PORTLAND – More than a year ago, as the ornate State Theatre sat dormant, Rob Derhak made a request to his manager.

“I told him that if they re-open the State, I’d really like for us to do the opening night,” said Derhak, bassist for the band moe. and a 13-year Falmouth resident. “It’s a no-brainer for us. We recorded an album there (“The Conch”), and the vibe of that room is really good; it’s a little bit loose and the crowd is always pumped.”

The crowd will likely be more pumped than usual when moe. plays the State Theatre Saturday night as part of the 81-year-old theater’s reopening weekend. It has been closed for more than four years.

My Morning Jacket will play the first show at the newly renovated theater on Friday, which is already sold out. The weekend continues with moe. on Saturday, followed on Sunday by a free open house featuring performances by local bands, including Darien Brahms, Jacob Augustine and The House of Fire, Brenda, Atomik, Grand Hotel, The Beat Horizon, The Oxymorons and Billy Libby.

My Morning Jacket was formed in Kentucky about 12 years ago, so members don’t have the connection to Portland that Derhak does. Still, they are also excited to be part of the rejuvenation of a vital piece of the southern Maine music scene.

“We love playing ornate old buildings like that one,” said Carl Broemel, guitarist for My Morning Jacket. “We can’t wait to see it reopen.”

Built in 1929 as a movie palace, the theater fell into disrepair and was a pornographic film venue from the late 1960s until the late 1980s. It was renovated as a music and performing arts space in the early 1990s and become a focal point of the city’s downtown arts district.

But in early 2006, the managers at the time closed the theater, and it has remained closed — until now.

In May, New York-based music promotion company The Bowery Presents signed a deal with the building’s owners to run the theater, and they hired longtime Portland music promoter and booker Lauren Wayne as general manager.

Wayne expects the 1,450-seat venue to host about 80 shows a year. She said the theater’s management wanted to host a free open house and day of concerts in conjunction with the Portland Music Foundation so people could see the renovations that have been done. Those include restoration of the stage, new sound systems, updated lighting, new seats, better sight lines and new carpeting.

During the past few months, Wayne has been booking bands at a rapid pace to fill the theater’s schedule this fall. After this weekend, some of the upcoming shows scheduled at the State include: Josh Ritter, Oct. 22; Kansas, Oct. 23; Goo Goo Dolls, Oct. 26; Guster, Oct. 27; Social Distortion, Nov. 2; Toots & The Maytals, Nov. 5; Michael Franti, Nov. 6 (sold out); Rusted Root, Nov. 7; comedian Steven Wright, Nov. 11; Martin Sexton, Nov. 19; State Radio, Nov. 27; and Dashboard Confessional, Dec. 12.

There will also be a screening of the classic 1939 film “The Wizard Oz” on Dec. 3 along with a performance of the local nostalgia band Over a Cardboard Sea.

“Reopening the State Theatre is more of a celebration of Portland and all it has to offer — music, arts, dance, culture and community — a celebration of the creative spirit that really seems to thrive in this city,” said Wayne. “This town is so full of talent, and I feel lucky to be involved with this community.”

Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at:

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