New nightlife experience comes to USC

For USC students, a night out at a Los Angeles club usually involves a great deal of planning, driving and, of course, an ID that says they are of age.  But at Tommy’s Place, the new concert venue located in the basement of the Ronald Tutor Campus Center, students of all ages can enjoy live bands, DJs and other events in a nightclub atmosphere, without the hassle.

High tech - The new Tommy’s Place will showcase student bands as well as DJs to create a new entertainment source for USC students. - James Watson | Daily Trojan

Opening its doors to the public during the first week of classes, Tommy’s Place will serve as a student lounge by day — filled with tables and chairs where students can do homework or have lunch — and a club by night, open until midnight Sunday through Thursday and 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday.  Traditions Restaurant, formerly located in The Lot, has been rebuilt next to Tommy’s Place and will serve as the venue’s source of food and drinks.

According to Brandon Operchuck, the director of performance venues at USC, the idea for Tommy’s Place originated five years ago, when the new campus center was in the planning stage.

“There was this concept of having a kind of lounge, club environment that would give students a place to go on campus without having to hop in their cars and go to Hollywood,” Operchuck said.  “They could walk straight to or from their dorm to a venue.”

Rae Reilly, the venue’s production manager, said that student safety was a key factor in the creation of Tommy’s Place.

“That’s the main goal of us creating this venue — getting students to come here on a Saturday night instead of going off campus to some crazy party where they can get in trouble,” said Reilly, a senior majoring in music industry.

KXSC — formerly KSCR — and Spectrum will host the inaugural event at Tommy’s Place on Aug. 18, a DJ night featuring USC alumnus Daedelus.  On Aug. 27, Tommy’s Place Battle of the Bands will be, the first event actually produced by the venue.  Five student bands, including Kiven, The Beat Advocate, The Smiles, MEGG and Antonio Pontarelli, will compete for the grand prize, which will either be to open for a well-known band the next night, or to headline at a Tommy’s Place event at a later date.

“I’m really excited for what Tommy’s Place could do for student bands like us,” said sophomore Nate Howard, one of The Beat Advocate’s vocalists.  “With the new student center hype and location, I believe it will be a great place for student bands to showcase their talent.”

Although student bands will get priority when booking Tommy’s Place, outside bands will have the stage as well, Operchuck said. This will add to a variety of choices for USC students.

“I think that Tommy’s Place will be the most beneficial for student bands like mine if they bring in some acts with an established reputation and let student bands perform as the opening acts,” said Tyler Demorest, a senior majoring in music industry and the lead vocalist and guitarist of Kiven.

Aside from featuring bands and DJs, Tommy’s Place will host comedy shows, karaoke nights, pool tournaments and sport screenings. The venue is open to events of all kinds, Reilly said, especially when it comes to music.

“We want as many different genres of music as possible,” she said.  “We are listening to everyone’s demo before we book them.  It’s a great place to be exposed and the bands can sell merchandise.”

Although Tommy’s Place is the first venue of its kind on campus, it is not the only concert space. Both Reilly and Operchuck said that Tommy’s Place will not create competition for Ground Zero Performance Café. The two venues will work together to ensure that they are not hosting similar events on the same night.

“I think we’ve built a family of venues and each has its own characteristics,” Operchuck said.  “Tommy’s Place is attached to a bar, which brings a different vibe than being in a coffeehouse.”

Because alcohol will be served at Tommy’s Place, those who are 21 and older will receive wristbands upon entering and DPS will be patrolling, Reilly said.

Many students said they are excited that the venue, which holds about 200 people and does not charge for admission, will provide an alternative to the usual nighttime activities that take place on and around campus.

“They serve beer on discretionary dollars, which is always great motivation for students to come check out some good music” Demorest said.

Tommy’s Place has both a Facebook page and a Twitter account, which students can use to find out about upcoming events.  The beauty of Tommy’s Place, though, is its convenient location so that students need not plan ahead.

“I think it’ll be the place to be,”  Operchuck said.  “If it’s a Friday night and students are all hanging out in their dorms — they can just come down here and see who’s playing.”