The first House of Blues opened in Harvard Square in 1992. Soon after, the narrow second-floor club became the smallest venue in the ever-expanding company’s chain — not to mention the only House of Blues that actually specialized in blues and roots music. It was shuttered in the fall of 2003. But the company — which has 11 House of Blues clubs across North America and a 12th being built in Houston — always promised that, like the Terminator, it would be back. And it will be, when the space on Lansdowne Street that has housed Patrick Lyons’s clubs for more than a quarter century — most recently, Avalon and Axis — reopens for business.
The HOB chain, which was bought out in 2006 by Bigfoot event-producer (and Clear Channel stepchild) Live Nation, has leased the Fenway real estate from Lyons, who will continue to consult about rebuilding plans. Lyons’s company, That’s Entertainment Inc., closed the club complex in October, after one last Dropkick Murphys show. He was planning to construct a new multi-use facility, the Lansdowne Music Hall, from what had been Avalon, Axis, and the Embassy bar. Instead, he accepted an offer from the House of Blues, which has plans for a $14 million, 50–55,000-square-foot facility. It will incorporate a 2500-plus concert hall (with 400 seats and VIP boxes), a casual HOB restaurant, and an upscale Foundation Room dining area. HOB senior vice-president Aidan Scully says the latter will be “eclectic” and feature “five-star dining.”
Scully, who managed the Cambridge House of Blues for five years and is now based in Cleveland, says the chain is “aggressively targeting the end of the year for opening.” Renovation should begin within the next week.
“The general space plan is done,” he says. “We’re working on tweaking the look and feel. First and foremost, we want it to be unlike anything Boston has in terms of a live-music experience, to make it a fantastic opportunity to enjoy sightlines, ambience, and sound.”
Scully says the building’s façade will more or less remain as is. And, like the large House of Blues complexes in Los Angeles, Chicago, and even New Orleans, the club will likely book the same kind of national touring rock acts that Avalon and Axis catered to, rather than the kind of blues artists who were the mainstays at the Cambridge location.
Lansdowne Street is not all the company has planned for New England. It will open another House of Blues at Mohegan Sun in 2010. What they all will share, Scully says, is that none will have a “cookie cutter” design and all will be open to different genres of music.