The Fillmore looks back on a year of entertainment -- Gazette.Net



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This story was updated on Sept. 11, 2012.

On Thursday, rockers The J. Geils Band take the stage at The Fillmore, almost one year to the day after the Silver Spring club opened its doors with the soulful sounds of R&B superstar Mary J. Blige.

In that one-year span, The Fillmore general manager Stephanie Steele says the venue accomplished what it set out to do: establish itself as a top-notch entertainment spot.

“We’ve definitely accomplished that goal,” says Steele. “We’ve really touched a lot of different genres in types of entertainment that we showcase here.”

According to Steele, since its first show on Sept. 15, 2011, The Fillmore, which is owned and operated by Los Angeles-based entertainment giant LiveNation, has welcomed 140,000 people to over 150 events and 35 sold out shows. The venue has played host to a wide range of performers, serving up a little taste of everything for the melting pot that is downtown Silver Spring.

“They do have a diverse selection,” says Lauren Lee of Silver Spring. Lee was in the audience at The Fillmore on opening night to see Mary J. Blige. “I think it really [represents] downtown Silver Spring.”

“I think they have a broad sense of taste,” adds Leslie Brown-Savary, who lives in Silver Spring and has been to two shows at The Fillmore in the last year.

Acts ranging from Grammy-award winner John Legend to metal rockers Steel Panther, a Bruce Springsteen cover band, and comedians Lewis Black and Adam Carolla have all performed at the club this year.

The Fillmore even catered to younger audiences, with an appearance by teenage heartthrob Cody Simpson, and Sunday afternoon shows from Silver Spring dad Dave Brewer and the Pre-K Kings.

Despite showcasing some well-known artists, both Lee and Brown-Savary say they wish The Fillmore featured more big names on a more regular basis.

“I remember looking at the upcoming month’s [acts] and I had never heard of any of the people,” says Lee.

“I was down there on a Saturday night and I was shocked there wasn’t a show,” adds Brown-Savary. “On Saturday night, there should always be a show.”

The Fillmore in Silver Spring is part of a larger enterprise. The original Fillmore auditorium in San Francisco was made popular by legendary rock promoter Bill Graham. In the 1960s, it served as an underground hot spot for rock music. The franchise has since expanded with venues now in Charlotte, Detroit and Miami.

Bringing The Fillmore to Silver Spring was no easy task. The concert hall is located on Colesville Road in what used to be a J.C. Penney department store, although the space had been vacant since 1989. Planning for The Fillmore started nearly 10 years ago, and after several setbacks, construction finally got under way in August 2010.

The concert hall, which holds 2,000 people standing and 500 seated, features some classic elements from other Fillmore locations, including concert posters, red velvet curtains and chandeliers.

“It’s really nice,” says Thomas Plihal, also of Silver Spring. Plihal saw DJ Porter Robinson at The Fillmore in June. “There’s a lot of room ... nice lounge area in the basement ...”

Not only has the addition of The Fillmore helped put Silver Spring on the map as an entertainment destination, but the concert hall has also given a boost to the surrounding area.

“[The Fillmore] helps bring a lot more people to the community,” says Steele. “Local restaurants have been very good at responding ... to more people before shows.”

“It’s a great addition to the community,” says Elizabeth Spencer. The 25-year-old, who now lives in Chicago, grew up in Bethesda and went to see rapper Wale at The Fillmore last October.

Spencer and others draw parallels between The Fillmore and another famous Washington, D.C., live music venue the 9:30 Club.

Although she says she was impressed by the layout and sound at The Fillmore, Spencer says the club still has some work to do in order to compete with 9:30.

“I think Silver Spring needs to build up a little more,” says Spencer. “I think they need to prove themselves a little bit.”

Spencer says she hopes The Fillmore can win over new audiences in its second year.

“We always strive to have new types of entertainment,” says Steele. “Coming up in September, we have a Japanese band and an artist from Senegal.”

Steele says she also hopes to see an expansion in the types of events The Fillmore hosts. Two weeks ago the concert hall hosted its first baby shower, and Steele says bar and bat mitzvahs — and even weddings — may be in the future.

“[I hope] people really think of us not just as an entertainment venue, but a place where you can make your dreams come true,” says Steele. “If you can imagine it, The Fillmore is the place to have your event.”

chedgepeth@gazette.net