Brothers Jonathan, Luke and Daniel Brindley know their way around the performance space side of the music industry. Since opening Jammin Java more than 16 years ago, they have hosted countless award-winning and almost famous music artists in their small, Vienna, Virginia-based venue – and, more importantly, managed to bring crowds in to see them.
“[Jammin Java] shouldn’t work, but it does,” says Brindley, the trio’s booking manager.
Bon Iver, Andrew Bird, Brandi Carlile, Fun, and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros are just a few of the big names that have played the “random strip mall in the suburbs” over the years. But now the brothers are embarking on a new adventure, and bringing it inside the Beltway. Their happy New Year will involve the opening of Union Stage on Pearl Street at the new Wharf development – a 450-seat venue, bar and restaurant.
“Since about year five. we’ve been on the lookout for an opportunity outside of Jammin Java, but nothing was ever quite right,” Brindley says.
When approached about the space a year-and-a-half ago, the brothers knew it was the one. And despite the opening of several other new venues in the area, they are sure Union Stage will be a success.
“This is a very natural step for us to complement what we’ve done at Jammin Java,” Brindley continues. “We’re going to have this bigger, badder, cooler club on the waterfront in the city. It’s a good thing.”
While neighboring venues Pearl Street Warehouse and IMP’s Anthem have already opened doors to concertgoers, the team behind Union Stage is still waiting for an official open date, slated for sometime at the start of 2018. But they certainly haven’t been resting on their laurels. Instead, they’ve found creative ways to expand their business further, and promote the new venue at the same time.
Nestled inconspicuously in the center of Barracks Row is the Miracle Theatre – a 350-seat renovated theater built in 1909. Originally home to vaudeville acts, and then silent and Western films, the theater is now host to a variety of performances, events, concerts and traditional cinema.
It’s in this renovated space that the new Brindley venture makes its debut. With the help of booking agents John Weiss and Jen Lee, the Java/Union Stage team have teamed up with Miracle Theatre for a long-term partnership curating a concert series. Once Union Stage opens, shows at Miracle will continue, rounding out the soon-to-be three-venue business offering a mix of musical genres to experience on any given night.
A folk rock act may perform at Jammin Java while an R&B performance takes Union Stage and a singer-songwriter plays at Miracle. Tonight for example, the team brings Kris Allen of American Idol fame to the theater for a holiday-themed show. Allen, winner of Idol’s eighth season, has six albums under his belt and continues to tour, most recently for his seasonal Somethin’ About Christmas.
“I think more than anything, I’ve learned a lot about myself and the type of music I really want to make,” Allen says. “I’ve learned to be really honest with myself and I think that has come out in the music that I have made over the past four or five years. People want to hear honesty.”
As for tonight’s show at Miracle, Allen describes it as a bit of “a step back in time.”
“I got really inspired by the 40s and 50s Christmas radio shows that I found. That idea that families and friends were huddled around one radio listening together to these shows just made me want to create a show that felt a little like that. There are some fun things that happen during the show and I definitely think it’s hard not to get into the spirit after this show.”
Allen’s performance will build the momentum for Union Stage’s opening at the end of the year. Union Stage’s owners seem to be creating community partnerships like the one with Miracle Theatre, and already bringing in new job opportunities in the city – having expanded their team to about 60, which will likely expand further once doors are open.
“If we can do what we did at little old Jammin Java in the suburbs in a strip mall, we can, with the help of the Wharf and the visibility of the Wharf and all the features that we have there, grow with the Wharf,” Brindley says. “We’re a big small business, and we feel good about that. We like what we’re doing.”
Kris Allen plays at Miracle Theatre tonight; doors open at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are available here.
Miracle Theatre: 535 8th St. SE, DC; 202-400-3210; www.themiracletheatre.com