Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Straight from the (Other) Horse's Mouth

In response to an earlier post detailing our meeting with Ted Mankin of Live Nation, I was recently contacted by IMP, which wanted a chance to meet and present their side of the Silver Spring music venue issue. As I always strive to be as fair and balanced as Fox News, I felt I should oblige and agreed to meet with Seth and Audrey, his PR rep. Also, I’ve been accused in the past of being a shill for Live Nation and having being paid off for my complicity in tater tots. Truth be told, I actually ate tater tots off of someone else’s plate in that instance, thank you very much, and said tater tots weren’t expensed by Live Nation anyway.

After coordinating with Audrey and Eric of Thayeravenue.com, we all agreed to meet in the dungeon-y back room of the Quarry House Tavern, which seems to have become the de facto location for this sort of thing. I don’t know if it was a result of its burgers being crowned “Best of DC” by the City Paper, but when I arrived the place was, in the parlance of our time, blowing up. (A side note: I ordered a hamburger myself, and while it was certainly good, I haven’t eaten every burger in the metro area so I can’t objectively assign my own rank.)

When Seth arrived he greeted us with a thunderous “HEY, BLOGGERS!” Still trying to preserve a shred of anonymity, I glanced around the crammed room hoping in vain no one had overheard. For some reason the line “You blew mah covah!” kept running through my head.

After introductions, we discussed the demands of the so-called Silver Spring “community”, the vocal minority who still maintain a strong preference for The Birchmere and fear that a rock venue in Silver Spring would turn their front lawns into a latter-day Heavy Metal Parking Lot.

I apologize for the Nixonian terminology, but I expressed to Seth and Audrey that there is a silent majority in Silver Spring that just wants something to get done with that space and see Skid Row revitalized.

One of the concerns I have always had with the prospect of an IMP-run venue was the possibility that all the best shows would be reserved for the 9:30 Club while Silver Spring would get stuck with “secondary” acts. Seth assured us that while some bands might express a preference to play in the 9:30 club for old times' sake, he is not at all averse to booking top acts in Silver Spring in addition to or instead of the D.C. venue. He said in some scenarios he might even book an act on consecutive nights at the 9:30 and in Silver Spring. He believes that it would reflect poorly on him if it was perceived that Silver Spring was used as a dumping ground for 9:30 rejects.

As to why he didn’t pursue a deal with the county when the government was in exclusive negotiations with the Birchmere, Seth stated that he is on good terms with the Birchmere folks and believed that the county and/or community were only interested in bringing in the soulful stylings that a sitting-room-only club like that would provide. However, when he heard about the county’s deal with his arch-competitor and that that the county was apparently ok with bringing in a standing room only rock venue, he decided that this aggression will not stand, man, and immediately expressed interest. Of course, by that point an informal agreement had already been made with Live Nation. Undaunted, Seth (who “loves to do battle”) submitted a competing offer in order to convince the county to consider IMP as an option and open the process to competitive bidding. I won’t go over the nuances of their proposal here…. you can review it yourself.

I didn’t get the impression that Seth was denying that keeping Live Nation out of the market wasn't part of the consideration, but he did convey a genuine interest in establishing a Silver Spring outlet on its own merits. He says that the status of Live Nation’s agreement with the county is immaterial to his desire to open up a venue in Silver Spring, and that if that deal collapsed, his offer to the county would remain on the table, contrary to what some bloggers (cough cough) have speculated.

In fact, this is not the first time IMP has expressed interest opening a venue in downtown Silver Spring. Years ago, Seth tried to make a move on the former Caldor building on East-West Highway. However, Discovery ended up snatching this property up as a beachhead prior to their full move to Silver Spring. It would have been interesting to see how the development of that stretch of E-W would have been different had this plan come to fruition.

We discussed the possibility of having non-musical acts in Silver Spring, as Live Nation has already stated that these would make up a portion of their schedule. While the 9:30 doesn’t generally book comedy acts, Seth believes that the added capacity provided by a Silver Spring club would allow them the flexibility to schedule these types of performances in addition to musical acts. When asked about Live Nation’s plans to coordinate events with partners such as AFI and Discovery, he expressed confidence that if he were running the show, these things would also materialize under his watch.

I was curious if they had a name picked out for the proposed Silver Spring club. They said they had considered holding a contest where they would solicit proposals from the community. Personally, I think that’s a slippery slope – in the past, this type of community involvement has resulted in stupid-ass monikers such as “Washington Wizards”.

The following are my top three suggestions for venue names:

1. The Max
2. The Bronze
3. The Peach Pit After Dark

A gold star goes to anyone who knows the origin of all three of these.

What ultimately happens between the county, Live Nation, IMP et al. still remains to be seen. Even Live Nation admits that it’s not a “done deal” at this point, with all sorts of approvals still needing to be finalized. From what I gathered, IMP has decided to take a wait-and-see approach toward the whole thing. They’ve put their proposal out there, think it’s better for the taxpayer, and if the deal with Live Nation falls through, they’ll be waiting in the wings.

As I’ve stressed a thousand times before, the important thing is that Silver Spring gets live music sometime in my lifetime. Ironically, by the time this actually happens I may be at that age where I’m fretting about the future equivalent Jay-Z coming to town and wishing the Birchmere was close enough that Medicaid would cover the cost of the MetroAccess van I'd need to get to the Coldplay reunion tour stop.


Thayer Avenue said...

1. The ultimate Max necessity: Zack Morris phone.

2. What's in those red Solo cups, anyway?

3. Was this what Dylan named it after he bought it?

Great conversation with Seth. Should be interesting to see where things go from here.

Sligo said...

If I recall the "After Dark" concept was originally Steve Sanders', although Dylan may have been part owner (with Nat) at the time.

silver spring penguin said...

If (when) Live Nation seals the deal for good with the county, does Hurwitz still intend to open a club in Silver Spring?

Sligo said...

I can't imagine that Silver Spring could support two clubs - at least of the size that they'd want to operate.

b said...

I have heard people say that their objection to The Fillmore is that downtown Silver Spring is a family place and a rock venue isn't family friendly. ( I'm not making this up, I heard it in The Quarry House, go figure). Anyway, Maybe Seth could open a small venue in one of these small stores that went under, and book Kermit & Barney. After a night of "I love you, you love me" these NIMBY's will be screaming for Nine Inch Nails.

Jessica said...

Love the proposed club names, from SBTB, BTVS and the beloved 9-0, and the fact that I could pull my old 90s bodysuits out of the closet for a spin on the floor.

Oh, you'd have to call it "The Bronze Resurrected."

Thanks guys for taking that meeting.

Sligo said...

Jessica, careful with the spoilers, Thayer Avenue is only up to season 4 of Buffy! (But good call, I hadn't thought of that.)

Thayer Avenue said...

I wouldn't have known the reference had you not said anything! DAMMIT! Just started disk 2 of season 4 last night...

Anonymous said...

I have mentioned this on other blogs but I think we can have a Live Nation and another club. However, the second music venue would be much smaller in size. We need a Silver Spring version of The Black Cat. A place where local artists and lesser-known alternative rock, jazz, punk, and folk bands can play on stage for like $5-$15 per person.

Let the big name bands and performers hit the LiveNation. I prefer to spend my dollars to see the up and coming musical acts. Unfortunately, I have to haul my butt to Black Cat and Rock & Roll Hotel in DC to find them.


Dumbek said...

Heavy Metal Parking Lot is the greatest movie of all-time.

Anonymous said...

I know one person who would be screaming for some more NIN... Never grow up, Trent's so dreamy.

Would kill to get a mix of up and coming bands and the pros. If I could get MGMT one night and NIN the next they'll have all my money.

Springvale Roader said...

I think DTSS could handle two good sized clubs. I think it could handle three or four:

A Fillmore, for the young 'uns.

A Birchmere, for the old 'uns.

A Black Cat, for the hip 'uns.

A jazz club, for the cool 'uns.

A theremin club, for the ali'uns

A combo country & rap club located deep within the bowels of City Place Mall, for the all the other 'uns.

Thayer Ave., too said...

The BTVS spoiler wasn't really a surprise-- The Bronze seems to get trashed in pretty much every other episode, so you gotta figure it's bound to get burned/sucked into the hellmouth/ kicked to shards by Buffy at some point.

And I'm SO torn by all three of your suggestions. Does the PPAD come complete with trashy Valerie to manage it? Will David Silver perform? He's such a great musician-- a real talent. (Related topic: there's a new 90210 spinoff in the works: http://tinyurl.com/2tmfya. Rumor now has it Jennie Garth will be back as Kelly Taylor!)

And Heavy Metal Parking Lot can set up in my backyard any day. . .

Sligo said...

Admission: I kind of like David Silver on the Sarah Connor Chronicles.

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