GardenWalk, Anaheim, CA
Happy Thursday, kids! Today, we cap the other half of our coverage of House of Blues Anaheim's grand opening with a tour around the Main Hall concert space and a look at the Social Distortion concert that kicked off the first official operating night of the new Southern California House of Blues flagship. If you missed yesterday's coverage, click here to check out the other spaces at this new Anaheim entertainment venue.
The primary concert space is the 2200-seat Main Hall, a blown up version of the concert hall that existed at Downtown Disney. Like its predecessor, there is a general floor area on the first floor, while a tiered bandstand with a separated bar table VIP area lays out behind. Bars are located on each side, and a balcony area wraps around three sides above.
Those who've been to the old venue will recognize the same sort of thematic elements, but the expanded capacity definitely helps get more people in. Yet, even though it is over double the Downtown Disney size, this new Main Hall still feels relatively intimate--a testament to the proportions of the space. In addition, sound is vastly improved over the older House of Blues, mainly on account of the new speaker system and new acoustical treatment throughout the space. Vocals come out pretty clearly, even at a rock music volume level, and the instrumentals are pretty clear.
Circulation space into and around the Main Hall is also greatly expanded, allowing more elbow room for those entering and navigating around the hall. The floor itself can still get pretty packed, and the closer to the headliner, the more crowded the bar areas will become. But that's to be expected at most concerts.
As part of our coverage of the grand opening, members of the press were also allowed to see the Social Distortion concert that night. The benefit of my press pass allowed me into the photographer's pit for the first two openers, and I took advantage of that to snap a few photos of the opening acts.
Despite Social Distortion's reputation as a punk rock band, the openers of the night carried more of a country flare. Relative newcomer Jade Jackson and her band started things off with a solid half hour set of acoustic country tunes, all from her upcoming album, produced by Social D frontman Mike Ness. That explained the connection, but she more than showed that she was deserving of the backing with dulcet croons and crisp notes.
Continuing the country theme was Texas-native Paul Cauthen, who played a surprisingly lengthy 45 minute set as the second act. Cauthen's voice boomed strongly through the hall in a ringing baritone rather reminiscent of Elvis Presley. The songs were a mix of fast and slow twangs, though Cauthen's gospel influence marked a deliberateness to many of his songs. The set was a good way to show off the much improved acoustics of this House of Blues compared to the old by enhancing the pristine and pure vocal and musical notes of the set.
Finally, shortly after 10:00 in the evening, Orange County natives and punk rock legends Social Distortion took the stage. As many fans agreed, there were few more fitting bands to open up this new Orange County music haven than natives that have been pumping out punk rock for nearly four decades.
I've been to a few Social D shows at festivals before, but this was my first time seeing them headline. The set was a little different than what I expected, with a more country feel on several songs and slower paced hits to boot. The crowd was pretty lively in the front, with one or two circle pits forming for many songs, but elsewhere, the energy seemed more subdued than I would have expected. Other than during breaks and crowd acknowledgements from frontman Mike Ness, most people seemed to hold their cheers and applause.
Ness was full of interesting banter, though, which was often strange and entertaining and rambling--ranging from a ringing endorsement of NPR as the best source of real news to a sarcastic compliment about having the "best tweeter in the world" lead our country to semi-self-mocking commentary about the slower than usual tempo of some of the songs. Ultimately, the band rocked the House of Blues with their customary hits, like "Ball and Chain" and "Reach for the Sky," and even debuted some new songs from their upcoming eight record. By the time midnight rolled around, it was time to polish things off, as Mike Ness provided a misleading commentary on their next song, which was so slow, emphasizing it with deliberate guitar strokes as a musical intro, before revealing his swerve and launching into the band's famous cover of "Ring of Fire." The high ending note capped of a fun night and sent fans going home happy.
The House of Blues has already booked a plethora of artists over the next several months that should appeal to a large spectrum of music fans. From traditional local favorites like Save Ferris, Reel Big Fish, and Suburban Legends (yes, that cover and ska band of Disneyland Tomorrowland Terrace fame), to current popular Indie and Alternative artists like Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness, Sleigh Bells, The Kills, Death Cab for Cutie, and more, to hip hop/rap artists like Lil' Wayne and E-40 to even legends like Santana, there is probably an upcoming show that appeals to you. So grab some tickets and head over to Orange County's new premiere concert house. It's always a good thing to see more live music!
Architect. Photographer. Disney nerd. Haunt enthusiast. Travel bugged. Concert fiend. Asian.