By the end of April, two things should be true in Portland. The snowbanks should all be melted, and the doors of Aura will be open. The space, located at 121 Center St., used to be the Asylum nightclub, and it’s been closed for several months for a $9.1 million expansion. The new space, still owned by Krista Newman, Laurie Willey and Valerie Levy, will have seating for between 750 and 1,000 people depending on configuration; some shows will be seated, others general admission. This includes a horseshoe-shaped balcony area with 145 fixed seats along with standing room that overlooks the expansive main level. Aura also hired an acoustic consultant to make sure that the sound is of the highest quality.
The 4-foot-high stage is enormous, and the owners, working with architect Jocelyn Boothe from WBRC Architects, have spared no expense in creating a venue with good sight lines from every vantage point. One side of the room is an expansive, 30-foot wall of windows overlooking Free Street. Two sizable green rooms, one with shower facilities, will be on the lower level, as will a space for meet-and-greets between artists and fans. Another notable feature: The stage has a lift that will make for easier equipment loading and also accommodate musicians who use wheelchairs. All told, the space will go from about 10,000 to 25,000 square feet.
As for booking acts, that is being handled via a joint venture between Waterfront Concerts and Live Nation.
The first show is on April 27, and it’s a Led Zeppelin tribute band out of Philadelphia called Get The Led Out. The list of shows released by Aura also includes Warrant with Dokken , Dwight Yoakam, Brett Michaels, Todd Rundgren, Reverend Horton Heat, Three Dog Night, Little River Band, Buddy Guy and Wynonna Judd.
Aura fills a hole in Portland’s concert scene by virtue of its size. Port City Music Hall can hold 500 people, the State Theatre in the neighborhood of 1,800 and Merrill Auditorium about 1,900. Several bands are too big for Port City but can’t quite draw enough of a crowd for the State or Merrill, so this should entice some of them to route their tours through Portland – a win for fans of live music.
Aura also will have a smaller secondary stage for local shows and hopes to break into the wedding, conference and corporate events market.
For the complete schedule and tickets, head to auramaine.com.