Marquee brings Valley music community together

Leaving the crowded sidewalks of Mill Avenue, the light rail takes passengers over Tempe Town Lake and rolls to a stop where ASU students are ready to rock.

The Center Parkway and Washington Street stop is within steps of a local treasure: the Marquee Theatre.

“I’ve been seeing shows here since high school,” said 23-year-old Tempe resident Kevin Wood. “I’ve discovered bands here ... it’s played a huge part in shaping my musical taste.”

Now known as the Marquee, the theater opened as the Red River Opry in 1993. It originally played host to country music performances, but changed in 2004 to a standing-room only venue with a wider range of shows.

Wood, who has seen bands at the theater including My Morning Jacket and Modest Mouse, loves the atmosphere and intimate experience between bands and the fans.

“This venue is easily my favorite in the Valley,” Wood said. “It’s small enough to create a feeling as though the band is performing for you and the bands the venue attracts are some of the most talented.”

Some shows at the Marquee this month include Interpol, Plain White T’s, 311 and Ben Kweller. The March calendar includes Devotchka, Girl Talk and Dashboard Confessional.

Wood said the theater has something to offer everyone.

Video by Dylan Abrams.

“I don’t even like some of the bands my girlfriend takes me to,” Wood said. “I’ve seen Panic! At The Disco and Katy Perry here and somehow I enjoyed myself; everyone seems to put on a good show.”

Another concert-goer, 24-year-old Glendale resident Gabriel Guzman, who was waiting in line Friday night to see the band Seedless, said the Marquee Theatre is his “go-to” venue.

“It sort of ties the Arizona music community together,” Guzman said. “Me and my friends have been coming here since we were teenagers.”

The cheeriness and gaiety of the crowd is what keeps Guzman coming back.

“Everyone is either happy or drunk or both,” he said. “When you leave, you feel like you’ve just had a party with old friends.”

Gianni West, who has been working security at the theater for two years, said he sees a large ASU crowd coming to the theater and some events attract larger student crowds.

“I see a lot more students coming to the raves here,” he said. “Fall Frenzy and Flogging Molly on St. Patrick’s day bring in a lot of students.”

Business for the Marquee Theatre is best during the spring and fall when ASU students are back on campus, he said.

Being a theater employee, West gets to see free shows, and has seen bands like The Dirty Heads and Bullet For My Valentine grace the stage.

“It’s right down the street from Mill,” said West on why the Marquee Theatre is a popular venue. “It’s the biggest before Dodge Theatre (in downtown Phoenix), and those get pricey.”

West said he has seen a large influx of commuters since the light rail began operation more than two years ago.

“We have a clear view of who gets off the light rail and it’s been pretty utilized,” he said. “A lot of people park their car by a light rail station and take the rail straight to the venue.”

West said the Marquee offers a little escape from the craziness of college life.

“You can get off of Mill for a night and see something that inspires you,” he said.

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