Sunday, December 30, 2007

The Beacon Theatre

The Beacon Theatre, my favorite music venue in NYC, maybe the greatest working theatre left in New York, once again hosted a great night of music...And once again, I was there to see it.

For the 4th straight year, Gov't Mule is playing a run of sold out shows for New Year's at the famed upper west side music center. Unfortunately, I have to bartend on Monday night for the big bash, so I could only attend last night's show. Since this is not a music blog, i will spare you the music critic rundown, but the highlights were the 1st set ending covers of Lou Reed's Waiting For My Man, and The Who's My Generation that Mule jammed through with Josh Clark and Trevor Garrod of the nights opening act, Tea Leaf Green. The second set finished with legendary bassist George Porter coming out to celebrate his birthday with a joyous Spanish Moon/Hey Pocky Way.

Back to the Beacon. Anyone who has ever been there knows just how beautiful it is. Built in full Grecian regalia, once you pass under the Marquee on Broadway, you enter into one internal design vista after the next; marble vestibule, giant golden proscenium, Terra Cotta moldings, full-wall murals, etc. Of course, the point of a theatre like this is not what it looks like but how it sounds. As anyone who knows the basic concepts of acoustics knows the more stuff sound waves have to bounce off of the better the sound. The sound in most of the three levels is as rich as anywhere I have ever been. The only dead spot is in the orchestra, underneath the mezzanine overhang. These seats are actually very bad for sound.

As far as the history of the Beacon goes, there are enough historically land-marked features in the theatre to ensure that it is not soon destroyed. In fact, in 1986 there was a court ruling that stopped a group from turning it into a nightclub. It was built in 1928. It was a project put together by famous NYC theatre impresario Sam Rothfeld (AKA Roxy), and acted as the uptown smaller partner to Rothfeld's other baby, Radio City Music Hall. Throughout it's history, the Beacon has been home to vaudeville acts, political debates, HBO comedy specials and at once was home to its own orchestra.

It was on the downside as a rock venue in the eighties, but has since gained an upswing, much like its most famous clients, The Allman Brother's Band. Last year it was bought by Cablevision, who signed a 20 year lease. They promise to keep the spirit of the Beacon in tact, but that scares the shit out of any music lover who has ever set foot inside of a Cablevision property to watch a show (MSG, and the fore mentioned Radio City). Last night, there was no indication that major changes were on the way, although some did notice an increase of security and seat policing.

Back to the show. I had high hopes for last night. I had some free tickets that included on-stage laminates with backstage access...the tickets came through but the venue pulled all non band stage access last minute. boooo. Then there was a great after party at the newly renovated Blender theatre at Gramercy (old movie theatre). This was hosted by legendary New Orleans blues men Porter-Batiste-Stolz (all members of The Meters). And once again we were temporarily shut out by the notorious "list". We eventually got in because 4 people that were with the bands and PR company knew us and knew that we were supposed to be on the list. At this point, we missed almost the whole first set. Gotta love the music world. Sometimes this business is really like the movie "Almost Famous"... only sometimes.

When all was said and done, we had about 8 hours of music in two venues and it ended at 5 a.m with me helping the guitarist from Soulive catch a cab on Lexington ave.

NY, NY..its a wonderful town.

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