Rock Of Ages

The Current Success Of The NorVa Lies Deep Within The Building’s Storied Past



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The fan prize goes to 80 plus-year-old B.B. King, who let all of the concertgoers, four to a group, come onto his tour bus and meet him after his NorVa appearance. “It’s amazing,” the promoter marvels, “that a legend would do that.”

It’s a simple formula, actually: treat the artist right and they treat the audience right. The NorVa bunch knew a good method when they saw it. A few years after the venue started clicking, they renovated another ex-vaudeville/movie house called The National, this time in Richmond. Here, Reid, Mersel and Benton built an even more elaborate backstage area, a bigger Jacuzzi, a sauna with an added steam shower—it’s a supersized version of the pleasures enjoyed at The NorVa. “We just wanted to one-up ourselves,” Mersel laughs.

It’s not just the superstar acts that play 317 Monticello Ave. The NorVa has also become an important breaking ground for emerging regional acts, such as Chesapeake’s The Last Bison, who scored a big hit on local radio with their song “Switzerland” and have become a NorVa favorite. “We can put on a show for 1,450, or we can close the balcony and scale it down to 350,” Mersel says, noting the venue’s special state-of-the-art V-DOSC sound system.

What gives a concert at The Norva that extra special touch is the building itself, well worn by time but still ready to rock. Mersel puts it in perspective: “What the House of Blues does is spend millions and millions of dollars to look like The NorVa.”

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