It takes a lot to stay open in the entertainment business for even a year around here. Doing it — and doing it right — for 10 years? Well, that's cause for a celebration.
The Emerald Theatre as we have come to know it — as arguably one of the premier live music venues in metro Detroit — is turning 10 years old. Emerald Owner Mike Mitchell is making the time — when he's not busy with lead guitar duties in Critical Bill, Real Detroit Weekly's Rock Artist of the Year for 2010 — to craft the ultimate birthday party. And you know what they say about Dee-troit parties ...
"We are going to have a huge, huge party on our hands next week," Mitchell says of the Emerald's 10-year Anniversary Party on 1/8. "We are going to have a bunch of surprise guests. It's going to be a walk down memory lane and it's going to be a lot of fun, talking about some things from the past.
"We'll have video presentations and that will be complemented with bands who have played over the years; they'll be coming in to play their hits. It's $10 for 10 years and we want everyone to come out. You'll never get a bill like this and you're not going to get it for 10 bucks."
And he's right. Where else will you be able to see, in one night, Sponge, Taproot, Critical Bill, Pop Evil, Paradime and the Howling Diablos, among many others? The party will focus on the national bands and events that have come through the Emerald, including Kid Rock's VH-1 Christmas Special, as well as the 2006 Sports Illustrated Super Bowl Party. That, and the hundreds of national and local acts who have graced the stage in this historic, nearly century-old building.
For Mitchell, the anniversary party is not just about embracing the last 10 years at the Emerald, but doing so with, and for, the people who helped make that decade possible. He could have easily brought in a big-name national live act to spearhead the event, but he said he went with his gut, and his heart, and made it a point to keep it all local.
"This is really a celebration of Detroit music, which is why we kept it on a local level," he says. "We could have had a huge, national act come in, but the people from around here helped us build this place. It's all about Detroit. That's what this party is all about. It's going to be a big family reunion."
And it would not have been hard to bring in a national name for the show's bill, either. Countless recognizable names have played the Emerald — from Kid Rock and Uncle Kracker to Godsmack and Alice in Chains. Mitchell paints a vivid picture of how the Emerald has been home to bands on their way up. Take, for example, Five Finger Death Punch. They played the Emerald in their early days, Mitchell said, and had about 500 people turn out. The next Emerald show the band played was sold out. And now? Five Finger Death Punch is opening for Godsmack.
The Emerald Theatre is a beautiful, historic building that opened in the early 1920s as a first-run movie house. Mount Clemens was a haven for the elite at that time, as the community thrived in a post-war environment. The venue was originally named The Macomb Theatre.
Several decades and changes in ownership later, we have the Emerald of today. And while it is a legitimate and popular live music venue that hosts everything from bands like Velvet Revolver to mixed martial arts bouts, its layout and design are really its true gem.
Up close and personal
The stage setup — in relation to the audience — is uniquely intimate. The Emerald is not cavernous by any means; contrarily, it's quite cozy. It's obviously much bigger than a hall or bar but considerably smaller than an arena. This happy medium is what lends shape to the Emerald's identity. Think of the best live performance by a band you have ever witnessed; chances are it occurred in a smaller venue. And this is no knock on The Palace, Cobo or Joe Louis Arena, but when it comes to seeing your favorite band live, smaller is actually better.
"Being a concert-goer and in a band, I can tell you that there is nothing like experiencing one of your favorite artists 2 feet away from you," Mitchell says. "Huge bands that have been in here — Kid Rock, Godsmack — they were right in front of you. The Emerald is big enough to get the huge acts in here, but intimate enough that when you go to see a show, it's an experience.
"With the audience so close to you, you can't help but make them a part of the show," he adds. "You can see people. You can touch people. People in the crowd can feel the experience. From an artist's perspective, you have people surrounding you. The crowd is all around you and it's such an awesome feeling to have fans so close. It's a personal experience."
Hip-hop legend Paradime has consumed that personal experience on numerous occasions, having played the Emerald as far back as 1997, when he opened for Kid Rock. He echoed Mitchell's comments that intimate the nature of the Emerald is the venue's calling card.
"You have that closeness," Paradime says. "The people in the crowd are just as important as the way your instruments work. If it's not working between you and the crowd, fuck it, you might as well turn around and go home.
"It's more like a party atmosphere at the Emerald. You and the crowd are one. They are right there; you can, literally, hear what they are saying. It makes the crowd another instrument. It's a special place to me."
And Mitchell says he plans on keeping that experience going for the next 10 years and beyond. While the Emerald's Rock Room just got a complete renovation, expect much of the same for the rest of the theater, including the introduction of green technology.
"Hopefully in 10 years, we're talking about our 20-year anniversary party," Mitchell says. | RDW
Emerald Theatre 10-year Anniversary • 1/8, 7 p.m. • Emerald Theatre 31 N. Walnut St., Mount Clemens • 586.913.1920 • emeraldtheatre.com $10, all ages