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Ypsilanti's newest concert venue is preparing for its grand opening weekend April 23, more than a month after its soft opening March 13.
Formerly Club Divine, the transition from a dance club to a live music space on Washington Street downtown has been taking place in both physical changes and image branding.
Don Sicheneder, the booking agent for Savoy, has been involved with the transition since owner David Curtis decided to make the switch. He said there are more physical improvements to expect at Savoy, but the concert space has already had new stage lighting equipment and a $100,000 sound system installed.
“It's top of the line,” Sicheneder said of the sound system. “It rivals anything in the area.”
In addition to the lighting and sound equipment, the existing stage was completely rebuilt, a fresh coat of paint was given to the walls and other additions were made to the décor.
“We wanted to give ourselves time to iron out the details,” Sicheneder said of the reason for Savoy's soft open last month.
Band members of the headlining act Friday night, Third Coast Kings, noticed improvements made throughout the transition period after the soft open. They said they had played Savoy two weeks ago and could see noticeable improvements to the space between their two visits.
“It's got a lot of potential,” said trumpet player Ryan Dolan.
The band was also impressed with the venue's first national act, Karl Denson's Tiny Universe. The San Diego-based funk and jazz group, fronted by former Lenny Kravitz saxophonist Karl Denson, take the stage Sunday.
“If they keep bringing in acts like that I'll be in here all the time,” Third Coast Kings' bassist Nate Ayers said.
The Third Coast Kings brought their own brand of funk to the stage Friday. Modeled after the classic funk sound of the 60's and 70's, the band's solid rhythm and four-piece horn section had forced the audience to the dance floor by the second set.
Those who weren't dancing had to bob their head and tap their feet.
Band members said it was their relationship with Sicheneder that had brought them to Savoy, a tactic Sicheneder said he often uses to bring acts to the stage.
“It's a matter of picking up the phone and sending a lot of e-mails,” Sicheneder said.
With more than 10 years in the music business, Sicheneder said he has experience booking talent from the six years he spent living in California, after graduating from Eastern Michigan University on a music scholarship, to his work getting last summer's Jamboree started in Ypsilanti.
As far as turning Savoy into a 700-person capacity, open floor concert space—something he said was unique to the Washtenaw County region—Sicheneder said, “It's a lot of work building a brand.”
Two Ypsilanti-based rock groups take the stage at 9 p.m. tonight, the Mayflys and the Skeleton Birds.
Three bands are set to play for Savoy's grand opening weekend April 23. Ann Arbor blues, funk and rock band Jamie Register and the Martindales; Ann Arbor experimental roots-rock and bluegrass band—for which Sicheneder plays—Dragon Wagon; and Flint jam-band Covert Operation.
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