The Matrix in San Francisco, founded in 1965 at 3138 Fillmore Street in the Marina District, is one of the touchstones of San Francisco rock. Originally backed by Marty Balin and his father, the club was founded so that Jefferson Airplane would have a place to play. From 1965 to 1971, the tiny club hosted numerous legendary bands (as Ross Hannan's detailed list makes clear), some on the way up, some new in town, some just local legends having fun on their nights off. The original Matrix was a tiny club, seating no more than 120 people, with a menu of only beer and pizza, and it could not sustain itself in the exploding rock market that the club itself was instrumental in creating.
What is less well known is that The Matrix reopened in 1973 at a different location in San Francisco. The "New" Matrix was only open for about 3 months, but it presented some very interesting music. A post of mine speculating on an Iggy & The Stooges/Tubes Halloween show lead to some interesting research about the club's brief resurrection, which I am presenting here.
The early 1970s were a much more interesting time in San Francisco music than is usually recognized. The Fillmore West, Avalon and Fillmore had been the center of the rock universe in the 1960s, and that was no longer the case. Most Bay Area rock bands lived out in the suburbs somewhere, and played San Francisco when they started to get good, so the "San Francisco" scene was much more regionalized. Still, popular bands still came out of the Bay Area (such as The Doobie Brothers and Jefferson Starship) and excellent bands still broke out of the Bay Area (such as The Tubes or Tower of Power), even though no bands really fell into the category of the Dead, Airplane, Santana or Big Brother, who were both excellent and popular.
Besides a very lively club scene around the Bay Area, the combination of Bill Graham Presents and KSAN-fm created a regional concert market that was very different than the rest of the country, as the rock market was still generally regionalized. Bands that were very popular nationally, such as Three Dog Night and Grand Funk Railroad, were relatively modest attractions in the Bay Area (compared to the rest of the country) whereas a host of other acts that were third on the bill elsewhere were popular headliners in San Francisco. Most famously, Peter Frampton recorded his Frampton Comes Alive album at Winterland (and Marin Civic) in May 1975 because the Bay Area was the only place where he was a National headliner. A band could break out of San Francisco clubs into local concert success, and record companies were very aware of it, so the Bay Area club scene was still diverse, competitive and interesting from a musical point of view.
The first show at The Matrix was on August 24, 1973. The new club was on 412 Broadway, formerly the site of Mr. D's Supper Club. The venue seated at least 700, and had a full bar and a Chinese restaurant. The owners where Peter Abrams, one of the old Matrix's owners, Dave Martin and John Barsotti, a former member of the Berkeley rock band Celestial Hysteria. Using Ross's list as a starting point, I have researched contemporary Newspapers to list the different groups who played the Matrix in 1973, providing an interesting snapshot of the San Francisco rock market at that time.
August 24-25, 1973 Mike Bloomfield Group, Copperhead, Nimbus
The club opened on August 24. Mike Bloomfield was a regular in Bay Area clubs, as he preferred not to tour much. He would have appeared with Mark Naftalin on piano, along with a rhythm section. Copperhead was John Cipollina's new band, which (at the time) included Gary Phillipet, Hutch Hutchinson and Andy Weber. Nimbus was a hard rock quintet.
Matrix listings in the Hayward Daily Review mostly listed weekend shows. I don't know if the venue was dark when there were no shows, or local bands played, or perhaps only the bar was open--probably some combination of all three. In any case, they seemed to have tried to establish a regular schedule of shows but folded before they could get really established.
August 31-September 2, 1973 Stoneground, Graham Central Station
Stoneground had been a popular local group, led by Sal Valentino and guitarist Tim Barnes, with no less than 4 female vocalists. However, they had ground to a halt by early 1973. I'm fairly certain that this was the "new", smaller Stoneground, featuring guitarist/vocalist Barnes and singer Jo Baker, formerly of The Elvin Bishop Group.
Graham Central Station was led by former Sly And The Family Stone bassist Larry Graham. Their funk-rock sound was very popular in Bay Area clubs, and they had become successful nationwide by 1975.
September 4-6, 1973 New York Dolls, Tubes, Pristine Condition, Naomi Ruth Eisenberg
The New York Dolls were founding fathers of punk rock. Malcolm McLaren saw them in New York City and recognized them as the blueprint for the Sex Pistols. The original Dolls were extremely ragged but very exciting, and popular in an adventurous city like San Francisco.
Naomi Ruth Eisenberg had been in the group Dancing Food and Entertainment, and then in an early lineup of Dan Hicks and The Hot Licks. Pristine Condition are unknown to me.
September 7-8, 1973 Papa John Creach and Zulu, Steelwind with Jack Traylor
Electric violinist Papa John Creach had been a member of Hot Tuna and Jefferson Airplane, and now he was a member of the Jefferson Starship. He also led his own band, which recorded for Grunt, the Airplane's RCA imprint.
Steelwind was a Sacramento band that also recorded for Grunt. Their lead guitarist was Craig Chacuiqo, then a teenager, who would end up playing lead guitar for the Starship for many years.
September 14-15, 1973 Boz Scaggs, Mike Finnegan and Jerry Miller, El Roacho
Boz Scaggs was a popular recording artist who liked to play the Bay Area clubs even when he didn't entirely have to.
Mike Finnegan and Jerry Miller were both excellent musicians, and they must have sounded excellent together. Jerry Miller had been lead guitarist in Moby Grape (as well as The Frantics, Luminous Marsh Gas, Rhythm Dukes and various others), and Finnegan had been in the great Jerry Hahn Brotherhood, as well as playing with Jimi Hendrix and many others. Miller remains a touring musician today, and still puts on a great show, while Finnegan went on tour with Dave Mason, Crosby Stills and Nash and many others, and remains an active musician also.
El Roacho was a Tulsa band, that at one time featured Phil Seymour (Dwight Twilley's partner), although he had left by this period. El Roacho had an album, but I don't know much about it.
September 20, 1973 Sugar Daddy, Natural Act, Mendocino Allstars
Thursday night was audition night (per Hayward Daily Review September 14). All these bands were local acts who were regulars in smaller clubs farther away from San Francisco. This seems to be an effort by the club to start establishing more than just a weekend presence.
September 21-22, 1973 Pure Food featuring Harvey Mandel, The Sal Valentino Band, Bittersweet
Harvey Mandel, although born in Chicago, had moved to the Bay Area in 1967. A tremendous player, he was widely regarded by other guitarists. Besides his solo work, he had played with Charlie Musselwhite, Canned Heat and John Mayall, to name a few. Pure Food had been the name of his 1970-71 group with Sugarcane Harris, but the current lineup featured drummer Paul Lagos (ex-Kaleidoscope and John Mayall), guitarist/vocalist Coleman Head, and bassist Victor Conte. Conte, who would later join Tower of Power, is now more famous in the Bay Area as part of the "BALCO Scandal," supplying performance enhancing drugs to professional athletes.
Sal Valentino, a San Francisco native who had started the Beau Brummels in the early 1960s, had started his own group after he left Stoneground. Bittersweet are unknown to me.
Seotember 23, 1973 Timothy Leary Benefit
Timothy Leary was a fugitive from justice from 1970-73, and this Sunday night benefit would have been for his legal expenses. Apparently, films were shown, but I'm not sure if any bands played. Leary was not popular with the San Francisco LSD crowd (professional disputes with a certain Ursine character), so any groups who played were probably just local acts. There were two shows, at 8 and 11 pm.
October 5-6, 1973 Copperhead, Albert Collins
Blues guitarist Albert "The Ice Man" Collins had been popular in the early 1960s, but semi-retired until Canned Heat rediscovered him in 1968.
October 7, 1973 Albert Collins, Frank Biner
Frank Biner (sometimes spelled Byner) had a band called Night Shift, and they were another group trying to break out of the suburbs and into San Francisco.
October 10, 1973 audition night (Wednesday)
October 12-13, 1973 Azteca, Philip Goodhand-Tait, Delta Wires
Azteca was a 15-piece Latin rock "big band" led by Coke Escovedo, with numerous singers including Wendy Haas, attempting to capitalize on the huge record sales and musical success of Santana and Malo. Azteca made two albums and was widely regarded as a fantastic live band, but a huge ensemble was impossible to keep together. Azteca is fondly remembered as one of the great lost San Francisco bands.
Philip Goodhand-Tait was an English singer songwriter. Although he never caught on, the fact that he had an obviously subsidized gig (by his record company) is a sign that record companies considered San Francisco an important market.
Delta Wires were an East Bay blues band with horn section. A popular club band who never really broke out, they are still together today.
October 14, 1973 David Rea with Slewfoot
David Rea was a Toronto singer-songwriter-guitarist with a peculiar history. His first solo album was produced by Felix Pappalardi, and Rea ended co-writing three songs for Mountain, including the great "Mississippi Queen." In 1971, he briefly replaced Richard Thompson if Fairport Convention. By 1973, he was signed to CBS Records, and his album Slewfoot was produced Bob Weir, with many of the Dead and New Riders and their friends on board. This album was more on the Country side of country-rock, but largely got lost in the shuffle, and I do not believe it was ever released on cd.
Rea formed a band to promote the album, but I think their Matrix shows were among their very few gigs. Besides Rea on guitar and vocals, the rest of the band was Bill Cutler on guitar and vocals, Matt Kelly on harmonica and guitar, James Ackroyd on bass and Chris Herold on drums. Slewfoot was the basis of Matt Kelly's band Kingfish, which existed from 1973 to at least 1999.
October 15, 1973 Howard Wales and friends
Howard Wales had been in the group AB Skhy, who moved from Milwaukee to the Bay Area in 1968. Wales is better known for being Jerry Garcia's Monday night jamming partner at the original Matrix in 1970, and he made an album with Garcia (Hooteroll). Wales was and is a fantastic organ player. This show was a reduced admission ($1.50) Monday night show.
October 16, 1973 auditions (Tuesday night)
October 19-20, 1973 The Wailers, David Rea with Slewfoot, Stuart Little Band, Steve Head
These shows are far and away the most famous in the history of the latterday Matrix. The Wailers--this was before they were Bob Marley and The Wailers--were apparently stranded in Las Vegas after a gig was canceled. At the time, the group, feauring Marley, Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer, had just released their classic album Catch A Fire on Island Records. Matrix booker Scott Piering took a chance and booked them, in place of The Sons Of Champlin. The band sold out both nights, to the surprise of everyone. Of course, the band completely rocked the joint, and were invited to do a live broadcast on KSAN from Sausalito's Record Plant a few days later. The Matrix show was apparently one of the first indications that Marley, The Wailers and Reggae Music were going to make it big in the United States.
The entertainment listing above is from the Hayward Daily Review on October 19, 1973, which still includes the Sons of Champlin. Even though it doesn't include the forthcoming Wailers gig (below), it shows the club how the owners intended it--established bands, plus some up and comers, and local bands on weeknights. The idea was sound, but the owners apparently couldn't sustain it.
Stuart Little Band played a lot around the Bay Area at the time, but they are otherwise unknown to me. Steve Head is unknown to me.
October 23, 1973 auditions with Elvis Duck and others
Elvis Duck was a South Bay band (they were regulars at clubs like The Bodega in Campbell), probably looking to break into San Francisco. Remember, this was years before Elvis Costello, so it was a funky and original thing to name yourself Elvis.
October 26-27, 1973 James Cotton Blues Band, Graham Central Station
James Cotton was as great as ever, but he had been playing San Francisco rock clubs since he played the Fillmore in 1966.
October 29-30, 1973 The Wailers
The Wailers returned on a Tuesday and Wednesday, and broadcast on KSAN the next day (Oct 31)..
October 31, 1973 Iggy Pop and the Stooges, Tubes, Sugardaddy
I meditated elsewhere on the idea of seeing Iggy and The Tubes on Halloween in 1973, but it turns out Iggy canceled. Still, The Tubes, although ragged at this stage, were still something.
Iggy made up the date, after the Matrix was closed, on January 11-12, 1974 at Bimbo's 365 Club on Columbus Street. Although the crowd was small, no one there forgot it (read the comments at the above link).
November 13, 1973 Brian Auger’s Oblivion Express, J.R. Weitz (two shows)
Brian Auger was not well known in America, but he had a fantastic band, touring behind the album Closer To It, and he was well reviewed in the Hayward Daily Review (of November 16). Guitarist Barry Dean and vocalist Alex Ligterwood fronted the ensemble along with Auger's great Hammond organ playing.
November 18, 1973 Steelwind, Dolly and The Lama Mountain Boys (free)
November 25, 1973 Steelwind, Dolly and The Lama Mountain Boys (free)
The last two shows advertised for The Matrix were somewhat mysterious. Free shows for Steelwind and the unknown (to me) Dolly and The Lama Mountain Boys were advertised for Sunday November 18 and Sunday November 25. No other shows were advertised that week. The clipping above was from Friday November 23. I was able to find no articles about the closing of the club, so it seems to have simply disappeared. My guess is that November 18 was the last show, but that is just supposition on my part. Steelwind had probably just released their album, and the free concert was probably a record-company financed extravaganza.
The most intriguing event that never occurred at The Matrix was the Yoko Ono performances of November 26-December 2 (mentioned above, in the November 9, 1973 edition of the Hayward Daily Review). I feel confident that if Yoko Ono had performed at The Matrix in 1973, it would have been covered (I saw Yoko Ono at The Warfield in San Francisco many years later, but that is a story for another time--trust me when I say it would have been covered).
An article in the Hayward Daily Review in November mentions a scheduled gig at The Matrix at the end of December by a local band (a Hayward band called Truckin, for December 28-29), so clearly the club had long range plans, but it was not to be. Despite the interesting billings and record company support, rock clubs in San Francisco had a hard time in the mid-1970s, and the Matrix's brief reincarnation lasted less than 4 months.
The site became Soul Train, a soul club associated with the Don Cornelius TV show of the same name. From 1980 until 1990, the site was The Stone, part of the Corona Brothers Keystone troika (Berkeley and Palo Alto being the other wings), and the club finally fulfilled some of the promises implied by its incarnation as The Matrix.
The club is now The Broadway Showgirls Cabaret. Don't Google it at work.