Saturday, August 22, 2009

Provo Park, Berkeley: 1967-69 concerts

(I have re-written this post with substantially more information here)

Provo Park in Berkeley, originally named Constitution Park, lies in the center of town, near City Hall and Berkeley High School. It is bounded by Allston Way, Martin Luther King Junior Way (called Grove Street in the 1960s) and Center Street. In the mid-1960s, Berkeleyites started calling Constitution Park "Provo Park" in support of the IRA, and the name stuck. This is typical Berkeley politics, hardly noticed by residents, and almost no one living there now recalls why the park was called Provo Park.

When free concerts in the Golden Gate Park Panhandle became commonplace, many Berkeley rock bands looked to extend the idea to Provo Park. It was fun, it was cool and anyway it was good publicity for the bands. The first Panhandle show was October 6, 1966, the day LSD was declared illegal, and when The Grateful Dead, Big Brother, Wildlower and Orkustra played an unauthorized event there. By Spring 1967 the idea had spread to Berkeley, and there were apparently almost weekly shows, mostly during weekend afternoons. While many of the performers were simply aspiring local folk musicians or Berkeley High School rock bands, many larger events took place there too.

Provo Park remains fairly similar to how it looked in the day, although the buildings around have changed considerably. I took these two photos on August 11, 2009. The top photo is from near Center Street (Stage Right), looking across towards Allston. The Berkeley Community Theatre looms in the background, on the grounds of the High School. The bottom photo is taken about half way back on the lawn from the Martin Luther King Jr Way side (Grove Street), looking at the whole stage.

It would be impossible to compile a complete list of Provo Park shows in the 1960s, as many of the performances were casual. However, here are a few highlights, taken from flyers and newspaper notices at the time.

January 15, 1967 Loading Zone/Ulysses B. Crockett
March 19, 1967 Loading Zone/New Delhi River Band/Motor/Ulysses S. Crockett and The Afro-Blues Persuasion “The Reversal Of The Earth Human Be-In”
This was Berkeley's "Be-In"

April 23, 1967 Loading Zone/2 others
According to the Oakland Tribune (Apr 21, 1967), the city agreed that using Provo Park for free concerts would be good for the city, and limit confrontations between hippies and police.

September 24, 1967 Initial Shock
April 14, 1968 Country Joe and The Fish/Mad River/Loading Zone/SF Mime Troupe
May 12, 1968 Phoenix/Martha's Laundry/Creative Arts Guild Improvisational Ensemble

July 21, 1968 Sky Blue/Cleanliness and Godliness Skiffle Band/Crome Syrcus

April 6, 1969 Sons of Champlin/Lamb/Frumious Bandersnatch/Ace of Cups/All Spice Rhythm Band

April 20, 1969 Joy of Cooking

May 5, 1969 Loading Zone/All Spice Rhythm Band/This Ole World/Gentle Dance

September 29, 1969 Maximum Speed Limit/Cleanliness and Godliness Skiffle Band/The Crabs

1 comment:

  1. October 6, 1968 saw The Youngbloods, Sons of Champlin, Santana and Frumious Bandersnatch in Provo Park.