The Senators Are Using a Dark Stage to Shed Light on the Phoenix Music Scene

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The Senators are rolling into the second year of the pandemic with a new way of bringing performances to audiences missing the experience of live concerts, creating a series of music videos recorded on the dark stage at the historic Orpheum Theatre in downtown Phoenix.

The series will launch on Thursday, March 25, with new videos dropping on subsequent Thursdays through mid-April. The videos feature the Arizona-based folk band performing stripped-down takes on songs from Wild Wide Open, their album released in 2020.

“This is really a call to action,” says band member Jesse Teer, who conceived the project as a way to support the National Independent Venue Association’s Save Our Stages initiative. “We’re hoping people who see the videos will be moved to support the cause.”

The association is helping music venues survive amid canceled concerts and temporary venue closures wrought by COVID-19. (Stephen Chilton, the promoter behind Psyko Steve Presents and owner of The Rebel Lounge, sits on their board of directors.)

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Teer says they conceived the series after performing on a dark stage at The Van Buren last spring as the music industry was feeling the early impacts of the growing public health crisis, and worked with the city on getting access to the historic venue.

“We shot some video on stage and some in the bowels of the venue,” he recalls. “The underbelly of that theater is fantastic.” Built in 1929, the venue has Spanish Revival architecture with elaborate moldings, an interior sky mural, and lush red velvet curtains running across a stage once graced by vaudeville acts.

The theater has gone unused for most of the last year, following the March 18, 2020, announcement that it was canceling or rescheduling events to follow CDC recommendations and protect the health and safety of the community.

One notable exception was a film series presented by FilmBar and Friends of the Orpheum Theatre, which was put on hold for a time but now looks poised for a spring 2021 return.

The Senators just recorded a video series at the Orpheum Theatre in downtown Phoenix.EXPAND

The Senators just recorded a video series at the Orpheum Theatre in downtown Phoenix.

Danny Upshaw

Despite the pandemic, Teer says it’s been a busy year for the band. Recently they signed with Fervor Records, which means they’ve been busy writing songs and recording them in the studio.

“It’s been great to have that space to learn and work in without time restrictions,” Teer says of working with the label. “We have a bunch of raw content to work through; we’ll probably turn out a couple albums pretty quick.”

They’re also hoping to tour this year, if public health conditions allow. “We just began putting feelers out for the end of summer, looking at a lot of outdoor options in the Southwest.”

For now, they’re eager to help Phoenix music survive and thrive, in part by sharing their Orpheum Theatre series.

Teer says, “If people appreciate the performances, we hope they’ll feel inspired to support the local music scene.”

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