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?