GRAND OPENING: The Bellwether, located just outside of Downtown L.A., held its first show on July 11 with Phantogram. The 1,600-capacity, 45,000-square-foot venue comes from Michael Swier of Teragram Presents and Another Planet Entertainment. (Photo by Josh Withers)
NEW L.A. MUSIC VENUE DEBUTS
After years of hesitation, hope, doubt and plenty of construction, promoters Michael Swier of Teragram Presents and Another Planet Entertainment’s Gregg Perloff finally opened the doors to The Bellwether, a new mid-sized venue on the outskirts of downtown Los Angeles.
The 1,600-capacity club had a sold-out grand opening on July 11 with electronic rock duo Phantogram, which hadn’t performed in L.A. in three years, and Swier couldn’t help but marvel at the sight of his new project 24 hours ahead of the first show.
“I’m still pinching myself,” Swier said. “It’s hard to believe it’s happening. I couldn’t have asked for a better venue. It’s one of the best that’s been made.”
Coming from a music impresario responsible for venues such as Moroccan Lounge and Teragram Ballroom in LA and New York’s Bowery Ballroom, that’s saying a lot.
Swier teamed up with Another Planet Entertainment to take over an existing structure once owned by Prince that had gone through several facelifts.
The building needed a lot of work, and Swier said he’d only get involved if he could get someone else on board to assist in redeveloping the site, and he was introduced to Perloff by mutual friends. When the two agreed to join forces, Swier and his brother Brian, an architect and co-founder of Bowery Ballroom, began working on the design of the building, and Another Planet, among the country’s biggest independent promoters, used its connections to book the Bellwether. The two parties hit it off, making the process of remodeling the structure a lot smoother. Project cost was not disclosed.
“We’ve enjoyed [our relationship],” says Perloff, Another Planet’s co-founder and CEO. “Michael is a leader in a lot of rooms in New York. They have their different skills, and we have our different skills, and we haven’t really stepped on each other a lot.”
One of the major changes to the structure was the removal of four columns in the main music room, which meant the ceiling and roof had to be redone as well, and a wall behind the stage was pushed back. The changes opened up the space and improved sightlines, framing the venue better.
The Bellwether also boasts a wrap-around balcony, a restaurant and bar called The Virginian situated above the main music room with tables and booths and an open-air lounge with views of the city and neighboring mountains through large open windows.
Swier believes the modifications to the 45,000-square-foot building make it a special venue in a saturated L.A. market.
“It’s the size, the scale; the way the stage is framed, the capacity, the way that the audience and the band are like at most 50 feet away from each other. It’s a big venue (but also) intimate,” Swier said. “It’s a real old school, flat floor, ballroom-type structure. That’s rare in New York or Los Angeles because you typically see old movie theaters reconfigured. There’s a lot of that. You can do one or two and it’s cool, but how many do you need that will look like that? Everything just fit in here.”
Perloff believes what makes his new music venue unique is the d&b sound system, which he claims is truly “state of the art.”
Other acts set to test The Bellwether’s sound system over the next few months include TYCHO, HAIM, Wilco, Tegan and Sara and Carly Rae Jepsen. Swier envisions the new venue to feature established artists as well as up-and-coming acts graduating from his other venues in L.A., similar to the vertical ecosystem he implemented in New York.
Another Planet talent buyer Nick Barrie plans to bring more genres to the venue, including metal and Latin acts.
“It was important to me out of the gate to say to people, ‘Hey, this is a place that’s inclusive, offers a wide variety of talent and everyone is welcome here,’” Barrie says. “It’s a safe, fun place, and the calendar speaks to that.”
Inclusivity is also important to Perloff, who trained staff to treat attendees with respect, and he hopes it goes both ways so that fans take care of his project. Another selling point from Perloff is affordable parking. The Bellwether is negotiating deals with surrounding parking lots to make it affordable, which is a welcome bonus for Los Angelenos used to paying at least $30 for parking when attending events.
“I want people to feel like this is the home away from home,” says Perloff. “Respect the building. We spent a lot of time making it beautiful, and I hope they take care of it and appreciate it. We want it to be something all people embrace.”