Since the mid-1980s, the Trocadero Theatre gave stage to thousands of bands — from big-name stars like Pearl Jam and Kendrick Lamar, to unknown Philly groups. That’s not all: Skeletor karaoke, Monday movie nights, and Zombie Proms were part of the standard fare at one of Philly’s most unique music venues. With news of the venue’s shuttering its doors, concertgoers from across the region have started to share their favorite memories — the best show they’ve ever seen, meeting a spouse over drinks at the Balcony Bar, dancing the night away at parties of all kinds.
We asked our readers to share their memories and they didn’t disappoint:
My family’s optometry practice was on 10th Street adjacent to the Troc when it was still a burlesque house. After graduating Berkeley optometry, I practiced in that office for two years, from 1972-1974. In my exam room I would hear the bump and grind music wafting through the walls. These were the late days of burlesque and the women entertainers would come to the office to have costume rhinestones glued to their gaudy frames. I remember how haggard these heavily made up women were and what hard lives they must have led. I’ve lived in Los Angeles and practiced in Compton and have told these stories many times. —Jay Messinger, 72, Philadelphia
During the summer of 1996, I underwent chemotherapy for cancer. I was very weak, but my girlfriend at the time drove us to see Yo La Tengo at the Troc. I couldn’t last the entire set, but what I saw was awesome and it was the highlight of that long, tiring summer. —Tym Mac
My father was diagnosed with cancer in 1995, and before he passed, my mother had asked him to send a sign when he “arrived where he was going.” I had tickets to see Matthew Sweet just a few days after my father’s death and I still went to the show to get out of the house and try to put my grief aside for just a little bit. My father had a huge love of freshwater bass fishing, and I remember that night at the Trocadero seeing a mounted bass at the very top of the stage. I don’t remember noticing it before, and didn’t remember seeing it since, but I definitely took it as a sign from my father.
Oh… and seeing Soundgarden open up for Danzig was about one of the most incredible shows ever. It was August, the air was on the fritz, but it was just absolutely amazing. My brother did make me sit on a blanket on the way home since I was so gross from being in the pit. —Susan Rogozinski, 47, Millville, NJ
A few friends and I saw Tool play at the Troc circa 1994. During the show the sprinkler system went off and the show was halted momentarily. The band eventually came back and said “If it’s okay with you, it doesn’t bother us” and kept on playing. Eventually the system was shut off, but there were several inches of water on the floor in the mosh pit. I believe the show was in February but definitely was in the winter — regardless I remember leaving the venue absolutely soaked to the bone from the water and shivering my ass off until we got to the car and gave it time to warm up. Definitely my most unique experience there. —John Sadlowski, 42, Haddon Heights, NJ
Slayer, 1990-something. Absolutely insanely great show but only got a bit through the set before somebody started swinging from a water pipe on the balcony, which broke and proceeded to flood the place. Everybody got kicked out and madness ensued on Arch Street. Good times. —Jeff Hahneman, 48, Skippack, PA
It was the mid-'90s and I had never heard of a band called Wilco before. One Friday night I read in City Paper that they were going to be at the Troc that night and made the quick decision to check them out. I took the train in from Ardmore and hoped it wouldn’t be a bust. Quite the contrary; they put on what still stands as one of the best shows I’ve seen in my life, and it made me a life-long fan. The fact that it was at the Trocadero was the icing on the cake. I remember making my way to within 20 feet of the stage — beer intact — and getting the full audio blast of Tweedy and gang. As they launched into a second encore, I glanced at my watch and realized I was going to miss the last train home if I didn’t run like hell. It pained me to miss even a second of that show, but a cab wasn’t an option, so I sprinted to Market East and jumped on the R5 seconds after it pulled into the station. Ears ringing, I grinned all the way home. —James, 50, South Burlington, VT.
Best concert I saw there had to be Kid Creole and the Coconuts on February 2, 1986, I know the date because I still have the ticket. Kid Creole was simply the most fun band around and had really catchy tunes that made you want to dance. My single most memorable moment was when a friend of mine passed out in the lobby after a Stranglers concert, a little less joyful than Kid and the Coconuts. —Chris Downing, 63, Massachusetts
My favorite Troc moment was watching Dick Dale slip off his flip flops and his roadie rushing out to grab them, gently and neatly placing them next to one of the stacks. Priceless! —David Penkower, 54, Philadelphia
August 30 1995 — Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. I am two years into college and learning all kinds of new lush sounds from across the pond via the O’Gallagher Bros, Spacemen 3, Factory Records, Shoegaze, Cocteau Twins, The Verve etc. We had discovered Phish the previous year and have known about Ween, Primus, Flaming Lips and a few other post-Nirvana oddball stuff. I may have heard “Bellbottoms” or the entire Orange album but I was going to a lot of shows on a whim based on recommendation, band name, cover art, time of week, so it’s possible I knew nothing. Well the name says it all and it was a blast of ferocious fresh air. The polar opposite of the shoegaze haze I was focused on. A lot of crunch was happening. He screamed the name of the band 100 times with 4 times as many YEAHS! and OOHS!! The last image I recall was of a sweaty unbuttoned Jon molesting a theremin, screaming in electronic pain, to pulsing white strobes as the show’s energy collapsed into a heaping pile of hot August ooze. Blues exploded indeed. —Daniel McCartney, 43, Southampton, PA
Getting to see Carcass for my 41st birthday. I’m holding up the cassette J-card from their first album and Jeff Walker noticed it from the stage, and said “Do ya even have a machine that plays tapes anymore, mate?!” —William Rizzo, 48, South Jersey
I will always remember being a box office seller and working an Il Nino show there one night. A guy got kicked out for being too drunk and I was the only one sitting up front in the box office window. He paced back and forth outside and then slammed his head against the glass door. Started bleeding everywhere. Teddy, one of the security guys, must of heard the crack and ran out to chase him away. So many good shows there. Beyond sad to see this venue close. It’s the best in Philly. —Kate Guarrieri, 32, Philadelphia
Had the thrill of opening for Scott Weiland and The Last Internationale on August 17th, 2013 to a packed Trocadero house. The energy in the place was indescribable that night and though we were the “lowly” openers, the crowd (who were entirely there to see him of course…and so was I!) cheered us on with such incredible fervor. I’ll never forget that feeling or the memory of getting to meet and chat with one of my childhood musical idols backstage after the show. It was surreal. RIP Scott & The Troc —Gabe, Philadelphia/New Jersey
I only was at the Trocadero once. WIP had one of its early Wing Bowls there and I was there. This was in the late 1990s. I’m thinking 1997. It was before Wing Bowl became so big that they moved it to the Spectrum/ FU Center.
The Wing Bowl at the Troc was awful. Of course, the “standing room only” floor viewing was bad enough. The worst part was the TV news media. The cameramen stood on stage with their equipment, blocking our audience view half the time. We yelled at them “Down in front! We can’t see!” but to no avail. It was free attendance and they couldn’t care less about us. Due in part to such issues, I think that was the only year WIP held Wing Bowl at the Troc. —David Glassman
We know you’ve got your own memories of the place, and we’d love to hear them. Tell us what you remember most about The Troc over the years through the form below, and we might use it in an upcoming story.
Have some great pictures you want to share? We’d love to see those, too. Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.