Ex-Quilcene theater, now a wood shop, envisioned as music hall
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Tom Brown give Scott Wilson, background, the thumbís up inside the Quilcene building Brown wants to turn into a music venue. -- Photo by Charlie Bermant/Peninsula Daily News

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

QUILCENE — The old movie theater doesn’t look like much from the outside, but it has some of the best acoustics that Tom Brown has ever heard.

And he should know.

He’s been a “sound guy” since he was a little kid and went on to work in Nashville and on the road before “retiring” to Quilcene in 1990.

“The sound here is as good as it gets. It’s real,” Brown said.

“It’s where musicians can get together and sound good without having to be in someone’s basement.”

The building, at 11 Old Church Road right off U.S. Highway 101, is now owned by Marc Waltz of Waltz Lumber, who allows Brown and his partner, Quilcene real estate agent and musician Scott Wilson, to use it.

Waltz has been using the building as a woodworking shop, and the performance space is full of random boards of varied shapes and sizes.

Brown and Wilson are improving the acoustics in hopes of transforming the 100-person-capacity space into a prime venue for music and musicians.

“We want to create a place where musicians can hear themselves,” Brown said.

“We want them to be able to sound good for themselves and anyone who is in the room without having to rely on monitors.”

As the music business has grown to accommodate larger audiences, monitor technology that allows the musicians to hear themselves in the mix has become more sophisticated.

“Monitors cause more problems for musicians,” Brown said.

“And the in-ear monitors, which have great sound, are isolating,” he added.

“I want to go back to a time where people could hear themselves and each other.”

The theater was built in the 1930s and showed movies through the 1950s.

The building then housed a church. Over the years, it has functioned as a dog breeding space, a coffeeshop and an antiques store as well as a wood shop, according to Anne Ricker, who owned the building before selling it to Waltz eight years ago.

The sound inside the 30-foot-by-70-foot building is clear and clean as Wilson practices his guitar.

This becomes remarkable when Brown points out that Wilson is playing with no amplification.

Brown said the space will never be “finished,” but it already is somewhere local musicians love to perform.

“People come in here and play a few notes, and all of a sudden, they get a big smile on their face,” Brown said.

The idea that “big names” will show up to play here is not out of the question, Brown said, but it will be low-key and be over before most people know it’s taking place.

“I have a lot of long-term relationships in the music business,” said Brown, while declining to say exactly who.

“Chances are, if you are in the neighborhood, you’ll probably come in here and play.”

The hall could play to more than its capacity by serving as a studio that pipes sound and video to other locations, such as the 500-seat outdoor Linger Longer Theater across the street.

The hall is best-suited to acoustic music, and bluegrass sounds especially spectacular, Brown said.

It also could serve as a recording studio, although there is a chance that some of the noise from the adjacent highway could bleed in to the tape.

But if that really matters to artists, they probably shouldn’t be recording here, Brown said.

The best part of the music, according to Brown, are the after-sessions, the music that’s made after a session is over.

“One of the reasons I do this is that I get the best seat in the house,” Brown said.

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Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or cbermant@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: September 02. 2013 3:52PM
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