Review: Varsity Theater’s “soft” reopening

The venue brought acoustic, rock n' roll and soul inspired artists as they rang in their reopening.

Kiss the Tiger perform at the Varsity Theater as part of their grand reopening show on Friday, Feb. 9.

Max Ostenso

Kiss the Tiger perform at the Varsity Theater as part of their grand reopening show on Friday, Feb. 9.

Kate Drakulic

Friday night appeared to be just like any other. Underclassmen walked in tight-knit herds to frat-row, jocks ignored walk signs as they stormed Qdoba and odd characters tumbled from Ubers in front of the Kitty Cat Klub. To the uninformed eye, all was ordinary in Dinkytown, except for the handful of social smokers and the sound that seeped out of the doors of the Varsity Theater. For the first time in over a year and a half, Varsity opened its doors and put on a show.

You would never know the theater took such a hiatus from the inside. The quirky jungle bathrooms, the bars and the barn-like warehouse ground floor were still very much intact. As the night progressed, the audience swayed near the stage, couples snuggled up in the lounges and people clutched their draft beers and leaned over the balcony to catch a glimpse of the set.

“I don’t think that there’s going to be a lot of changes. Our main goal is to throw great events, both private and public concerts,” said Elise Holm, Varsity’s special events and sales manager. “We just want the community to come back in and have a great time.”

Holm worked at Varsity Theater when it was under previous management. The venue is now owned by Live Nation Entertainment.

The lineup of the Re-Opening Party was a group of diverse local sounds, which brought a unique crowd. DJ Jake Rudh, a frequent host on 89.3 the Current, started the night off with funky sounds accompanied by music videos projected on the stage screen. 

Rudh was followed by Minneapolis rock n’ roll group Kiss the Tiger, at which point people dared to approach the stage. Led by UMN theater alumna Meghan Kreidler, Kiss the Tiger livened the room as Kreidler jumped, kicked and danced her way around the stage while simultaneously belting her lungs out.

The night brought a mix of local music junkies, primarily those with curated facial hair and round eye-glasses, as well as students and possibly parents. There were beanies of all shapes and sizes.

University sophomores Abigail Aswege and Elle Pagel were among the crowd. 

“There’s no place in Dinkytown like [Varsity Theater],” said Pagel, a political science major. “I think it’s really cool.”

Aswege, a sophomore graphic design and art major, chimed in.

“I think it’s going to be a really cool piece to Dinkytown and a good hub for people to come and hangout that’s not necessarily the bar scene,” she said.

In a drastic change of sound, Chris Koza followed Kiss the Tiger with smooth vocals and acoustic tunes. While impressive, it didn’t prove to be lively enough to keep the crowd on their feet. By the time Dirt Train took the stage to close, the theater had somewhat cleared out, but those present made the most of the rock-soul band.

The Re-Opening Party, noted by staff to serve as a soft-opening, was underwhelming. But hope prevails. As the only concert venue of its type so close to campus, Varsity Theater is sure to continue to bring students and locals to its doors. The theater has performances scheduled through May.

Letter Grade: B-