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RICHMOND â€“ According to Jim Vickers of Wood River Junction, there have always been two loves in his life; newspaper and music. In 2004, he founded Motif Magazine, a Rhode Island arts & entertainment publication for which he acted as editor and publisher until selling the magazine earlier this year. â€śIt was time to do other thingsâ€ť, he said. Those other things included focusing on live music.
â€śI was looking to open up a venue and a friend of mine who is a real estate agent turned me on to a place in West Warwickâ€ť, he said. The old Crompton Textile Mill overlooking the Pawtuxet River â€śwas perfectâ€ť Vickers said.
Once he had taken over ownership, Vickers reincarnated the structure into a 600-person capacity venue with state of the art staging and sound system. He named it Manchester 65, since it is located at 65 Manchester St.
â€śThe reason I brought this idea to West Warwick was because the town had open armsâ€ť, he said. Just two miles away, in 2003, the 4th deadliest nightclub fire in United States history took over one hundred lives. Pyrotechnics igniting foam sound insulation turned the Station Nightclub into an inferno, taking lives and leveling the structure.
â€śThat night was a tragedyâ€ť, 51-year-old Vickers said. â€śBut people miss having a place to go in West Warwick to hear live music. So what we have now is the safest live music venue in the stateâ€ť.
Vickers worked closely with the Town Manager, fire and police officials, actually exceeding the safety code requirements of Rhode Island. â€śThe building is brick and the floors are cementâ€ť, he said. â€śAll the building materials are non-combustible and I have doubled the number of exit doors required.â€ť
In addition, he has worked with town officials to keep an area out back free of vehicles so that emergency crews would have quick and easy access to the building. â€śOwners of clubs always think about liabilityâ€ť, he said. â€śBut we have put safety before liabilityâ€ť.
Vickers was finishing up last minute details the afternoon before Manchester 65â€™s grand opening on Wednesday.
â€śThe Slackers will be here performing tomorrow nightâ€ť, he said. â€śThe next night we have The Wailers and on the 27th we have the Grammy award winning Rebirth Brass Bandâ€ť.
â€śWeâ€™ve got a line-up of A-list artistsâ€ť, Vickers said, thanks to booking agent Dan Millen of Boston. â€śHeâ€™s one of the biggest agents in New Englandâ€ť, he said. â€śHe gets the bands and weâ€™re very fortunate to have himâ€ť.
Tickets for scheduled shows run from $10 to $25, with some shows appropriate for all ages and others geared toward an eighteen and over audience. The clubâ€™s location offers an environment safer than those in the city and doesnâ€™t necessitate maneuvering through congested traffic. In addition, the club offers free parking for over three hundred vehicles.
â€śWe offer music lovers a safe, enjoyable environment far from Providenceâ€ť, Vickers said, noting that he wasnâ€™t all that nervous about the next dayâ€™s big opening. â€śPeople want live music here againâ€ť, he said. Now, theyâ€™ve got it.
Manchester 65 is located at 65 Manchester Street in West Warwick and a list of scheduled shows, as well as directions on how to purchase tickets can be found online at www.manchester65.com