Friday, December 18, 2009

January 13-14-15, 1967 San Francisco--Rock Weekend


From this great distance, most rock historiography is siloed, as researchers delve deeper and deeper into the details of a specific rock band's history or the minutiae of a certain event. I myself am acutely guilty of profoundly detailed research of little interest even to the participants. While the best information comes from determined research, it's also important to think about the context in which events occur. The Human Be-In, a free concert and gathering in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, where 15,000 or so long-haired gathered peacefully to listen to Berkeley radicals, some Beat poets and several San Francisco rock bands, all for free, was a seminal event in rock history.

The Be-In was seminal not least because the event was picked up by national TV news, and a sunny San Francisco afternoon with "acid, incense and balloons" (in Paul Kantner's words) seemed awfully engaging to a lot of young people around the country feeling cold and alienated by parents, the threat of the Vietnam War or the snow. Publicity about the Be-In was the key event that triggered San Francisco's "Summer Of Love," and accelerated the San Francisco music scene from a happening Underground scene to a flash point for the next rock explosion after the Beatles and The "British Invasion."

All the importance and symbolism attached to the Human Be-In is worthy of interest, and that was recognized at the time. The Be-In triggered Be-Ins throughout the country, and triggered the phenomenon of the outdoor rock festival, starting several months later at Monterey Pop, and culminating at the apogee and perogee of Woodstock and Altamont in 1969. What is usually lost in discussions of the Human Be-In, however, was what a happening musical weekend it was around the Bay Area. The Human Be-In was the biggest event, but it would have been musically memorable in any case, a sign of the vitality of the San Francisco scene at the time. This post will look at the wide variety of rock events on the Human Be-In weekend, showing how the Be-In was a fair representation of what was happening in the City at the time (h/t Ross for the poster scans).


Friday, January 13, 1967
San Francisco
Fillmore: The Grateful Dead/Junior Wells/The Doors
Avalon: Moby Grape/The Sparrow/Charlatans
Basin Street West: Jefferson Airplane/Dizzy Gillespie (401 Broadway, North Beach)
The Matrix: Steve Miller Blues Band/Steve Mann (3138 Fillmore, The Marina)
The Both/And: Charles Lloyd (350 Divisadero)
Friday night in San Francisco was fraught with great events--

At the Fillmore, the Grateful Dead had to race over from Berkeley, where they had filled in for Jose Feliciano (see below). The Doors had played the previous weekend (with The Rascals and Sopwith Camel), and with their first album just released, were the hottest band to come out of Los Angeles. They apparently were a huge success the the first weekend, but for mysterious reasons of his own, Jim Morrison chose to spend the evening at a movie theater in Sacramento, watching Casablanca three times, so The Doors did not perform at the Fillmore Friday night. 

The bands at the Avalon were all without recording contracts, but all featured members who would go on to great success. Moby Grape, having just formed a few months earlier, were San Francisco's latest underground sensation; given their members' vast performing experience, its no surprise they were reputedly a terrific live band right from the start. The Charlatans, while legends, never lived up to their possibilities, but drummer Dan Hicks went on to achieve his own peculiar immortality. The Sparrow, from Toronto but based in Sausalito, would move to Los Angeles in June and reconfigure themselves as Steppenwolf.

At North Beach's biggest jazz club, the Jefferson Airplane, San Francisco's biggest stars, were playing a high profile engagement (January 11 through 22) with trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie. The formidable Charles Lloyd quartet (with Keith Jarrett, Ron McClure and Jack DeJohnette) was playing a week at the tiny Both/And, near the Haight. Over at The Matrix, newly arrived from Madison, WI, via Chicago, was the Steve Miller Blues Band, already a fine live band. Opening for Miller was Steve Mann, as good a guitar player as anyone playing this weekend.

East Bay
Berkeley Community Theater: The Mamas And The Papas/Jose Feliciano/The Hard Times
(Allston and Grove, two shows 8:00 and 10:45)
Rollarena, San Leandro: Mojo Men/Mark & Stanley & The Four Fendermen/The Opposition
Ligure Hall, Oakland: Maybe Tomorrow/Loading Zone (4799 Shattuck)
New Orleans House, Berkeley: Notes From The Underground(1505 San Pablo)
Just across the Bay Bridge--

The Mamas And The Papas were one of the most popular groups in the country, and Bill Graham presented them at Berkeley Community Theater, supported by Jose Feliciano and a local group called The Hard Times. The show almost never appears in lists of Bill Graham shows, probably because there was no poster for it. The show sold out quickly and a late show was added. According to Ralph Gleason's review in the Chronicle (on January 16), Jose Feliciano was late arriving, and the Hard Times were unavailable.

A locally based group called The Canadian Fuzz opened both shows, but to fill in for Feliciano, the Grateful Dead played a brief set for the early show, prior to returning to the Fillmore to headline. Gleason, a fan of the Dead, was dismissive of their performance at Berkeley. Interestingly, they would not have been playing through their own sound system, a rare event for the Dead even then. The Dead would have been done by 9:00 o'clock, leaving plenty of time to get to the Fillmore even with The Doors being absent.

San Leandro's Rollarena had been a happening spot for teenagers the previous year, but it was being eclipsed by the Fillmore and Avalon. The Mojo Men, with singing drummer Jan Errico and their hit "Sit Down I Think I Love You" were apparently a pretty good live band. I know nothing about the event at Ligure Hall, and I can't imagine it was well attended. The New Orleans House was just starting to present original rock in the East Bay.

North Bay
Santa Venetia Armory: Big Brother and The Holding Company/Moby Grape (155 Madison)
Even in then-sleepy Marin, something was happening. The former National Guard Armory, just North of San Rafael, had been used for many teen dances in the mid-60s and was used briefly for psychedelic bands before it too succumbed to the Fillmore. Moby Grape was playing two gigs in the same night. Of course, since Chet Helms both promoted the Avalon and managed Big Brother, he was responsible for both gigs, so it was certainly OK with him. This show probably ended early.



Saturday, January 14, 1967
San Francisco
Human Be-In, Polo Grounds, Golden Gate Park
Jefferson Airplane/Grateful Dead/Quicksilver Messenger Service/Sir Douglas Quintet/Loading Zone/The New Age
Fillmore: The Grateful Dead/Junior Wells/The Doors
Avalon: Moby Grape/The Sparrow/Charlatans
Basin Street West: Jefferson Airplane/Dizzy Gillespie (401 Broadway, North Beach)
The Matrix: Steve Miller Blues Band/Steve Mann (3138 Fillmore, The Marina)
The Both/And: Charles Lloyd (350 Divisadero)
Goman's Gay 90s: The Sparrow (345 Broadway, North Beach 2am Breakfast Show)

The Human Be-In was attended by just about every hippie in the Bay Area, and is remembered fondly by everyone I ever talked to who attended. The musical performances were brief, as there were many speakers and poets as well as the musicians. The Grateful Dead's brief (half-hour set) included Charles Lloyd on flute for "Good Morning Little Schoolgirl." The rest of the groups were reported by the San Francisco Chronicle, so there may in fact have been other groups who played as well. The Chronicle incorrectly reported that Country Joe and The Fish played, when in fact a Berkeley band called The New Age performed, with whom Joe and some Fish joined in.

Most of the musicians playing San Francisco were probably present. Lloyd played with the Dead, and a member of The New Age described jamming offstage with Dizzy Gillespie. The Doors were certainly present, as well.

The Doors did play on Saturday night at the Fillmore, and many of the people at the Fillmore must have been at the Be-In, and seeing The Dead, The Doors and Junior Wells each play two sets after spending all day in the park must have made for some day, but you could say the same about the Avalon or Basin Street West. And if you just couldn't sleep (for one reason or another), The Sparrow were playing 2-6am "Breakfast Shows" at a North Beach Topless Club called Goman's Gay 90s, as were the Airplane and Dizzy Gillespie in North Beach.

Bay Area

Sonoma County Fairgrounds, Santa Rosa: The Mojo Men
New Orleans House, Berkeley: Notes From The Underground
Continental Ballroom, Santa Clara: The Turtles/William Penn Five/The Chosen Few (1600 Martin Ave) 

The out-of-town fare was considerably less on Saturday, fortunate for any promoters who didn't have to be competing with the Be-In.


Sunday January 15, 1967
San Francisco
Fillmore: The Grateful Dead/Junior Wells/The Doors (afternoon show)
Basin Street West: Jefferson Airplane/Dizzy Gillespie (401 Broadway, North Beach)
The Matrix: Steve Miller Blues Band/Steve Mann (3138 Fillmore, The Marina)
The Both/And: Charles Lloyd (350 Divisadero)
Goman's Gay 90s: The Sparrow (345 Broadway, North Beach 2am Breakfast Show)

The dust had settled somewhat by Sunday, but there was still music to be had. Sunday afternoon Fillmore shows often did not include the weekend's headline act. Both the previous weekend at the Fillmore (headlined by The Rascals) and the next weekend (headlined by Butterfield Blues Band), notices in the Chronicle explicitly stated that the headliner would not be performing. The Wes Wilson posters for all of the January shows (BG 44, 45, 46 and 47) include ambiguous wording that says 'Our Reg Sun Afternoon Dance Concert Kiddies Free!' The Friday Chronicle datebook (above) lists the Dead instead of "rock jam" as it had other Sundays, but I am not certain if the Dead actually played Sunday. If they didn't, it would actually be consistent with other January headliners.

East Bay
Provo Park, Berkeley Loading Zone/Ulysses S Crockett (Grove and Allston, 2-4pm, free)
New Orleans House, Berkeley: Notes From The Underground

Although the entire Bay Area longhair community had to fairly spent, there was a free concert in downtown Berkeley's main park, announced in Ralph Gleason's column, featuring The Loading Zone, an Oakland band who had gigged on all three days. Notes From Underground played Sunday evening, for anyone who was still awake.

Many of the events of the weekend of January 13-15, 1967 have gotten their due in rock chronologies. The Human Be-In had social and political consequences, symbolizing a movement from radical Berkeley politics to much larger questions, and the event all but singlehandedly guaranteed the Summer Of Love in San Francisco. At the same time, The Doors, one of the most important rock groups of the 1960s, were playing San Francisco just as their new album was released, and the Jefferson Airplane shared a two-week billing with Charlie Parker's former trumpet player. Moby Grape was just springing into the light, The Sparrow were laying the groundwork for Steppenwolf, Steve Miller had just started performing in San Francisco, and established pop stars like The Mamas And The Papas and The Turtles headlined around the Bay Area.

By Summer 1967, most of these bands (in some form) were starting to tour the country, and they wouldn't be in the same place at the same time except at a Festival, but for one weekend, San Francisco and the Bay Area was its own rock festival.

2 comments:

  1. Wow---great content and posters! And you just made my upcoming weekend in San Francisco feel a little more historic--thanks! :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Sensational blog(s). Thanks for all your work. A longer complimentary letter will follow.

    J.M. Kirk

    ReplyDelete