D.C. may be known as a hotbed of political activity but its arts can be just as explosive. Now, the District is welcoming the Anthem (901 Wharf St., S.W.) to its thriving music scene.
Tucked inside the Wharf, the newly developed commercial and residential area that kicks off its opening weekend Oct. 12, the Anthem is the latest music venue from Seth Hurwitz.
Hurwitz, co-owner of the 9:30 Club and chair of I.M.P. Productions, has transformed the 9:30 Club into a legendary music venue respected by musicians around the world.
Audrey Fix Schaefer, communications director for I.M.P. Productions, says Hurwitz’s recognition as an independent music promotor has held its own in the face of corporate promoters based in Los Angeles. Especially when it comes to the iconic 9:30 Club.
“There are bands that just grow up wanting to play there from all over the country even though they’ve never been there,” Schaefer says. “It’s just got that kind of reputation.”
Hurwitz wanted to expand on the success of the 9:30 Club, which has a capacity of 1,200, and Merriweather Post Pavilion, which can hold around 18,000 people, into a mid-size venue.
About eight years ago, he reached out to Monty Hoffman who was developing the Wharf. Hoffman was already considering adding a music venue with another company but decided to meet with Hurwitz. After talking, the pair clicked and realized they had a similar vision for the space.
About $60 million was shelled out for construction, which resulted in a three-level, 57,000-square-foot space that settled nicely into the mid-sized venue hole in D.C.’s music scene.
“There are a lot of acts that are in that mid-sized sweet spot,” Schaefer says. “There was no real place for them to play that was for music. You end up playing in basketball stadiums. This one is being built from the ground up for music from people who’ve had 36 years in the business that know how to create perfect sight lines, great sound, wonderful lighting and production.”
The Anthem’s acts are booked by I.M.P., just like 9:30 Club and the Lincoln Theatre, with plenty of LGBT-friendly acts scheduled to take the stage.
LCD Soundsystem (Oct. 17-18), GRiZ (Nov. 4), Tegan and Sara (Nov. 11), St. Vincent (Nov. 27) and Pentatonix (Dec. 17) will all perform at the Anthem this fall.
Other big name artists on the calendar are Bob Dylan (Nov. 14), Erykah Badu (Nov. 18), Morrissey (Nov. 30), the Killers (Jan. 10) and Lorde (March 8).
The Anthem will also welcome popular podcast live shows with “Pod Tours America” (Nov. 3) and “Lovett or Leave It” (Nov. 3).
Fans don’t have to worry about craning their necks or standing on tiptoe to spot their favorite artists. Schaefer promises that there isn’t a bad spot in the house to enjoy the show.
But there will be prime seating.
The venue will offer “super excellent seats,” seating on the second and third floors, which will be aimed right at the stage for optimal viewing.
The idea came from Hoffman who had never designed a music venue before.
“Monty (Hoffman) thought, ‘Why are you doing that? Why not tilt the chairs toward the stage?’ Everyone in the room was like, ‘Yeah, why not?’ It took fresh eyes of someone who has never done this. So we went back to the architect and ran it through computerization to figure out the exact right angle,” Schaefer says.
“Super excellent seats” will have a strict “no scalping” policy and will require the person who purchased the ticket to show up with an ID to match.
As for food and drink, the Anthem has got it covered. Eat-To-The-Beat, the U.K.-based, backstage catering service, will provide casual fare for concertgoers.
“Eat-to-the-Beat comes up with such creative, delicious stuff as if you were sitting in the kitchen of one of the most fabulous chefs in America,” Schaefer says.
Attendees can also choose from seven bars, as well as a coffee bar, for alcoholic and non-alcoholic needs.
Another feature, similar to the 9:30 Club, is a versatile space that can transform based on whether the show is smaller or bigger.
The Anthem has a stage, backdrop, production and lighting that is moveable to shrink or expand the space to accommodate 2,500 to 6,000 occupants.
“It is so much more fun for the artist to feel that all these people stepped into the room. It also makes it more fun for the patron to go in and feel like, ‘Oh my gosh everybody else loves my band and this is going to be a lot of fun.’ Nothing feels good when you go in and it’s echoing in there,” Schaefer says.
The Anthem welcomes I.M.P. favorite the Foo Fighters to christen its stage for a sold-out concert on Thursday, Oct. 12. Lead singer Dave Grohl, who frequented the 9:30 Club as a teen growing up in Springfield, Va., was invited by Hurwitz to open the venue and toured the space during the early stages of construction.
“It was always going to be the Foo Fighters,” Schaefer says.
The opening concert will be accompanied by the Wharf’s grand opening, which runs from 11 a.m.-6:30 p.m. with fireworks and other live entertainment.
Visit theanthemdc.com for a complete list of concerts and more information.