Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Somerville Armory aims for all-ages superiority

The Somerville Armory is looking to become a major destination for all ages concerts and events next month, even hiring MassConcerts booking agent Josh Smith to fill the sked. I met with Smith and the Armory last week to discuss the plan, and the piece ran in today's Herald.

Somerville Armory brings in big gun to book all-ages shows
By Michael Marotta
Wednesday, January 20, 2010 - Updated 2h ago

Forget Boston and Cambridge. Somerville is vying to be the region’s prime destination for all-ages shows.

Earlier this month, the Center for the Arts at the Armory hired MassConcerts booking agent Josh Smith to help bring all-ages events to the 395-person capacity performance space - everything from indie rock concerts to theater.

“We’re not trying to turn this into a nightclub,” Smith said. “We have a really good idea of what is appropriate for this space.”

Since scoring an entertainment license a year ago, the Armory has hosted the occasional live music concert - Jack’s Mannequin, Freedy Johnston, and Fran Healy and Andy Dunlop of Travis - to augment its theater, dance and community presentations. But with Smith’s participation, the nighttime entertainment lineup will be accelerated and amplified.

But don’t expect the Armory - a 107-year-old former National Guard building at 191 Highland Ave. purchased in 2004 by Joseph Sater, owner of the Middle East restaurant and nightclub in Cambridge - to become a full-scale rock club.

“There’s a real perception that just because Joseph Sater bought the Armory, it’s going to be another Middle East, only bigger,” said Leila Shulman, the Armory’s director of public relations and marketing. “We’re working with neighborhood groups to assuage some concerns, and while we’re still young, we’re still learning to adapt. Folks who are excited about what we are doing far outweigh the detractors, but we’re very sensitive to their needs.”

Shulman and Smith said the Armory has addressed issues raised by neighborhood groups concerned about late-night noise, rowdy crowds and parking.Sater has invested more than $60,000 to sound-proof the building and, Smith said, shows will conclude by 10:30 p.m. on weeknights and 11 on Fridays and Saturdays. Shulman noted there are 50 free-parking spaces behind the Armory, with two nearby overflow lots if needed.

“We’re not doing dance parties and we’re not going to 2 a.m. in a residential neighborhood,” Smith said.

Shulman said the Armory has yet to have a parking issue. “We have not had any trouble with parking here, including Harvest Fest when 1,000 people walked through the door,” she said.

Upcoming events include Surrealist game night with Mission of Burma’s Roger Miller (Saturday), Boston Symphony Orchestra’s Community Chamber Concert (Sunday), the family-friendly concert series Rock-n-Romp (Feb. 28) and Tyrone Wells (March 15). But expect much more soon.

“It’s a community center, so we want to have diverse programming, from theater to dance to pop music,” Shulman said. “Having Josh here connects us to possibilities we wouldn’t otherwise have.”

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