“This is the first night at this joint,” Spoon singer/guitarist Britt Daniel remarked to the sold-out Teragram Ballroom crowd about an hour into the band’s 90-minute set on Sunday, May 31. “Who’s getting good Instagram photos of this place?”
Social jokes aside, the much-ballyhooed venue was worth the wait. First announced in February, it seemed at first like this was another attempt by a New York-based promoter to extend its reach to Los Angeles without regard to our city’s scene. After all, other Big Apple-based concert venues like Knitting Factory have attempted to replicate their success here and fallen flat.
But that didn’t deter Michael Swier, owner of Manhattan's Bowery Ballroom. And teaming up with Broadway Bar's Joe Baxley, Swier has created a venue could soon become known as one of L.A.'s best.
As you enter the Teragram, there’s plenty of space to navigate towards the two bar areas flanking the main corridor. Surprisingly, the drinks were reasonably priced ($5 for a can, up to $8 for the fancier stuff) and the plentiful space — a theme for the venue — in the bar area made it easy to snare a drink without waiting too long. Our only gripe with the bar is that it's the one part of the venue that forgets where it's located. The Ramones, Lou Reed and Debbie Harry were among those whose photos adorned the back wall — great artists, but all more associated with NYC than the City of Angels.
As for the room itself, to say it was impressive would be an understatement. The sight lines to the stage were nearly perfect. The Teragram was cozy enough to make you feel like you were a part of the show, yet large enough that you didn't feel trapped, as is sometimes the case at other small-to-mid-sized rooms like the Troubadour.
Opening with a band like Spoon is almost unfair. Coming off their show at the Wiltern, which is three times the size of the Teragram, Britt Daniel and company made sure that the room got the sparkling start it deserved. Throughout the night, the acoustics — aided by the slightly arched ceiling — were nearly perfect. That doesn’t usually happen on opening night. Despite the sterility and lack of sticky floors that comes with a new room, the Teragram has the potential to develop character like L.A.'s other venerable rock halls as it continues to evolve in stature and status.
The venue’s capacity falls in the sweet spot range — bigger than the Echo and Troubadour, but more intimate than the El Rey, which seems like a logical competitor. Despite its off-the-beaten-path location in the Westlake section of Downtown, the Teragram should quickly attract touring bands. Judging by its initial slate of announced shows, which includes The Allah-Las, Nick Waterhouse, Delta Spirit and Television, the venue will feature a mix of hometown and imported talent.
One potential issue: Parking in the area was a pain Sunday night, with only one $10 lot available and street parking at a premium. Concertgoers should plan to arrive relatively early for a prime spot.
While Spoon’s one-off club show may be an anomaly for this tour, don’t be surprised if bigger bands start using the room as a place to play smaller shows in between arena nights. If the Teragram’s first night is an indicator of what’s to come, this could be the start of a long, prosperous marriage between Michael Swier and the Los Angeles music scene.