Where to Listen: Comparing two renowned concert venues

Concertgoers enjoy the unparalleled experience of live music. Senior Will Baska compares his experience of the Uptown Theater to the Granada.

Courtesy of Pixabay

Concertgoers enjoy the unparalleled experience of live music. Senior Will Baska compares his experience of the Uptown Theater to the Granada.

Will Baska, Staff Writer

As we emerge into a new era for entertainment, a sort of confused yet optimistic post-COVID-19 society, familiarizing ourselves with what the best options are to experience all the dazzling grandeur of the performing arts feels more important than ever. Things are back to normal, and as artists rush to tour the never-ending frontier of the world, we as fans find ourselves falling in love all over again. 

Of course, this love only extends so far, depending greatly on the venues that host both the entertainers and the entertained. It is a magical process that I believe we take for granted. What is a concert, or any show for that matter, without the specific environments that surround us? These theaters do their best to enchant all parties, setting up an alluring concoction of eternally swelling lights and intricate design, warping the perception of patrons sweetly in preparation for the fully alive sonic experience that is sure to make memories. 

These venues do matter, and after I experienced a couple of the most highly acclaimed theaters in the Kansas City area, I came out more sure of it than ever. Recently, I was granted the privilege to indulge in two concerts in two days. The first day, I went to the beautiful Uptown Theater to see Pavement, an American alternative rock band that rose to prominence in the ‘90s as an indie powerhouse. The second day we embarked on a bit of a trek out to the eternally youth-adored town of Lawrence Kansas, where we saw Built to Spill, a band that did … pretty much the same thing, at the renowned Granada.

Both bands did incredibly, but that is not what I am here to write about today (although you could certainly make the argument that the venue makes the band and vice versa). After thinking for quite some time on what specific qualities I would compare and contrast these institutions on, I landed on two simple, yet essential, attributes that a great venue should have – appearance and intimacy.

 I think these factors are simply intrinsic for a great experience. Sure, any person can have a good time at a concert, but if a venue can succeed in producing these two straightforward incentives, that’s how you know you got your money’s worth. Before going fully in depth, I am happy to say there really was no disappointment in either of these joints. Nope, zero animosity, no sour feelings. I had a great time both nights, so any criticism to follow is me laboring pretty hard to be an unnecessarily tedious judge. 

The Uptown Theater’s appearance could be adequately described as grand. Both inside and out, that’s the perfect word to describe the alluring edifice that stands proudly on a street corner among the gleaming urban sprawl of Kansas City. On the outside, it stands wide and proud, facing diagonally, rising in tan brick, with what seems like a massive glimmering neon sign catching the eyes of all passerby. It seemed lustrous against the tender light of the early fall sunset, its neons buzzing low and proud in the reflection of the candy pinks in the cooling sky. 

Upon walking inside, you are immediately greeted with an almost intoxicating array of opulent architectural features. The colors are bright and bold, reminding you this is not any old bar venue, but a valued artistic domicile that is truly meant to trance you, immersing each ticket holder in an entirely unique experience. Everything is very ornate. There are multiple stories, and each one seems more adorned than the last. The floors and ceilings are swallowed in a strong and almost enigmatic velvet red, with the latter being decorated with large and elaborate lights, twinkling dimly in the hazy halls. The walls are a commanding blue, only adding to the mystifying air permeating from those long corridors. 

Inside the theater itself, the same theme is upheld. There are multiple beautiful balcony sections, with oracular statues standing brazenly in arching divots on the wall. The patterns that were so intricately designed on the cup-like balconies and sumptuous partitions are awe inspiring. There is no other way to put it. If you were to see the worst band in the world at Uptown, you would still probably enjoy your time on account of the venue being designed like a renowned museum. 

Since the tickets were not general admission, I must say the layout was quite difficult. There are no real signs pointing to specific seating sections. Luckily, the staff was very kind and assisting, and with one simple question, we were led to our seats in a cordial and efficient manner. Once I became familiar with my seat, some of the satisfying mystery that came with the place wavered off, but that was no burden, as I gained a better understanding of the luxurious establishment. As a whole, the appearance of this venue is unparalleled. If you have a chance to attend any sort of event here, concert or not, I would most definitely suggest showing up solely because of the handsome sights that lay in and out. 

As for the Granada, it definitely isn’t ugly. It stands out when you see it. Protruding high and courageously, its triangular white sign softly showers clean light onto the famed Mass Street. It looks larger than it is from the outside, with a wide blue background that holds an undeniable air of history and memories, weeping a warm sentimentality onto the already vibrant sidewalk , seeping a welcomed nostalgia into my elevated psyche. 

The inside is far more plain, but not in a bad way. It is not very large, with a long bar lining the back of the venue. Once engrossed in the theater itself, the easy layout makes itself apparent. The back half of the venue is raised on a deck of some kind, lined with a small fence, with stairs that open up every 20 feet or so. It is a general admission institution, and you can tell it was designed for that very purpose, as everything is in very clear view. Simple, but effective, an efficient environment.

The Uptown Theater was beautiful, but I can not bring myself to say it was the most intimate. Even if it was general admission, the place is larger than it lets on, and it can be easy to lose total immersion in its dark, hollow, basilica-like cavity of a theater. I sat under the largest balcony in the back, so my view was partially obstructed by the giant black structure hanging low to the sky. Still, this is being very picky. 

Everyone I saw was having an incredible time, the band included. Pavement was loud and clear, understandably having a blast out of the magnificent theater that was hosting them. From beginning to end, the theater served its job well. I enjoyed the concert and was able to indulge in wonderful live music without having to try too hard. No standing around jostling with others to get the greater view. It was good, and it was simple.

The Granada however, well, it is definitely just the place for live music. It is shocking how close you can really get. Both from the short deck and the floor, I felt one with the performers. It was personal. For many fans this would satiate some great fantasies. It may seem a bit strange, but you can only understand it when you are really there. They are up on the stage, feet in front of you, and there you are, watching every last meticulous note being played, and all the intricacies of their live production. You see the emotions on the entertainers’ faces, twisting in sinuous joy and effort. For the night, you know them. It is truly fantastic. 

I left the place with a mood radiant with joy, a hoarse voice and a couple of random KU grad student friends. Though the appearance and layout of the venue may be simple, it is designed that way for a very specific reason. The Granada was designed to promote true enjoyment, to create nights to remember.

Both of these venues are fantastic. I genuinely couldn’t recommend either of them enough. With that being said, there are most definitely certain advantages to each one that are sure to suit different archetypes of concert goers. It’s not a complicated comparison at all really, and can be boiled down to these two simple facts, one in the same. If you want a venue to attend for the raw beauty of a theater then the Uptown is the no doubt choice. It transports you to another time and place, fading into a majestic dimension with an air that lingers with a pleasant yet perplexing sense of lavish noir. If you prefer a venue where you will be sure to experience all the greatest social perks of a concert, including practically getting to know the performers, then the Granada is more your speed.  It is guaranteed to be a blast, immersing every last crowd member in a vicarious jam session that elicits ecstasy from the amorphous and ever tremoring mob of listeners.

 These illustrious entertainment palaces are incredible, and their reputation is fully deserved. Whether it be one of these venues, or any one really, it is important to make it out to a concert or two every once in a while. It is not only the most substantial way to support the artist, but it is always a guaranteed memorable experience that empowers the splendor of the arts.