Monthly Archives: June 2012

Boston takes its first steps

When Boston came to Youngstown for a September 26, 1976 at the Tomorrow Club, the impact of one of the great debut albums in rock history had not been felt yet. Released in July 1976, Boston went on to sell 17 million albums in the United States. The band’s gig here was in support of that album and may have been the first outside of New England for Boston according to some online gigographies.

WHAT THE SHOW SOUNDED LIKE: The next night’s concert in Cleveland was recorded by WMMS.

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NOFX at the Penguin Pub

NOFX are probably one of the more universally popular Southern California punk rock acts around, so it’s not all that surprising to find out that early in their career they stopped off to play a gig here. Of course, in their fliers for the 1988 Gigan-Tour (including the one above), they mistakenly labeled this Youngstown as being in Pennsylvania (there is a Youngstown, PA, but it’s really, really small). The gig was August 2, 1988 at the Penguin Pub. NOFX had only one album to their name at that point, but a few years later the band would garner a decent amount of success with the Punk in Drublic album on Epitaph Records.

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Jello Biafra runs his mouth

Jello Biafra is best known for his antics and stage presence with the legendary San Francisco punk rock act The Dead Kennedys from 1978 to 1986. I’m fairly certain that band never set foot in Youngstown, but following the DK’s demise Jello did become a fairly popular spoken word artist in the same vein as his old band. On October 25, 1990, the 32-year-old Biafra did a spoken word performance at Youngstown State University’s Kilwawley Center for about 900 people. Known for talking for up to five hours (I sat through one of these marathon sessions once in the early 2000s), Biafra railed against government censorship of music for the majority of his speaking engagement at YSU according to published reports at the time. This was some four years after he went toe-to-toe with Tipper Gore’s PMRC on the Oprah Winfrey Show and three years after the Dead Kennedys avoided jail time with a hung jury verdict in the Frankenchrist obscenity trial. I’d venture to guess most of the material at the YSU performance was from the 1989 album High Priest of Harmful Matter: Tales From the Trial and what would be the 1991 release I Blow Minds for a Living.

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Ace Frehley returns to this planet

Ace Frehley and the rest of KISS famously played one of the first gigs at the Tomorrow Club in 1974, but KISS quickly became too big to ever do another gig in Youngstown. On July 22, 1992, the Space Ace landed in Youngstown once again to do a show at JB’s Lounge. It was the second show of a large several month club tour for Ace and marked the first time in two years that he was out on the road. Frehley was not touring in support of anything at this juncture. His last solo release was in 1989 and he was several years removed from his Frehley’s Comet days. Fittingly it was called the “Just For Fun” tour. Frehley stayed on the road as a solo act consistently for the next four years before the KISS reunion tours began.

WHAT THE SHOW SOUNDED LIKE: Here’s Ace and company playing “New York Groove” from a stop on that tour.

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Tomorrow Club: 10-20-74 to 12-22-78

Since I did the same with the Agora, here’s the first and last ads for the Tomorrow Club. It opened October 20, 1974 and closed on December 22, 1978.

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Starr Palace and the end of the line

In the final years of the State Theater’s existence as an active concert venue, there were quite a few attempts to continue to make it a place where people wanted to go. After the Agora shut its doors in 1982, the venue reverted back to the State Theater name only to trudge through the same pattern of uneven results as before. In 1984, the venue hosted rock concerts under the name Star Theatre, but ran out of steam sometime in late 1985/early ’86.

The State Theater’s final act was revealed on December 29, 1986, when a group of area businessmen under the name of Honorable Productions Inc. announced that the State Theater would begin hosting R&B, blues, hip-hop, jazz and gospel under the name Star Palace. The Star Palace (or Starr Palace as it was commonly spelled) opened on Dec. 31, 1986. Honorable Productions claimed it was putting $40,000 into renovation work at the time of the opening.

It’s difficult to gauge what acts took the stage there since management was uneven about advertising in The Vindicator during that time frame, but the booking tradition seemed to mirror that of those that went before it. I don’t have a specific date as to when the venue closed for good, but a member of Honorable Productions was busted in May of 1988 trying to sell 500 pounds of marijuana to undercover federal agents in Florida. That, and other issues, led to Youngstown city council requesting that the Starr Palace’s liquor license be revoked on August 30, 1988.

It’s really a shame that the venue didn’t hold on for a few more years because it likely would have been able to thrive during the alternative/grunge era of the early to mid ’90s.

FOOTNOTE: The Vindicator did a nice pictorial spread on the club on Dec. 30, 1986. Sadly there’s a good chance these were the last published photos of the venue in active use.

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The Police work the Agora beat

Thanks in part to glorious exposure by MTV, The Police had no trouble playing whatever venue they wanted in the 1980s. The ’70s was a different matter altogether. Even though the band had reasonable success on the radio with the first two albums Outlandos d’Amour and Reggatta de Blanc, big gigs were still a ways off in the distance in the USA. When the band took the stage at the Youngstown Agora on November 11, 1979 they were in the midst of their second tour of the USA, supporting the Reggatta de Blanc album. Throughout 1979 and 1980 the band toured the world over several times with hardly any off time. That sort of grueling touring schedule would continue into the ’80s and lead to the band’s eventual breakup in the middle of the decade.

WHAT THE SHOW SOUNDED LIKE: There are any number of FM or soundboard recordings of shows during that tour.

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Bob Dylan’s first time

It was revealed this week that Bob Dylan is coming to town for a show on August 28, 2012 at the Covelli Centre. This will not be his first go-around here though. On November 2, 1992, he played an acoustic show at Stambaugh Auditorium. Surprisingly it was a box office bomb as only 1,168 of 2,600 seats sold (I would hope Covelli’s management took that in mind when booking him at the arena). Dylan was supporting the Good as I Been to You album which was released a day after the performance in Youngstown. The 51-year-old played 18 songs in the two hour gig.

WHAT THE SHOW SOUNDED LIKE: A good sounding bootleg of the show was released in 1994 under the title Himself. Unfortunately recent copyright cyberlocker sweeps by the U.S. government have wiped out any places where the show can be downloaded.


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Bon Jovi playing second fiddle to Donnie Iris

Our collective memories of Bon Jovi in the 1980s probably do not include visions of the band slumming it in the clubs, but that is exactly what the New Jersey rockers were doing when they showed up to support Donnie Iris on June 16, 1985 at the Star Theater (formerly the Agora/Tomorrow Club). At this point in their career, Bon Jovi had lukewarm results with the second album 7800° Fahrenheit and was in the midst of polishing the skills needed to launch into the Slippery When Wet era which would dominate MTV in 1986-87. This gig might have been the band’s first one back in the USA after coming off a massive European tour (it is not listed in any archives that I have seen online). They followed this up with a summer tour with Ratt.

Pittsburgh rocker Donnie Iris was slowly fading from his early 1980s chart successes at this point in his career. The 1985 album No Muss…No Fuss peaked at No. 115 on the charts. Record company difficulties led to seven years without a new album on the market. Gigs on the festival and fair circuits followed.

WHAT THE SHOW LOOKED LIKE: Here’s a link for some pictures from The Youngstown Agora Rocked on Facebook.

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Mr. Excitement

Jackie Wilson was a giant in the R&B/soul game when he pulled into town for a show on May 7, 1960 at the Stambaugh Auditorium. An eventual Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, Wilson was known for his dynamic stage show and did so with the nickname “Mr. Excitement”. Wilson had four top 10 pop hits in 1960 and was a performer that people like James Brown and Elvis Presley looked up to.

Later that year, Wilson was arrested during in a fan riot on July 17 in New Orleans. It was reported at the time that Wilson was ordered by cops not to mingle with the audience during a performance. When fans attempted to climb on stage, Wilson shoved a police officer who was trying to keep members of the audience off the stage. A violent reaction from those in attendance followed.

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