Exterior of the State Theatre in Portland. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

I nearly froze to death the other night at the State Theatre, and it was absolutely glorious.

The nearly 100-year-old theater recently had air conditioning installed, and it’s literally the coolest thing to happen to live music around here in a while.

Even though I knew that the system was in place, I intentionally didn’t bring a jacket or hoodie with me to the Ani DiFranco show on July 30 to make sure I got the full experience. I strolled in there with a short sleeve shirt on and never looked back. I had to chuckle a few times throughout the evening as I hugged my arms together in an attempt to warm up a bit. Again, I say – glorious.

I’ve been seeing shows at the State since 1994 and have had some of the greatest nights of my life there. But I’ve also had some of the hottest ones, especially during the heart of summer.

One in particular stands out. On July 1, 2012, an 86-degree day in Portland, I attended and reviewed a Fiona Apple concert. Here’s some of what I had to say about it:

“I would be remiss if I didn’t start by saying that it was sweltering hot in the theater, but given that Apple is such an inferno herself, it somehow seemed fitting.”


Apple had similar thoughts about the situation. ”I think the smell of sweat is wonderful so let’s just enjoy it,” she told the crowd.

I did indeed enjoy every second of that show, but I recall my friend and I remarking several times to one another how it felt like a sauna in there. You just had to kind of surrender to it, try to stay hydrated, and know that all in the room, including the musicians, were right there with you in the heat. If that was the price of experiencing an epic night of live music, then so be it.

But now we can have our cake and eat it too. We can soak up the tunes at the State without soaking our clothes in sweat.

It was worth the wait.

Fiona Apple performs at the State Theater in Portland on July 1, 2012. Tim Greenway/Staff Photographer

But don’t just take my word for it. Concert-goer Nancy Foss of Portland was seated in the balcony for the DiFranco show and said she noticed the air conditioning immediately when she walked into the theater. “Even in the balcony it stayed fairly cool and comfortable all night,” she said.

It was a welcomed change.


“In the past, I have had to leave shows because it was too hot and humid to stay. Not only uncomfortable, but a real health hazard for some people,” said Foss.

The blower motor of State Theatre’s air-conditioning system. Photo courtesy of Lauren Wayne

State Theatre general manager Lauren Wayne said that it was a two- to three-year process getting the air conditioning installed. She and her staff have been looking into it since the theater reopened in 2010.

“Due to the age of the building and the electrical limitations, as well as the time we would need to actually install the equipment, it kept proving to be financially and logistically unfeasible,” said Wayne. More recently, supply-chain issues added to the project’s timeline.

When the State had to temporarily close in 2020 because of the pandemic, updates to the venue’s HVAC system began.

“It took several months for the engineers and mechanical services to evaluate the existing electrical amperage in use versus what was available,” said Wayne.

Once the electrical capacity was deemed sufficient, the search began for units that would fit into the available amperage while also being able to effectively cool the space.


But that’s not all.

Once the purchasing decision had been made, the roof had to be surveyed to see if it could support the units. “Luckily, the report came back positive and we installed two condensers on the roof without issue,” Wayne said.

She said the response so far has been outstanding. “People are loving it as well as all of us who work here and the artists as well. We love when people complain that it’s too cold.”

I absolutely loved feeling the chill of that AC blasting as I enjoyed the concert. Will I bring a jacket next time? Probably not.

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