And now for something different: PAC3 in Carbondale
CARBONDALE – Over his 51 years, Josh Behrman has gotten to know music venues. There was the Long Island club of his childhood, My Father’s Place, where he developed his tastes by seeing repeat performances by Hot Tuna, Kingfish and David Bromberg. “It looked like a den, like a house,” he said. A bit later, he started sneaking into Manhattan, lured by the notorious dive, the Mudd Club; the showcase Greenwich Village club, the Bottom Line; and the grand rock palace, Madison Square Garden. Later on, he frequented the next generation of New York spots: the hippie haven, Wetlands Preserve; the downtown gathering spot, the Knitting Factory; and Irving Plaza, a ballroom in the same space occupied decades earlier by the legendary Fillmore East. Road trips took Behrman to the magnificent amphitheaters, Red Rocks and, in Berkeley, the Greek. Behrman became a concert producer in 1999, a position which has given him an intimate view of the Victorian-era theater, the Wheeler Opera House; the al fresco ski slope that is Snowmass Village’s Fanny Hill; and Waterloo Village, a vast open field in northwestern New Jersey that accommodates 30,000.PAC3 doesn’t resemble any of these. In fulfilling his decade-long dream of opening a venue to call his own, Behrman drew on none of the spots that have informed his concertgoing life. I walked into PAC3 – or Performing Arts Center at Third Street – and was struck by a sense of its different-ness: the open feel, the bar more or less in the middle of everything, the huge stage, the light purple walls. Most unusual is the fact that PAC3 is at the end of a hallway inside of a larger building, Carbondale’s Third Street Center, that also houses artists’ spaces, spiritual centers, a dance studio and an array of sustainability-oriented organizations. And the previous uses of PAC3 – a school gymnasium, and then a storage space – still linger in the air. True, it was 13 days before PAC3 was set to make its debut – on Sunday, May 29, with a concert by Canadian musician Bruce Cockburn. But it was easy to imagine a room full of people, a performer onstage, the lights down, and still think this place didn’t have much in common with other places I’d seen concerts.”When you look at this, it doesn’t remind you of anything you’ve ever seen,” Behrman said one afternoon at PAC3, where an associate and a Third Street maintenance worker competed with construction issues and booking questions for his attention. “When you walk in, it doesn’t say any one thing. It doesn’t say, ‘This is a club, or a theater, or a true performing arts center, or a music venue. It speaks to all of those things. So it’s a world of possibilities.”That idea of anything being possible is appropriate because, in a way, Behrman isn’t quite sure what PAC3 will be. For the moment, it is a music venue; Behrman, who rents the space from the nonprofit Third Street Center, has a deep calendar of concerts for the months ahead, including alt-country icon Steve Earle (July 3), Texas singer-songwriter Robert Earl Keen (Aug. 16) and rock pianist Leon Russell (Aug. 17). But also on the books is two nights of Viva La Woman (July 15-16), a burlesque show featuring local talent. It is an indication of one of the directions Behrman wants the venue to go; he would like to have the Roaring Fork Valley see PAC3 as a community asset, open to any good ideas.”This is by no means a club; this is a performing arts center,” he said. “We want to cater to the cultural desires of the area. We want to make sure we listen to and fulfill the needs of this area. All these people who wanted a cultural center in their yard, that they could call their own.”Behrman can see PAC3, which is run by the nonprofit Music for the Mountains, used by other local arts nonprofits that don’t have venues of their own, used for conferences, for upstart theater groups. He plans to have a rotation of art on the walls, rather than the concert photos that are customary for a club. He thinks PAC3 – with a capacity of 540, or 360 for a seated performance – will be an ideal venue for fundraising events.”People have no idea what this is going to be,” Amy Kimberly, PAC3’s community outreach director, said. “They talk about the concerts, but it’s going to be much more than that. I see it as an amazing creative space for people to put things on that we don’t even know of yet.”••••Behrman is scratching his head over the timing of the PAC3’s opening. The venue debuts this week with back-to-back concerts; MarchFourth Marching Band, a circus-like brass band from Portland, Ore. follows Cockburn, on Monday, May 30. Next weekend, Behrman, who is the events coordinator for Snowmass Village, throws what has become his biggest annual event, the Snowmass Chili Pepper & Brewfest, on Fanny Hill. The weekend after that is the Palisade Bluegrass and Roots Festival, a three-day event near Grand Junction. At the end of the month, Behrman is back in Snowmass to help launch a major new event, the EMU Eco-Music Festival.But none of those events have what Behrman has been yearning for since his early days in the concert business – a place of his own. Behrman broke into music promoting in 1999, with a pair of splashy events: Ben Harper at the Wheeler, and the GrooveGrass festival, headlined by Bob Weir’s Ratdog and the David Grisman Quintet, at Glenwood Springs’ Sunlight ski area. He overreached a year later by getting involved with New Jersey’s Waterloo Village and bringing a bluegrass festival on the road, and among the lessons he began to learn was to stick to familiar territory. Ideally, that meant building his own venue.”As things come to mind, it’s challenging to place them somewhere,” he said. “Having my own venue would be my ultimate creative release.”A few years ago, Behrman became interested in a Carbondale space at the corner of Highway 133 and Colorado Avenue. The building was huge, converting it from the paint store it had been to the concert venue, yoga center and caf he envisioned would have been a massive expense. The deal feel through, to Behrman’s relief. “I’m glad that didn’t work out. That was, obviously, an overambitious adventure,” he said.Last year, Carbondalian Amy Kimberly came to Behrman with an idea. Kimberly runs the music portion of the Carbondale Mountain Fair, and was the force behind the Telluride music venue, Fly Me to the Moon Saloon. She and Behrman were frequent collaborators on projects.”She said, ‘I need you to see the gym [at Third Street]. For your vision, you can make this place happen,'” Behrman recalled. With Kimberly, Behrman responded to a request for proposals from the Third Street Center board. “Thankfully, they believed in me,” he said.”What I love about Josh is, he’s got that thing that’s not always in the concert business – a complete love of music and events and community,” Kimberly said. “The vision comes from that place.”The vision, though, grand in terms of music playing and community input, was short on details. Behrman’s original idea, he said, was no more than “a stage and a bar.””But you get into it, and it becomes: Are you going to do it right or do it wrong?” he continued. “Every decision you make, you’re faced with that and the vision changes every day.” Out of that spirit came a vastly bigger stage, more extensive lighting, a better sound system and a more lavish overhaul than Behrman had imagined. He financed the construction with his own money, and with smaller contributions from an uncle and from the Third Street Center. “I put everything I have into this,” he said. “If this doesn’t work out, you’ll be seeing me on the corner of 133 and 82.”Behrman will have some indication on whether he’s made a good investment – and on just what kind of venue it is that he’s built – on Sunday, when the audience files in, Cockburn takes the stage, and music starts flowing into the room.”It’s an amazing transformation – take a dilapidated, old school gym, and making something out of it,” he said. “Three months ago, this was used as a storage space for Third Street. In less than two weeks, an artist I really respect, who I’ve presented many times, is going to be on this stage. Now, what are the artists going to think? I hope they feel what we feel, the specialness, the community, everything we put into it.”I hope they walk away and say, ‘This is a good room, Josh. This is a good room.'”firstname.lastname@example.org
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