Whiteside Theatre bringing touring musicians to town

Patrons of the Whiteside wait in line for a movie showing. The theatre is run as a non-profit and any money made at the Whiteside goes back into the building.

Matt Bison Practicum Contributor

In 1927, a fire erupted backstage at the Whiteside Theatre located in downtown Corvallis, causing heavy damage to the balcony and organ. Another fire broke out again in 1938. The cause of the second fire still remains a mystery. Now, almost 100 years later, the Whiteside is catching fire again,

with touring musicians. 

The theatre was originally intended to show films and live-stage productions and was built in 1922, by brothers Sam and George Whiteside, their third movie theatre. Seven theatres used to occupy the downtown area, the historic Whiteside is the only one still standing.

Located on the corner of Fourth and Madison, a big neon marquee shines outside, welcoming guests. Inside, red carpet leads to the concession stand, where volunteers wait to take customers order. On either side of the stand, one has two options, take the stairs that lead to the balcony or walk through large wooden doors that lead to the ground floor. Once in the main seating area, an elegant chandelier hangs in the middle of an art deco like sun on the ceiling. Long gold curtains rest on either side of the stage, this is a venue ready to be rocked. 

Currently, there are no music venues in Corvallis, the music committee for the Whiteside is changing that, making the Whiteside a pioneer in the local music scene. With Corvallis being home to Oregon State University and a huge student population, there is a demand for a music venue.

Plans to make the Whiteside a stop for touring artists started in March 2016 when the music committee had their first official meeting. Volunteer producer Josh Bowman got involved after his band, Bury The Moon, played a show at the theatre in November 2015.

“My band played here last November. I had so much fun. Why isn’t there more music happening at the Whiteside?” Bowman said. “I contacted the Whiteside and told them I was interested in producing shows, and asked what I can do to get involved.”

Corvallis residents usually have to commute to Portland or Eugene to see well-known musicians. Ian Johnson, who is on the Board of Directors for the Whiteside is currently trying to lure artists to Corvallis.

“The goal is to compete with Eugene for occasionally drawing someone who is touring up and down I-5 to stop in Corvallis,” Johnson said.

According to Johnson, in order to get Corvallis on the music scene, The Whiteside has to get its name out to producers and booking agencies. To do that they have to throw more concerts and get good reviews from performers. 

While things are still in the making of turning Corvallis into a stop for artists, the Whiteside does host other activities. They show about 50 previously released movies a year and also rent out the theatre for events. Every Sunday, Grace City Church rents out the theatre and holds a church service.

The Whiteside Theatre operates as a non-profit organization and profits are used to upgrade the facility in hopes of drawing bigger acts.

“Anything that we make from events just gets turned directly back into the

building,” Johnson said.

Bowman is currently on the music committee for the Whiteside and was behind bringing Los Angeles rapper Azizi Gibson to Corvallis. Gibson was one of the first touring musicians to perform at the venue. The show on Oct. 29 hosted headliner Azizi Gibson along with three other local rappers; Daydreamer, Lawrence, and Chief.

Even with everything happening in Corvallis Halloween weekend, homecoming, and the Beaver game, the Whiteside still drew a crowd of over 300 for the concert. Jerimiah Langston performed with Lawrence. He uses the stage name Bubba and is part of the Portland rap group, Coma Boys. Langston was impressed with the size of the crowd.

“In Portland, it’s hard to get kids to come out to stuff because there’s a million things to do,” Langston said. “Half the time we throw a show, there’s another show going on that night, we’re constantly in competition with each other.”

Caleb Fullman is an up and coming rapper who goes by the stage name Lawrence and opened for Azizi Gibson at The Whiteside.

“This college town thing is good, the energy is good,” Fullman said. “These kids just want to have fun. That’s what they come for and that’s what I want to give them.”

The Whiteside Theatre is putting on three concerts this fall and hopes to host between six and 12 shows in 2017. 

“I’m blown away by this place. This place is amazing. I hope this is the first of many times I come here,” Fullman said.

“This is such a dope venue,” added Langston. “This venue is amazing. We don’t have anything like this in Portland. We have venues but it’s not so obtainable.” 

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