Tucked away on a Poughkeepsie, New York side street is the entrance to a music venue that Sting, Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland of The Police are unlikely to ever forget.
That’s because in October 1978 the soon-to-be-famous rock trio from England played an infamous show at this club — known over time as Frivolous Sal’s Last Chance Saloon, The Last Chance Saloon and today, The Chance — to four paying customers. The occasion was the band’s first ever tour of the U.S. and the gig in Poughkeepsie followed success on the hallowed grounds of CBGB’s in Manhattan.
But for all that could be forgotten about that night in Poughkeepsie at The Last Chance Saloon — the inclement weather, the fact that it was a Monday and the way in which Monday Night Football had stolen the attention of some attendees at the bar — each member of The Police has vivid memories of the evening.
Sting on “The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon” in 2016 joked that there was “tumbleweed in the alley” outside the venue that night. Of the handful of people in attendance, Sting said he motioned to each of them as they watched from different corners of the club.
“I said, ‘Guys, just come down to the front’ and I introduced them to each other, to the band and we did our show and we got five encores,” he said.
All of this is so important right now because of how the Covid-19 pandemic has shut down the live music industry and darkened historic venues like The Chance. We need our live music venues, we need our shows, we need to experience it all with our friends and loved ones, and we need it back now. But the pandemic prevails and we need to be smart and safe, so we wait — and wait, and wait.
With coronavirus restrictions on public gatherings slamming the brakes on live music for the foreseeable future, the Barry On The Beat Blog wants to know what your favorite show at The Chance in Poughkeepsie was. Please send an email to email@example.com with your name, town or village, state and country where you live, along with the memories of your best show at The Chance.
Click here to learn more about the National Independent Venue Association, which has been at the forefront of the campaign to save the live music industry and secure billions of dollars in federal funding — money the industry is still waiting for — to help right the ship.
And now, ladies and gentlemen, back to The Police and that infamous night.
Copeland, speaking to the Poughkeepsie Journal in 2015, said, “I remember the football game, but not who won it.”
Summers described the evening at length in his 2006 book, “One Train Later.”
“One night we turn up in a town called Poughkeepsie to play at a venue aptly called the Last Chance Saloon,” the book reads. “It is bitterly cold and we unload our gear from the van into deep snow. It looks like a decent place, but obviously tonight we are not going to get an audience. There are four people. These are hardy or insane souls who have braved the bone-numbing cold to see an unknown English rock band called the Police. Four? For a moment we feel a sense of doom — maybe we are fated to go under, even in this country, and suddenly the success of CBGB’s feels a long way behind us.
“But we set up our gear and after getting something to eat are recovered enough to say, ‘Oh fuck it, let’s play, we need the practice and at least we’ll keep warm.’ And we hit the stage in front of our almost invisible ticketholders and give a full-on show, leaping about like maniacs, strutting, parading and jamming our asses off. The four recipients of this mayhem respond in kind with vociferous applause, and in a perverse way we have enjoyed ourselves…We return to the motel feeling rather pleased with ourselves.”
In addition to The Police, Bob Dylan, Charles Mingus, Muddy Waters, David Bowie, Jimmy Cliff, Lou Gramm of Foreigner, Bob Weir, Jerry Garcia, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Ron Wood, The Band, Hot Tuna, the Ramones and countless other acts have performed at The Chance. Built in 1912, the former vaudeville house a century ago showed silent films and was home to theater troupes. It was closed and use for storage from 1945-1970; opened in 1970; closed in 1977; then re-opened in 1980 as The Chance.
For current owner Frank Pallett, this music hall remains so special to so many for so many reasons.
“The sight lines, the sound is great, it’s intimate,” he said. “To be in that room, it just has a certain vibe. It’s a certain vibe that’s undeniable. It speaks for itself.”