Inside New Haven’s Newest Venue: College Street Music Hall

Photo courtesy of College Street Music Hall’s Instagram

If you’ve seen a show here in csmhConnecticut, chances are you know the name Manic Productions, the booking and promotions company that has brought a shit-ton of underground and indie acts to The Space venues, Café Nine, BAR, and many more. With the recent opening of the new New Haven venue, the College Street Music Hall, Manic has joined forces with Premier Concerts to revitalize what was once the Palace Theater, and continue bringing up-and-coming artists and already established favorites to the area.

Headed by Mark Nussbaum, Manic Productions originally started as the booking division of the local indie label Kill Normal Records. Having worked as the merch guy for CT locals The Flaming Tsunamis and handling promotion for the label, Nussbaum decided to dive in and start booking shows of his own. During Manic Productions’ early days, Nussbaum would book touring bands to play the area and would then pair bands from the label and other local acts on the same bill. He originally connected with Premier Concerts in 2011, when Premier was working on promoting a Danbury Guster/Ra Ra Riot show and a Pixies performance for Waterbury’s Palace Theater. Lending a hand in the promotional efforts led to the healthy working relationship between the two that’s still strong to this day.

“We basically started off by doing promotions for some of their indie shows. We would co-book, and split both the promotion and the risk,” said Nussbaum.

Eventually the tables turned a bit and Premier would periodically return the favor, providing Manic with some of the same assistance.

“It was just a mutually beneficial relationship where they had their own reach and following, and we had our own reach and following, and we started combining our efforts to put on shows,” said Nussbaum.

Since then, Manic Productions has been all over the state booking gigs at Toad’s Place, The Simsbury Meadows, Arch Street Tavern, and all of the aforementioned venues, including The Space’s relatively new Ballroom. Now, Manic and Premier are taking on a brand new feat: booking and promoting for New Haven’s College Street Music Hall.

Plans to revive the city’s old theater have long been in the works. New Haveners know the building as the former Palace Performing Arts Center, which once had the pleasure of having Lou Reed, Brian May of Queen, Bjork and many others grace its stage. Since then, the space has been deserted for over a decade after many attempts to restore it had come and gone.

According to the Hartford Courant, mayor Toni Harp had been looking for new opportunities to bring people downtown, and Yale University (which owns a lot of property in the area) was open to the idea of a new concert hall. The nonprofit organization New Haven Center for the Performing Arts, which oversaw the Palace in the days of yesteryear, was reactivated. NHCPA called in Premier Concerts, which was instrumental in the revival of the Waterbury Palace Theater. The ball began to roll.

Located in downtown New Haven’s arts and entertainment district, the music hall boasts a 2,000 capacity with the ability to shape shift depending on the show or performer. There’s a seated balcony above, and the space below can serve as additional seating or a standing-room-only GA floor.

“It has a lot of flexibility in terms of the capacity. It can range from a fully seated room of 1,600 capacity to a GA standing floor and seated balcony. It has a 2,000 capacity but can scale down to 500 and everything in between. It’s a very personal room, so we can do a lot of different things there,” said Nussbaum.

The College Street Music Hall will serve as a much needed mid-large size club/theater for the state, a void that sometimes forces bands to skip over Connecticut seeking venues that can fit more bodies than, say, Toad’s or The Outer Space Ballroom. Having such a unique space, both size-wise and in the coveted downtown New Haven area (easy on and off for bands cruising down I-95, mind you), the music hall is already booking acts like Jamey Johnson, Neon Trees, and a particular favorite of Nussbaum’s, The Decemberists, who Nussbaum claims is just the type of band they want to get in the room.

The Music Hall has been open since May 1, and has already put on shows such as alt-country icons Lovett and Hiatt, Polaris/Mates of States/Mighty Purple, and the Pink Floyd tribute band The Machine, who performed “Dark Side of the Moon” in its entirety with the Hartford Symphony Orchestra. Even BrooklynVegan is recognizing the potential of New Haven’s newest music spot. With its current roster of upcoming shows, the College Street Music Hall will surely be turning more heads as time continues. According to Nussbaum, up-and-coming indie and folk acts are certainly targets for Manic Productions and Premier Concerts, but nostalgia acts that everyone knows and loves will also have a stage to play on.

“We want to basically do the same thing we’ve always been doing, but now we have another place to take these shows,” he said. “If a band sells out The Ballroom, this is the next place for the band to play.”

THE COLLEGE STREET MUSIC HALL is located at 238 College St., New Haven, on College between Chapel and Crown. For more information visit collegestreetmusichall.com or www.manicproductions.org.

Upcoming Shows at College Street Music Hall
Sat 05/30 Tig Notaro
Wed 06/17 Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band + Jonny Lang
Thu 06/18 Reel Big Fish & Less Than Jake with Ballyhoo!
Sat 06/20 Mike Gordon
Fri 06/26 Blackberry Smoke: Holding All the Roses Tour
Thu 07/02 Tombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue
Wed 07/22 Jason Isbell, Blake Mills
Sat 07/25 Neon Trees with Fictionist and Ian Biggs
Mon 07/27 The Decemberists with Lady Lamb
Tue 07/28 Whitesnake with Bridge To Grace
Thu 09/17 The Doobie Brothers
Fri 09/18 Jamey Johnson
Fri 10/02 Lisa Lampanelli

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