Live music returns to Rialto after nearly 20 years

Michael Perchick Image
Thursday, November 2, 2023
Live music returns to Rialto after nearly 20 years
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"It's been awesome to be open again"

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- After nearly 20 years, live music is set to return to the Rialto Friday night.

"It's been awesome to be open again," said Hayes Permar, who took over ownership of the venue in May.

Over the years, its hosted notable acts including Melissa Etheridge, Jane's Addiction, Iggy Pop, and Ben Folds, though its largely focused on alternate forms of entertainment since the early 2000's.

"People come and say, 'oh, I've seen shows at the Rialto. Well, I know how to do it. We can get some lights in here. We could get a sound system in here.' It's taken work. But we've had the community support to get the work done. It's been awesome," said Permar, of the work needed to ensure the theatre is prepared for incoming acts.

The building initially operated as a grocery store in the 1930's, before transitioning to a theatre in 1942. Over that time, it's been a staple of Five Points along Glenwood Avenue, though its business was hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Permar shared his desire to bring back live performances, including music and comedy, from the outset, a vision that's now being realized.

"I also think people are experiencing live music here. It feels right. Maybe this is a post-pandemic thing, but it feels cool to have intimate, small music," Permar explained.

"It's crazy to be back here, like it's just crazy. Even sitting here for a second I was like, 'Man, I can't believe it, so let's take it in.' It's a blessing to be invited here and offered to be here is even crazy," said Sonny Miles, who takes the stage Saturday night.

Miles attended NC State, and lived in Raleigh for a year after college. He recalled performances of Rocky Horror Picture Show at the venue , and was excited about the city adding another venue. Permar said showings of Rocky Horror last week drew more than 700 people.

"It's kind of hard to find spaces left and places that are niche to community members here," Miles explained.

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Specifically, Miles noted the value of independent theatres, which more often provide opportunities for up-and-coming artists and smaller artists.

"To have this back is super important. It's just a grounding place for everyone to come. It's not commercialized and all that kind of stuff. You can just hang out here," said Miles.

The return of entertainment has been noticed by nearby restaurants, including Hayes Barton Café & Dessertery.

"This is historically been sort of like a sleepy little street with a lot of activity in like the mid evening hours. So we're looking at how we can better accommodate people that are trying to get a bite before they go see a show or trying to come somewhere afterwards," said Eve Prince, evening bar manager.

She said they've already noticed the uptick in traffic from events at Rialto and nearby venues.

"We're really, really, really happy to have them back in the neighborhood. It was sort of a historic theater and we're sort of an old fashioned diner and they go, well, together for the neighborhood. So not even just to have the movies and the live music back, but I'm excited to have the opportunity to see a show there," said Prince.

Permar said ticket sales have been strong, though you can still purchase ahead of this weekend's performances.

The Rialto has announced shows through the remainder of the year, and will bring back holiday movies in December. It also has plans to renovate its lobby in January, and already has acts lined up in early 2024, though they have not been publicly shared at this time.