Thursday, July 26, 2007

moco kills the birchmere (or, can we build a scene in silver spring without county money?) (updated!)

WHAT'S UP THE PIKE: East County's last (and only) dinner theatre giving way to townhouses; proposed Wheaton townhouses might give way to parkland; Dan still slaving away on Drew Powell and Susan Hoffmann pieces (in case you're wondering).


UPDATE: Is the House of Blues trying to take over? Today's Post says they've been wooed by the County to to turn the J.C. Penney building into "the Fillmore," a chain of large (2,000-seat) music clubs named for a famous club in San Francisco.

This is eight months after HoB announced plans to open up near the D.C. Convention Center - and Just Up The Pike feared it would lay waste to the local music scene. I'm not sure what to think - below, I suggest that there have to be better ways to grow The Scene - but HoB might have a better variety of acts than the Birchmere would . . .

In a rather cruel twist of fate, the editor of Just Up The Pike found himself in Columbia at a concert (and far away from a computer) on the day that the nationally-renowned Birchmere music hall announces that their plans to move to Silver Spring have fallen through.

A lengthy press release from the Birchmere that appeared on the City Paper's website suggests more than a little animosity between the Alexandria-based club and the County, which seems to have other plans for redeveloping the J.C. Penney building on Colesville Road:

"Without cause or plausible explanation, the county has apparently chosen to breach its agreement with the Birchmere . . . The Duncan administration’s vision for the unique role of The Birchmere in the revitalization of Silver Spring appears to have been hijacked; it now seems the style and role of the music venue in the community is insignificant compared to its use as a tool in a complicated private development plan."
As a fan of music (loud music with lots of screaming) I've written a lot about the Birchmere's potential in Silver Spring - to bring country music to the unwashed masses; to run the 9:30 Club into the ground (with a little help, of course) - but, most importantly, to bring some life to the currently languishing north side of Colesville Road. While I was never happy with what the Birchmere does (seated shows? BORING!) I looked forward to what it could do for Downtown.

more AFTER THE JUMP . . .

What the Birchmere saga proves, however, is how fragile public-private partnerships (such as that which created Downtown Silver Spring) are. The press release leaves us wondering what exactly is Ike Leggett's plan for the J.C. Penney site - if not the Birchmere, what does he want there? What could eight million dollars of public money be better used for?

And should we even need that money to draw a lively arts and entertainment scene to East County? The goal, I think, should be to re-create (or preserve) the conditions that allowed places like the former Burn Brae Dinner Theatre in Burtonsville (now a church, soon to be a townhouse development) or the Death Star on Cedar Street (a house that hosted punk shows on the weekends; it will soon become a doctor's office) to form and flourish.

Forget the Birchmere. Forget the County's subsidies (and the double-crossing it comes with.) Downtown Silver Spring should be a valuable enough location (both economically and culturally) to create its own scene. The question is . . . how do we do that?

9 comments:

rtsind said...

So even though the Birchmere is a dead issue(and I am a fan of the Birchmere) there were certain drawbacks--too much congestion, maybe too much noise, too many people walking the streets late at night) but- I would much prefer the Birchmere to a club like the 9:30 Club or any other louder music club.

I would like to see some kind of jazz club/ and or something like the Russian Tea Room in New York.

Until them. we can only hope.

b said...

Now that was smooth (your reply in the SS Penguin). Honest, informative comments, followed by a totally tastefull plug, that made me want to read your article (which, in truth, I read first) because I like & respect your, "don't trust anyone over 30, attitude". I say bring CBGB's, open with The Bad Brains, and watch the NIMBY's tumble, like dominos, all the way to City Hall. ( Oh I forgot, we are not a real city. we just have elected officials who "make love" to us like real city officials do).

Rockviller said...

I'm glad all our hard work paid off. As I posted a few months ago on the Silver Spring Scene, there is a group of county residents that does not want to see public arts money go to the wrong purposes. The Birchmere money should be dedicated to improving Strathmore, Montgomery County's Home for the Arts. Building a new outdoor concert pavillion/amphitheater is a county priority. Its time to attract a quality Jazz outfit that complements the Silver Spring Jazz festival. I think Lee Development can attract them without 8 million in public money.(I heard that Birchmere was asking the county alone to up its contribution to $6 million)

b said...

REM wss right, Don't go back to Rockville. What right do those West County sheep rapers have over Silver Spring? We need a real city to protect ourselves from these neo-nazi's. But, I respect your right to screw up your own city up more than it is. Rockville, because ''it always floats to the top.

Legal MoCo Resident said...

You have to look at this from the progressive perspective. Ike Leggett could not possibility approve a public private venture, that does not take into consideration the needs of Illegal Immigrants and Casa of Maryland.

b said...

Legal MoCo resident: Your only legal because your forefathers, killed off the native Americans and made a new set of rules. When the words on the Statue of Liberty become as empty as your sole, it's time to take C4 to the lady. Maybe we can elect "Nedrdy White Guy" in Leggett's place and bring back Jim Crow laws.

b said...

sp. errors. "You're" & "Nerdy". Sorry about the sloppy edit.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget "sole".

Of course, if you are wearing Nike Airs, your sole could technically be empty.

b said...

I spent most of my adult life in Germany, and English has too many homonyms. No excuse, I stand corrected.