House of Blues at Downtown Disney has hosted 4,000 shows in the 15 years since it opened on January 12, 2001. The first band to play at the then-new venue was Fullerton-born alternative rock band Lit.
Fittingly, Lit played one of the final house shows before it closed on May 31, also marking the band's 15th performance at the popular venue.
"They let us know and it was good," said literary guitarist Jeremy Popoff of playing the House of Blues Downtown Disney during its final hours. "Fortunately, 15 years later, we're still playing. We're still rocking and selling House of Blues."
While the fans and talent who have made the venue a regular music destination over the years will clearly feel the loss of the venue, they have something to look forward to with a new House of Blues nearby, opening at the Anaheim GardenWalk in early November.
This first House of Blues built in 10 years, and the last in Houston, promises to be twice the size of the former Anaheim venue and one of the most technologically advanced in the chain of 12 venues.
"It's bigger, but because of what we've learned and the way we're designing it, it's going to have that big psychedelic vibe that House of Blues is known for," said Ron Bension, president of House of Blues Entertainment, a division of Live Nation Entertainment, which operates the House of Blues venues.
The reason for the change is really as simple as space. With seating for just 1,000 people in the main music hall, seating for 250 people in the restaurant, and a total of 23,000 square feet in the Downtown Disney location, the House of Blues management needed a location with a little more room to move. , something he found on the Garden Walk.
The new location will have 2,200 seats in the music hall, 400 seats in The Parish, 150-175 seats in the Foundation Room, 325 seats in the restaurant and a total square footage of over 40,000.
The House of Blues' Foundation Room has always been the ultimate experience for music lovers, say employees at the company, which offers a higher level of premium service through its VIP membership program. But with Downtown Disney, there wasn't enough space to build The Foundation Room, officials said.
Most House of Blues venues include a Foundation Room. Many of them have a second venue that is used for live shows and private events such as conferences and weddings. In New Orleans and Anaheim, this space is called The Parish. Other markets have different names for these spaces.
The new House of Blues Anaheim will also have four performance spaces (one in each of the main sections) compared to just one performance space at the previous location.
"It's a small space for mini-festivals," said Bension. "We could literally have four different bands playing in the building."
With the increase in size comes the need for more employees. The plan is for the new House of Blues Anaheim to add 100 seats to its current staff.
As the newest House of Blues, the new Anaheim venue will be equipped with all the bells and whistles, including an updated design and state-of-the-art sound technology. The technical team designed the sound system based on extensive studies to create an ideal soundscape, "so there are no hot spots in the sound," Bension said.
Music should sound evenly distributed if the guests are at the bar or closer to the stage.
"Audio technology changes monthly, weekly, yearly, and we'll be able to have the latest and greatest at every level," he said.
Designers also refined the lines of the new space. The music hall will have a multi-level floor plan to optimize the view of the stage. The lower level will be the general entrance to the standing room, the second will be primarily for seating, and the third will be the mezzanine floor plus additional seating behind it.
"I'd like to say there are more front rows than any other [House of Blues] venue," Bension said.
Additionally, seating capacity can be adjusted based on the needs of a particular show.
The music will transition to the indoor/outdoor Crossroads Restaurant and Bar, featuring classic American and Southern-inspired cuisine.
"We'll be able to have live music every night inside the restaurant," said Bension.
The size of the restaurant can also be changed by closing sections to accommodate a specific audience for a more intimate feel, and the same goes for the music hall.
Art is another theme that will continue at the new House of Blues location, including an excellent collection of American folk art mixed with contemporary street and regional artists.
As for GardenWalk, a rarely visited dining, shopping and entertainment complex, which is the new location, Bension expects plenty of visitors.
"I think we're going to add tremendous value to GardenWalk as a whole," he said. "We know we're driving traffic... When Social Distortion comes out, we know there will be 2,000 people."
Jonathan Mayblum, part of the GardenWalk ownership group, believes the House of Blues will be a great asset to the center.
"We expect the House of Blues to attract hundreds of thousands of people to our project each year, leading to a dramatic increase in foot traffic," he said.
Mayblum added, "Following the completion of major physical improvements to the GardenWalk, locating the House of Blues at the Disney Way entrance to the GardenWalk is the last step in our plan to connect and activate the entire property."
15 years of OC music history
One of the things that made House of Blues Anaheim stand out in Orange County was the diversity of its music, according to Sean Striegel, senior vice president of music for Live Nation. Striegel was the original talent agent for House of Blues Anaheim and was with the venue from its opening until 2007.
"She stood out," he said. "It was really the first space that had a little bit of everything."
From blues to reggae and punk rock to Latin music to dance music and everything in between, she said, "Everything was represented, everything was supported, and everything was performed by an amazing group of people and an amazing crew."
Striegel's recollections of the shows he helped put together are extensive and impressive.
There was the Foo Fighters benefit in 2003. "It was amazing," he said.
In 2001, the Toys for Tots charity event featured Zebrahead, Lit, Reel Big Fish and the Handsome Devil.
“It was the first year the place was open,” he said, expressing his surprise at the names he was able to pull out.
Ozomatli, a Latin/world/hip hop/rock band from Los Angeles, played several shows at the House of Blues Anaheim. Striegel said it's a fun band that likes to be creative.
“We had the idea of basically doing a three-day fan appreciation day with them,” he recalls. "One day we called it the Ozomatli ice cream social ... In fact, the band was the one who brought, served and made ice cream for all the people who bought tickets."
And of course there were countless legends like James Brown, John Lee Hooker (in the first week the place opened) and Jerry Lee Lewis.
"They were really funny and amazing performances," said Striegel. "Four nights of Duran Duran, it was crazy."
The venue has become home to the likes of X, The Damned, Tiger Army, Bad Religion and Flogging Molly. If one band became synonymous with Orange County and House of Blues, it was Social Distortion, Striegel said.
“I mean Social Distortion is Orange County,” he said.
The venue was buzzing with many talented performers and big names: "There was a show almost every night," Striegel said, putting Orange County on the map.
“Yes, there were other places in Orange County, but one of the great things that House of Blues Anaheim did was make Orange County a route destination,” he said. "This space changed how artists' paths were viewed and really made the industry realize that there was another market outside of Los Angeles and north of San Diego."
Yes, there were other places in Orange County, but one of the great things House of Blues Anaheim did was make Orange County a touring destination.
I look forward
The new building arrives at an important time for House of Blues Entertainment as it begins to celebrate 25 years since its original Cambridge, Massachusetts operation, House of Blues on November 23, 1992.
With 12 locations across the country (although the Sunset Strip location closed last year, a new Los Angeles location is in the works), the company has played many memorable, even historic, shows over the years.
"What House of Blues did 25 years ago and continues to do is make the live music experience not just about the band, but about the night, the atmosphere...and the overall experience," said Bension. “We invest time and energy into improving what bands do so well… That's what House of Blues stands for. That's what we do and that's what we're known for."
While there is certainly sadness at the closing of the House of Blues at Downtown Disney, there is also great anticipation as construction continues nearby, Striegel said. He said he hopes the new location will have some familiar faces and familiar elements from the old one.
"I think they got it right," Striegel said. "I think they're really building a perfect music space for Orange County."
While Popoff said Lit doesn't have anything in the books yet for the new House of Blues Anaheim, the band definitely wants to play there.
"It's funny, House of Blues is almost a time capsule of sorts... wherever you go in the country, you walk in and you feel like you're coming home," he said.
Highlights of House of Blues Anaheim
The lineup for House of Blues' new venue has yet to be set, but it's a great time to revisit the music that kept the old venue going.
January 14, 2001:John Lee Hooker
July, 19:something corporate
October 19th:Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros
February 7, 2003:Foo Fighters
November 20, 2004:Etta James (one of many)
December 31th:The Doors of the 21st Century
January 16, 2005:diapers
March 24th:Fall Out Boy
September 21st:Dead Men Walking – Mike Peters por The Alarm, Slim Jim Phantom por Stray Cats, Captain Sensible por The Damned, Kirk Brandon por Spear of Destiny
August 10, 2006:Justin Timberlake
November 3:the cramps
January 13, 2007:the family stone
may 2nd:Britney Spears
September 14th:the roots
February 13, 2008:Common with Kanye West
28th of April:A Beautiful Noise — Benefício familiar de Mike Conley com Social D, M.I.A., Cadillac Tramps, Jigsaw e Naked Soul
May 2, 2009:Chris Cornell
January 19, 2010:Retribuindo a Gabby — Beneficio para Gabby Gaborno with Manic Hispanic, Pennywise, Adolescents, Cadillac Tramps and The Crowd
January 19, 2011:willie nelson
January 25th:cylinder head
February 7th:bb rey
December 5, 2012:social distortion
March 19, 2013:Imagine Dragons
July 26:the worship
October 29th:tori kelly
January 14, 2014:Janelle Monáe
January 29, 2016:octopus lynching
A few miles from Disneyland, a Fullerton grandpa is building his own magical kingdom
For Muslims, fasting during Ramadan provides an opportunity for self-reflection and spiritual rejuvenation.
His landscape drawings assume the (idiosyncratic) vision of an artist