The most anticipated opening at The Wharf come Oct. 12 might not be any of the dozens of restaurants and shops, but instead the building underneath The Channel apartments. It is a building that “has the illusion of a stadium, but the intimacy of a nightclub,” according to Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl. The idea that the three-story concert hall that has capacity for 2,500 to 6,000 people seems unheard of, because it is.
The I.M.P. team of Seth Hurwitz and Rich Heinecke—yes, the same guys behind 9:30 Club, Lincoln Theatre, and Merriweather Post Pavilion—have created something the United States has not seen. That’s because Hurwitz has been “looking for a mid-size music location for over 10 years” and finally found it. The Anthem is a music hall the fans and the performers will both love no matter their location.
The “Super Excellent Seats” on the second and third balconies are canted perfectly to align with the stage. That means that no two seats are the same thanks to computer-aided design and the same sound team as 9:30 Club and Merriweather. That small detail on the seats is surprisingly thanks to Monty Hoffman, founder and CEO of PN Hoffman, half of the Hoffman-Madison development team behind the $2.5 billion Wharf project.
What would seemingly be a less-than-perfect pairing, Hoffman and Hurwitz are anything but. The yin to Hurwitz’s yang, the polished Hoffman is credited with rejecting the DC government’s recommendation of an art gallery and instead wanted a music hall. The gruff, straightforward Hurwitz was the ideal match for one simple reason: Both men have mastered the customer experience. It also helps that both men are self-made.
Whereas other music promoters have been bought out, Hurwitz has thrived while staying local. The I.M.P. team is the most iconic music promoter in metro DC area. In 2013, Rolling Stone magazine named 9:30 Club, which opened in 1980, the best music venue in the United States. That’s not by mistake, but instead by instincts, diligence, and detail in order to deliver the best customer experience.
From the second you walk in you are met with an over-the-top experience. The large space has an industrial feel blending dark wood, black metal, and gray concrete—a theme throughout the venue. Looking up in the entrance hall you see four glass square windows that are actually the floor of the infinity pool of The Channel above. (Don’t worry, bathing suits are required.) Speaking of the neighbors upstairs, the concert hall is built with advanced soundproofing and air gaps to mitigate against sound vibrations.
As you enter, you naturally flow to the left toward the stage. Although a 6,000-person venue might sound big, The Anthem impressively feels intimate. For neighborhood comparison, it feels most like Arena Stage’s Fichandler Stage and a theater in the round format. Even from the back of the house, you still feel like part of the show. The sight lines cannot be beat from the main floor up to the third-level balcony’s General Admission standing areas. Seven large bars are spread throughout (bathrooms, too) to hopefully keep lines short. Large, open staircases and generous standing room should ensure space from your fellow concertgoer.
The rest of the numbers at The Wharf might sound astounding (three million square feet over 24 acres along a one-mile stretch), but The Anthem’s sell-out capacity of 6,000 will not.