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Bill Graham Legacy Lives On: House of Blues Opens Philly Fillmore

Bill Graham (foreground) with Jerry Garcia of The Grateful Dead at Fillmore East in New York City in 1968.

Bill Graham (foreground) with Jerry Garcia of The Grateful Dead at Fillmore East in New York City in 1968.

The dazzling new Fillmore music hall opened last week at the historic Ajax Metal Company Plant in Philadelphia’s Fishtown district, carrying out the vision of founder Bill Graham, who pioneered the rock club 50 years ago this December.

The opening marked the culmination of a multi-million dollar transformation of a WWI munitions factory into a beautiful music factory, 2015 style.

The Philly Fillmore is the seventh to open in the United States under the auspices of House of Blues Entertainment. The latest addition to a legendary group of music venues traces its lineage to rock’s golden era.

Graham opened the original Fillmore Auditorium in 1965 in San Francisco. He opened a second larger location, the Fillmore East, in 1968 on Second Avenue near East 6th St. in lower Manhattan. Thereafter, the San Francisco venue became more commonly known as Fillmore West.

The venues became the gateway for such counter-culture acts as The Grateful Dead, The Steve Miller Band, Jefferson Airplane, Quicksilver Messenger Service, The Doors and Jimi Hendrix Experience.

Graham died in a helicopter crash in 1991. As a tribute, his family renovated and reopened the original Fillmore Auditorium.

Live Nation has leased and operated the brand since 2007, under its House of Blues Entertainment division. It’s opened a string of new venues, much in the Graham tradition, by restoring old venues or historic buildings.

Before Philadelphia, a Fillmore in suburban Washington, D.C. was its most recent club, opening in late 2011 in an old department store building.

The Fillmore Philadelphia will showcase incredible state-of-the-art production, vintage poster art, VIP amenities and friendly hospitality. It includes a club-within-the-club called The Foundry.

Philly’s own Hall & Oates opened the club and delivered a brilliant set of all their jukebox million sellers. Best delivered were “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling,” “Do What You Want, Be What You Are” and “Las Vegas Turnaround.”

Original ‘60s Fillmore Poster Artist Bonnie MacLean was also on hand, as was the son of the Fillmore founder.

I’ve known these guys for almost 40 years and they’re better than ever. The club is gorgeous and a welcome addition to the newly-vibrant Philly music scene.

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