The Anthem Celebrated its Soft Opening Last Night with an All-Local Lineup of Talent
Heading down Maine Avenue Southwest, there was no mistaking where The Anthem‘s soft opening was. The line stretched all the way down the venue, up the street and wrapped around an apartment complex a couple times. It was the only sign of life in the massive construction zone that is The Wharf, a new commercial development that’s expected to open this Thursday at the Southwest Waterfront.
9:30 Club rewards members were given the option to attend either one of two soft opening shows at The Anthem, which is owned by 9:30’s parent company I.M.P. The headliners were kept secret until the day-of, and everyone who showed up got a drink ticket for free Pacífico beer.
The most striking feature about The Anthem is the sheer size of the place–it’s cavernous, to the point where you’re spending a good deal of time just figuring out where to sit or stand. In all the venue measures 57,000 square feet and can hold up to 6,000 people at a time, but at the same time it feels intimate like its sister venue 9:30 Club. The plus side is that you can find a good view of the stage no matter where you are, which is a promise that I.M.P. made when they first announced the project.
The aesthetics of the space reminded me a bit of Lincoln Theatre. Elegant chandeliers hung from the ceiling, the top floors of the venue were lit as if curtains were draped across each of them, and the main foyer of the venue had cymbals cascading to the ceiling, where everyone was trying to capture their own Instagram-worthy photos for their feeds.
With all soft openings, there are going to be some quirks along the way. One noticeable thing was the lack of cell phone service inside, which for anyone to make a call they would have had to step out to the balcony or completely outside. Another interesting feature was the payment system–all the bars were strictly credit card only.
From a music standpoint, D.C. was fully represented at the show on Sunday. Danger Painters started first, composed of veterans Bob Boilen (of NPR’s Tiny Desk and All Songs Considered), Michael Barron, William X Harvey and Kevin Lay. Instrumental band The Messthetics also made an appearance, featuring Joe Lally and Brendan Canty of Fugazi with D.C. guitar virtuoso Anthony Pirog, who powered their way through the end of the show. But the highlight for me was seeing Bat Fangs, the project of Ex Hex‘s Betsy Wright and Flesh Wounds/Cold Cream‘s Laura King, who brought their guitar wizardry and frenetic energy to the big stage. After the show was over, Kid Congo Powers and Ian Svenonius came out to spin music and dance in the general admission section up front.
More to come on The Anthem as it has its second soft opening on Tuesday and official grand opening on Thursday with the Foo Fighters.