Underground looks to get on students’ radar

Monday, September 29, 2008

On a given Saturday night, when most Brown students are eating on Thayer Street, going out to Fish Co. or studying in the Sciences Library, Adam Leonard ’10 is nestled in a corner of the Faunce House basement. As general manager of the Underground, Brown’s on-campus bar, Leonard works to provide a place where students can enjoy music and inexpensive drinks with their friends. In an effort to draw more of a crowd, he is also the booking manager this year, scheduling nationally touring bands and opening up the space for group events.

In recent years the Underground has seen a dip in student interest, which Leonard sees as regrettable. To counteract this and revive the bar, Leonard has booked Miss Fairchild, Cavashawn and Jukebox the Ghost – all groups which tour across the country – to play this semester.

On Fridays the bar hosts pub trivia, which attracts primarily underclassmen. But Leonard said it’s difficult to get students to stay for the music that follows.

In an e-mail to The Herald, Assistant Director of Student Activities Phil O’Hara said the Underground’s popularity is due to the student effort behind it.

“It has been a student-run enterprise since inception,” he said. “Its success or lack thereof has been driven by student interest and competence.”

Leonard said students should take advantage of the bar and its bands because they are already paying for it through University subsidies, which fund booking costs and lower the price of drinks.

Since popular Brown bands like the Trolleys have graduated, he said, it’s been harder to find quality student bands with a broad appeal, which is why he opted to book more off-campus groups that are on tour.

“I’m bringing in some rock bands and trying to make it into less of a specialized place,” he said. Leonard has still scheduled opportunities for student bands to play at the Underground, such as at Brown Band Night in October.

Though in the past the bar has run into trouble with underage drinking – what O’Hara refers to as the Underground’s “dark period” – a better supervising system has allowed the space to continue to be open to all undergraduates.

The current admittance policy allows only Brown undergraduates, though Leonard has been lobbying for it to include alums as well.

“I’ve been trying to amend the alumni policy just because I’ve never seen why alumni would be an issue,” Leonard said. Though Leonard has found the Student Activities Office helpful with the plan, O’Hara says the Underground’s small size makes it hard to extend services to those outside the undergraduate student body.

Salsabil Ahmed ’11 said she appreciates that touring bands are being brought in.

“The Underground is underutilized because a lot of students don’t even know about it,” she added.

“What I’m really trying to establish the Underground as is a place that everyone can enjoy,” Leonard said.