2008 wasn't the best of
times for local venues as we saw many of them shut down. But this year looks to
be promising as a brand new one opens up shop on State.
--- Aptly named The State Room, the new place takes over the old Children's Theater property. Converting the old building to have a brand new stage, seating, lighting, sound and more. Giving the place a totally new look from front ticket booth to back dressing rooms. Not to mention bringing in high-class acts from around the country. I got a tour of the place for pictures with Dan Piccoli and got to chat with both him and his partner Chris Mautz about themselves and the new place.
Darin Piccoli & Chris Mautz
Gavin: Hey guys, first off, tell us a little bit about yourselves.
Darin: Moved here December '98 from
Chris: I was born and raised in
Gavin: How did you get interested with booking and music promotion?
Chris: My first job here in
Darin: Always loved seeing concerts and starting with volunteering at the Telluride Jazz Festival when I lived there in '91. Pursued a business degree at
Gavin: What was it like for you both first breaking into that business?
Darin: Ebbs and flows... do well on a few shows, tank a few others. Learned quickly to steady the ship and budget accordingly.
Chris: Darin and I have both been in the live music business for over ten years. He comes from a bit of a different angle of the industry since he has managed bands in addition to promoting shows. We had lunch about a year and half ago and for the first time discussed the business. Our friendship dates back almost ten years and it was wild to share our different ideas and experiences. This conversation was probably the first time the thought of having our own place came up.
Gavin: Where did the idea come from to start up a venue?
Darin: We really enjoy doing shows together and thought that this town needed a dedicated music venue. Being able to control our own venue was also very appealing.
Chris: There were a couple of other opportunities that came up for us and we got pretty close on a couple of other places. Because of these potential opportunities we were able to create a vision for the type of live music venue that we would be involved with.
Gavin: The prior year had a lot of venue closures. Paladium, Solid Ground, Broken Record all come to mind. Was there any hesitation of opening with that kind of trend happening?
Darin: There really wasn't any hesitation. We felt that focusing on a destination venue, only opening for shows, would allow us a uniqueness not found elsewhere in town.
Gavin: With all the available space downtown, what drew you to the old Children's Theater?
Chris: I was taking a meeting at The Bayou in early February 2008 and noticed an Available sign on the front of the Children's Theatre. Dialed the number standing on the sidewalk and a couple of days later Darin and I were walking through the place. Over the next year we just sort of kept the process moving, not really forcing anything. Our first vision has not really changed all that much along the way. We signed the least in January of 2009 and away we go.
Gavin: What's the process been like converting the old theater into a music venue?
Chris: The Children's Theatre has some great bones and an amazing energy. Our efforts have surrounded around giving it a new twist with paint, fixtures and so forth. One of the biggest projects was getting some old pews installed that we think add a great twist to the joint.
Darin: Lots of reorganizing, painting, heating, insulation. luckily the guts were in place
Gavin: Besides the stage and seating, what kind of changes are you putting into the place?
Darin: Unbelievable digital boards with a line array hanging sound system. In wall speakers for bathrooms, lobby. New dressing rooms for artists.
Gavin: Who are some of the first acts you have coming in and was there any specific planning to get those people for the first month?
Darin: Our goal for the first series was to work with what we know. And what we think this town would like to see. We thought the top notch talent and professionalism of Stanley Clarke would be a great opener and definitely pursued him for the date but everyone else was evaluated as a routed avail and what we felt comfortable with for the room.
Chris: Our programming to begin with is all national acts. There certainly is a lot of great local music and I am sure we will be incorporating it into our programming. We have been presenting shows for a long time. Each and every one of our shows is hand picked and folks will truly be entertained.
Gavin: Looking over the listings, there don't seem to be any local acts booked for the time being. Will you be doing any local shows or adding bands to the bill, or will it be more mainstream and visiting musicians?
Darin: Absolutely looking to add locals as support for national acts.
Gavin: Another thing to note is that you won't be open every night of the week. Was that pre-planned from the start, or something you fell into doing.
Chris: We are only going to be open when we have shows or have private events. Darin and I have no interest in running a place that needs to be open 7 days a week. That is not what The State Room is all about. The State Room will be a place where the shows start promptly, mostly at 8PM. Typically we will open the doors at 6PM so folks can come, grab a drink and check out the space. All of our shows will be 21 and older unless noted on the website. There is great parking behind The State Room that can be accessed from the south side of building. Tickets can be purchased at the website or at the box office on the night of the shows.
Gavin: How have the neighboring bars and clubs taken to having another venue so close?
Chris: We have both like that part of downtown think there is a great buzz building. The Bayou, Bar Deluxe, the New City Greek Express, Decades are all great spots and we think The State Room compliments that other great businesses already in the area.
Darin: There is some understandable hesitation but I think we are really focused on enhancing and complimenting what is around us and feel that the times of our shows will dictate a different crowd that either will start and end elsewhere or wouldn't normally be going out so late.
Gavin: Branching out state-wide, what are your thoughts on our local music scene, both good and bad?
Darin: I think we have some unbelievable local musicians. Obviously you can tell by some many of them gaining national recognition.
Gavin: Is there anything you believe could be done to make it bigger or better?
Darin: I think local bands that tour regionally or nationally really expands their horizons as to what is how there, what needs to be done to make it to the next level, and what they should expect when they return to do local shows
Gavin: What's your take on how other venues in town are holding up these days, and is there a favorite in your mind that's doing everything right?
Darin: I don't know of any venue anywhere that does anything right. I think venues try or should try to really find what they are good and and pursue that. I enjoy popping off to several of the local places for music, Urban Lounge, Bar Deluxe, Monk's. Great hangs to kick back and enjoy the flavors of
Gavin: What's the outlook you have now as business owners in downtown on how you'll survive during this economy?
Chris: Certainly the economy is something that is on everyone's mind these days. Even during times when the economic forecast is a bit uncertain there is still the need for folks to gather and being out having a good time. Going to live music, in my opinion, is one of the finest ways to get away from it all for a few hours and get a bit of a reset.
Darin: Economies are cyclical, they always have been. I feel that reinvesting in the local community and being aware of that is vital to survival. Customer service, at least in larger companies, has gone the way of the dodo. We plan to be aware of that skill and talent.
Gavin: What plans and events can we expect to see from you guys the rest of the year?
Darin: Keep checking the website and theatre. We have a specialities in the works.
Gavin: Aside from the obvious, is there anything you'd like to plug or promote?
Darin: Support your favorite band! Help them hang posters in your town, go to their shows, buy their CDs, blog 'em. Music only survives because there are fans!