Dethmers: “They have every intention of continuing things as they are.”
The shock waves are still reverberating from last week’s unexpected announcement that Cathy Dethmers, the founder and longtime operator of the High Noon Saloon, has agreed to sell her live music venue to Frank Productions, which recently secured final approval to construct its own 2,500-capacity music venue, the Sylvee, just a few blocks away on East Washington Avenue. The Franks are expected to assume full control of the High Noon by May.
Dethmers approached the Franks about the sale back in November, when negotiations with another local buyer went south. The idea emerged from a suggestion Frank Productions/True Endeavors promoter Tag Evers made to Dethmers a few years back, when he saw her struggling with burnout.
With the High Noon, the summer concert series at Breese Stevens Field and the Sylvee set to come online in 2018, Frank Productions will control three of the major venues in Madison’s emerging music district (see the recent Isthmus cover story, “Musical Mile”). With the purchase of High Noon, Charlie Goldstone, president of Frank Productions Concerts LLC, sees more opportunities for collaborations with other music venues. For instance, an event like FRZN Fest, the High Noon’s signature winter multi-night concert event, could potentially expand to include venues like the Majestic Theatre and the Sylvee.
“But that’s not the purpose of why we’re buying it,” says Goldstone of the High Noon. “If Cathy was going to sell, we wanted to make sure the High Noon remained the vital music venue that she’s created. We both felt this was the best way to have the High Noon stay the High Noon. Our view is we’re not reinventing the wheel.”
Given that this is all playing out against the backdrop of the city forming a task force to explore ways to encourage hip-hop music in Madison, it’s not necessarily far-fetched to think that both the High Noon and the Sylvee could end up being involved in that effort.
If there’s concern, it’s likely coming from Live Nation, the national promotion company booking shows into the Orpheum Theater, which is owned by the Paras family. And some local musicians are worried about whether Frank Productions will be the same kind of tireless champion for local artists that Dethmers was over her three-decade run at O’Cayz Corral and the High Noon.
Dethmers, who is selling High Noon to spend more time with her two young sons, says her first question to Evers was what Frank Productions would do with the club if they bought it.
“They have every intention of continuing things as they are,” says Dethmers. “They believe in the format and want to have a hand in local music. Having this venue will give them more opportunity than they’ve had previously to do that.”
While she’ll be stepping away from the day-to-day grind of booking shows and running a bar, don’t expect Dethmers to disappear from the scene altogether.
“This is the only life I’ve known since I was a teenager,” she says. “I’m not leaving town. I’m still going to go to shows — probably even more than before.”