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[balls to the walls] [UPDATED] Worcester Palladium: Soon to be New England's most metal... parking lot?



It is a well-documented fact that, in the world of metal, wrecking balls are seen as pretty awesome.


Exhibit A

But not when they threaten to topple our own metal places of worship-- and such a threat now exists, if the rumors are to be believed that THE PALLADIUM, that metal mecca located in downtown Worcester, may be facing imminent demolition.  The news broke yesterday on the City Desk page of Worcester Mag:

Word spread to the Worcester Mag office pretty quickly on Tuesday that the owners of the Palladium were filing-- or at least threatening to file-- paperworkfor the demolition of the music hot spot and regional Juggalo headquarters in order to create more parking for the courthouse across the street.  Worcester attorney and Palladium owner John Fischer, when asked to comment on the rumors, said he hasn't made a decision yet but added, "It has a lot to do with taxes." Like a number of the city's commercial property owners, the Palladium has seen a huge spike in its fiscal year 2012 assessment and subsequent tax bill, jumping from an assessed value of $689,000 in 2011 to $2.27 million this year.  "We're still debating what we're going to do," Fischer lamented.  "We'll know by August 1."

Juggalo jokes aside, the Palladium has long been host to the lion's share of the state's larger metal bills; if a show is too big to play the clubs, but not big enough to fill, say, Tsongas Arena, odds are that it will hit the Palladium, especially if it's metal.  The venue has also hosted the New England Hardcore and Metal Festival since its inception in 1999, growing the fest into a three-night orgy of bullet belts and blown eardrums that has kept New England on the map in metal circles since those late-90s/early-00s low point years in metal culture.  As any hesher worth their salt knows full well, Boston has never been the most metal-friendly town, owing not only to the town's pedigree of twee indie jangle and drunken identi-punk, but to its long-standing intolerance of all ages shows and venues.  Driven out of town, metal has thrived in the burbs, and for years, the Palladium has been its mecca.

The venue itself is not without its charms either: it began its life as the Plymouth Theatre in 1928, and was rechristened the E.M. Loew Center for the Performing Arts in the 80s.  Its opera boxes, chandeliers and intricate decorations may seem out of place when witnessing a Morbid Angel set, but the unusual layout reaps terrific sightlines, meaning that you can see and hear everything on the stage whether you are all the way upfront, up in the mezzanine, or hanging out way behind the bar.  With a massive stage and a respectable capacity of 2,160, it is always a tolerable and at times lavish setting for even the scuzziest of shows.

Of course, the credit for the venue's reputation as a New England metal hub goes to MassConcerts, the concert promotion group that has spent decades building a homegrown alternative to the national corporate-run behemoths that have come to monopolize the concertgoing experience for so many.  MassConcerts books shows all over New England, but it can be argued that their base is within the Palladium's hallowed halls, as they put on not there just the Metal/Hardcore Festival but dozens of other metal shows a year.

And make no mistake: even MassConcerts were to find another location for their metal blowouts, the demise of the Palladium would be a devastating blow to New England's metal culture.  The venue brings national and international artists through Massachusetts who might otherwise not bother, and it allows New England's homegrown talent to rub shoulders with metal's road warrior class.  The Palladium  and the NEMHCF have been a jumping off point for so many of the region's metal legends, whether it's Shadows Fall, Hatebreed, Killswitch Engage, or Converge.  And that's not even getting into the obvious detriment the venue's disappearance would be to the area-- think about it, on the one hand you have a majestic arts venue that brings people from all over the region to downtown Worcester to participate and invest in the city's nightlife, and on the other hand you have... a surface parking lot that can join the countless other surface parking lots that dot the downtown Worcester landscape like zits on a teenager's face.

At this stage, it's hard to say what will happen; MassConcerts could not be reached immediately for comment, but they did post this tweet earlier today:


Metalinsider.net published the following official statement from MassConcerts regarding the rumors of the venue's demolition: "Despite false rumors of the Palladium closing we are open and have no plans to close our doors.  We will continue to bring great live music to Worcester.  Please check our schedule for upcoming shows and events."  They then urge patrons of the Palladium to reach out to Worcester City Hall: "Our patrons bring in revenue to the city, and the city just doesn't realize the economic impact the Palladium patrons have."  They also urge fans to contact Worcester City manager Michael O'Brien at obrienma@ci.worcester.ma.us.  Despite all of that, it seems that the owner has given August 1st as the date that the ultimate decision on the fate of the venue will be rendered.  In the meantime, we'll keep you updated here-- and if you so choose, you can sign up to this change.org petition created to save the venue.

UPDATE:
So we got the straight word yesterday from MassConcerts owner John Peters, who stated unequivocably "As long as we're there, the building's not going anywhere."  After a weekend of frantic speculation and petitin-creating by metal fans all over (Peters estimates that MassConcerts got somewhere in the neighborhood of 2,000 emails from fans over the weekend alone, most pleading with them to not shut the venue down), Peters asserts that, for the time being at least, there will be no wrecking balls in the Palladium's future.

According to Peters, the city's tax reassessment of the Palladium property angered the owner.  "Perhaps," he explains, "the city bureaucrats thought 'Oh, this place does heavy metal, let's raise taxes and maybe they'll go away.' But the fact is that we bring 150,000 people to this place each year, people that pay to park and eat at restaurants and whatever else.  If we're closed on a weekend night, the place seems kind of dead."  Peters also detailed the economic infeasibility of the building's demolishing: "For at most fifty parking spots, it's a lot of work and cost [to demolish the building].  [The owner] has approval to do it, but he'd never evict us to turn the Palladium into a parking lot."

So metal maniacs can breathe easy for now, although the burden now rests on Peters and his crew to absorb the tax costs that will trickle down to then as tenants while the owner works through the appeal of the tax increase.  "Just like any business, we have to find a way, whether it's cutting costs or passing them on.  No one's getting rich off of the place, btu we have our niche and everyone's doing fine.  We'll just have to buckle down and make ends meet."

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