The Eastown Theatre in Detroit opened in 1931 as a grand movie palace, with 2,500 seats, and was reinvented as a concert venue in the late ’60s, showcasing everyone from The Stooges and Alice Cooper to Bob Seger and Fleetwood Mac.
The building was abandoned in 2009 and a year later, the Eastown was featured in a terrific documentary, “Detroit Lives,” hosted by Jackass star Johnny Knoxville. Johnny and Sirius/XM personality Ko Melina risked life and limb to wander through the ruins of the Eastown and celebrate what it meant to the Detroit music scene.
Ko was also a member of a band I play often on the Rock and Roll Riot, the Detroit Cobras. Very cool lady.
Detroit is, musically speaking, best known for the Motown sounds of The Supremes, Smokey Robinson, The Temptations, Stevie Wonder and many, many other performers. Plus the man who hailed from the city across the border, Windsor, Ontario but, as a young lad, moved with his family to the suburbs of Detroit …Jack Scott.
In the documentary, Ko Melina and her fellow Motor City residents attempt to counter the negative press…a city built by the auto industry and abandoned by anyone with enough cash to escape to the suburbs…with stories featuring Detroiters determined to bring their beloved town back to life.
To paraphrase that horrible Starship song, they did not build their city on rock and roll, but Detroit is being rebuilt by artists, musicians and entrepreneurs who want to celebrate the city’s artistic legacy and create neighbourhoods and communities they can take pride in.
I love old theatres. The opulence. The grandeur. The architecture.
Chances are the Eastown will be demolished but it represents a chapter in Detroit’s rock and roll history that will be remembered for decades to come.