“I feel we stand out from every other music venue,” said Michael Dorf, gesturing around the cozy room that is City Winery’s concert area. “Nobody is doing it the way we are.”
Dorf, the architect of New York’s famed Knitting Factory, understands what makes an attractive music room — both acoustically and aesthetically.
Weeks before the venue/restaurant/winery in Atlanta opened — and prior to the first of its numerous delays — Dorf could only explain what he hoped this 350-seat “luxury concert experience” would entail, based on his experience as a veteran music impresario and the layouts of his other City Winery locations.
But on June 23, a few days after the building finally received its permits and opened for business, the new concert venue downstairs from the restaurant and winery had been transformed from slabs of beams and concrete into the casually elegant space Dorf believes will distinguish it from other music havens.
Rows of tables set with wooden chairs lined the hardwood floors, but with plenty of space to move in between. The 20-foot-wide stage, which sits 16 feet deep — the same as the Nashville City Winery — is flanked by a pair of video screens (not that they’re really needed in such an intimate space, but they’re an appreciated touch).
A slightly elevated platform toward the back of the room serves as the VIP area, which allows for a superior view with fewer neighbors.
For more about the City Winery restaurant and winery, check out AJC Dining Critic Ligaya Figueras’ feature about the new offerings.
Dorf’s key demographic is between 30 and 70, and he feels that mature audience knows how to behave in what is, essentially, a listening room. But just in case customers need a reminder, a subtle note on the tables will ask patrons to respect their surroundings and not talk through the performances.
The room is outfitted with Meyer Sound speakers and, during construction, fabric-wrapped panels were built into the walls to assist with sound quality.
The surroundings in a City Winery are apparently attractive to artists, too, since the venue has pledged an impressive lineup through the end of 2016 — “It’s kind of like an adult Knitting Factory,” Dorf joked.
From Macy Gray to Marc Cohn, Rickie Lee Jones to Robin Meade, the Bacon Brothers to the Black Lillies, City Winery is attracting musical acts that span folk, rock, soul and blues, and they will all have a close-up view of their fans.
“Once you get to 500 or more (in a venue), the person on stage can’t look into the eyes of every person in the room,” Dorf said. “This defines intimacy.”
City Winery approaches its ticketing a bit differently than most venues. While there is a “box office” at the entrance of the venue, it functions more as a concierge service since City Winery doesn’t sell physical tickets.
Instead, once tickets are purchased online (www.citywinery.com/atlanta), the customer’s name is entered into City Winery’s own proprietary system. On show night, a team of eight employees armed with tablets will greet concertgoers, find their name in the system and escort them to their reserved seat.
The entire experience is one that Dorf has discovered equates to a sophisticated encounter.
“The older artists need a room to work,” he said, “and the audience would rather be in a refined, intimate space.”
SOME UPCOMING CONCERTS AT CITY WINERY
City Winery is at 650 North Ave., Atlanta. To purchase tickets and view the full lineup of concerts, visit www.citywinery.com/atlanta.
8 p.m. June 30: Nellie McKay ($22-$28)
8 p.m. July 2: Ani DiFranco with Chastity Brown ($40 standing room tickets; seats sold out)
8 p.m. July 7-8: Leon Russell ($40-$65)
8 p.m. July 10: Shawn Mullins ($28-$36)
8 p.m. July 11-12: Robert Earl Keen ($50-$75)
8 p.m. July 17: The Black Lillies with Sam Quinn ($20-$28)
8 p.m. July 18-19: Macy Gray ($45-$65)
8 p.m. July 22-23: Aaron Neville ($55-$85)
8 p.m. July 31: Matthew Sweet ($30-$40)
8 p.m. Aug 14: Rickie Lee Jones ($50-$65)
8 p.m. Aug. 20: Robin Meade with Sixwire ($22-$30)
7 and 9:30 p.m. Aug. 24: The Bacon Brothers ($40-$55)
8 p.m. Oct. 12: Marc Cohn ($40-$55)