44 Years Ago Today: Greenlake Aqua Theater Destroyed By Led Zeppelin
Much like this one, it was one of the first warm weekends of Spring in Seattle when Led Zeppelin made their second appearance here. They were largely unknown when they opened for Vanilla Fudge at the Seattle Center Arena just after Christmas (When the infamous “Mudshark” or “Red Snapper” incident occurred at the Edgewater Hotel), but by May they were back, with their first album rocketing up the charts, and though ostensibly they were opening for Three Dog Night, most people had come to see Zeppelin on May 11th 1969 at the Green Lake Aqua Theater.
The theater was built in 1950 in time for the first Seafair festival to house the Aqua Follies: Summertime “Swimmusicals” featuring music, synchronized swimming, dancing, comedy, and silly dives from the two 40-foot towers on either side of the stage. It had a capacity of 5600 seats, had been the site of jazz festivals, opera, plays, big name musical touring productions like Oklahoma and The King And I, even a week-long run by Bob Hope during it’s ’62 World’s Fair heyday. But then as now Seattle summer weather is…unpredictable, and the Aqua Follies folded in 1964. The Seattle Center facilities left over from the fair provided better places for large productions, and the Aqua Theater was in decline by the time the mighty Zep showed up.
The Seattle P.I. reported that only about half the crowd paid for tickets at the jam-packed Green Lake Aqua Theater. Many more sprawled out on the lawn surrounding the theater, climbed trees, the roof of a concession stand, hung on small flotilla of boats, canoes, rubber rafts, and airmatresses… some even treaded water in the lake. All were blown away, except apparently Heart’s Ann and Nancy Wilson who were quite young and a bit put off by the overt sexuality of tight jeans and The Lemon Song, according to a post at the My Green Lake Website. We’ll ask for more detail next time we get to talk to them.
Sometime later in the summer City Inspectors deemed the Aqua Theater unfit for public use and ordered its demolition, while allowing one more rock concert in August…but it was only the Grateful Dead. It was torn down shortly after, only part of the grandstands remain today.
Most of this info comes from an excellent article by longtime Seattle Rock historian Peter Blecha on the fabulous Northwest History site Historylink.org .
We do not know who owns the rights to these photos, so we can’t put them here. But the interwebs are a strange and wonderful place, and others are not as paranoid of lawsuits as us. So follow the links for images of Page, Plant, Bonzo, Jones, and maybe yourself if you were there.
There are more accounts (and the same photos) at this Green Lake Community Website.