This was very early in my tenure at the Poughkeepsie Journal and USA Today Network.
After we had talked about the film, I mentioned to Mike that I had seen Phish in the early 1990s at The Chance in Poughkeepsie. He responded by telling me this incredible story of sleeping in the band’s van, in The Chance parking lot, during the day of a show, and being woken for soundcheck. Still emerging from sleep, he made his way to the stage and, with Mike still waking up, the band began playing some kind of ambient groove that had obviously left a big impression on him. What I took away from that phone conversation was that Mike Gordon, just like a lot of us, made some strong memories at The Chance, and really dug the place.
Phish was one of many shows I saw at the former vaudeville house and cinema on Crannell Street in the heart of the City of Poughkeepsie. Crannell Street is a tiny little street, for pedestrians only, that gives concertgoers a nice launching pad for what in many cases will be a great night with friends, and a deep dive into the Hudson Valley’s rich artistic heritage with a raging rock show.
Jimmy Cliff. Michael Franti opening for Ziggy Marley. Michael Franti headlining. Lou Gramm of Foreigner RAGING his former’s band’s hits. The Black Crowes performing a stealth show as Mr. Crowe’s Garden was off the hook and I clearly remember ending the night with a very late hang in one of The Chance’s bars, having an in-depth discussion about music with Chance owner Frank Pallett.
All of this has been running through my mind over the last few days, in the wake of Frank’s passing. Everyone, from Mike Gordon of Phish to Sting—The Police played to four paying customers in 1978—has a Chance story. And from the way Facebook has been exploding since Frank’s passing, it’s obvious that many in the Hudson Valley and beyond have their very own Frank Pallett story.
Frank was a bear of a guy whose heart dripped with golden goodness. During my two decades writing about music for the Poughkeepsie Journal, I met plenty of club owners, promoters, managers, publicists and, how can I say this nicely, other random and various music industry middlemen. Frank was one of the best, personally and professionally. I always looked forward to speaking with him and looking back, I’m glad that one of my last big stories for the Poughkeepsie Journal, about the impact of the pandemic on venues, involved a phone call with Frank.
For those who, like me, find The Chance to be an enduring reminder of why we love loud, live music in a neighborhood club with a worldwide reputation, Frank will always be the keeper of the keys to good times just a few steps off Main Street in Poughkeepsie. Whether I was in the balcony or the bar at The Chance, seeing a show, or out in the community hearing one of the hundreds of incredible stories about this incredible venue with the incredible legacy, I could never truly wrap my head around the legacy of this singular destination for live music and how big of a personality it maintains.
For those who don’t know the ins-and-outs of The Chance’s history, this is from the website:
“Built in 1912, The Chance Theater has had a long history as a performing arts venue. It was opened as a vaudeville house called the Dutchess Theatre in 1926. It became the Carol Players Playhouse, then the Playhouse Theatre in 1928. Showing vaudeville and films at the time, the theatre introduced silent film in the 1920s. The venue changed ownership many times throughout the 1920s and 1930s. From 1945 to 1970 the building was closed and was used as a storage facility. In 1970 Larry Plover opened the venue as ‘Sal’s last Chance Saloon.’ Plover turned the old vaudeville theatre into a music venue, welcoming legendary acts such as The Police, The Ramones, Muddy Waters, Pete Seeger and Charles Mingus. Closed again in 1977, Peter Francese re-opened the venue in 1980 under the name ‘The Chance.’ In 1994 current owner Frank Pallett acquired the legendary music venue. Pallett has brought acts such as Bob Dylan, David Bowie, Ted Nugent and countless other contemporary and classic rock bands to Poughkeepsie, NY.”
Yes, The Police played to four paying customers. And yeah, I’m very proud to say I saw Phish at The Chance back in the day. And yeah, it was great to see David Bowie on that stage, as dazzling as ever. And it was absolutely great to see Bob Dylan on that stage, as spooky as ever.
But right now all of my Chance memories revolve around Frank Pallett—a good guy who is missed but will be remembered for his generous spirit. May he Rest In Peace.