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When I was a teenager, the Granada Theater was a nifty movie house that served booze and decent food. You could even smoke inside. The movies were usually second-run, but they were cheap, and the place got pretty full on Fridays. Still, I always thought the space was underutilized, underappreciated, especially when I came back to town a decade later to find a grand marquee announcing the next Friends rerun. Ah, how the mighty Granada had fallen.
That will change soon. Mike Schoder, an entrepreneur who started CD World out of the trunk of his car, has bought the Granada Theater. Set to open Friday, August 13 (the details of the opening are not yet available), the theater is getting a major overhaul to make it a high-quality, multi-use live music venue. While bad sound has always plagued the place, Schoder has installed a new six-figure sound system. He'll be serving food again, playing all types of music, especially local acts. When he came by the office last week, his eyes were swimming with Big Ideas. See, Schoder (who looks like a cross between Owen Wilson and Queer Eye's Carson Kressley, although he doesn't know who either is) is the kind of good-hearted, music-loving idealist who wants nothing short of changing the local music scene.
"It's going to be a complete music resort," Schoder wrote by e-mail later that day, "where everyone is about making our customers feel like they've come home." Schoder knows about resorts; he spent 12 years working in one before starting CD World. Whereas most downtown clubs coast by on bad attitude and beer tabs, Schoder wants to bring in the lessons of aesthetics and big comfort he learned in resorts and working at the Anatole hotel, where he handled guest services for five years.
"I feel there is a demographic that has been lost in the concert-going public, because they don't know what to expect when going to a concert," he continues. "You go and don't know what time the show starts; you don't know if there's going to be a seat for you, what the volume level is going to be. The food, if it exists, is hot dogs. There's no quality or care there. Let the music be the pleasant surprise, not the venue and the service and products offered."
Seating will be available for almost all shows (at a higher cost, natch). The venue will have three levels of sound, which will be indicated in the ad for each show: One Woofer (acoustic, coffee-shop level), Two Woofer (most rock bands) and Three Woofer ("Huge. Period."). Schoder has hired chef Billy Galyean, who worked at the Anatole and Beau Nash at Crescent Court, to create a menu of mostly easy, to-go food like pizza and tacos.
Of course, the biggest question is: What kind of music will be there? Schoder says it will follow the same big-embrace philosophy of CD World: "Folk, all brands of rock, jam bands, all brands of country, all the Texas family, jazz, blues, comedy, punk, emo, adult contemporary (moms have to get out and have a good time, too), oldies, lots of our favorite bands from the '70s and '80s, 'cause that's what we grew up with, and we must not turn our backs on our heritage."
That means local music. Local is key to Mike Schoder, a man who is fiercely dedicated to the scene (just look at how many musicians CD World employs). At least one local band will be on every regional and national touring bill, and several nights will be dedicated to locals-only showcases. Like any venue, it's a shaky proposition that could fail miserably, but just a few moments around him is enough to wash away the hardened cynicism that settles around us. He's just so, so, so... nice.
"My mission statement is for everyone to have fun," he concludes. "It's what music is all about anyways. Any of us that can do this for a living have to realize we're the most blessed people on the face of the earth. It's going to be nice to have a place where fans can come and get a taste of that."
He has grand schemes that we won't even get into: getting local music teachers involved, maybe a video night for bands, donating music lessons for kids. He even suggested the venue might be open 24 hours.
"All the time?" I looked at him, unbelieving.
He shrugged his shoulders. "Why not?"