More Fillmores around U.S.

Live Nation expands venue brand

Nashville — Live Nation is expanding its Fillmore franchise with new venues in New York, Philadelphia and Detroit, with others to follow. They join Fillmore venues in San Francisco and Denver.

The newly renovated Fillmore New York at Irving Plaza will debut April 11 with a show by Lily Allen.

Live Nation will roll out a Fillmore live music brand to complement its 11 House of Blues clubs around the country. Bruce Eskowitz, Live Nation's CEO of North American Music, said the Fillmore concept is at its heart an outgrowth of LN's House of Blues club chain acquisition last year.

"We felt the House of Blues was one of the greatest brands in all of live music," Eskowitz said. "Then we looked around and saw we had two Fillmores, one in San Francisco and one in Denver, which are both incredible. So how do we capture that? How do we take and re-create what we've done in San Francisco and Denver and make it available in other key markets?"

Live Nation renovated Irving Plaza to create the Fillmore venue in New York. In Philadelphia, the TLA is getting the makeover, and the State Theatre in Detroit also will become a Fillmore venue.

The Fillmore concept dates back to the late promoter Bill Graham's legendary San Francisco venue that helped launch such careers as the Grateful Dead, Jimi Hendrix, Santana and Janis Joplin.

Eskowitz said the new Fllmores will hark back to that time, with signature "dark, sophisticated" red paint, the Fillmore's distinctive chandeliers and vintage Fillmore and Fillmore East posters throughout.

Other improvements to Irving Plaza include upgraded artist dressing rooms, a renovated VIP section with dramatically improved sightlines and the addition of plasma screens throughout the club. "And the best is the apples at the door, just like the (original) Fillmore always had," Eskowitz said.

In addition to Allen, the opening evening at the Fillmore New York at Irving Plaza will feature DJ Aaron LaCrate and the Los Angeles-based duo the Bird and the Bee. The Philadelphia Fillmore debut is April 27 with Todd Rundgren headlining. Details of Detroit are still being determined.

Eskowitz declined to reveal the price tag of the initial Fillmore rollout, only that it's a "significant" amount of money.

"They're incredible clubs anyway," he said. "We believe this brings what's great about the Fillmore to these markets. Our goal as a company is to roll out Fillmores and House of Blues (clubs) in major markets."

Eskowitz said LN will be "very aggressive" in the small and midsize venues with the House of Blues and Fillmore brands.

"A lot of times people don't realize that we produce thousands and thousands of club shows a year," he said. "We do this all day, so I think you can look at us converting other buildings we have in North America to House of Blues or Fillmores, as well as continue to expand."

Ray Waddell is an executive director at Billboard.
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