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Urban Explorer's Handbook 2006 

Backstage Pass

Backstage at the Visulite Theatre on a recent Saturday night, the venue's version of rock & roll's most mythical sanctum sanctorum was revealed as a space in transition. The Visulite's "band room" is neither the best nor worst this writer has seen. Certainly, despite staffers' doubts, it's not a hell-hole on par with NYC's infamous (and soon-to-be defunct) CBGB.

There was a separate area for relaxing, which we did with the night's headliners, folk-blues artist Corey Harris and bassist Houston Ross -- discussing music (including Harris' latest, Daily Bread), social issues and culture of the African Diaspora -- as they waited for the start of their show later in the evening. The sitting area, painted a suitable chill-out green and adorned with garlands of Christmas tree lights, is furnished with three reasonably comfortable sofas -- one along each of the solid walls -- with a large table between and end tables at the corners between. The ceiling here is low, because it's elevated above stage-level, but high enough to allow standing room for all but perhaps the tallest of Bobcats ballers.

And beyond this lounge loft, is another separate space for displaying the food and beverages provided by the venue according to individual acts' riders. One of the venue staff brought in deli-style sandwiches for the band while we were there. Beverages, a variety of sodas and beers, were already handily on ice in a large cooler by the time we arrived -- about an hour before the doors officially opened. Additional picnic supplies in the form of paper plates, cups, napkins and plastic cutlery were stacked and/or laid out, as appropriate, on a pair of large plywood "countertops" in the smaller space of the side that was apart from the construction zone.

While not entirely finished, the cinderblock-bound confines of the backstage area are relatively clean. At worst, one could cite the section under construction as a demerit -- complete with a border of yellow "CAUTION" tape. This elevated area is in the process of being transformed into a bathroom for artists. Off to one side, it's currently used for storage of spare (or dysfunctional) electronic and musical gear.

The band room is accessible from the stage itself and via a heavy metal -- pun fully intended -- exterior door covered in band stickers at the back of the building, giving artists some measure of privacy and security against unwanted intrusions. Compared to the warren-like and rigorously concealed artist dressing rooms of such larger venues as the Bobcats Arena, there is a distinct charm to the Visulite's band area, due to its clever use of space, sense of intimacy and, above all, its liminal proximity to the theater's main arena of action. Anyone permitted to linger a step behind the stage's purple spotlights, at the threshold of the band room, could certainly have the best seat in the house.

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