Our new series, Spaces, takes a look at individual venues and the impact that they can have upon a local musical culture or scene. Throughout this series, we aim to look at venues around the world and the difference they can make on a local scale.
The Wellmont Theater, located in Montclair, New Jersey, has recently helped to transform the town from a New York, commuter belt suburb to a unique cultural hub in its own right. Opened in 1922, the Wellmont started out as a live entertainment theater, and was soon converted to a venue for motion pictures. It is said that Thomas Edison himself attended screenings there in the 1930s. Staying open for the best part of 80 years, the theater became famous within the area, even being mentioned within an episode of Mad Men.
However, in 2006 the Wellmont was shut down, reopening two years later to new owners. Converted into a music venue, it underwent a three million dollar renovation including the installation of a general admission dance floor and a seated mezzanine area. Since then, the Wellmont has seen an amazing array of talented and world-renowned artists perform on its stage. Although the 2,600 capacity theater is by no means a stadium-level venue, the space has managed to attract a surprising amount of big stars. The opening show in November of 2008 was the Hanson Brothers, in recent years been the likes of Pink Floyd, Paramore, Jethro Tull and many more have played at the venue. The Wellmont has even hosted a number of artists in their years before commercial success, like Lykke Li and Beirut.
My personal favorite event at the Wellmont was the Tyler the Creator concert I went to in October, 2011. The gorgeous art deco architecture of the building made an interesting and unexpected contrast with the violent, deafening and vulgar show put on by Tyler and his Odd Future friends. The show was amazing, with angry teenagers moshing and yelling, and the night culminating in Tyler throwing his microphone onto a kid’s face and breaking his nose. The great thing about this show was that there had been another Tyler show in New York City just the night before, but the Montclair show was still a huge sold out success.
In the years that I have lived in Montclair I have seen the town change into a bustling metropolis, featuring an amazing range of restaurants and an impressive art museum. Montclair no longer stands in the shadow of New York City, and much of that is thanks to the Wellmont Theatre and the incredible acts it has hosted over the past 6 years.
Words: Sophie Vandenbroucke