Aragon Ballroom

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Built in 1926, the Aragon Ballroom was designed for the tuxedoed men and gowned women who whirled to the big bands on its mammoth dance floor. "This place in the '50s and '60s was really popular for ballroom dancing," manager Liz Varney said. But musical tastes change, and now the Aragon is more likely to host a concert by Ministry, Primus or Alanis Morissette. At most of those concerts, dancing is banned. Signs warn "No Stage Diving, Body Surfing," and anyone caught trying to start a mosh pit is ejected. As its name suggests, the Aragon looks like the courtyard of a Spanish castle, complete with turrets, terra-cotta roofs and battered palm trees in the balconies, and bas-relief cameos set in the banisters of the stairs. There are also Middle Eastern and Aztec murals decorating the place while a few "stars" flicker in the ceiling. Giant swords, reminiscent of the weapons of El Cid, protrude from above the stage. The Aragon also is a popular place for Latin dance parties. Having been around for more than 70 years, the Aragon has its spot in musical history: Buddy Holly was supposed to play here on his 1959 tour, but his fatal plane crash canceled that date. Nirvana made an appearance here, and, more recently, the Aragon was the site of Smashing Pumpkins' cover shoot for Rolling Stone magazine. It's a great place to see (if not to hear--the acoustics are heavily echoed) a band on the way up. "This place actually is a big turning point for a lot of groups," Varney said. "If you can fill a place with 4,500 people, the next step is pretty big."