Somerville Theater

A recent issue of the Utne Reader listed Davis Square in Somerville as one of the fifteen hippest places to live in America. Opened in 1914 as a vaudeville house, The Somerville Theater has been a part of Davis Square for eighty-three years. With 900 seats (split between a loge and balcony), the theater offers performers an ideal mid-size venue: not too small that fans will be shut out by limited space, but not so big that the intimacy between crowd and musician is lost. Sit anywhere: the sound is great, even way back in the balcony, and the auditorium is small enough that everyone has a great view.

Still, it's only in the last decade that the Theater has dedicated itself to presenting live music on a regular basis. Not too long ago, the theater might have hosted ten concerts each year. Now that average is close to eighty--and with a world-class roster of performers working in a dizzying range of styles, The Somerville Theater has quickly garnered a reputation for excellence. A night of music here might mean prominent folk musicians (Greg Brown, Bruce Cockburn, and Patty Larkin, all performed in November), but it also might mean Throat Singers from Tibet. Or a world-renowned harpist. (Recently, through a fluke of scheduling, harpists led the bill on consecutive nights.) The Somerville Theater presents great music, period. No boundaries, so pigeonholed styles. Just quality.

The all-ages music venue is part of a larger complex, doubling as a movie theater. Four screens show first-run films seven days a week, even when a concert occupies the main stage. As such, the concession stands offer all the standard movie fare: popcorn, ice cream, candy, . . . even professional advice! Our candy-counter girls discussed the relatives pros and cons of butter as a popcorn topping as they served us. (One argued that sugar was tastier.) And the place is still shining from its recent renovation, which included replacing all the old theater seats with cushy new ones. Before the show, wander over toward the satellite screening rooms and check out the red-eyed owls lurking above you in the corners-they're just another special touch in this fun, relaxed setting.

And how's this for a deal: the music venue hires ushers on a volunteer, per-show basis. Simply sign up to work a show. If they call, all you'll need is a flashlight and a friendly smile to watch your favorite musicians perform. No strings attached--except, of course, that only a limited number of ushers are needed, so be sure to sign up well in advance. No guarantees, but I don't think it's a stretch to say this policy insures you'll find some of the most grateful ushers in all of Boston at 55 Davis Square. And some pretty pleased guests, as well.