The Fillmore Philly | Photo by Rich McKie
Take a first look inside the new Fillmore Philly
We’re just over a month out from the grand opening of Fillmore Philly, and there’s still a lot of work to be done.
The new Live Nation venue nestled between Delaware Ave and Front Street in Fishtown is taking shape nicely: chandeliers are being hung from the rafters, oak slats are being installed on the floor, artwork is already installed in the venue’s Ajax Hall bar. But on a walking tour of the space this morning, there were still lots of lifts and hard hats to be seen, scaffolding and fencing to navigate our way around, hammering and welding heard around the corner.
Various crews are working pretty much around the clock to have the venue in shape in time for Hall and Oates to take the stage on October 1st, and while it requires a little bit of imagination at present to really visualize the finalized venue, even in an unfinished state it looks inviting.
After entering from a curvy road off of Laurel and Canal Streets, we find ourselves in what will become the main lobby – the stairway entrance to the 450-cap Foundry club is immediately to our right, the 2500-cap main room is just down the way, a short walk through a bar/restaurant. This is Ajax Hall, named in homage to the metal and munitions manufacturer that occupied the building in the 20th century, and it will be open to ticket-holders and non-ticket-holders alike, explains David Fortin, Senior VP of marketing for House of Blues entertainment. “If your friends are going to a show and you don’t have tickets, or if it’s sold out, you’ll still be able to meet them for a drink at the bar,” he says.
Over at the box office, advance tickets will be available for Fillmore shows as well as Live Nation’s other Philly venues: The TLA, The Tower and Festival Pier. The artwork all around has a decidedly sixties bent to it – a music-themed variation on the Robert Indiana’s Love Statue will be front and center in the main lobby, while a vintage 68 Volkswagen bus was painted with portraits of John Lennon and Jimi Hendrix will house the merch area – but the best example of this look is the Betsy Ross-patterned American flag at the far end of Ajax Hall.
It’s made up of 450 concert posters from the Fillmore in San Francisco – ranging from The Stooges to Old 97s to Megadeth to Grace Potter and David Bowie – Fortin explains that they looked for posters from the archives that prominently featured red, white and blue, and pumped up those colors. Additionally, Bucks County designer Bonnie MacLean, who did posters at the San Francisco Fillmore back in the day, is on board to create the commemorative poster for Hall and Oates gig on opening night.
Just past the flag installation is the gateway to the majestic main room – which, even with dust and unfinished ceilings and scraps of material scattered around, looks pretty majestic. Fortin sees the Fillmore as “redefining the concertgoing experience,” explaining that “You don’t usually have a whole entire club to hang out in, with DJs and sometimes even bands, before you actually get into the show.”
He says designers also took into consideration many lessons learned from venues past – locally and nationally – in the design of this one, from “enormous” bathroom spaces (they didn’t show us the bathrooms, so I’ll take their word for it) to a half dozen bars around the venue. Sight lines were a focal point, and in main room, three tiers of risers sit towards the back of the floor. When you’re standing all the way at the back of the crowd, there’s a spot to have an elevated view with a railing to lean on. A similar approach was taken upstairs, where the balcony wraps around both sides to the front of the building. Upstairs, either side of the stage is lined with VIP box seating, with general admission standing room immediately behind.
Sound in the main room is powered by a 280,000 watt sound system custom designed for the room by Clair Brothers Audio in Lititz; curtains hung around the space will dampen the sound reverberating off the concrete and brick walls. On the lower floor, graffiti is still on the wall behind one of the bars. Fortin says the designers didn’t put it there, but they’re letting it stay. “It’s street art, it’s very cool and we want people to be able to see it.”
Overall, it’s seeming like the look is going to be glamdustrial – chandeliers, curtains and hardwood floors amid brick walls, graffiti and a couple giant industrial chimneys cutting their way through the building. Similarly, there’s a contrast in food and drink. Fortin and project director Kevin Finch talked a lot about the variety of craft beers and top shelf liquors at the bar, of the high-end catering by Wolfgang Puck. “When you think of old music hall food, it’s almost baseball stadium food,” says Finch. “Cold pizza, warm beer. We’re trying to upgrade that, have a more intellectually stimulating menu.”
But cheap beer is on the menu too. One of my fellow reporters asked how much a PBR was going to run at the bar; Finch wasn’t sure about PBR, per se, but pulled out a tall can of Genesee that would cost $4. Offerings on the food menu range from $5 to $15. (For vegetarians and vegans, there’s a hummus plate, edamame, house-made kettle chips and a couple other items.)
From the 24 by 28 foot stage, the room looks enormous, but Fortin said it’s scaleable. Depending on the size of the show, the floor might be filled out with seats, or high-top tables. The stage is relatively tall – not Troc-tall, but not Mann-short either. And when crowds go to leave at the end of the night, parking won’t be too far; the Fillmore owns three lots with a total of 700 spaces in the immediate vicinity. Two other lots of comparable size are nearby, including parking at the SugarHouse casino. And there’s always street parking.
It’s still over a month to opening day, details are still being ironed out and uncertainties still hang in the air. Will tickets purchased at the box office be surcharge-free (or surcharge-reduced)? (UPDATE: Fortin explains “It’s no service fee at box office for the actual onsale date. So a show goes onsale nov 1, then no service fee if bought at box office for that show on nov 1.”)
Will there be bike racks to lock up on, or is it a chain-to-the-nearest-fence situation for two-wheeled commuters? Our tour guides didn’t have clear answers on those points; there’s obviously still a lot to finalize over the next month.
Below, take a look at a gallery of photos from our tour of Fillmore Philly the morning. Information on the October 1st opening night show featuring Hall and Oates can be found at the XPN Concert Calendar.