The History of the Filmore East Concert Venue in NYC
There are few venues as iconic in the Big Apple as the Filmore East. This magnificent location helped change the music culture over its relatively short lifespan. Yet today the live concerts that were held at the Filmore East continue to influence the rock ‘n roll scene. The live music New York residents were exposed to at this historic location remain an iconic part of rock ‘n roll.
The venue itself was opened in 1926 as a Yiddish Theater, which put on plays and performances for audiences that spoke Yiddish. It was not long after that it became the Lowes Commodore Theater and ran motion pictures. In 1968, Bill Graham purchased the property and converted it to a performance theater with a capacity of nearly 2,700.
The first concert happened on March 8th, 1968 and quickly the Fillmore East became quite popular with bands playing two shows each on Friday and Saturday nights. It was not long before the nickname, “The Church of Rock and Roll” was tagged to the Filmore East and many prominent acts played at the venue.
From Cream to Jimi Hendrix to Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention, the Fillmore East became one of the most important venues for rock and roll. In addition, some of the concerts were recorded and even broadcast from the facility.
If there was one exceptional aspect of the Filmore East, it was the incredible acoustics which made live recordings quite popular. Some of the more famous live albums released that were recorded at the Filmore East include the following;
Although the venue had only been open for four years, the Filmore East held its final concert on June 27th, 1971. The closing of the venue had to do with the massive changes to the music industry and immense growth of audiences which could no longer be held at the Filmore East. In essence, it was a victim of its own success.
The final concert featured The J. Geils Band, Albert King, and The Allman Brothers Band who used the recording as a second disc to their famous live album Eat a Peach in 2014. The original release featured the band at the Filmore on March 12th and 13th of 1971.
After 36 years, Live Nation brought back the name briefly by rebranding the Irving Plaza as “The Fillmore New York at Irving Plaza. However, that only lasted a few years before reverting to the Irving Plaza.
Today, the memory of the live concerts that the Filmore East hosted remains strong, having influenced generations in New York and around the world. Although the venue has changed hands several times, the impact of the live music New York residents experienced at the Filmore East remains an iconic part of music history.
For concert listings in the New York area check out Live Music Now.