Even while the fate of Baltimore's Senator Theatre is still being negotiated, more than a dozen area bands and musicians will take to the stage of the 70-year-old landmark this weekend to raise money for its continued operation.
"The Senator Sessions: Concerts to Support a Baltimore Landmark" kicks off tonight and will run through the weekend. Tonight, "Save the Senator: A Baltimore Revue" will begin at 9 and include music from the Payola Reserve, Wye Oak, the John Hardy Boys, U.S. Royalty and Nathan Bell. Tomorrow's program, "Acoustic Love Songs & Other Traumas," will run from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. and include performances by the Ken Kolodner Duo, Smooth Kentucky, Ellen Cherry, the ilyAIMY duo and the Swing States Road Show. On Sunday, "Left Bank Jazz Revisited," running from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., will include performances from the Michael Raitzyk Quartet, Ebony & Irony and the Be Mo Jazz Ensemble.
The weekend wraps up Sunday with a 7 p.m. show, "The Psychedelic, Post-VD Massacre Cleanup/Benefit for the Senator Theatre," featuring music from Adrian Bond and Telesma, along with a drum circle in which everyone is invited to participate.
Tickets, available through missiontix.com, are $35 for a weekend pass, or $50 for two; $12 for individual show tickets, or $20 for two.
Senator owner Tom Kiefaber praised the concerts as a portent of what he hopes the theater will become. "These live shows and other high-profile special events," he wrote in an e-mail, "will become a significant part of the Senator's dynamic and sustainable future, and that future is now."
Meanwhile, supporters continue to rally around the Senator, which Kiefaber has warned may be forced to close, due to financial troubles, even as the move continues to turn it into a nonprofit cultural and educational center. Among those sounding the clarion call is actor David Arquette, who in December posted a plea on his Celebrity MySpace page to support the theater.
"If you're not aware of this amazing deco theater it is a national treasure," wrote Arquette, who visited the Senator in April 2007 for a screening of his film The Tripper. "Now I know this is a hard time for so many people out there and saving a theater might now be on the top of the list but this is about history, this is about having buildings like this for our children."
Last month, city officials offered a $320,000 interest-free loan to settle the theater's finances, provided Kiefaber agreed to turn control of the Senator over to a nonprofit corporation. Kiefaber has yet to accept the offer, and negotiations continue, says City Councilman Bill Henry, who helped craft the proposal.