I was a little sad when I first heard I.M.P. was opening another club in DC. I love the 9:30 club so much. I’ve been going there for longer than I haven’t been. Why change it up? Why mess with perfection?
Then last night I walked into The Anthem for the first time… and it all made sense.
There’s a big, classy lobby when you first enter. A glass elevator rises up to the terrace area from near the entrance, with access to balcony levels above. Cymbals hang like tiny spaceships in the three story atrium, leading to a crab’s eye view of a rooftop swimming pool (unfortunately, part of nearby condos, not the club.)
Moving out of the lobby and into the concert hall… the space is enormous. The floor is probably twice the size of 9:30, the balcony 3 or 4x bigger. The stage is huge, too – I can picture it supporting an orchestra-sized act with no problem. If they weren’t going to call this place The Anthem (which is a great name) #930OperaHouse would have worked, too.
There’s an outdoor balcony right above the club entrance and marquee, looking out onto the channel, with a view of the Lincoln Memorial dome poking up above the treeline. Add Anthem to the short list of places in DC where you can have a great time with a view of the waterfront.
9:30’s rewards program, “Friends with Benefits” has been giving me loyalty “points” since who knows when. Apparently these points accumulated to a point where they tapped me to come for this secret show, pre-official-opening. The performer wasn’t announced until showtime, but internet rumors came true: Andrew WK took the stage. And believe this: if you have a nightclub, and you need a stress-test for it, Andrew WK is your guy. He parties hard. It’s what he does.
Deciding where to watch the show from was, and will probably always be, the hardest part of showing up at Anthem – there’s great sight lines all over, and the space felt large enough that even with a sellout crowd, there would always be an open spot with a stage view.
Giant light panels programmed to look like curtains flanked each side of the stage. I can’t wait to come back and see the visuals artists will come up with for those. (So when is the first Radiohead show going to be??) Everything about the look and feel of the place embodies 9:30.
The floor area is an ocean of smooth concrete. Maybe not as perfect for dancing as 9:30’s parquet, but immediately I started picturing Boyz II Men performing with Naughty by Nature on “Roller-Skate Night @ The Anthem.” Seriously, the floor is perfect for it. Lace up those skates!
After stumbling around, jaw-agape at the awesomeness, I was thirsty. Lucky me, there are three bars on each level…. But, I do feel obligated to throw a tiny dart here – and it should be an easy fix – one of the classiest things about 9:30 is how there’s always pitchers of water sitting on the bar. Not so at Anthem (yet.) Hydrate your customers! (Maybe work on the food-ordering system, too… but people should really be eating before they show up for a concert.)
There are going to be a few minor growing pains, little quirks from 9:30 that got lost in translation – but nothing serious enough to tarnish what will now be the best concert experience in DC (and maybe in the entire USA.)
Some other random observations:
There’s a section on the second floor balcony that’s right on top of the stage and doesn’t have seats. The view is amazing but it’s behind the speakers, so go here for sight over sound.
Ceiling lights that were flashing onto the crowd during the set were really, really bright. Maybe they’ll dim with age? Or maybe Andrew WK was just partying too fucking hard for me.
No beer shelf above the urinals?! But… the bathrooms are huge, and they’re everywhere – and there isn’t a tiny little hallway you have to squeeze through to get into them (a la 9:30)
While the curtain was open on the side of the stage during the show, it seemed like I was looking straight into the bus/truck loading dock. Not sure if they will always leave that open, but it was kind of distracting. Probably nice for the crews to be able to load and unload so close to the stage though.
Not Anthem’s fault: Outside it seemed like there was only one elevator to get back down to the parking garage. As construction for other Wharf stuff winds down it will probably get easier, but could be confusing/crowded at first.
Overall, this place is amazing. Can’t wait to keep going back, for many, many years.