The Mainzer

The Mainzer

The Mainzer (Also known as The Mainzer Theater or The Mainzer-Strand Theater, pronounced MINE-Zer) is a music venue in Merced, CA. The building is famous in the indie rock scene as being one of the top tour stops when passing through California. It is known as the "indie" 924 Gilman Street of the Central Valley. It is also recognized by various Art Deco societies for the restoring and remodeling process which took place beginning in 1999.


The actual history of the Mainzer building is quite sorted. We do know that the building was constructed in the early 1920s, and sometime around 1931 there was a fire that destroyed a good portion of the inside. It is unknown as to whom the original architect and designers were of the building, but many speculate that is was S. Charles Lee due to the style. It is said that there was, in around 1921, a small 5-rank Wurlitzer organ was shipped to the theater and supposed to be installed in the new Merced Theater, but before the organ could be installed in the new Merced Theater it was destroyed in the fire. Both sites were owned at the time by Golden State Theaters, then United California Theaters, and then United Artists.

The building was originally a theater for live stage performances. It was known at that time at The Strand Theater. In the 70s, when owned by United Artists, the auditorium was divided into three parts and it was called Cinema III. This was the same fate for the Merced landmark, The Merced Theater, except it had 4 screens instead of three. After more years of declining business, the movie theater was forced to become nothing more than a second-run theater, playing old Hollywood blockbusters at discounted rates, again, with little success. Finally the theater was shut down due to lack of business in the mid 1990s. The building sat there untouched for years until an investment group headed by Hanz Mainz and Brenda Farley bought the property and started the renovation process.

During renovations, the theater was renamed "The Mainzer-Strand Theater", with the marquee reading "The Mainzer". They changed the inside of the building by tearing out one of the movie cinemas, but keeping two of them, and adding a large room with a balcony and a stage for all sorts of events. Also installed was a small cafe in the front lobby area. It was the hope of the investors to be able to hold large stage productions, concerts, comedy shows, private receptions, and show independent films in the two remaining cinemas.

In 1999 The Mainzer reopened to a large gala, a few comedy shows, and a few independent films. The attendance was again poor, but this time mainly due to inflated ticket prices for both concerts and films. In 2004 the Art Deco Society of California gave The Mainzer its "Historic Preservation" award for the renovations of the past few years.

After years of struggling to keep the doors open, in 2006 the end was looking nearer and nearer for The Mainzer. The investors was struggling to make the mortgage payments and bankruptcy loomed overhead. Finally, a deal was worked out that at least kept the doors open for a while. A local Merced artist and musician, R.C. Essig, commonly known in the music world as Radioactive Cauliflower, leased the building out from Brenda Farley. By this time the theater had almost completely stopped showing movies except on rare occasions and has focused on only holding concerts with a mixture of local and national acts.

In the summer/fall of 2006, R.C. fought to keep the place an independent, all-ages music venue, but in the end it was a losing effort. The bank decided not to sell the property to R.C., but to another investment group. So after 7 years of battling, the Mainzer Theater has finally had to shut its doors as an independent music venue. As of this time, it is unknown who purchased the building or what they are planning to do with it.

Venue history

Before R.C. Essig took overall control of the theater, he worked for The Mainzer as their main booking agent. R.C. was already a nationally recognized booking agent for his work on the Merced indie rock festival, The Gathering of Goodness, which was always a big hit in Central California because indie bands from all over the nation would come and play.

Because of his respect in the indie rock community, R.C. was able to book many of these same national acts at The Mainzer whenever they were passing though California while on tour. After a while The Mainzer got recognized in many areas as a spot to play a show while in California. It did not take long for bands from all over the country to flood The Mainzer with show requests.

While many people considered the venue mainly an indie rock venue, it also held many shows in all genres of music from punk to metal to hip-hop.

National acts that have played The Mainzer

* Deerhoof
* Calexico
* The Black Heart Procession
* The Living Legends
* Neko Case
* The Dead Science
* RoMak and the Space Pirates
* Calvin Johnson
* Larger Than Life, The Kiss Tribute Band
* The Decemberists
* Karate
* Bardo Pond
* El Olio Wolof
* Xiu Xiu
* Parenthetical Girls
* dios Malos
* Grandaddy
* Nuclear Rabbit
* David Dondero
* Canned Heat
* Richie Havens
* Plug Sparks Sanjay
* The World Inferno Friendship Society
* Sunspot Jonz
* The Last of the Blacksmiths
* Imaad Wasif of Folk Implosion
* Kind of Like Spitting
* Tech N9ne
* Concrete Blonde

External links

* [ Official Site]
* [ The Art Deco Society of California]

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