On July 24, 1939, The Show Box opened as Seattle’s grandest “dine and dance rendezvous,” where dancing began at noon each day and continued into the night.
The storied venue has served many purposes since that time — a dance hall, a furniture store, a Jewish bingo hall. But its most well-known for hosting big music stars, from Duke Ellington to Iggy Pop to Macklemore.
This week, a developer filed initial plans to demolish the Showbox to make way for a $100 million apartment tower — almost 79 years after the venue opened.
Here’s a look at some of the acts that performed in the venue, and the changes it’s undergone over eight decades.
July 24, 1939 — The Show Box opens
The Show Box opens at 1424 First Ave. Shows featured musicians, comedians and even a dancing dog.
April 1, 1940 — Duke Ellington
Duke Ellington, called “Harlem’s Aristocrat of Jazz,” brings his 25-person orchestra to The Show Box in 1940. For one performance, the venue offered low admission prices to schoolchildren so they could hear Ellington play.
July 14, 1941 — Gypsy Rose Lee
Seattle’s own burlesque dancer Gypsy Rose Lee performs at the Show Box to sold-out crowds. The reporter wrote that she was “assisted with a group of attractive girls” and other musicians.
1948 to late 1970s — the era of change
The venue closed in 1948 but reopened several times, as a theater, dance club and a furniture store. In the late 1960s it reopened as a teenage dance club called The Gathering. After that closed, it reopened as a Jewish bingo parlor called the Talmud Torah, which the owners occasionally rented out for rock shows.
Nov. 26, 1979 — Iggy Pop
Iggy Pop performs at the Showbox (this time its name stylized as one word), taking “rock to the edge of insanity.”
April 19, 1980 — The Ramones (until Johnny Ramone fell victim to measles)
The Ramones were set to play the Showbox on an April night in 1980, but had to cancel — Johnny Ramone had the measles. The three remaining Ramones still managed to do a meet-and-greet with fans and radio interviews while Johnny slept in his hotel room.
May 15, 1980 — New Wave
In a story about the genre New Wave, the Showbox is described as a “wonderfully tacky nightclub” that has presented some of the best music in Seattle. At the time, the Showbox was operated by a concert company called Modern Productions.
Nov. 16, 1980 — James Brown
After his performance at the Showbox, the hardest working man in show business spoke with a Seattle Times reporter about politics, music and patriotism.
Mid 1990s — The Showbox Comedy and Supper Club
Nov. 21, 2003 — Death Cab for Cutie
Nov. 18, 2014 — FKA Twigs
May 7, 2015 — Sleater-Kinney
May 11, 2018 — Concert For Recovery
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