After gathering enough junk from behind the curtains to fill two dumpsters, the people at the Empire Arts Center have created a backstage performance venue at the historic downtown theater unlike anything in Grand Forks. Now, they plan to fill the space perhaps twice a month with regional musicians and audiences that like music and conversation in an intimate space while enjoying a beer or a cup of coffee.
“Acoustically, it is a great space for music because of the brick wall and the concrete floor,” said Emily Burkland, the Empire’s executive director. As a performance space, the backstage area can seat perhaps 60, with additional standing room. Although you can buy a beer or cocktail during a Backstage Project concert if you’re 21 or older, the venue is not a bar. “Not that there’s anything wrong with performing in a bar,” she said. “But when you’re in a bar, it’s not about the music anymore.”
The first Backstage Concert (earlier this month) featured Jazz on Tap, one of the city’s favorite ensembles. Next up is singer, songwriter, and guitarist Chase Burkhart of Fargo, who grew up in Grand Forks and will perform at 8 pm Saturday at the Empire’s backstage. Admission is $5.
Empire director Burkland thinks people in Grand Forks are ready for a something like the Empire’s Backstage Project. “A lot of people are looking for something a little more exciting, and they’re looking for something with more of a big-city feel,” she said. “I think music is a good way to do that.” Read more.
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To promote culture and lifelong learning by presenting its own artistic programming while providing a distinctive, welcoming venue for the arts, businesses, and community of the upper Red River Valley.