South Salt Lake • Cinco de Mayo being a party day anyway, Chris Mautz and Darin Piccoli figured it’d also be the perfect occasion to celebrate opening the Salt Lake area’s newest concert venue, The Commonwealth Room (195 W. Commonwealth Ave.), with a free show. Meanwhile, in the two weeks until then, the harried co-owners acknowledge there’s plenty yet to do.
That “retro chic” plywood board covering the entrance should probably come down, the multipanel mural should probably go up, et cetera, et cetera. …
“The sound system and the lighting will be installed next week. The bathrooms and bar will be completed this week into next,” Mautz said. “And then it’s just spit-shining it, baby!
“Oh, and we should probably sweep the floor,” he added with a laugh, nodding at the piles of sawdust and construction debris strewn about.
Yes, there’s still much to do, but Mautz and Piccoli have been here before.
After forming concert-promoting company First Tracks Entertainment in 2008, the duo converted the old Utah Children’s Theatre building at 638 S. State St. into The State Room, a 300-capacity live music venue, in April 2009. (They also are part-owners of Park City venue O.P. Rockwell and production partners for the Live at the Eccles series at the Eccles Theater.)
“Moving into the Children’s Theatre was fun because so many people who came in for a show [after the conversion] would say, ‘I can’t believe this — I used to bring my kids here!’” Piccoli noted. “Of course, maybe they enjoyed it because they had a different kind of beverage in their hand the second time around. But this is gonna be fun, too.”
They hope the first slate of shows on the schedule are an indication of that, anyway. The Commonwealth Room’s maiden lineup (tickets available via Ticketfly) which was announced Friday morning, includes:
- May 5: Opening Night featuring Sepiatonic (free show).
- May 9: Reckless Kelly.
- May 12: The Young Dubliners.
- June 8: Junior Brown.
- June 26: Milk Carton Kids.
- July 13: Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, “Eating a Bunch of Peaches.”
- July 20: James McMurtry.
- Aug. 12: Robert Earl Keen.
- Aug. 13: Punch Brothers.
- Sept. 5: Midge Ure & Paul Young.
- Sept. 7: Josh Ritter & The Royal City Band.
- Sept. 14: Marcus King Band.
- Sept. 15: Houndmouth.
- Sept. 27: An Evening with Graham Nash.
“We’re gonna stick to our core philosophy; we will try to attract a wide audience spectrum,” Mautz said. “It has been incredibly gratifying to be at most of the shows we’ve done over the last 10 years or so, and to see that there could be anyone 21 years old to 65 and older. We’ve been building trust and a true connection that we’ve worked really hard to cultivate. This will be a continuation of that.”
That accumulated goodwill inevitably led the First Tracks duo to start considering a sister venue with a larger capacity (something in the 600-800 range) a few years ago.
They dabbled with the idea of putting the new place behind The State Room, but after some preliminary designs were drawn up, they concluded the footprint was too small and the cost of construction too large.
So when a friend of the family who had sold them the old Children’s Theatre building told them about the availability of the former K2 rock church building on Commonwealth Avenue in South Salt Lake — well, that made their ears perk up.
The State Room, The Commonwealth Room — the possibility was pure serendipity.
Still, it’s the coincidence about the types of buildings they’ve taken over — putting their first music venue in an old children’s theater and the new one in a former church — that makes them laugh.
“I don’t know what that tells us about our previous lives!” Mautz said.
There’s a lot more that went into The Commonwealth Room, though, than simply the building they’re occupying or the street they’re on.
It will feature an outdoor box office and an indoor lobby, a bar, a 40-foot-wide by 25-foot-deep blackout stage, an easily accessible loading bay, and three or four dressing rooms in the back. Its 700-capacity music hall will largely be standing-room general admittance, but a few small, tiered platforms behind the soundboard area will accommodate some seating (not to mention corporate functions, wedding receptions and parties).
The spot where the easily identifiable burnt-red, barn-shaped building was dropped in just off 2100 South isn’t bad, either. The Art Factory is just to the north, Pat’s Barbecue restaurant a brief walk to the east, and the Central Pointe TRAX station literally a few yards to the west.
“What attracted us to this space — the location is great, we’re in a vibrant part of our valley, the access is great with freeways so close,” Mautz said. “… Right here in South Salt Lake is just an ideal spot. There are breweries and distilleries going up, new housing coming in — it feels like we’re gonna be, hopefully, a nice addition to this localized growth going on.”
But in the meantime, there’s the localized growth inside the venue still to worry about. It’s been a long process, with the building scouted over a year ago, the permitting process taking place over the past six months, and “full-on construction mode” for the past two or three months, but now it’s nearing the finish line.
While Mautz said he’s tried to be a bit more zen about it — “Staying with the long view is what I’m trying to be better at this time; not getting so wrapped up in day-to-day details” — the reality that opening day is just around the corner, and that they must be ready for it, makes that challenging.
“Having a hard deadline to get the place open is part of the deal, but can you enjoy it?” he asked his partner in a light-hearted, philosophical moment.
“No, you can’t!” Piccoli replied immediately, momentarily stopping conversation with an electrician. “Not unless you’ve got unlimited funds. It’d be nice to say, ‘Well, we’re just gonna dust the railings off now and open a week after that.’ But we can’t really do that!”