Capitol Theatre in Portchester, NY Plans Triumphant 2012 Return, Part I

The concert venue that started me on my journey to attend live music events for 42 years is the Capitol Theatre in Portchester, NY. It was a haven of great music in the early 1970s. I attended 12 concerts there from 1970 through 1974. I am elated to learn The Capitol Theatre will resume its preeminent role as a concert venue in our market in 2012.

The New York Times music section featured an informative article yesterday about The Capitol Theatre titled, “Live Music to Return to a Storied Theater” by C.J. Hughes. (See Related Articles link below).

The gist of the article is that Peter Shapiro who owns the Brooklyn Bowl plans to produce 100 performances a year there. The Capitol will undergo a two million dollar, four-month renovation project. This could translate into a late spring/early summer grand re-opening. Peter Shapiro is also the publisher of Relix magazine, which provides excellent coverage of the jam band scene.

I’ve never been to the Brooklyn Bowl but my son has and he really likes the venue. I am a long time reader of Relix. The magazine does a fine job of covering the alternative and rock music scene. Peter Shapiro is very well-connected in the music industry and this bodes well for us concert goers. The addition of The Capitol to the New York/Connecticut market sharpens the competition for the concert dollar. I think this may cause a couple of existing promoters to be more price competitive now.

The proximity of The Capitol Theatre in Portchester, NY was beneficial for Fairfield County Connecticut residents. The lower drinking age of 18 just across the state line made it attractive to see shows there. Portchester was more adjacent than The Fillmore East in the East Village of New York City. I find it amazing that Howard Stein was able to book so many premium top rock acts at The Capitol in lieu of New York City and Bill Graham’s organization. It’s going to get interesting with Connecticut having so many venues in 2011, such as the casinos, The Ridgefield Playhouse, The Klein and The Fairfield Theatre and Infinity Hall. My concert dance card will be full later on in the 2012 season. 🙂

The NY Times Capitol Theatre article motivated me to finally write this music blog post. In order to do the topic justice, I will break the blog post in two parts. As a faithful progressive music listener, I would heard The Capitol Theater radio advertisements on WNEW-FM 102.7. My second concert at The Capitol was Traffic, Silver Metre and Swallow on June 27, 1970. We attended the 8 p.m. early show. I was fortunate to be able to buy tickets in those days at a local head shop in Norwalk, Ct. The shop owner always offered us seventh-row center seating.

The English Rock Groups at The Capitol Theatre

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Traffic and Jethro Tull were my favorite two bands in 1970. I recall that Steve Winwood wore a long sleeve white t-shirt that was covered in silver stars. It was a shirt I would later buy at the same head shop that sold me tickets and wear it the next time we saw Traffic, much to Steve Winwood’s chagrin. (He kept looking over at me puzzled where I got the shirt I was guessing…) Traffic consisted of Steve Winwood on Hammond B3 organ, guitar and vocals, Chris Wood on saxophone and flute and Jim Capaldi drums and vocals.

Notice on the bootleg cover that Steve Winwood is wearing the shirt I mentioned in the picture from that night. The two songs I remember the most from Traffic’s set were “40,000 Headmen” with Chris Wood playing the flute and “Pearly Queen”, which featured Steve Winwood performing a riveting guitar solo.

Our third concert was Jethro Tull, McKendree Spring and Livingston Taylor which again was an early show. Jethro Tull featured their third album Benefit that night. It was my second time seeing Jethro Tull (the first time was at The Fillmore East in July of 1969). It was our first Livingston Taylor concert. Little did we realize we would see Liv nine more times in later years. We bought his first record on Capricorn Records the following day as we fell in love with his music and charming wit.

I am going to go out of chronological order here to collect the acts we saw at The Capitol Theatre under the proper headings. We saw Traffic again on Halloween night, 10/31/70.  By then Traffic was increasing strongly in popularity due to FM airplay and the chart success of John Barleycorn Must Die. We noticed that the audience was more enthusiastic the second time we saw Traffic. It felt like a band I had treasured for my listening pleasure was beginning to move out of my reach. But isn’t that the way it’s supposed to work in music industry circles.

We experienced this again six months later with Jethro Tull on 4/27/71 at the late show. Aqualung was receiving lots of accolades from the music critics and was getting heavy airplay on FM stations like WNEW-FM and WPLJ-FM out of New York City. My request to interview Ian Anderson and the band for our local college radio station was turned down the day of the concert by their publicist. She felt we were too small a radio station and market for the fast rising Jethro Tull. The audience was ravenous for Tull that night and I could feel the band being swept along by the success of Aqualung. Having been a loyal fan of Jethro Tull for three years I should have been psyched for their greater acceptance instead of feeling like others were tearing them away from our midst.

It proved monumental that The Capitol Theatre served as the launchpad for the fueling rocket success of Traffic and Jethro Tull in America.

Part II of my music blog about The Capitol Theatre early concert years will be posted tomorrow. It will cover the San Francisco era with such bands as Santana, The Grateful Dead, New Riders of the Purple Sage, Jefferson Airplane, Hot Tuna and Big Brother and the Holding Company.

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17 Replies to “Capitol Theatre in Portchester, NY Plans Triumphant 2012 Return, Part I”

  1. Ed, I so enjoy your blog and your heart. Without question you and I must have crossed paths many times in the late 60s and early 70s before I headed to Boston and the incredible Boston Tea Party, the gateway for Frank Barsalona and all the British Bands signed to Premier Talent.

    It is great that you have chronicled your rock and roll past. I was a huge fan of Traffic/Steve Winwood; how about Dirty City with Eric Clapton on his last solo record. To my taste, Clapton’s solo on that cut is one of the best studio recordings he’s done in years.

    Speaking of Clapton, along with seeing Traffic, the Dead and others at the Capitol theater I also saw Derek and the Dominoes there. I was and am a huge Duane Allman fan and was so hoping he would be playing with that band, no luck. I understand he only played one live show with the Dominoes. Too bad, Duane was AWESOME and I had the gift of seeing him 8 times live; that is a stat I do remember.

    I look forward to your blog everyday, an early Christmas Present?? Someday we will have to sit down and trade our rock and roll stories.

    Happy Holidays, Will

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  2. Will,

    Thank you for your encouraging words. I think its a safe bet we crossed paths in that time frame. Boston and the Boston Tea Party made a solid contribution to the history of rock music.

    Barsalona had a great deal to do with British Rock. I believe he managed Peter Frampton in his hay day.

    My brother-in-law saw the Derek and the Dominoes show at the Cap. He raves about it to this day. I didn’t know Duane Allman didn’t play with the Dominoes that night. His commitment to The Allman Bros. probably prevented him from playing with them.

    It would be great to sit and reminisce about rock and roll stories.

    I appreciate your interest in the daily blog.

    Have a blessed and happy Christmas, Ed.

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  3. I too was a big Traffic fan and the Capitol Theater was a treasured venue. I saw Traffic June 27, 1970, the early show AND Jethro Tull later that summer too. Other acts included The Faces, James Taylor, Ten Years After, Johnny Winter, John Mayall and many others. The most enjoyable thing was that as a precocious 15-16 year old from New Jersey, you could call up the theater directly and get tickets months in advance. Frequently first row center seats were obtained particularly for Traffic and The Faces. I was lucky enough to shake hands with Ron Wood, who gladly gave me his guitar pick after one show in April ’71. I had similar luck when Stein moved to the Academy of Music in late ’71. Heady times indeed! Any photos?

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    1. Thomas,

      Thank you for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. Traffic and Tull was a great on-two punch in the day. Very cool Ron Wood was so generous to you. No photos unfortunately. Joe Sia was always near us snapping away though. You can find his photography on Wolfgang’s Vault.

      Peace,
      ED

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