June 26 (1970) – Did you get your tickets for Janis Joplin tonight at the Aerodrome?

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The Aerodrome was located at 1588 State St. in Schenectady (just beyond the Route 7 intersection) in a converted 32 lane bowling alley. It opened in 1968 and closed in 1970. It was probably the best club EVER in the Capital District; it was this area’s Fillmore. Everyone played there… and we mean everyone.

If you’ve heard about the Aerodrome, it was as good as people say.. and if you’ve never heard of it, let us tell you. There’s a reason it is the stuff of legend. It was the first and only club of its kind in our area. When you walked inside the air crackled with excitement and electricity. There were Day-Glo, strobe and ultra-violet lights, projection screens with the obligatory psychedelic paisleys and amoebas, a mandala on the dance floor and spinning mirror balls. The ceiling was covered with orange and white parachutes. There were almost 100 speakers scattered through the club.

It was the place to see the Sixties fashion revolution: beads and bangles, Levis, tie dye, fringe, stripes, paisleys, vests, fur, leather, Indian prints and Mexican blouses, bell bottoms, micro minis, long hair, halters, head bands, work shirts, granny dresses, hip huggers, huge belts, floppy hats, cut-offs, sandals and boots. Someone once said to me, “I go to the Aerodrome and fall in love 2 or 3 times a night.”

It wasn’t just another venue, it was a place that couldn’t have existed in any other time..

Bands included Country Joe, Janis Joplin, Canned Heat, Steppenwolf, Billy Joel and the Hassles, the Yardbirds, BB King, the Box Tops, Chicago Transit Authority, Velvet Underground, Jeff Beck, Vanilla Fudge and Led Zeppelin.

The Aerodrome had a capacity of 3,000 and some nights the lines snaked down the street for blocks.

On the night Joplin appeared there was a crowd of 1,000. She was, that night, described as a “wild woman”. We don’t have a setlist, it was all relatively new music for her, except for “Try”. A local reviewer said she gave it her all… but the crowd was unmoved (shame on us). She “stormed” and “pleaded” and the audience just sat there, unwilling to love her back. Legend has it she went to a local bar and spent yet another night slugging back Southern Comfort into oblivion.

Four months after the gig at the Aerodrome she would be dead from a drug overdose at the age of 27.

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Copyright 2021 Julie OConnor

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