So maybe my title is a little bit misleading because the physical space has not gone anywhere at all and still sits firmly where it has stood for decades on Irving Place, just off 15th Street in NYC. Despite that, Irving Plaza did “go away” for a few years but was now back. Let’s continue shall we? I start with a little background history on the place.
The venue known as Irving Plaza opened its doors way back in 1860 when it was referred to as Irving Hall. Now, I didn’t know this from experience of course and learned it from some historical research that I would need for this little side narration. After a number of interesting changes and owners it came to be called Irving Plaza and the venue would feature Rock, Punk and Heavy Metal shows. My own first experience as a concert goer would be in September of 1997 when the British Progressive Rock legends Marillion were performing for their “This Strange Engine“ album. Having never been inside the place before I had some high hopes as to what I would feel once inside its walls. I liked what I was seeing, but since I was so interested in the show more than my surroundings I had to leave it as “really good” as an experience. Of course I wish I could have said the same for Marillion who had seemed to lose me with this recording and show. Musically it was true that the band was different with Steve Hogarth now on vocals, but I had enjoyed his earliest stuff with them and based on all the changes to format was growing distant from the band as his tenure progressed. Anyways, this is not about my Marillion concerns and is slightly off topic from where I was going with this narrative. So where was I? Oh yeah, the Irving Plaza venue. Well, in 2007 Livenation (a division of Clear Channel Communications) took over the place and did some serious renovations. The standard stuff in regards to paint, interior sprucing up and oh yeah – they also renamed the joint. Ladies and Gentlemen presenting “The Fillmore NY at Irving Plaza”.
I have to admit that this was one heck of a name to constantly say when it came to discussing shows, but we had to run with it since it was firmly in place and broadcasting across the very well lit marquee that you see above. Did I like it? Well, not too much but who was I to say, I didn’t own the place and could kind of see where they were coming from. It seemed to be that they were trying to recapture the magic of the legendary Fillmore East venue that was owned and operated by Bill Graham. Most of us are two young to remember this respected venue since it closed its doors in 1971. I’ll let you check out some of the finer details in the venue’s history via the Wikipedia entry HERE.
The original site of The Fillmore East still stands down on Second Avenue and Sixth street, but the venue as mentioned earlier is gone for almost four decades. It’s now an Emmigrant Savings Bank and according to some friends that used to go there, this was the entrance and main lobby. The seated part of the theater was in the back and this is now an apartment complex. It’s a little sad and a little amusing when passing by this space with visiting musicians as they all want a photograph in front of it. I can’t blame them based on its historical aspect in the NYC music scene.
Even though I had been the Metal Media dude for a couple of years at the time of Irving’s renaming, I would end up being on point for many more shows under the new brand name. It’s just how it ended up happening, and many great shows were occurring under the new name. Perhaps this was based on the Livenation connection but I don’t know for sure. You can check out all of the coverage and photography done for PiercingMetal.com by clicking this site query link HERE.
The bottom line was that despite the revamp on the inside and still selling out the shows from time to time, the new name was not sticking in the public eye no matter how hard they wanted it to be on the tip of people’s tongues. With this being the case they did the wise thing and reverted back to the old name on June 23rd and brought the audience goers a new sign that resembled the old one. Are you ready?
The sign looks nice and it has been a welcome thing to the many thousands of concert goers in NYC, especially the Metal heads who come here very regularly now with more of those kind of shows happening here and at The Gramercy Theatre over on 23rd Street. I like the look of the new sign, and only wish I had taken a shot of the old one when it was still in place. Oh well, one cannot foresee every change that happens in life and to be honest, the new sign does really look like the old one but just a wee bit more modernized and streamlined. Here is a view from a little further away.
I took this view very early in the day because it was one of those shows that would soon find the audience lined way up the block in this particular line of sight and have not only the security and other venue personnel milling about, but also that slimy bunch of scalpers who aim to gouge a few extra bucks out of your pockets. Welcome back Irving Plaza, we’ve missed you while you’ve been away even though you were only gone in name. This was a smart move without question and one that I think will raise additional awareness to the shows since its easier to broadcast the scoop. I have to say that I really like the fact that it’s called Irving Plaza once again. It just feels right when said aloud and written down.
When I first entered the doors of Irving Plaza it was for that Marillion show that I mentioned earlier and while I was not officially the journalist/photographer yet I would begin this line of adventuring in this venue with the Stryper show that took place in 2003. I was still very new at “the game” and eager to learn the ropes. Since that time if you add them all up together I believe I have attended about fifty or so shows in this space no matter what it was called. All of my event reviews from when the venue was called Irving Plaza can be found on this LINK. Since the venue had the different name for the majority of time that we have been doing this, the currently dominating list falls under The Fillmore NY branding but that is eventually going to change as we continue to charge into Metal battle for the Republic with our imaginary sword in hand. Stay tuned for more adventures as they happen and get posted on the website.
Want to learn more about the early history of this venue? Click their Wikipedia entry HERE.
Do you love or hate this venue? Do you have a special story to recant about a show you have seen there or one that you almost saw and somehow missed out on? An amusing tale about a meeting with bands who wandered the vicinity before a gig that was being held that night? You can tell the world all about it via the comments section on this piece. I know that I would love to hear what you have to say.