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Rifle’s Ute Theater kicks off regular live performance schedule with ELO tribute band

Future headliners at Rifle venue include The Young Dubliners, Johnny Cash and Selena tributes, among so much more

Ute Theater Managing Director Wayne Pleasants motions toward the marquee.
Ray K. Erku / Post Independent

In the wise words of Electric Light Orchestra lead vocalist and instrumentalist Jeff Lynne, “We’re headed for a showdown.”

The Ute Theater in Rifle is preparing to once again kick off regular live performances with a Sunday night gig delivered by Evil Woman: America’s Premier Tribute to ELO.

“This is probably one of the largest musical acts we’ve had on stage,” Theater Directing Manager Wayne Pleasants said of Evil Woman, which includes violinists, percussionists, guitarists, bassists, pianists and so much more.



Doors open at 6 p.m. and the performance is slated for 7 p.m. Sunday.

As of Tuesday, Pleasants said about 100 tickets have so far been sold, with a little more than 100 still available. Tickets can be purchased at UteTheater.com or at the door the night of the show.

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The performance is the first of many to hit the Ute Theater marquee in the coming weeks in months. Future concerts include The Young Dubliners on Aug. 27; “Cash’d Out: A Johnny Cash Show” on Sept. 17; country music great Suzy Bogguss on Sept. 24; Los Chicos del 512: The Selena Experience on Sept. 25; and even a Beatles tribute band in October, plus so much more.

More importantly, the increase in booked acts for the Ute symbolizes something that so many people hold close to their hearts and cherish: the comeback of regular live performances.

“I’ve been talking about it for days,” Pleasants said. “I’ve almost gone through half my business cards recently.”

Ever since the Ute closed its doors on March 12, 2020, due to COVID-19, it’s had to go beyond the stage to improvise and conform to regulation.

Throughout the summer of 2020, the Ute would hold live online stream events. Meanwhile, by October 2020, the Rifle venue had a bit of a reprieve by hosting a live viewing of “Rocky Horror Picture Show” to usher in Halloween.

“But we basically tried to do as much as we can, given the rules that are available at the time and trying to abide by those,” Pleasants said. “So we were technically closed for 15 months.”

By March, the venue hosted its third annual Country Music Show live and in person. By May, the Ute also kicked off its free, outdoor music series every Thursday night.

Beore the pandemic, the Ute was busy with live performances galore. This is why Pleasants is pleased the venue is somewhat getting back to its normal self.

“It’s been an average of one to two things a month,” he said. “Now we’re looking at triple.”

Like most businesses and institutions around Garfield County, the pandemic wasn’t economically kind to the Ute. The usual budget for the city-run establishment of about $600,000 a year was reduced to about $300,000, Pleasants said.

Such a change also has an effect on other businesses. Due to the positive ripple effect of residual dollars, $1 spent at the Ute typically turns into $12, since people are also spending cash at nearby restaurants, markets and hotels.

“This building can actually do a lot of economic development for depressed businesses and so on down the line,” he said. “Theaters have been used for years, especially in the last two decades, to revitalize areas that have been blighted over the years.”

Just this past Monday the Ute received a $75,482 Shuttered Venue Operators grant through the U.S. Small Business Administration to help make up for lost revenues caused by COVID-19.

“Luckily, since we got the grant, some of those monies will be used for booking and not having the city money to do bookings with,” Pleasants said.

Meanwhile, the Ute has also received a $10,000 Rural Theaters COVID-19 Support Grant to replace a 70-year-old ADA-accessible door. In addition, the grant money will help increase bleacher seating capacity from 40 to 60 seats.

Pleasants said the theater is currently applying for a National Endowment for the Arts grant of $150,000, which will likely go toward increases in staffing.

For Sunday’s show, next door neighbor Alpine Bank has chipped in significant support.

“They’re even getting ready to sponsor the backs of our tickets,” Pleasants said. “Our hard-print ticket will have Alpine’s logo on the back.”

What: Evil Woman: America’s Premier Tribute to ELO

When: 7 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 1

Where: Ute Theater, 132 E. Fourth St., Rifle

How much: $45-$55

To purchase tickets: Visit UteTheater.com or purchase at the door. Note: Prices are subject to change at the door.

Reporter Ray K. Erku can be reached at 612-423-5273 or rerku@citizentelegram.com.


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