It’s like magic.
At least that’s what MadLife founder Mike Levi calls it when a connection happens between a musician and a music lover at Woodstock’s new music venue.
By Kimeko McCoy | Photography courtesy of MadLife
Downtown Woodstock’s MadLife Stage and Studios boasts an estimated 7,000 square feet on the main level and almost 2,000 more square feet on the second level. It houses a restaurant and live music venue as well as state-of-the-art production studios.
“I realized when the performers are there for the right reason, there’s this unspoken communication that’s happening among band members. It’s really like you’re part of a tribe. It’s the craziest thing,” Levi said.
The entertainment hub opened over the summer but already is on track to become the place to be for musicians and music lovers alike.
The 55-year-old MadLife founder and musician said it has been a learning and tweaking process since its premier. On the day MadLife was slated to open, the building was still waiting on a power connection, gas connection and its final city inspection.
“We reached the point where we just needed to get ourselves open so we put our heads down and we hoped that the stars would align,” Levi said. “Fortunately we passed our health inspection and that’s when the band pulled in.”
Tickets had not been on sale that day for that night’s performance by rock and roll band Wayland, but by the end of the night, Levi said MadLife saw nearly 300 people show up.
“We had a good night. We did well as far as revenue. Technically the venue performed very well,” Levi said. “Sound was great. Lighting was great so it was very much something we worked a long time to achieve but it turned out to be a last minute decision, OK we can open tonight.”
The idea for MadLife grew from the live music and bar scene in Nashville where Levi says music pours out of the bars and into the streets.
“Where the stage is in the window and you just wander in and the floors are sticky and they’re just slinging drinks but the musicians are insanely talented because they’re all Nashville musicians,” he said.
Three years ago, Levi was looking to bring the Nashville experience to Woodstock, frustrated he couldn’t find a good music venue where the metro meets the mountains.
“If you live in this area and you love live music, you’re kind of stranded. You go to Midtown and you go to Marietta if you want to hear bar music. You go to Kennesaw if you want to hear bar music but if you want a proper music venue that really brings in exceptional artists, you’re going to Midtown, Decatur, downtown,” he said.
Levi got together with Ronnie Rask, a disc jockey and now MadLife director of marketing, and Kevin Walker, a 52-year-old musical prodigy, to bring his music vision to fruition.
Rask’s claim to fame dates back to the ‘90s when he got into the world of DJ’ing with the name DJ Raskal. Rask said although the nickname wasn’t his favorite, it was one he earned.
“I played for a long time in a lot of the underground scene in Atlanta in the ‘90s and then took a break,” Rask said.
During his hiatus, the music junkie married his wife, another DJ, and the two had five children.
Lately, he says the work has been nonstop with traveling and producing for himself and MadLife.
“I love live music no matter what the venue or genre,” he said. “Mike offered me an opportunity here and now I get to see these events happen as my day job.”
Levi said Kevin Walker began his music career as a 14-year-old base player for the Midnight Movers. The two met at a Las Vegas bar where Walker told Levi some of the big names he has worked with including Justin Timberlake, Patti LaBelle and Prince. At MadLife, Walker works to bring big names into the music venue.
The venue was originally meant to just be a music venue but with every person Levi met, that idea grew a little more to become the entertainment hub and eatery it is today.
“Everybody I’ve met, as we’ve been working Mad Life, are either musicians or writers or inspired by music,” Levi said.
Rask echoed his sentiments.
“It becomes a place for the patrons and the artists to do work. It’s our stage and restaurant and our studio and they all kind of come together on those nights to kind of make something for the artist as well because we’re all artists here too,” Rask said.
With their vision in sight, the MadLife staff said they felt there was no place better to take off than Woodstock.
Levi said the city supported their venture so much because MadLife is a new asset that could pan out to be a destination driving more visitors to Woodstock.
“We really want people who come through to say this is their place,” Levi said. “The better we can do with sharing that — the music experience, the food experience and all — it just lets us get out there and book even bigger names and bring even more special nights here.”
Within its first few weeks of being open, the music venue, restaurant and recording studio has a lot on its plate. However, the crew says it’s planning to do more.
“We just need to keep that momentum heading the right direction,” Levi said. “Hopefully we can get better and better with every show that passes.”
MadLife offers a range of music such as rock, blues, indie, Americana and country with the occasional tribute band performance.
The first weekend in September, Satisfaction/ The International Rolling Stones Show will perform. The band is entering its 15th year in production with more than 2,500 performances in places such as the nation’s top casinos, performing arts centers, music halls and corporate venues.
Nevermind, the Ultimate Tribute to Nirvana, will perform the following weekend.
MadLife Stage and Studios is at 8722 Main St. in Woodstock. MadLife is open Wednesday and Thursday from 5 p.m. until close and Friday through Sunday from 11 a.m. until close.