New And Exciting RI: The Columbus Theater

Ever drive down Broadway on your way to grab a coffee at Seven Stars or something and wonder what the deal is with The Columbus?

Read on and find out all about what's fast becoming one of the coolest places in RI for live music and more. 

Recently, I had the chance to visit The Columbus (Theater) and was beyond impressed by what "they" - the Columbus Cooperative - have going on. I met Jeff Prystowsky, from folk rock band The Low Anthem and Tom Weyman; both are part of the Cooperative (along with Bryan Minto and Lauren Faria) that oversees the day to day operation of the theater nowadays. They were kind enough to take time out to give me the tour.

Fun Fact: It was Jeff who, after returning in 2011 from touring non-stop with The Low Anthem, spied The Columbus while having pizza at a restaurant across the street and thought it would make a great rehearsal spot for the band. (Later, by way of WaterFire creator Barnaby Evans, Jeff met Jon Berberian, longtime owner of the theater who, as luck would have it, was looking for a way to reopen the space. It had been closed for fire code violations since 2009. The theater officially reopened to the public, thanks to the joint efforts of The Low Anthem and Berberian, in Nov., 2012 with a huge blowout concert.)

True Story: This was my first time ever at the Columbus because back when I lived in the Armory District (aka, West Broadway) in the 70's and 80's, it was an X-rated movie theater. From what I understand that was the only way longtime owner, Jon Berberian, could save the theater from closing, mostly because, during those years, multiplexes started popping up in the burbs and absolutely everyone flocked to them, leaving the old neighborhood movie theaters in the dust.

These days, Jeff and the Cooperative host top national and local musicians - including Brown Bird and Roz and the Rice Cakes - in the larger main theater on the ground floor as well as on the smaller stage on the second level. There's also the occasional reading/book signing or indie movie/documentary premiere thrown into the mix.

Fun Fact: Did you know the theater was named The Columbus because when it first opened its doors in 1926, it had 1492 seats? Neither did I. 

Another thing I didn't realize - Surprise! - was that the theater also has a recording studio (aka, the Columbus Recording Company), built by The Low Anthem, on the 2nd level. Several up and coming local acts - like Vudu Sister - have recorded albums there in the last few years. Jeff also told me that the studio could be used to record any of the live performances on either of the 2 stages. 

So, if haven't already, go to The Columbus and see a show ASAP!  It's fast becoming THE place to see live music and be seen in RI. 

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Another neat project Jeff is working on is Jeff's Library And Learning Center, a non-profit devoted to 'sharing his musical knowledge with others as a way to do good'. One way he's definitely doing all of that is by volunteering regularly at Hasbro Children's Hospital. Read more about it here.