RICHMOND – 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. “It was time to do other things”, he said. Those other things included focusing on live music.
“I 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 Warwick”, he said. The old Crompton Textile Mill overlooking the Pawtuxet River “was perfect” 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.
“The reason I brought this idea to West Warwick was because the town had open arms”, 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.
“That night was a tragedy”, 51-year-old Vickers said. “But 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 state”.
Vickers worked closely with the Town Manager, fire and police officials, actually exceeding the safety code requirements of Rhode Island. “The building is brick and the floors are cement”, he said. “All the building materials are non-combustible and I have doubled the number of exit doors required.”
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. “Owners of clubs always think about liability”, he said. “But we have put safety before liability”.
Vickers was finishing up last minute details the afternoon before Manchester 65’s grand opening on Wednesday.
“The Slackers will be here performing tomorrow night”, he said. “The next night we have The Wailers and on the 27th we have the Grammy award winning Rebirth Brass Band”.
“We’ve got a line-up of A-list artists”, Vickers said, thanks to booking agent Dan Millen of Boston. “He’s one of the biggest agents in New England”, he said. “He gets the bands and we’re very fortunate to have him”.
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 club’s location offers an environment safer than those in the city and doesn’t necessitate maneuvering through congested traffic. In addition, the club offers free parking for over three hundred vehicles.
“We offer music lovers a safe, enjoyable environment far from Providence”, Vickers said, noting that he wasn’t all that nervous about the next day’s big opening. “People want live music here again”, he said. Now, they’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