When Larry Sells bought the Uptown Theater
(3700 Broadway, 816-753-7643) in 1994, the historically designated venue had an appraised value of negative
$2 million. Attempts to sell it for one dollar on the courthouse steps were unsuccessful; the only folks who showed up were parking-lot developers. "It was dilapidated, the area was deteriorating rapidly, the roof was leaking, there was asbestos everywhere and the buildings surrounding it were filled with gang members," recalls Sells, the majority owner of the corporation that rescued the theater from imminent demolition. "I didn't want to take on the Uptown, but I didn't want to see the building torn down." Since then, Sells has funneled $15 million into the theater, brought it up to code and added 33,000 square feet of banquet space. Whereas the venue passed the '80s in a haze of foreclosures and mud wrestling, the 21st-century Uptown has played host to Kansas City's most intriguing spectacles — the suitcore rock of Interpol and Bloc Party and orators such as David Sedaris and Sinbad. (We'll conveniently leave Ron Paul's rallies off that list.) The Uptown celebrates its 80th anniversary this weekend with shows by B.B. King (tonight; tickets cost $55-$125), Vonda Shepard (Saturday; tickets cost $29-$75) and the Grand Marquis and the Rumblejetts (Sunday, $10).
Fri., Jan. 25; Sat., Jan. 26; Sun., Jan. 27, 2008