here. And if you want to go out and have a night and stay out till bar time and really live it up, that’s cool. But start your night here. You know what I mean? Come and check out a comedy show. And you know, for guys like you and me, this is where maybe the night ends, have a few drinks or whatever some laughs and go home. But if you’re younger, or if you’re single, or whatever, you’re ready to go out and have a good time. Why don’t you start down here and then make your way down the Third Street or, or over to, you know, Pearl Street or whatever. I mean, I think that having events a little bit earlier in the evening is it’s just a little easier for everybody.

Brent Hanifl 09:14
You know, it sounds like you kind of told us the story about the place was already set up ready to go. But you know, a couple years into a pandemic, you know, what makes you open up a live music and event space?

Matt Mahlum 09:28
You know, I often ask myself that same question. The way that it worked out is I was working in sales for a number of years and I got to be, you know, somewhat successful in that and I had a job that until June, July, you know, I ended up losing the sales position. And I am working at purchasing another business as well and really trying to make that happen, but the timetables didn’t. I needed to wait and I’m still in that process. And so just recently, you know, my partners here in town, they asked another friend of mine if he could help them out and he just didn’t have the interest. But he was like, you know, I know a guy who is probably perfect for this. And I think he’s available right now because I was laying in wait, trying to get this other business opportunity up and moving. And so we met, and these guys are like, look, we got this space, nothing’s happening with it right now. My partners are two very busy men. They have, you know, business interests in a variety of places in town. And so they were just like, you know, we can’t do this. We don’t have time, we don’t currently have somebody on our staff that can do it. Do you want to take a shot? And I was like, yeah, I mean, why not? And as a performer, a lot of times you have this dream of owning the place and being the guy or the person, you know, being that person who is in charge, who can bring in the bands that a) they like and b) are going to be advantageous financially. You know, I’ve toured around the country in a variety of ways, and been into a lot of rooms and you see what works, what doesn’t, what you would do differently. And all of a sudden, an opportunity kind of got dropped into my lap. I’m very, very fortunate, and very thankful for my two business partners for bringing me into this. I have had a lot of fun. It is an incredible amount of work. But I did it because I love music. I love comedy. I love being involved in things in La Crosse. And most importantly in this is no BS and I’m not sure if you know that this is a part of our business model. Another leg to our three legged table, so our three legged table is bringing cool stuff to town. That was the first leg I talked about. The other leg is I mean, this is a for profit business, we are trying to you know, I’m trying to earn a living. But the third leg of our table and this is really what I’m passionate about here more than any of this, is every event that we open to the public, we are going to try and so far so good, but we’re going to try every event that we open to the public having a nonprofit involved, where we are raising money or awareness or you know, maybe food donations to the Hunger Task or something like that. But we are trying to reach out to local 501 C3’s and really try to generate revenue for some of these groups and people that need a little help in the community. And so we’ve partnered with in some of our events so far, the Hunger Task Force, you know, the Center, the Seven River LGBTQ. Gosh, who else, we’re looking at the Rucksack Revolution show is going to benefit the Mississippi Valley Conservancy and the great work they do for the bluffed lands and grasslands here in the Driftless region. Both the artists and myself are passionate in that conservation cause and I’ve got meeting set up with a few of the other Local Public Education Foundation. I hope that these events can just raise a bunch of money and awareness and whatever, you know, some of these organizations need I hope that we can be a small to large part in making that happen. I love La Crosse, man. I am born and raised here. My dad was born and raised here. My grandma was born and raised here. You know, I’m a townie, townie man, I love La Crosse. I love downtown. I think that the things that are happening in downtown La Crosse right now and you know the pandemic, setting things back a little bit. But I think that there’s really good positive forward momentum in downtown lacrosse, and we want to be a part of that.

Brent Hanifl 13:42
I think it’s important. What’s next for The Main?

Matt Mahlum 13:46
Well without diving in too deep in the specifics, because if anybody listening wants to find that out, they can go to our Facebook page, just look up The Main – An Event Space on Facebook and you should find that. But we’ve got a hypnotist coming in and doing a show. I’m talking with Chicago Farmer and the Field Notes. We’re just I mean, I’m about to finalize that for April and they’re bringing Barbara with them. So hopefully I’ll have that fully announced here. I hope I’m not putting the cart before the horse. We’ve got some drag shows, hopefully coming in. More comedy, Big Bluff Comedy who has been a partner of ours now once and Big Bluff Comedy’s got a couple headliners coming in and they’ve got a regional showcase coming up and they’ve got some more open mics. We’re really kind of hoping to have this be almost a hub for a couple of these groups. Live! From La Crosse has two sketch comedy events planned here from March in May. Boy we’ve got, I just met with a gentleman yesterday’s a mentalist, which I’m not going to try and misrepresent what a mentalist is so look that up. But he’s gonna come in and do that, and like I said the drag show they’re hoping, and I’m hoping that they can kind of find a home here at The Main and they can do this regularly. Big Bluff Comedy, we’re hoping to do a monthly open mic here and really trying to get regular events, get the market and the public train to know that The Main is a place where cool stuff happens on the regular. Spoken with a mutual friend of ours Mario, and he’s hoping to have some events down the pipe as things start to get a little bit more, you know, appropriate in the indoor space for their groups. But yeah, man just quite frankly, anything if you or anyone has an idea about an event, I’m willing to listen. If someone’s interested in throwing an event or having a party or retirement party, birthday party, wedding like I said, this is an event space on top of concerts and comedy. So you got a kitchen in the back. That is perfect for caterers we’re not cooking out of here. But if you know your caterer wants to come in and they can plate and everything in the back, it’s set up perfectly. My partners own a couple different restaurants that do catering here in town. So we’ve got preferred caterers here. There’s just so many different ways we can make this space work for you.

Brent Hanifl 16:19
Well, I’m definitely excited to come check out a show. You know you guys are also doing their Nirvana Unplugged show which is happening further in the spring. So I’m excited to come check that out. So for people who want to find out more, but also maybe potentially think about renting your space, what’s the best spot for them to go to?

Matt Mahlum 16:36
I would say message the Main Event Space on Facebook. Please reach out via Facebook, message me on Facebook. Send us a comment on one of our posts or whatever. But yeah, Facebook is probably going to be the best way to get a hold of me.

Amy Gabay 16:56
La Crosse Local Podcast is a production of River Tavel Media. Do you have an interview idea you’d like to share with us? Message us on Facebook at La Crosse Local. Find out more about us at lacrosselocalcom and you can subscribe to the La Crosse Local podcast on your favorite podcast app. If you like us, rate us five stars. We appreciate it.


About La Crosse Local

La Crosse Local is an arts, food, and entertainment podcast and publication for La Crosse County and its surrounding communities.

Find us in your favorite podcast app.

Listen to this podcast on Spreaker