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Backstory: Best Memory Maker


Memorial Auditorium - LUKE AWTRY
  • Luke Awtry
  • Memorial Auditorium

This "backstory" is a part of a collection of articles that describes some of the obstacles that Seven Days reporters faced while pursuing Vermont news, events and people in 2021.

"Hey!" a former coworker shouted from across Burlington's Church Street. "Farnsworth! What the fuck, man?"

I stopped, as one often does when hearing their last name screamed from the other side of a street.

"Dude, Primus!"

"The band?" I duly asked.

His arms shot out in disbelief at my betrayal.

"The band? No, the fuckin' tugboat! Of course the band!" he bellowed.

"I didn't write an article about Primus," I protested.

"No, the one about the auditorium, dingus!" he shouted, strangely louder than he did previously. "You didn't write about the Primus show we saw!"

He was referring to my recent cover story on Memorial Auditorium. I explained: "Well, you know, the story wasn't about all the shows that happened there, but its entire history. There was almost a hundred years of shows there, so it's not like I could write about them all."

"How could you forget about Primus, though?" he demanded. "Remember? We got so drunk, the security dudes almost kicked us out, but then we saw Steve and he let us stay, but then when they were playing some newer shit and you wanted to leave, but I was like, No way man! But you—"

"Dan," I interrupted him. "I never saw Primus at Memorial Auditorium. Sounds like a great night, though."

His was one of many such outpourings, mostly about the shows I failed to mention, prompted by the piece.

"I saw Ween at Memorial," Christie Mitchell, executive director of the South End Arts + Business Association, wrote in an email. New to town at the time, she went to the show by herself. "I dressed up as Tippi Hedren's character from The Birds, with a vintage dress and fake bloody birds plastered all over me!" she recalled.

Some of my favorite stories came from fellow Seven Dayzers: culture coeditor Dan Bolles remembered DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince; art editor Pamela Polston recalled catching Bob Marley.

In 1990, the Ramones were playing with the Tom Tom Club and Blondie at the auditorium, but art director Diane Sullivan, aka Sully, aka the Reverend, didn't have a ticket.

"One of my friends going to the show was going to come out and give me a stub so I could sneak in," she told me. "So I just waited outside by the entrance. But I think they sort of forgot me!"

So Sullivan hung outside, listening to the Tom Tom Club and the Ramones through the brick and concrete. That is, until a "roadie" came outside and saw her standing alone. After asking her what she was doing, the man gruffly ushered her into the show, where she would see the full Blondie set. Time and memory have jogged some details loose, and Sullivan now believes the man was no roadie.

"Look, other than Joey, I couldn't tell a Ramone apart," she said. "The roadie had that dumb bowl cut and black hair and a leather jacket. The more I think about it, he was probably a Ramone. So, yeah. I'll say it was Dee Dee! Who knows? The important thing is, I saw the whole Blondie show for free!"

It's unclear what will happen to Memorial, and voters' defeat of a renovation bond issue earlier this month did nothing to answer the question. But whatever happens can't change the good times and memories associated with the old building. Getting to hear about them these past two months has been a privilege, and I thank you all — you, too, Dan — for that.