At Sunday’s soft opening of his new concert hall The Anthem, co-owner Seth Hurwitz had a message for the fans who had filed into the 57,000-square-foot building for a sneak preview. “Congratulations and welcome to your new venue here in D.C.,” he said. “I hope you enjoy it as much as we have building it and getting it ready for you.” Based on previews of the $60 million venue at The Wharf, Hurwitz shouldn’t have to worry about that. Here are seven things to know about D.C.’s newest musical attraction.
The Anthem, 901 Wharf St. SW; opens Thu.
The city doesn’t have anything else like it.
The space can hold as many as 6,000 people (about five times the capacity of 9:30 Club, which Hurwitz also co-owns) or as few as 2,500, thanks to a stage that moves and seats that can fill the floor for comedy shows and more intimate concerts. In many ways, The Anthem feels like a mix between a small club like 9:30, a larger theater like the Warner and a small arena. (The closest comparison is probably Echostage, which suits DJs better than live bands.) Fans of the 9:30 Club will notice a similar industrial look and charm to The Anthem and, despite its larger size, a similar intimacy on the floor. There are also two balconies above the floor with seats. Hurwitz says he’s wanted to build a venue like this for a long time — a space that can accommodate as many people as a small arena or convention center but was designed with music in mind. “Our goal is to make it the best music venue in the world of its size,” he says.
There isn’t a bad spot.
The best seats in The Anthem are the 450 theater-style boxes that hang from both balconies. These so-called “Super Excellent Seats” cost more than a regular ticket and are angled to face the stage. The rest of the venue is general- admission standing, and there’s even space to stand behind the “Super Excellent Seats.” “You can go anywhere,” Hurwitz says. “You’re free to wander and find your best spot.” That means that, even for the Foo Fighters’ opening show, or Lorde’s in April, you can buy a regular ticket, arrive early and end up in the front row — unique for big shows in the age of VIP packages. On the balconies, the seats closest to the stage offer the best views but you can still see from the back. There are also plenty of nooks and crannies to explore and a raised area behind the floor by the soundboard that offers elevated views.
The opening lineup is only the beginning.
You might assume that I.M.P., the concert promoter that Hurwitz is the chairman of, is stacking the deck for The Anthem’s opening weeks, but he says October and November just happen to be busy months for music. Besides Foo Fighters, you can see New Orleans mainstays Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue with soul revivalists Vintage Trouble (Sun., $37-$57), French indie rockers Phoenix (Mon., $45-$55), reunited dance/rock act LCD Soundsystem (Tue. & Wed., $61.75-$81.75), superstar DJ Zedd (Oct. 21, $41-$76) and folk rockers The Head and The Heart (Oct. 27, $45-$75). And that’s just some of October’s lineup. November brings Tegan and Sara (Nov. 11, $50.50-$76), Bob Dylan (Nov. 14, $75-$325), Erykah Badu (Nov. 18, $76-$126), St. Vincent (Nov. 27, $44-$149) and Morrissey (Nov. 30, $55-$75). “It’s a crazy schedule,” Hurwitz says. “I never thought it would be this full, to be honest with you.”
The Anthem and 9:30 Club will work together in concert.
“People were very concerned about whether this would dilute the 9:30 or cannibalize shows,” Hurwitz says, but he claims that only a couple of shows on The Anthem’s schedule might have ended up at 9:30 Club otherwise. In other words, the club will still have a robust calendar. Plus, there’s a way the two venues can work together that he didn’t foresee. Next February, jam band Greensky Bluegrass will play one night at 9:30 Club and one night at The Anthem. “It makes the 9:30 date even more special,” Hurwitz says, “because it’s gonna be very hard to get a ticket to it now and that could end up being a really cool routine.”
There are attractions beyond the acts onstage.
The first thing you’ll notice when you get to The Anthem is the big and bold marquee that changes colors and is visible from the Southwest waterfront. When you enter the lobby, look up and you’ll see cymbals hanging like chandeliers in D.C.-based artist Dan Steinhilber’s installation “Untitled Polyrhythm.” Move up to the second floor to get a closer look (and keep looking up — you can see into the pool at The Channel, the apartment building above The Anthem). There’s also a balcony off the second level that sits above the marquee and offers expansive views of the water and beyond, especially in daylight. “I want them to feel escapism,” Hurwitz says of patrons. “I want them to go in and feel like the world goes away and this is magic.”
You can eat a chocolate-covered waffle.
You’ll find seven bars on The Anthem’s three levels, and a coffee bar from Vigilante Coffee Company. For now, there’s a limited food menu that includes Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, Red Apron hot dogs, bao buns, grilled sandwiches, a vegan hot dog and the Wharfie, a Belgian waffle with chocolate sauce. Bring your credit card: The bars, concessions and coat check are cashless.
It will only get better.
Hurwitz knows that not everything is going to be perfect on day one, so he welcomes feedback. “We will be watching the whole process and tinkering and trying to make it as great as we can,” he says. “No matter how good it is on Oct. 12, it’s going to be better on Nov. 12.”