An informational article, written and edited by The Ghost-Bull, about the history behind what is currently a venue—in Norfolk, Virginia—for music concert.





It was on Granby Street, where the original entrance stood—a street crammed with history, dating back to the early 1900s. Located there, actively, is a pizzeria under the name “Chicho’s Backstage”. Playing “The Man Who Saw Tomorrow” and “Bright Eyes”, NorVa opened as a film theater in 1922, November 27th. The theater, beforehand, was used for vaudeville performances. Before becoming a film theater, the building had been 5 years old.

Across from the MacArthur Center Mall, she is homed on Monticello Avenue, at a large building of brown bricks, with a wide marquee. The historical structure—created in 1917—has seated “The NorVa”, as a film theater, until a closure in the early 1970s. After re-opening, she has been a ‘live’ music venue for 22 years, and counting, just one block rear-side of the original entrance. Back against back, the 2 buildings connect—with the structure, on Granby Street, partially used for a backstage and a restaurant.

Ownership of her current building is by A.E.G. (Anschutz Entertainment Group), formerly under “Rising Tide Productions”. Inside is a concert hall with 2 full-sized bars, 2 minibars, 2 smoking lounges, and a V.I.P. lounge settled on the highest balcony. Brick walls and wooden floors surround the interior, along with 2 wrap-around balconies. Backstage holds a game room, a basketball court, a hot tube, and even a sauna.

There is a state-of-the-art V-DOSC speaker system installed in the concert hall, providing crystal-clear sounds. “The NorVa” is listed as the 5th installation location in the United States, and the 2nd installation location on the East Coast, for the luxurious system. Also provided, for events, are lights with special effects and video monitors for far-back bystanders. According to “Rolling Stone” magazine, she hails as one of the greatest ‘live’ music venues in the nation.

Given her name, she is an abbreviated combination of the city and state, Norfolk, Virginia—where she stands. Formerly, she was named “The NorVa Theater” on Granby Street, with “Baker’s Shoes” and “Butler’s Shoes” to one side of her, accompanied by “Medco: Health & Beauty Aids” to her other. Roper Performing Arts Center, modernly standing nearby, was once the “Loew’s State” film theater. Hotel Commodore Maury was across the street, a night-stay building completed in 1906, but has permanently closed under its final name “Clarion James Madison”. Each of the historical businesses, listed, are no-longer.

The building, existing “The NorVa”, was a film theater of a single screen, seating 1,450 individuals. For several years, it was left abandoned, eventually facing demolition, interiorly. Between 1980 and 1998, the Downtown Athletic Club claimed her as a home. Later, in 1998, the interior took on a renovation costing over $3 million, and was purchased by Rising Tide Productions the following year. All seats were removed prior to becoming the new NorVa.

Opening, it was James Brown leading the 1st concert—April 28th, the year of 2000. The Godfather of Soul, he truly was before passing 6 years after his NorVa performance. Other names who performed that year included The Temptations, on May 28th, Jefferson Airplane, on June 6th, and Biz Markie, on November 4th. Even sadder, the life of Biz Markie dropped to an end this month of last year.

Such as J.Cole, Post Malone, Lil Baby, Billie Eilish, Juicy J, DJ Pauly D, Juice WRLD, Pusha T, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Foster The People, a great amount of popular artists, DJs, and bands have performed at the historical building within the past 8 years. Some big names performed numerous times, especially Tech N9ne, putting on a show 6 times between 2014 and the present day. The South Carolina born rapper, Jeezy, has had at least 4 performances at the NorVa, lastly on March 5th of this year. Virginia’s own, Pusha T, has made various appearances, even scheduled to perform September 22nd and September 23rd.

On October 4th, 2018, the stage was stepped on by Billie Eilish. The performance occurred nearly 6 months before the release of her hot single, Bad Guy, growing her into a highly popular artist as the track was promoted on the biggest radio stations, across country. Her setlist, at the NorVa, included Ocean Eyes, Hostage, Party Favor, Six Feet Under, Bellyache, and many other great tracks.

Hitting the stage as a local, talented, Indie Folk band, “The Last Bison” is a group formed out of Chesapeake—an independent city not far from Norfolk, in the Hampton Roads region. They are a well-spoken name at the NorVa, with some of their great tracks consisting of “Switzerland”, “Dark, I Am”, and “Quill”. Notably, the lead guitarist and vocalist is Benjamin Hardesty. Amos Housworth—married to Annah Hardesty—often plays the cello, and bass at times. Usually the bell percussionist, Annah Housworth is also a back-up vocalist. A violin is played by Teresa Totheroh, though the list of names, in the band, continues.



Written by Troy “The Ghost-Bull” Powell

Submitted: July 27, 2022

© Copyright 2022 The Ghost-Bull. All rights reserved.

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