The Underground Opens for Business. Will the Nile Theater Soon Do the Same?

By all accounts, the soft opening of the Underground this past weekend was a big success.

According to Erin Peters of the Mantooth Group, more than 160 people turned out on Friday to witness the debut of the downtown Mesa music venue, relive its days as the Nile Basement, and watch onetime Movielife frontman Vinnie Caruana perform.

Of course, that number doesn't include the handful of undercover cops from the Mesa Police Department who were also on hand. It's to be expected, however, considering the venue (as well as the adjacent Nile Theater) has its fair share of brushes with the law during its heyday in the late '90s.

"Don't think they haven't forgot about those days because I had to talk to a police commander about the place," Peters says. "But I told them all that stuff is in the past and we're all reputable people here."

Despite getting question by the cops, Peters didn't seem to mind the police presesnce.

"I joked, 'I hope more undercover cops come, cause that's more people paying at the door,'" she says.

In addition to all of Mesa's finest in the house, the venue was also visited by members of its intended demographic, like plenty of local music fans, old-school punks, hardcore kids, and a few movers and shakers from the Valley scene.

The turnout included Ryan Butler from Arcane Digital Recording Studios, Will Anderson of AMJ Concerts, and former Luckyman/Stinkweeds staffer Mike Genz (who's running local hardcore label King of the Monsters).

Although Caruana and the other musicians and bands who performed during the party (Move Forward, Gentlemen of Monster Island, and Sharp Sticks) got a good response from the crowd, Peters says most people were jazzed to be seeing a show at the old Nile Basement, period.

"It was really cool to see people in this place again. I saw people from back in the day who don't really come out to shows anymore," she says. "They really didn't care who was playing there, and were just stoked to be here."

I imagine they'll be even more ecstatic when the Nile Theater re-opens. And when will that be happening?

Although no one from Mantooth has "officially" confirmed or announced that they will re-open the Nile Theater as of this writing, it's my gut feeling that the venue will live again by the end of 2010. Believe it.

During my visit to the venue last week prior to its opening, I got a peek at upstairs at what used to be the Nile. And frankly, the place looked like it was in really good shape. The ugly carpet and white paint from its days as Faith Harvest Church are still there (and the stage isn't what it used to be) but with a few weeks of renovation by Mantooth, it can once again serve as a concert hall.

Promoters like Psyko Steve and Stateside's Charlie Levy have told me how Phoenix needs a mid-size venue like the old Brickhouse (which closed last year), and Nile Theatre would fit the bill nicely.

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Benjamin Leatherman is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times. He covers local nightlife, music, culture, geekery, and fringe pursuits.