Fillmore Silver Spring: The End of the World as We Know It? Why the new LiveNation venue may not doom the 9:30 Club, the Black Cat, or other D.C. nightclubs

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Lee says Hurwitz had showed no interest in the site until “the eleventh hour.” After Leggett rejected his proposal, Hurwitz aggressively lobbied the county council and state lawmakers. He argued that his Bethesda, Md.-based company would supply acts tailored to a local audience better than Live Nation, would pay double the monthly rent of $7,500 that Live Nation would pay, and would split naming rights royalties with Montgomery County. Alternatively, I.M.P. offered to build the music hall without a subsidy in exchange for full ownership. The county denied all Hurwitz’s advances and, ultimately, the council approved the project in October 2008. Hurwitz sued county and state officials when costs for the project rose from $8 million to $11.2 million, alleging that the bonds they issued for the Fillmore were illegal, but a judge dismissed his lawsuit in March.

Lee Development, also the general contractor for the project, turned over the completed building to Montgomery County last month. The county chipped in more money for the Fillmore by diverting funds from parks-and-rec projects that came in under budget. Live Nation covered the rest of the cost; under the terms of the lease, that money is considered pre-payment of rent. So, Live Nation may not have to pay rent again until 2017 (though the county won’t know the exact figures until October, when it has a full accounting of the company’s contributions to the project). Regardless of the rent payments, the nightclub is expected to bring the county about $200,000 and the state nearly $900,000 in annual tax revenue, Schwartz Jones says.

For his part, Lee says he’s delighted with the end result. The Fillmore is built so it could easily be connected to a new hotel and office complex, and he has about 15 years to decide just when to build such a site. The county must grant him approval for these projects—or pay him nearly $44.4 million to get out of their agreement. Lee is waiting for the real estate market to improve before he finalizes his plans, but thinks the Fillmore will be a great amenity for guests of the proposed hotel and office building. I ask him what kind of hotel he’d like to put there. His answer isn’t very rock ‘n’ roll: a Residence Inn by Marriott.


Live Nation Entertainment is premised on the notion that the music business can be tamed. Concert promotion and talent management is rampant with small-time operators that can be acquired or crushed by a savvy corporate player armed with spreadsheets, scientific management techniques, and strategic access to the capital markets. It’s artistry as algorithm: What works well in one market can be applied globally with efficiencies achieved and outsized profits earned. And Live Nation has scored impressive results with this philosophy. Since its spin-off from the radio empire Clear Channel Communications in 2005, Live Nation has grown annual revenue from $2.9 billion in 2005 to more than $5 billion last year. The company promoted more than 21,000 live music events with more than 2,300 artists in 2010. It struck multi-year business deals with Madonna, U2, and Jay-Z. It runs a talent management division with a stable of about 250 artists and has booking rights or investments in 128 venues, including the House of Blues and Fillmore chains in 17 cities. (For comparison, Anschutz Entertainment Group, the second-largest concert promoter after Live Nation, owns, operates, and consults with more than 100 venues worldwide.) In January 2010, Live Nation completed its merger with Ticketmaster, the world’s largest ticket sales and distribution company. In its most recent quarter, Live Nation reported a $13.3 million profit, ending two quarters of losses. The company beat analyst expectations partly due to better than expected revenue from its concert business, which rose 26 percent from the same quarter a year ago to $1.08 billion.

The Fillmore Silver Spring operation is a tiny cog in the Live Nation machine. The original Fillmore, which fostered the careers of the Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, Jefferson Airplane, and others in the 1960s, came to Live Nation through a series of acquisitions after the death of its famous owner, Bill Graham, in a 1991 helicopter crash. Live Nation announced it would expand the Fillmore “brand” to more markets in 2007. It renovated Irving Plaza to create the Fillmore New York at Irving Plaza, the Theater of the Living Arts to establish the Fillmore Philadelphia, and turned Detroit’s State Theatre into the Fillmore Detroit. Each location featured chandeliers based on those at the San Francisco Fillmore and murals inspired by the original club’s trippy promotional posters.

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Public reaction has been mixed. Live Nation had to restore the Fillmores in New York and Philadelphia to their old names after fans complained. But those were just bumps on the road. The Fillmore brand added a Charlotte location, the Jackie Gleason Theater in Miami, the Fillmore Auditorium in Denver, and now Silver Spring.

Our Readers Say

"It’s a county, after all, that recently proposed a curfew for teens."

Ok, but this is only a proposal, while the District - home to the 9:30 Club and the Black Cat - already HAS a curfew for teens.
This article is a joke.
"But walk across Colesville Road, and you’re still in downtown Silver Spring. The nearby shopping center is a menagerie of chain restaurants from the sublime—Nando’s—to the pedestrian—Red Lobster—with 8,000 free parking spaces in the surrounding area."

Hello, Colesville has exactly ZERO chain restaurants (besides a great, local one in Ray's) while you have a bunch of locally owned restaurants in Abol, Kao Thai, Sabroso, Da Marcos, Sergios, etc. along with unique gems in Round House Theater, AFI, etc. You cherry pick crap like a Red Lobster on Ga. Ave. just so you can try and fit downtown Silver Spring into some anywhere-usa mold to bash. If you spent any time in the area you'd know it's far more diverse and urban than just about anywhere in the region.

>>> “The focus this year was to price the house right from the beginning, to drive higher revenue from the front and lower prices in the back to stimulate purchase. The key strategy to achieve this, No. 1, was no mass discounting,”

Isn't that neat. By gosh, the next time I buy one of the lower prices in the back I am going to see if I can't stimulate some purchasing in the front. Not just for me, but for the high revenue folks, too.

I frankly just don't feel like we're making enough effort to contribute to their $5bn revenue.
Makes sense to me. If you are the kind of person who thinks Livenation and Ticketmaster are rock and roll, you are probably the kind of person who thinks Silver Spring is cool. Perfect match.
I only have to look at how Live Nation runs the Jiffy Lube Live Pavillion (formerly Nissan Pavillion) and compare that to how IMP runs Merriweather in MD. The experiences are a contrast of get everyone inside quick so we can suck the money out of them by Live Nation, to one that is about hearing the music and enjoying the experience.

Live Nation, is a tiny spin-off of a much larger and even more sinister entity Clear Channel, whose business practices are to crush the competition and offer a neutered experience driven by the highest priced advertiser. Silver Spring should be ashamed of what they gave to bring this type of category killer to the area. Truly ashamed.
SMP, are you serious? Live Nation is akin to Halliburton or something? Live Nation venues sell 50 million tickets a year - all those people, not to mention all the big musicians, should be ashamed? Psycho much? P.S. Nissan sucks because of the logistics of the site, which is why it sucks compared to Merriweather (in my mind). How does that have anything to do with Live Nation?
@anon
Yeah, how dare he "cherry pick" the shopping center literally across the street. You have to turn a corner to get in there so it shouldn't count as being in the area. And the entrance to the Panera Bread next to AFI definitely isn't on Colesville Road, the door is slightly angled to the parking lot. And we should definitely all ignore the collection of fast food restaurants on Colesville just a block away, that would put Silver Spring into some type of anywhere-USA mold.

Aside from the selection of stores in the actual mall across the street from the Fillmore, Silver Spring is just like any suburban mall in the country.
9:30 and the Black Cat will always have an advantage over Live Nation's Fillmore for one reason: They book cutting-edge acts. Look at the OVERPRICED washed-up has-beens Live Nation is trotting out: Mary J. Blige, John Legend, Bush (are you fucking kidding? Bush?), Cheap Trick (ha!) Et al. Live Nation is clearly aiming for the suburban housewife and husband who is afraid/too tired to go into the scary District for shows.
"Live Nation is quick to emphasize how the Fillmore will develop local talent. Arich Berghammer, Live Nation’s executive vice president of clubs and theaters, tells me he’s open to having Ethiopian music at the Fillmore after discussing the lack of such shows with his cab driver during a recent trip to Silver Spring."

This one will keep me laughing for a while.
Yes, you don't have to look far to find non-chain restaurants in Silver Spring. This isn't Rockville. To name just the chains at the redevelopment hub is a pretty lazy description of the area. But I think that the Fillmore, if it's successful, does portend higher rents and more chains coming to downtown Silver Spring.
Anyone who thinks Silver Spring has more chains than locally owned businesses has never been here. There are few places in the WORLD that are more diverse than Silver Spring. This isn't some Target-filled Columbia Heights or chain-filled Penn Quarter - Silver Spring has, what, a 100 local restaurants that represent dozens of cultures. No one can legitimately say that Red Lobster represents Silver Spring.
"And we should definitely all ignore the collection of fast food restaurants on Colesville just a block away, that would put Silver Spring into some type of anywhere-USA mold. "

Oh, wait there are a few chain restaurants in Silver Spring? That would put them into some type of anywhere-in-the-world mold. Even Paris has plenty of McDonald's, KFCs and Pizza Huts.
Give me a break.

I live in DTSS and the critics are right. I keep seeing people defend this area's nightlife and food life and it's sad. Delusional bunch of yuppies.

The culture of DTSS needs serious work. And yes everything DOES close early- curfew or not. So if you go to a show in Fillmore weekday or weekend you come out and find- nothing. No bars or intresting clubs or nightlife within walking distance still open or not occupied by thugs and hoodlums or old retirees.

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