Razing the Fillmore

by

02/04/2002

105 Second Ave, ny ny, 10003

Neighborhood: East Village

The news crews were outside the old Fillmore East, getting a last shot before the legendary concert hall was razed and turned into apartment buildings.

As I walked along Second Avenue to the video store, I saw tv trucks lined up outside. I felt sad; my youth was vanishing.

I’d gone past this now boarded up building hundreds of times during the 20 years I’d lived in the East Village, but I’d never really noticed the facade until this week. I always walked on the same side as the building, too close to see the art around where the entrance once stood. I crossed the street to imprint the building in my mind, one last look.

As I stood there watching, I flashed back to me: college student, week-end hippie from New Jersey who came into the Village with her boy friend to attend concerts at the Fillmore. I did not know the neighborhood then. Joe, my boy friend, drove us into the city in his sporty Karman Ghia. He had long hair and wire frame glasses like his idol, John Lennon. I had long hair and a fringe suede jacket.

We went to the Fillmore a lot during its brief heyday from 1968- 1971. It was a great deal: two or three groups, a program with bios, (like a psychedelic playbill) and the Joshua Light Show. Best seats were $5:50; the balcony was $3:50. We never sat upstairs.


Tim Buckley

Among others, I saw Traffic, the Grateful Dead, Jethro Tull, Canned Heat, Procol Harem, The Mothers of Invention, The Incredible String Band, Tim Buckley.

Ten Years After, and Country Joe & The Fish.

(To listen to Country Joe’s recently recorded tribute to John Faheyclick here.)

I recall The Who and Pete Townsend smashing his guitar to pieces after an amazing set. The perfect harmonies of The Byrds on "Eight Miles High." The Jefferson Airplane and Grace Slick ripping through the anthemic "Volunteers." It was a call to arms, as she belted out, "Look what’s happening out in the street." And with pumped fists, we echoed the next lines: "Start a revolution, start a revolution."

Back then, I never would have imagined that 25 years later, I’d be chairing a block association in the East Village and writing to the community board griping about a rowdy punk rock club. Had I become "the establishment"?

Joe was the mass ticket buyer for our college crowd; he arranged to meet our party in front of the Gem Spa at St. Marks and Second to give out the tickets. The sidewalk outside the Fillmore, a block away, was so crowded, it was difficult to find friends under the marquee; the sidewalk was jammed with concert goers and ticket hawkers and drug dealers ("sunshine, sunshine") who spilled into Second Avenue. As I paused on a glorious summer afternoon in August 1995, observing the wrecking crews, I recalled those good friends I attended concerts with at the Fillmore East. Joe died of AIDS in 1989. John is a high school teacher in Morristown. Terry becameÊ a town official in Montclair. Billy flipped out after college and became a homeless alcoholic. Walt and Betty married and divorced. I came out, moved to the East Village and became a writer.

1995

For more about the Fillmore, click here: www.Fillmore-East.com

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