Sunday, October 14, 2018

Ace Of Cups Performance History 1969-72 (Ace Of Cups III)

The Ace of Cups debut studio album will be released on High Moon Records in November 2018
Throughout the 20th Century, The Ace Of Cups were a mystery bordering on myth: an all-female "psychedelic" playing many of the legendary places with all manner of legendary headliners, but with no released recordings, no known history and hardly even a photograph. This changed in 2003 with the release of their CD on the Big Beat label, It's Bad For You But Buy It (Big Beat CDWIKD 236). Historian and producer Alec Palao curated a wonderful release of demos and live tapes from the Ace Of Cups 60s heyday, and completed the set by writing comprehensive liner notes and finding wonderful photos that gave life to what had previously only been legend. Although 36 years late, the record is no less terrific for that, and it makes great listening as well as providing a fascinating window to a hitherto untold 60s story. I set out to make a list of Ace Of Cups performances, and the band members were nice enough to post my initial version of the list on their website.

Time marches on, however, and over the years I have considerably upgraded my information, so I am presenting here a more complete history of Ace Of Cups performances from 1967 onwards. Thanks to the Big Beat cd and the general wonderfulness of the band's music, there has been a considerable amount of attention focused on the band. Indeed, in their most recent reunion, the Ace Of Cups embarked on a worldwide tour of Marin County, as they played two shows in Marin on May 13 and 14, 2011. The relentless frenzy of activity has continued, with the band recording a new cd scheduled to be released on November 9, 2018.

What follows is a list of Ace Of Cups performances known to me. This post will deal with the band's performances from 1969 through 1972. The first post dealt with the band's formation in 1966 and their first year of performing in 1967, and the next post focused on 1968. Anyone with additional information, insights, corrections or recovered memories (real or imagined) are encouraged to put them in the Comments or email me directly. Thanks to everyone who has helped over the years, especially Ross and all the members of the Ace Of Cups.



1967-68
the individual members of the future band all made their way to San Francisco as aspiring musicians and proto-hippies, working formally and informally with various musical aggregations. Bassist Mary Gannon and pianist Marla Hunt met drummer Diane Vitalich, and they started playing together in 1966. When guitarist Mary Ellen Simpson came on board, they knew they had the makings of a band, even if it was not fully formed. Denise Kaufman came along in early 1967. The lineup of Ace Of Cups was
Denise Kaufman-guitar, harmonica, vocals
Mary Ellen Simpson-lead guitar, vocals
Marla Hanson-organ, piano, vocals
Mary Gannon-bass, vocals
Diane Vitalich-drums, vocals
Initially the band was managed by one Ambrose Hollingworth, but he was not physically able to be a full-time manager, and he turned those duties over to his friend Ron Polte, the manager of Quicksilver Messenger Service. Throughout the second half of 1967, Polte booked the Aces in smaller Bay Area clubs, as well as getting them opportunities to open for larger shows, as detailed in the previous post. Throughout 1968, Polte, through his West-Pole agency, booked the Ace Of Cups around the Bay Area and California. By year's end, the group had started to develop a following, and were slowly moving up the ladder to better bookings.

What follows is the known performances of The Ace Of Cups from 1969 through 1972. Anyone with additional information, eyewitness accounts or recovered memories (real or imagined) should post them in the Comments or email me directly through the blog.


December 31, 1968 New Orleans House, Berkeley, CA: Congress of Wonders/Ace of Cups
January 1-2, 1969 New Orleans House, Berkeley, CA:  Ace of Cups/Congress of Wonders
January 3-4, 1969  New Orleans House, Berkeley, CA: Ace of Cups/Phoenix
The Ace Of Cups had begun 1968 relatively unknown, booked at a Monday night show at Berkeley's New Orleans House. They ended the year as the principal New Year's Eve attraction at the very same New Orleans House. The band had played enough shows around the Bay Area, and impressed their audiences, so that they had developed a local following in Berkeley and other places.

The Ace Of Cups were booked by the West-Pole agency, a partnership between Quicksilver manager Ron Polte and former Big Brother manager Julius Karpen. The Aces were also managed by Polte, but that was a separate arrangement from their booking. West-Pole booked a wide variety of groups besides Quicksilver Messenger Service. Congress of Wonders, Phoenix, Freedom Highway and Sons of Champlin were all under the same umbrella as the Cups, accounting for the wide number of shows where they shared the bills with all these acts. 

West-Pole had also acted as the West Coast booking agency for Big Brother and The Holding Company and Electric Flag, among other groups. One of West-Pole's strategies was to book bands like Quicksilver or Big Brother at places like the Fillmore West or Avalon, and use their other acts, like the Ace Of Cups or the Sons, as openers. This gave the opening bands far more exposure than they might have received otherwise, and anyone who liked them would have a chance to check them out at a smaller local show. This had certainly worked in Berkely, as the Sons, Aces and Phoenix were fronting the entire first week of January at the New Orleans House.

Beginning in 1969, however, West-Pole had to reconsider their strategy. Quicksilver Messenger Service had lost Gary Duncan, who gone off on a motorcycle with singer Dino Valenti following a vague plan to form a band. Quicksilver still existed, and was planning to record an album, but they had no plans or even ability to perform live. Big Brother and The Holding Company had disintegrated, as after their final performance at the last Family Dog Avalon show (November 30, 1968), Janis Joplin has split to become a solo star with Columbia Records. And Electric Flag, a band whose hype exceeded even their potential, had crashed and burned after Mike Bloomfield left, and had evolved into the less impressive Buddy Miles Express. So West-Pole no longer booked headliners that it's junior acts could open for. Bands like The Ace Of Cups would be more on their own now.

January 10 or 11, 1969  The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: Ace Of Cups (or Sons Of Champlin)
The listings are a bit confusing here, but it seems that the Ace Of Cups and The Sons of Champlin were at the Matrix this weekend, and probably one band played each night, but possibly they both played.

A clip from Ralph J Gleason's SF Chronicle column on January 13, 1969, indicating that Ace of Cups were going to play a Tuesday night Fillmore West audition (on Jan 14)
January 14, 1969 Fillmore West, San Francisco, CA: Ace Of Cups/Indian Head Band/Littlejohn Blues Band
The Fillmore West itself is a Baby Boomer icon, even though relatively few humans actually ever attended shows there. The posters featuring bands like Santana and CSNY in their freshest incarnations have made the old ballroom into a rock and roll Camelot. Most rock fans are only aware of the Fillmore West from the reprinting of old posters and the plethora of crackling live albums from the Golden Days. Any list of Fillmore West shows, usually based on the posters, reads like a debutante ball for the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame. 

Yet there was an entire category of Fillmore West concerts that has nearly been forgotten. From Fall 1968 thru the venue's close in 1971, there were Tuesday night concerts that never appeared on any posters. Save for Summer, and some special occasions, every Tuesday night at Fillmore West Bill Graham Presents featured 3 local bands. Tickets were $1.50. Graham was looking to find opening acts for Fillmore West, and also to find bands to manage and sign to his record label. 

The Tuesday night Fillmore West concerts, sometimes known as "Audition Night" or "Jam Night," had been all but completely forgotten until I began compiling a list a few years ago. For many years I would read biographies of Bay Area bands who had proudly declared that they had played the Fillmore West, even though I had never seen them on a poster. Discovering the Tuesday shows solved that mystery. Numerous bands did indeed play Fillmore West, on a Tuesday rather than the high-profile weekends. A number of those groups opened subsequent shows, sometimes "off the poster," sometimes as part of the regular bill. 

In the case of Ace of Cups, they played Fillmore West on Tuesday, January 14, along with Indian Head Band and Littlejohn Blues Band. Indian Head Band featured a female vocalist, and played a sort of improvised "raga-rock." Their lead guitarist was Hal Wagenet, who would join It's A Beautiful Day a few months after this. Littlejohn Blues Band is familiar to me from listings of this time, but I have no idea who was in the band or where exactly they were from.

In the case of Ace of Cups, they went on to open for The Band at Fillmore West (see April 17, 1969, below). While manager Ron Polte got them on that bill, the fact that they had already played a Fillmore West audition and, presumably, passed muster with Bill Graham must surely have helped.

January 17-18-19, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Ace Of Cups
The Poppycock, at 135 University Avenue (at High Street), was Palo Alto's only paying gig. They had a fish and chips shop out front, and they served beer, but since there were no bars in downtown Palo Alto, the Poppycock was a hangout. They booked rock bands, and had a little light show on weekends. By this time, there was a little circuit of clubs around the Bay Area where rock bands playing their own music could perform: The Poppycock in Palo Alto, The Matrix in San Francisco, The New Orleans House in Berkeley and, to some extent, the Inn Of The Beginning in Cotati (I have no dates for them, but Denise assures me that the Aces played The Inn a number of times). Bands like The Ace Of Cups developed a local following by playing these places regularly.

February 17, 1969  Avalon Ballroom, San Francisco, CA: Mike Bloomfield and Nick Gravenites Jam/Sons of Champlin/Phoenix/Ace of Cups/Pitschell Players A Benefit for Lenay Inc “Happy Chinese New Year’s”
Chet Helms and the Family Dog had abandoned the Avalon Ballroom in December, 1968. At this point, various promoters were using it. This weeknight benefit featured bands who were booked by West-Pole. I don't know who "Lenay, Inc" was. There is a poorly-reproduced poster, but it is difficult to read. It must have been approximately this date (because of Chinese New Year’s), but it could have been any time from February 17th to 20th (Monday thru Thursday). I'm not 100% sure that the show happened.

March 4, 1969 Lincoln High School, San Francisco, CA: Sons Of Champlin/Ace Of Cups Two shows, starting at noon
The rock audience was very young in the 1960s. High schools got to book a lot of bands, because managers figured, probably correctly, that the place to find young fans was in school. Most of these performances were only publicized within the schools themselves. Lincoln High School was out in the Sunset, a long way from the Fillmore. This was a Tuesday afternoon, and was probably connected to a school event. I'm not sure why there was two shows, but it's very likely that the gym (or whatever performing venue it was) couldn't handle the entire student body.

March 7, 1969 The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: Ace of Cups/Cleanliness and Godliness Skiffle Band
Ace of Cups shared a bill with Berkeley's leading--and only--skiffle band, the Cleanliness and Godliness Skiffle Band, whom we have dealt with at length elsewhere. The Chronicle listing is a bit vague, but I think the Aces and CGSB split a weekend booking at the Matrix, but it's not impossible that both bands played both Friday (Mar 7) and Saturday (Mar 8). 

March 14-15, 1969 The Poppycock, Palo Alto, CA: Ace Of Cups/Phoenix

March 27, 1969 Avalon Ballroom, San Francisco, CA: Cleveland Wrecking Company/Ace of Cups/Conqueroo/Morning Glory
The Family Dog was no longer promoting shows at the Avalon. This show was promoted by Sound Proof Productions. (A stage announcement for March 23 says Linn County will play on March 27 night, and doesn’t mention Conqueroo). The Avalon folded its tent shortly after this.

March 28, 1969 New Orleans House, Berkeley, CA: Congress of Wonders/Ace of Cups
March 29, 1969 New Orleans House, Berkeley, CA: Sons of Champlin/Ace of Cups


A listing from the Teen Age section of the March 26, 1969 Oakland Tribune, mentioning a concert at Pauley Ballroom featuring the Ace Of Cups on April 3, 1969
April 3, 1969 Pauley Ballroom, UC Berkeley, CA: Sons of Champlin/Ace of Cups/Country Weather/Phoenix
UC Berkeley was full of rock fans in the 1960s, but there was no East Bay venue. Of course, this helped San Francisco venues like the Fillmore West thrive, since Berkeley students had no choice but to jump over the Bay Bridge if they wanted to see any of the national rock bands. Still, there were plenty of opportunities for local bands. One of the principal locations on campus was the Pauley Ballroom, in the Student Union (ASUC) building in Upper Sproul Plaza.

The ASUC Building was built in the mid-1960s, and its basic layout remains the same today as it was then. Pauley Ballroom is a 9000 square foot ballroom, used by the University of California for a variety of events (for internal pictures, see here; in a concert configuration, the shades would be drawn, and I'm not certain where the stage had been located). The university rates it as a capacity of 999, so probably a few more than that could be squeezed in.

Generally, rock shows at Pauley Ballroom were on Friday nights (April 3 was a Thursday, but it was the night before Good Friday). Groups like the Grateful Dead and Country Joe and The Fish had played Friday nights at Pauley back in '66. This show featured 4 West-Pole bands. The idea was that the students would come because they couldn't go to bars and there wasn't a local Fillmore. It wasn't a bad booking strategy.

All UC Berkeley rock shows in the 60s were "benefits." This show was a benefit for Cal Camp, a program for underprivileged kids. I know why every UC Berkeley show was listed as a benefit, but it's too long a tangent to go into here.

April 6, 1969 Provo Park, Berkeley, CA: Sons of Champlin/Lamb/Frumious Bandersnatch/Ace of Cups/All Spice Rhythm Band
Provo Park (previously Constitution Park) was the downtown park, near the Community Theater, Berkeley High and the Civic Center. Provo Park served the same function for Berkeley as the Panhandle did for the HaightAshbury, and bands regularly played there for free,

April 10, 1969  Robertson Gym, UCSB, Isla Vista,CA: Canned Heat/Poco/Ace of Cups
This was a rare booking for the band outside of the Bay Area.

April 16, 1969 [Cowell College], UC Santa Cruz, CA: Sons Of Champlin/Ace Of Cups/Phoenix
UC Santa Cruz had only opened in Fall 1965, and was still growing. The bands probably played at the Cowell-Stevenson Dining Commons. This was a benefit for “Malcom X College,” which was a provisional name for another UCSC College (now Oakes College).

The Ace Of Cups opened for The Band at their SF "debut" at Winterland in April, 1969
April 17-18-19, 1969 Winterland, San Francisco, CA: The Band/Sons of Champlin/Ace of Cups
In 1969, San Francisco was the center of the rock universe, home of the Fillmore West and Rolling Stone magazine, and hip bands that radiated out to conquer the world. So when Bob Dylan's backing group needed to make a splash with their "debut" performance, the logical place was San Francisco, even though nobody in the group had any connection to the city, or had even been there.

The Hawks, having adopted the name when they were backing Ronnie Hawkins in Toronto in the early 60s, had been working in Atlantic City, NJ when one of Albert Grossman's secretaries tipped him off. Guitarist Robbie Robertson and drummer Levon Helm had backed Dylan for a few shows in 1965 (along with Al Kooper and Harvey Brooks), and then the whole group went on tour with Dylan when he "went electric" in 1965. Levon Helm actually left the group for the balance of the World Tour in 1966, culminating in the sensational, oft-bootlegged show in Manchester, England (where a fan shouted "Judas" as Dylan and The Hawks started "Like A Rolling Stone."). 

By 1968, The Hawks were part of the Dylan legend, releasing their debut album Music From Big Pink in July of that year, which was a huge sensation. They didn't really have a name, even though on the album the musicians were listed as "the Band." Save for a brief appearance with Dylan (at a Woody Guthrie Benefit in Carnegie Hall), the group hadn't appeared in public (nor had Dylan) since 1966. Even though The Hawks were concert veterans, their live "debut" as The Band at San Francisco was a major rock event, covered by ever music journalist. Instead of playing Fillmore West (capacity 2,500), interest dictated that The Band played the much larger Winterland, an old ice rink with a capacity of around 5,500. By definition, the show would be an instant sellout, so whichever acts got the opportunity to open for The Band were guaranteed a high-profile showcase.

Whoever got to open for The Band at Winterland was going to be seen and heard by every rock and culture writer in 1969 America.  Ron Polte did his thing, and got two of his acts on the bill. Sons Of Champlin were not only booked by West/Pole, but they had just released their debut album on Capitol Records, the same label as The Band, so Capitol was going to be all in for that. The Ace Of Cups had no record, however, and were just a local band. Still, The Band were managed by Albert Grossman, who also managed not only Dylan but former West/Pole booking clients Janis Joplin and Mike Bloomfield (of the Electric Flag). It can't have been a coincidence that Polte got Ace Of Cups on the bill for the biggest rock event in 1969 (up until the Summer, of course). 

In fact, the debut concert of The Band was a debacle. Robbie Robertson was very ill--possibly backstage with "Stage Fright," although stories vary--and the Band came on late and played just seven numbers. The next two nights went better, but the Sons and Ace Of Cups were lost in the worry and outrage over The Band's letdown on the big stage.

Still, the mere appearance of The Ace Of Cups at this historic event and on the dark, iconic ads, with just the names of the groups instead of flowery psychedelia, made the Winterland show the most high profile appearance by Ace Of Cups. And it was probably around this time that Ron Polte started to get approached by record companies who wanted to sign Ace Of Cups. San Francisco bands were hot, as Creedence Clearwater Revival and Sly And The Family Stone had just broken wide, to name just a few. Polte has never been very specific about what offers he received at what time, since he tried the strategy of playing hard-to-get that had worked so well with Quicksilver. Polte missed the mark with Ace Of Cups, as the record companies that came around in 1969 were less interested by 1970, and the band never got to release an album. The high water mark for Ace Of Cups in the 1960s was opening for The Band's debut at Winterland, but afterwards the group became unheard legends instead of a working rock band. 

April 20, 1969  Civic Center Plaza, San Francisco, CA: Sons of Champlin/Ace of Cups/Freedom Highway
After three nights opening for a high profile concert at Winterland, Ace Of Cups played a free concert on Sunday afternoon in Civic Center Plaza in San Francisco. This performance is known from a dated  photo by Kenneth Loh.

April 24, 1969 Auditorium Theater, Chicago, IL “Fathers And Sons”
Muddy Waters w/Mike Bloomfield and Paul Butterfield/Nick Gravenites and Quicksilver Messenger Service/Ace of Cups
Ron Polte managed both Quicksilver Messenger Service and Ace of Cups, while booking many other bands besides through his West-Pole agency. Gary Duncan had left Quicksilver after New Year's 68. leaving the band high and dry. Ironically, in March 1969, Capitol released the classic Quicksilver album Happy Trails. It got massive airplay on every new FM station, making Quicksilver fans the world over, but they were fans of a band that barely existed. The three remaining members of the band (guitarist John Cipollina, bassist/vocalist David Freiberg and drummer Greg Elmore) had talent, but they weren't really a band. It was in Polte's interest, however, to keep the band's name alive. 

Polte's old pal Nick Gravenites organized a concert in Chicago that tried to merge classic blues players like Muddy Waters with their younger, white disciples. Gravenites' role accountied for the peculiar mixture of Chicago blues and San Franciscan transplants. Some of Muddy Waters set was released on the Chess album Fathers And Sons. Muddy was backed by Bloomfield, Butterfield, Otis Spann (piano), Duck Dunn (bass), Sam Lay, Buddy Miles, Phil Upchurch and others.

This was also one of the very few 1969 Quicksilver performances. Whether QMS played as a trio, or was joined by Nick Gravenites or someone else. remains a mystery. Since Ace of Cups was managed by Polte, they got on this prestigious bill. To my knowledge, Chicago was the farthest Eastward performance by the Aces.

May 15-16-17, 1969  New Orleans House, Berkeley, CA:  Ace of Cups/Initial Shock

May 23, 24 or 25, 1969 practice field, San Jose State College, San Jose, CA: Aquarian Family Festival
Ace of Cups/All Men Joy/Birth/Beggars Opera/Boz Skaggs/Crabs/Crow/
Cleanliness & Godliness Skiffle Band/Devine Madness/Denver/The Doobie Brothers/Elgin Marble/Flaming Groovies/Frumious Bandersnatch/Gentle Dance/Greater Carmichael Traveling Street Band/Glass Mountain/High Country/Jefferson Airplane/Joy of Cooking/Last Mile/Libras/Lamb/Living Color/Linn County/Mother Ball/ Morning Glory/Mad River/Mt. Rushmore/Nymbus/Old Davis/Red Grass, Green Smoke/Rubber Maze/ Rising Tide/Rejoice/Sunrise/Sable/Sons of Champlin/Sounds Unlimited Blues Band/ Sandy Bull/The Steve Miller Band/ Stoned Fox/South Bay Experimental Flash/Throckmorton/Tree of Life/Weird Herald/Womb/Warren Purcell/Zephyr Grove

The Aquarian Family Festival was a free concert put on in conjunction with (and in contrast with) the Folk Rock Festival at the Fairgrounds, less than a mile away. Per the wikipedia entry             

            Terms of the agreement with the University required that people could be present only during the performance of music. Because part of the purpose of the concert was to provide a safe place to stay for tens of thousands of people traveling to town to attend another concert being held in town about a mile away at the Santa Clara County fairgrounds, music had to be performed continuously from the start at 12:00pm Friday until the close of the festival at 4:00pm Sunday afternoon. Thus the festival featured 52 hours of continuous music.
            The festival was produced in 10 days at a total cost of $968 by approximately 30 people who were volunteers with the Institute for Research and Understanding whose Dirt Cheap Productions unit produced the concert. Assistance was also given by the musicians' cooperative Druid Corporation House and the San Jose Free University. Legal services were paid for by the band Led Zeppelin which did not perform at the [free] festival. Independent sources estimated attendance at 200,000 people, with 80,000 spending the night on Saturday.

There is some uncertainty as to which groups exactly played. Most of these groups are “second-tier” club bands from the South Bay or East Bay. Two stages were constructed so that bands could set up while another was playing, in order to fulfill the obligation that people could be present only when bands were playing. According to one of the organizer's website, however, the Airplane showed up Sunday morning and played an extended set. Jimi Hendrix dropped by, too, hoping to jam, just as the stage was being dismantled and thus never got the chance. 

I have considered the Aquarian Family Festival within the context of San Jose 60s outdoor rock concerts. More broadly, the subject of the Aquarian Family Festival gets some excellent treatment in a forthcoming book, Half A Million Strong, by Gina Arnold (my sister, as it happens). 



May 30, 1969 Burgess Hall, Menlo Park, CA: Ace Of Cups/Old Davis/Rich Ross
Commenter Steve reports this show from the listings of that night's SF Examiner. Burgess Hall was presumably some now-remodeled part of Burgess Park. Burgess Park itself is still there (at 701 Laurel), of course, near downtown and the train station. Old Davis was a popular Redwood City band. By 1970, future Santana guitarist Neal Schon was a member, but I don't know exactly when he had joined.

June 8, 1969 Unitarian Center, San Francisco, CA: Sons of Champlin/Bycycle /Freedom Highway/International Press/Indian Gold/Ace of Cups/Mark of Kings/Dementia/Dr. Zarkof/Phoenix/Freedom/Interplayers Circus/Douglas Waugh/Morning Glory/Kevin, Gino and Cynthia
Benefit for The Fellowship Church at the Unitarian Center (known from a poster in Paul Grushkin's  Art Of Rock book).  The church was on Geary at Franklin.

The SF Chronicle for the June 13, 1969 opening of Cheth Helms new Family Dog on the Great Highway (formerly Playland at the Beach). Ace of Cups played a pre-concert party outside the venue
June 13, 1969  Family Dog at The Great Highway, San Francisco, CA:  Jefferson Airplane/Charlatans/Pulse/Devils Kitchen/Ace of Cups/Cleanliness and Godliness Skiffle Band
Chet Helms opened his new Family Dog venture at 660 Great Highway. The venue was the former Edgewater Ballroom, probably built in the 1920s. The Charlatans had briefly reformed. Cleanliness and Godliness Skiffle Band played on the patio outside, at a pre-show party. Brian Voorheis of GGSB recalls Ace of Cups at the show, but (for some reason) his memory is uncertain. Its not unlikely that the Ace of Cups also played with the Charlatans on the next two nights (June 14 and June 15 '69).

In any case, from this point onwards, Ace of Cups are booked regularly with Jefferson Airplane. The details are unknown to me, but presumably there was a booking arrangement between West-Pole and the Airplane. Sometime during the Spring, Ace of Cups contributed vocals to Jefferson Airplane's classic album Volunteers, released in November 1969. The cryptical presence of the Aces on such a high profile album was another particle that added to their legendary status without actually revealing anything about them.

July 5, 1969 Bullfrog Music Festival, near Estacada (Clackamas County), OR: Jefferson Airplane/Sons of Champlin/Ace of Cups/Portland Electric Zoo Band/Family Tree/Mixed Blood/other local bands
The Bullfrog Festival was a 3-day festival held outside Oregon City (about 20 miles south of Portland) on private land at Bullfrog Lake Trailer Park. The Sons and Aces were both West-Pole, so that too seems to point to an Airplane connection to the agency.

This all but unreadable poster promoted fundraisers for the Wild West concerts in August. On Monday, July 7, Its A Beautiful Day and Joan Baez were booked at the Family Dog, while across town at Fillmore West, Jefferson Airplane headlined over Fourth Way, Phoenix and Ace of Cups
July 7, 1969 Fillmore West, San Francisco, CA: Jefferson Airplane/Fourth Way/Ace of Cups/Phoenix
1969 was the Summer of Rock Festivals, and all over the country there were big outdoor festivals with dozens of bands. The largest and most iconic was Woodstock, of course, but there were numerous others: the Atlanta Pop Festival, Seattle, Texas, Atlantic City, New Orleans and on and on, all over the country. San Francisco, the Capitol City of 60s American Rock, wasn't planning to miss out on this. The plan in San Francisco was to have a huge event called The Wild West Festival in Golden Gate Park, with the major bands playing in Kezar Stadium, and numerous other bands playing just outside, for free. It was supposed to be the weekend after the Woodstock Festival and the week before New Orleans.

This Monday night Fillmore West show was meant as a fundraiser for the Wild West organizers. Note two West-Pole bands (Aces and Phoenix) playing with the Airplane, along with jazz rock pioneers The Fourth Way. The unreadable poster (above) also advertised a similar benefit across town at The Family Dog, with Joan Baez and It's A Beautiful Day. It all seemed like such a great idea--but that isn't what happened.

Shady Grove, the third album by Quicksilver Messenger Service, released on Capitol Records in December 1969. Denise Kaufman wrote two songs on the album (one co-written with Dave Freiberg), using her married name, Denise Jewkes
July 18-19, 1969  Resurrection Theatre, Seaside, CA: Quicksilver Messenger Service/Ace of Cups
The money tree for Ron Polte and West-Pole was Quicksilver Messenger Service, and they still existed, however ephemerally. Indeed, thanks to constant FM airplay of Happy Trails, the Quick were more popular than they had ever been, even in places far from San Francisco. With Gary Duncan having left, however, Quicksilver had some big problems. The three remaining members of Quicksilver (John Cipollina, David Freiberg and Greg Elmore) were all very talented, but Duncan had been the one who sculpted the sound. More importantly, nobody in Quicksilver, not even Duncan, was really a songwriter.

From July to September of 1969, Quicksilver was in Wally Heider Studios and then Pacific High Recorders trying to make an album. Once and future Grateful Dead soundman Dan Healy was the principal engineer. Uncredited producer Nick Gravenites played a part, too, but he wasn't really going to join the band. Ultimately, who joined was Nicky Hopkins, the go-to piano playing session man for every great English band (starting with the Beatles, Rolling Stones, The Who, The Kinks, Jeff Beck and on and on). Hopkins gave Quicksilver a great sound, but he didn't write or sing either.

Thus it's hardly surprising that Shady Grove, the third Quicksilver Messenger Service album, released in December 1969, was a total mess. It's unfortunate, though, since everyone who grooved to Happy Trails must have been totally let down by it's follow up, and it was all downhill for Quicksilver after that. It's a largely forgotten fact that Denise Kaufman contributed two songs to Shady Grove, her own  "Flute Song" and "Words Can't Say," co-written with David Freiberg. Denise used her married name, Denise Jewkes, so her contribution passed by largely unnoticed (Denise's then-husband Noel Jewkes, a jazz musician, presumably played the flute on "Flute Song"). Ace of Cups may have contributed some vocals to Shady Grove as well, but they aren't credited.

Thus it's not surprising to find out that Polte was trying to find a working stage configuration for Quicksilver. Their album was a hit on FM radio, and they were working on a followup, so they had to be ready to tour. Polte lined up some out of town bookings for Quicksilver, and Ace of Cups shared the bill at just about all of them. On this July weekend, the bands played an old movie theater in the town of Seaside, near Monterey. In general, the theater was now a burlesque house that provided entertainment for soldiers at nearby Ft. Ord. Over the years, a few memories have bubbled to the surface about these long-forgotten shows.

In a lengthy David Freiberg interview in 1997, Freiberg remembers that while Gary Duncan was on ‘hiatus’ they only played one gig with Nick Gravenites.  They were considering having him join the group.  The date is inferred because Freiberg remembers that the band played Monterey and the next day the band members went to Big Sur and watched the moon landing on television.  Freiberg recalled that he did not remember how they were billed, but it was not as Quicksilver Messenger Service.  Nicky Hopkins did not play, according to Freiberg.  However, a commenter on the Ace Of Cups guestbook clearly recalled the band billed as Quicksilver (and said that he had the handbill), and he remembered Hopkins playing, albeit badly miked. Its possible that Freiberg is confusing this gig with the one they played at The Committee Theatre (in May of 69). 
            The venue was the old Del Rey movie theater on Fremont and Broadway. Salinas resident Timothy Nelson recalled the show with great clarity (in personal emails)

I was a big Quicksilver fan, so mostly remember their set. About the Ace of Cups, I remember the nice harmonies and the big hollow body electric that one of them played (I was guitarist in a local band back then). I wasn't familiar with their repertoire, so I couldn't come up with a set list. I seem to remember that one or more of them were wearing cowgirl attire, but not sure about that. I can't remember Healy playing, but it's possible. Quicksilver was in its Shady Grove configuration then, and mostly did tunes that appe! ared on that album. I remember that Gravenites played Cipollina's "backup" SG-style Les Paul guitar, the one with less ornamentation, and he did all of the vocals…

My recollection was that Cip was in a (stoned) trance; Nick and Hopkins held the structures of the songs together while Cip just connected to his muse, big time.   3 or 4 Feet from Home had probably a 20 minute solo from Cip. Same with Holy Moly. The Shady Grove album was pretty mild sounding after hearing these guys perform most of it live on fire…

As I said in the message, the show was crippled somewhat by the sound system. I think most shows at that time, even in the better venues, didn't sound too good from the audience.

Soundboard recordings sound deceptively good from shows in those days, but unless you were in a magic sweet spot in the audience there was usually just a loud undefined blur from most bands. It wasn't until the Dead got serious about high volume hi-fi live sound that things got a lot better. I'm surprised I still have most of my hearing intact today.....

Poster artist Jeff Helwig recalls (on the old Ace of Cups site guestbook)

“Also, it was indeed a genuine QMS performance -though I believe with Duncan absent. Gravenites had his own set -though he WAS on stage w/ Quicksilver for awhile. Cipollina got a bit fed up w/ Nick's rudimentary guitar skills and "nodding state of mind" and blistered him off the stage. -Out of breath, Nick had asked for "a shuffle" -Cipo leaned into the mic and whispered "...YEAH -a FAST shuffle!" then proceded to play him in circles til he had to sit down! (on the night I ws there at least). Hopkins WAS there also -the only time I ever saw him live, unfortunately... but it was Gravenites' stage appearance w/ QMS that was brief ...I recall Hopkins playing throughout -though perhaps not- Owsley was rather heavy handed that night.

ACE OF CUPS put on a BRILLIANT opening set by the way.”

A brief article from the SF Chronicle of July 24, 1969, listing a benefit concert for the tiny East Bay community of Canyon. The show was held at St Mary's College gym, and featured, among others, Country Joe and The Fish, Ace of Cups and The Crabs.
July 24, 1969  Gym, St. Marys College, Moraga, CA: Country Joe and The Fish/Cleanliness and Godliness Skiffle Band/Frumious Bandersnatch/Joy of Cooking/Ace of Cups/The Crabs/Minks/Paul Arnoldi  Benefit For The Community Of Canyon
Canyon was--and remains--a tiny East Bay community, not even a town, just over the Berkeley hills. It was oddly isolated, and a lot of avant-garde filmmakers lived there. The unincorporated area was small, and had only one business that I am aware of (the General Store), so periodic benefits helped out the community. Canyon remains a unique and peculiar place, as far as I know. 

July 25-26, 1969 New Orleans House, Berkeley, CA: Ace of Cups/Livingstone Manor

July 28, 1969  Griffith Park, Los Angeles, CA: Jefferson Airplane/Sons of Champlin/Ace of Cups
Jefferson Airplane were recording in Los Angeles. They played a Monday afternoon free concert.  The LA Police attended, in full riot gear. The Sons and Ace of Cups were there, so this was a planned event, hardly spontaneous, once again a sign that the Airplane was linked to West-Pole, and by extension ot Ace of Cups.

Furthermore, Ross Hannan found a notice in an August, 1969 issue of Melody Maker (the British music magazine) that a scheduled free concert for Hyde Park on September 6, 1969 had been canceled. The “scheduled” bands were Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, Jefferson Airplane, Quicksilver Messenger Service and Ace of Cups. It is unlikely that this was more than a gleam in some hippie’s eye, but this was an era of huge outdoor concerts, in Hyde Park and elsewhere.

[update] Denise Kaufman recalls
We were supposed to go on this tour and had had meetings about it at the Airplane’s house on Fulton near Masonic. It was going to be a round the world tour with the bands you mentioned above and the last date on the tour was going to be Hyde Park with the Rolling Stones. It was on track to happen and we were all excited about it but then (I am remembering this and think my memory is correct here)  there was an issue about Graham Nash’s passport because he wasn’t a US citizen. What I was told was that if he left the US there would be a problem about him getting back in so they decided not to do the tour and it was cancelled.

Another regular commenter, on another forum, found an LA Free Press listing for this event
"The Jefferson Airplane has chartered a jet, loaded it full of light show equipment, the Merry Pranksters, the Grateful Dead, and the Ace of Cups, and flown off to do a free gig in London's Hyde Park.  After the Freebie on September 6th, the entourage will take off for a short five day tour of Scandinavia, then to the Netherlands and finally into Paris's Olympia Theatre. The group is awaiting permission to perform in Czechoslovakia in a series of outdoor free concerts."
(John Carpenter, LAFP 9/5/69, p.34)  
I wonder what Carpenter's source was, since this differs in several respects from what Ralph Gleason had reported a week earlier in the SF Chronicle on 8/27/69:
"The Jefferson Airplane, the Grateful Dead, Crosby Stills and Nash...and Joni Mitchell will be presented in a free concert in London's Hyde Park September 7.
The groups, with some additions to be announced, will be flying over directly from San Francisco. The show is being put on for filming for a Granada TV program and there's a possibility that there will be other concerts in Europe later."

Yet another regular found an eBay listing for a backstage pass:
A "Musicians Enclosure" pass for the aborted 1969-09-06 Hyde Park freebie has just turned up on ebay.
https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Jefferson-Airplane-Grateful-Dead-69-Hyde-Park-Cancelled-Concert-Backstage-Pass/401650403332?hash=item5d843ac804:g:nYMAAOSw7OdcBpi- 
"An original backstage pass for the cancelled free concert which was meant to take place in Hyde Park, London on 6th September 1969. The event was to feature performances by Jefferson Airplane and The Grateful Dead but was cancelled due to Warner Brothers withdrawing their financial support of the event. The orange pass is printed with the event details and ‘Musicians Enclosure’ on the front. It is accompanied by a letter from the original owner which reads, “This was an event that I spent some time staying at the Airplane mansion on Fulton St. organizing. The bill would also have included Quicksilver Messenger Service, Sons Of Champlin, Joy Of Cooking and Ace Of Cups. A late pull out by Warner Bros. who were to underwrite the costs of the London portion of the tour caused it to be called off”. It measures 20.25cm x 10cm (8 inches x 4 inches). The condition is near mint." 
Assuming this is all genuine, my guess is Warners were reluctant to commit their money to this event on top of giving the Dead (ie Lenny) a $75,000 advance on their new contract extension (according to Scully). Given a choice between the two, it's pretty clear which option Lenny would take. The mystery organiser says this was the "London portion of the tour" so this was intended to be more than a one-off show. Presumably the Dead and Airplane still had dreams of touring Europe together. The financing of this jape must have been a nightmare to arrange with almost every act on a different record label (who would have paid for the Ace Of Cups?). With CSN(&Y?), the biggest draw for any paying gigs, no longer being available it is no wonder it didn't happen.

A listing in the August 15, 1969 Berkeley Barb promotes a free concert in Dolores Park in San Francciso
August 15, 1969  Dolores Park, San Francisco, CA: Gorilla Band/Gutter Puppets/Womb/Ice/Ace Of Cups/Scenic/Joy of Cooking/Pyewacket/Orion/Birth/Clover “Youthquake” (noonSponsored by the Mission Rebels
I don't know anything about this event, other than what you can see in the listing. By 1969, working bands had figured out that playing for free was a way to build up an audience. All the groups were local. Dolores Park is the Mission District in San Francisco. 

A poster for the canceled Wild West Festival at Kezar Stadium in San Francisco on August 22, 23 and 24, 1969. This was supposed to be the biggest rock event that summer, and it all fell apart, with much acrimony. 
August 22-23-24, 1969, Kezar Stadium and Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CA: Wild West Festival (canceled)
The Summer of '69 was the Summer of Rock Festivals. San Francisco, being the capital of rock music at the time, should have had a festival that rivaled or surpassed Woodstock. And make no mistake, the Wild West Festival was planning to be just that. The idea was that all the bands could be local, since the City had so many national acts. The promoters, the bands and the people were supposed to get together for an amazing event that would put every other city to shame. Three days of (paid) concerts with major bands at the football stadium in Golden Gate Park, and a nonstop smorgasbord of free concerts by lesser bands in the park itself. Sounds great, doesn't it?

The Wild West Festival was supposed to be the week before Woodstock. Nothing ever seemed to work. Festivals cost money, and promoter Bill Graham wanted to make sure the stadium shows paid all the bills. Other forces felt that "music should be free," and objected to any admission whatsoever. All of the tensions between Art and Commerce that had been churning in San Francisco and in the rock market in general collided when it came to the Wild West Festival. It didn't happen.

I made an effort to try and summarize the Wild West Festival in the context of Summer '69. The story of the Wild West Festival, however, is sad, ironic and worthy of more serious reportage than just a blog entry. Fortunately, that has already been done, and I cannot recommend enough Prof. Michael J. Kramer's book The Republic Of Rock: Music And Citizenship in the Sixties Counterculture (Oxford Press, London, 2013). Kramer has an extensive chapter on the sad debacle of Wild West, and it's a must-read for anyone interested in San Francisco in the 1960s.

Denise Kaufman's role in the Wild West saga isn't certain, but it wasn't nothing. Quicksilver manager Ron Polte played an important part, and Kramer has a photo of the principals of the Wild West festival "steering committee." Whatever the exact purpose of the photo--it was clearly somewhat staged for the press--a morose-looking Denise sits between Jerry Garcia and John Cipollina, so Ace of Cups were right at the center of this miserable event, even if they had wished that they were somewhere else.

August 22, 1969 Fillmore West, San Francisco, CA: Quicksilver Messenger Service/ Youngbloods/Womb/Fourth Way/Ace of Cups/The Committee Benefit for Wild West Festival Organizer
The Wild West Festival abruptly collapsed, with recriminations on all sides. On the weekend when the Festival was supposed to have happened, no bands had been booked at Fillmore West or Family Dog, since the bands and all the technical crew staff would have been at the Festival. At the last minute, a few shows were booked at Fillmore West and Family Dog, to raise funds for the money that had been lost trying to organize the festival. Most of the San Francisco bands were out of town, on tour--indeed, most of them had played Woodstock on the weekend of August 15-17.

Still, the San Francisco bands came through. Quicksilver, more or less unseen in 1969, headlined the Fillmore West on Friday (Aug 22) and the Family Dog on Saturday (Aug 23), Jefferson Airplane headlined Fillmore West on Saturday, and Country Joe and The Fish headlined Fillmore West on Sunday night (Aug 24). The other big SF bands (the Dead, Santana, Janis Joplin, etc) were on tour, but various local bands opened the different shows. Ace of Cups opened for Quicksilver on Friday at Fillmore West. Quicksilver, in the midst of recording Shady Grove, appeared with Nicky Hopkins on piano and engineer Dan Healy helping out sometimes on bass and guitar. 

Thanks to the ever-reliable Faren Miller's diary entry, we have a detailed report about the Ace of Cups performance. Mary Simpson had left the group by this time. Miller attended and wrote down her usual detailed observations:

            “The Cups evoked strange thoughts in me, because the group has gone through a situation paralleling the early Quicksilver. Mary Simpson (who always reminded us of folksy Jimmy Murray) has left, just as Jimmy left. The result is the same too: a revitalized group. The Cups have improved remarkably, however, while the Quick mainly recouped. At last the Cups’ cycle of good-show-then-bad-show has been broken. Their set was glorious! The theme of the benefit [as I should have mentioned above] was “Let’s Get It Together”, and that’s just what the girls have done.
            Their set opened with a driving song worthy of any top S.F. group. Mary Gannon seems to have a new Fender bass with a great tone, and it boomed while Denise rasped out lead guitar and Marla played some fine organ. Diane is less tentative on the drums. By their sound, the Cups could have been a seasoned male group, though their appearance seemed really incongruous. [Oops ... even a female diarist could make such casually sexist remarks in the days before Women’s Lib! Sorry gals.] Mary G. had along red dress tied at the waist with a dangling sash -- she was barefoot, and the dress kept slipping off one shoulder as she jerked wildly with the bass. Diane’s long hair (lighter at the edges now) hung over the drums, unlike any shaggy-haired male drummer‘s. Tiny bespectacled Denise hopped about, also barefoot, wearing jeans and a red velvet tunic, her frizzy hair flying. Marla leaned over her electric organ, a long ribbon in her hair. Between songs, the Cups were the picture of disorganization: -- retuning, saying “I forget the chords” or “What’ll we do now?” -- but once they began to play they were excellent. The music was strong, the lyrics feminine (if a bit one-track-minded). On “I’m Looking for a Path”, Mary sang with Denise chiming in on choruses. Next they did a song about looking for a man (a great screamer blues by Denise). Then a song about hoping for a man to return -- with fresh-baked bread, candles, and love waiting for him. (A real house-and-hearth number.) Then the lovely “Welcome, Jolina” about birth, followed by “Gypsy Boy” (“I wanta have your baby”).
            A few songs later, the set closed with a spoof(?) about having an empty bed. See the thread here? The “Jolina” song was in two parts, moving from fast and rocking (about the pregnancy -- “your daddy’s here and your mother’s waitin’ on you”) to sweet and choral, while the lyrics nicely linked the seasons, birth and death, and renewal. It got a very good reception, as did all the set. Besides that marvelous screamer by Denise, they had some great shouters. On one number, Marla used a wailing voice, creaking with emotion, that was really effective. The instrumental breaks were “all fine” (as Ralph Gleason would say). For “Gypsy Boy”, a big, Barry-Meltonish fellow called “Earthquake” was called upon to blow harp, and he did it quite well. During the upbeat numbers, good old Frank Polte was jogging about at the far left of the stage, a big grin on his face. Meanwhile, Denise was dancing all over the place banging on a tambourine -- she got over to the right of the stage where a crazy guy had been dancing in a freaked-out manner all through the set.; a wispy blonde occasionally danced there too, though she and the guy never seemed to be aware of each other.  
            The last number was one that they evidently hadn’t done in ages. Marla protested that she couldn’t remember it at all. Denise just had everybody crowd together, so Marla came out from behind her organ. (She’s amazingly tall, maybe even taller than Mary, and both girls dwarf little Denise.) This last song was a slow, ‘50s-style ballad with silly lyrics: “It’s just no fun (da da da da) when you sleep alone (da da da da)” and “What use are two pillows/ When I’ve only got one head?” Mary delivered a brief monolog in the middle, in true antediluvian rock fashion. Marla kept breaking up, when not chiming in on the choruses. It seemed like a burlesque version of the earlier “please come home” song. So the Ace’s set ended without a single bad number. Maybe losing a member forced them to come of age.”

September 6, 1969  Sausalito Arts Festival, Sausalito, CA: Ace of Cups/Joy of Cooking/Free & Easy/Johnny Mars Blues Band/Listen/The Brothers Thompson
This may have been the first Sausalito Arts Festival, now a tradition (there is a chance it was on August 30, not September 6). Joy Of Cooking was a popular Berkeley band, fronted by two women, who would later release a few pretty good albums. The other groups are known (to the likes of me) as local bands from that time.

The cover of the first Hot Tuna album, on RCA, released in 1970. It was recorded at Berkeley's New Orleans House on September 16, 1970, and Ace of Cups opened the show for Jack and Jorma.
September 16-17-18, 1969 New Orleans House, Berkeley, CA: Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady/Ace of Cups
This booking was the basis for the first Hot Tuna album, with Jorma and Jack playing acoustic along with Will Scarlett on harmonica. Ace Of Cups played all three shows. One wishes that the tape decks were running for the Aces as well, but that does not appear to have been the case [update: Spoke too soon. Apparently, the deck was running surreptitiously at least one night, and that is a source for many live versions of Aces songs].

September 19-20. 1969 New Orleans House, Berkeley, CA: Ace of Cups/Fourth Way/Mount Rushmore

September 21, 1969  Benson Cafeteria, University of Santa Clara, Santa Clara, CA: Sons of Champlin/Ace of Cups/Freedom Highway

September 24, 1969 Fillmore West, San Francisco, CA: It’s A Beautiful Day/Sanpaku/Sons of Champlin/Ace of Cups/The Outlaws (Dino Valenti and Garry Duncan)/Terry Dolan Bay Area Drug Committee Presents At Bill Graham’s Fillmore West A Benefit Show Save The Children
This largely forgotten benefit was unique as the only live appearance by Gary Duncan and Dino Valenti as "The Outlaws." They had some young backing musicians who deviated from rehearsals by doing dance steps while playing. The endlessly experienced Duncan recalled it as quite funny, but the less stage-ready Valenti was unsettled. The duo never performed live again, and rejoined Quicksilver Messenger Service at year's end.

October 3-4, 1969 The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: Ace Of Cups/Mendelbaum

October 10, 1969  PNE Agrodome, Vancouver, BC: Jefferson Airplane/Ace of Cups
Ace of Cups played two high profile shows in the Pacific Northwest with Jefferson Airplane. By this time, the Airplane were huge rock stars. Ace of Cups, despite not having an album, are advertised in Vancouver as "Direct from Fillmore West." San Francisco rock was big time internationally, and any band that could lay claim to a Fillmore West pedigree had status, album or not.

October 11, 1969 Seattle Center Arena, Seattle, WA: Jefferson Airplane/Ace of Cups
Ace of Cups played another show with the airplane in Seattle, and then seem to have no other shows for the balance of 1969. While I could be missing some shows, by the end of 1969 Denise was pregnant and Mary Ellen Simpson had left the band, so the group may have simply lacked a quorum. By 1970, many of the band members had kids or were about to have kids, and unlike male bands, they couldn't just leave child rearing to someone else and take off on the road, so Ace of Cups seems to have gone on hiatus. This was unfortunate, since SF rock bands were at their high water mark as far as record company interest went.

1970 and beyond
By 1970, the Ace of Cups history becomes very sketchy. Quicksilver and West Pole Management were no longer in as central a position as they had been, and the San Francisco music wave was cresting. Ace of Cups must have played far more shows than are listed here, but I have only been able to trace down a few of them. By this time, guitarist Mary Ellen Simpson had been replaced by Joe Allegra on guitar.  Noel Jewkes (Denise Kaufman’s husband) played horns with the group, and sometimes Jerry Granelli joined Diane Vitalich on drums. A woman named Lolly Lewis also sang and played piano during this period.

Since the Aces were mostly all having kids, it's possible that some "guests" were substituted in and out as needed, but no one seems to precisely remember at this time. I don't think there were a lot of shows by Ace of Cups during the 1970s, but there were certainly more than I have listed here. 

>?? 1970 Lanai Theater, Crockett, CA Quicksilver Messenger Service/Ace of Cups
Mary Gannon mentioned this on the (long-ago) Yahoo Cippolina group.  Apparently only 3 people attended, two of them West-Pole’s principals. The Lanai Theater was in Crockett, a long-ago industrial town from the Bay Area, and a few shows were promoted there.

Crockett, CA was a peculiar little sugar town on a distant part of the Bay, 10 miles North of Richmond. The venue is a fascinating mystery, but it does seem like Quicksilver manager Ron Polte tried to make an old movie theater in Crockett into a rock venue. The Grateful Dead played there (Nov 15 '69), and Mike Bloomfield played there (Nov 29 '69) so I assume the Quicksilver show was around this period, probably early 1970

I have been to Crockett, although not recently, and it is a small, out of the way place, even in the 21st century. It must have been quite remote in 1969. The town is on the Northeast corner of the San Pablo Bay, on the Carquinez Straight. Crockett, despite being unincorporated Contra Costa County, has always been the corporate headquarters of C&H Sugar, so the area around Crockett was always an important commercial area. Perhaps the Lanai Theater served to entertain the local workers, maybe during WW2 or earlier, but I know nothing about the venue. 

Quicksilver Messenger Service had returned to action on New Years Eve, 1969, when Gary Duncan and Dino Valenti repatriated themselves into the band. Finally Quicksilver toured behind Happy Trails, which had made them an iconic San Francisco band on FM radio. Shady Grove, released at the end of 1969, had been a dud, but Quicksilver was still a live draw. Ironically, however, just as Quicksilver returned to the music scene, parental duties kept the Aces from the relentless touring with them that might have pushed them up to the next stage.

July 14-15, 1970  Family Dog at The Great Highway, San Francisco, CA: Terry Reid/Cat Mother and The All-Night Newsboys/Ace of Cups/Debbie Hutchins
The Family Dog at the Great Highway was nearly done, as it would disappear in August. It was too far from the center of the city and too remote from the suburbs to survive, and Chet Helms withdrew in August of 1970.

May 1, 1971  Friends and Relations Hall, San Francisco, CA: Hot Tuna/Ace of Cups/Stoneground
Friends and Relations Hall was the former "Family Dog" at 660 Great Highway, which opened for a few shows in the middle of the next summer (it had presented a live version of The Who's "Tommy" in the interim). 

June 3, 1971  Friends and Relations Hall, San Francisco, CA: New Riders of The Purple Sage/Country Joe McDonald/Stoneground/Grootna/Ace of Cups “A Party for Mother Earth”

June 28, 1971 Friends and Relations Hall, San Francisco, CA: Hot Tuna/Stoneground/Ace of Cups
It’s not clear if the May and June shows are different gigs.

September 25, 1971 Friends and Relations Hall, San Francisco, CA: Jefferson Airplane/Hot Tuna/Papa John Creach/Jack Bonus/Ace of Cups/Black Kangaroo/One Grunt Records Party
A September 30, 1971 Rolling Stone article both sheds some light and adds to the mystery of the Ace of Cups in the early 70s. The extensive article discusses the new Jefferson Airplane album (Bark), and also their plans for their new record label, Grunt. RCA had allowed the Airplane to sign whoever they wanted and agreed to release them on Grunt. Some very good and not very good albums were released under the Grunt aegis. The writer runs through the upcoming Grunt releases, and adds
Others lined up with Grunt now are Peter Kaukonen, a musician in his own right who’s graduated from his last group, Black Kangaroo, and the re-formed Ace of Cups, once an all-women band, now eight pieces, three of them men.
This tantalizing bit of information puts some shape on what little we know. Ace of Cups must have been practically on hiatus in 1970, since we cannot find much in the way of gigs. By 1971, however, they have "reformed" and some men are included, and they are expecting to record with Grunt. Ace Of Cups had had some sort of extensive booking relationship with the Airplane since 1969, so it makes sense that they might use the Airplane's clout to get their record made.

The September 25 show was a release party for the Airplane's new album, Bark, which most rock fans have long since forgotten. Jeff Tamarkin has written about this event in outtakes to his Got A Revolution book.  It was a 10-hour extravaganza, a private party for the band and their friends.  The Airplane were apparently much the worse for wear when they came on stage.  The show ended with a jam featuring members of the Airplane, Dead, Quicksilver, and inexplicably, the Alice Cooper band. Ace of Cups were on the bill, along with every other Grunt act at the time. The rest of the acts released albums on Grunt--the Aces never did.

After David Freiberg left Quicksilver for good in January 1972, he played bass for Ace of Cups (presumably replacing Mary Gannon) for a few months. Amusingly, Denise does not recall this. She doesn't doubt it, but doesn't remember it. I take that as a sign that there were enough fill-ins and substitutions that Freiberg's presence wasn't that memorable to her. In a 1997 interview with John Barthel (thanks Bruno), Freiberg said:

"Yeah, I worked on Mickey [Hart's Rolling Thunder album], but it is kind of what I did after I left [Quicksilver], and before I joined the Starship. I came back here and I decided I had been playing organ. I wanted to play bass again with the girls from Ace of Cups. A bunch of them had a band together. I said, "I’ll play bass." I went to see them and their bass player didn’t show up, and I had my bass in the trunk. I played this gig with them just off the top of my head. I ended up playing with them for a couple of months."
Spring, 1972    Fiesta Del Sol, Puerto Rico (did not occur)
According to the Ace of Cups cd liner notes and the Shindig article,  the band tried to help pull a festival together in Puerto Rico called "Fiesta Del Sol" that never happened. Denise recalls

The Fiesta Del Sol:  Mary Gannon, her partner Joe Allegra, their daughter Thelina, Lolly Lewis, and my little daughter Tora and I went to  Puerto Rico to play for the Fiesta Del Sol. There was a planeload of people who went - some from California and some from New Mexico. Reno Myerson (brother of Alan who was the director of The Committee) was one of the planners. The Festival never happened. We we there for about 2 weeks. Other people who went:  Robbie Long, Laura Allen and Dickens 44 Bascomb, Lisa and Tom Law and some of their kids and more..We did play one gig there at a local club in Puerto Rico. Mary Gannon remembers: we had all our equipment with us but no drummer. The manager of a local night club also managed a “boy band” (like Menudo) there and hired us to play a show with them at his club. Mary recalls that the manager really paid attention to everything about us - what instruments we played, what songs, how we looked, how we presented ourselves.  
The Fiesta Del Sol probably evolved into the infamously disastrous Mar Y Sol Pop Festival, on a beach near San Juan, on April 1-4, 1972. Mar Y Sol was a catastrophe, everything that could go wrong at an outdoor festival, including alleged murders and lawsuits, so the Aces were probably lucky to have avoided it. Of course, record companies taped everyone (and even released an album on Atco), so once again the Aces missed out on a recording opportunity.

May 22, 1972 The Committee Theatre, San Francisco, CA: Nick Gravenites/John Cipollina & Friends/Ace of Cups/Wavy Gravy and Many Other Artists Rainbow Junction Kollege for Kids Benefit.
The Committee Theatre was at 622 Broadway in San Francisco. When rock bands played there, it was often a benefit. John Cipollina had left Quicksilver by this time, and he would play off an on with Nick Gravenites (and seemingly every other Bay Area musician) for the rest of his life.

This may be the last Ace of Cups show—certainly among the last. Denise Kaufman moved to Kauai in the summer of 1972, and Ace of Cups took a brief, 39-year hiatus, picking up where they left off in Mill Valley in 2011.