Garcia’s – Lobby Bar at The Capitol Theatre in Portchester, NY

The first place I ever caught the Grateful Dead live was at The Capitol Theatre in Portchester, NY on November 7, 1970. The New Riders of the Purple Sage opened the show that evening with Jerry Garcia playing pedal steel guitar. I recall my brother-in-law Paco telling us that he had drinks next door to The Capitol at Vassons with Jerry Garcia and Pigpen prior to the show. So this announcement is very àpropos.

The Capitol Theatre has christened its lobby bar as “Garcia’s” in honor of the legendary Grateful Dead guitarist and singer, who considered the venue was of his favorite in the country. The bar, which formally opens May 16-18, will operate seven days a week and will host live music. The opening ceremony will feature three night’s of performances by Reid Genauer and Friends.

The news came yesterday, at the end of the final night of Furthur’s nine-show run at The Capitol Theatre. Garcia’s daughter Trixie was on-hand for the announcement. “We chose to launch this idea at the Capitol because of its long and illustrious history with the Grateful Dead and the jam scene,” said Trixie. “We hope that it becomes a hub for the community to share stories and continue to build lifelong memories and friendships. Pete Shapiro and the Capitol Theatre staff were the appropriate partners to do this with because of our shared goals and his continued love and support of the Grateful Dead community. Just as important to note is the fact that Jerry’s parents supported our family by owning and operating a bar in San Francisco in the 1940’s and so it seemed right to reconnect with our family tradition.”

Garcia’s will be the first bar to be officially associated with Jerry Garcia’s family.

Garcia’s will include rare photos, artwork and equipment, including vintage never-before-seen shots from famed music/fashion photographer Roberto Robanne, who met Garcia in 1966 and had unlimited access to the band. The bar will also have a 18” bronze sculpture of Garcia’s hand, which has been loaned to the establishment by noted philanthropist and Grateful Dead fan Scott Brittingham. Garcia’s will offer craft beers, as well as wines and spirits, with a focus on local producers. The bar will also host concerts from emerging artists on nights when the theatre is closed.

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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.