Washington D.C. has two exceedingly good reasons to celebrate this coming Oct. 12. That’s when Foo Fighters will headline the opening of The Anthem, the city’s new highly-anticipated $60 million venue located within The Wharf, a new multi-billion dollar development complex situated along the banks of the Potomac River. The new music performance space will be operated by Seth Hurwitz’s I.M.P., the D.C.-based independent promotions company which which has a 30-year lease on the new property and also owns the city’s storied 9:30 Club.
“The new place is set to become the number one venue in America, I shit you not,” Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl enthusiastically told Billboard after touring the site. “It has the illusion of a stadium, but the intimacy of a nightclub. It’s perfect.”
Indeed the tri-level Anthem, which has a convertible capacity for shows raging from 2,500 to 6,000 with seated and general admission configurations, was meticulously designed in part by Monty Hoffman (of PN Hoffman, which developed the $2.2 billion Wharf with Madison Marquette) and I.M.P.’s Hurwitz. The club includes seven bars, an equal number of dressing rooms, glass windows that look out onto a stunning view of the Potomac River, retractable chandeliers, a full-service kitchen, tractor trailer bays that load directly onto the stage and unobstructed sight-lines.
“From a production standpoint it’s got everything an arena touring band would need, but offers a tighter vibe with an audience than those bigger rooms,” said Grohl whose Foo Fighters just released “Run,” a surprise single on June 1 (and which debuted at No 9 on the Billboard Rock Airplat Chart). “Every vantage point is the best seat in the house. I mean, they really put a lot of thought into the audience perspective. Doesn’t matter where you are: on the floor, in a balcony, at the bar, you’re going to feel close to the band.”
Landing anyone else other than hometown hero Grohl and his Foo Fighters (which also includes Taylor Hawkins, Nate Mendel, Chris Shiflett, Pat Smear and Rami Jaffee) for The Anthem’s opening night was never really a question, at least for Hurwitz. “There was no Plan B,” stated Hurwitz, whose I.M.P. also operates Merriweather Post Pavilion and the Lincoln Theatre. “It was always just the Foos. I texted Dave some photos of the venue after we started building it and asked him ‘Who else should open it?’ He said ‘Nobody.’ That was the end of it.”
The Anthem’s 6,000 capacity gives the D.C. area a new large size venue that hits something of an underserved sweet spot between smaller venues like the 9:30 Club (1,200 capacity) or Constitution Hall (3,700) and a larger arena like the Verizon Center (18,000). Some artists, for example, may now choose to play one night at the Anthem rather than do multiples at the 9:30 Club or elsewhere.
Melanie Cantwell, a veteran talent buyer for the 9:30 Club and Lincoln Theatre, has been named new club’s booker; while Dori Armor, who was most recently VP of artists and touring at IMG Artists, was named The Anthem’s GM and will run day-to-day operations.
The Anthem’s Oct 12 premiere also marks the opening of The Wharf, a three million square foot development that will have an impact on D.C’s commercial, social and cultural landscape. With more than 20 artisanal restaurants, three hotels, two smaller venues, an outdoor event space, a yacht club, an ice skating rink, a volleyball area, a water taxi service, bike lanes and a range of office and living spaces (including affordable housing units), the development should help rejuvenate an under-used, picturesque and centrally located part of the Nation’s Capital (a block from the Metro and nearby the National Mall and monuments),
“Think of it as a jelly donut, the Anthem is the jelly in the middle,” says Hoffman, whose company spent the last 11 years developing The Wharf, which stretches nearly one mile, across 24 acres of land and 50 acres of water that runs from the Maine Avenue Seafood Market to Fort McNair.
2017 has been something of a landmark year for I.M.P., which in addition to the opening of The Anthem, which is amidst a $55 million dollar renovation of the Merriweather Post Pavilion. The site, which is located between D.C. and Baltimore in Columbia MD., is undergoing a complete overhaul of the stage and backstage areas, concessions, seating, box office, VIP area and more. The amphitheater is also this season celebrating its 50th anniversary.
Meanwhile, last year the 9:30 Club celebrated its 35th anniversary with the release of a 264-page coffee table book, 9:30: A Time and A Place, The First 35 Years and the launch of a public television program Live at 9:30. The venue has had a profound impact upon Washington Area’s music scene and beyond.
“I think I first went to the 9:30 club in 1984, probably to see a hardcore show, probably a local band. I was maybe 15 years old,” says Grohl. “For a kid from the sleepy Virginia suburbs it was a total mindblow. It wasn’t the greatest part of town, wasn’t the most glamorous venue, but you could tell that the room had seen it’s share of history. The long hallway into the live room was basically like walking the gauntlet of the DC music scene. All of your heroes were there, sharing flyers, tapes, fanzines, stickers. It was heaven. It was the place to play in Washington DC. It was our Fillmore, our CBGB’s, our Whisky.”
Grohl says a big part of his decision to play The Anthem opening comes down to Hurwitz. ”The great thing about Seth, outside of knowing him personally for 30 years, is that he actually cares. He cares about the music. He cares about the audience. He cares about the band. And he knows what he’s doing,” he said. “To see him take pride in that and remain independent is inspiring. It’s very ‘DC’ of him.”
The prospect of operating the Anthem seemingly has energized the already energetic Hurwtiz. “It’s just been this wonderful, exciting and incredibly fun thing,” says the promoter. “I can’t wait for it to open.”
This article originally appeared on Billboard.