As a student at UW-Eau Claire around 10 years ago, Scott Morfitt remembers sitting through an Intro to Theater class in Haas Fine Arts Center’s Riverside Theater.
He confessed there were points he wasn’t thinking about the class much at all, but more about its location. He found himself thinking, “Wouldn’t it be cool to hold a concert here?”
“I could never shake that feeling,” said Morfitt, now Blugold Radio’s station manager. “I just thought that would be an amazing place to hold a concert and the bands would sound really good.”
On Saturday, Jan. 13, Morfitt will get to see his idea play out when Riverside Theater hosts Eau Claire band Orchid Eaton and the Twin Cities’ Har-di-Har for the first concert of its type in the space. Doors open at 7 p.m., and Orchid Eaton will open the show at 7:30 p.m.
Blugold Radio, which has its studio in UW-Eau Claire’s McIntyre Library, is presenting the all-ages show.
Morfitt said they will also hold a pre-show reception for guests to mingle, purchase both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages and connect before moving into a more intimate space for the concert.
Riverside Theater holds about 200 people, and is unique in that the stage is toward the center of the room with an audience surrounding it.
Arthur Grothe, the university’s artistic director of theater, said because of that configuration, the farthest any audience member will be away from the bands is around 25 feet.
“It potentially could be a really interesting experience because there’s not really going to be a bad seat in the house,” Grothe said. “You have the chance to be up close and intimate with performers.”
In Grothe’s 10 years with the university, he said he has not seen a concert of this type in the space. Typically, it is reserved for theater performances, but he is hoping this partnership could lead to future collaborations outside of the university.
With the opening of the Confluence Arts Center in fall 2018, Grothe said he expects the theater department to utilize that space for shows as well. As such, he doesn’t want to see Riverside Theater sit idle, and is hoping this is another way to reinvent the space.
In addition, it brings more types of music into the university’s music and theater department.
He has already been in contact with Morfitt about holding more shows in the future, depending how this first one goes over.
“If you’re going to do a giant rock show, this is probably not the venue because it would be a little loud,” Grothe said. “But for many bands it would be an exciting place to play.”
For Morfitt, using the venue for the show is ripe with possibility.
“Following the closing of the House of Rock, we have a chance for music and concerts on Water Street again,” he said.
Showcasing a regional act with a local opener is also a draw for Morfitt, who said that pairing is not often found in Eau Claire.
“We have a lot of multiple local band shows, but having a regional act and local opener hasn’t been done consistently,” he said. “We just need more talent coming through town, and we’re hoping to create a very welcoming space for them.”
Matt Leavitt, singer for Orchid Eaton, said he is excited to play in the venue. Now in Minneapolis, Leavitt grew up in Eau Claire and has played at various venues in the city with his other band, EMOT.
“It’s a very receptive music community and I’m excited to present this project in such a great space,” he said.
Orchid Eaton’s debut album, “Start of the Dream,” will be released this spring, but Leavitt said for the Jan. 13 show they will play the album pretty much all the way through, as well as perhaps a couple new songs.
Leavitt describes his group’s genre as “basement pop” that draws inspiration from 1960s-era sunshine pop and also was mostly created in Leavitt’s and the band’s drummer Brian Moen’s basement studios.
Unlike his songwriting for EMOT, Leavitt said Orchid Eaton’s music is more direct and to the point.
“I’m pretty confident about at least the thematic aspect of the record,” he said. “It all fits in one environment and I feel like I was able to approach every song in a way I felt was lyrically honest and just kind of musically in a different vein than stuff I’ve done previously.”
Performing the new music in a smaller, more intimate venue seemed a great fit for Orchid Eaton, and he’s also excited to open for Har-di-Har, a band he is familiar with and respects.
Morfitt said the show will also incorporate some sort of light and video aspects that will add to the bands’ performances.
“That will be another element of the concert, almost another performer in itself,” he said.
Morfitt will wait until the show is over to make a final decision on the venue, but said he is very excited to see his college-aged self’s dreams realized.
Tickets are $10 and can be purchased at www.tinyurl.com/y7lavyv2.
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