For more than two years, Another Planet Entertainment has been quietly working with the creator of iconic venues like Manhattan’s Mercury Lounge and LA’s Teragram Ballroom to launch a new 1,600-capacity venue in downtown Los Angeles — with a goal to shake up the city’s highly competitive venue landscape.
The real estate for The Bellwether, located at 333 Boylston between third and fourth streets just west of downtown and the 110 freeway, was discovered in 2020 by Michael Swier, one of the original partners in New York’s Bowery Presents and an owner of the Teragram and the Moroccan Lounge. Hoping to keep the project off the radar of better financed competitors, Swier began looking for a partner on the 49,000 sq-ft- multi-genre performance space, with an open GA floor, wrap around balcony, multiple bars, a commercial kitchen and a private 600-capacity event space.
333 Boylston has mostly been occupied by night club operators the past three decades, including Prince, who named the night spot after his song “Glam Slam” and from 1992 to 1995 adorned it with huge purple dance floors, heavy gold mesh fabric and a jewel-strewn bed cradled in a sculpted hand from Prince’s Erotic City concert tour. What followed was nearly three failed decades of trying to operate the multilevel space as a dance club. Thinking a music performance venue was a better fit, Swier would eventually find a partner, striking a deal with Another Planet Entertainment’s Gregg Perloff and Allen Scott to partner on a long-term lease and two-year renovation effort expected to wrap up this spring.
Scott and Swier were at the Bellwether earlier this week, touring the sprawling complex which will also house a year-round bar and restaurant, a 600-capacity private event space and offices for both Another Planet and Telegraph Road Management, Laurence Freedmans management company whose clients include Billy Idol, Mike Campbell, Benmont Tench, Cherry Glazerr, Miya Folick and Advertisement. The Bellwether is Another Planet’s first foray into Los Angeles, hometown turf for APE’s two main competitors in the Bay Area where Perloff and company operate the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, the Greek Theate, Oakland’s Fox Theatre, the independent and San Francisco’s famed Castro Theater, currently under renovation. Live Nation’s holdings in San Francisco include the Fillmore and the recently opened August Hall, while AEG operates the Warfield, the Regency Ballroom and the Great American Hall.
LA’s venue landscape is even more crowded with each company operating a half-dozen venues in the city and independently owned venues like the Troubadour, Largo and the Knitting Factory in North Hollywood. Size wise, the Bellwethers 1,600-capacity lands it between the Live Nation-owned Wiltern Theater (1,850 capacity) and AEG’s El Rey Theater (1,200).
Swier, a New Yorker who recently bought a loft in LA in preparation for the opening of his third venue in the city, is a highly accomplished venue designer and independent live music operator who along with his late wife Margaret and architect brother Brian Swier is best known for New York’s iconic Bowery Ballroom and Mercury Lounge. Swier is a co-founder of New York powerhouse promotion company Bowery Presents and is responsible for relaunching and redesigning Terminal 5 and the Music Hall of Williamsburg. Swier would eventually part ways with Bowery Presents, and in 2017, Bowery would sell a 50% stake in the company to AEG.
Perloff’s career has parallels to Swier – the Maryland native had a knack for concert promotion in college and caught the attention of legendary San Francisco promoter Bill Graham, who famously hired a young Perloff to avoid competing with him. Perloff became Graham’s understudy, and together with longtime BGP pioneer Sherry Wasserman, the three created the business model for the contemporary concert business. After Graham died in a helicopter crash, BGP was sold to SFX and eventually became one of the core components of Live Nation, which stills owns and manages the bulk of the BGP venue portfolio.
Perloff and Wasserman founded Another Planet in 2003 and launched the Outside Lands festival in 2008. Today it is the largest independently operated festival in the U.S., according to Billboard.
Swier didn’t know much about Perloff prior to reaching out to him in 2020 to discuss a potential partnership for the building. Both men decided to keep the project, keeping every detail of the project out of the public domain as they worked to sign the lease and then begin renovations. The stealth campaign worked – maybe too well. Months away from opening, the partners realized they needed to reach out to agents to start booking the building, which would end the secrecy. In fact, today’s decision to announce the existence of the project was made yesterday, a week earlier than planned. Meetings and private tours of the Bellwether are planned for next week during the annual Pollstar Live! conference in Los Angeles.