Behind the Music

Meet the men of the Majestic

A hundred years ago, entertainment-seeking Madisonians packed the Majestic Theatre on King Street to watch vaudeville acts. Today, thanks to Matt Gerding and Scott Leslie, the historic venue is enjoying a renaissance as a spot for live music.

The owners met while living in Los Angeles, where Leslie was a touring musician and Gerding worked for a booking agency. After swapping stories about the industry, they decided to combine talents and create a space that artists would love playing.

They set their sights on Madison, a music-friendly city that could draw acts passing through Chicago and Minneapolis. “Madison is a nice town,” Leslie says, “but the building had a lot to do with it.”

Leslie and Gerding saw potential in the midsize theater, but restoring it to its former glory was hard work. Keeping the building’s historical integrity in mind, they repainted, repaired, added artist amenities and installed a new sound system.

Jam-band fans have flocked to the new Majestic since it opened in 2007. “Hippies seem to embrace live music in Madison,” Gerding says. But others are slowly taking note as well. With an eclectic lineup of rock, punk, jazz and more, Gerding and Leslie challenge all music lovers to come check out a show.

“Take a chance with your Friday night,” Leslie says.

“Live music enhances any party,” adds Gerding.

Katie Vaughn is associate editor of Madison Magazine. Read her A&E blog Liberal Arts.

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