Old buildings have the power to provoke certain feelings: an awareness of untold events, for example, and a respect for the tread of history. Wistfulness comes about, too, when the building’s been unfilled for years.
Such is the case with St. Paul’s Palace Theatre, which is located on West Seventh Place in downtown St. Paul. It opened in 1916 as a vaudeville theater and transitioned to movies in 1925; nearly six decades later, in 1984, it closed to the public. Thanks to the City of St. Paul (aided by First Avenue and promoter JAM Productions), the Palace will soon be a beautiful, active music venue full of up to 3,000 concertgoers. But for now, it’s eerily quiet.
In this video, the second in the Current and St. Paul’s Palace Theatre series, deM atlaS floods the empty space with his hulking, heart-wrenching song “Down In The Low” (off 2014’s DWNR). In addition to performing, he also walks through the theater’s rubble. Construction is very much underway, with scaffolding and ladders both present in the video, but deM atlaS is somber as he passes toppled seats and gouged paint layers.
Via e-mail, he said, “The song is bleak, and to me, it’s about isolation and being by oneself. The unfinished construction of the Palace Theatre paints that picture vividly to me: the wreckage, the empty, and the nightmarish dream of being left behind.”
He continued, “I felt that ‘Down In The Low’ was the right vibe, seeing as they are going to primarily have rock shows there. When I walked in, I knew in my gut ‘Down In the Low’ would fit, based off its grunge aesthetics and the purpose and meaning of the song.”
Though there’s much more work to be done, the Palace Theatre is headed toward completion. The process is one of many events in St. Paul’s Sounds Perfect: 2016 Year of Music. Follow along with the Current’s video series to watch the theater’s progress, and see Jeremy Messersmith perform “Ghost” at the first Palace performance.