Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Haim, Silversun Pickups Among L.A. Bands to Headline New Venue the Bellwether

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Over the last three decades, 333 South Boylston Street has had a myriad of proprietors—including Prince!—but none have been able to keep the doors of this versatile venue open. Michael Swier, owner of the city’s Teragram Ballroom and Moroccan Lounge, and Gregg Perloff, CEO and founder of the Bay Area’s Another Planet Entertainment (APE)—the largest independent promoter in the US—are determined to change the fate of this plum location on the outskirts of DTLA.

The space has been rechristened The Bellwether and is set to launch on July 11 with electronic rockers Phantogram headlining. The remainder of the summer-into-fall calendar for the 1,600-capacity, main music room is packed with a cross-genre of acts including Tycho, Haim, Porter Robinson, Carly Rae Jepsen, Tegan and Sara, Isaiah Rashad, Silversun Pickups and Slowdive, among others.

“The goal is to express inclusivity through diverse programming, booking everything from rock to electronic, hip hop, soul and funk, eventually expanding it to comedians and speakers,” says The Bellwether’s head talent buyer, Nick Barrie, who comes to the venue as part of the APE team. Barrie scrambled to book The Bellwether with next to no lead time, but he’s looking at multiple sold-out nights already.

Since Swier signed the lease on the 45,000-square-foot building just prior to the pandemic, The Bellwether has gone through an extensive years-long renovation estimated in the millions. The building still smells like fresh paint, and while ghosts of promoters past lurk among the curtain-lined walls, there is a new energy here, particularly in the main concert hall. The thick pillars that interfered with sightlines are gone. The ceiling is now fortified by an eye-catching, artistic geometric structure on the rooftop parking lot.

The main room has a custom wooden dance floor, a 270-degree wrap-around balcony, and unimpeded views of the stage. It features a state-of-the-art d&b sound system, bespoke lighting design and a spacious bar. The acoustic treatment gives a tactile feel to the area. It’s not quite at the level of opulence that Prince brought to the building during its years as Glam Slam, but, with Swier’s brother Brian’s experienced design touch, The Bellwether has a refined aesthetic that is equal parts plush and sleek.

The Bellwether’s flashy bar. (Photo by Josh Withers)

Tucked upstairs is the VIP Looking Glass Lounge with its own entrance, bar, restrooms and free snacks. With deluxe furnishings, the room, in itself, is a destination. For artists, load-in from the street to the stage is a mere 20 feet, while the multiple, funky wallpapered dressing rooms offer various degrees of privacy. There is even a secret backstage entrance for, “If you’re a big celebrity or you’re dating a big celebrity,” according to Barrie.

The Bellwether is the only independently promoted venue of its size in Los Angeles. Other rooms in the city close to its capacity are Live Nation’s 1,800-capacity Wiltern, the seated 1,600-capacity Theater at the Ace Hotel and AEG’s 1,200-capacity Novo, Fonda and El Rey theaters.

A key focus of The Bellwether is to keep artists within the Teragram Present ecosystem, graduating them from the Moroccan Lounge to the Teragram Ballroom to The Bellwether. This is a structure that Swier has successfully implemented in New York City with his former company Bowery Presents, growing artists from the Mercury Lounge to the Bowery Ballroom to Webster Hall. APE has a similar situation in the Bay Area with The Independent, Fox Theater and Greek Theatre.

“Part of the fun of being a promoter is getting to build bands in different directions and sizes and that’s our plan here,” says Barrie. “Plus, I can say, ‘You played this room a bunch of times. Let’s try you at The Bellwether.’ For fans who have been seeing the same bands in the same venues for so long, it’s exciting to see them somewhere new.”

In addition to the concert hall, The Bellwether has multiple rooms of varying sizes and purposes. Among these are a stylish restaurant and bar (with the potential for a small stage), a 500-capacity private event room and an open-air lounge with views of the DTLA skyline visible through its picture windows. Even the entrance lobby is lavish with an expansive horseshoe bar.

Behind the scenes, APE will be housing its local offices at The Bellwether. Surrounding the venue is plentiful parking, without the extortionate rates of neighboring Downtown.

“There is more dimensional programming that can happen here,” Barrie says of his future plans. “I envisioned bands playing in the main room and doing DJ set afterparties in the other spaces after. I envision small festivals occurring here utilizing all the different rooms. There’s a lot of excitement around what the space can do and what it can become.”

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