Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Kinetic Playground, Chicago, IL 4812 N. Clark Street: Performance List 1968-69

(h/t Brad for the scan of the July 24, 1968 poster)

(for an updated version of the 1968 list, see here)

Chicago is one of the world's great cities, by any accounting, and it has a musical heritage to match. While today it is mostly renowned for introducing electric blues to the outside world, Chicago has made memorable contributions to jazz, soul, folk and rock music as well. Chicago had always been a critically important outpost for any touring act, regardless of the style of music. While the weather in Chicago can be daunting, there has always been excellent public transportation and fearless cab drivers, so a patron can always get home at 4am when the bars close.

In the 1960s, Chicago was an essential stop for any rock band looking to make it big. Chicago fans love a good time, but they have high standards too, as the blues band playing down the street in Chicago was better than most blues bands headlining in London or San Francisco. The pace of the city and the barriers of the weather make Chicago fans enthusiastic about good performers and ferociously dismissive of pretenders. Any discussion about music with a Chicago rock fan will immediately lead to stories of over the top concerts that seem to happen every month (a friend of mine once described seeing fans tear apart the Chicago Opera House during a 1970 Iggy and The Stooges concert by saying "If I was born the night I saw Iggy, I'd be old enough to drink now"). Nevertheless, the history of sixties rock in Chicago remains unnecessarily scattered, so I will begin to rectify that now.

Despite, or perhaps because, of its financial importance, Chicago did not have a single venue that was Nationally recognized like The Fillmores. The city of Chicago had numerous old buildings that could easily be converted to rock concert duty, even if all of the buildings had a variety of flaws. As a result, the late 1960s and early 1970s saw numerous venues rise and fall, such as The Cheetah, which became The Aragon Ballroom (at 1106 N. Lawrence) and the Chicago Coliseum, which became The Syndrome (on Wabash Avenue). Other venues were also regularly used for rock shows, like The Auditorium Theater and  the International Amphitheatre. However, Chicago's principal stop on the 60s rock circuit was The Kinetic Playground, at 4812 N. Clark Street.

4812 N. Clark Street was originally known as The Rainbo Gardens, and it was a sort of dance hall and entertainment center. It was used for various functions over the years, but in 1968 Brooklyn-born promoter Aaron Russo (then 24 years old) took over the ballroom. The building itself was somewhat larger, and included a skating rink, but Russo opened a rock nightclub in the former Rainbo Gardens Ballroom on April 3, 1968, and named it the Electric Theater. Russo had worked in his family's garment business and put on rock shows as a High School student, so despite his young age he was well prepared for the cutthroat rock business.

The Electric Theater opened in April of 1968, and by June, 4812 N. Clark Street in Chicago was an essential stop on the "Fillmore Circuit." Bands that played such venues as the Fillmores, the Boston Tea Party and The Electric Factory always played on N. Clark Street as well. Talent agent Frank Barsalona, all but single-handedly responsible for breaking English bands in America, made The Electric Theater a critical stop for his bands, and many of the most legendary concerts in Chicago were early appearances by groups like Led Zeppelin, Jethro Tull and Ten Years After.

What follows is my working list of known performances at 4812 N. Clark Street, as both the Electric Theater and later the Kinetic Playground. It appears that it was only open on weekends, but there may have been additional shows that I am not aware of. This list has been constructed from surviving handbills and from the chronologies of the various bands. The existing handbills for the venue are primarily just lists of upcoming shows, with little in the way of collectible or interesting artwork, so Chicago handbills did not stay on people's dormitory walls the way posters did from San Francisco or Detroit, making research somewhat harder.

I believe the venue was open every weekend, even in the Winter, from April 3, 1968 until November 7, 1969, so there are many more shows to be discovered. Anyone who has additions, corrections and memories (real or imagined) regarding shows is encouraged to Comment or Email me.

1968

April 3-5, 1968 Electric Theater The Paupers
The Electric Theater opened on April 5 1968 with Toronto's Paupers as the headline act

April 23, 1968 Electric Theater Harumi

April 26-28, 1968 Electric Theater Little Boy Blues/The Rush

May 3-4, 1968 Electric Theater Siegal Schwall Blues Band

May 10-11, 1968 Electric Theater Finchley Boys

May 17-19, 1968 Electric Theater Canned Heat

May 22-26, 1968 Electric Theater Steppenwolf

May 31-June 1, 1968 Electric Theater Muddy Waters/Holy Om

June 7-9, 1968 Electric Theater Love/Chicago Slim Blues Band

June 10, 1968 Electric Theater Loading Zone 
This was a Monday night show, probably a relatively rare occurrence. The Loading Zone were a San Francisco band getting a big push from RCA behind their debut album. The record company probably rented the hall for the night and distributed some (or all) tickets through radio stations.

June 12-15, 1968  Electric Theater Rotary Connection
Rotary Connection was a popular "psychedelic soul" band from Chicago. They recorded for a Chess subsidiary, and featured singer Minnie Ripperton. 

June 26-27, 1968 Electric Theater Hello People
June 28-30, 1968 Electric Theater Blue Cheer/Hello People
The Hello People were a peculiar mixture of mime, vocal harmonies and rock. I believe they headlined themselves on Wednesday and Thursday (26 and 27). Blue Cheer, at the time, touted itself as the loudest band in the world, with a tower of Marshall Stax turned up to the max. Who do you think Chicago liked better?

July 3-4, 1968 Electric Theater Country Joe and The Fish/Hawk
Besides being Berkeley's leading rock export, Country Joe and The Fish were acutely aware that the 1968 Democratic Convention would be held in Chicago from August 25-29.

July 5-7, 1968 Electric Theater Rotary Connection/Growin Concern
Rotary Connection seems to have been the only Chicago-based headliner in 1968, but of course since we do not have a list yet of every show, I don't know if that was entirely true.

July 24, 1968 Electric Theater Jefferson Airplane/Iron Butterfly (two shows)
Note the nice poster above. I don't know how many shows had custom posters.

July 25-28, 1968 Electric Theater Iron Butterfly

August 1, 1968 Electric Theater The Who 

August 14-15, 1968 Electric Theater Mothers Of Invention/Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger and The Trinity  

August 23, 1968 Electric Theater Country Joe and The Fish 

August 30, 1968 Electric Theater Litter/Nova
August 31, 1968 Electric Theater Nova/Chicago Transit Authority
September 1, 1968 Electric Theater Litter/Nova
The groups replaced Pink Floyd, who canceled. 

September 2, 1968 Electric Theater Eric Burdon and The Animals

Soon after the opening of The Electric Theater, a well-known New York "hippie discoteque" called The Electric Circus had sued the Electric Theater for copying its trademark (or something like that). For whatever reasons, Aaron Russo changed the name of his club to The Kinetic Playground. Some flyers still included some representation of the name Electric Theater (like "The Electric Theater Presents At The Kinetic Playground"). It appears that the sound company associated with the club retained the name Electric Theater, and many Chicagoans seemed to have used the names Electric Theater and Kinetic Playground interchangeably. 

September 13-14, 1968 Kinetic Playground Pride/Illinois Speed Press
Pride was the new name for the Lemon Pipers


September 20-21, 1968 Kinetic Playground Kensington Market

October 4-6, 1968 Kinetic Playground John Mayall/Pacific Gas & Electric
I do not know the exact date of the name change of the venue. The gap in known performances on this list is only because I have not found any flyers for August or September of 1968. 

October 11, 1968 Kinetic Playground Jeff Beck Group/Pacific Gas & Electric/Fever Tree

October 12, 1968 Kinetic Playground Steppenwolf

October 18, 1968 Kinetic Playground Steppenwolf

October 21-22, 1968  Kinetic Playground Moody Blues/Rotary Connection

October 25-26, 1968 Kinetic Playground Quicksilver Messenger Service/SRC

November 1-2, 1968 Kinetic Playground Moby Grape/Eire Apparent/Rotary Connection (1 only) 

November 8, 1969 Kinetic Playground Spencer Davis

November 9, 1968 Kinetic Playground Canned Heat

November 15-16, 1968 Kinetic Playground Moody Blues/Charles Lloyd

November 22-23, 1968 Kinetic Playground Blue Cheer/Creedence Clearwater Revival

November 27-28, 1968 Kinetic Playground Grateful Dead/Procol Harum/Terry Reid


November 29-30, 1968 Kinetic Playgroud Tim Buckley/Terry Reid/Canned Heat

December 6-7, 1968 Kinetic Playground Buddy Miles Express/Deep Purple
I assume that Deep Purple was not the headliner of this show. This was the original version of Deep Purple, best known for the song "Hush," and featuring Rod Evans on vocals.

December 13-14, 1968 Kinetic Playground Iron Butterfly/Group Image

December 20-21 Kinetic Playground New York Rock and Roll Ensemble/Amboy Dukes/Charlie Musselwhite

December 22, 1968 Kinetic Playground Rotary Connection

December 31, 1968 Kinetic Playground The Byrds/Muddy Waters/Fleetwood Mac

1969

January 3-4, 1969  Kinetic Playground Muddy Waters/Fleetwood Mac/The Byrds
On Friday (3), Muddy Waters left the stage after just one number, as he was not well.

Kaleidoscope were originally booked for Friday, but ended up canceling.

January 10-11, 1969 Kinetic Playground Albert King/Linn County

January 17-18, 1969  Kinetic Playground Buddy Rich/Genesis
This would not have been the English band. Most likely it was the Los Angeles band called Genesis, but there could have been a regional band by that name. An alternate (and reliable) source has Taj Mahal.

January 24-25, 1969  Kinetic Playground Spirit/Velvet Undergound 
Another poster has Buddy Rich and His Orchestra/Buddy Miles Express/Rotary Connection on this weekend.

January 31-February1, 1969 Kinetic Playground Grateful Dead/The Grass Roots

February 7-8, 1969 Kinetic Playground  Vanilla Fudge/Led Zeppelin/Jethro Tull
Led Zeppelin was on their first American tour, and their first album had just been released. As if that wasn't enough, Jethro Tull was opening the show. Chicago has loved Jethro Tull since this day.

February 14-15, 1969 Kinetic Playground Tim Hardin/Spirit/The Move
The Move were an English band, but they canceled their American tour because bassist Trevor Burton quit.

February 19-20, 1969 Kinetic Playground Flying Burrito Brothers
According to John Einarson's fine book about Chris Hillman and the Burritos, these shows came after a long train trip, and Gram Parsons was much the worse for wear. Despite the power of their songs, the band's performances were less than stellar. February 19 and 20 were a Wednesday and Thursday, so I don't know if there were other acts on the bill.

February 21, 1969 Kinetic Playground Jeff Beck/Savoy Brown/Mother Earth
February 22, 1969 Kinetic Playground Blood, Sweat & Tears/Savoy Brown/Aorta
Jeff Beck canceled his American tour and didn't play. I don't know who replaced him. An earlier poster has Mother Earth opening on the 22nd, but they seem to have been replaced by the Chicago group Aorta.

February 28, 1969 Kinetic Playground Paul Butterfield/B.B. King/Albert King
March 1, 1969 Kinetic Playground Paul Butterfield/Albert King/Lumpy Gravy
An earlier poster had the Bob Seger System as one of the opening acts. Seger was from Detroit, and had played Chicago many times. I assume he played Kinetic Playground on occasion, as I think most Detroit bands probably did, but I have yet to be able to demonstrate that.

March 7-8, 1969 Kinetic Playground John Mayall/Richie Havens/The Flock
The Flock were an interesting band, a sort of only-in-Chicago concoction of progressive rock and soul. The group featured electric violinist Jerry Goodman leading a horn section. During this period, Columbia had signed four bands from Chicago, and chose to put out all their albums at the same time (May 1969)to make it seem like there was a "happening scene" in Chicago. In fact, there was a lot of great rock music coming out of Chicago, but stunts like this made fans suspicious (the other groups were Aorta, Illinois Speed Press and Chicago Transit Authority).

The Flock’s horn section joined Mayall for his last set on Saturday night. Mayall was very enthusiastic about the group, and wrote the liner notes for their debut album.

March 14-15, 1969 Kinetic Playground Jeff Beck Group/Sweetwater/Van Morrison

March 21-22, 1969 Kinetic Playground Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger and The Trinity/Magical Mystery Tour film

March 22, 1969 Kinetic Playground Sam and Dave Revue
Although the Kinetic Playground was a rock club, rock fans in Chicago were all generally big fans of Soul and Blues music as well, part of what made Chicago music so exciting. I don't know if the Sam and Dave show happened, or it was an afternoon show with Jools and Brian in the evening, or what.

March 28-29, 1969  Kinetic Playground TBA/Pacific Gas & Electric
The flyer does not list a headliner yet. Pacific Gas & Electric were a Los Angeles blues-rock band.

April 11-12, 1969 Kinetic Playground Ten Years After/Buddy Guy and Junior Wells

April 18-19, 1969 Kinetic Playground Everly Brothers/Cannonball Adderley/Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation

April 20, 1969 Kinetic Playground The Flock

April 25-26, 1969 Kinetic Playground Grateful Dead/Velvet Underground/SRC
This memorable pairing of two sixties opposites was covered in depth in Richie Unterburger's fine Velvet Underground chronology (White Light White Heat). The first night, the Velvet Underground played an extended set, and as a result the Grateful Dead were limited (by their standards) to one set. The next night, of course, the Dead came on before the Velvets and played an extended set, thus limiting the Velvets. Whether this was a result of some imaginary "feud" or just poor scheduling (I suspect the latter), it makes for a great sixties story.

As if the New York/SF pairing of the Velvets and the Dead wasn't enough, SRC was a famous powerhouse Detroit band, if lesser known, so three great bands from three great scenes were represented. It must have been some evening.

May 2-3, 1969 Kinetic Playground Albert King/Aum

May 14, 1969 Grant Park, Chicago  Jefferson Airplane
Over 50,000 people attended a free Jefferson Airplane show in one of Chicago's biggest parks. It was a legendary show in Chicago rock history, but unlike bucolic San Francisco, there were numerous cops and much craziness.

Apparently the Airplane were playing at least one Chicago concert around this time, but I don't know if it was at Kinetic Playground or elsewhere.

May 16-17, 1969 Kinetic Playground Buffy St. Marie/The Nice/Colwell-Winfield

May 23-24, 1969  Kinetic Playground Led Zeppelin/Pacific Gas and Electric/Illinois Speed Press
May 25, 1969 Kinetic Playground Illinois Speed Press
The Illinois Speed Press had actually moved to Los Angeles by this time, as had Chicago Transit Authority, but they were still being pitched (fairly enough) by CBS as a Chicago band. They featured guitarists Paul Cotton and Kal David, later in Poco and the Fabulous Rhinestones, respectively.

May 29-30, 1969  Kinetic Playground The Who/Buddy Rich and His Orchestra/Joe Cocker and The Grease Band 
May 31, 1969 Kinetic Playground The Who/Joe Cocker and The Grease Band/Soup
The Thursday show (29) reduced a double show into a single performance.

June 6-8, 1969 Kinetic Playground Vanilla Fudge/Muddy Waters/Rotary Connection
Vanilla Fudge was not scheduled to play on Sunday night (8).

June 13-14, 1969 Kinetic Playground Eric Burdon/The Zombies/It’s A Beautiful Day
June 15, 1969 Kinetic Playground The Zombies/It’s A Beautiful Day
Eric Burdon had broken up his "New Animals, " but he had undertaken a brief tour to support his Best Of album. I believe he was backed by Blues Image.

The Zombies had broken up in 1968, but thanks to Columbia staff producer Al Kooper, their last album (Odyssey and Oracle) had become a big hit behind the single "Time Of The Season." However, the lineup of The Zombies that toured did not feature any original members of the group, and was somewhat bogus.

June 20-22, 1969 Kinetic Playground (headliner not yet listed)/Crazy World of Arthur Brown/Youngbloods
Arthur Brown was not scheduled to play on Sunday (22).

June 27-28, 1969 Kinetic Playground Canned Heat/Black Pearl/Soup

July 3-4-5, 1969 Kinetic Playground Grateful Dead/Buddy Miles Express/Sir Douglas Quintet
The Dead seemed to have played the Kinetic Playground more than any out of town band, but that was true of a lot of 60s venues.

July 11-12, 1969 Kinetic Playground Spirit/Pentangle/Alice Cooper

July 18-19, 1969 Kinetic Playground Led Zeppelin/Savoy Brown/The Litter

July 25-26, 1959 Kinetic Playground Richie Havens/Jethro Tull/Spooky Tooth

August 1-2, 1969 Kinetic Playground Jeff Beck/Terry Reid/Blues Image
Jeff Beck canceled—the last Jeff Beck Group show was July 26 in Detroit. I do not know who replaced them on the bill. Another flyer has Fleetwood Mac in place of Blues Image.

August 8-9, 1969  Kinetic Playground Al Kooper Revue/Mountain
Al Kooper canceled, due to illness. This would have been one of Mountain's first gigs. They would play Woodstock just a week later.

August 15-16, 1969 Kinetic Playground Paul Butterfield/Johnny Winter/The Flock

Both Paul Butterfield and Johnny Winter were playing at Woodstock the same weekend. 

August 22-23, 1969 Kinetic Playground Country Joe and The Fish

September 5-6, 1969 Kinetic Playground Ten Years After/Bo Diddley


October 4-5, 1969 Kinetic Playground Farioso The Lion

October 10-11, 1969 Kinetic Playground Pacific Gas & Electric/Lee Michaels/Lonnie Mack/Bonzo Dog Band
I don't know if the Bonzo Dog Band actually played in Chicago, as they did not play all their American dates.

October 17-18, 1969  Kinetic Playground B.B. King/Albert King/Santana

October 19, 1969 Kinetic Playground Led Zeppelin/Santana/Lighthouse (two shows)

October 24-25, 1969 Kinetic Playground Spirit/Joe Cocker/Blodwyn Pig

October 31, 1969   Kinetic Playground The Who/The Kinks/Liverpool Scene
The Kinks had not toured America since 1965, because Ray Davies had apparently punched a Musicians Union honcho backstage in Los Angeles. Thus they missed the height of "British Invasion" tours and the first waves of American touring at places like the Fillmore. Things were settled by Fall 1969, however, and they finally began their belated assault on America.

The Kinks found themselves in Chicago opening for The Who, who had formed much later than them. Pete Towshend announced from the stage “in the old days, we used to dream about opening for The Kinks.  So its come to this. This show’s for them.”

November 1, 1969  Kinetic Playground Poco/Liverpool Scene
Poco replaced The Kinks.

November 7, 1969 Kinetic Playground Iron Butterfly/Poco/King Crimson
A fire after the show caused the November 8 show to be canceled, and closed the Kinetic Playground. 

Aaron Russo continued as a successful rock promoter in Chicago and Detroit (at the East Towne Theater) throughout the 1970s. He also successfully managed the career of Bette Midler. He produced her breakthrough movie The Rose. In the 1980s he went on to produce many other successful movies like Trading Places and Wise Guys.

The Kinetic Playground did not reopen. The building had various uses until it was torn down in 2003. After it was torn down, bones were discovered under the foundation. Chicagoans were sure that they were human bones, and that the original Rainbo Gardens were built over a mob burial ground. True or not (probably not), it made a great Chicago coda to the Electric Theater and the Kinetic Playground.

This has only been a start on the history of the Kinetic Playground and Chicago rock in the 1960s. Anyone with additional information, corrections or insights is actively encouraged to Comment or email me. As I get more information, I will update the post.

56 comments:

  1. Amazing work as usual. Alice Cooper headlined the Iggy Opera House show. They never had another Rock show there.
    Kinetic was a little before my time. Did get there for a couple of shows. I went to The Aragon more. I did see Traffic (with Free) there in the early Seventies. It may have been "a one shot deal." A crazy show. The promoter oversold the house.
    There was always someone yelling, "Louder!!!"

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. i also was at the traffic/free show and it was insane how people were crowded in. i also saw around this time the edgar winter group at the kinetic playground

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  2. Did you get to see the Airplane in Grant Park?

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  3. A couple of points....

    (a) For Corry: The Stooges (not yet Iggy & The
    Stooges) play at Chicago Opera House
    (billed with Alice Cooper and Jam Band) on
    April 17, 1971 not in 1970

    (b) For John: Traffic play at the Aragon
    Ballroom only on June 19, 1970 and they
    were billed with SRC, Bloomsbury People
    and Edmonds & Curley, not Free.....Free
    never played at Aragon.....Free was
    touring UK at the time. Maybe you have
    confused one group for another?

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  4. July 3-4, 1968: Country Joe And The Fish were billed with Hawk

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  5. John Mayall and Pacific Gas & Electric play at Kinetic on October 4-6, 1968, not only on days 4-5

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  6. Other points.....

    (a) October 11, 1968: Jeff Beck Group were
    billed with Pacific Gas & Electric and
    Fever Tree....and the name used is
    Electric Theater not Kinetic Playground

    (b) In my 'The Moody Blues Performance List' I
    have Kinetic Playground for the October 21-
    22, 1968 gig not Electric Theater.....and
    they played on November 15-16, 1968
    (billed with Charles Lloyd) not on day 11-
    13

    (c) November 22, 1968 gig with Blue Cheer, CCR
    and Jefferson Airplane is not at Kinetic
    Playground but at the Aragon
    Ballroom....you probabily confused with
    Blue Cheer and Creedence Clearwater (sic)
    gig at Kinetic Playground on November 22-
    23, 1968

    (d) November 27-28, 1968: Terry Reid were also
    on the bill with Grateful Dead and Procol
    Harum

    (e) Missed gig at Kinetic Playground:
    - November 1-2, 1968: Moby Grape / Eire
    Apparent / Rotary Connection (only day 1)
    - November 8, 1968: Spencer Davis
    - November 9, 1968: Canned Heat
    - November 29-30, 1968: Tim Buckley, Terry
    Reid, Canned Heat
    - December ?, 1968: The Amboy Dukes
    - December ?, 1968: The Buddy Miles Express
    - December ?, 1968: Iron Butterfly

    ReplyDelete
  7. Thanks for the updates, Bruno. I changed my post accordingly.

    I'm sticking with the idea that the venue was named "Kinetic Playground" from Fall 68 onwards. Many people (including me!) inadvertently referred to it as The Electric Theater after that, but it was called Kinetic Playground.

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  8. Other points....

    (a) I confirmed The Move not play at Kinetic
    Playground on February 14.15, 1969....they
    touring UK at the time...they never toured
    US at the time

    (b) Jeff Beck Group cancelled their January-
    February 1969 US Tour....so they not play
    on February 21, 1969

    (c) March 8, 1969: John Mayall joined on stage
    by The Flock's horn section....yes....they
    were: Rick Canoff (sax), Tom Webb (sax)
    and Frank Posa (trumpet)

    (d)March 14-15, 1969: Van Morrison also billed

    (e) May 14, 1969: about Jefferson Airplane you
    say they played at least one concert in
    Chicago around this time (maybe at
    Aragon)....they played at Aragon Ballroom
    only on July 18-19, 1969

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    Replies
    1. they did play that weekend at the aragon with the byrds steve miller and the ventures,i handed grace a joint on stage

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  9. Last point...

    August 1-2, 1969: Blues Image filling in for Fleetwood Mac (Peter Green's group was in UK at the time)

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  10. Thanks to everyone who sent in fantastic information (shoutin out to Joe and Marc in particular). I am in California for a week, so updates will be slim for a week, but there's lots of great stuff out there.

    The week's break should give any Chicago options people time to recover your memories...we'll try to have comparison and settlement in about ten days. Please comment in the meantime (the statute of limitation has expired on most crimes).

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  11. Although I have been traveling, people keep sending in great stuff, so I have added a bunch of shows from April to July 1968.

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  12. I was at the Feb. 28th gig featuring Paul Butterfield, Albert King and B.B. King. Bob Seger definitely didn't play that night and, rating the three performances, Albert's was the sloppiest as he had a pick-up band who didn't know his tunes and he kept yelling the keys, etc., at them; Paul Butterfield was solid, but B.B.'s tight and professional band just blew them all away, and I say that as a longtime fan of both Butterfield and Albert King.

    I was also there for John Mayall's first appearance and, if memory serves, his first set was all acoustic intruments miked and fed through the PA system. "Room to Move" was a highlight of that set.

    Those are the two that stand out in my mind, but I was there on a few other occasions.

    A shame we'll never see the likes of the Electric Theater/Kinetic Playground in this era of overpriced arena venues, but thanks for helping me recall some fond memories of the '60s

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  13. I have been looking for the Kinetic concert history for a while - thanks so much for putting this together - tremendous job! Great user comments too ... For some reason, I went to the Aragon for most of the shows I saw (besides the other concert venues in town), including Jefferson Airplane, Creedence, Blue Cheer, Pink Floyd, Ten Years After, B.B. King, Savoy Brown, Argent, Zephyr, Grand Funk, Humble Pie.

    But I was at the famous Tull/Led Zeppelin/Vanilla Fudge Kinetic show and several others. $5. I was pretty young -- 16 in 68' -- so I guess that's why I didn't go more often and missed people like the Who, Kinks, Jeff Beck, The Mothers. :( I can remember people trolling the line outside at the Kinetic (no advance tickets, right?), with their various flavors of acid and then the difficulty of navigating around inside and finding your way back to your seat on the floor if you had to get up. I also remember the strobe lights and beach balls.

    ReplyDelete
  14. I can probably circle back to this a little this summer, but here are a few tiny flourishes:

    December 6 & 7, 1968: Buddy Miles Express is listed with "Shades of Deep Purple" in Chicago Seed v3 no3.

    December 13 & 14, 1968: Group Image is also billed (same source).

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  15. Excellent, updated. I didn't think Deep Purple could headline, even behind "Hush."

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  16. when the airplane played grant park, grace yelled to the crowd

    "take the 5$ you would have spent on this concert and buy a hit of acid"

    at the time it seemed cool

    now it seems like stupidity - but the band was great!

    ReplyDelete
  17. Corry,

    What an amazing piece of work you've done on a subject that is near and dear to my heart. Over the years, I've searched the web for a comprehensive list of the bands that played at the Electric Theater, but only found spotty memories of people who were there. I was there too, for almost all of the shows, but as with most people who lived through the late 1960's, I don't remember much either.

    My story starts back in the cold, cold winter of '67-'68. I was a 16 year-old Northside boy working for a company called Hip Products in Old Town, filing wholesale orders for headshops around the country. Hating this dead-end job, I read a story in the Chicago Seed about a new concert venue being built up on North Clark Street and decided I'd try to get a job there.

    The place was still under construction the day I first went and the doors were locked tight, but I found somebody outside who worked on the light & sound crew, who said they had no jobs open. I was advised to go next door to the Rainbo Ice Rink and see a guy named Neil Vetter, who was the ice rink manager, about a job at the Electric Theater concession stand that he would be running. After an application and an interview, I was hired to work the Theater snack bar and I was there on opening night April 3, 1968.

    Since I have a longer story to tell, I'll continue in another post.

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  18. Part 2:

    Originally, Aaron Russo and his creative staff had a vision of a multi-media theater that would feature an eclectic mix of music, dance theater and art. But after a disastrous opening weekend, following the assassination of Martin Luther King and the citywide curfews that resulted, they realized their ideals would need to be compromised in order to attract the crowds needed to pay off the investors. After a month or so of small crowds, they started booking big-name bands like Canned Heat, Steppenwolf and Blue Cheer.

    During the slow times in the first month, I took every opportunity to talk to the employees on the technical and artistic staff when the came to the snack bar in hopes of moving up the ladder. I finally got my break one night when I was talking to Richard Shelton, who was the director of the art department. I said that I wanted to work in the light show so bad that I'd do it for free. To my surprise, he asked me if I wanted to start right away! I turned in my apron that night and started in the light show the next day (without pay . . . for about a week).

    The first really huge show was the Jefferson Airplane/Iron Butterfly on July 24th. I remember standing on the roof with Grace Slick and Paul Kantner, sharing a joint, while looking down at the huge crowds spilling out into Clark Street during the changeover between the two shows.

    The next big show was the first appearance by The Who on August 1st. From my workspace, in the projection booth hanging from the ceiling known as "The Eye," I had one of the best seats in the house while doing the "squash-plates" that projected the liquid, pulsating, abstract images on the screen behind the stage. The Who were every bit as loud as Blue Cheer but their material and stage presence were miles ahead.

    Some of the other memorable shows were New Years Eve with The Byrds, Muddy Waters & Fleetwood Mac and the Vanilla Fudge, Led Zepplin & Jethro Tull show in February of '69. I rang in the New Year drinking shots of whiskey in the dressing room with Muddy and Mac members. And when Tull showed-up for a sound check before their first show, some of the guys I played with in a garage band were hanging around. When they finished we told them about our band and they invited us on stage to play a couple of tunes on their set-up. Led Zepplin was amazing that weekend, hands down the best act that had played there up until that time.

    I've always reserved a special place for one band though. The Grateful Dead played The Theater several times and, being a huge fan of the band at the time, their shows were a real treat. Their shows on April 25-26, 1969 are legendary and there are recordings available on the Dick's Picks website. The elusive Owsley "Bear" Stanley was at these shows and the band had the usual supply of Visine bottles to dose everyone's favorite beverages with quality LSD.

    More to come in Part 3.

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  19. Part 3:

    I continued to work the in light show, which included running the lighting control board once in a while in "The Cortex" down on the floor level. I also got to play DJ during the breaks between bands and after the final set until closing.

    Eventually, in the spring of 1969, the sound crew, led by Peter DeBlanc, decided to branch out and start an independent company called Tomorrow Inc. I worked as a roadie with them doing the PA system for two outdoor festivals in Poynette, Wisconsin and Wadena, Iowa while still working the light show at The Theater part time. In the late summer Tomorrow Inc. moved to California and a bunch of the original technical staff finally left The Theater.

    I continued to work with Tomorrow Inc. for about a year and got a chance to pursue a career as a musician, becoming a professional bassist for about 15 years in the Bay Area.

    But even today, I look back on my time at the Electric Theater as one of the most exciting times of my life. Getting to see all of the great English rock groups, the legendary blues stars and all of the progressive R & B influenced rock bands was a truly enriching experience. Reading this blog with all of the groups that played has brought back so many incredible memories of one of the best times in my life. Thank you Corry for all of your hard work putting this list together.

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  20. Mike, your memories are fantastic and lend a completely new perspective to the ET/KP, from the inside. It was surprising to me how little information there was on the Electric Theater, which was one reason I wrote these posts,

    The rock festival in Poynette, WI was something else too. There will be a great article in Wisconsin Historical Quarterly that will be coming out soon. I had an opportunity to provide a kind of preview at
    http://lostlivedead.blogspot.com/2009/12/sound-storm-york-farm-poynette-wi-april.html

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  21. I'm a long time Chicago area resident and rock music nut who has been forever looking for a comprehensive site on the old Kenetic Playground. This site is fantastic. Much thanks for putting it together.

    I've been fortunate to talk to several people who saw one of the many 69 Zep gigs. Some great stories, but Mike D trumps them all with his tales. Mike D, I would love to talk with you more about your KP days. If possible, please drop me a line at HDvorak@gmail.com

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  22. October 19th, 1969 I was in attendance, at The Led Zepplin, Santana, Lighthouse Show. My only clear memory is Robert Plant being pissed off because He could not hear himself, I was at the front of the stage, and correct Me if I'm wrong but at one point I think He threw his vocal mic at the side of the stage (maybe a monitor mix position if one exsisted in those days) All three bands were killer. A side note, We were stopped by the police right outside the venue (in our car) They searched the car and came up with our film can with a little pot and two hits of sunshine LSD. The police SGT. in charge let us go saying "Just remember what the Chicago Pigs did for You" We had driven in from Iowa where we lived and beat feet out of town!

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  23. I know The Fugs were there, but I don’t know when. One of my friends was a huge fan and he insisted I go. It had to be there because we were regulars and went together. He thought they were funny and I was bored. I remember it because it was a source of tension on the ride home on the Clark bus.

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  24. This blog is heaven sent. Your endeavor brings much, much joy. These were halcyon days
    I only just missed ( first show i attended Jethro Tull / Gentle Giant - Stadium 1972 ).
    I have a monthly podcast featuring 1960s & 1970s
    Progressive, Psychedelic & Space musics: that features some of the above bands. In fact I found this blog while googling Kinetic Playground photos.
    If it's O.K. w/ you Corry, I'll leave another post w/ URL for my show ( this note is to thank you: not to self promote).
    Thanks for this lovely work

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  25. Like several others posting here I have periodically searched the internet for anything and everything related to the Electric Theatre/Kinetic Playground. I was very thrilled when I found your site. Thanks so much for helping to bring back some great memories.
    I used to go to first the Electric Theater and later the Kinetic Playground often between the time it opened in early 1968 and June of 1969 when I left for the Newport'69 Rock Festival at Devonshire Downs in Northridge north of LA.
    I wish I could remember the dates for the many acts I saw there but those years are all a blur. I do however clearly remember seeing the following there: Paul Butterfield, John Mayall, Iron Butterfly, Velvet Underground and Nico, Ike & Tina Turner with the "Ikettes", Muddy Waters & Taj Mahal (both several times), Charlie Musselwhite, The Chambers Brothers, The Grateful Dead, Illinois Speed Press, Pacific Gas & Electric, Procol Harem, Steppenwolf, BB King, Albert King, Terry Reid, and many others.
    I still have flashbacks of the endings of those nights with a rubber chicken being tossed repeatedly into the air under a strobe light with Rainy Day Women playing loudly and all the "freaks" dancing until they had to leave.

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  26. I recall seeing Alice Cooper there on a Tuesday night, I'm sure it was before they did the show with Spirit and Pentangle.

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  27. you're right Sax! Alice Cooper played at the Kinetic Playground on Tuesday May 20, 1969 before they did the show with Spirit and Pentanfle in July 1969.

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  28. I seem to remember seeing REO Speedwagon at the Kinetic Playground sometime around 1969-1970. Does anybody else remember that show and what other bands played?

    Also, The Stooges and Mahavishno Orchestra at Aragon around the same time?

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  29. REO was based in the Champaign-Urbana area, just a few hours away, so it wouldn't have been surprising for them to get a shot at the Kinetic.

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  30. @ransom.love

    The Stooges played at the Aragon Ballroom on December 29, 1969, May 22, 1970, August 27-28, 1970, October 2, 1970 and June 15, 1973

    Mahavishnu Orchestra played at the Aragon Ballroom on November 3, 1972

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  31. Wow man. My dad Elvis used to work as a runner for the bands and staff, I heard some amazing and unbelievable stories, that I had my doubts about, but thanks to these postings, I'm a firm believer that my dad really talked with the people he said he did. My dad died when I was 17, so anything to bring back good time memories helps. Has anyone else posting here, ever worked there?

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  32. I heard Peter deBlanc worked at the electric theater....anyone remember him or any contribution he made?

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    1. Of course. I was the roadie/live sound mixer for the FLOCK. We were managed by Aaron Russo who commission Peter to work on the light show and PA system. The PA was portable and was used as often as possible at the Kinetic playground, but was built mainly for us. I remember Peter trying to explain the troubleshooting procedures to me. I understood about half of everything he said. Until Bear built the Dead's "Wall of Sound" it was the most powerful portable PA in the world. We used it at the Playground and even larger venues. Peter was a genius. The is a related story .
      Dick Rudolph was the manager of the Kinetic Playground. He married Minnie Ripperton of the Rotary Connection, they moved down to his hometown of Gainesville ,FLA, and had a baby girl. in 73 I passed through town and stopped to visit. Dick and innie had a baby girl, whom I was changing while they were rehearsing Dick's song "Loving You". So, not only was I the first person to hear the iconic song, but the little girl's name was Maya Rudolph who went on to become a cast member of SNL and then went on to movies (Bridesmaids) and again back to TV and the network program, "Up All Night".

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  33. I am sure that I attended a concert at the Playground the summer of 68 or 69 (but my memory could be a little fuzzy, if you know where I am coming from) that featured Savoy Brown, Jethro Tull, Led Zepplin, and one other lesser act. A blockbuster concert for Chitown! Anybody fill me in on this?

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    1. Yo, hrap..... Glad to see someone else remembered that particular show, I was beginning to think that maybe I was “fuzzy” @ the time (fer’ sure I was!) and somehow mingling several show memories into that one night. I was there and You are correct regarding the lineup. It was in early to mid July of '69 and Joe Cocker opened followed by Savoy Brown then Tull and Zep closed out that show. One of, if not THE BEST shows I ever attended back in the day and Chicago had SO many of them, at that time. Great time to be in Chitown, to be sure.
      Corry thanks so much for putting this all together. I was lucky enuff to see most all of the bands mentioned here numerous times at venues throughout Northern Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin. Wonderful memories ...........

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    2. Wow! Arrived late at the Playground in the middle of the Savoy Brown set that night. Had no idea that Cocker did the lead set. Sorry I missed that.

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    3. Hey there hrap!

      I was there too, and while reading thru all this great stuff on the "playground I was beginning to think that I musta' been
      dreaming it up or smomthin'

      Probably the best show I have ever attended before OR after right thru to now.

      I saw "Zep" probably a dozen times throughout the era in the Chi-town area as well as most of the others listed here in this great blog and saw Tull early on in a venue that was so small I don't think more than 'bout 30 people were there and we were sitting virtually right next to Ian and his flute while he was performing!

      Great time and Great city to be in for music at that time.

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  34. I was at the October 31, 1969 The Who/The Kinks/Liverpool Scene at the Kinetic. Had never heard of the Liverpool Scene before that (or after) and after seeing their show, I know why. The Kinks were on next and rip into their catalog and played all of their classic songs, from You Really Got Me, to some of the stuff from the upcoming Muswell Hillbillies LP, I think.
    The Who came on, owned the stage, and amped up everyone even more than Kinks did. I remember them playing a lot of my favorite tunes, that they hardly ever played live, like I Can See For Miles, Call Me Lightning, and others that were basically singles and not on LPs.
    Townsend was wearing the white jumpsuit, and Daltry swinging the mic around over his head, Entwhistle running solid, cohesive bass lines with Moon, who beat those skins in such a haphazard looking way, flailing around, yet producing the incredible beats that punctuated the band's signature sound all night long. Those were some days back then. Solid rock 'n' roll done right with raw power! No frills, all thrills!
    Not like today's music. Overdubs, guest DJ's, special beats lifted from songs that were done by professional musicians using instruments not synthesized mechanical sounds…
    Thanks for the memory jog!

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  35. I have a flyer that lists the following July 1968 shows at Aaron Russo's 'Lectric Theatre:

    the Peanut Butter Conspiracy (7/11-14),
    Spirit and Time (7/10-14),
    Earth Opera (7/17-21),
    the Sunshine Company (7/19-21)

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  36. revolution, thanks for this information. The Earth Opera dates were completely new to me. I updated the new '68 post at
    http://rockprosopography101.blogspot.com/2010/06/kinetic-playground-4812-n-clark-st.html

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  37. May 29-30, 1969 Kinetic Playground The Who/Buddy Rich and His Orchestra/Joe Cocker and The Grease Band
    May 31, 1969 Kinetic Playground The Who/Joe Cocker and The Grease Band/Soup

    I was at this show, I was 15 at the time.
    The place was fairly empty for Buddy Rich. I remember standing right up to the stage. Stayed there for Joe Cocker too.

    The Who show featured a "Light Show" which was an overhead projection of dye on a glass plate being mixed up. They smashed up the amps and drum kit.

    Can't believe it was so long ago.

    John in Rogers park

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  38. I seem to remember standing for HOURS in the freezing cold to see Sly and the Family Stone, who never showed up. Can anyone confirm this for me?
    Linda in Chicago

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  39. "Apparently the Airplane were playing at least one Chicago concert around this time, but I don't know if it was at Kinetic Playground or elsewhere."

    Contrary to one of the commenters
    above, the Airplane *did* play the
    Kinetic the night of the Grant Park
    concert. It wasn't advertised or
    promoted, but the word got out at
    the park, and we all trudged up to
    north Clark for a great second concert.

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  40. Sad Man - You are absolutely correct. I drove with a bunch of friends to Chicago from Northeast Indiana to attend the Airplane concert but due to being a bunch of unorganized hippies, we were too late to make it to the Airplane concert, so someone suggested that we go over to the Kinetic Playground for the Wednesday night 'Open Stage' / local group time and still get in some music. How surprised were we when Jefferson Airplane walked out, plugged in and played right there during the local band gig!

    Also, I was at the May 31st, 1969 Who concert, seriously stoned on acid and during a break between sets, wandered in to some kind of smaller stage, and came across Joe Cocker who I had never seen or heard before in my life. Whoa! THAT was a headbuster. Those trips up to Chicago to the Playground were amazing. As they say......Good Times! - Jerry from Warsaw, IN

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  41. I went there quite often, under both names, ET & the KP. The cost was $5. But me & my friends went almost every week, because my buddy knew the door man, a biker dude named Scuzzy Ed. We would go ahead of the line past the ticket booth & each of us give him $1. He'd put the buck in his pocket, open the door & let us in! That's why we could afford to go there so often. Saw many of the top name groups of the day there. Did anybody else out there reading this remember this guy? Or paying him a buck to get in? I also recall that drugs could be scored quite often, by the mens room door. As you entered the bathroom someone outside the door would quitely announce what they had for sale as you go into the restroom. Just some random weird stuff I that I have a hazey recollection about that joint. But we sure had fun there.

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  42. I was a 7th grader living in Rogers Park in Feb. of '69. Every Friday night we would ride the #84 Peterson bus to Clark, and then transfer to the #22 Clark bus to go ice skating & try to meet girls at Rainbo Arena (mostly Catholic girls from different schools). Anyway, I remember coming out after skating on this Feb. night & hearing interesting sound coming from the Kinetic Playground next door. We chacked out the poster, which read: "TONIGHT: Vanilla Fudge/Led Zeppelin/Jethro Tull". We knew who Vanilla Fudge was due to their cover of "Keep Me Hangin' On"; Zeppelin had just released their first album, and "Immigrant Song" was getting airplay on WLS & WCFL; we thought Jethro Tull was a goofy name for a country singer (having previously only known the name "Jethro" from the Beverly Hillbillies). Anyway, we wished we would have been old enough to get in, but instead, just took the bus back home like usual. When I tell people the lineup from that night, they're blown away! Great memory ... and great job Corry, because I was able to look it up & substantiate that it had indeed happened as I remembered ...

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  43. March 28-29, 1969 Kinetic Playground TBA/Pacific Gas & Electric
    The flyer does not list a headliner yet. Pacific Gas & Electric were a Los Angeles blues-rock band.

    I saw Blood Sweat and Tears with Pacific Gas and Electric about this time. I assume they are the missing headliners.

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  44. I found info that Deep Purple played on 6 and 7 December 1968 with Lee Michaels, not Buddy Miles Express. Link is on Wikipedia - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kinetic_Playground

    http://home.comcast.net/~gv0000/Kinetic.pdf

    What is correct - Lee Michaels or Buddy Miles?

    Deep Purple Tour Page
    http://www.purple.de/dirk/purple/

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  45. in an unrelated deep purple concert i saw little feat, elo, and headliner deep purple at the ampitheatre in chgo in the middle seventies i believe. quite an odd lineup.

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  46. Awesome memories there...LED..for the first time...so much fun..so much great music..so many friends..lucky to have lived there and experience "the theater"

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  47. Our band Conqueror Worm played the playground at least 7-8 times four of the dates were the July dates 25th - 28th with Iron Butterfly, another with PG&E and Jefferson Airplane another time not sure but I think also we did one of the backup slots for Grateful Dead..

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  48. July 18 '69 bill was The Litter, Savoy Brown, Jethro Tull and Zep (No Joe Cocker). Savoy Brown, Tull and Zep all did two shows...What a night!!

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  49. Sam and Dave review did in fact play the show they were sheduled for, and in the opinion of this writer and anyone I spoke with who was there, it was the best performance we'd ever seen at the Electric Theater (and I saw about every band listed above there in 1968-69).

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  50. The Fugs played on August 10, 1968, but I don't know who else played that night. Does anyone know, have photos, etc.?

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