Blues Brothers Dan Aykroyd and Jim Belushi arrive on motorcycles during the grand opening for House of Blues Anaheim Tuesday. (Photo by Matt Masin, Orange County Register, SCNG)
Hundreds of excited fans turned out early Tuesday evening to check out the official grand opening of the House of Blues Anaheim, now at the Anaheim GardenWalk, just down the way from its old home in Downtown Disney.
As patrons lined up to catch Orange County’s own Social Distortion, the very first act to grace the stage in the 2,200-capacity main concert hall, they were treated to a special appearance by the Blues Brothers, Dan Aykroyd and Jim Belushi, rolling up on a pair of Harley-Davidson motorcycles. From a small stage outside they welcomed the press and fans to the new venue which was all lit up, the iconic 4-ton steel water tower proudly displaying the House of Blues logo.
Aykroyd, a co-owner of the House of Blues, greeted guests and made sure to mention that this new venue is “the biggest granddaddy of the chain” before he, Belushi, president of House of Blues Entertainment Rob Bension and chief operating officer Ben Weeden, did a traditional guitar smash to officially christen the club.
“What’s exciting is that we’ve been able to endure through a lot of challenges. House of Blues had to get through the bankruptcy wave that affected Rainforest Cafe, Planet Hollywood and the Hard Rock Cafe when these industries were being challenged,” he added, kicking back inside the venue’s restaurant.
“We managed to stay alive and keep jobs happening across the breadth of our chain. It means a lot because the commitment of the management is so strong that House of Blues is here to stay and I don’t see it going away.”
Aykroyd also revealed that House of Blues Anaheim will serve as the blueprint for future venues in cities such as Nashville, Toronto, New York, Berlin and “we’re hoping for other places as well.”
Of course these concert halls and restaurants will continue to pay homage to the blues.
“We always think of the veteran players of the (blues) music, we always think of the culture of the African American songbook we owe so much to and we think of our brother, John (Belushi, who died in 1982),” Aykroyd said of opening new venues. “John passed through the veil before we were able to show him one, but he would so be in his element tonight and love it. We always think of him.”
It was important, he said, to keep a House of Blues in Orange County after receiving so much support from the community that embraced the previous location for 15 years.
“We owe our success to the people of Orange County who got it,” he said “This is a great place to come with families for the Gospel Brunch, with business contacts to come have a great lunch and enjoy the cuisine, with conventioneers and everyone who comes through just for the shows, the residents and tourists who come to Anaheim who know they haven’t truly completed their tour without stopping at House of Blues.”
By KELLI SKYE FADROSKI / STAFF WRITER