Dark Star Orchestra opens the revived UC Theatre. Photo: Kelly Owen
Dark Star Orchestra playing at the revived UC Theatre on Friday night. Photo: Kelly Owen

The 99-year-old UC Theatre went dark 15 years ago when Landmark Theatres decided closing it was more sensible than investing six figures in a needed seismic upgrade. But last Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, the UC Theatre was rocking with a three-concert stand by Grateful Dead tribute band Dark Star Orchestra.

Read more about the UC Theatre.

There was nothing easy about the path to Thursday’s opening. David Mayeri, president of the Berkeley Music Group, the non-profit behind The UC Theatre Taube Family Music Hall (the full name), had devoted seven years to the $6 million project (he still has $600,000 more to raise), and fighting plenty of naysayers. Three false starts in March, however, were the last stumble for the project before it finally opened last week. 

The restored UC Theatre can accommodate audiences of 1,400. Photo: Kelly Owen

“It’s just a great place to hear and see music,” Mayeri said. “And to see so many people come in and see that was very rewarding.”

Mayeri said one particular strength of the venue is the quality of sound, thanks to both equipment and expert advice from Berkeley-based Meyer Sound. Mayeri raved about the rock & roll acoustics using Meyer Sound’s Leopard system (the venue also has Meyer’s world-beating Constellation system). He said acousticians from Meyer Sound had provided advice as well about acoustic treatment of the room, which reduced reverberation time down from 14 seconds to 1 second.

“It’s so great wherever you are in the room,” Mayeri said.

If you’re a Grateful Dead tribute band, you need skull accessories. Photo: Kelly Owen
Dark Star Orchestra playing on Friday night. Photo: Kelly Owen

The UC Theatre already has a strong line up of bands for the coming months, including Ani DiFranco, Joe Jackson, Los Lobos, The Rides, and more. But offering music is not Mayeri’s only mission. He got his start in the music producing business when he was in his teens and wants to extend that opportunity to others. The theater has created Concert Career Pathways, a program that will teach young adults from 17 to 25 the technical, creative and business sides of concert promotion. Participants will take a series of free workshops and then enter a paid internship program to work a cycle of 15 to 20 shows. The program will then help the interns find jobs in other concert production companies.

The theater has the capacity to hold up to 1,400 people standing on its three tiers, but can be reconfigured to hold 750 people seated at cafe tables or 500 at banquet tables. In addition to the 75 to 100 concerts a year, Mayeri hopes the community will use the space for lectures and community performances.

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Lance Knobel (Berkeleyside co-founder) has been a journalist for nearly 40 years. Much of his career was in business journalism. He was editor-in-chief of both Management Today, the leading business magazine...