(This post is part of a series analyzing every show at the Avalon Ballroom)
Friday May 27, 1966 The Leaves/The Grass Roots
Saturday May 28, 1966 The Grateful Dead/The Leaves/The Grass Roots
The Leaves were part of the Los Angeles/Sunset Strip scene. They had started out as The Rockwells in 1964 playing fraternity parties at San Fernando State College.They kept evolving, however, and when they replaced The Byrds at Ciro's in 1965, they had changed their name to The Leaves. Their ‘emblem’ was a marijuana leaf, the kind of in joke that could be pulled off at the time. Bassist Jim Pons, one of the founders, was later in The Turtles and The Mothers of Invention (around 1971), and guitarist Bill Rinehart would end up in a variety of bands as well.
The Leaves played LA clubs like Ciro’s and The Whiskey after The Byrds had graduated to larger places. The Leaves had a hit with “Hey Joe”, which entered the Billboard charts in June 1966, so it would have been getting heavy local radio airplay at the time of this show. Love, The Byrds, and The Leaves were all performing and recording “Hey Joe” at the same time, but the Leaves had the hit. The Leaves' first album, also entitled Hey Joe (on Surrey) was released in 1966 as well, although I don't know exactly when. The Leaves professional experience apparently made them quite a good live band, and in any case a group whose emblem was a marijuana leaf was definitely welcome at the Avalon.
The Grass Roots were returning to the Avalon, having played there a month earlier.
The Grateful Dead had played the Avalon just nine days earlier, but this was their first time playing for Chet Helms and The Family Dog. I do not know why the Dead did not play the Friday night show at the Avalon (May 27), but I have to assume they had a gig elsewhere. I am certain that they did not play there, too, since I have a friend who chose not to go the Avalon that night because the Grateful Dead weren't playing, and chose to see some unknown bands at the Fillmore instead (and as a result my friend's first San Francisco rock concert was Mothers/Velvet Underground).
At this time, Grateful Dead soundman and patron Owsley Stanley had been purchasing more and more equipment in an attempt to invent modern sound systems. According to Dennis McNally's book What A Long Strange Trip (p.149), by the time of this show Owsley's PA was so large it blocked Bill Ham's light show.
Next: June 3-4, 1966 Grass Roots/Big Brother and The Holding Company