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New owners bring diversity to State Theater

The latest chapter in the Metro State Theater story will feature some pretty colorful characters, said promoter Dave Hundley.

Up-and-coming modern rock acts. Afro-pop. Jazz. Folk. Dance music. For Hundley, one-third of the new ownership group, diversity is the word. So don't be surprised at what you see when the State reopens later this month.

"I think part of the problem (with the State) in the past has been that there hasn't been a broad enough range of music," Hundley said. "With us, one night it could be bluegrass, and one night it could be alternative music, and the next night it could be world music.

"I don't want us to be known as a punk club or a folk club or whatever. I want it to be like, "I wonder what's going on over there tonight?' "

The State, which reopened in February after a two-year hiatus, shut its doors again last weekend. St. Petersburg lawyer George Rahdert, who owns the building that houses the State, then turned the venue's business over to giri, inc. _ Hundley, Tony Rifugiato and Mick Berends. Brad and Bret Kennedy ran the venue previously.

Rifugiato and Hundley may not be familiar to concertgoers, but their shows are. Their No Clubs Productions works closest with Jannus Landing. Over the years, they've brought in acts such as Pearl Jam, King Sunny Ade, Richard Thompson, Bad Religion and the Neville Brothers.

But how will that approach go over at the State, especially with another club _ Jannus Landing _ hosting similar acts?

There won't be any conflict between the State and Jannus Landing, Hundley said. If anything, having two venues doing similar shows will enhance interest. And No Clubs Productions won't have a monopoly on the shows at the State.

Finally, the alternating focus gives concertgoers a wider range of choices. Hang around long enough, Hundley said, and you will eventually see something you like.

"You don't want to overbook any one style of music," Hundley said.

The settings should alternate along with the music. Some days there will be tables and waitresses. On others, the usual club setup.

"It will be a free-form thing," Hundley said. "We have lots of ideas, and when we get one, we go do research on it and then jump on it. Tony and I have been active in the scene for a long time (11 years), and it's an opportunity to prove that there is something in this market."