Bay Area’s historic UC Theatre flourishes again

UC Theatre_Credit Sterling Munksgard

A historic Bay Area venue is revived, thanks to veteran concert promoter David Mayeri. A former movie house—where German auteur Werner Herzog famously ate his shoe in 1979—the 99-year-old UC Theatre in Berkeley, Calif. is pulsing again. This time, with live music.

Now known as The UC Theatre Taube Family Music Hall, the space underwent a $6 million renovation with Mayeri and his nonprofit Berkeley Music Group at the helm. Mayeri was contacted in 2007 by the City of Berkeley’s economic development team to help consult on the project. That’s when a vision popped into his head.

“When I first walked in the theatre, it had already been closed for eight years. It was dark, musty, and run down,” Mayeri tells Ticketfly. “What I saw in my mind is what you see now—a multi-tiered, 1,400 capacity live music venue with great sight lines, with a full bar and kitchen, chandeliers, and state-of-the-art Meyer Sound sound system.”

Since its March unveiling, the 1,400-capacity theater has already hosted national acts such as NOFX, Deerhunter and Los Lobos, with M. Ward, The Psychedelic Furs and Ani DiFranco, and more scheduled to play in coming months—all powered by Ticketfly. Ticketfly’s platform was the obvious choice, Mayer says.

“Ticketfly offers independent music venues the same cutting edge technology, analytics and social/email/web marketing tools that larger concert promoters enjoy,” Mayeri says. “What I found exciting about Ticketfly is their passion to think about marketing and selling tickets as a promoter would, and reinvent ticketing to improve both the customer and venue/promoter user interface experience.”

Mayeri hopes to not only present 150 diverse shows a year but also deliver the best customer and artist experiences. He’s already on the right track as the theatre is becoming as popular as Bay Area peers The Fox Theater in Oakland and The Fillmore in San Francisco.

“The reviews we are getting from audiences and artists alike are quite remarkable: ‘Best live sound of any music venue in the Bay Area;’ ‘Gorgeous elegant room with beautiful chandeliers and a great vibe;’ ‘We found a new home in the Bay Area and look forward to playing here every year,’” Mayeri says.

More than just an incredible concert experience, The UC Theatre plays an active role in the community. The theatre offers a concert career pathway education program for youth ages 17-25 where students learn the technical, creative, and business aspects of event promotion through free workshops and paid internships. Youth education and mentorship is near and dear to Mayeri as he himself got his start at 16 interning for Bill Graham Presents at the Berkeley Community Theatre. He stayed with Bill Graham Presents for 35 years, working his way up to Chief Operating Officer.

“I was paid $10 cash to unload the truck, set up the stage, usher the show, tear down the stage, and repack the truck. It took 16 hours and I would have paid $10 to do it,” Mayeri recalls.

The Berkeley Music Group is also partnering with community organizations to host events at The UC Theatre that strengthen the Bay Area’s vibrant nonprofit arts scene.

“If we were a for-profit, we would have a fiduciary responsibility to maximize the return to investors, whereas as a nonprofit we can have the education program and be more community friendly. The community is where we maximize our returns,” Mayeri says. “The idea is to combine the best practices of a for-profit with the heart of a nonprofit.”

With that in mind, the Berkeley Music Group and The UC Theatre are actively fundraising in order to support the nonprofit and continue renovations. To find out more about how you can help, visit www.theucthearre.org/support.

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