DIAMOND IN THE ROUGH: Garcia’s, a small club attached to the Capitol Theater, was previously a jewelry store. (Courtesy venue)
APART FROM SHOWS, SUPPORT SPACE FOR BIGGER HALL
Garcia’s, the pint-sized club attached to the historic Capitol Theater in Port Chester, New York, celebrated its 10th anniversary in May. The club serves as a showcase for up and coming acts and a supporting space for the bigger music hall next door.
The 250-capacity Garcia’s, named for the late Jerry Garcia, lead guitarist for the original Grateful Dead, opened May 16, 2013. Promoter Peter Shapiro, owner of the Capitol Theater, converted an old jewelry store next door into Garcia’s, shortly after he acquired the Cap in 2012.
The complex itself dates to 1926, designed by Thomas Lamb, an architect for multiple theaters in the New York region, most of which have been demolished over the years. The Capitol Theatre/Garcia’s are one exception.
Josh Cohen, operations manager for the Cap, books Garcia’s. The intimate club is something Shapiro wanted to develop as a flexible space, Cohen said, which extends to the restrooms for physically disabled patrons attending shows at the Cap plus an ancillary bar for performances at the 2,000-capacity theater.
The venues don’t hold full-scale shows on the same night, but on some nights when the Capital Theater is booked, Garcia’s holds short “pre-party” set that stop before the concert starts next door.
“It gives the fans coming for the main concert a freebie as part of their ticket and gives the band playing Garcia’s an opportunity to get their music out there in front of like-minded fans,” Cohen said.
On its own, Garcia’s plays host to 80 to 100 concerts when the Cap is dark. Some artists, such as Marcus King, Twiddle and Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, have played Garcia’s before “graduating” to the Cap, Cohen said.
A few years ago, for example, Marcus King was originally booked for two nights at Garcia’s, and one show was moved to the Cap, which sold out in one hour. It happened to be at that pivotal moment in time when the young blues rocker from Greenville, South Carolina was on the rise, according to Cohen.
“We kept the other show intact at Garcia’s to hold on to one special experience for everyone that bought those tickets,” he said.
Garcia’s core programming are jam bands, although Cohen likes to mix it up with punk rock and pop music to meet the demand among fans coming from Yonkers and other parts of Westchester County.
On Wednesday nights when the Cap is dark, Garcia’s holds DeadCenter, featuring Grateful Dead cover bands. Cohen also books dance parties tied to disco and electronic music.
Shapiro pays a licensing fee to Jerry Garcia’s estate to use the family name at the club. In turn, Trixie Garcia, Jerry’s daughter, donates memorabilia to decorate the venue, including archival photos and a replica of “Tiger,” one of Jerry Garcia’s guitars. Years ago, Garcia mentioned the Capitol Theater as one of his favorite venues to perform.
“It’s nice to be in partnership with the family and know we’re passing the torch along to the next generation,” Cohen said.
Ticket prices for Garcia’s shows are typically priced between $15 and $25. Most of the staff work both facilities, Cohen said.
Upcoming events include Grahame Lesh & Friends, whose frontman is former Dead bassist Phil Lesh’s son; to Jake Wildhorn, a singer/songwriter from Salem, New York; vocalist Mikaela Davis, originally from Rochester, New York; and French pianist Antoine Bleck.
Cohen sees Garcia’s filling a niche in Westchester County with little competition apart from clubs in New York City and Connecticut, both about one hour drive from Port Chester. Garcia’s will continue to be an incubator for emerging artists, serving as a career stepladder to the Capitol Theater.
“We’ve been that way for the past decade, where people can discover bands that they may have never heard of and that have a future of touring and moving up to bigger rooms,” Cohen said. “We’re also serving the community. The Cap, due to its rich history, has a dedicated fan base that keeps an eye on our calendar and we’re blessed that way.”