The Westcott Theater: Syracuse’s Most Popular Music Venue

For nearly 100 years, students of Syracuse University and members of the Syracuse community have flocked to The Westcott Theater for countless evenings of entertainment. Located just outside of SU’s campus, the Westcott can be found in a neighborhood primarily occupied by upperclass students looking to catch a concert after spending time at Taps Bar & Restaurant, situated just across the street.

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The Westcott hasn’t always hosted live music, however, and it was only in 2008 that the venue opened its doors as a location for musicians traveling through Upstate New York. Before its transformation, the building acted as an independent movie theater known as The Westcott Cinema.

Today, the Westcott still holds the occasional film screening, most of which are music-related. In the summer of 2012, the venue screened LCD Soundsystem’s Shut Up And Play The Hits, a film chronicling the band’s final show at Madison Square Garden. Comedians have also appeared at the venue, including the Broken Lizard Comedy Troupe, a group of actors best known for their work in Super Troopers and Beerfest, who performed at the Westcott in 2009.

Assembly of Dust, 4/14/13
Assembly of Dust, 4/14/13 – photo by Brennan Fischer

While special events usually occur at the venue several times throughout each year, live music is scheduled almost every night of the week. From show to show, performers represent an eclectic range of genres; at the Westcott, one night can be a country show and the next night a dance party.

Some of today’s biggest EDM acts have come through the Westcott on their way to becoming internationally known artists whose tours consist of packed stadium after packed stadium. Between 2010’s Bassnectar performance and 2011’s Skrillex and Pretty Lights appearances, the Westcott has developed a history of catching electronic artists just before they break. Big name artists like the Avett Brothers and Grace Potter & the Nocturnals have also played the Westcott before becoming major festival headliners.

New Riders of the Purple Sage, 10/5/12 - photo by Frances Huang
New Riders of the Purple Sage, 10/5/12 – photo by Frances Huang

It’s the venue’s cozy environment and well-equipped set-up that encourage such well-known acts to book the Westcott on their way to the east coast. With a spacious standing area and a high ceiling, the venue’s occupants can feel comfortable amongst 700 fellow concertgoers while experiencing an intimate performance.

The venue’s slanted floor is helpful for those that are vertically challenged. Standing farther from the stage not only provides an unobstructed view, but also easy access to the bar. Located in the back of the room, getting a drink can be accomplished without missing a song.

Although the Westcott has only offered live music since 2008, some of Syracuse’s most memorable shows have taken place at the off-campus venue. As emerging artists continue to play quality shows for crowds of Upstate music lovers, students and locals alike will spend their evenings at the Westcott Theater.

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