THE MT. TABOR Theater is dead.
In the past decade, the SE Hawthorne venue has gone through several incarnations, perhaps most notoriously as a jammy, white-guy-reggae, dreadlocked hippie haven. Even its brief stint as metal venue Sabala's—which resulted in the infamous day-glo blacklight paintings that creepily adorn the interior—and its role hosting the annual Bridgetown Comedy Festival couldn't completely eradicate the Tabor's patchouli stink, at least in the minds of many showgoers.
All that is behind us. The venue's current owners, who purchased the space last year, are determined to put the theater's many ghosts to rest—or, at least, resurrect the ones that predate any unwanted associations. In a long-term project to renovate and rework the place, new owners Charles Varga and daughter Chase are busily rolling out the venue's new incarnation, starting this week. They're reclaiming its original name, the Alhambra Theatre, which dates from the theater's opening in 1913 as a sumptuous silent-movie palace. And they're looking to slowly, gradually bring the spot back to its former glory, if not its original ostentation.
This week's May Day Music Fest marks Phase One, in which everything has been scrubbed, repainted, and refinished. Years of band stickers have been peeled off; the walls have been painted (goodbye, most of the blacklight art), the floors scrubbed and redone, and that awkward raised platform in back of the main room has been taken out. Most notably, the dropped ceiling in the theater's entryway has been removed, restoring the original, spacious arched hall, now complete with box office. More phases are to come, in which the stage will be torn out and rebuilt in the center of the main concert hall room—it's oddly off to one side, currently.
On a casual tour in the midst of all the work being done, Chase Varga told me about the long-term plans for the Alhambra. Rather than subscribing to a single genre, they're booking bands they simply think are good (they've already turned down Insane Clown Posse); the smaller lounge will host shows six days a week, with larger shows in the 525-capacity concert hall typically happening on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Their philosophy of musical diversity is evident in this week's May Day Music Fest, five days of very eclectic shows, including local metalers Red Fang, bluegrass revisionists Black Prairie, and slam-poet emcee Sage Francis playing his first local show in years. It will be a fine inauguration to what I'm hoping will prove to be one of the city's vital live-music venues.