If there’s one thing that longtime independent concert promoter Paul Manna can say about The Recher Theatre, it’s that anyone who has ever seen a show there has a good story to tell.
“It’s very nostalgic for so many people,” says Manna of 24-7 Entertainment, who is a partner in the newly renovated venue with brothers Brian and Scott Recher. “In fact, I met my wife there. She was a bartender. Two kids later, here we are.”
For his part, Towson’s own pop-punk icon Alex Gaskarth, of the band All Time Low, says that the first time the guys ever saw their names printed on a ticket was for a concert at The Recher.
“They were a springboard during the early days of our career, and allowed us to build something truly meaningful in our hometown,” Gaskarth said in a statement. “Of all the amazing Baltimore venues we call home, The Recher has been the most near and dear to us.”
Music lovers who have fond memories of their own will be happy to hear that, after an eight-year hiatus, the venue will make an official, COVID-safe comeback on Friday, March 19.
The owners announced last summer that they were renovating the space—which operated as The Recher Theatre for 17 years before transforming into Torrent Lounge in 2013—in an effort to restore the club to its former glory.
While the showroom maintains its intimate feel, former regulars will notice new hardwood flooring, an updated stage, modern light and sound systems, refurbished decor, and a menu catered by chef Brigitte Bledsoe of the neighboring Towson Tavern. The team also worked to expose some of the original architecture throughout the York Road building, which was previously the historic Towson Theatre.
“The Recher was the cornerstone of great music in Baltimore,” said Kelly Bell of Baltimore’s own Kelly Bell Band, which will headline the grand opening on March 19, in a statement. “[Now] it pays homage to the history, but the new design takes the live music experience to a whole new level.”
In adherence with COVID-19 protocols, all shows will be seated, socially distanced, and capped at 100 people, with limited tickets being sold on a per-table basis. Manna likens the safety provisions to those at a restaurant, adding that groups must arrive together and wear a mask at all times unless they are seated.
“It’s been almost one year without live music,” Manna points out. “It’s just time. Live music is very important to a lot of people. Bands and fans are all excited to get back into it. It’s certainly not like it used to be, where it’s a full-capacity show and you’re standing shoulder-to-shoulder. We might not see that for a while, but in the interim, I think this is going to be great.”
Local performers booked through May include comedian Mickey Cucchiella, bluegrass band The Dirty Grass Players, singer-songwriter Chris Wilcox, roots-reggae rockers Jah Works, and fan-favorite folk singer Caleb Stine.
Though The Recher has a reputation for hosting national acts (think everyone from Iggy Pop to The White Stripes), Manna says he’s looking forward to highlighting a lineup of local performers while the national tours are still on pause. He calls it “a blessing,” after what has been such a challenging year for the Baltimore music scene.
“It gives me a great opportunity to support some of the local and regional artists in town,” he says. “Everyone you see on the calendar are artists that I know and like, and they’re all really excited to play here, even at a smaller capacity.”
For the time being, tables will be spaced at least six feet apart and the first row will be set at least 15 feet away from the performers on stage. Although it’s not ideal for fans who love the feeling of being in a crowd, Manna says there’s something special about the atmosphere for the seated shows.
“It will be a nice change for people,” he says. “We’re rolling with the changes here. I’m not saying that we won’t have seated shows in the future, but for now, it will feel special to see a band like Kelly Bell or Jah Works seated at your table while you drink a local craft beer.”
Tickets for the opening lineup will go live this Friday, March 5. As spring approaches, and vaccinations are on the rise, Manna feels hopeful. He says that it feels like the right time to be reintroducing The Recher into the local music landscape.
“There’s light at the end of the tunnel, and we’re starting to see that,” he says. “We’re unthawing. We’re coming out of this. The opening just kind of makes it feel real.”