Stage West Strives To Stick Around Longer Than Most
As the third venue to take residence at 420 E. College Ave. in the last year alone, Stage West’s owners hope to be the final tenants to fill the spot for the foreseeable future.
Before Stage West, there was RE//BAR — a short-lived attempt at revitalizing 90s and early 00s crowd favorite, Crowbar — Envy, Levels, Mezzanine, and plenty others. All of those bars only stuck around for a few years at most, however, before closing their doors and shutting down for good. In fact, Crowbar was the last successful bar to occupy 420 E. College Ave., and it closed in 2006.
Stage West owner Steve Masterson hopes to change all of that, however. His goal is to combine a variety of genres for a more eclectic appeal, from electronic to hip-hop to alternative. As the only real live music venue, apart from the BJC or the State Theatre, Stage West hits on a segment of the downtown bar scene that was previously missing.
“Live music sometimes seems to be a dying thing and there’s not a lot of venues that can survive,” Masterson said.
The Stage West venue in State College isn’t Masterson’s only location. The bar and venue known as State West originated in Scranton as a restaurant. However, about a year and a half ago the joint started to make the transition into an event and live music venue. It’s been a success in Scranton ever since.
So, when former RE//BAR owner Mick Dougher called Masteron asking if he’d be interested in purchasing the spot on 420 E. College Ave., saying yes to the deal seemed like a natural fit.
“I have a promotional company called ‘Damn Millennial.’ We’ve been doing shows in Harrisburg and Philadelphia, as well,” Masterson said. “So, expanding markets is definitely something I’ve been interested in doing.”
Though the opportunity to purchase the venue location seemingly fell into Masterson’s lap, it’s not the only reason he decided to purchase the place. Masterson went to a Penn State commonwealth campus as an undergrad and frequently visited State College on the weekends.
“The idea [behind Stage West] is multi-genre music, so each night we’re not trying to call on the same people and the same crowd to attend our shows,” Masterson said. “We’re going after a variety of demographics and trying to appeal to a mass audience.”
He hopes that Stage West will bring a little flavor to State College, drawing in national acts from across the country and exposing locals to new types of music. Masterson also mentioned that he hopes to provide local musicians with professional experience, giving them an opportunity to open up for touring acts and learn a little more about the business.
“A lot of the time the acts that you bring in generally sell themselves…So, it’s essential to bring in the right acts that know your market and know what’s going to work there,” Masterson said. “Electronic music is a big part of our business model and it certainly appeals to the college-aged demographic.”
Having only opened last weekend, Stage West is still in its infancy here at Penn State. But Masterson remains hopeful that the venue can break through the noise and past failures of previous bars that occupied the location. If all goes well, Masterson and Stage West would surely bring a twist to the State College bar scene that was missing before — a live music venue in a small, friendly environment.
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