The much-anticipated "grand opening" of The Complex was remarkably smooth Tuesday night. Here's some inside skinny on what to expect from downtown SLC's newest music venue.---
Parking was a bit of a nightmare. That won't be the case every time you go to The Complex, located at 537 W. 100 South, one block west of the Gateway and one block east of The Trapp. But on nights like Tuesday, when The Complex was hosting two shows and In The Venue down the block has a good-sized gig (last night was Sonic Youth), parking will be an issue. Same goes for when the Jazz have a home game at EnergySolutions Arena, or when there's some mega-concert there. So be forewarned, and be aware of what you're getting into. I drove around the surrounding blocks looking for free parking on the street for a long time before giving up and paying to park at The Gateway.
The Complex layout is massive, and can be a bit confusing, but once you make your way through the club, you'll start to get the gist. The place is set up in a huge warehouse that's been divvied up into a series of rooms of varying sizes, which will be great for accommodating shows of all sorts. Tuesday night, there was the X-96 Half-Ass Show in the largest room (probably a couple thousand capacity) and English pop-rockers James in a smaller room that probably holds 500-750 people. Both those rooms have entries at street level, and are all-ages (ie. no booze allowed) on the floor. The two rooms share an entryway space where the merch tables were set up, there was food available and where the bands can come and mingle with their fans. One mistake the organizers made, though, is forcing folks trying to get to the Will Call window to get their tickets to fight through the lines entering both those showrooms; hopefully that can be fixed somehow.
On the south side of the building, around the corner from the street-level entry to the large show rooms, is the entry to the bar areas. One one side of the bar level, there's another stage in a room with a capacity of about 300 people, and directly across is another bar full of tables and TVs—home to The Complex's Monday Night Football parties. If you take the stairs up to yet another level from the main bar floor, you can weave your way to a balcony overlooking one of the main showrooms. Lucky for me, last night that meant I could watch James from the balcony with a drink in hand, instead of going on the floor, parched. Here's the view from the balcony to the stage in the second-largest show space:
The drink menu is somewhat comical, and far from complete. If you can find a more unusual selection of beers and booze in town, I'd like to see it. There are several beers on tap, ranging from typical macrobrews (Bud Light, etc.) to a couple of local microbrews. The bottles and cans are where things get interesting. Yes, they have Bohemian Brewery in cans, but the large bottles of beer, which at other venues are inevitably Lev or Heineken, are the Japanese beer Sapporo. Odd choice, but not as odd as having a canned hard cider as another option. The Complex has all the booze basics covered, too, but so far it's usually just one brand of, say, vodka or bourbon. The only Irish whiskey? Not Jameson. Not Bushmill's. It's Tullamore Dew. Not a bad choice, but when's the last time you saw a place with THAT as the only Irish? To be fair, it WAS the grand opening, so maybe the bar options will expand as The Complex gets rolling.
The best parts of The Complex include the groovy tile shelf in the bathroom to put your drink when you have to take care of business (see photo above). I don't know if the Ladies Room had a similar benefit, but I know the guys will dig that. And the bar has a special worth noting: $5.50 buys you two chicken wings and a shot of whiskey, tequila or rum. That seems like a fine way to sate the munchies while continuing to get your party on. The bar also has slices of pizza and waffle fries available.
Given that it was opening night, with two shows going at once, things ran remarkably well, which is hopefully a sign of how things will be in the future at The Complex. The sound in the music rooms will take some tweaking, and will vary according to how big the crowds are, but that's the case in every venue. The rooms aren't much to look at, decor-wise, but The Complex seems ready to function as a go-to spot for live music lovers, and that other warehouse-turned-venue down the block, In The Venue/Club Sound, has suddenly got some serious competition right in its face. Hopefully that bodes well for the music consumers of Salt Lake City.