Tuesday, September 27, 2011
when it comes to windows, the fillmore's got area rock clubs beat
Music halls don't necessarily need windows. They have shows at night and audiences come to watch the band, not the street. But these venues still exist during the rest of the day, when the neighborhoods they reside in play host to other activities.
Having blank, featureless façades discourage street life and can send the wrong message. Last year, the Black Cat, which anchors the shopping and entertainment district along 14th Street NW, painted a mural of a cat on their boarded-up second-floor windows. Nonetheless, it doesn't look much different from the outside than it did as an abandoned shell in 1988. Clubs like the Black Cat and the 9:30 Club a few blocks away have helped revitalize their neighborhoods, but by looking like abandoned bunkers, they can perpetuate a run-down image.
Venues outside of the District are no better. While in Baltimore last weekend, I took my friends to The Ottobar, a tiny club in the emerging Station North neighborhood. Judging from its completely blacked-out storefront, they thought it was abandoned. I can imagine someone walking up North Howard Street, assuming there's nothing there, and turning around, missing out on the awesome coffee shop a block away.
And in Alexandria, the venerable Birchmere Music Hall is largely invisible from the street, despite being in a fairly dense, urban neighborhood. If it weren't for the murals on the side, this club would just look like a warehouse behind a parking lot.
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Of course, rock clubs thrive on an aura of obscurity, while windows suggest openness and transparency. But perhaps venues can create window displays that affirm their image while creating a more interesting streetscape. For example, the Trocadero, a rock club in Philadelphia, has raunchy dioramas of Barbie dolls in their windows.
Great streets require the participation of all the buildings that front them, even rock clubs. By creating storefronts that are visually interesting and engaging, or providing uses like cafes or bars that are open when shows aren't going on, clubs can create safer, more vibrant neighborhoods.
at 9:00 AM