Before he moved to Colorado in the late '90s to help open the Whole Foods store on Pearl Street in Boulder, Louis Karp opened Waterloo Records in Austin, a spot that went on to become one of the most successful independent record stores in the nation. Karp also had a few decades of music-industry experience under his belt, both in management and production, having worked with acts like Metallica, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, R.E.M. and k.d. lang.
Growing up in that musical environment made Karp's son, Josh, the music lover that he is. "We've been going to concerts since we were little babies," Josh says. "We always got backstage and free tickets. I can't complain."
Shortly after his parents moved to Colorado, Josh moved to Louisville, where he stayed. And approximately seven years ago, he and his brother Ryan opened Waterloo Icehouse (now just Waterloo) in downtown Louisville. "When I was opening this place, I didn't know what to call it," Josh recalls, "so I'd thought I'd name it after [the] record store to keep the thing going -- keep it in the family."
While the bar and restaurant's walls are lined with some of Louis's memorabilia from Waterloo Records and the bands he managed, there are also items from bands that have played there. From day one, Josh says, he's had music at the venue, one of the few places in the area where you can find it. "I feel like it's our niche," he says, "but I'm not sure if people love it or don't come because it's too loud. You never really know. You never stop doing it to see if there would really be a difference."
Each of the first ten days that Waterloo was open, there was live music, including a few nationally known acts like Darden Smith and Chris Knight. Since then, Austin-based country singer Dale Watson has come through a few times, and Joe Ely and Junior Brown played for Waterloo's first anniversary.
Now bands play there four nights a week. One of Josh's favorite acts, the Gasoline Lollipops, plays every other Tuesday, and the Boulder Swing Collective plays on Thursdays, with other local and touring acts gracing the stage on the weekends. Next month, Waterloo will bring in Los Angeles-based country act the Far West, while Texas country/folk artist Butch Hancock, who also plays with Ely in the Flatlanders, is slated to perform in September.
During the summer, the Louisville Downtown Street Faire is held on Fridays, just a few blocks from the Waterloo. While the folks who bring in national acts for these weekly events have booked such artists as the BoDeans, the MarchFourth Marching Band, Chuck Prophet and the Iguanas, they needed a little help connecting with Los Lobos, who will play on Friday, July 11. That's where some of Louis's former music contacts -- and the fact that he's been friends with the band for decades -- came in handy.
"Some of his connections are still there, which is how we were able to help with Los Lobos, because some of the people he used to work with are still in management or production companies," says Josh.
In past years, Waterloo has held its anniversary celebrations outdoors, in the same area where the Street Faire is held, and tickets have been sold to cover the cost of acts such as Robert Earl Keen (who played at last year's anniversary gig), but Josh says for their seven-year celebration, which is technically on September 1, he's hoping to bring in a less expensive headliner in mid-August and have the outdoor celebration be free.
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