Madison Square Garden, New York City

Madison Square Garden opened in New York City on February 11, 1968.  It was built on the former site of the grand upper portion of the Pennsylvania Station train station that was torn down in 1963.  Although the name suggests that it is square, it is in fact round, looking somewhat like a propped-up circus tent inside without the pole.  Nor is it in a garden or even on Madison Avenue, but in bustling Midtown Manhattan along 7th Avenue.  So, what’s up?  Well, until 1925, the first Madison Square Garden arena was located down from an area of the Flatiron District that is still in existence called Madison Square.   The Square was named after President James Madison.  The current building is the 4th Madison Square Garden.  It is said to be “the world’s most famous arena”, as numerous famous concerts and events have taken place there, making the name synonymous with important dates in rock ‘n’ roll history.  John Lennon made his last on-stage appearance here, George Harrison’s Concert for Bangladesh was held here, Led Zeppelin’s The Song Remains the Same was recorded and filmed in the arena, and on and on.   The Grateful Dead made MSG famous by playing extraordinary shows and holding legendary runs in this space.  The band played their first show at MSG ( in the “big room” of MSG, not counting their earlier shows at the Felt Forum) on January 7, 1979, the first of a two night run.  The first performance was originally scheduled for November 30, 1978, but Jerry Garcia came down with viral pneumonia a few days before the show.  The last show was October 19, 1994.  As a teenage Deadhead in middle of nowhere Western Pennsylvania, Madison Square Garden and the Grateful Dead was legendary to me.  My first Liquid Blue t-shirt featured the big purple bear climbing up the Empire State Building proclaiming “New York City Dead” on the front, on the back two skeletons “Dancing in the Streets” of the City.  How I wondered what it would be like to see them there every time I looked at that shirt!  Every Deadhead knew that was the place to be.  The Garden itself  is a cable supported structure.  It is said that when the band would really get rockin’ and Deadheads started getting down, that the place swayed in time.  The roof does not sit upon interior supports, but rather is suspended by circular cables that are supported by a central tension ring and an exterior compression ring, creating an unobstructed view.   It also sits on top of the busiest train station in North America.  Part of the experience of going to MSG is taking the train and walking directly up into the arena from the station, like a magic ride that takes you to a mythical place.  Entering from the street seems so, well, boring.  The first picture shows the entrance to Penn Station and the arena  entrance from the street.   The second picture shows the exterior of the arena itself.  So far Madison Square Garden has survived the wrecking ball, unlike many of its sister arenas of the same era.   Rather than demolition, the owners have decided to have the building undergo a multi-million dollar renovation that will expand and update the building.  A most famous arena in rock ‘n’ roll and Grateful Dead history, hopefully it will stand for many more generations of fans to experience its legendary history.


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