Daniel, Jonathan and Luke Brindley have spent nearly two decades running one of the area’s most popular venues, Jammin’ Java. Over the years they’ve managed to attract sought after bands like Bon Iver and Paramore to their Northern Virginia space, but recently they’ve been looking into opening a second location. Finally, their big break came.
“We now have this very cool basement club space, and it’s literally right off the water. It could not be cooler in terms of location.” Daniel Brindley’s excitement is infectious when speaking about his newest project, Union Stage. When it opens in December, it’ll be one of three music venues at The Wharf, a brand new residential and commercial development that sits right at the picturesque Southwest Waterfront. With a capacity to hold 450 standing and 225 seated, Union Stage will be nearly double the size of Jammin’ Java.
“We will have access to a lot of new and different types of bands,” Brindley said. He prides Union Stage on its potential to bring in a very diverse roster of acts. “One night is going to be the latest and greatest indie rock band, and the next night will be a quieter, solo acoustic thing,” he said, “and the next could be something different entirely.” The Brindley brothers also want to open up Union Stage to the larger D.C. music community.
“We are very committed to create stages for anyone to express themselves,” said Brindley. “We get a kick out of local bands getting to perform on a real stage with real sound guys at a club that knows how to promote shows and has all the infrastructure in place.” Spearheading booking efforts is Jon Weiss, founder of independent D.C. label Babe City Records who offers an unmatched expertise of the local music landscape.
While it’ll be a few more months before Union Stage opens its doors, The Wharf’s largest venue—The Anthem—has already hosted three soft openings before its grand opening on Thursday (including a blow-out show on Wednesday with the Foo Fighters). The Anthem’s owner I.M.P.—which is also the parent company of 9:30 Club—has focused its efforts on booking high-profile touring acts like LCD Soundsystem and Lorde to fill its 6,000-capacity room.
“We’re building this venue because there has been this lack of mid-sized venues,” communications director Audrey Fix Schaefer said of The Anthem. Schaefer described it as a venue that is sized like an arena but still maintains the more intimate feel of a smaller club.
“It’s being built from the ground up for music specifically. It will be a very different experience in terms of sight lines and sound.” No matter where guests sit or stand, they will have a good view of the stage. It is, as Schaefer noted, a stark contrast from larger venues that are designed for sports and occasionally host musical acts.
Just down the street from The Anthem, Pearl Street Warehouse is also getting ready for its opening day on Thursday.
“We’re sparing no expense on our equipment and capabilities,” said Bruce Gates, one of the founders of Pearl Street who is also co-owner of Southwest Waterfront restaurant Cantina Marina. He noted that Pearl Street will offer a quality audiovisual experience, a highlight that Gates hopes will make Pearl Street unique. Bands will have the opportunity to record a show or choose to live stream it.
The intimacy of the room is another selling point for Pearl Street. A fully seated show will hold about 150, while a standing-room only show will hold 300. There is a mezzanine level with space for about 50 people, where the distance from the front of the stage to the front row of the mezzanine is only 26 feet.
“One of our objectives is to be an incubator for local talent,” Gates said. “A lot of local acts are trying to build audiences, and we want to be that place where they can come and develop an audience and have a very high-end experience in an intimate setting.” Given that the D.C. market is already well saturated with electronic and hip-hop, Gates wants to focus on “Americana” music as their primary talent source. But “Americana,” as he puts it, is a very broad spectrum: “that includes singer-songwriters, rock, blues, and more.”
Veteran talent buyer Lisa White, who has previously worked with 9:30 Club and Gypsy Sally’s, will be in charge of booking talent for the venue. Booker T. Jones will headline Pearl Street’s grand opening show on Thursday, followed by Amy Helm on Friday, Town Mountain on Saturday and Kim Richey on Sunday.
Aside from attracting new talent, Gates is optimistic that The Wharf will provide an opportunity to reach out to new patrons and find new audiences.
“I love starting stuff. Cantina was originally opened as part of what was an effort to develop the Southwest Waterfront,” he said. “We want to be part of the new stuff as well, and we look forward to having the neighborhood pop the way it can.”