Where can you find blues, classic rock, comedy, and drag queens underneath one room? The Salon. The Salon @ 9 Wallis in Beverly, Massachusetts is the latest brain child from GimmeLive producers Peter and Vickie Van Ness. The husband and wife team obtained a long term lease for the building, insuring greater flexibility and freedom than previous venues which they produced at but never owned.
“We’ve been promoting and producing concerts in lots of other people’s venues,” Peter Van Ness said. “This one became available to us to sign a long term lease on, and so we decided it would be nice to have our own venue.” The venue also offered flexibility for putting in tables, as opposed to the theater structured venues in Beverly.
“We had a lot of people say ‘How come you don’t do shows where you can sit at a table?’ So, this is the answer to that,” Mr. Van Ness said. The Salon @ Nine Wallace is now the latest venue to feature shows by the Van Ness’s own GimmeLive Productions. In the 1990s, the Grand DeVive Magic Troupe had bought the building at 9 Wallis, gutted it, and outfitted it with the gorgeous brocade floors, marble tile, and fancier bathrooms. This had turned the room into a classy venue. The troupe, however, didn’t use it much.
“We’ve probably used it more since April then they used it in 15 to 20 years,” Van Ness said. “They basically used it for their own private parties, and they rented it a few times. We used it a couple of times for VIP receptions, mostly for benefit concerts that we produced at The Larcom, which is right next door. Between 2013 and the end of 2016.”
Interestingly enough, The Salon’s basement used to house a magic museum. The city of Beverly does not have definitive records but it was built a few years before or after The Larcom Theater. “I actually think it was more likely built a few years after The Larcom Theater.,” Van Ness said. “The Larcom Theater was built in 1912, and I think this building was built in 1916. But, then somebody told me it was built in the 1880s, which I don’t think is right. I’ve actually asked the Beverly Historical Society to see if they can find a definitive answer to that question. I haven’t gotten an answer from them yet.”
The Van Ness team haven’t used The Larcom since January when its owner had decided to do his own thing. The pair and their GimmeLive Productions have also used The Cabot, North Shore Music Theatre, and created the Celebrate Gloucester Festival. But The Salon is a more comfy, table seating environment. While not a fine dining establishment, the Salon @ Nine Wallis have good wines, spirits, and local craft beers. They do bring in caterers when they host private parties.
“We don’t have a big enough kitchen to do a real restaurant,” Van Ness said. “We have local restaurants come in to serve food during our shows. They’ll bring the food in and set it up on a table.”
Van Ness and his partner bring in many blues acts, blues being their core audience’s favorite. “Our core audience is probably 45 to 75 year olds,” Van Ness said. “People ask for these artists. It’s not only blues. We have comedy. We have rock shows. We’re going to have Barry Goudreau’s Engine Room, Barry from Boston. We’ve done some folk. We’ve done a flamenco dancer, even. We like to have a wide variety of entertainment.”
Van Ness has developed connections with numerous musicians and agencies locally, regionally, and nationally over the many years he and his wife have been working their GimmeLive productions. They have Jon Butcher Axis performing this Saturday night and Poppa Chubby the following week. Van Ness and his wife handle all matters, great and minor, at the Salon. “We do everything,” he said, “from washing the towels to booking the bands to designing the posters to building the website.”
Reflecting their interest in diversifying, this coming New Year’s Eve will find the couple producing a drag show at The Salon. They will be partnering with a Gloucester producer who has been presenting drag shows called Closet Case for a few years. “It’s not a genre we know well, so we like to partner with someone else for that,” Van Ness said. “He made a number of suggestions, we went through agents for the headliners.” The drag presentation will be like a variety show.
Van Ness is originally from New York City. Mrs. Van Ness is from Iowa. They met in California and initially moved together to Brooklyn. “It’s been a long ride,” he said.
Although the couple are not originally from Beverly, they are very excited the local residents and their interest in music and arts. “We found Beverly to be extraordinarily welcoming to entertainment,” Van Ness said. “The very first show we did in Beverly was only because we had run out of space at all the venues we had worked in for a particular show that we wanted to do to raise money for a YMCA program.” That began a series of shows at The Larcom Theatre in the city.
“Beverly is an up and coming city that seems to be committed to the arts,” Van Ness added. “There’s plenty of entertainment now. There’s lots of great restaurants. It’s a thriving place. We also like to live near the ocean.”