Worcester’s The Cove Music Hall Makes You the Star

Ted Kistner’s The Cove Music Hall, recent recipient of Best Live Venue at the 2018 Worcester Music Awards, has just recently finished its Thursday night run of Band Wars, a battle of the bands featuring top musical performers from the Worcester and greater Boston area. Now, on Thursday nights, Kistner has introduced another new event featuring local talent — you.  

Live Rockin’ Karaoke is Kistner’s newest venture, and here’s how it works: The Cove has brought together musicians from several local bands — a guitarist, bass guitarist, a drummer and a keyboardist — to play off of a set list consisting of musical numbers ranging from Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer to Rage Against the Machine’s “Bulls on Parade.” Patrons view the set list, fill out a card with their name and song selection and bring it to the band on stage. After that, it works just like being in a queue for karaoke with a DJ – when your turn comes up, you’re called to the stage to sing. Only at The Cove, instead of singing along with a recording, you sing on stage with a live band.

Now this all sounds good on paper – but come on, what’s it really like? And it was at 9:05 p.m. on April 19, when the opening funky guitar riff started to play from The Doobie Brother’s “Long Train Runnin’,” that the crowd’s skepticism began fade. Not until keyboardist Bill Beck perfectly harmonized Dave Shogren’s “Without Love” in the song’s chorus did everyone know that what they were seeing was something really special.

The marquee above the entryway to The Cove was lit brighter than the streetlights numbering the venue’s location on Worcester’s Green Street. It was startlingly reminiscent of classic theaters. For the past two years, Kistner has worked to transform his business into a professional, well-known performance hall while also maintaining its history, which leads to much of the location’s allure.

Formerly known as Sir Morgan’s Cove and then later Lucky Dog Music Hall, even the establishment’s name holds memories of its past. Kistner has done this on purpose, wanting to create a name that is fresh as well as familiar to its old fans. By maintaining the classic look of the outer marquee, the business stands strong and tall among neighboring restaurants and bars.

Kistner remembers starting off with music back when he was in high school, playing saxophone in the school band. Upon graduating in Webster, Kistner moved to Florida, where he started DJing while studying sound production at Full Sail University. He then landed a gig at Orlando’s House of Blues working the sound board, and after that he was touring with metal bands as their sound engineer — a big step from playing the sax in a marching band.

Now back in Worcester, Kistner preserves a little piece of Worcester’s history in The Cove.  Adorning the wall near the entryway is a pair of oars along with two pistol blunderbusses. There are also paintings of wooden ships, all hearkening back to the music hall’s roots as Sir Morgan’s Cove. The new caretaker’s touch is rampant, however. Skulls, some by themselves, others with the intercrossed bones beneath, seem to link their way around the room, like extra members of a long-lost audience. A movie poster from director Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead is also perched on a counter behind the bar, which tonight Kistner’s fiancé Crystal Pannoni helms.

 “Have you ever been here before?”

“No, I came here for this,” said Kevin Berthiaume, of Thompson, Conn. Sitting across from the stage at the start of the evening, Berthiaume rose and began to climb up the industrial-style metal steps and approached the microphone to the familiar bass guitar plucking intro to Ben E. King’s Stand By Me. Berthiaume, a former karaoke DJ who before would travel to Boston regularly in order to find a similar event, was thrilled that live-band karaoke was now being offered right here in Worcester.

Kistner was all smiles as he remarked upon the opening night of his newest event, “And it’s only going to get better.”

Live Rockin’ Karaoke starts at 8 p.m. Thursdays at The Cove Music Hall, 89 Green St., Worcester.



Patrick Deforge

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