New York City likes to tear down its past to make way for the future. But that’s not what happened when Blue Note decided to turn the Theater District’s Jazz Age-era jewel the Diamond Horseshoe into its newest concert venue, Sony Hall.
“When we saw the space initially, we were in awe,” recalls Jordy Freed, vice president of business development at Blue Note Entertainment Group. “There’s literally no other space in New York like this. This is a special place, you see it and feel it right away when you walk into the venue.”
Despite being built in 1938 as a basement supper club for vaudeville acts, Freed says the Horseshoe was almost surprisingly easy to transform into what a modern music venue needs to be. Paint and upholstery were the major changes, while the sound board was tucked inside what used to be a dome in the ceiling: “We did not do a massive renovation.”
The stage now extends a bit farther into the room, but most of the major changes are courtesy of Sony, Blue Note’s partner in the venue.
“We’ll have a multidimensional audio technology system that is going to provide a more immersive musical experience not only for the fan but for the artist,” he says, including screens on both sides of the stage, projectors and a camera system for capturing shows and livestreaming them.
Potentially, Sony may even use the venue to roll out cutting-edge tech here before it’s available anywhere else: “One of the broader intentions of this partnership is having Sony Hall become a place to test new technology.”
The fact that the Diamond Horseshoe was already set up with a full kitchen and extensive bar in the back clinched the deal. Those will remain, though don’t necessarily expect the kind of service you find at Blue Note’s other venues in the city, B.B. King’s Blues Club and the Highline Ballroom.
The venue has a capacity of 1,000 standing or 500 seated, and most events won’t combine the two experiences. The vast majority of shows will not use “theater in the round” concept like the Horseshoe’s last tenant, the immersive dinner theater production Queen of the Night that ran from 2013 until the venue’s closing to become a private entertainment space on New Year's Eve 2015.
As for who will be on that stage, the venue opens March 27 with a free show by the Sony Music-repped rock band MGMT. But Sony Hall won’t be limited to the label’s artists, though the acts will be chosen with an eye to a younger audience — other acts announced for the venue are rapper Wale (May 11), reggae band The Wailers (June 19), Argentinian musican-filmmaker Fito Paez (July 20) and dear departed Prince's The Revolution (Oct. 11), with tickets starting at $25.
“On a week-to-week level,” says Freed, “we’re going to feature artists across the music industry and across all genres.”