ABQ-Live got to sit down with the new owners of the Historic El Rey Theater in downtown Albuquerque to hear about this famous venue and the new life they are breathing into the downtown music scene.
How does it feel for Open Curtain Productions to take over the historic El Rey theatre?
Stephen: It feels really good to make such an impact in a place we call home. We both have been in Albuquerque for quite some time and we are taking it upon ourselves to make a difference in putting our money where our mouth is in actually making some innovative change.
Andrew: Also, we have taken the theatre over at a real good time for downtown there are a lot of things going on down here that we support with young like-minded entrepreneurs trying to make an impact.
Tell us some big names that have played in this historic theatre?
Stephen: There’s a lot of history in these walls. This place was constructed in 1941 as a movie theatre and now is a concert venue. The history behind these walls include the likes of Etta James, Keller Williams, and Umphrey’s McGee and we can’t let these names fade out and die. We have to keep things going in bringing big names into this town and creating great memories.
Over 70 years of history has been written here, how did this renovation come into effect?
Stephen: We were very fortunate that this place was in between operators and we were in the right place at the right time. Our reputation has grown in this town through hard work throwing events and the building owner believes in our business model, he believes that we represent the right kind of energy that can bring this place back to where the stature once was.
Andrew: We teamed up with a lot of good people as well and they have lent a hand in helping us out with good advice, a lot of people believe in the project and therefore they are willing to put sweat equity into it and the turnouts and feedback so far have been amazing.
What other events have you guys promoted around Albuquerque?
Stephen: We have done some civic plaza events, also with UNM and their new tailgate series and something that’s been around for almost as long as the theatre, maybe longer, called Fiestas which is an annual event and we have seen record numbers in the past 2 years since we have been involved. Our impact goes beyond downtown and towards the city as a whole and we really want to see some change. We are getting sick and tired of young entrepreneurs and business professionals just leaving, moving away it’s not fun. We do not want our talent leaving NM. We want them to stay and if you make it fun for them they will.
Andrew: Music can create a lot of positive changes in people’s lives. Just look at cities like Austin and Denver, which are both centered on music and have economies that are booming. When you get a lot of young smart people in one place it’s amazing what can happen.
What kind of live music entertainment will be featured at the new El Rey?
Stephen: Everything and anything, a string quartet, rock band, an electronic show, visual aspects, FIFA World Cup on the big screen. It’s an arts and entertainment venue and we will stop at nothing in order to keep people entertained and drive the economic impact.
Andrew: We want to keep the doors open as much as possible to give the people down here something to do. We had Redman and Method man which was an excellent turnout, also Borgore. One of the first shows was Wu Tang legends so that’s a lot to live up to! And we are hoping to keep the momentum going.
Who would you guys personally want to see play here?
Stephen: We have already booked really big names in our eyes, but I have always been a Mötley Crüe kind of guy, so seeing Tommy Lee in here, I mean, I am not one to become star struck, but I would probably die.
Andrew: Method man and Redman were great for me. I have listened to them since I was really young, so that was huge. I really like the indie genre so maybe XX; Jamie XX, or something along those lines would be really fun. Everything so far has been like a dream come true and with everyone I book, I have to pretty much pinch myself.
Where do you see the music scene in Albuquerque, and how do you see it improving?
Stephen: It has come a long way, there’s some promoters and venue owners in town that have worked really hard to keep this place a musical city but I feel like there’s a new generation of music that is coming through, that is great. We want to build that up and we will do anything for it.
Andrew: A lot of people are working hard; the guys over at Sister are booking some amazing acts, and we are working in conjunction with them and we will work with as much people as we can to bring artists to Albuquerque. The city is forthcoming, Steven did an event at the Civic Plaza and we have an event at the Rail Yards on the 26th. Music can start a large change for the better and the sky’s the limit when people work together.
What old concepts and themes are being revived into the new theatre?
Stephen: We really are trying to keep the integrity of the building. We haven’t covered the art work, we like that aspect. There is a lot of history in these walls and when you look at recaps or tour videos you always know the El Rey, I often say, “Ohh there it is! That’s the El Rey”. The art is of military significance, building owner Mr. Puccini painted the walls as a tribute to the armed services. There is more meaning than just an eagle on a globe.
Andrew: We were lucky enough to inherit something that already had cool décor. We tried to spice things up a little bit with a lot of sound and LED lights. We are trying to take the aspect of history, add some flare to it, and keep everyone entertained all at the same time. Also, we change things up for every show and we want to keep expanding making it a new place for people that come in.
Other than live music on the stage what else is featured inside the theatre?
Stephen: Stereo bar is another live performance venue, the old Golden West Saloon burned down 8 and a half years ago and has been left in rubbish ever since. We are renovating and restoring it, and it’s coming up from the ashes, like a Phoenix. We are doing a different take because it will never be the saloon again but it can be something different, something good for the city and fun.
Andrew: It’s a baby project, we like the idea of leaving the roof off with 300+ days of sunshine a year. We are looking to capitalize on that with bloody marys and food trucks. We want to create a spot downtown to have a nice craft beer, listen to some music and relax.
What new ideas will Open Curtain Productions bring into making the theatre have a strong impact to the Downtown area?
Stephen: We think we will bring a quality crowd and something a little different in musical styles that bring a different face. A lot of times people get nervous about going downtown and we want people to feel safe here, safety is the biggest priority and biggest concern for us. That will make the economic impact and as long as everybody is safe the party keeps going and continues.
Andrew: I love just announcing a big act and everybody says, “No Way, that guy is coming to Albuquerque”!? There is an excitement you see in people when it’s something they think they can only see in places like Colorado or Arizona. This makes for a venue that the people can be proud of.
You all opened your doors May 1 for Borgore, Keys and Krates the following week, Wu Tang legends followed and other names will be coming, so who’s next? Nirvana and the Beatles?
Stephen: We have Groundation coming in to EL Rey. They are a reggae band from Northern Cal and are world renowned being one of the best live acts to see. We are definitely excited to see that. We also have Wolfgang Gartner, a big name in the electronic scene which is big here. We have our calendars pretty well booked from August to December. Nearly every weekend is booked with acts.
Andrew: Huge Halloween stuff in October also. This project will take a while but when the ball gets rolling the people can expect a lot of variety in here.
Article by: Daniel Cruz
by: Kori Kobayashi