LANCASTER – Almost two years ago, Tully Huffaker genuinely began to think about establishing his own concert venue for bands to be able to play locally. That’s when the idea for The Industry Theater was born.
“There have always been illegitimate venues for bands out here and they’ll do really well, but then they’ll go out of business because they don’t have permits or they get shut down by police,” Huffaker said. “So my theory is that a legitimate venue should by all means do well.”
After a year and a half planning, Huffaker was ready to open.
However, due to some complaints by a nearby church, The Industry Theater would have to wait two months before finally opening its doors in December.
“They got our permits pushed back a month by saying that concert venues lead to kids doing drugs,” Huffaker said, adding that he was setting out to accomplish the exact opposite.
“If they’re in a small contained area, we can very well prevent them from doing drugs, whereas if they’re out in the desert or at a house party, it’s a free for all,” he added.
In an effort to salvage his venue, Huffaker met with members of the church to work out a compromise.
“We had to make a lot of changes for them and make a lot of conditions on our permits,” Huffaker said. “We got in by adding a boatload of conditions to ourselves.”
Some of those conditions include sanctioning off 50 parking spaces for the church every time The Industry Theater has an event, he said. It also includes limiting the concert venue’s hours and keeping the direction of the line to get into a concert away from the church.
Huffaker said he had planned events at the Industry Theater all throughout October and every weekend in November, but had to cancel everything.
“It resulted in a major backlash for that church because they received lots of angry emails from kids whose bands got canceled,” he said. “So that was part of what helped us get in because they weren’t comfortable with the amount of negative news they were getting.”
The Industry Theater finally opened their doors Dec. 3 with the band Strung Out, which played to a crowd of more than 200.
“We’re trying to bring a location for bands to showcase their music,” Huffaker said. “We really want to work with younger musicians who can’t necessarily go to L.A. and play shows. A lot of my friends say ‘oh we have to go to L.A. every time,’ and I know a lot of people who can’t go to L.A. so they don’t get to play shows. We’re trying to be a good local location where bands can get shows and people can bring their friends and family… just a good wholesome environment.”
The concert venue is non-genre specific, Huffaker added.
“We want everybody to come safely and not feel like it’s some punk venue or some metal venue,” he said. “It’s not a specific genre, it’s just a music venue for people to come to watch music and have fun.”
Huffaker envisions a future where The Industry Theater would be an established tour stop for bands travelling through the area.
“Every big tour that’s coming through Southern California will be in our area at some point but they’ve never had places to play,” he said.
In the meantime, Huffaker is keeping the new venue busy with local talent. Next month the Industry Theater will host the Battle of the Bands, which is an expo for local bands. Huffaker is also in the process of getting local high school bands to play regular jazz shows.
“I’m an enthusiastic jazz guy and we don’t have stuff like that out here,” he said. “We would ideally get that so every couple months we’re doing a jazz show with the high school bands.”
Another major event coming up for The Industry Theater is a food drive. Huffaker said the admission will be a couple cans of food, but if you don’t bring in the food, then it’ll be $5.
“We’re trying to make it so we can frequently have a charity show,” he said. “We’re trying to get that happening at least every other month or every couple months.”
Huffaker advertises The Industry Theater through street promotion and online.
“We’ll get emails from smaller groups who are touring looking to fill tour dates,” he said. “The outside promoters usually bring in the bigger acts.”
Almost every concert will be for all ages, he said.
“I would say no more than one show every two months will have an age restriction on it,” Huffaker said.
“We want bands to feel welcome and all families to feel welcome,” he said.