A Fitting Goodbye to the Palais

Just got word that The Good, The Bad and The Queen and the Tony Allen Orchestra will be playing the final show at the Hammersmith Palais on March 31st. It appears that one member of the Clash, Mr. Paul Simonon, could indeed be the last white man in the Hammersmith Palais.

From the NME:

http://www.nme.com/news/the-good-the-bad-and-the-queen/26696

When the whole issue came about last year regarding the plan to demolish the Palais, I was not happy. It was a bit of deja vu, with developers trying to tear the building down, back in 1993-94 when I was a student living in Earl’s Court, and the community stepped in, did fundraisers in every form you could imagine (from The Who reportedly donating cash to little old ladies selling ices during intermissions of local theater productions), and saved the old place. The same thing was happening to the Odeon, and the Apollo back then, and similar efforts saved them, as well. I had next to no money, but attended as many of the fundraisers and gave what I could, damning myself to another month of ramen just to do my part to ensure the walls stayed standing.

When I found out late last year that it looked like the developers would finally have their way with the Palais, it literally tore away a bit of my heart. I did what I could from here in Seattle, sending cash, signing the petitions and writing testimonials and sending them off to each of the neighborhood representatives. See, here’s the thing: while yes, the legend of this venue, the ghosts of all the bands that have played there, was what first compelled me to head two Tube stops west almost immediately after I arrived in London and unpacked my bags, it was the local people, and the manner in which this venue fit into their lives that compelled me to become involved — both back in ’94, and again in 2006. Generations of families have taken their kids there for a Saturday matinee, eaten the same ices, grown into teenagers who caught their first rock show, or saw their first play. Officials and some locals had complained recently that there was too much violence and crime in the area stemming from crowds at the Palais (this sounds eerily familiar with the draconian legislation that Mayor Nickels is trying to enact here in Seattle to restrict clubs instead of solving larger, citywide crime issues). To that I have to say: a.) wouldn’t the city controlling crime in the neighorhood as a whole be a more effective measure, rather than closing a club that’s only part of a larger problem? and b.) did the club building itself cause the trouble? No, that would be these particular owners, who allowed such behavior within their establishment. Countless other owners of venues have managed what happens within their clubs, and have balanced their business’ viability with the concerns of the community. Why not sack these specific owners or buy them out, and bring in ownership that can do the venue justice? And of course, I have to answer my own questions — that’s just not how business works, unfortunately. No one wants to get into the pricey business of creating a new music venue in London unless they’re guaranteed a 100%, almost immediate recoup of their investment (insanity — any live venue of worth anywhere just doesn’t work that way). These current owners would rather take the money and let a characterless office park replace a community landmark and touchstone, and frankly, that’s going to hang over their heads for a long time to come, both in the music and business worlds. There’s not one thing right about it, and yet such appears to be the way of the world lately, and I hate it.

In any case, it seems there is no stopping the bulldozers, which are set to begin demolition the morning after the show mentioned above occurs, April 1st — a terrible April Fool’s joke, indeed.

Goodbye Hammersmith Palais! I’m so sorry I can’t make the trip over to see your lovely, battered walls one last time, but I’m terribly glad your exit music will be provided by some old, true friends.

Now, on to saving Brixton Academy, the Hammersmith Apollo, the Shepherd’s Bush Empire and The Forum…

And more important locally, the City Council here in Seattle is holding an open legislative briefing on the Mayor’s proposed Nightlife Premises license this Thursday, March 1st at 9:30 am, in the second-floor council chambers at City Hall (600 – 4th Avenue). They will be accepting public comments regarding this misguided and ill-informed (at best) proposal, so please do attend if you can. I’ve got an early appointment and a pile of work sitting here on my desk, but I’m still going to do my best to be there. You should, too. If you absolutely cannot escape work to attend, write to the councilmembers at the addresses below, urging them to reject the Mayor’s proposal:

Sally.clark@seattle.gov
Richard.mciver@seattle.gov
Jan.drago@seattle.gov
Peter.steinbrueck@seattle.gov

Your favorite local music venue, and all the musicians that play there, thank you!

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