Page 9 of 10
- Photo by Rob Bartlett
Lou BrownManager of Uncle Lou's Entertainment Hall | For giving Orlando punks a place to do it themselves
You could consider Uncle Lou's Entertainment Hall as Orlando's CBGB – though that's too drenched in nostalgia for a venue that operates very much in the continuous now – but, like the New York bar did for its neighborhood, Lou's has served as a crucial incubator for the Central Florida underground for the last 14 years. The frills are few and far between in the stripped-down space, though the drinks are cheap, the PA is loud, and the mural of Etta James on the wall is always a welcome sight. But it's the good-natured "anything goes" spirit that really defines Uncle Lou's.
Lou "Uncle Lou" Brown, the manager and face of the establishment, moved to Florida from Jamaica 33 years ago, first working in agriculture in Belle Glade before moving to Orlando. Uncle Lou's Entertainment Hall opened 14 years ago in the heart of the Mills 50 strip, after a year on Michigan Avenue. Brown still remembers the day that some young punks (naturally, Total Punk's Rich Evans and company) asked if they could play a show at his bar, to which he readily agreed: "I wanted to provide a place for people to do positive things."
With a smile he recalls that the music and the volume that fateful night shocked him: "It was the most terrible thing I ever heard! I thought, what have I got myself into?" Word spread quickly that this was an ideal place for bands on a razor-thin DIY budget, and it was off to the races with a packed booking calendar that remains so to this day. Brown has warmed to the varied music (from metal to hardcore to experimental to hip-hop) that blasts out of the doors of his venue nightly, expressing a particular fondness for punk rock, especially locals the Golden Pelicans and Wet Nurse.
Brown speaks fondly of the music community that has embraced him, and that he in turn has generously fostered. "Music is love," he says, wryly adding, "The Orlando music scene knows how to have a good time." He talks about neighbor Will Walker of Will's Pub with a particular gratitude for "always being there when I need him," and calls longtime scene fixture Nadeem Khan his best friend. Khan is quick to return the favor, enthusing, "Uncle Lou is a treasure of a man, a sober gent that's given something to us I thought I'd never see again."
As the Mills 50 strip changes around him, Brown responds by not changing a damn thing. He never charges bands to run shows there and he isn't bothered with prettying the place up; he's more focused on giving bands a chance, providing a safe environment and keeping the music coming. He says he'd like to stay here as long as he can – "Hopefully Will's and Uncle Lou's will always be here" – with the underlying hope that he's "providing a place for people to do good." And there are precious few in this city who can bring people of all persuasions together the way Uncle Lou can.