Ridglea Theater is back. Again. A grand reopening of the Ridglea Club, Ridglea Lounge, and the 1,400-capacity theater is scheduled for September, according to the camp of Jerry Shults, owner of The Gas Pipe, a Southwestern chain of smoke shops, who bought the complex in 2010, effectively saving it from demolition.
The Ridglea has hosted several music shows intermittently over the past months but is still not finished, Shults said. His construction to-do list is daunting. It includes connecting the theater directly to the new club and lounge, finishing all of the green rooms and the club/catering/restaurant area, adding bathrooms, and redoing the lighting and striping of the new rear parking lot. Shults said the timing is right for the reopening because the types of bands he intends to book –– “nationals” –– spend their summers playing festivals instead of indoor theaters.
Shults, though, has yet to begin booking entertainment for the reopening, which is just another reason why “Ridglea Theater” has nearly become synonymous with “drama” over the years, dating back to before Shults entered the picture.
The venue has been there for decades, always part of the scene, but was never really there. In its latter days it was the only place in town devoted to heavy metal. The metalheads loved it, sure, but the owners of nearby establishments? Not so much. The local music cognoscenti also saw the Ridglea’s metal fixation as one big, fat missed opportunity, arguing (and perhaps rightfully so) that a club as big and as beautiful as the Ridglea should have been bringing to Fort Worth the kinds of hip, cool, progressive indie-rock bands that regularly pack Granada Theater in Dallas. And at least one politician thought the Ridglea would make a fine bank.
Shults’ takeover was greeted with joy. Initially. An ensuing battle over parking, settled only a couple of months ago, wiped out the giddiness. Shults always argued that he’d have more than enough parking. Now that he has more than more than enough, the only thing between a September to remember and a lost September is the shaky prospect for a grand reopening.
As someone who’s been writing about popular music and jazz for more than 20 years and who’s been writing about Fort Worth music for about half that time, allow me to offer my two cents. Ridglea people, please don’t book any genre music (country, hip-hop, metal) –– it’s too polarizing, especially for what amounts to a rebranding campaign. Book something middle of the road yet undeniably hip (and yet still relatively affordable): The Flaming Lips, Phoenix, Peter Bjorn and John, Eleanor Friedberger, Portugal. The Man, Snow Patrol, the list goes on.
And don’t forget that Fort Worth is a local music town. If you want people to see some almost-famous touring act, you’re gonna have to pack your bill with Fort Worth openers. The list of possibilities: Burning Hotels, Quaker City Night Hawks, Fungi Girls, Calhoun, Telegraph Canyon, The Unlikely Candidates, The Hanna Barbarians, Secret Ghost Champion, Ice Eater, The Longshots, Siberian Traps, Skeleton Coast, and, no bullshit, dozens more. Heck, just read our 2013 Music Awards issue. Good luck. The city’s counting on you.
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