Live Nation’s proposed Brighton Music Hall, slated to occupy the space left by Harpers Ferry later this year, is a game-changer for Boston’s live-music scene.
The 340-person room will create a link for bands to break into Boston at the entry level, then eventually move on to Live Nation’s larger venues. As the Boston Globe reported last week, the Brighton Music Hall would be operated by the Don Law–led Opera House Ventures as a “feeder club,” creating a lineage separating Live Nation venues and the rest of the city’s clubs.
“What we meant was a developmental room,” says Ryan Vangel, who will initially book the Brighton Avenue venue once it opens around New Year’s Eve. “We can’t go all the way down to doing house parties. But this is a place where a band can get started, grow to the Paradise, and go on to the House of Blues. You can almost look at baseball and their farm teams — if you do well, you’ll move up. So we’ll be more in touch with smaller, developing bands.”
Vangel currently books roughly 285 shows a year around Boston, including the full slate at the Paradise, about half the calendar at the House of Blues, and big-ticket concerts at the Bank of America Pavilion and Orpheum. Brighton Music Hall will be operated similarly to the 850-capacity Paradise, also owned by Law’s Opera House Ventures and aligned closely with Live Nation.
The idea of a feeder system is nothing new to Vangel, who was involved with the successful Fenway Recording Sessions at Great Scott. Those shows brought blossoming buzz acts like the Tings Tings and Hot Chip to Boston with the idea of them playing larger, Live Nation–tied rooms on their next swing through town.
The plan appears to create direct competition for Great Scott (240 capacity), as well as T.T. The Bear’s Place (250 capacity) and the two rooms at the Middle East (575 and 194 capacity) in Cambridge, but at least one club isn’t concerned.
“We are keeping an eye on what’s happening across the street or, in this case, the river,” says Middle East publicist Clay Fernald. “We aren’t sweating that. You can’t replicate the Middle East experience on a corporate-run stage.”
Some speculate the Live Nation’s investment in Harpers is a reaction to Bowery Presents booking several shows weekly at Royale in the Theatre District.
“Live Nation doesn’t fear [smaller clubs],” notes Ryan Spaulding of the Ryan’s Smashing Life music blog. “They’ve worked around and above them all before. But what Live Nation doesn’t want is to compete with a funded opponent who may have its shit together, and can draw booking away from their venues over the next three years. They did this to put it to Royale.”
Vangel maintains there’s “enough to go around” within Boston’s booming concert scene.
“A lot of people are nervous, but the room’s been there 40 years,” he says. “It’s not like we opened a brand-new room that size. I don’t see it hurting other venues.”
John Corey, who owns Blanchard’s Liquors on the Harvard and Brighton Avenue corner, will continue to own the Brighton Music Hall building. He declined comment for this story, but Vangel says discussions moved fast after Corey decided to not renew the Harpers lease last month.
“I personally have been looking for a space that size for a while,” says Vangel of Harpers. “I’m going to book it, then look to hire someone to book it full time. We want to go with someone who is deep in the scene, [knowing] a mix of both local and national acts.”
Vangel says the space won’t oversee any immediate major structural changes. “We get in November 1, we’re going to wait and see what we’re walking into. There will be cleaning, a new paint job, stuff like that, but we’re not doing a full gutted renovation. Maybe sometime down the road.”
The last Harpers show features the Soul Rebels Brass Band on October 31. A handful of the club’s November shows have been relocated, including Daedelus to Church (November 3), One Eskimo to T.T.’s (November 10), and Azure Ray to the Middle East (November 12).