When the floor of the Recher Theatre was still filled with pool tables and high-top tables, a local cover band named Plunge was among the first bands to perform as the club transitioned to a music venue in 1999.
After Mike Ruocco, a former member of Plunge and later the nationally known local band Cinder Road, heard that the Recher was stepping away from the live music scene and converting the space into a nightclub, he knew one last reunion show was in order.
The original lineup of the Lutherville-based Cinder Road, which includes Ruocco, Ridgely Middle School orchestra teacher Mac Calvaresi, Chris Shucosky, Nat Doegen, and Pat Dement, performed for the final time at their hometown venue Saturday, March 23 in front of around 400 people.
"We walked in the door and were like, 'Man, I can't believe this is the last time we're loading in here,'" said Ruocco, the band's singer. Saturday's crowd was larger than that of their most recent annual Christmas shows, a decade-long tradition that ended last December.
"I think people were nostalgic that we put the band back together, but they were also nostalgic that the place was closing," said Ruocco, a Hampton resident and graduate of Calvert Hall.
The Recher Theatre's owners, Brian and Scott Recher, announced last month that the venue would close at the end of March after a "Last Hurrah" show on Sunday, March 31, and reopen later this year as Torrent Nightclub. The owners cited the rise in popularity of electronic music and the declining live music scene as their motivation for the switch.
Some community members expressed concerns about the new concept when it was announced, and, last week, the Towson-based Law Offices of Charles E. Brooks went public with its intention to challenge the new venue's liquor license.
Renovations cannot begin until the liquor board approves the plans, but Brian Recher said the legal challenge has not altered their plans to close next weekend.
That meant that the original lineup of Cinder Road had just a few weeks to hold their final show at their home venue.
The five-man rock group, which was named after the Lutherville street where they practiced in high school, released a pair of records and achieved national acclaim in the late 2000s. After several membership changes, the members went their separate ways and Ruocco embarked on a solo career.
Before they toured the world with stars like KISS, Alice Cooper, and Chris Daughtry, the members of Cinder Road were part of a vibrant local music scene that included pop-punk outfit All Time Low and several other up-and-coming bands.
For them, the Recher Theatre was an invaluable resource — a venue that could host shows for fledgling bands and give chances to perform at its weekly local showcases every Sunday night.
"I felt that basically from Owings Mills to White Marsh, the Recher Theatre was the most convenient place to go see a show or play a show if you're a young, aspiring band," Ruocco said.
In recent years, the local music scene has declined along with the national scene, the owners of the Recher said.
"During that time period when we had all these national acts coming in, we also had that local scene where we could fill in (dates)," co-owner Scott Recher said. "There were numerous local bands that could sell tickets consistently, and we could fill in around the touring acts."
He pointed to All Time Low, which has a gold record and several major-label albums to their name, as a band that could consistently sell tickets to friends and family for the Sunday showcases.
On top of the loss of a once-reliable local scene, the Recher brothers say the Towson location has been squeezed out by larger venues in downtown Baltimore, such as Baltimore Soundstage and Rams Head Live.
"It's just tough for us to compete," he said. "You can't. You get an agent and he has the opportunity to sell 1,500 tickets opposed to our 650, where's he going to go every time."
The pair is excited about the new opportunities of the nightclub, which will feature a dance floor, new bar, and a 45-seat VIP area. A DJ booth will replace the existing stage.
Both Brian and Scott Recher look back nostalgically at their run as a music venue, with performers like Iggy Pop and The Grateful Dead's Bob Weir jumping out as acts they can't believe performed on their stage.
Soon after the change from a pool hall to music venue in 1999, the Recher secured a last-minute Thanksgiving show with Moby, who sold out the venue in minutes and ate a Thanksgiving dinner prepared by the Recher brothers' mother.
More recently, the venue was hopping when fun. performed a sold-out show in March 2012 — right before their sophomore album, Some Nights, was released and launched the band to worldwide fame. The band went on to win Grammys for Best New Artist and Song of the Year for the single "We Are Young."
"We get 'em on the way up, and we get 'em on the way down," Brian Recher said.
As the final curtain closes on the Recher Theatre, Ruocco said the nostalgic lead-up to the band's final show proved strong enough for the original band members — all of whom now have "real" jobs — to consider an encore.
"The Recher closing kind of brought back a lot of memories for Cinder Road and I," Ruocco said. "We decided to try to put the band back together and do a new record with the original lineup, the guys we got signed with and toured with. We were playing together and we enjoyed being around each other again, and we want to give it another shot."