Sept. 20--When Ardmore Music Hall opens with a show by The Holmes Brothers Sept. 20, it will be the newest Philadelphia-area music venue. But it also has a rich history.
The building starting as 23 East Cabaret, which in the 1980s presented acts such as Phish, Buddy Guy, Derek Trucks, Dave Mathews Band, Blues Traveler, Hootie & The Blowfish, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Joan Osborne and John Hiatt.
It also played a pivotal role in the early careers of 1980s acts The Hooters and Tommy Conwell & The Young Rumblers, who went on to national prominence. Later, the venue became Brownie's 23 East, which was known mostly for cover bands but also offered Cheap Trick and Los Lobos. Brownie's closed in 2009.
But when people enter the room, "You're not going to be like, 'It's just like I remembered it,' 'cause it's not," says Jesse Lundy, a promoter with Point Entertainment, which is booking the hall with Bryan Dilworth of Bonfire Booking.
"The ideas everyone brought to the table will bring a whole new life to the room," says Joe Rufo, who has owned the building through its many incarnations.
Lundy says the idea was to re-brand the room as something new.
"We felt that it was important to give it a fresh start with a fresh name," he says.
Richard Kardenen, Lundy's business partner, helped redesign the room, "losing some of the signs on the walls, changing the interior color, just freshening it up."
There also were significant operational changes: The lighting has been redesigned, and the stage -- "which for years was sort of an issue there," Lundy says -- was moved from one side to now have the artist face the whole room. And the sound system, Lundy says, "is shockingly awesome."
Also changed are approaches to both the venues offerings and presentation of the acts.
"It will be very, very diverse," Lundy says. "Part of what makes the partnership with Bonfire so interesting is that we all come from very different places musically."
Bonfire has a good knowledge of country music and electronic dance music and booked former "American Idol" contestant Casey James for Sept. 26 and DJ Bl3nd Oct. 23.
Lundy booked blues guitarist Ana Popovic for Oct. 3 and roots band Steep Banyon Rangers for Nov. 22. Scotland's Battlefield Band and Harleysville-based Irish band Burning Bridget Cleary play Sept. 25.
Officials expect to book the room aggressively: Thirty shows already are lined up into early November.
The venue's capacity will be capped, for now, at 300 for a seated show and 600 for a standing show. Some shows are all ages; some are 21 and over.
"We don't want to have a club that's just wall-to-wall," Lundy says. "We want people to be comfortable in there, that's important."
There also will be a higher level of food, from Firinji restaurant in Ardmore, including vegan offerings. Parking in near by lots is free after 5 p.m.
--John J. Moser
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