The Bellwether, L.A.’s New Music Venue, Is Ready For Its Close-Up

After years of hesitation, hope, doubt and plenty of construction, Michael Swier of Teragram Presents and Another Planet Entertainment’s Gregg Perloff are finally ready to open the doors to The Bellwether, Los Angeles’ new mid-sized independent venue located just outside downtown.

The new 1,600-capacity nightlife destination will have its grand opening tonight with electronic rock duo Phantogram, who haven’t performed in L.A. in three years, and Swier couldn’t help but marvel at the sight of his new project 24 hours ahead of the first show.

“I’m still pinching myself,” Swier tells Pollstar. “It’s hard to believe it’s happening. I couldn’t have asked for a better venue. It’s one of the best that’s been made.”

Coming from a music impresario responsible for venues such as Moroccan Lounge and Teragram Ballroom in L.A. and New York’s Bowery Ballroom, that’s saying a lot. Swier teamed up with Another Planet Entertainment (APE) to take over a structure on 333 South Boylston St. that was once owned by Prince and had gone through several facelifts. The building needed a lot of work, and Swier said he’d only get involved if he could get Perloff on board. When the two agreed to join forces, Swier and his brother Brian, an architect and co-founder of Bowery Ballroom, began working on the design of the building and APE used their connections in getting artists to the venue. The two parties really hit it off, making the process of redeveloping the site a lot smoother.

“We’ve enjoyed [our relationship],” says Perloff, co-founder and CEO of APE. “Michael is a leader in a lot of rooms in New York. They have their different skills, and we have our different skills, and we haven’t really stepped on each other a lot.”

Stage Bellwether
The Bellwether’s stage with unimpeded sightlines.

One of the major changes to the structure was the removal of four columns in the main music room, which meant the ceiling and roof had to be redone as well, and a wall behind the stage was pushed back. The changes not only opened up the space and improved sightlines but framed the venue better. The Bellwether also boasts a restaurant and bar above the main music room as well as an open-air lounge with a view of the city and neighboring mountains.

Swier believes the modifications to the 45,000-square-foot building and location make it a special venue, even in a saturated L.A. market.

“It’s the size, the scale; the way the stage is framed, the capacity, the way that the audience and the band are like at most 50 feet away from each other. So, it’s a big venue and very intimate,” Swier says about what makes The Bellwether special. “It’s a real old school, flat floor, ballroom-type structure. That’s rare in New York or Los Angeles because you see these old movie theaters reconfigured. There’s a lot of that. I think you can do one or two and it’s cool, but how many do you need that will look like that? Everything just fit in [The Bellwether].”

For Perloff, what makes his new music venue unique is the sound system, which he claims is truly “state of the art.”

“The fact that we have been tuning our d&b system, which is a great system, to the room for three weeks,” he says. “It’s not just the sound system, it’s the acoustics and tuning it to the room.”

Phantogram will be the first artists to test The Bellwether’s sound system and will be followed by acts such as TYCHO, HAIM, Wilco, Tegan and Sara and Carly Rae Jepsen over the next few months. Swier envisions the new venue to be a way to feature established artists as well as up-and-coming acts graduating from his other venues in L.A., similar to the vertical ecosystem he implemented in New York.

APE talent buyer Nick Barrie takes pride in the work he and his team have accomplished leading up to the first show and building an eclectic opening lineup, and he has plans to bring more genres to the venue, including metal and Latin acts.

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A restaurant and bar with an open-air lounge area just outside are located above the main music room.

“It was really important to me out of the gate to say to people, ‘Hey, this is a place that’s inclusive, offers a wide variety of talent and everyone is welcome here,’” Barrie says. “It’s a safe, fun place, and I think the calendar speaks to that.”

Inclusivity is also important to Perloff, who trained staff to be humane and treat attendees with respect, and he hopes it goes both ways so that fans take care of his project. Another selling point from Perloff is affordable parking. The Bellwether is negotiating deals with surrounding parking lots to make it inexpensive, which is a welcome bonus for Los Angelenos used to paying at least $30 for parking when attending events.

“I want people to feel like this is the home away from home,” says Perloff, whose concert promotion and artist management company is based in the Bay Area. “And respect the building. We spent a lot of time making it beautiful, and I hope they take care of it and appreciate it. We want [The Bellwether] to be something that all people embrace.”