Magenta Theater gets into the concert business

Group has a late-breaking idea: early start times for bands, fans that love music, but not the midnight hour

By Scott Hewitt, Columbian Arts & Features Reporter



If You Go

What: An evening of local bands with great names: Lincoln’s Beard; The Exquisite Taste of Plain Water; Bobbi, Joe and The New Guy; and River Twain.

When: 7 p.m. Nov. 18 (doors open at 6:30 p.m.)

Where: Magenta Theater, 1108 Main St., Vancouver

Tickets: $12 at the door

The international tour of one of my favorite jazz combos came through Portland a few weeks ago, but I didn’t go. It was a work night — a Wednesday. Doors opened at 8 p.m. and music began at 9 p.m. You kidding me?

Please note, nightclub owners: We fogeys with jobs and commitments have not outgrown live music. Plus, we might just have more money in our pockets than all those whippersnappers without a reason to get up and go in the morning.

The layout of downtown Vancouver’s Magenta Theater is less like a nightclub than a concert hall, and this year it started acting that part — filling the spacious auditorium with music lovers eager to enjoy popular local bands and still get home at a reasonable hour. The start time for Saturday night’s performance by Lincoln’s Beard, plus several more interestingly named friends, is 7 p.m.

The early arrangement is a win for everyone. Local bands are eager to play downtown, which has few venues to offer; the nonprofit Magenta Theater generates some princely revenues; and, grownup fans can catch a whole lineup of live music without regretting it in the morning. What’s not to love?

No more power chords

As the historical name suggests, the sound of Lincoln’s Beard is Americana — a little bit country, a little bit folk, a little bit roots rock ‘n’ roll, all as intimate and sincere as founding member Dwayne Spence’s Southern drawl. But that’s nothing like what Spence and co-founder Kristopher Chrisopulos sounded like when they met and started making music together in college, at Francis Marion University in Spence’s native South Carolina.

Both guys grew up listening to their parents’ classic 1970s rock, Spence said, and feeling frankly intimidated by all that skillful songwriting.

“To counterbalance that … we got into hamfisted rock ‘n’ roll,” Spence said. “It was like, let’s just play some power chords.”

After college, Chrisopulos aimed to visit musical friends in Portland but took a wrong turn, went over some aging bridge and landed in what he found to be a smaller, more livable town. Spence came to visit a couple years later and literally couldn’t leave — because he got stranded here by an ice storm, he said. Spence, Chrisopulos and other iced-in friends spent days hanging out and playing music in Vancouver, he said, and put down roots here.

That was a total surprise, Spence said. Another surprise was when Chrisopulos revealed a whole bevy of original, thoughtful, country-inflected songs that told heartfelt stories. Intelligent lyrics and enjoyable tunes were a far cry from the headbanging sound of the duo’s previous incarnations, Spence said, and the pro band they put together to perform the material ran into quick success.

“Eleven years later, we’ve played hundreds of shows” up and down the I-5 corridor and out along the coast, Spence said. Lincoln’s Beard has a track record of hooking fans at fairs, festivals and other family-friendly venues, he said — like Vancouver’s summer lunchtime concert series in Esther Short Park. What the band has learned, he said, is to shrug off rock stardom and later-than-late nightclubs where folks mostly go to party. Lincoln’s Beard takes the music and the business seriously, Spence said, and they aim to connect with people who pay attention.

Late-night audiences aren’t really listening anyway, Spence said. They’re drinking and shouting over whatever noise is happening in the background.

“It’s like, just stick a band in front of people … and they just talk over you,” Spence said. “Hanging out at bars late at night is how some bands meet their demise. You just get tired. That’s a sad reason to quit playing music.”

OK, but why the famously sad president and his famous facial hair? The name Lincoln’s Beard does double duty. It actually was inspired by the avenue in northwest Vancouver where the band first rehearsed, Spence said — but of course that avenue was inspired by the beloved president with the beloved chin mane.

“If we were going to use his name, we needed to show respect for his beard, so … Lincoln’s Beard,” Spence said.