Tuesday, September 1, 2009

July 20, 1968, Lagoon Patio Gardens, Farmington UT: Big Brother and The Holding Company/Blue Cheer

(Note: Since I originally published this post, I have discovered that Big Brother performed at the Lagoon Patio Gardens, a different though nearby facility. I also found out that the Lagoon is in the small town of Farmington. I have revised my post accordingly, although the essence of it remains the same).

Farmington, Utah may seem like a strange place for psychedelic rock bands to play in 1968, and no doubt it was. However, despite Utah's failure to be a hotbed of psychedelia, blues or rebellion, Salt Lake City is on Highway 80. As a result, Salt Lake City and Ogden (about 30 miles North) are about halfway to Chicago. Bands coming or going from California towards the Midwest were always looking for gigs on the way. Thus, many bands played places like Omaha and Salt Lake City, not because they were psychedelic outposts, but because even a roadie can only drive so far. Salt Lake City was also a junction for Los Angeles (on I-15) as well as San Francisco (I-80), so it was attractive to bands in both Northern and Southern California. As a result of Interstate Highway geography, there were some surprising gigs in the 1960s in Utah, even though Utah itself was not a big market.

The Lagoon, an amusement park on the Great Salt Lake that dated back to the 19th century, was about halfway between Ogden and Salt Lake City (18 miles North of Salt Lake City). In 1954, The Lagoon built a dance hall called The Lagoon Patio Gardens. While most bands played The Terrace Ballroom in Salt Lake City, or Union Ballroom at the University of Utah, in 1968 at least bands played The Lagoon Patio Gardens as well. Since the theatre was tiny, double shows seemed to be the order of the day.

The above is an advertisement for The Lagoon Opera House from the July 19, 1968 edition of The Ogden Examiner. A couple of things are worthy of note:

  • The ad doesn't say where The Lagoon or The Opera House are, since everyone reading the paper clearly already knows
  • Friday night (July 19) is Pepsi's Prep Party with The Bossmen
  • There is a rodeo every Saturday afternoon on the Lagoon grounds

Big Brother and The Holding Company were pretty cutting edge for San Francisco and New York City--how would they seem just South of Ogden, UT? Keep in mind that Cheap Thrills had not yet been released, so people would only have heard the first, tamer Mainstream album.

Blue Cheer was the loudest band on tour at the time--even San Francisco bands thought they played too loud. Guitarist Leigh Stephens and bassist Dickie Peterson played through vast towers of Marshall Stax and deafened everybody. Something tells me that they didn't turn it down just because they were playing in a tiny ballroom.

There were relatively few other major rock shows at the Lagoon Patio Gardens, as I think the market rapidly got too large for such places. Still, Big Brother and Blue Cheer, jolting as they must have been, were still good practice for the lucky ones who saw the Jimi Hendrix Experience there on August 30.

update: for more about Utah rock concerts in the 1960s, see here, and for remarkable photos of Utah concerts in the 1960s, see here


  1. Another astonishing find. I had never considered this show to be anything other than a University or Terrace Ballroom show. It does pose a question about how BBHC travelled from San Francisco to New Jersey on this trip. It seems likely that after the show at the Fillmore West on July 18 they drove to Salt Lake City (which is a full day's drive) before flying to New York to play the July 22 engagement at the Westbury Music Fair on Long Island. After that they flew to Puerto Rico for the Columbia Records Convention on July 25 before setting out on tour. It would not be unreasonable to imagine that the Salt Lake City stop was made to fulfill an existing engagement - perhaps scheduled before they embarked on this tour that kept them out of California for the following month. The July/August window looks like it is worthy of additional effort as it has always struck me that given they were gone from California for five or six weeks, the number of shows they played was small. After the Puerto Rico show on the 25th, all I know of is Newport Folk Festival (July 27), Fillmore East, NYC (August 2 and 3) Kiel Auditorium, St. Louis, MO (August 9), Forest Park, St. Louis (August 10), Indiana Beach, Monticello, IN (August 14), Aragon-Cheetah, Chicago (August 16 and 17), Tyrone Guthrie Theater, Minneapolis (August 18), Singer Bowl, New York City (August 23). After that they don’t seem to play again until the Palace of Fine Arts show in San Francisco on August 30. This is when Ms Joplin announces that she is to leave Big Brother after the October/November US tour. Clearly this must have been a bit of a rough time for the band, but I would still have expected more shows to have been scheduled for July and August. Alternatively, there were more shows and I have just never found them. Ross

  2. Can't exactly say for this show how BBHC got to SLC for the Lagoon concert, but when they came the year before and played the Terrace Ballroom they flew into SLC. I was in the croud that met them at the airport. I did see the Lagoon concert which was fantastic!