Saturday, December 26, 2009

Moby Grape Performance History January-April 1969 (Moby Grape VI)


Moby Grape was one of the best of the San Francisco groups, but their never ending run of poor choices and bad luck has insured that they lead the woulda-shoulda-coulda category, with a long series of frustrations punctuating their career. Over the years, the nonetheless fascinating story of Moby Grape has been documented fairly comprehensively. However, there is no longer a good Moby Grape performance history on the Web, or at least not an accessible one, so I have constructed one for the years 1966-69. It was originally based on the one that was available on the web some years ago, but I have revised and added to it considerably.

My focus on this concert history is on Moby Grape's actual performance history, rather than an attempt to document their recordings or other aspects of the band's history. I have had to give some thumbnail information in order to make the history coherent, but I am aware that I am simplifying or leaving out many aspects of the band's history due to my narrow focus on concerts.

The Moby Grape Performance History will be in 6 parts (1966, early and late 1967, early and late 1968, and 1969). The history represents the best information available to me at this time. Anyone with additional information, corrections or insights into missing or incomplete performance dates please list them in the Comments or contact me.

Part I: 1966
Part II: January-June 1967
Part III: July-December 1967
Part IV: January-June 1968
Part V: July-December 1968
Part VI: January-April 1969 Performance History 
January 24-25, 1969  Winterland, San Francisco  Moby Grape/It’s A Beautiful Day/Other Half/Tim Hardin 
The Family Dog Presented this show at Winterland. Chet Helms had lost his lease at the Avalon, and briefly put on shows at other venues.

February 1, 1969 Middle Earth Club, The Roundhouse, London, GB Moby Grape/Jody Grind/Ice
The Grape begin a brief European tour. I have no idea if I have collected all the dates. The group is still a quartet (Jerry Miller, Peter Lewis, Bob Mosley and Don Stevenson).

Originally the Middle Earth gig was supposed to be the night before (Jan 31) with Group Therapy, but it was delayed until the next night. Moby Grape replaced Spooky Tooth and Steamhammer.

February 4, 1969 BBC Studios, London, GB Moby Grape
This was broadcast on March 16, 1969.

February 6, 1969 City Hall, Newcastle, GB Moby Grape/The Nice
 The Nice ran over time, and the emcee offers the crowd “more Nice” or a 15-minute set by Moby Grape, and the crowd chooses The Nice.

February ?, 1969 The Revolution, London, GB Moby Grape
This gig may be spurious--no one can figure out what the venue might have been.

February ?, 1969 The Place, Edinburgh, Scotland Moby Grape

February ?, 1969 [venue], Stockholm, Sweden  Moby Grape
A tape apparently exists, although Bruno says it is incorrectly dated (as Feb 15).

February ?, 1969  [venue], [city], Denmark  Moby Grape

February 11, 1969 Mies Bouwman TV show, [city], Netherlands

February 15, 1969  Rai Congrescentrum, Amsterdam, NL Moby Grape
Part of this show was broadcast on VPRO-fm.

February 16, 1969 De Doelen, Rotterdam, NL Moby Grape

March 7-8-9, 1969 Avalon Moby Grape/AB Skhy/Gale Garnett and Gentle Reign/Group Therapy
 Soundproof Presents.  New promoters briefly put on shows at the Avalon. I am not certain that Moby Grape performed.

March 14, 1969 The Hideout, Clawson, MI Moby Grape/Group Therapy
March 14, 1969 Silverbell Hideout, Detroit, MI Moby Grape
I am not certain that the Grape performed these Michigan gigs, either. In any case, Bob Mosley leaves the band shortly after this, just as their album Moby Grape '69 was released.

April 1, 1969 Sun Air Drive-In, Palm Springs, CA Palm Springs Pop Festival
Moby Grape was billed (h/t Ross for the scan), but did not appear. The band had disintegrated at this point, and although they continue to exist as a recording entity, for contractual reasons, they cease as a performing band. Jerry Miller, Peter Lewis and Don Stevenson record another album in Nashville, with session man Bob Moore on bass (released in August 1969 as Truly Fine Citizen), but many of the Miller/Stevenson songs are credited to road manager Tim Dell'ario due to contractual problems.


Aftermath
  • Skip Spence had many problems, but still had his talent, and recorded the album Oar in Nashville
  • Bob Mosley joined the Marines
  • Peter Lewis laid low 
  • Jerry Miller and Don Stevenson retreated to the Santa Cruz Mountains and formed a group called The Rhythm Dukes. Bass and drums were handled by John Barrett and John "Fuzzy" Oxendine, from the Bay Area group Boogie, so Stevenson could switch to guitar. The group toured a fair amount, but outside of the Bay Area promoters tended to bill them as Moby Grape. This not only dismayed Miller and Stevenson, but the Moby Grape name was tied up in litigation so it was not merely a semantic issue. Stevenson quit the band, replaced by Bill Champlin. All late 1969 posters with the name Moby Grape are actually the Rhythm Dukes.
Moby Grape reformed in 1971, with all the original members, and then again in 1978, 1986, 1991, 1998 and some other times. They were always a good band, but the breaks never fell for them and they remain in litigation. Skip Spence passed away in 1999, but the other band members continue to make music, still purple, still living under the ocean.

(thanks to Ross, Bruno and particularly Marc for all the information, updates and corrections) 

Appendix: For a different view of the history of Moby Grape, Ross has put together an excellent Moby Grape Family Tree

Moby Grape Performance History July-December 1968 (Moby Grape V)

Moby Grape was one of the best of the San Francisco groups, but their never ending run of poor choices and bad luck has insured that they lead the woulda-shoulda-coulda category, with a long series of frustrations punctuating their career. Over the years, the nonetheless fascinating story of Moby Grape has been documented fairly comprehensively. However, there is no longer a good Moby Grape performance history on the Web, or at least not an accessible one, so I have constructed one for the years 1966-69. It was originally based on the one that was available on the web some years ago, but I have revised and added to it considerably.

My focus on this concert history is on Moby Grape's actual performance history, rather than an attempt to document their recordings or other aspects of the band's history. I have had to give some thumbnail information in order to make the history coherent, but I am aware that I am simplifying or leaving out many aspects of the band's history due to my narrow focus on concerts.

The Moby Grape Performance History will be in 6 parts (1966, early and late 1967, early and late 1968, and 1969). The history represents the best information available to me at this time. Anyone with additional information, corrections or insights into missing or incomplete performance dates please list them in the Comments or contact me.

Part I: 1966
Part II: January-June 1967
Part III: July-December 1967
Part IV: January-June 1968
Part V: July-December 1968 Performance History
   
July ?, 1968  The Sanctuary, South Lake Tahoe Moby Grape/Santana Blues Band/Queen Lily Soap
I know someone who saw Moby Grape in Tahoe, but there is a chance that it was at Kings Beach Bowl in North Lake Tahoe the Summer before. By July 1968, the band was a four-piece (Jerry Miller, Peter Lewis, Bob Mosley and Don Stevenson), as Skip Spence had left the band. The album Wow had been released in April 1968, but it was inevitably compared unfavorably to their great first album.

July 23-24-25, 1968 Fillmore West, San Francisco Moby Grape/Jeff Beck Group/Mint Tattoo

August 2-3, 1968  Eagles Auditorium, Seattle, WA Moby Grape
The Eagles calendar says “The Original” Moby Grape, to distinguish them from the bogus version of the band playing as Moby Grape under the auspices of fired manager Mathew Katz. The bogus Moby Grape had toured the Northwest and Midwest in the summer of 1968.

August 9-10, 1968 The Cave, Vancouver, BC Moby Grape
This was reported in the Vancouver Sun (h/t Mark). The Cave was a "Supper Club" that had made somewhat of a conversion to rock.

August 23-24-25, 1968  The Kaleidoscope, Hollywood Moby Grape
This was probably the last rock show at The Kaleidoscope. The Kaleidoscope had been built in the 1930s with a revolving stage, and had been a TV studio and later The Hullabaloo.  While it was a wonderful venue, it was too small (capacity 1,000) to be viable.  It became (and remains) the Aquarius Theater.

September 6-7, 1968 The Bank, Torrance Moby Grape/Fair BeFall

October 4-5, 1968 Electric Factory, Philadelphia, PA Moby Grape/Albert King/Woody's Truck Stop

October 12-17, 1968 Café Au Go Go, New York, NY Moby Grape/The Moke Eaters
We are obviously missing a lot of tour dates on the East Coast.

October 18, 1968 Action House, Island Park, NY Moby Grape

October 19, 1968 The Spectrum, Philadelphia, PA “Quaker City Rock Festival”
Big Brother and The Holding Company/Moby Grape/Vanilla Fudge/Buddy Guy/Chambers Brothers/others?
 There appears to have been two ‘Quaker City Rock Festivals’ at The Spectrum in 1968 (the other was Dec 6), and time seems to have confused the memories of various eyewitnesses.

October 20-21, 1968 The Scene, New York, NY Moby Grape

October 22, 1968 [Gym], SUNY, Stony Brook, NY Moby Grape
This date does beg the question a little bit as to whether they also played Valentine's Day 1968 at Stony Brook.

November 1-2, 1968 Kinetic Playground, Chicago, IL Moby Grape
Throughout November the band continues recording their next album.

November 9, 1968  Rose Bowl, Pasadena, CA Moby Grape/The Grass Roots/The Hook/others
This show had been rescheduled from another date.

November 30, 1968 Commodore Ballroom, Lowell, MA Moby Grape

December 6, 1968 The New Place, Chicago, IL Moby Grape/Illusions
This was advertised, but its hard to say whether it happened.

December 27-28, 1968  Felt Forum, New York, NY Moby Grape
The Felt Forum was a theater within the Madison Square Garden complex.

next: Part VI January-April 1969

Moby Grape Performance History January-June 1968 (Moby Grape IV)

Moby Grape was one of the best of the San Francisco groups, but their never ending run of poor choices and bad luck has insured that they lead the woulda-shoulda-coulda category, with a long series of frustrations punctuating their career. Over the years, the nonetheless fascinating story of Moby Grape has been documented fairly comprehensively. However, there is no longer a good Moby Grape performance history on the Web, or at least not an accessible one, so I have constructed one for the years 1966-69. It was originally based on the one that was available on the web some years ago, but I have revised and added to it considerably.

My focus on this concert history is on Moby Grape's actual performance history, rather than an attempt to document their recordings or other aspects of the band's history. I have had to give some thumbnail information in order to make the history coherent, but I am aware that I am simplifying or leaving out many aspects of the band's history due to my narrow focus on concerts.

The Moby Grape Performance History will be in 6 parts (1966, early and late 1967, early and late 1968, and 1969). The history represents the best information available to me at this time. Anyone with additional information, corrections or insights into missing or incomplete performance dates please list them in the Comments or contact me.

Part I: 1966
Part II: January-June 1967 
Part III: July-December 1967
Part IV: January-June 1968 Performance History

January ?, 1968 Psychedelic Supermarket, Boston, MA Moby Grape/Travis Pike's Tea Party

The Psychedelic Supermarket was basically a parking garage with a light show, at 590 Kenmore, on Kenmore Square.  The sound of the ‘room’ was notoriously miserable.

Moby Grape was mostly recording in New York during January and February, while playing occasional gigs on the East Coast.

January 26-27, 1968 Action House, Island Park, NY

Winter 68  [venue], Augusta, ME
Jerry Miller recalled a gig in Augusta, Maine. The ride back to New York was a scary drive over icy roads. Skip Spence drove one of the cars at 80 mph, his unique mojo somehow keeping everyone alive.

February 10-11, 1968 Anderson Theater, New York, NY Moby Grape/Procol Harum (2 shows)
 The Anderson was an old Yiddish Theater a block away from the Village Theater (the future Fillmore East).

February 14, 1968 [Gym], SUNY, Stony Brook, NY Moby Grape
A tape circulates with the date February 14, 1968, so it is plausible to think the group played the college on this date, although there is no other confirmation.

February ?, 1968 Gym, South Plainfield High School, South Plainfield, NJ Moby Grape/Drug Store
A Commenter reports seeing a memorable Moby Grape performance at the South Plainfield High School, but the exact date is uncertain. The old South Plainfield High School, located on 2201  Plainfield Ave, is now a Middle School.

February 17, 1968 Tempo Dance City, Brooklyn, NY Moby Grape
This venue is unknown to me.

February 23-24, 1968 The Cheetah, Chicago, IL Moby Grape
The Cheetah was the once and future Aragon Ballroom, at 1106 W. Lawrence.

March 15-16, 1968 San Francisco Sound, Seattle, WA Moby Grape/West Coast Natural Gas/Indian Pudding And Pipe
Former manager Katz, who had been fired in September 1967, had started his own ballroom in Seattle called The San Francisco Sound. It was the former Encore Ballroom, at 1214 E. Pike (at 13th). Katz had many complex dealings, and claimed to own the name Moby Grape, so this performance was probably a proxy Moby Grape put together by Katz, featuring Northwest area musicians. They mostly played obscure venues in the Northwest, to audiences who wouldn't have recognized the real Moby Grape.

March 15, 1968 American Legion Hall, Merced Moby Grape
This date is unconfirmed, but it legislates against the real Moby Grape having played Seattle. Update: a Commenter clearly recalls seeing Moby Grape at the Merced Legion Hall, so the Seattle show was surely the fake Grape. Its likely the real Grape played somewhere else on Saturday March 16, but I haven't determined where.

March 21-22-23, 1968 Winterland Moby Grape/Traffic/Lemon Pipers/Spirit (21st Fillmore)

March 29-30, 1968 The Cheetah, Santa Monica “Moby Grape”
The Cheetah was a popular discoteque and concert venue on the Santa Monica Pier.

This was the phony Moby Grape, featuring Seattle musicians, put together by ex-manager Mathew Katz.  Katz claimed he owned the name, and put together a group to tour as Moby Grape. They mostly toured the Pacific Northwest.

April 3, 1968 Winterland, San Francisco Grateful Dead/Electric Flag/It’s A Beautiful Day/Moby Grape/Mother Earth/Youngbloods  
KMPX-fm Strike Benefit

April 6, 1968   Selland Arena, Fresno Moby Grape

April 12-13, 1968 Carousel Ballroom, San Francisco Moby Grape/It’s a Beautiful Day/Sweet Rush
The Carousel Ballroom (on Market and Van Ness) was the former El Patio Ballroom, managed by the Grateful Dead and other San Francisco bands to provide a venue not controlled by either Bill Graham or Chet Helms.  By summer, Graham had taken over the lease on the Carousel and renamed it the Fillmore West (h/t Ross for the scan).

Sometime in April, the band released their second album, Wow, which was packaged with a Super Session style album called Grape Jam. The public perceived this as overkill, and the album was unfavorably compared to the sensational first album.The Grape also began recording again.

May 2-3-4, 1968 Fillmore Auditorium Moby Grape/Hour Glass/United States of America
The Hour Glass were a Los Angeles band featuring Duane and Gregg Allman.

May 3, 1968 Merchandise Mart, Old State Fairgrounds, Sacramento  Moby Grape/Quicksilver Messenger Service/Troggs/Pyewacket
2nd Annual Simultaneous Avalanche
The Grape probably played in the afternoon in Sacramento, and made it back for Saturday evening's Fillmore show.

May 7-12, 1968 The Generation, New York, NY Moby Grape
This club on 52 West 8th Street would later become Jimi Hendrix’s Electric Lady Studio.

May 17-18, 1968  The Kaleidoscope, Hollywood Moby Grape/Hour Glass/Mt. Rushmore
The poster says ‘The Real’ Moby Grape, a reference to the March 29 Cheetah show.

May 22-23, 1968 La Cave, Cleveland, OH Moby Grape

May 24, 1968 Vulcan Gas Company, Austin, TX Moby Grape/Shiva’s Headband (2 shows)
The Vulcan Gas Company (at 316 Congress Avenue) was Austin’s psychedelic ballroom. They may have played May 25 also--that's how the poster advertised them.

May 26, 1968 Catacombs Club, Houston, TX Moby Grape

May 31-June 1, 1968 Fillmore East Moby Grape/The Fugs/Gary Burton Quartet (2 shows each night)
Peter Lewis, angry at the band for various reasons, returned to Los Angeles, so the Grape played Fillmore East as a quartet. Shortly after these shows, Skip Spence had an episode where he lost touch with reality, went AWOL for a few days and ended up in the Psych Ward at Bellevue Hospital. The show at Fillmore East was Skip Spence's last appearance with the Grape until 1971.

June 6, 1968 Café Au-Go-Go, New York, NY  Moby Grape
This gig was scheduled, but the Grape may not have played it, since they returned home shortly after the Central Park gig. Other subsequent gigs throughout June seem to have been canceled as well.

June 7, 1968 The Limit, Howard Beach, NY Moby Grape
June 8, 1968 [venue], St. Louis, MO Moby Grape
I'm assuming these scheduled gigs were canceled, too.

June 25, 1968 Commodore Ballroom, Lowell, MA Moby Grape/The What Group

June 29, 1968 Wollman Skating Rink, Schaeffer Music Festival, New York, NY Moby Grape/Muddy Waters (afternoon)
Lewis returned to the band, but the Village Voice reported that the Grape played this show as a 4-piece, since Spence was not available.  Columbia must have flown the band back to NYC for the high profile festival, which began on June 25, but its strange that there were no other gigs around this time.


next: Part V July-December 1968

Moby Grape Performance History July-December 1967 (Moby Grape III)


Moby Grape was one of the best of the San Francisco groups, but their never ending run of poor choices and bad luck has insured that they lead the woulda-shoulda-coulda category, with a long series of frustrations punctuating their career. Over the years, the nonetheless fascinating story of Moby Grape has been documented fairly comprehensively. However, there is no longer a good Moby Grape performance history on the Web, or at least not an accessible one, so I have constructed one for the years 1966-69. It was originally based on the one that was available on the web some years ago, but I have revised and added to it considerably.

My focus on this concert history is on Moby Grape's actual performance history, rather than an attempt to document their recordings or other aspects of the band's history. I have had to give some thumbnail information in order to make the history coherent, but I am aware that I am simplifying or leaving out many aspects of the band's history due to my narrow focus on concerts.

The Moby Grape Performance History will be in 6 parts (1966, early and late 1967, early and late 1968, and 1969). The history represents the best information available to me at this time. Anyone with additional information, corrections or insights into missing or incomplete performance dates please list them in the Comments or contact me.

Part I: 1966
Part II: January-June 1967

Part III: July-December 1967 Performance History 
July 1, 1967 Earl Warren Showgrounds, Santa Barbara Jimi Hendrix Experience/Moby Grape/Tim Buckley

July 14-15, 1967 Centennial Coliseum, Reno, NV Moby Grape/Melvyn Q Watchpocket

July 17, 1967 The Scene, New York, NY Moby Grape
The Grape were advertised in the Village Voice as “returning for one night only,” so the record company must have flow them out there. I have no idea if this gig actually took place.

July 22, 1967 Civic Auditorium, Santa Monica Yardbirds/Moby Grape/Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band/Iron Butterfly/Strawberry Alarm Clock/West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band
Jim Saltzer presented this show.  The Yardbirds at this time featured Jimmy Page on lead guitar. Given that the Grape were supposedly in New York the previous week and Philadelphia the next night, I wonder if the band actually played this gig.

July 23, 1967 Convention Hall, Philadelphia, PA The Mamas and The Papas/Moby Grape/Blues Magoos

July 27, 1967 Upper Deck Club, Detroit, MI Moby Grape
The band also appears on the Robin Seymour TV show in Detroit on this day.

August 2, 1967 Eagles Auditorium, Seattle, WA Moby Grape/Crome Syrcus/Time Machine
A special rock-dance-light show extravaganza, as Crome Syrcus performed with a Dance Troupe.

August 8-9-10, 1967 Fillmore Auditorium, San Francisco Electric Flag/Moby Grape/Southside Sound System

August 10-11-12-13, 1967 Avalon Ballroom, San Francisco Moby Grape/Canned Heat/Vanilla Fudge
There is a poster for these shows, but it does seem odd that the Grape played the Fillmore and Avalon on consecutive days, conflicting on one (Aug 10), given the fierce competition between Chet Helms and  Bill Graham.

Mad River substituted for Moby Grape at the last second on one night (probably Saturday, Aug 12), apparently because Skip Spence was incapacitated.  There is some evidence Big Brother played the 13th, most likely replacing the Grape as well—perhaps attorneys prevented them from finishing up the gigs, rather than “incapacitation.” There's obviously a story here, but no one seems to know what it is.

Its also possible the Grape were in Portland, OR, at the Crystal Ballroom, but it has been impossible to confirm who played Portland that weekend (Steve Miller Band is another possibility).

August 19, 1967 Earl Warren Showgrounds, Santa Barbara Jimi Hendrix Experience/Moby Grape/Tim Buckley/Capt. Speed

August 21-22-23, 1967 Whiskey A-Go-Go, West Hollywood Moby Grape/Afro-Blues Quintet

The Whiskey A-Go-Go was the hippest showcase club in West Hollywood.  Bands played for union scale in order to attract attention.

Moby Grape begins recording again in August. 

September 4, 1967 The Scene, New York, NY Moby Grape
The Grape performed live at The Scene, and the show was filmed for a TV show.

September 15-16, 1967  Continental Ballroom, Santa Clara  Moby Grape/Nu Delhi River Band/Om

September 22, 1967 The Action House, Island Park, NY Cream/Moby Grape
The Action House was a club/discotheque in Long Island, mostly featuring Long Island bands.  The former house band at The Action House had been The Pigeons, who had become famous as The Vanilla Fudge. The other major house band at the time was The Vagrants, who featured Leslie West on guitar.

September 23, 1967 Village Theater, New York, NY  Cream/(Moby Grape) (2 shows)
The Village Theater was an old movie theater in Greenwich Village on 2nd Avenue and 6th Street, that would later become famous as The Fillmore East. I am reliably informed that the Grape did not play these shows, however, and were replaced by Canned Heat.

October 7, 1967 The Ark, Ann Arbor, MI
There's a chance this is The Ark in Sausalito.

October 13-14, 1967 The Ark, Sausalito Moby Grape/Big Brother and The Holding Company/Sons of Champlin
Most likely the Grape headlined Friday (13) and Big Brother on the Saturday (14). Neither band actually needed to play The Ark, so this would have been for fun or as a favor.

November 3-4, 1967  Concord Coliseum, Concord Moby Grape
The Concord Coliseum was at 1825 Salvio Road in Concord, just over the hill from Berkeley. The show was reviewed in the November 4, 1967 Oakland Tribune “Teen Age” section.

November 4, 1967 The Ark, Sausalito Big Brother and The Holding Company/Baltimore Steam Packet/Moby Grape
There is a conflict with the Concord show, but Concord would have ended early, and Big Brother had a conflict as well (they were scheduled at Winterland) Possibly both played late at night, or it was canceled.

November 11, 1967 Village Theater, New York, NY Moby Grape 
Moby Grape are based in New York during this period, mostly recording their second album and playing occasional gigs.

November 17-18-19, 1967 Café Au Go Go, New York, NY Moby Grape/Larry Hankin/Blood, Sweat & Tears
The Café Au Go Go was a popular club in Greenwich Village. During these shows, Al Kooper debuted Blood, Sweat & Tears to a friendly hometown audience. The roadies constructed music stands for the horn players, which Kooper called “probably a first in rock.”

November 23-24, 1967 The Village Theater, New York, NY Moby Grape/Druids of Stonehenge/Charles O'Hegarty/Kingdom Come

December 14, 1967 Terrace Ballroom, Salt Lake City, UT Country Joe and The Fish/Moby Grape/Spirit


December 1-2, 1967 The Ambassador, Washington, DC Moby Grape

December 5-6-7, 1967  The Trauma, Philadelphia, PA Moby Grape
The Trauma was the first ‘psychedelic’ club in Philadelphia.  It was run by the owners of Philadelphia’s leading folk club, The 2nd Fret.  This was one of the last shows at The Trauma, which was soon transcended by the nearby Electric Factory.

December 8, 1967 Grande Ballroom, Detroit, MI Moby Grape/The Rationals/Wilson Mower Pursuit
December 9, 1967 Grande Ballroom, Detroit, MI Moby Grape/MC5
 The Grande Ballroom was Detroit’s psychedelic ballroom, generally modeled on the Fillmore and Avalon but with an exciting Detroit edge.

December 15-16, 1967 Shrine Exposition Hall, Los Angeles Moby Grape/Country Joe and The Fish/Blue Cheer (15th)/United States of America (16th)
Pinnacle Concerts presented this show at the Shrine Exposition Hall, a convention center (at 32nd and Figueroa) that was often used for ballroom rock shows.

>December 18-23, 1967  Whisky A-Go-Go, West Hollywood Moby Grape (canceled)
Moby Grape was booked for several days at The Whisky, but apparently canceled.

next: Part IV January-June 1968

Moby Grape Performance History January-June 1967 (Moby Grape II)

Moby Grape was one of the best of the San Francisco groups, but their never ending run of poor choices and bad luck has insured that they lead the woulda-shoulda-coulda category, with a long series of frustrations punctuating their career. Over the years, the nonetheless fascinating story of Moby Grape has been documented fairly comprehensively. However, there is no longer a good Moby Grape performance history on the Web, or at least not an accessible one, so I have constructed one for the years 1966-69. It was originally based on the one that was available on the web some years ago, but I have revised and added to it considerably.

My focus on this concert history is on Moby Grape's actual performance history, rather than an attempt to document their recordings or other aspects of the band's history. I have had to give some thumbnail information in order to make the history coherent, but I am aware that I am simplifying or leaving out many aspects of the band's history due to my narrow focus on concerts.

The Moby Grape Performance History will be in 6 parts (1966, early and late 1967, early and late 1968, and 1969). The history represents the best information available to me at this time. Anyone with additional information, corrections or insights into missing or incomplete performance dates please list them in the Comments or contact me.

Part I: 1966

Part II: January-June 1967 Performance History

January 13-14, 1967 Avalon Ballroom, San Francisco The Charlatans/Moby Grape/The Sparrow

January 13, 1967 Santa Venetia Armory, San Rafael Big Brother and the Holding Company/Moby Grape/Morning Glory 
Ralph and Al Pepe promoted this show. Note that Moby Grape had two gigs in one night, not unheard of in the days when bands had little equipment. Since Chet Helms ran the Avalon and managed Big Brother, he certainly had to be OK with Moby Grape's arrangement. The Armory show probably ended a lot earlier than the Avalon, leaving the Grape plenty of time to cross the Golden Gate Bridge.

January 29, 1967  Avalon Ballroom, San Francisco Big Brother and The Holding Company/Grateful Dead/Moby Grape
 “Krishna Consciousness Comes West”
Columbia Records signed Moby Grape in February 1967.

February 12, 1967 Fillmore Auditorium, San Francisco  Grateful Dead/Moby Grape/Sly and The Family Stone/New Salvation Army/Notes From The Underground  
Benefit for The Council of Civic Unity
This was probably an evening show, after the scheduled Jimmy Reed/John Lee Hooker/Blues Project show in the afternoon. Sly and The Family Stone were a new band, knocking them dead at a place called Winchester Cathedral on the Peninsula.

February 14, 1967 The Ark, Sausalito Big Brother and The Holding Company/Moby Grape/Jack The Ripper


February 17, 1967 The Ark, Sausalito Moby Grape/Freudian Slips/All Night Apothecary
There were two shows each night.  The poster is very hard to read (see for yourself--h/t Ross for the scan). All Night Apothecary played a 2-6am Breakfast Show.

February 18, 1967 Sausalito Auditorium, Sausalito Moby Grape/Loading Zone "Totally Odd Ball"
According to an obscure poster, Moby Grape played this event in Sausalito on the same night as The Ark. Sausalito is very small, so two shows in one night is very plausible. I'm not certain where the Auditorium was located.

February 18, 1967 The Ark, Sausalito Moby Grape/California Girls/The Sparrow
The Sparrow also played the 2-6am Breakfast Show.

February 19, 1967  The Ark, Sausalito Moby Grape/Old Gray Zipper/All Night Apothecary
All Night Apothecary played the 2-6am Breakfast Show.

February 24-25, 1967  Avalon Ballroom, San Francisco Moby Grape/Charlatans

February 26, 1967  Fillmore Auditorium, San Francisco B.B. King/Moby Grape/Steve Miller
B.B. King debuted at the Fillmore at this afternoon show, as did Steve Miller.

March 3, 1967 Winterland Love/Grateful Dead/Moby Grape/Loading Zone/Blue Crumb Truck Factory
 “First Annual Love Circus” Presented by Love Conspiracy Commune
The Diggers protested this show, due to high ticket prices ($3.50).  The Dead refused to play until the picketers were let in.  The Love Conspiracy Commune was supposedly backed by North Carolina pot dealers who called themselves “The Chapel Hill Mafia.”

March 5, 1967 Avalon Ballroom, San Francisco Big Brother and The Holding Company/Country Joe and The Fish/Moby Grape/The Sparrow  
“Benefit for Newstage and the Straight Theater” (poster by B. Kliban)

Moby Grape began recording their album in March of 1967 with producer David Rubinson, and continued recording through April. 

March 24-25-26, 1967  Winterland  Moby Grape/Chambers Brothers/The Charlatans (26th Fillmore afternoon)

March 31, April 1-2, 1967  Winterland, San Francisco  The Byrds/Moby Grape/Andrew Staples (2nd at the Fillmore, afternoon show)

April 12, 1967 Fillmore Jefferson Airplane/Grateful Dead/Quicksilver Messenger Service/Moby Grape/Andrew Staples/Loading Zone 
“Busted” Benefit for the San Francisco Mime Troupe  (Wednesday night)

April 22, 1967 Freeborn Hall, UC Davis Buffalo Springfield/Moby Grape

May 19-20, 1967 Winterland, San Francisco Love/Moby Grape/PJ Proby/Young Giants/Carousels  
“Rock Revolution”

June 3-4, 1967 Mt. Tamalpais Theater, San Rafael  Fantasy Fair and Magic Music Festival-Benefit for Hunter’s Point Child Care Center
Moby Grape was scheduled to play this two-day show on Mt. Tamalpais, but when it was rained out on June 3-4 and rescheduled for the next weekend, it appears that CBS preferred they fly to New York, as the band did not play Mt. Tam.

June 6, 1967 Avalon Ballroom, San Francisco Moby Grape  
Columbia Records Moby Grape album release party.
Moby Grape had recorded their sensational first album, and Columbia decided to go all out to promote it. The music was worth it, but the hype made hippies suspicious of the unknown band.

In a typical Grape moment, Seven hundred bottles of Moby Grape wine were provided, but no corkscrews. Janis Joplin sang with Moby Grape.  Members of the band were arrested early on June 7th for contributing to the delinquency of underage girls. Although the charges were ultimately dropped, it was another hurdle for Moby Grape to overcome.

June 8-9-10-11, 1967  The Scene, New York, NY Moby Grape/John Lee
The Scene was a tiny, very hip club on 46th Street, run by Steve Paul.  The record company apparently flew them to New York to introduce them to the industry.

John Lee was John Lee and The Checkmates, a popular Toronto band.

June 16, 1967 The Hullabaloo, Los Angeles Moby Grape
The Hullabaloo would change its name the next year to The Kaleidoscope.

June 16-17-18, 1967 Monterey County Fairgrounds Monterey Pop Festival
June 17, 1967 Horse Show Arena, County Fairgrounds, Monterey evening
Otis Redding/Booker T and The MGs (with the Mar-Keys)/Jefferson Airplane/Laura Nyro/Butterfield Blues Band/The Byrds/Hugh Masakela/Moby Grape
Although Moby Grape was not in the movie, there is professionally shot and edited footage circulating from their show.

June 24, 1967  Public Auditorium, Cleveland, OH Mamas And The Papas/Moby Grape/The Buckinghams

June 25, 1967  Civic Arena, Pittsburgh, PA Mamas And The Papas/Moby Grape/The Buckinghams

next: Part III July-December 1967

Moby Grape Performance History 1966 (Moby Grape I)


Moby Grape was one of the best of the San Francisco groups, but their never ending run of poor choices and bad luck has insured that they lead the woulda-shoulda-coulda category, with a long series of frustrations punctuating their career. Over the years, the nonetheless fascinating story of Moby Grape has been documented fairly comprehensively. However, there is no longer a good Moby Grape performance history on the Web, or at least not an accessible one, so I have constructed one for the years 1966-69. It was originally based on the one that was available on the web some years ago, but I have revised and added to it considerably.

My focus on this concert history is on Moby Grape's actual performance history, rather than an attempt to document their recordings or other aspects of the band's history. I have had to give some thumbnail information in order to make the history coherent, but I am aware that I am simplifying or leaving out many aspects of the band's history due to my narrow focus on concerts.

The Moby Grape Performance History will be in 6 parts (1966, early and late 1967, early and late 1968, and 1969). The history represents the best information available to me at this time. Anyone with additional information, corrections or insights into missing or incomplete performance dates please list them in the Comments or contact me.

Part I: 1966

Pre-Moby Grape
Moby Grape was put together by ex-Jefferson Airplane manager Matthew Katz.  Although its members were generally unknown at the time, they had all been scouted by Katz in various groups.  Katz was a difficult character, who remained (and may remain) in litigation with every band he ever signed for decades to follow, but he had an undeniable ear for talent. 

Moby Grape were intended as a ‘supergroup,’ and they were truly impressive. Guitarist Skip Spence had been the Airplane’s drummer, bassist Bob Mosley had been in numerous groups in California, including the Joel Scott Hill Trio and The Vejtatbles, guitarist Peter Lewis (the son of Loretta Young) had been in a Southern California band called Peter And The Wolves, and lead guitarist Jerry Miller and drummer Don Stevenson had been in the Northwest band The Frantics (briefly including Mosley as well), which had involved into a group called Luminous Marsh Gas.

All five members wrote songs, were great singers and experienced on stage.  Pushed together by Katz, they hit it off and started writing material.  Katz arranged rehearsal space at a nightclub on a docked paddlewheel steamer in Sausalito called The Ark.  The band rehearsed all day for weeks on end, and played shows at The Ark for two weeks in October while a buzz built around town.

Their name was the punchline to a dumb 60s joke (“What’s purple and lives at the bottom of the sea?”).  Moby Grape always seemed like a parody of a San Francisco group:  a cute, dumb name, shrewd management and 5 handsome hippies who were music business pros who had grown their hair long. The thing about Moby Grape was, they really were absolutely sensational.  Their original material was great, their triple guitar attack and 5-part harmonies soared and they had charisma to go.  There was good reason for the buzz about Moby Grape.

Performance List 1966
October 11-16, 1966  The Ark, Sausalito Moby Grape/Lee Michaels
The Ark put on shows at night, and Moby Grape rehearsed there during the day. At some point the band playing at night as well. There may have been little difference between Moby Grape rehearsals and shows at this point.

October 18-23, 1966 The Ark, Sausalito Moby Grape/Lee Michaels
Moby Grape continued to rehearse at The Ark, and may have played even more shows.

Lee Michaels had been in a band called The Strangers with Bob Mosley, and had been in the surf band The Sentinals, and in the Family Tree (as Mike Olsen).  Now he was a singing organ player with his own band.

October 28, 1966 California Hall, San Francisco  Moby Grape/American Dream/West Coast Branch/Lee Michaels
This show was promoted by Katz, and according to Peter Lewis was an absolute disaster.  There were numerous folding chairs in California Hall, and all but a few dozen were empty.  One clue to the failure of this show is that one poster from this show has no date, which must have been a huge barrier to attending the show, notwithstanding no one in SF would have heard of Moby Grape (other versions of the poster have the date--h/t Ross for the above).

November 4, 1966 California Hall, San Francisco Moby Grape/Lee Michaels/New Tweedy Brothers/American Dream
I'm not sure the second California Hall show took place. The New Tweedy Brothers were an Oregon group who had relocated temporarily to the Bay Area.


November 11-12, 1966 Avalon Ballroom, San Francisco 13th Floor Elevators/Moby Grape

November 12, 1966 Goman's Gay 90s, San Francisco Buffalo Springfield/Moby Grape
The Gay 90s was a topless club at 345 Broadway in North Beach that at various times tried to book rock bands. A poster exists, but likely the show was canceled or rescheduled since both the Springfield and Moby Grape were playing at the Fillmore and the Avalon respectively.  Its not impossible the bands performed, but it doesn’t seem likely.

Sometime in November, possibly this weekend, Steve Stills and Neil Young end up in an after hours jam session at The Ark with Moby Grape, adding to Moby Grape’s status as an up and coming band.  Sometime later Neil Young will say laconically that his hit “Mr. Soul” was just a re-write of two Moby Grape songs.

November 25-26-27, 1966  Fillmore Auditorium, San Francisco Jefferson Airplane/James Cotton Blues Band/Moby Grape (27th afternoon)
Apparently Mathew Katz was unable to get Moby Grape gigs around town, as everyone was suspicious of Katz and didn’t trust him.  The Grape told Katz they had no use for him, and started arranging gigs themselves.  Peter Lewis arranged for them to play the Fillmore.

Moby Grape had debuted at the Fillmore, after playing the Avalon.  Graham generally appeared to let Helms book new bands at the Avalon, and if the word was good he booked them at the Fillmore. Everyone who saw the early Moby Grape was completely knocked out.  Unlike many ballroom bands, who often had little performing experience in electric bands (or in Grace Slick’s case, none whatsoever), the members of the Grape were all performing veterans.

December 2-3-4, 1966  Fillmore Auditorium, San Francisco Love/Moby Grape/Lee Michaels
At this time the Grape were doing much of the material that would turn up on their first two albums, as well as a lengthy (and ultimately unreleased) show-stopping Skip Spence song called “Dark Magic.” San Francisco had already been identified as a hot source of new bands by the record companies.  The shrewd Mathew Katz has timed the arrival of Moby Grape to maximize their impact.

Although the Grape felt they had ‘fired’ Katz, they had signed contracts with him, and as the record companies approached Moby Grape, Katz wormed his way back into the picture, setting the stage for contentious litigation between himself and the group that has continued into the present century. 

December 6-7-8, 1966 The Matrix, San Francisco Moby Grape

December 13-14-15, 1966  The Matrix Moby Grape

December 23-24, 1966 Avalon Ballroom, San Francisco Grateful Dead/Steve Miller Blues Band/Moby Grape

December 23, 1966 Santa Venetia Armory, San Rafael Sons of Champlin/Moby Grape/Morning Glory/Freedom Highway/The Axons/The Beat-ables/Baltimore Steam Packet/Nite Riders/Tiny Hearing Aid Co

Its possible that Moby Grape played early in San Rafael and later at the Avalon on Friday night, although that's not a guarantee. Still, the Grape had the same arrangement a few weeks later (January 13, 1967), so I'm inclined to believe they opened the show in San Rafael and then went over the Golden Gate Bridge.

December 26, 1966  The Ark, Sausalito  Big Brother and The Holding Company/The Charlatans/Moby Grape/Final Solution  
“Grope For Peace” Benefit

December 29, 1966 Santa Venetia Armory, San Rafael Grateful Dead/Moby Grape/Morning Glory
 Ralph and Al Pepe presented this show at the former National Guard Armory near San Rafael.

December 30-31, 1966 Avalon Ballroom, San Francisco  Country Joe & The Fish/Moby Grape/Lee Micheals
At an Avalon Ballroom Reunion show in 1994, Barry Melton said from the stage “I remember playing a 63-minute version of [Moby Grape’s] ‘Murder In My Heart From The Judge’ on New Year’s Eve.”  He then added “it was probably 4 minutes long, but it seemed a lot longer.”

next: Part II January-June 1967

Thursday, December 24, 2009

June 14-15, 1968 Fillmore East Grateful Dead/Jeff Beck Group/Seventh Sons

(this post is part of a series analyzing every show at the Fillmore East)

June 14-15, 1968 Grateful Dead/Jeff Beck Group/Seventh Sons

Although this was The Grateful Dead’s first weekend at The Fillmore East, they had already played New York numerous times, including twice at this venue when it was still called The Village Theater (December 26-27, 1967).  On the previous trip, the theater was in such poor repair that snow actually came through the roof onto the stage, and the show was not a pleasant experience for anyone involved. A return to Bill Graham's newly refurbished rock palace promised better things for the Dead. Nonetheless, legend has it that for the early show the first night, the then largely unknown Jeff Beck Group blew them away.

Generally, each Fillmore East bill played 4 times, with early and late shows on both Friday and Saturday nights. The first Friday night show was generally the show attended by journalists, industry people and scene makers, so the effect of a good early show on Friday could have powerful implications, even if the late show presented an entirely different picture. The story about the Jeff Beck Group "blowing away" the Grateful Dead at their mutual Fillmore East debuts has been repeated so many times that I don't know the original source of it (I myself read it first in review of a Rod Stewart album in Rolling Stone in the early 1970s).

In June of 1968, The Jeff Beck Group had been touring England for 16 months, but although they had released a few singles their first album (Truth) would not come out for two more months.  Beck was playing the Fillmore on the basis of his Yardbirds status and English live reputation.  Already English managers were seeing how establishing a live reputation in America could set the table for a successful album. The original Jeff Beck Group pretty much laid out the blueprint for heavy English rock, with a bluesy power trio that included a dynamic lead singer and a sensational guitarist over a lively rhythm section. Beck had played America before with the Yardbirds, but for the rest of his band it was not only their American debut but the Fillmore East was the largest room they had ever played in.

The story goes that for a Friday early show heavily populated with industry types, journalists and scenemakers, after an unmemorable opening set by The Seventh Sons (see below), the Jeff Beck Group came out and played searing, powerful blues. Oddly, however, only Beck, bassist Ron Wood and drummer Mickey Waller were visible, while a rich, gravelly voice seemed to emanate from nowhere. Supposedly, it was only after a few numbers and thunderous ovations that a shy, frizzy haired Rod Stewart would step out in front of the amplifiers, relieved that he was going to be a success in big, bad America. The Jeff Beck Group thundered through the rest of their set, and when the Grateful Dead came on, the industry crowd found them to be a big letdown.

How much truth might their be to this delicious story? In the first place, although there has been very little officially released evidence, the original 1968 Jeff Beck Group sound pretty awesome to me even now, and through the exceptional Fillmore East sound system it must have been something indeed. These days, we tend to think of Beck's various jazzy excursions, and Stewart's rather schmaltzy dabbling in popular songs, but we forget that Beck wrote the book on the English Telecaster blues, and Stewart can sing the hell out of anything. While the Yardbirds had many partisan fans inclined to like Beck, they can hardly have had an idea of how exceptional the new group was, because the album had not yet been released.

It is also hard to remember that the heavy-singer-plus-trio was not yet a rock convention. Trios improvised like Cream or Hendrix, and some bands like The Who featured lead singers and three musicians, but no one was doing both at this high of a level. Led Zeppelin would perfect this model, becoming the heaviest of the heavy, mixing memorable songs with wild jamming, but this was six months prior to Zeppelin's descent on American shores, as Jimmy Page had just broken up the Yardbirds a few weeks earlier. Thus New York's rock cognoscenti heard not just a great band, but a whole new style of music and a future popular superstar all in one unexpected blast. Given that in the 1968 configuration the Grateful Dead only played one set each show at the Fillmore East, I don't doubt that as they would have just been shaking the cobwebs off, the Dead were somewhat of an anticlimax after the Jeff Beck Group thunderbolt.

The part of this story I have never quite believed is the business of shy little Rod Stewart hiding behind the amplifiers for the first three numbers, because he had stage fright. Stewart had been a professional singer for at least three years by this time, and even if the Fillmore East was the biggest room he had ever played in, it wasn't Buckingham Palace. Since I don't know the source of this oft-repeated story, I can't say what prompted it, but I have to think it was more along the lines that whoever initially wrote about it had their sightline blocked until Stewart moved around some on stage. I just don't see Rod Stewart as the nervous little wallflower, but its such a good story that even he doesn't want to deny it.

In June 1968, the Grateful Dead were at a peculiar crossroads. They had been underground legends for two years, but they had only released one poorly-received album (their debut on Warner Bros, released in March 1967).  Over a year between albums was simply unheard of in the 1960s; in 1967, for example The Beatles released two albums. The band had been struggling with the ground-breaking mixture of live and studio recordings that would make up their next album, Anthem Of The Sun, released in July 1968, but no one knew that at the time.

For all the revisionist history that makes the Dead and Bill Graham seem like allies from the beginning, in fact the band and Graham had a complex, contested relationship. The Dead had spent most of 1968 operating the Carousel Ballroom in San Francisco as a direct competitor to Graham's Fillmore operation. Around the month of June, Graham had flown to Ireland to negotiate directly with the owner of the Carousel, and he managed to effectively steal the lease out from under The Dead. Graham was taking over the financially ailing Carousel to rename it the Fillmore West, undoing the Dead's plans for financial independence, and yet here was Graham booking the Dead in New York City. Fortunately, however much certain financial matters intervened, the Dead and Graham had always gotten along personally, so the finances didn't interfere with a high profile booking at Fillmore East.

Ironically, I believe the winners in this little story are those who attended Friday's late show. Since it was not the "industry" show, there are no eyewitness accounts that I am aware of. There is, however, a well recorded audience tape of the Grateful Dead's late show performance, and it is absolutely scorching. People forget that the affable and generous Jerry Garcia was a ferociously competitive and ambitious man with a guitar in his hands. Garcia has always acknowledged being a Beck fan, and he can not have missed the Jeff Beck Group's sensational performance. After a flat opening set by the Dead, and after what was no doubt another monster set by Beck in the late show, Garcia was not going to let it go unchallenged. After some roaring feedback, the Dead opened with a high-energy version of their most difficult song, "The Eleven" followed by a wild psychedelic medley ("St. Stephen">"Alligator">"Turn On Your Lovelight">"Caution"), and the train never stops rolling. Now that must have been some show: Jeff Beck revising heavy rock music, and The Dead showing Manhattan they hadn't been resting on their laurels the previous year.

There are almost no accounts of either Beck's or The Dead's performances on Saturday night. The one interesting tidbit comes from a memory that the Dead introduced "Dark Star" to New York on Saturday night, with Weir dedicating the song to jazz guitarist Wes Montgomery, who had died earlier that day (June 15). It is outside of the scope of this blog to discuss Wes Montgomery's greatness as an electric guitar player, but there would be no Bob Weir without him, and it is appropriate that the only known "dedication" of the Dead's signature song was to such a great musician on the night of his death.

Appendix: The Seventh Sons
The Seventh Sons were a Greenwich Village based band featuring guitarist Buzzy Linhart. Linhart was well-regarded by other musicians, and released a few little known albums, but I don't know what the Seventh Sons sounded like. I believe that the Friday early show usually featured an "audition" band, generally a local group, who did not perform the other shows. I think the Seventh Sons are only known to have played due to the widespread story of Rod Stewart's American debut, and I doubt their name appeared on the marquee.

Next: June 21-22, 1968 Vanilla Fudge (21)/Georgie Fame (22)/James Cotton Blues Band/The Loading Zone

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Matrix, San Francisco October 29, 1966 Jefferson Airplane



These paragraphs from Ralph Gleason's column in the October 31, 1966 San Francisco Chronicle not only reveal a hitherto unknown Jefferson Airplane performance, but present a revealing portrait of the early Airplane, about to rise to stardom. Gleason comments
The Jefferson Airplane is now working with the new girl singer, Grace Slick, and it is obviously going to be a huge success. She has excellent stage presence, projects warmly and has charm. Her voice is very flexible and adaptable to the Airplane's repertoire and she is adding numbers to it daily.
At a delightful party for the Jefferson Airplane fan club at The Matrix Saturday, the group sang a whole set largely composed of new numbers. "My Best Friend," written by Skip Spence, is going to be one of their best tunes and "The White Rabbit," a special song by Grace, is a delight.
The Wildflower were booked at The Matrix for the weekend, according to the best sources, and I am assuming that this was some sort of afternoon show. Since the Matrix served beer, minors would not have been allowed under normal circumstances, and the radio-station concoction of "fan clubs" was definitely a teenage thing. Grace Slick had debuted with the Airplane at the Fillmore on Sunday, October 16--Signe Andersen had played the first two nights of the weekend--and after playing an Opera Benefit (the Fol De Rol), the Airplane had played four regular nights at The Matrix from October 24-27, so this event on Saturday, October 29 would have been a sort of Futures Contract for the Fan Club (note to traders: Limit Up).

Let's contemplate this: you are a teenager who liked the first Jefferson Airplane album, so you sent in a postcard to the "fan club," and you live in San Francisco, or near enough that you can get a ride from a parent or older sibling. You get invited to an afternoon performance of your fave band, with a new lead singer, at a groovy place. You go, because your parents are cool or figure it's just a fad. You sit in a tiny place that seats 100 and have pizza and cokes, and Grace Slick and The Jefferson Airplane run through most or all of Surrealistic Pillow.

Later, music doesn't seem as exciting.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Donovan's Reef, 2200 Great Highway, San Francisco February-March 1967

History is written by the winners, but sometimes the story of the losers can be more revealing. Most scholars of San Francisco rock music are at least generally aware of how the Fillmore battled with the City of San Francisco over various permits. San Francisco had a peculiar law left over from prohibition that required separate permits for presenting music and allowing dancing. In most cities, it was assumed that the right to present music implies the right for patrons to dance, but in San Francisco that was not the case. Apparently the original purpose was to discourage Speakeasies, but by the 1960s it had become a form of de facto bureaucratic control over San Francisco nightlife.

It is generally ignored that one of the reasons that the Fillmore and Avalon succeeded with the usually ill-advised strategy of presenting underground music without corporate (record company) backing was because there were so few places for young people to dance in San Francisco. If you were in your early 20s and liked rock music, even if you didn't like cutting edge weirdness, there was just about no place to dance with your girlfriend in San Francisco. The downtown hotels allowed dancing of course, but they played big band style music and were quite expensive. There were teen dances, too, but they didn't serve liquor and in any case no grown-up was going to take his girlfriend to what was effectively a High School dance. And if you wanted to go somewhere to meet someone who might be a future girlfriend, well, forget it.

In cities like New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, not to mention Bay Area suburbs, there were numerous "twist" or "Go-Go" clubs that did little more than serve drinks to encourage young adults to dance with each other to rock and roll. Almost none of these clubs existed in San Francisco, to my knowledge, incredible as it may seem, even though they had been common in big cities since the early 1960s and the days of The Peppermint Twist in New York City. There were plenty of jazz and folk clubs and the like, but no dancing was permitted. When Marty Balin helped open The Matrix in August 1965, with his band the Jefferson Airplane, the police would actually come in and bust people for dancing, since the club lacked a Dance Hall Permit. San Francisco likes to think of itself as a sophisticated city, but at the time it was like Footloose but with Beat Poets in place of Kevin Bacon (and Grace Slick as our own Lori Singer).

When the Family Dog debuted on October 16, 1965, followed by Bill Graham's first Fillmore promotion on December 10, 1965, and then the Trips Festival on January 21-22-23, 1966, whatever other dynamics were at work--and there were many--those who preferred The Beatles to Count Basie largely saw it as an opportunity to have fun. One of the reasons that the Fillmore (and later the Avalon) did so well with relatively unknown underground bands is that many patrons simply had no other choice. When Bill Graham took over the lease on the Fillmore on February 1, 1966, he was initially able to use the Dance Hall Permit of the previous leaseholder, Charles Sullivan. Since Sullivan was retiring, however (in itself another story), Graham rapidly ran afoul of the City, not least because the City's power structure was uncomfortable with the suspicious longhairs who patronized the Fillmore. At one point (I believe after an April 22, 1966 show with Quicksilver and The Grass Roots) Graham was actually arrested for allowing a minor to dance in a hall without a Dance Hall Permit.

The influential San Francisco Chronicle columnist Ralph J Gleason wrote about Graham's arrest, and generally shamed the City into allowing the Fillmore to have a Dance Hall Permit. To some extent, the fact that the Fillmore was in a largely African American neighborhood may have worked to its advantage, because while the City power structure may not have approved of Bill Graham's promotions, they did not have many concerns about the Fillmore neighborhood itself, since their eye was on redeveloping it anyway. Chet Helms at the Avalon had a similarly complex history with the City, and the Straight Theatre (on 1702 Haight) spent years struggling to receive a Dance Hall Permit. In the case of the Straight, their struggles insured they missed out on the most profitable year of San Francisco rock promotions.

It is informative to actually read the San Francisco Chronicle in 1967 and see how much pressure there was from younger people for the City to join the post-Prohibition era. One saga that received extensive play in the paper for months on end was an establishment called Donovan's Reef, located at 2200 Great Highway (at Rivera), on the very Western edge of both San Francisco and North America. The venue had originally been called The Sea Breeze in the late 19th century, and then Roberts-At-The-Beach, after its proprietor, Shorty Roberts. It had not survived Prohibition very well, but had continued on as a sort of destination amusement palace and carnival. By the early 1960s, now owned by Shorty Roberts son, it had become a Catering Company (a photo of the building in 1964 can be seen here).

In late 1966, another operator took over the former Roberts-At-The-Beach, with the idea of turning it into a sort of Teen Dance Hall. The proposal was that rock and roll dances would be presented, but that only patrons between 15 and 20 years old would be admitted. Imagine--you would need your little brother's ID to get in, not your older one's. Needless to say, there would be no liquor served. The Board Of Permit Appeals went out of its way to prevent any chance of this happening. At the time, the Ocean Beach neighborhood was more like a suburb, with plenty of families who had lived there for some time, not the surfer paradise it is today. Churches and elderly neighbors lined up 100 strong to testify against the club's Dance Hall Permit.

The Board Of Permit Appeals shot down every effort to allow a Dance Hall Permit for Donovan's Reef. The club already had a Concert Permit, but patrons would be arrested if they danced. The strange tone of the article above, from the February 7, 1967 edition of the Chronicle, only makes sense if you understand that it is a sort of Ocean Beach replay of Footloose, arguing over the right to dance in public without police interference. After months of struggle, Donovan's Reef had already opened, presenting rock bands but preventing patrons from dancing. Needless to say, it did not make for an ideal teenage experience.

The irony, of course, was that the people struggling to prevent the corruption of Ocean Beach neighborhood youth were simply pushing everyone to take their girlfriend downtown to the Fillmore or the Avalon, where considerably stranger things were already occurring. By 1969, with much of this nonsense done with, Chet Helms would move his Family Dog operation to Ocean Beach, 14 blocks North of Roberts (at 660 Great Highway). In 1967, however, the Ocean Beach neighborhood and the aged members of the Board Of Permit Appeals won their little victory, forcing Donovan's Reef to prevent dancing, and insuring that every neighborhood kid would head downtown.

Donovan's Reef was only open in February and March 1967. I know the Turtles  played there on March 3 and 4 but I don't know any other gigs there. There is a Roberts-At-The-Beach Motel at Sloat and The Great Highway, near the Zoo, about six blocks from the original site, the last trace of the Roberts saga. At some point, the original building was demolished, and the site is just sand dunes now.

Update: Ross weighs in with a genuine artifact

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.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

June 7-8 Fillmore East Electric Flag/Quicksilver Messenger Service/Steppenwolf

(this post is part of a series analyzing every performance at the Fillmore East)

June 7-8, 1968 Electric Flag/Quicksilver Messenger Service/Steppenwolf

Electric Flag had been formed behind enormous hype in Spring 1967.  The band featured former Butterfield Blues Band guitarist Mike Bloomfield, along with lead vocalists Nick Gravenites and Buddy Miles (who was also the drummer).  The concept of Electric Flag was to merge blues, soul and rock, and they had the skill and charisma to do it.  They debuted at the Monterey Pop Festival in June 1967, and they had released one fine album A Long Time Comin’ (Columbia Mar 68).  Live tapes from this period indicate a band capable of being sensationally good since they had been playing since Summer 67. 

The original expectations for The Electric Flag had been extraordinarily high. The original Butterfield Blues Band had had a huge impact, and Bloomfield was America's first rock guitar hero. Bloomfield had quit the Butterfield band for many reasons, not least his own anxiety towards stardom, but when he formed the Electric Flag he had the backing of super-manager Albert Grossman, who was also the manager of Paul Butterfield, Bob Dylan and Big Brother, and one of the financial backers of the Fillmore East. Despite or perhaps because of the high expectations for the band, while Electric Flag had its moments in concert, they had been eclipsed musically and professionally by the likes of Cream.

The Flag had gone through a variety of personnel changes, and drummer Buddy Miles was the de facto band leader. Bloomfield's reservations about stardom arose again, and along with his own personal demons he was determined to step away from the Flag just as he had with Butterfield. Ironically, Bloomfield had just recorded his part in Al Kooper's Super Session album the previous month, that would make him an even bigger star, but at this time it was widely known that Bloomfield was leaving Electric Flag. Nonetheless, even Bloomfield could not dismiss a high profile gig at Fillmore East, so he flew the Electric Flag for the last time on this weekend.

According to various descriptions, Bloomfield was somewhat distracted, and there was a second guitarist on stage the whole night, presumably his replacement Hoshal Wright. The rest of Electric Flag at this time was Miles (drums, vocals), Nick Gravenites (vocals), Herbie Rich (organ), Harvey Brooks (bass) and a horn section (Stemzie Hunter and Peter Strazza (saxes), Marcus Doubleday (trumpet)). At one of the late shows, Jimi Hendrix came on stage to jam with the Flag for the encore, as he was good friends with Buddy Miles and Herbie Rich, but by all accounts Bloomfield had left the stage by that time.

The Fillmore East shows were Mike Bloomfield's last with the original Electric Flag. He took part in occasional reunions and guest appearances over the years, but he was never comfortable living up to the excitement that was caused by his amazing talents.

Considerably more memorable for New Yorkers was San Francisco's Quicksilver Messenger Service. This show featured the “classic” four-piece Quicksilver Messenger Service, with John Cippolina/Gary Duncan/David Freiberg/Greg Elmore. Although Quicksilver had been SF ballroom legends, their first album had only been released in May 1968 (Capitol), so the rest of the country had only heard rumors. Electric Flag lead vocalist Nick Gravenites was Quicksilver’s producer. Unlike many ballroom bands, who were much more experimental, the Quick had been pretty much working over the same material since 1966 and were now an absolutely killer live band.  Many people  outside of San Francisco who saw all the Fillmore bands only after they started touring beyond California were more impressed with Quicksilver than with the Dead, the Airplane or any others.

Steppenwolf would break later in the summer when "Born To Be Wild" became a hit in the Fall of 1968. They had just released their first album (Dunhill May 68). This weekend featured the original lineup, with John Kay on vocals (along with Michael Monarch on guitar, Goldy McJohn on organ, Rushton Moreve on bass and Jerry  Edmonton on drums). John Kay and some other members of the group had moved from Toronto to San Francisco, where they were called the Sparrow.  The Sparrow fell apart, and the remaining members moved to Los Angeles and formed Steppenwolf. “Born To Be Wild” had been written by former Sparrow guitarist Dennis Edmonton (the drummer’s brother), and although he had left the group they recorded his song.  Subsequently, Dennis Edmonton starting calling himself Mars Bonfire.

next: June 14-15, 1968 Grateful Dead/Jeff Beck/Seventh Sons