The Underground: No reprise of Nile nightclub - East Valley Tribune: News

The Underground: No reprise of Nile nightclub

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Posted: Saturday, February 27, 2010 3:36 pm | Updated: 3:46 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

Night life is making a comeback in downtown Mesa. The Underground, a new concert venue catering to fans of hard rock and heavy metal, opened this month in the basement of Main Street’s historic Nile Theater building.

Slideshow: The Underground

Night life is making a comeback in downtown Mesa. The Underground, a new concert venue catering to fans of hard rock and heavy metal, opened this month in the basement of Main Street’s historic Nile Theater building.

Slideshow: The Underground

It’s the same spot where a controversial nightclub garnered headlines in 2001 for a triple shooting in which one person wound up dead.

But that’s not the kind of place The Underground is going to be, says co-owner Ben Talty, 32. He’s backing the venture with partners Michelle Donovan and Erin Peters; they also run the Mantooth Group, a Tempe-based concert-promotion company that hosts shows all over the Valley and in Tucson and Flagstaff.

“I was in high school and early college when I used to go (to The Nile). I know what that place was and what it represents for people. The Underground is not the sum of (the Nile’s) reputation. We’re not the Nile. We don’t do the same kinds of things they did,” he says.

The Nile Theater opened in 1924 as the Valley’s first movie palace, five years before the Orpheum Theatre in downtown Phoenix. It closed in 1951 but was reincarnated over the years as a clothing store, a restaurant and, most recently, Faith Harvest Church and bookstore.

But it was as a nightclub specializing in punk, ska, goth and alternative acts from 1994 to 2002 that the Nile hosted shows by the likes of Marilyn Manson, Sublime, Blink 182, Motorhead, Rancid and Jimmy Eat World and gained notoriety.

According to a 2003 report by the Mesa Police Department’s Central Division Community Action Team, nearby businesses complained about vandalism and litter, and undercover police bought drugs in sting operations on site. There were stabbings, firearms and alcohol violations, and ambulance calls for victims of overdose, the report said.

In addition, the club appeared in a 2000 “Dateline NBC” segment on teen raves, when hidden cameras captured an ecstasy sales pitch within 17 seconds of entering the building.

The Underground has already booked the next several months with all-ages hard-core rock and punk shows. Talty says the venue won’t host rap shows or raves.

“It’s going to be the typical stuff you’d see someplace like The Clubhouse or Marquee Theater. Our customer base is going, realistically, to be in their mid- to late teens, and we have to build around that and make sure the environment is safe for those people.”

The venue has a snack bar but doesn’t serve alcohol. There are no plans to put a bar in the basement.

Talty’s group is in talks with the building’s owners to rent the main theater space upstairs for live events.

Talty says that although his group originally wanted to open their venue at a site next door to Tempe’s Yucca Tap Room, the Mesa location generated twice the positive buzz from bands and concertgoers.

“It’s kind of a weird thing to have in downtown Mesa, and going forward there are some concerns from local government and police about what that place represents and the history of it. But we want to do it by the books and not have any troubles. We want to bring it back to the popularity it had, get it back up and running to its full potential.”

City Councilman Kyle Jones, whose district covers downtown, says that although the building’s former concert club was bad news, it’s no reason not put out the welcome mat for The Underground.

“This isn’t (the Mantooth Group’s) only venture. They do other things around town, so we have a little bit of a track record that we can follow. You’ve got to give people a chance, to see how they do and how they operate. It’ll be interesting to see how it evolves,” he says.

The Underground

What: A new concert venue in the basement of downtown Mesa’s historic Nile Theater building.

When: Show times vary; call or check online for latest lineup

Where: 105 W. Main St., Mesa

Cost: Generally about $5-$10 per show, but prices vary

Information: (480) 559-5859 or http://MesaUnderground.com or www.MantoothGroup.com

Concert calendar

Upcoming shows are subject to change. Please check with venue directly before showtime.

Feb. 27: A Storm of Light, Via Vengeance, Hellas Mounds, Tomorrow The Stars, Sihr

March 5: Gwen Stacy, Vanna, Oceana, Dead and Divine

March 7: The Sleeping, This Counts For Everything, The Constellation Branch, The Scenery, Crash Friday

March 13: Touche Amore, Run With The Hunted, Mouth of Man, Conscience, Built to Reign

March 19: Civet

March 22: Keretta, Drone Throne, Sunjane

March 23: Expire, Nothing to Nothing, Hell and Reason, Days of Awe, Mouth of Man

April 6: Across Tundras, Contact Yourself, Toad, Sunjane

April 9: Rocky Loves Emily, Sound the City, This Counts for Everything, 20 Days Gone, Assemble the Skyline, Aloha Joe

April 14: In the Midst of Lions, A Hope For Home, Onward to Olympas, Sharks Never Sleep, The Recession

May 24: End of a Year, Roseau, Cagematch

June 2: The Carrier, The Bonus Army

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