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ecips commented about Prospect Mall Cinemas, Milwaukee, WI on Sep 14, 2022 at 9:48 am

Note: This photo was taken several years after the Prospect Mall Cinema’s existence.

ecips commented about State Theater on Aug 15, 2017 at 10:55 am


The Electric Ballroom brought rock and roll to the former State and during its roughly four-year run, it brought in a number of big names, including AC/DC, Elvis Costello (on Dec. 1, 1977, with Bad Boy opening!), The Runaways, The Ramones, Welsh metal band Budgie, Eddie Money, Judas Priest, Hawkwind and Todd Rundgren, whose October 1978 gig there was released on CD last year.

It also booked up and comers like Rockford’s Cheap Trick, along with local bands, including The Lubricants, who did something – I’m not sure what – to earn the honor of being banned.

By January 1979, Chuck Vecitis and Peter Sobotka bought the place. They renamed it The Palms and spent a few weeks cleaning and painting before reopening it.

But the toughest thing to change, it seems, was the Electric Ballroom’s rough reputation.

“The people who owned it wouldn’t have gotten their license again,” Vecitis told the Milwaukee Sentinel that year. “We had to fight for our license for two months. When we took the club over, we had fights in here every night. We just put the security in and put a stop to it. No one gets hassled in here anymore.”

Among the earliest shows there were performances by George Thorogood & the Destroyers, Sad Cafe, Steve Forbert, Poco, Asleep at the Wheel, Peter Tosh, Dire Straits and The Police.

The list of bands that played The Palms by the time it closed in 1986 is impressive: Megadeth, The Replacements, Duran Duran, Dokken, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, Talking Heads, The Psychedelic Furs, Gang of Four, The Stray Cats, The Stranglers, The Motels, Joan Jett, The Ramones and, on April 15, 1981, U2.

There were countless others, too. And the shows were a bargain. Gigs by Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, Meatloaf and Eddie Money cost $1. One. Dollar. Admission to see U2 on its first American tour was $4.50.

Like the Electric Ballroom before it, The Palms also booked local acts, and I can remember seeing Kafka and St. Bernard there around 1984. Five years earlier, The Haskels had organized Milwaukee’s debut “New Wave Festival” at the club.

Guitarist Mike Ciaccio, whose band The Tense Experts opened that U2 show, remembers The Palms:

“I saw a lot of people there,” he says. “Not horribly cavernous sounding, but sort of. Somewhat seedy in the dressing rooms, but a step up from some, including wherever we lived for more than a few months. I liked it.”

His then-bandmate Bobby Steele says they used to do load-in and stage work at the club when they weren’t gigging.

“We lived about a half block away from The Palms, and often we would get roadie gigs. It was probably $20 and free shots. I roadied for the Ramones. One of my friends was stage manager and lived in the apartment upstairs for a few years.”

Don Hallen worked at The Palms and also briefly lived in the apartment upstairs.

“I was the stage manager there for two stints in the early ‘80s,” he recalls. “The first week I was stage manager The Tourists, with Annie Lennox, played and two days later it was The Pretenders. Was there the night of The Plasmatics. Did lights for Joan Jett and Hank Williams Jr. It was a great time.

“I only lived upstairs for a while, but it did have its times, when the place was used for a dressing room. I could tell you a story or two. The Palms was a cool place to work, worked with so many good bands, saw so many great shows, got paid for it, and could drink for free on the job. Who in their early 20s wouldn’t love that?”

But the neighborhood was changing and the business was changing and by 1986, The Palms had gasped its last breath.