The State Theatre is a real jewel in the Portland-area music scene and a legacy in New England. Originally constructed and opened on November 8, 1929, the State was designed in a semi-Atmospheric/Spanish style with an original seating capacity of 2,300. It operated as a first-run movie house until the late 1960s, when it became a porn theatre. In 1989, it was closed and fell into a state of disrepair. In the mid-1990s, the theatre was saved and restored, but closed again for a brief time after its restoration, reopening soon after as a performing arts and concert venue. The State Theatre hosted such diverse acts as Wilco, Modest Mouse, Gillian Welch, David Byrne, Interpol, Snoop Dogg, Ray LaMontagne, Sonic Youth, John Hiatt and Kings of Leon before it closed again in early 2006.
The State Theatre reopened last year under the partnership of The Bowery Presents, an independent concert promoter based in New York City, and Alex Crothers, owner of Higher Ground in South Burlington, Vermont, and an independent concert promoter company and who produces more than 420 events a year in the New England region. The partners hired me to serve as General Manager and Talent Buyer for the venue in June of 2010, and we soon underwent four months of extensive renovations that included raising the stage, installing new seats and carpet, painting, and building administrative offices and a new sound and light package. This was in addition to the previous two years of work that our landlord, Stone Coast Properties, put into the space – including rewiring the room, building new fire escapes and totally restoring the ceiling.
On October 15, 2010, we celebrated our grand reopening with an amazing performance by My Morning Jacket. Since that day, we have hosted such acts as Lyle Lovett & John Hiatt, Girl Talk, Jeff Tweedy, Grace Potter & the Nocturnals, Elvis Costello, Bassnectar, Emmylou Harris, Bright Eyes and Iron & Wine. We will produce more than 80 concerts in 2011 and we also promote events in Portland and throughout Maine.
I feel very honored to be able to come to work in a venue as historic and beautiful as the State Theatre, and tremendously lucky that I get to do it in my favorite city, Portland. The support that we have received from the local community and music fans from all over the country has been really great. And I love being able to see the evolution of a concert – from the very beginning of actually booking the show, to the look on the fans’ faces as they watch and listen to their favorite band on stage.
Portland is definitely a music town with a vibrant scene – from the local musicians to the clubs to the fans. On any given night you could take a stroll down Congress Street in the Arts District and see any type of music at any of the many venues on and around Congress. And I’m just stoked that I get to help the State Theatre contribute to the Portland and Maine community.
The Portland Music Foundation (www.portlandmusicfoundation.org) was established as a local non-profit designed to educate, incite and inspire the Portland music community. The PMF threads itself into the outlets that allow aspiring artists to nurture their own success regardless of their age or musical genre, working with clubs and concert venues that bring music to the fans, retail outlets that assist musicians in selling their music to the public, radio stations that promote local music on the air, and even to the stores that sell musical instruments. Its latest project was the creation of the Downtown Live Music Map, which is now available at many clubs, visitor centers and hotels around the city of Portland, drawing attention to Portland's incredibly deep and varied live music industry.
If you’re running late to a show at the State, don’t panic, you can grab a sandwich (like a pulled pork or butternut squash) and a caramel salt milkshake (among one of the many killer flavors) here at the State from our concessionaire Po’ Boys & Pickles (www.poboysandpickles.com). After the show it’s always good to saunter down to Otto’s Pizza (www.ottoportland.com) or down to Gogi Taco (www.facebook.com/GogiME) to experience some Korean-BBQ tacos. Two of my favorites, Local 188 (www.local188.com), and Caiola’s (www.caiolas.com) are right down the street, and there are at least 15 restaurants all within a few block radius of the State. Portland is definitely a food town in addition to a music town, so if you want to check out all the offerings visit www.portlandfoodmap.com.
Written & Submitted By: Lauren Wayne, State Theatre
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