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All-purpose Rail Event Center boasts modern vibe

Published: 11/19/2009
David Burger, Salt Lake Tribune -- When local singer-songwriter Kalai was booked to perform at Salt Lake City's The Rail Center, "I didn't really know where that was," he said.

Although the center has been open since late August, the 42,000-square-foot venue will feature its highest-profile shows in the upcoming weeks when it hosts Kalai's Saturday show and then X96's Nightmare Before Christmas Concert on Nov. 30.

But don't think of the center as only a space for concerts. "We are a great concert hall, but we're not just a concert hall," said Brad Davis, general manager of The Rail. Along with booking manager Jason Steadman, The Rail has been booking weddings, corporate events, quinceañeras, Sweet 16 parties and community events such as KRCL's 30th-anniversary party slated for Dec. 3. And if you're looking for a location for a bar or bat mitzvah, managers are hoping you'll consider The Rail.

The owners spent nearly $7 million to renovate what was once a Modern Display warehouse into an all-purpose venue. They hope to book musicians who can draw a larger-than-club-sized audience, but whose shows are too intimate to pack an arena -- perhaps such as recent Saltair visitor Bob Dylan.

The center boasts a modern-looking interior -- and the nicest bathrooms this side of the Mississippi -- that also resembles the setup of Saltair, with a large all-ages area on the ground floor, and a second-floor lobby where drinks are served. The venue's capacity is 3,570 people.

Along with a 1,200-square-foot stage, there are 48 plasma screens positioned around the venue, five separate bars including a martini bar, and a DJ booth suspended over the ground floor. The venue also will provide seating on request from the promoter.

30 Seconds to Mars, a rock band featuring Jared and Shannon Leto with Tomo Milicevic, will be the headliner for X96's third annual Nightmare Before Christmas Concert. Milicevic was excited about being one of the first bands to perform at the venue, and said the trio is planning "something special" to break in the stage. The band will be premiering new songs from its forthcoming album "This Is War," due out Dec. 8.

Kalai, a 29-year-old Salt Lake City resident, will headline The Rail this Saturday, after having performing at various other venues in the area, such as Thanksgiving Point, the Murray Park Amphitheater, The Depot and Harry O's.

Born in Alaska, raised in Hawaii, the Snow College alum describes his music as street-oriented "urban vintage," and the singer has quietly developed a national following. Although he didn't know much about The Rail, he promised to raise the new spot's roof with his music.

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