BUZZED: Swedish synth-poppers Little Dragon are among the BMH’s first bookings.
The paint is barely dry on the loud red exterior of the Brighton Music Hall, but before the first band take the stage at the free “soft” opening Friday night, let me make one thing clear: the operators are aware the club is in Allston and not neighboring Brighton.
Perhaps more controversial than replacing Harpers Ferry, with its 40-year history, was the selection of the new venue’s name. Ryan Vangel of Boston Opera House Ventures is often reminded that the spot is located in Allston (though it is on Brighton Avenue). Despite being a transient college ’hood, Allston Rock City does have its pride.
“We wanted to start fresh, go in a new direction and choose a new name,” he tells me from his Live Nation offices in Cambridge. He debated several variations — Allston-Brighton Music Hall, Allston Music Hall, etc. — but was drawn to the May 1964 battle of mods versus rockers at the English seaside resort town of Brighton, as profiled in Quadrophenia.
“There’s the connection to the UK, the whole mods-and-rockers thing, it’s on Brighton Avenue, and it has a cool ring to it,” Vangel sums up. “The name seemed to click the most.”
Although the reconstruction won’t be completed until next month, BMH will have a layout similar to Harpers’, with the addition of “rock art” on the tall brick walls and the transformation of the back pool room (complete with new restrooms) into something like what the Paradise Lounge has, a space where folks can chill out and watch the Red Sox games away from the live stage. The televisions and neon signs have been removed from the renovated bar area, and the front pool area has morphed into a box office with a street-access window. Vangel explains, “We want to make it feel like a music venue and nothing but a music venue.”
The old Harpers Ferry sound system was sold to T. T. the Bear’s. In its place is a new 48-channel digital board. “It should,” Vangel argues, “sound better than a room twice its size.”
The 340-capacity BMH is designed as a developmental room for larger venues like the ’Dise and Live Nation’s House of Blues (both of which Vangel books). “I had every single tribute band call me to book gigs,” he points out, “but I want to do original music and develop those bands. Like at the Paradise, we’ll try to do a little bit of everything, but the primary focus is buzzy indie-rock bands.”
After Friday’s soft launch, BMH will host its first ticketed gig on Saturday with the Nate Wilson Group and Sun Jones. Things kick into indie-rock overdrive next week, with Swedish synth-poppers Little Dragon on January 19, Los Angeles retro-soul buzzers Fitz & the Tantrums on January 20, and punk laureate Ted Leo on January 21. Notable future gigs include Brahms (February 25), Cults (April 1), and Toro y Moi (April 9).