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SLO Brewing Co. (SLO Brew) will return live music to the Fremont Theater next month.

SLO Brew is bringing Lindsey Buckingham to the Fremont Theatre on May 8 as part of a plan to use the theater as another concert venue. The move is intended to allow SLO Brew to accommodate a larger variety of artists and help increase its brand recognition, general manager Monty Schaller said.

Getting the venue is a bigger step for the SLO Brewing Co., Schaller said.

“Everyone knows that the Brew is the best concert venue in town, but now we want to make it known that SLO Brew brings the best music to town,” Schaller said.

This plan has been in the works for some time. J.G. King, COO of King Ventures, the real estate development company that owns the Fremont Theater property, said he first started talking with SLO Brew operations manager Todd Newman about this last August.

It isn’t unusual for the Fremont Theater to have live concerts, King said — the band Yes recorded a live album there for three nights in March 1996, and King said “that was a historic thing.” The two downtown businesses have worked on concerts together in the past as well, King said.

However, King said the theater is “a special place,” and they don’t want to bring just anybody. The Lindsey Buckingham concert has already done well in sales, he said, and they feel confident it will go well. There is a plan in place to have more SLO Brew shows at the theater,  but the May 8 concert is a test show to ensure this is the direction the venue wants to go in.

“The SLO Brew guys are good guys,” King said. “We’re just looking for them to bring the right shows.”

Having live concerts at the Fremont Theater lets locals “experience it in all its glory,” King said, and allows the theater to bring acts people wouldn’t normally see that might be too big for the SLO Brew venue. However, that also means he doesn’t want a crowd that would be too aggressive on the building, King said.

While Schaller said SLO Brew has been getting offers from more mainstream artists over the last several years, it can’t afford to host them at the Garden Street location because of its size, so SLO Brew is working on expanding to other local venues that can better accommodate bigger artists. The Fremont Theater is the only “mid-level venue” in town, he said.

This isn’t the first outside concert venue for SLO Brew — Newman said the business has a working relationship with The Cliffs Resort in Shell Beach, and Schaller said it is also negotiating with the Madonna Inn Expo Center.

Though the Lindsey Buckingham concert is SLO Brew’s only confirmed concert at the Fremont Theater, Schaller said there are plans in the works for an extended contract to have more. This concert is the first time SLO Brew is “entering into the forte” of hosting a prominent artist, Schaller said — and it has other acts “on the burner” to bring to the theater.

“It’s going to make so much more sense when we get to bring the artists … and get the bigger ones,” Schaller said.

Before it was a concert venue, SLO Brew was primarily a brewery, Schaller said.

“There are two things that we do really well here — it’s music and it’s beer,” Schaller said. “We’re an establishment that creates our own identity with the music and the beer … whenever we do a concert offsite like this we’re pouring our own beer. So it’s a great way to expose people to more than just the music — again, it’s bringing what this building does inside offsite.”

Concert promotion has become more accessible as SLO Brew’s music reputation has grown, Schaller said — it’s “part of what we do.”

But it isn’t easy. When a promoter’s contract at a venue ends, everyone puts in bids and pitches to have it next — it’s a slippery slope, Schaller said.

SLO Brew’s work in concert promotion isn’t worrying Johnny Kenny, owner and partner of Central Coast concert promoter Collective Effort Events. The music his company brings is “a totally different genre” than the artists SLO Brew brings, he said.

“There is really no competition between us,” Kenny said. “They’re good friends of ours.”

For Otter Productions Inc., another Central Coast promoter, it’s a different story. President Bruce Howard said SLO Brew is competition — but added that his company has also collaborated and co-promoted shows with SLO Brew.

“They are my pals, but we also compete; there’s no doubt about it,” Howard said. “As far as I’m concerned, it’s friendly competition … sometimes they beat me on artists, sometimes we beat them.”

During the past few years, the concert lineup at SLO Brew has been really impressive, Schaller said, and people are noticing. Some artists the venue had to pass on are ones that would work better at the Fremont Theater or other potential venues, and those acts are “going to be really big.”

While business administration senior Alyson Boehm hasn’t been to a concert at SLO Brew before, she said she thinks a concert at the Fremont Theater is “kind of out of place.” However, she wouldn’t be opposed to attending one.

“Their downtown location right now seems a lot more appropriate for the kind of crowd they would bring in,” Boehm said. “I think it would depend on the space that’s available.”

And the Fremont Theater isn’t the only downtown business SLO Brew is working with — it also works with Boo Boo Records to sell concert tickets. A “side benefit” of bringing artists to San Luis Obispo is how everyone in town prospers from it, Schaller said.

“We sell our tickets online, but we always recommend people to go to Boo Boo’s because they’re our buddies,” Schaller said. “They’re in-house; they’re one of the dying industries of the world. We love supporting local businesses.”

Lindsey Miller, director of marketing at the San Luis Obispo Chamber of Commerce, said SLO Brew concerts at the Fremont will benefit local businesses as well. According to Miller, there will be more people dining in surrounding restaurants when there are shows.

San Luis Obispo is the entertainment hub for the county, Miller said, and SLO Brew concerts at the Fremont Theater will give residents and tourists another option. Its size makes it a “totally different type of venue” and gives the theater “new life.”

“It’s really unique and special that they’ve pulled it all together,” Miller said.

SLO Brew has done concert promoting for years, Miller said — the venue is “in a unique place of knowing what’s out there.”

People still recognize that the Lindsey Buckingham show is a SLO Brew concert, Schaller said — they understand why the Garden Street venue can’t accommodate it and why it’s being held at the Fremont.

“They’re very excited that we still were able to find a way to put the show on,” Schaller said. “They’re like ‘Oh sweet, that’s awesome, you guys are doing it over at the Fremont.’ It’s not the Fremont doing the show.”

To prepare for the concert, SLO Brew will bring in a separate sound system and lights, Newman said, but take advantage of the seats and stage already in place.

This concert will be a new experience for Schaller. He said it’s going to be interesting and “we’re all going to be on a learning curve together.” The energy at a concert is different than the energy at a movie, he said.

“I picture it kind of being like a ‘Rocky Horror Picture Show’ vibe,” Schaller said.

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