PETER SHAPIRO at Brooklyn Bowl. There are now additional locations in Philadelphia, Nashville, Las Vegas, and another on the way. Photo: Marc Millman.

With more than 10,000 concerts to his credit, Peter Shapiro is celebrating 10 years at Capitol Theatre, success with Brooklyn Bowl, and a new book. Reprinted from DOWNTOWN Summer 2022.

IMPRESARIO PETER SHAPIRO got his calling for concert promotion during the summer of 1993.“I was 20. Grateful Dead. March 1993 Rosemont, Chicago, ended up in the parking lot. I was working with Northwestern [University] Magazine, a film student. I went on the road with them, made a documentary called Miles to Go, met a lot of luminaries,” recalls Shapiro, a native New Yorker.

He eventually met up with the former owner of the Wetlands in Tribeca, a staple venue for The Dead. “He’d seen my documentary. He said to me, ‘you understand the importance of this music.’ I saw the writing on the wall. Interest [in the bands] would not fade away, just evolve. I raised my hands and at 23, that’s how it started. He gave it to me, paid it off over four years. I loved owning a venue.” Shapiro ran Wetlands from 1996-2001 (until 9/11), where artists such as Blues Traveler, Dave Matthews Band, and Pearl Jam, came to play. That was just the beginning.

Today, Shapiro has some 10,000 concerts under his belt. His two biggest projects include the multi-million dollar renovation of the Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, celebrating its 10th anniversary this summer under Shapiro’s ownership, as well as the ever growing Brooklyn Bowl chain, the first of which opened in 2009. There are now additional locations in Philadelphia, Nashville, and Las Vegas. Another location is opening in the not-too distant future, Shapiro hints. He also helps promote tours and shows such as Central Park’s annual Summerstage lineups, and is publisher of Relix Magazine.

The Capitol Theatre, designed by noted architect Thomas Lamb, originally opened in 1926. When Shapiro bought it in 2012, he gave it a multimillion dollar facelift. “It was an illustrious rock palace. Janis Joplin, Jerry Garcia played there. It had magic bones.” Shapiro fixed up the bars, bathrooms. Over the years, they’ve had everyone from Phish, Willie Nelson, and Steely Dan, to Goose and Billy Strings (a personal favorite of Shapiro’s). A personal career highlight was organizing Grateful Dead: Fare Thee Well, a three-night concert in 2015, with the surviving members of The Grateful Dead, along with Trey Anastasio from Phish, “ to play Jerry, meld them together.” Today, says Shapiro, “We’re the only theatre in a suburb in America with a 2,000 capacity and 90 volunteer ushers.”

IT ALREADY HAD MAGICAL BONES: Shapiro took the Capitol Theatre and gave it a multimillion dollar facelift. This year marks the venue’s ten anniversary since the renovation. At left, Shapiro’s new book tells of his personal experiences over the years as a concert promoter. Photo: Scott Harris

“Working for Peter Shapiro has been a dream come true for me for ten years now,” says Brian Lynch, an usher. “He has let me work nearly 900 shows at the Capitol Theatre so far, seven Lockn’ festivals (a four-day music and camping festival held in Nelson County, Virginia), the Grateful Dead Fare Thee Well shows in Santa Clara, CA and Chicago, numerous shows at Central Park Summerstage, as well as access to shows at Radio City Music Hall, MSG and The Apollo Theater. He is a true music fan boy like me, his enthusiasm comes right through. He cares about every detail including taking care of his people. I have called him ShapHERO for a longtime. He’s a mensch!”

The pandemic took its toll, especially on the concert industry . “It was really hard; I went from going 100 mph to zero,” admits Shapiro. “Had to get back to 20 mph.” One of the ways he combined his love for music and innovation in the early days of the pandemic, was through the creation of FANS.LIVE, live streaming shows. “The streams started with no audience. The Hold Steady was birthed, we figured we needed to do shows. Selling virtual tickets started in the pandemic. Now you’ve got free streams,Twitch Channel, livestream audio.”

The summer 2022 season at Capitol Theatre is gearing up. They recently streamed a Hanson show on FANS.LIVE. In May, Eddie Vedder came back for a live performance.There are upcoming shows with Ann Wilson of Heart, Steely Dan, Phil Lesh, Steve Vai, and others. “We made it 10 years. The whole thing’s pretty awesome.”

Shapiro will also add being an author to his resumé. His book, The Music Never Stops: What Putting on 10,000 Shows Has Taught Me About Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Magic with Dean Budnick, (Hachette) is out in August.

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