Harry’s Danceland!

img_9280.jpg

Joe Curry in the pit at Danceland during a Direct Action gig (getting rough with Pagdon and Doug E). Special thanks to Lea P for this amazing photo and many other Danceland photos on this, and future posts.

From the summer of 1988 to about the spring of 1989, Harry’s Danceland was about the only place you could go in the Latrobe/Greensburg PA area to see bands that played anything remotely punk or “alternative.” As I mentioned before, Danceland was the very first place I saw New Federation and about a year later I found myself playing bass in that band, under the name of Direct Action, at the very same Harry’s Danceland.

For those of you have never been to Danceland, or heard of the place, I will try to give a quick description and background. I hope that anyone reading this, and that are ‘in the know,’ can confirm, or add to the history of Harry’s Danceland in the comment section of this post.

From what I have been able to piece together over the years, Danceland was a dance hall, located in downtown Latrobe, that had been around long before any of our tiny bands started playing there in the late 80’s. I think Danceland was around since the late 50’s and bands like the Turtles and Tommy James And The Shondells actually played there. My Mom and Dad knew of the place when they were growing up and my Dad thought that Bo Diddley even played there.

Danceland was in a seven or eight story building. The area where the bands played was on one of the top floors. It was a large space (as the pictures on this post kind of show) with a dance floor and a raised area that went around the floor that had tables and chairs. It had a bar area but I don’t think they served alcohol (I know they didn’t during any of our shows). The ceiling was very high. I think it was at least twenty feet and was the cause of my one criticism of the place in that the sound was never great at Danceland because it was so boomy and echoed like crazy. Regardless, it was a great place to hang out, play, socialize with other misfit types, and see some surprisingly great shows (for Latrobe PA at least).

img_9277.jpg

Rob and Tom on the Danceland stage. There was a huge movie screen behind the stage but in all the years that I went there, I never saw it used for anything.

I have some great memories of loading our gear on the freight elevator that was in the back ally. All the bands would keep their gear on the floor below the main space. I think it was some kind off dance studio. When your band was about to play, you would take the elevator down to the floor below, load all your gear on the freight elevator and then take it to the main floor, which was right behind the stage. It was pretty easy to set up your stuff from there.

So how did punk and hardcore bands start to play Danceland? That is a good question. I think Dave Roman had a lot to do with it because he was friends with Harry Latanzio, that is THE “Harry” in Harry’s Danceland. I think he was Dave’s neighbor in Latrobe but I am not sure. I also think Rob Henry knew Harry and was able to get the first New Federation gig there. (Rob, can you confirm, clarify, or deny please?).

img_9283.jpg

Yours truly looking very “straight and alert.” Dave Roman is to the left.

Shortly after the New Federation show, there was another show at Danceland that featured Latrobe’s Deep Six (I am in the process of getting some items for a post on them soon) with The Heretics from Pittsburgh. I am not sure who organized this show or how it happened but right after this gig there seemed to be more punk type shows happening at Danceland. I think Dave Roman became the middleman between us (Direct Action) and Harry and I believe that was one of the reasons we were able to play so many shows there with some very cool bands in the following years.

Thinking back, there were a lot of shows at Danceland. A ton of local bands and a lot of bands from Pittsburgh that played there (Half-Life, Doomwatch, Battered Citizens, Thin White Line, Submachine, Cynics, others) but there were also a bunch of national bands that played Danceland including: Fang, NOFX, Rollins Band, False Prophets, AGs, and probably a few more that I can’t remember. I will try to cover these shows in the next few posts, but in the meantime, below are a few more pictures to give you the general feel of Harry’s Danceland. Of course they are Direct Action pictures (they are from one gig but I have no idea which one or who we played with that night). Does anyone have more pictures of Danceland? Maybe some from the street outside or in the seated areas? And as always, if you have any gig photos from Danceland please email them to me so I can post them and make this blog less “Direct Actioncentric.”

One more thing. Harry later changed the name of Danceland to Bonkers and then later to Illusions. In the early to mid nineties (when it was Illusions) there were fewer live shows there. Dave Roman had a weekly dance night every Friday where he played a lot of House, Techno, and Rave music. I wish I could remember the last show I went to see, or played, there. It may have been the Direct Action Reunion show with Submachine and Rugburn in 95? Speaking of Rugburn, I need some Rugburn stuff to post!

img_9281.jpg

img_9278.jpg

img_9275.jpg

img_9276.jpg

img_9270.jpg

img_9282.jpg

8 Responses to “Harry’s Danceland!”

  1. JohnP says:

    Dave writes: “There was a huge movie screen behind the stage but in all the years that I went there, I never saw it used for anything.”

    I remember a show where the screen was used. It may have been the Direct Action reunion show mentioned, because I remember Rugburn playing. Tom was working in video production at a place in Swissvale, and one day he bought a hot dog at Uni-Mart and set it in front of a camera and made the film that we used. You’d see the hot dog sitting there, get picked up, then put back down with a bite taken out. Once in a while intertitles would pop up. A roar went up at one of these titles. I whipped my head around to see on the screen: “Dave Roman is your God.” Or maybe I missed the caption and heard about it later.
    Rugburn used clips of Godzilla during their set.

  2. Burn Unit says:

    I remember taking Henry Rollins to UniMart so he could get a drink when Rollins Band played there. I was shaking and sweating in the presence of a punk rock god….for once, even I shut the fuck up. I couldn’t speak a word, I just listened to him talk about books, mostly…I hadn’t even gotten into literature yet…..Henry was all excited to find Vernor’s soda in the can….he was super cool and totally a nice guy.

  3. Burn Unit says:

    Another great thing about “Danceland” (or “Bonkers” as I believe the name was briefly changed to at the time) was their Friday night “New Wave” dance party. That’s where every male Greensburg punk would go to hang out and check out the New Wave and Goth Girls and make fun of them (even though many of us secretly liked some of themusic, but would never admit it). “Mold The Clay! Mold The Clay!”

  4. Derek says:

    i just went past there the other day on the way to my sister’s house… it is still a club because they had the big letters in the window spelling the name, but this old brain cannot remember the name… all i know for sure is that it wasn’t “bucket of blood”…

    a lot of great times were had at that place…
    nofx and rollins were great… but one of my favourites was the battle of the bands around xmas (1988 ?)

    classic!

  5. Burn Unit says:

    Derek, I think the “Battle of the Bands” (which I think you are correct, was sometime in December of 88) was technically Upper Hand’s first show (at the time we were hilariously called “In Touch”). Right before D.A.’s set, we got up and played two songs on their equipment (with Ron Skillman on bass, before you were in the band). We played an instrumental we were working on, and the legendary (and laughable) “White Hate”. I don’t think Dave has any memory of this. I think “The Fuse” played, too.

  6. StPatric says:

    “Battle of the Bands” was December 28th 1988 – The Murr won the recording time, my band “Armageddon” (Slayer covers w/o vocals) played it’s first and only show dead last after Direct Action. The video shot that night is long gone, there are a scant few pics up at:
    myspace.com/stpatric and I could probably dig up a couple more. The guitar player and I knew Shaun Moyer before BD (he showed up that night with that cane he carried for a while),and hung out/ jammed with DA’s guitar player at his house on Mohawk a couple of days after the show. I remember getting the “Clash” flyer from Tom in the hall at school one day (one of the few I showed up for) and my next band also did a train station photoshoot, nowhere near as cool as the ones for DA here.

  7. Chris says:

    Danceland in the late 80s was a great place! We in The Murr loved playing there with great bands. We will always remember the experience. I think we should try to organize a reunion show with as many bands as possible that can still get together to come back at some point and play one last time there. I understand that Harry is still alive. This would be most cool and would bring back some great memories!

  8. Brian Bazala says:

    I’m Brian Bazala, and I worked at Danceland when it re-branded as Bonkers and Illusions, in 1989-1990. There is a lot of story to that, but I’ve been curious to know what happened to the place. Our band, Faces in the Crowd played there around 1989 before the name change, which is how I got involved. I was at the Deep Six show and friends with most of those guys. Great you’ve got this site up. B.

Leave a Reply