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West Side Concert Theater - Pete Best (thurs)


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Great to see a new (or revived) venue in steeltown.

Former telecentre converted into lively west-end showplace

By Doug Foley

The Hamilton Spectator

(Apr 4, 2006)

The former home of Tiny Talent Time hopes to become the future home of big time talent.

The West Side Concert Theatre, set to open Thursday with a concert by one-time Beatles drummer Pete Best, as the latest incarnation of what was once CHCH TV's Telecentre.

Over the years, it served as home base to such CHCH stalwarts as Tiny Talent Time, The Ken Soble Amateur Show, wrestling, Club 11 Dance Party, Randy Dandy, Cap'n Andy, Party Game and The Hilarious House Of Frightenstein.

CHCH evolved into ONtv which evolved into CH, which sold the building in 2000 to Hamilton-based MJM Productions and Big Bang Studios.

Last year, the building on King Street West, between Locke and Pearl, switched hands to Loren Lieberman and Colin Lapsley, who have remodelled it for a theatre and concert venue.

Lieberman headed the Tivoli Theatre group which operated for several years out of the historic movie house on James Street North. Part of the 1870s building collapsed in 2004, prompting its closure.

Lieberman should feel at home in The West Side because it also started life as a movie theatre - The Kenmore.

But there is one big difference.

Lieberman was a tenant in the Tivoli while he and Lapsley, a musician and active member of the local theatre community, own this building.

"It's a pleasure. ... no absentee landlord to contend with, everything we do now is for ourselves and that changes everything," said Lieberman.

"The vibe out here is completely different from being downtown. This is a good neighbourhood. We haven't had to shoo away anybody sleeping in the doorway in the morning.

"It's a much more manageable space to be in. The Tivoli had 700 fixed seats so you couldn't do something small and intimate and even if you had 200 people there, it seemed empty."

Lieberman and Lapsley, friends since high school, have done a fair amount of restoration and renovation work to The West Side by themselves.

The building, which was constructed in 1930, has a new heating system and roof and the bright and spacious new lobby will feature a tiled floor and new bar and sitting area.

The main auditorium will be able to hold up to 300 people. There will not be permanent seating installed so that the venue can change according to the event -- stand up for concerts, chairs brought in for theatre.

Lieberman and Lapsley reaped some benefits from the building's years under CHCH in that the acoustics are top-notch and the ceiling of the main hall wired with tracks for lighting.

The room is draped in black curtain on all walls for more acoustic control and has a good-sized stage area at the north end.

The West Side offices are upstairs where Creative Arts Inc., the organization that runs the annual music/crafts show Festival of Friends, will also be housed.

Lieberman is a former executive director of Creative Arts and currently serves as program manager for Festival of Friends. Creative Arts was also housed at the Tivoli at the time of its collapse.

As for the Tiv, both men are quick to point out there is no connection with The West Side.

"People keep referring to it as the new Tivoli and it's not," said Lapsley.

Lieberman and Lapsley say their goal is to make The West Side a venue for theatre, although concerts are a way to pay the bills in the meantime. The versatility of the building makes that possible and it is available and adaptable for rental for other events.

"There has been a void for this type of facility," said Lapsley.

The owners are making inquiries about a permanent liquor licence.

The Pete Best Band show April 6 will have a special permit licence. Tickets are $25 for the 8 p.m. gig. For information call 905-777-9777 or go to www.westsidelive.com.

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Pete Best is also playing in Waterloo, ON on April 5th at the Starlight Lounge. It looks like Waterloo and Hamilton are his only Canadian dates on this tour.

$25? I saw him at Lakehead University around ten years ago for less than $5. He played to a "crowd" of around ten people that night. It was a good show though.

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Colin Lapsley bought the place?!? The Colin Lapsley? Bassist from the Hess scene? Wow, good on him!

Yep, the same. Kinda my point on posting this was its the grand opening of a new (old) venue & ran by local known faces. I mentioned Pete playing since he's playing the opening night.

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