Anderson Theater, East Village, New York City

As we walk down 4th Street (positively) through Greenwich Village, we head toward 2nd Avenue in the East Village.  On the opposite side of the street sits the building that was once home to the Anderson Theater.  The Anderson began life as the Public Theater, one of many old Yiddish vaudeville theaters that lined 2nd Avenue in the East Village during the early part of the 20th century.  It continued to present Yiddish theater after it was re-named the Anderson Theater in 1957, but like the Village Theater (later to become the Fillmore East) up the street, it was converted into a rock music venue in 1968. Moby Grape, Country Joe and the Fish, Traffic, among others played there.   Janis Joplin and Big Brother and the Holding Company made their New York City debut at the Anderson on February 17, 1968 and the Yardbirds played one of their last gigs there on March 30, 1968 before breaking up in July of that year.  The Grateful Dead played one show at the theater to benefit the New York City chapter of the Hell’s Angels on November 23, 1970.  The Dead spent most of their time down the street at the Fillmore East under the command of Bill Graham, so they were no doubt limited to keeping their performances to the Fillmore due loyalty and proximity.  The band would be in enemy territory at the Anderson, as it was run by Graham’s competitor, Tony Lech.  According to Jerry Pompili in Bill Graham Presents: My Life Inside Rock and Out, Graham offered to partner with him to run the theater, but was unceremoniously turned down by a territorial Lech (Graham, 228).   Graham then turned around and bought the Village Theater and the rest is history.  By the mid-seventies, the Fillmore East was closed and the Anderson had become a punk music venue.  Hilly Kristal, owner of CBGB, reopened the theater in December of 1977 under the name of CBGB’s 2nd Avenue Theater.  Kristal reported to Billboard in the December ‘77 issue that, “We will keep it as tacky as possible.” (44)!  After the punk scene died down and everyone went back to the original CBGB a few block away, it languished throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s.  The building was eventually partially demolished and converted into apartments and business space in the mid-nineties.  The picture on the left shows the Anderson Theater as it stands today, most of the original façade still intact.  The marquise has been removed and the entrance doors are modern replacements.  The picture on the right shows a closer look at the entrance.  In the next post, we will visit the future Church of Rock ‘n’ Roll…

anderson ecircus cafegogo 003   anderson ecircus cafegogo 007

This post is sponsored by Type B Tye Dye Studios in New Hope, PA. http://www.typebnewhope.com

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