Weekender

How Champs created a unique space for live music in downtown State College

Since opening early last year, Champs Downtown at 139 S. Allen St. in State College has expanded its live music offerings. It features local and national acts.
Since opening early last year, Champs Downtown at 139 S. Allen St. in State College has expanded its live music offerings. It features local and national acts. Centre Daily Times, file

So, you think the iconic State College restaurant Champs is all about sports, beer, and food that inexplicably but undeniably goes with both? Well ... you’re right, but these days there’s so much more.

In fact, Champs has not so quietly created a great space for music in the downtown location that opened early last year.

“Music is a shared commonality with everyone ... kind of like food,” said manager Dante Lucchesi. “No one ever says ‘I don’t like music’ or ‘I don’t like food’ ... Yes, our foundation is sports, but we try to focus much of our efforts on overall entertainment and the experience we can create here.”

With that self-awareness in place, Lucchesi created nothing less than one of the biggest stages in our region featuring a wide array of musical acts.

“When designing this space we were wanting to keep it as versatile as possible,” Lucchesi said. “With such a large space it was important that we were able to offer a variety of different programming.”

At the center of the musical lineup is one of State College’s premier pop-party bands, My Hero Zero, which performs most Friday nights starting at around 10:30 p.m. That’s when the upper deck seating on the Allen Street side of the building becomes transformed into a huge stage with a full-tilt light show.

“They have a fantastic production and put on a show here that wouldn’t be possible at other venues,” Lucchesi said.

But, My Hero Zero is only one of the many musical acts that graces the stage. I’ve personally seen Noah Figlin’s crew there as well, and have seen social media posts of other musicians in the area getting in on the new music venue.

“We’ve had some legendary nights here with surprise appearances and/or performances from Logic, DNCE and T-Pain, along with scheduled acts such as Waka Flocka Flame, Nav, Riff Raff, Seeb and Mir Fontaine,” Lucchesi said.

It’s all part of a bit of a movement that’s going on in the region, it seems. While the popularity of local live music has waxed and waned over the years, at least in terms of how it seems to impact that bottom line of the venues that are able to book the acts, the Centre Region is on a bit of an upswing right now.

Impressively, Champs has managed to do something unique in the local scene. It’s not a full-time club, but it becomes one when the music’s going. It’s not always booking local music, but it does alongside of some national acts as well. Champs has struck a great balance between serving local sports fans, college kids, and the local music scene, and it’s a great addition to what’s going on in our community.

It seems Lucchesi feels the same way.

“The reception has been great,” he said.

Kevin Briggs is a musician, writer and teacher who performs at venues throughout central Pennsylvania. Contact him at KevinTBriggs@gmail.com.
  Comments