The remodeled 85-year-old North Park Theatre is positioning itself as a viable concert venue.
Co-owner David Cohen tells the Reader that they’ve installed a new sound system, a removable seat configuration that will allow the theater to hold 1100 patrons, and procured the talent-buying help of Casbah’s Tim Mays.
The first announced big-name headliner is Rodriguez on June 3.
For years Mays has taken artists who have outgrown the Casbah into the larger Belly Up or House of Blues. Before his new relationship with the North Park Theatre owners was announced, Mays had booked the Residents, Ra Ra Riot, and Album Leaf into the North Park Theatre.
While Cohen is not ready to name names, he says he plans to host up to ten live shows a month, including six to eight national headliners.
Cohen, 35, who says he used to book shows in Montreal (“Arcade Fire was the biggest. I went to school with those guys.”), says the Wiltern Theatre in L.A. may be the closest to what he envisions for what North Park Theatre can become.
According to Gary Bongiovanni, editor of concert industry magazine Pollstar, the biggest challenge for the North Park Theatre may be its independence. “Their biggest obstacle is that they will be competing against AEG and Live Nation,” Bongiovanni tells the Reader, adding that those two major companies have most of the national touring acts locked down and that they would most likely book those shows in their own local venues (AEG controls Humphrey’s Concerts, Live Nation owns House of Blues).
“Being independent in today’s world makes it very difficult, especially getting the bigger acts,” says Bongiovanni.
But Cohen is optimistic.
“Tim Mays has a proven track record. We have the best sound system in San Diego. We’re confident that this theater’s arrival as a quality venue will translate to artists and their agents. We have a full-time staff working around the clock to make this successful. This theater has a rich history. It’s not just a big square box. We’re in the best neighborhood in San Diego as far as transit and ease of parking and having a culturally diverse neighborhood. I think this will actually get some bands who skip San Diego to look at San Diego not as a secondary touring market but a primary market.”