music venues

Legendary Venues: Troubadour

It’s been a minute between work, life, and Coachella that I wrote something for my legendary venue series. I started it last fall and it’s time that I get back into it. As far as venues go I haven’t touched on anywhere in the mecca of entertainment, Los Angeles. L.A. is home to plenty of great live venues. The Greek, The Hollywood Bowl, Whisky A Go-Go, The Shrine, The Palladium, The Wiltern, The Fonda Theatre, and El Rey Theatre are just some of L.A.’s finest. I definitely plan on writing about a few in this series at some point, but for now it’s one of Los Angeles’ most famous night clubs, the Troubadour.

The Troubadour opened in West Hollywood in 1957 by Doug Weston. It was first just a coffee house on La Cienega Boulevard before it moved to it’s current location at 9081 Santa Monica Boulevard in 1961. The Troubadour is known as a primary foundation for the careers of many great bands and musicians including Elton John, who made his U.S. debut there in 1970 after being introduced by Neil Diamond, The Eagles, whose founding members Glenn Frey and Don Henley met there also in 1970, Buffalo Springfield, who made their live debut there in 1966, Guns N’ Roses, who played their first show at the venue and were discovered by Geffen Records on the same night, and James Taylor, who made his solo debut there in 1969. Taylor also debuted “You’ve Got A Friend” at the venue with then piano player and opening act Carole King in 1970 and first met future wife, Carly Simon, there for the first time. Many bands and musicians have also recorded live albums there such as Neil Diamond, Tim Buckley, Van Morrison, and Miles Davis among others. The venue is not only known for rock music. It is known for having stand-up comedy and was essential in the careers of comedians Cheech and Chong who were discovered there.

The music history at the Troubadour is endless. It was the place that Janis Joplin partied at the day before he was found dead of a heroin overdose. It’s been a spot for album debuts, L.A. debuts, U.S. debuts, and just first live-performances in general. Unlike some legendary venues, the Troubadour still sits at the same spot it moved to in 1961. Many bands and artists consider it a right of passage to play at the Troubadour while visiting L.A. Recently, bands like Bastille and One Direction member Harry Styles have performed there. It’s the definition of a small venue with a capacity of only 500, which makes its performance history all the more meaningful. I’ve unfortunately never been to the venue. I’ve only actually been to L.A. once (technically 3 times in one trip to California) despite the amount of visits I’ve made to So Cal, but it’s on my list as a place to visit for the next time I’m there. In general, it’s a place where live music fans should visit and if possible attend a show it because it’s definitely one of Los Angeles’ most famous and legendary venues.

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Legendary Venues: Red Rocks Amphitheatre

It’s been over 75 years since Red Rocks Amphitheatre opened in Morrison, Colorado. The venue first opened on June 15, 1941, but had been hosting open-air music performances since the early 1900’s when John Brisben Walker envisioned the geological phenomenon as a place for live music.

Red Rocks Amphitheatre is much different than any other music venue in the world because it’s the only naturally-occurring, acoustically perfect outdoor theater ever. What creates this natural perfection are two 300 foot rock structures known as Ship Rock to the south and Creation Rock to the north. The amphitheater sits between these monoliths that date back 160 million years and contain dinosaur fossil fragments from the Jurassic period. Both are bigger than Niagra Falls. There’s also a rock structure behind the stage (east) known as Stage Rock. Besides the incredible rock formation, the amphitheater overlooks downtown Denver, which creates one of the most beautiful, picturesque views offered at a music venue.

The city of Denver purchased Red Rocks from Walker in 1928 and hired Denver architect, Burnham Hoyt to design the area into a music venue while including the preservation of the land’s natural elements as part of the transformation. The construction took 12 years but was well worth the finished product that has since attracted musical acts from all over the world.

The Beatles concert on August 26, 1964 is considered to be one of the first notable rock concert performances in Red Rocks history. Another notable performance was the Jethro Tull concert in 1971 which resulted in a 5 year ban of rock concerts at the venue. Fans without tickets to the event attempted to barge through police lines and throw rocks at officers resulting in the deployment of tear gas to control the riot, which eventually carried into the venue affecting all in attendance.

The unique venue attracts bands across music genres from rock to pop to electronic to jam bands. Many bands have recorded performances at the famous venue as well. It has also been used in film and television. Then, in 2015, it became a national landmark.

I’ve never had the pleasure of going to Red Rocks. I’ve actually never even been in Colorado. After I began traveling around the country for work though, I learned about Red Rocks and it’s been high on my list of venues to see/work at ever since. I’d be beyond honored to work an event in such a place and I’d even be more awestruck by seeing a concert there. I’m not even sure if I can imagine what it’s like to be there. It sounds like such a spectacular venue. I think it’s one of those places you have to experience to understand how special it is even if pictures and descriptions already convince you. It’s one of those places where a picture really doesn’t do it justice. If Red Rocks isn’t the definition of legendary venue, I don’t know what is. It’s legacy has spanned the test of time and it continues to be a favored venue of many bands and artists. It’s definitely a place that concert and music lovers need to experience at least once or even countless times.

Legendary Venues: The Fillmore

You may have heard of The Fillmore if you live in Philadelphia, Detroit, DC, Baltimore, or Charlotte, but The Fillmore name actually started in San Francisco at a venue located on the corner of Fillmore Street and Geary Boulevard and it still exists today. The Fillmore originally opened in 1912 as a dance hall under the name “The Majestic Hall and Majestic Academy of Dancing”. Through the 1930’s the legendary venue continued to operate as a dance hall under various names and management. It became a roller rink through the 1940’s, but in the 1950’s the venue transformed into a place where live music filled the space between walls.

In 1954 The Fillmore began operating as a music venue under the leadership of Charles Sullivan. Sullivan began booking some of the best names in black music at the time such as James Brown, Ike & Tina Turner, and Bobby “Blue” Bland. By the 60’s, San Francisco was at the height of hip culture in the United States and The Fillmore was just a small piece in that thanks to then up and coming concert promoter, Bill Graham.

Graham began using the venue with the approval of Sullivan in 1965 to book bands. Bill Graham was responsible for giving The Fillmore a name due to his ability to hire and promote bands who played new, creative styles of music (which became known as psychedelic music). Some of those bands were Jefferson Airplane, Moby Grape, Santana, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Big Brother and the Holding Company, the Butterfield Blues Band, and legendary jam band, the Grateful Dead. Other notable bands and musicians who came through the doors of The Fillmore thanks to Graham were Jimi Hendrix, Otis Redding, Cream, Muddy Waters, The Who, The Doors, Steve Miller Band, Led Zeppelin, and Pink Floyd.

It was during Graham’s era at The Fillmore that many of the venue’s traditions which are still in place today began. The Fillmore always has a greeter at the door who welcomes music fans with a cheery, “Welcome to The Fillmore!” There’s also always a large tub of free apples located near the entrance. The last tradition which still takes place at the venue might be the coolest of all. Upon exiting, all fans receive a poster from the night’s show. In the 60’s, the posters were designed by two artists who became leaders in psychedelic poster design, Wes Wilson and Rick Griffin.

In the 70’s, The Fillmore became a private neighborhood club, but in the 80’s Paul Rat pioneered the punk rock movement at The Fillmore. He brought in punk rock bands like The Dead Kennedys, Black Flag, and Bad Brains. Bill Graham again took hold of The Fillmore by the mid-80’s, but in 1989 the venue was closed because of the damage it took from the Loma Prieta earthquake. Two years later, Graham died in a helicopter crash. It was one of his final wishes to reopen the venue where he first began his career.

In 1994, it happened. On April 27th, The Smashing Pumpkins played a secret show at the newly reopened venue followed by Primus, who played the first official show the following evening. The Fillmore has been in operation since. In 2007, Live Nation began to lease and operate the original Fillmore location and have since branded the name at old and new venues throughout the country. In my opinion, there’s nothing like the original though especially with all the history it represents and traditions that are still kept alive to this day, making The Fillmore in San Francisco a legendary venue.

 

Legendary Venues: Madison Square Garden

Next up in the Legendary Venues Series is another New York staple. This venue has been in existence since the 1800’s. It is also widely known as the world’s most famous arena and it is none other than Madison Square Garden.

The Garden, which sits between 7th and 8th Avenues from 31st to 33rd street in Midtown Manhattan, New York City, is actually the fourth structure to bear the name “Madison Square Garden”. The first two existed from 1879-1890 and 1890-1925, respectively. The third which stood from 1925-1968 is now the location for One Worldwide Plaza, which was built after the third Garden was demolished.

Since the current Madison Square Garden opened in 1968, it has held many epic concerts with the biggest names in music history. Up until recently Elton John held the record for most concerts at the Garden with 62 appearances. It was broken by Billy Joel. Since 2014, Joel, the Grammy winning recording artist, has maintained a residency at MSG and has played 44 consecutive shows since beginning his tenure (He will play his 45th on Saturday). Regardless of who holds the record, when a band or an artist can amass a crowd large enough to play at an arena, it’s always an honor to play at the legendary Madison Square Garden.

Besides being a large scale concert venue, Madison Square Garden has also held a multitude of sporting events since opening its doors. It is the home venue of the New York Rangers of the NHL and the New York Knicks of the NBA. It also hosted some of boxing’s biggest fights before Las Vegas boxing became a thing.

Despite all the notable names and greatest concerts to ever grace the stage at MSG, the one that stands out to me (with liking the bands that I like) was LCD Soundsystem’s “final” concert. I say “final” because the band ended up getting back together last year and just released an album at the beginning of the month, which I wrote about after it came out. In that moment in 2011 though, it was a 4 hour long final goodbye of the band’s entire discography. It was all captured and put into the documentary “Shut Up and Play the Hits”, which came out the following year. I began liking LCD Soundsystem shortly before the documentary was released so I had no idea about the incredible spectacle that happened, until the documentary came out. As a band from NYC, there was no greater venue to host LCD’s last show than the Garden.

This past February I worked my first show at Madison Square Garden. It was The Lumineers’ first night of their two night stand. Obviously at that point, I never worked a show there, but I had also never actually been in the Garden period. I decided to stay to see the rest of the performance that night after I finished my shift: 1. Because I actually like The Lumineers and 2. Because it was at Madison Square Garden. When I finally was able to find a way down to watch the show (long story), I couldn’t help but take in the fact that I was watching a show at the Garden. Besides watching the actual performance, I admired the familiar circular ceiling that on a regular basis houses a large scoreboard at the center for its sporting events. I looked around the venue, at the crowd, and up at the banners earned by the Knicks and the Rangers. The Lumineers concert was sold out that night and although it probably won’t go down as one of the greatest concerts in the arena’s history, it was definitely a highlight for me in my career of both watching and working music events.

It’s definitely worth a trip to New York City to catch an event at Madison Square Garden, but a concert would be the best event in my opinion (wink wink). Although it’s not the only famous venue in the city, it’s one of legendary status and one of the most well-known in the world. Its history and incredible past performances can attest to that.

Legendary Venues: CBGB

About 2 weeks ago I was hired for a gig at The Stone Pony in Asbury Park, NJ. My position for the show was since cut, but at the time I was super stoked to work a show there. For those who don’t know, The Stone Pony is a legendary venue known for launching the careers of famed New Jersey rockers Bon Jovi and Bruce Springsteen. It got me thinking about music venues. There’s plenty of famous venues across the country and I should probably write about them some time. So here we are. I thought at first I’d write one epic blog post about a bunch of them, but then I figured it would get too long. Instead, I’ll be doing a new blog series spotlighting each one. The first on that list is one of the most legendary venues I can think of, CBGB (& OMFUG).

The now defunct CBGB was founded in 1973 by Hilly Kristal. CBGB, which stands for “Country Bluegrass Blues” (& “Other Music For Uplifting Gormandizers”), was located at 315 Bowery in the Bowery neighborhood of Lower Manhattan, NYC. CBGB originally was opened to house the genres it was named for but became a haven for late 70’s punk rock bands. It is often referred to as the birth place of punk rock. The venue gave rise to many bands who frequented it’s grounds like The Ramones, Patti Smith, Blondie, Television, Talking Heads, Misfits, The Dead Boys, and Joan Jett. It’s decor was somewhat legendary too. Graffiti covered the walls of the venue making CBGB look just as edgy and original as the bands who played there.

In the 1980’s it became a mainstay for hardcore bands like Gorilla Biscuits, Agnostic Front, Youth of Today, Sick of It All, Cro-Mags, and Murphy’s Law. By the 90’s, bands like Green Day, Sum-41, and Korn became synonymous with the famed venue.

CBGB operated until the mid 00’s when rent became an issue and forced its closure in October of 2006. Patti Smith played the final show at CBGB on October 15th of that year. Since its closure, the site where CBGB once stood has transformed into a John Varvatos retail store, but remnants of its existence still stand. Outside the store, the pavement is engraved with the marker “CBGB 73” to commemorate the venue’s existence and the year in which it was founded. The store itself pays homage to the venue through its decor as well.

I first learned about CBGB shortly before it closed in 2006. At the time my music of choice was from alternative genres like indie, emo, punk, ska, and hardcore, so the venue had a significance to me. Although I listened to more modern bands from those genres I went through a period where I listened to classic punk bands like The Ramones, The Sex Pistols, and The Clash. Besides the music, the culture of punk rock really stood out to me, making the CBGB seem like the coolest venue ever. After learning about The Ramones and more about punk rock history, I added The Ramones classic logo band tee along with a CBGB t-shirt to my collection. I wore both with pride. By the time I realized I wanted to visit the CBGB though, it was about ready to close its doors. After it closed, I remember thinking I should just go see it, even if it was only from the outside, but I didn’t visit NYC much then so it never happened. In fact, even though I visit NYC more now, I always forget that I still need to make a stop at 315 Bowery even if it is just a John Varvatos store.

Though the venue ceases to exist, it’s still a prominent tourist spot in NYC. There was also a music festival honoring the legendary venue from 2012-2014. I actually had CBGB feels while writing this because I just watched my favorite band play a “Blitzkrieg Bop” cover last night knowing I’ll never get to see The Ramones play it in the place that made them famous. Even though the venue isn’t around anymore, its spirit is still alive and well making CBGB & OMFUG one of, if not the most legendary music venues ever.