Thursday, November 3, 2011

Two great stories on the Narrows 10th anniversary

Here is a lnk to the story in the Standard Times

Here's the text from Providence Journal story

If you build a solid venue, they’ll come      Patrick Norton had never promoted or produced any concerts before opening the Narrows Center for the Arts in November 2001. But as the venue celebrates its 10th anniversary this week with a slate of big-name shows, he says that the idea was to keep music in his life.

   “I wasn’t good at playing music, so I figured if I could produce [shows], I could still be around music, says Norton, who had played in bands and promoted his own shows before taking on the Narrows. “I liked how you put on a party in your house and put on music and have people come over, so it seemed like a natural extension of things I thought I could do well.”

   Since then Norton and a small band of helpers have kept the Narrows open in a lovely third-floor industrial space on the Fall River waterfront, within sight of the ships of Battleship Cove, bringing in performers ranging from stars such as Los Lobos, Richard Thompson and Bettye LaVette to a host of lesser-known acts. 
   “There are two kinds of music: good music and bad music,” says Norton, who works as an aide to a congressman during the day. “We pick the good music, regardless of the genre that’s out there. And hopefully we make money, but we book shows that we know are gonna be marginal. But that’s OK, too.” And he adds that even he is surprised at some of the bigger acts that have dropped by the 280-seat Narrows over the years. “A lot of bigger groups are playing smaller places. The economics just aren’t there. Even the fan experience is not there. … A group like Los Lobos can play the Narrows and have a meet-and-greet afterward, and they can’t do that at a 1,000-seater; they’d never get out of there.”

   While the Narrows filled a need for a mid-size venue in the beginning, Norton says, challenges such as the opening of The Met, which has attracted a couple of the acts who have played the Narrows in the past, don’t faze him. “There always have been challenges, but we’ve just focused on making our venue better,” such as improvements to the sound system and seating and the installation of elevators for the third-floor space.
   One of the hallmarks of the Narrows is its alcohol policy: You can bring something to drink — or to eat, for that matter — but no alcohol is sold on the premises. “We’ve always been about the music rather than selling beer, and we’re a real alternative to clubs. We’re a listening room, and people come here to listen first. … People don’t talk during our shows. Other audience members appreciate it, and I know the musicians appreciate it.”

   They’ve had chances in the past to get a liquor license, “but we declined. We thought it would change what we do, and we really want to be committed to the music. And it’s about creating your own niche.”
   The Narrows, which also includes an art gallery and five studios for resident artists, survives solely on admissions, and Norton says they put on 20 shows their first year, 40 their second, and they’ll do 125 this year. “There were some lean times, but we’ve always been able to pay our rent on time. It was all volunteer for the first seven years, so we had low overhead. And we worked hard at it.”

   The Narrows Center for the Arts celebrates its 10th anniversary this week with performances by The David Wax Museum on Thursday, Jorma Kaukonen on Friday and Rosanne Cash on Saturday. The Narrows is at 16 Anawan St., Fall River; call (508) 324-1926 or go to  .

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