Silver Spring’s Fillmore Takes The Music Scene By Storm

27 Oct
October 27, 2011

If you thought you heard the sounds of heavy bass and thumping beats emanating from near Washington, D.C. on Wednesday night, you weren’t mistaken. One of the largest acts in electronic music history took the stage at one of the best venues in the area.

But he wasn’t spinning at the 9:30 Club or Merriweather Post Pavilion or Jiffy Lube Live. No, Moby, one of the best-selling artists in music history, was not playing at a traditional Washington, D.C. venue. He spent Wednesday night in Silver Spring.

What could attract a mainstream act to go outside this city’s confines and popular spots? One of the biggest and best music venues to hit the scene in decades.

On Thursday, September 15th, just a little over a month ago, the Fillmore in Silver Spring, Maryland burst on to the scene with a raucous Mary J. Blige concert. Ever since then, it’s been packed with acts, household names that have sold out the place even on weeknights. The Fillmore is making what was once a quiet suburb bordering Northwest, D.C. the place to see music in the area.

If the name rings a bell, it’s because the Fillmore takes its cues from one of the most historic sites in music history. In the early 1960s, the original Fillmore opened in downtown San Francisco in the midst of the burgeoning Bay Area music scene. There, it played host to some of the most famous names of the Woodstock-era, with the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane and Sly and the Family Stone all taking the stage.

As its popularity grew, the owner opened a sister location in New York, and eventually the Fillmore name became synonymous with showcasing top draws. Later on, the brand was purchased by concert behemoth LiveNation, and they’ve been opening a string of Fillmore’s across the country. The Silver Spring location is their Fillmore foray into Washington, D.C.

They couldn’t have picked a better location than 8656 Colesville Road. The spot is barely a mile past the D.C. border, just off of 16th Street. And the area around the concert venue is one of the D.C. metro area’s developing spots.

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The venue itself, if traveling down Colesville, is impossible to miss. The Fillmore is inside an old J.C. Penney’s, which developers spent nearly a decade attempting to get permission to renovation into a concert hall.

When they finally secured the permit, they went bold. The exterior channels an art-deco homage, with a giant, sparkling Fillmore sign, 20 yards wide and 15 feet of the ground, screaming to passersby. Next to the marquee is a constantly flickering tower of lights that represents the bars of an equalizer. It’s a spectacle, but one that doesn’t seem out of place.

The inside recreates the atmosphere of the original Fillmore in San Francisco. Dancers groove on hardwood floors with gigantic chandeliers—a Fillmore trait—hanging over them. Along the walls hanging burgundy curtains, just like the original spot. The hallways pay tribute to the amazing acts that have passed through the original Fillmore, with concert posters from shows by Tom Jones, the B-52s, Joan Jett and hundreds of others. Above the dance floor is a tiered-balcony, typically reserved for VIP access, which calls to mind the balcony at the 9:30 Club.

The size of the Fillmore already makes it one of the largest concert halls in the area, capable of holding over 2,000 people for a single show. And while they’ve already seen some of the most popular acts in music pass through their doors in just a brief month, they have no intentions of slowing down. The next few months the Fillmore will host Kid Rock, Ziggy Marley, LMFAO and, in December, 80s sensation Cheap Trick.

Since it only just opened last month, the odds are that you haven’t visited the Fillmore yet. So check the schedule and be sure to visit the most happening spot in Silver Spring.

- David

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