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The theatre at 105 Second Avenue that became the Fillmore East was originally built as a Yiddish theater in 1925-26 - designed by Harrison Wiseman in the Medieval Revival style - at a time when that section of Second Avenue was known as the "Yiddish Theater District" and the "Jewish Rialto" because of the numerous theatres that catered to a Yiddish-speaking audience. Called the Commodore Theater, and independently operated, it eventually was taken over by Loews Inc. and became a movie theater, the Loews Commodore. It later became the Village Theatre, owned by Roger Euster, with on-site management by Ben Barenholtz. When Bill Graham took over the theatre in 1968, it was unused and had fallen into disrepair. Despite the deceptively small front marquee and façade, the theater had a substantial capacity of almost 2,700.
Fillmore East years
The venue provided Graham with an East Coast counterpart to his existing Fillmore in San Francisco, California. Opening on March 8, 1968, the Fillmore East quickly became known as "The Church of Rock and Roll," with two-show, triple-bill concerts several nights a week. Graham would regularly alternate acts between the East and West Coast venues. Until early 1971, bands were booked to play two shows per night, at 8 pm and 11 pm, on both Friday and Saturday nights.
The Joshua Light Show, headed by Joshua White, was an integral part of many performances, with its psychedelicart lighting on a backdrop behind many live bands. From the summer of 1970, the Pig Light Show under the direction of Marc L. Rubinstein performed at the theater from time to time trading duties until the venue's closing in 1971 with Joe's Lights, made up of former members of the Joshua Light Show which remained the de facto house light show.
As the Bill Graham's original Fillmore Auditorium on the West Coast, the Fillmore East quickly became an important venue on the fledgling rock music circuit in the late sixties. Because of its excellent acoustics, the enthusiastic and attentive audiences and Graham's innovative way of handling the concert environment, the hall became a favorite spot for the recording of many live albums. Gregg Allman and Dickey Betts, on why they recorded their first live album there: 'We realized that we got a better sound live and that were a live band. (...) And we realized that the audience was a big part of what we did. (...) There was no question about where to record a concert. New York crowds have always been great, but what made the Fillmore special was Bill Graham. He was the best promoter rock has ever had and you could feel his influence in every little single thing at the Fillmore. It was just special. The bands felt it and the crowd felt it and it lit all of us up. The Fillmore was the high octane gig to play in New York - or anywhere else, really. (...) It was a great sounding room with a great crowd. (...) The Fillmores were so professionally run, compared to anything else at the time. And he would gamble on acts, bringing in jazz and blues (...) and he had taken a chance on the Brothers. '
The list includes:
The Allman Brothers Band - At Fillmore East. The breakthrough double album of the ABB, recorded on March 12 and 13, 1971, and released on Capricorn Records in July 1971. Producer Tom Dowd edited some of the performances down into the issued tracks and so showcased the group's terrific instrumental interplay.
The Allman Brothers Band - Eat A Peach. The follow-up double album of studio and further Fillmore East Recordings, dedicated by the band to their lead guitar player Duane Allman, who died in a motor crash shortly after the release and initial success of 'At Fillmore East'.  Released on Capricorn Records in February 1972.
The Allman Brothers Band - Fillmore East, February 1970. In February 1970 the ABB played their second run of Fillmore East shows, supporting Grateful Dead and Love. The GD sound engineer, Owsley "Bear" Stanley recorded the soundboard live feed and in 1996 Grateful Dead Records released a cd of selected tracks from February 11 & 14. In 2018 the Owsley Stanley Foundation remastered this album and added a 3-CD set of the February 11, 13 and 14 performances as a 'Deluxe Edition', in their 'Bear's Sonic Journals'-series.
The Allman Brothers Band - The 1971 Fillmore East Recordings. A six-CD set of the complete recordings of both early and late shows from March 12 and 13, 1971, and the Fillmore East closing show from June 27, 1971. The March 11 shows were also recorded, but deemed unusable by producer Tom Dowd as the band had, for the occasion, invited a horn section, but their contribution didn't gel with the group sound Released on Mercury in July 2014.
Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young - 4 Way Street. A double album, partly recorded at this venue during a six-night run in early June 1970, and released in April 1971 on Atlantic.
Miles Davis - Live at the Fillmore East, March 7, 1970: It's About That Time. A two CD set of the early and late shows, recorded March 7, 1970, and released on Sony/Columbia Legacy in July, 2001. This release is notable because this was saxophonist Wayne Shorter's last live date with Davis, after being nearly 6 years with the jazz star. The Sextet opened for Neil Young & Crazy Horse and The Steve Miller Blues Band for two nights at the Fillmore East: the first of several famous and important appearances of Davis at both the Fillmore East and West.
Miles Davis - Miles Davis at Fillmore: Live at the Fillmore East. A double album of recordings of 4 shows, recorded June 17-20, 1970 and released by Columbia in October 1970. The Davis Septet opened for Laura Nyro for four nights at the auditorium. Columbia recorded all four nights, and producer Teo Macero distilled each night's music into the heavily edited medleys.
Grateful Dead - Grateful Dead a.k.a. Skull And Roses. A live double album of which 7 of the 11 tracks, were recorded at the Fillmore East, during their March 26 to 29, 1971 run, when they were supported by the New Riders Of The Purple Sage. Released on Warner Bros. in October 1971.
Grateful Dead - History of the Grateful Dead, Volume One (Bear's Choice). This album includes Dead performances, recorded by then Dead-'sound wizard' Owsley 'Bear' Stanley, during a much acclaimed series of shows held over two nights, February 13-14, 1970 at the Fillmore East, headlining over the Allman Brothers Band and Love. Issued on Warner Bros. July 1973, it was to be a first in a series of archival releases, which was finally only picked up again in 1993 with the Dick's Picks Series. Re-released in an expanded edition, with 4 more tracks from the same shows in February 2003 by Rhino.
Grateful Dead - Dick's Picks Volume Four - Fillmore East 2/13-14/70. (Much) more of the above. A three-disc set of additional tracks from both nights, February 13-14, 1970, 'the Dead's most memorable appearance at the Fillmore East, and shows consistently ranked by Deadheads as among the 5 best live tapes ever'. The 30-minute 'Dark Star' is considered one of the best ever performances of this legendary Dead improvisational theme. Released in March 1996 on Grateful Dead Records.
Grateful Dead - Road Trips Volume 3 Number 3 - Fillmore East 5-15-70 (2010). The three-disc set captures the band in the midst of their transition from a full tilt-psychedelic jam ethos to a wider, more song-based style, also featuring a short-lived 'unplugged' acoustic set. Released on Grateful Dead/Arista in October 2010, with a bonus fourth disc, with more music from the same night, included with early copies.
Grateful Dead - Dave's Picks Volume 30 - Fillmore East, New York, NY-1/2/70 (2019); a three-disc CD set which comprises the early and late shows from 1/2/70 and five bonus tracks from 1/3/70. A fourth CD bonus disc of additional tracks from 1/3/70 was included for those who subscribed to the 2019 series on Dead.net
The Allman Brothers Band set was released as the second disc of the deluxe edition/remastered version of their Eat a Peach (1972 and 2006) album. In 2014, a six-disc set featuring the Allman Brothers Band's early and late shows at the Fillmore East of March 12 and 13, 1971 and including their performance on the venue's final night of June 27, 1971 was issued as The 1971 Fillmore East Recordings.
On November 17, 1972, the Fillmore East reopened as Villageast with "Virgin: A New Rock Opera Concert by The Mission". After a short run the Rock Opera closed and on December 15, 1972, Jerry Fuchs presented the opening night of concerts with a performance featuring Bloodrock, Elephants Memory and Trapeze. On December 16, 1972, the bill was Bloodrock, Foghat and The Fabulous Rhinestones. Fuchs went on to present several other concerts at Villageast including the New York Dolls and Teenage Lust on December 23, Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley on December 27, Steve Miller Band and Seatrain on December 28 and Roy Buchanan and Crazy Horse on December 30 and 31, 1972.
On December 7, 1974, Barry Stuart (Stein), reopened the venue as the NFE Theatre ("NFE" stood for "New Fillmore East") with a concert presenting Bachman-Turner Overdrive. On December 31, 1974, the Ike & Tina Turner Revue headlined a bill that included Quicksilver Messenger Service and Hidden Strength. It operated through 1975, but was renamed the "Village East", supposedly due to objections from Bill Graham over the use of the Fillmore name.
Unveiled on October 29, 2015, by Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation
Live Nation resurrected the Fillmore East name by rebranding the renovated Irving Plaza as "The Fillmore New York at Irving Plaza" on April 11, 2007, with English pop music singer and songwriter Lily Allen as the opening act. However, in May 2010 Live Nation conceded that the new name had not caught on and due to "unrelenting demand" the name "Irving Plaza" was restored beginning on June 23, 2010.