Archive for Friday, August 9, 2002

Lawrence’s Granada ready to alter course

August 9, 2002

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By Saturday, Lawrence's Granada Theatre will be no more at least in terms of its current format.

After Los Angeles pop act The Calling finishes its set tonight, the doors of the converted movie theater-turned-music venue close for three weeks before the new look and concept (and possibly name) of the club is to be revealed.

For exiting owner Brett Mosiman, the reason for the sale was simple.

"It was time," Mosiman explained. "I was interested in spending more time with my children than with a bunch of people who'd had more tequila."

Mosiman, who also runs The Bottleneck and concert promotion agency Pipeline Productions, has co-owned the renovated club since 1994, along with his silent partner Mike Elwell. A deal was reached in July that allowed Elwell to buy out Mosiman. (Elwell, who also runs Abe & Jake's Landing, is vacationing on the East Coast this week and could not be reached for comment.)

How the transaction will impact the Lawrence music scene is speculation at this juncture, though Mosiman claims Pipeline's concert regimen won't be affected at all.

"We'll still be busy," he said. "We still have Liberty Hall and the Lied Center. We're in the Uptown and Beaumont. We are looking into Topeka a little bit. I just finally got to the point where I don't need seven companies and 100 employees anymore.

"I don't want to become House of Blues or any of them. I like having my little niche, doing two (larger) shows a week and six shows a week at The Bottleneck."

Many in the Lawrence community assumed Mosiman's exodus had something to do with the increasingly hazardous atmosphere at the club, which often spilled out onto the surrounding Massachusetts Street locale. The Granada started to gain a reputation for fostering violent brawls as much as showcasing musical entertainment.

"To be honest, the hip-hop shows never caused a lot of trouble, it was just the dance nights," Mosiman said. "It has forever been the case that the dance crowd is very aggressive. We would have seven police calls at The Granada a week, and we wouldn't have two a year at The Bottleneck. That was aggravating, because we certainly didn't want to be the sty of downtown Lawrence.

"We ran the club better than any dance club in the history of Lawrence. I think shootings close every dance club sooner or later. It's just a very amped-up and aggressive crowd. And no I don't like that; I didn't relate to that."

Unfortunately, the profit from four or five monthly concerts weren't enough to permit Mosiman the luxury of eliminating dance nights altogether.

"It just wouldn't have been financially feasible," Mosiman said.

The music promoter lists the pre-stadium warm-up gigs by Marilyn Manson and Smashing Pumpkins as among the most high-profile projects held at The Granada. As personal favorites he cites performances by Cornershop, Robert Bradley's Blackwater Surprise, Old 97's and Local H.

However, the venue really began to back away from consistent live shows over the course of the last year. The post-Sept. 11 economic decline wasn't very friendly to The Granada or to most other halls around the country. This summer has been especially backbreaking.

"It's rough out there," he said. "It's weird because we had a really good spring. But we're like the canary in a coal mine for the economy. When they quit buying the concert tickets, look out. Batten down the hatches. In the middle of May it just stopped like I've never seen before. I've been doing this for 18 or 19 years, and it was just over. You could not give away tickets."

Luckily, Mosiman's Bottleneck the linchpin of downtown music venues is still going strong.

"It's a little slower, but it's done really well through it all," he said.

"And frankly, it hasn't hurt having The Granada closed five days a week."

Stand up

And speaking of The Bottleneck, the club is adopting a new strategy for its Monday Open Mic Night. The live music feature has been a mainstay in Lawrence since the early '90s, and it is now being rechristened Open Mic's Last Band Standing.

"It's the same type of thing as Open Mic, but it's more of a contest," said Amanda Haase, Pipeline's production coordinator/promotions director. "It's so bands can learn how to promote themselves more, and we reward the band that does the best job."

That reward materializes in the form of money earned from admission (minus what goes to pay the soundman), which is usually in the $50-$75 range.

Ballots are issued at the door one per customer and patrons select which of the five acts of the night will be hailed winner. This new tactic was launched in July, and recent victors have included fledgling acts Synesthetic and Agent 59.

Haase said it's added some spark to the event, and The Bottleneck has run into little trouble filling up the performance roster.

"Bands really like it," Haase said. "It's a matter of trying to impress people who are there, so the bands are giving it their all."

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