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themorningcall.com

Stage is set for new live music hall in Northampton

By Len Righi

Of The Morning Call

March 21, 2009

George Yaniger may not know much about music, but he knows a good stage when he sees one.

''Music is not my thing,'' says the managing partner of Northampton's Garfield Hotel and Grille. ''But if you're in a band, you want to be on that stage.''

The 3-foot-high, 29-foot-wide and 13-foot-deep stage is the centerpiece of Yaniger's latest enterprise, the Main Street Music Hall at the Garfield. The 300-capacity room at the rear of his pub will be formally christened tonight with a performance by Bethlehem band The Large Flowerheads, which specializes in '60s cover songs.

Each Saturday, the hall will give local acts that usually are crammed into smaller quarters some unusual sight lines and elbow room.

Says Large Flowerheads drummer Moe Jerant: ''One of the draws is that no matter where you are, you can see everybody. And it's big enough that we can squish all those people in there and still have room for dancing.''

All 250 advance tickets for tonight's show have been sold, says Yaniger. However, a handful of tickets will be available beginning at 8 p.m., an hour after those with advance tickets are admitted and seated.

The hall will have its own entrance. ''We were allowing people to come in from the pub,'' says Yaniger, ''but starting [tonight] the only way to get in to the music hall is through the side entrance.''

The 39-year-old Yaniger, who bought into the Garfield last May, has presented music intermittently since last July at the urging of his girlfriend, Shannon Beitler.

''I wasn't too excited [about doing it],'' says Yaniger, who ran Yaniger's Carlisle Grille in Allentown from 1995 to 2003 and Kroc's Pub at the Shepherd Hills Golf Course in Wescosville until last year. ''I only wanted to get in and do what I do best -- chicken wings, french fries and creating an atmosphere.''

But Beitler had other ideas. She convinced Yaniger to give her brothers' rock band, Apostrophe S, a shot over the July 4 weekend. ''It was a test run, but it got us to where we are right now,'' says Yaniger. ''They brought 200 people from the Macungie/Emmaus area the first night. That's when we realized that this back room could be a successful place on its own.''

Since then, rock cover bands such as She Said Sunday, No Heroes and Brotha From Anotha have drawn anywhere from 80 to 100 people.

Beitler is in charge of booking the music hall. ''I got thrown into it,'' says the 27-year-old East Texas native.

Her philosophy? ''We want to give smaller local bands an opportunity to play. A lot of smaller bands really do have a core following, but not the opportunity to play.''

Beitler has three bands a week sending her CDs and e-mails at
garfieldhotelandgrille@hotmail.com. ''I don't blow anybody off. I'm not going to disregard anybody just because nobody's ever heard of them before.

''We also have more than 600 friends on our MySpace page [MySpace.com/garfieldhotelandgrille], and mostly people will contact me through that.''

Yaniger plans to put on Friday night shows, perhaps with the help of blues musician Mike Dugan. ''They would be geared toward the older crowd, 35 and up, and would start and end earlier than the Saturday shows, which are aimed at the 21-38 demographic,'' he explains.

And if things really take off, Yaniger envisions presenting national acts. ''I would like to do one big act per month,'' he says. ''And if this place becomes a destination where national acts play, I have the ability to build a second level, a mezzanine level, because the room has a 30-foot ceiling.

''That's my ultimate goal: Presenting national acts with almost double the capacity.''

len.righi@mcall.com

610-820-6626

The Large Flowerheads * PO Box 541 * Bethlehem, PA 18016
 *610-442-3230* or *610-428-0544* * info@LargeFlowerheads.com