Many can attest to concerts being a big thing people missed in 2020 and months following, but little did Angelenos know a new venue was on the rise behind the scenes. On Tuesday, Michael Swier’s Teragram Presents and Another Planet Entertainment will celebrate the grand opening of Los Angeles’ newest live music abode The Bellwether. It will follow affiliated, nearby downtown venues The Moroccan Lounge and Teragram Ballroom as a natural progression for artists that are able to draw 1,600 fans, the spot’s capacity. Teragram Presents also operates The Mercury Lounge and Bowery Ballroom in New York, among others. It’s a competitive space and offering for artists that will find Phantogram minting the opening night with many other major acts to come in the following weeks. These talents include three nights of Haim (with a just-announced special 10th anniversary celebration of their debut album Days Are Gone), three nights with Porter Robinson, two with Carly Rae Jepsen, and an impressive slate of dates from Santigold, Isaiah Rashad, Sudan Archives, The Head and The Heart, Poolside, Tycho, The Midnight, Tegan and Sara, Yo La Tengo, Gus Dapperton, Wilco, Tove Lo, Shallou and more. So from alternative rock to pop, electronic to hip-hop and Latin to folk-rock, The Bellwether is embracing the entire melting pot of Los Angeles sonically.
Head Talent Booker Nick Barrie spoke with Pass The Aux ahead of the grand opening to shed light on the independent company’s new venture, the family-like atmosphere of the business and what it really takes to launch a new music venue in LA in 2023. Barrie was previously based in San Francisco, relocating to LA during the pandemic in summer 2020. The Bellwether announced in June a stacked initial lineup and have since added dates with St. Paul and The Broken Bones, LANY, Flipturn, Silversun Pickups, Baroness and others despite a seriously competitive live music landscape this summer and fall.
“I think it’s a really strong debut calendar, I’m really proud of it. Marketing and ticketing were amazing at getting all these shows up all at once,” said Barrie. “What people don’t realize is that July and August —July is really hard to book in live music. Calendars are very scarce with strong touring shows. The fact that we were able to put this together for July and August was a feat to me. It was a lot to get these acts and I feel it’s really strong. My dog has a friend group and someone just asked, can you get me into Haim, at this new venue? We announced the venue to the industry and the public in late February and the LA Times and that’s when we actually dug in.”
The Bellwether promises great sound and sightlines for all guests and has a restaurant (open for now on show nights with an accessible small stage) and open air lounge overlooking downtown. Besides being the shiny new object to attract artists and concertgoers, there’s an established history with Teragram Ballroom and Moroccan Lounge over the past several years, positioning the company for a larger venue in its properties.
“Trying to keep the momentum was a big thing for us. A lot of agents and managers understood the reputation that Teragram and Another Planet had in LA, New York and San Francisco and knew they could trust that brand. It’s just a new venue and that’s exciting. Fans can kind of stay in the same place. I get more artists every day that want to try something different —outside in a park, at a museum. Having a new place was exciting too, knowing that we would bring this caliber to a room. We gave tours during Pollstar and you could tell people were excited.”
The Bellwether is poised to become a big player in live entertainment in Los Angeles with its 1,600 capacity standing room, competing with other venues like The Wiltern (2,300 cap), The Novo (2,300+ cap) and The Belasco (1,400 cap). It really stands on its own sizing itself up between these rooms and can host bigger acts and rising talent while competing with top spots.
2022 was arguably a rather exciting return to live music and 2023 is still massive in the U.S. and globally. There is most definitely a demand despite the oversaturated state of live shows and festivals. “As independent promoters, I think there’s a greater attention to detail,” said Barrie. “You take things a little bit more personally and make sure you do everything right. Every artist and every fan is happy. As independents, we understand that every conversation is really important. We are passionate and it’s something we take great pride in and everyone at my company has been there a long time. It’s much more of a family rather than a company and that comes out in the work.”
Like Teragram Ballroom and The Moroccan Lounge before it, The Bellwether is on the verge of becoming a cultural center in downtown Los Angeles, with potential to draw business to other places such as restaurants, bars, hotels and beyond. Securing the venue slightly before the pandemic, it’s a long time coming for the new landmark, sitting directly south of Echo Park and Chinatown, just a drop west of the 110 freeway at 333 S. Boylston Street.
“I think the location is pretty perfect, you’re downtown but you’re kind of on the cusp. We have several parking lots as well as street parking and we are right off the 110 so we are very accessible. We’re right near the Teragram and The Moroccan. It’s kind of nice to have everyone nearby and accessible for discussions and feedback. Coming to the neighborhood it seems to be a lot of government buildings and not too much going on as much as the nightlife but the venue over time helps the neighborhood develop. We have a restaurant/lounge and I’m hoping it can be open seven days a week as a dining option. As the venue evolves, the neighborhood will as well.”
Top photo by Josh Withers