Have you ever wondered why some of your favorite bands never seem to make it to Rochester but are always playing in nearby Buffalo? What is it about Rochester that doesn’t appeal to musicians? Most likely it isn’t a problem with the city itself, but rather the venues.

After outgrowing popular spots like Water Street Music Hall, the only options in Rochester are to turn away fans at the door or play in a venue you can’t fill. Given this dilemma most bands opt to head to cities with more venue options, like Buffalo or Syracuse. That is, until now.

The Main Street Armory is the city’s newest venue, and it’s the perfect size for all those bands that have outgrown Water Street but who haven’t developed enough of a following to fill an arena. The building’s 6,500 person capacity “is going to work for a lot of bands who normally wouldn’t come through here,” Armory General Manager Paul Di Lella said.

Recently the Armory has been in a state of disrepair, providing a home to half of the city’s pigeon population. In April 2005, a century after its construction, owner Scott Donaldson transformed the old armory into a first-class concert venue.

Ten months and $1 million later, the building had been brought up to code and evicted its avian residents, and was finally ready to open its doors.

The Armory is essentially just a vast, open room – 34,000 square feet free from visual obstructions – making any spot the best in the house.

“It was a great venue because it had this great industrial feeling – kind of like an abandoned warehouse,” senior Katie Fry said.

Even when filled to the max, as it was this past Saturday night when O.A.R. and Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers played for the Armory’s grand-opening, there is still substantial room between the thousands of audience members and the walls.

There’s nothing better than being able to enjoy a show with thousands of your peers while maintaining some distance from that sweaty guy who’s just a little too close for comfort.

So who will be the next group to fill the Armory? “We’ve got a lot of stuff on hold right now,” Di Lella said. “There’s about four to five more weeks of work, then we should have something booked by the end of March, early April.”

As the O.A.R. show demonstrated, a sold-out show is a definite reality for those Armory-sized artists who until recently have been unable to find an appropriately sized venue in Rochester.

Make sure to check the Armory’s official Web site, http://www.rochesterarmory.com, to see who will roll through Rochester in the coming months.

Swain can be reached at lswain@campustimes.org.

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