I had the pleasure to see B.B. King at the Welmont Theatre in Montclair, NJ last week. B.B. was awesome as usual, but what impressed me more, was the restoration of this theatre. The Wellmont was one of my mainstays growing up as kid in the area in the 70's and 80's. With such theatres as the Bellevue, the ClairRidge and the Royal Theatre in Bloomfield, the Wellmont was considered the "dirty theatre", and usually a last choice between the other theatres. However, it had some mystique to it, and as kids we were some times able to sneak in the side exit.
The Wellmont Theatre was built in 1922 and started out as a vaudeville theatre, then became a movie theatre shortly after that. The original entrance was on Bloomfield Avenue and it had a long walkway to the main part of the theatre. Later on, when the theatre was broken up into a triplex, the entrance was moved to the side and a restaurant moved into the front part. The triplex had one theatre in the balcony and the main floor the other two. So, going their for the first time since I was a kid, was quite the experience. The original stucture is intact, including the fluted columns, the avante garde decor and the ornate ceiling. All of which I never noticed as a kid. The only thing I did remember, was the analog clock on the left side, which is still there (I guess they painted around it). : )
We had floor seats for the B.B. King show. I seem to remember that originally those were orchestra seats, and when the theatre split, part of what's now the floor was moved back. But now it is all open. Being a big guy, I did not find the folding chair floor seats all that comfortable, additionally on the left side of the floor there is this big wall, about 5 feet tall that has a walkway on the other side of it. I was unfortunately cramed right up against it. I could really feel the bass bouncing off the wall and into my heart. Something that took me a minute to get used to. This however did not dimish my experience, I would recommend maybe reducing the number of chairs of the floor, but that will never happen. And for most bands, I believe the chairs are removed for dancing. The acoustics, by the way, were awesome. Really nice sound, and not too loud to blow your ear drums out.
There are three bars, one upstairs and two on the main floor. (unless I missed one) The bars are in nice locations and nicely lit with blue lights. Drinks are the going rate, expensive. But that's the theatre scene. It's a very nice, professionally run place, I recommend you check it out.
Well, it's nice to have a real music venue right here in Montclair, (besides Tierney's Tavern) and they are getting some real big acts too. Tonight, I believe "Get the Led Out" is playing. A show I could have gone to, but I bailed. I am looking forward to seeing The Dark Star Orchestra on 12/30, and possibly Gregg Allman in January.
Check it out, http://www.wellmonttheatre.com/