House of Blues Anaheim might’ve only moved a few blocks away from its old Downtown Disney location, but it’s definitely hellbent on taking the venue to a whole new level. From the time the company showed us the first artist renderings of the new venue set to revitalize the ghost town Anaheim Garden Walk, we were told this was going to become the new premiere venue in OC, something it hadn’t been for the last several years at the old location.
But the excitement for HoB’s reintroduction to OC’s music scene was in full effect yesterday during a media preview that brought out dozens of journalists and entertainment industry types to witness the symbolic dropping of the House of Blues Water tower on top of the new venue that formerly housed a giant movie theater at the far end of the outdoor shopping mall. Yay for progress! Even though there’s still a lot of construction to be done before its Feb. 28 opening with Social Distortion, we can already see the potential of the space they’ve created that will definitely make the House of Blues great again (pardon the Trump-ism). Here are just a few of the major reasons this new spot will kick ass compared to the old venue.
The Atrium: First impressions are important. And House of Blues Anaheim understands they have to make not only a good one, but a memorable one. Our first steps into the venue yesterday revealed a front room dubbed "The Atrium." This space is your first introduction to the new HOB that features a bar lining the main wall with cocktail tables and lounge chairs. It also features an outdoor patio that overlooks Garden Walk. “A lot of times during a show there will be that moment when you say ‘I just need some air,' says David Fortin, SVP of marketing and business development for the national venue chain. “This will be that spot, but you’ll still be connected to the show, you’ll still be able to hear it.” The outdoor patio will have giant video screens on the wall out there so you’ll still be able to see it so when your favorite song comes on, you’ll be able to hustle back in and enjoy the show." It seems to be a much better setup than the previous HoB patio that was more narrow and easily crowded where you had to walk up a bunch of stairs and squeeze past a bunch of people at the outdoor patio bar only to walk down a bunch of steps to get to the concert floor.
The Artwork: Obviously a bigger place means more wall space, and for HoB that means they’ve got to fill it with something. Typically we’re used to seeing the same kitschy, bohemian blues-inspired art that comes standard with most HoB venues. Not so with the new location. They’ll be utilizing the work of local artists like Audrey Kawasaki and Johnny Rodriguez aka KMNDZ to paint large scale, one-of-a-kind murals to bring an epic and refreshing artistic vibe to the place.
Bigger Venue: In order to make a real splash in the venue market, the new House of Blues had to go big. And they did—really big! Walking into the 44,000-square foot space that used to be the UltraLuxe movie theater, you can instantly get a sense of the enormity of the 2,200 capacity of the main concert hall that includes about 1,800 standing room on the main floor and over 300 on a mezzanine with standing room and VIP seating and boxes. This is twice the capacity of the Mouse House which held about 1,100 people. It also includes the Parish Room and Foundation Room which the Downtown Disney location never had.
Parish Room: The second smaller room that will definitely be a highlight for bands on the come-up who’d like another alternative to playing popular spots like The Wayfarer or The Observatory’s Constellation Room. The 400 capacity standing, 200 capacity seated venue is planning to book 150 ticketed shows in this space. The centerpiece of the room is a 100 year old clock perched on the wall that overlooks the intimate stage. Though I suspect you won’t be too concerned about the time while enjoying a band in this intimate, immersive space—unlike the old club where you were constantly checking the time to figure out how much longer you had to force yourself to stay.
Sightlines: First of all, this place actually has them. That already puts it’s second floor audience at an extreme advantage compared to the old club. The 300 capacity mezzanine area has tiered seated and standing areas to give you a clear view of the performers. This ensures no more having to fight tooth and nail to get to the front bannister in hopes of seeing a glimpse of the band you paid money to enjoy. The stage has also been lowered to 4 feet six inches to bring the performers closer to the ground floor audience.
Multiple Stages: Every single room inside HoB Anaheim has a stage, four stages total, meaning at any one time they can have four different shows going with various size acts— more stages booking nightly local entertainment means more opportunities for OC bands to get in here and graduate from a smaller set in the Parish or Foundation room to the main stage. It’s always nice to have a venue ecosystem that inspires bands to get off their asses and earn a following.
Lineup: The main surprise about this place so far is definitely the strength of its lineup. After years of putting up way too many irrelevant or outdated acts on the Mouse House bill, it’s nice to see some power injected into the new club’s booking strategy. Aside from their kick off shows with Social D which will definitely be huge, the list of performers includes Anderson .Paak and the Free Nationals, Korn, Thrice, Wu-Tang Clan, Billy Idol, The Growlers, Pixies, and many more (a show from guitar legend Santana is also slated for September 11). “Our mantra has always been unity and diversity, and what can I say about our lineup – we have all of that and then some,” the venue’s talent buyer Ben Weeden said.
Not only that, but the strong lineups are resulting in even stronger ticket sales.
“The response in Orange County has been amazing,” Weedon says. “In the first 5 days we moved 40,000 tickets and $1.1 million dollars in gross.”
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Real VIP service: Has its own bar with boxes that hold between 2 to 8 people. One of the cool things about the area aside from waitress service and special menus is that it’s located next to the Foundation Room which is connected by a catwalk so Foundation Room members can go directly to the exclusive area without wandering around the venue too much.
Parking Doesn't Suck: The fact that there’s a parking structure directly connected to the Garden Walk means no more trekking from the far reaches of Downtown Disney, walking through scores of churro munching kids and families looking at us punk, metal, hip-hop and EDM weirdos with ghastly stares when all we’re trying to do is walk to a concert. For that alone, we should all be thankful for the new location.