Empty Seats, Full Hearts

The Facebook photo caught my eye: I know that place.

In stark black and white, it showed the empty Starlite Music Theater, posted with the ask/challenge to recall shows in the place. The Colonie Tent Theater, Coliseum Theater and Starlite looked forlorn. The chairs were gone, exposing dusty rings of terraced floor rising from the empty stage; so desolate that somebody asked, “Did it have seats?”

When I scanned the posts for others’ memories of shows I saw there, I found one citing “David Brubeck. The best!!!”

So I checked the name and found it was by Anne (M.) S., the woman – a high school girl, then – I’d taken to that show. 

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I posted back: “Right – I took you to see the original Dave Brubeck Quartet, went backstage and got the program autographed and gave it to you. Later saw and reviewed maybe 120 shows there for the Gazette; met many of those performers – discussed Kubrick films with Johnny Cash, had beers with the Everly Brothers and their great band, gave James Brown a photo of my son Zak in his walker, with a James Brown bumper sticker across the front. Brown pocketed it, said, “As long as I have this, I have you.”

Like the “ghost signs” of extinct businesses promoted in fading paint on neighboring survivor buildings, vanished venues echo to us over time. Sounds we heard there hum in memory.

These days, all venues sit silent; waiting, like we do.

But we have hope for them, unlike those that have become dust, or parking lots, office buildings or ashes: the Starlite, Proctors in Troy, Saratoga Winners, the Metro, Allen’s, the Skyway, the Chateau, the Hullaballoo, the Half Moon, the Embers, the University Twist Palace, Roth’s…

Here’s to those vanished, venerable palaces of sound, and the memories of songs we heard there, with our first loves.