Downtown Muncie comes alive with Grateful Dead tribute band at new Center Stage
By Rick Yencer
MUNCIE, IN - Molly and her girlfriends came to the new Center Stage on Friday to have a Grateful Dead experience despite their age.
"You have to respect us," said Molly, who never saw Jerry Garcia and the original Dead, as she swayed, danced and was entertained by the Grateful Dead tribute band, Terrapin Flyer, that plays to sellout crowds in its home town of Chicago.
Terrapin Flyer was the the main event at the grand opening of the new Center Stage on South Walnut Street in downtown Muncie that has been transformed into a unique, historic looking venue that is part music hall, theater, bar and possibly a future restaurant.
It certainly was the place to be Friday night as owner Chris Ellison showed off months of renovation and what his vision for entertainment is for the downtown party crowd that already know Ellison's work when he opened the downtown Silo two years ago and University Village Cleo's Bourbon Bar more recently.
Ellison was pleased with the Deadhead turnout as he talked with friends and others at the corner of Walnut and Adams, keeping both Center Stage and Silo in eyesight. More than 200 people showed up for Terrapin Flyer, while hundreds more moved in and out of the Silo that offered music.
It's Ellison's vision to have some big names visit Muncie with his new venue that offered great sound and lights for the tribute band that played all those Dead favorites. The only letdown was that Grateful Dead piano man Tom Constanten had health problems and did not make the Muncie gig.
Terrapin Flyer easily gets $30 or $40 at the door in Chicago and other large venues, while Center Staged only $10 for its opening. While that is twice what the gate generally is for local live music, Deadheads agreed Terrapin had the sound, look and feel of the Grateful Dead thanks to the help from Ellison's musical staff. Tony Z and Lanie.
That big name talent is expected to the hallmark of the new Center Stage that was rebuilt with its historic colors of red and gold similar to when it was the Columbia Theater many years ago.
Cheryl Crowder, downtown diva and event coordinator, believed Center Stage could be destination for music fans elsewhere in the Midwest, depending on who was playing.
That's how Key Palace In Redkey keeps its crowd by attracting new big name groups that have a large following in Indiana and Ohio. And it will take a couple more concerts to see if Center Stage can become that kind of destination.
The Friday night opening attracted other downtown bar owners including Stan Stephens, who sold Center Stage to Elllison, and Doc Peterson, who also played Friday with good friend Phil Dunn, and has that venerable Doc's Music Hall that is celebrating its rendition anniversary next Friday.
Peterson found the new venue interesting and liked the tribute band's rendition of Dead favorites. The later night crowd also including Mike Robinson, owner of Amazing Joe's and his crew who also missed the original Dead but liked the tribute band.
Ellison said he had more surprises for the Muncie night life scene but would not offer details. It is no secret The Chug in the Village recently closed and it could be the next venture for Ellison who has an endless supply of energy and money to operate his bars. He also has been the first to operate a shuttle between the downtown and Village for his patrons.