Wednesday, June 2, 2010
2201 Arch Street, Philadelphia, PA The Electric Factory: Concert List February-June 1968 (Electric Factory I)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania is one of America's great cities, but its proximity to New York has always made an unfair comparison. Philadelphia has an exciting music history, and an exciting rock music history in the 1960s, but that history can only be documented in the most fragmented of places. This post about the Electric Factory marks the beginning of my effort to organize and analyze Philadelphia rock history in the 1960s.
1967: Early Philadelphia Psychedelia
Philadelphia had an exciting music history, with Dick Clark's American Bandstand and great soul and jazz music, and Philadelphia was an important stop on the Folk music circuit in the early 1960s. As a result, however, psychedelic rock came a little later to the city.
The Trauma was at 2121 Arch Street, near Rittenhouse Square. The proprietor of The Trauma was Manny Rubin, who also ran The 2nd Fret, Philadelphia's leading folk club. The Trauma was a pretty small place, more like a club than a ballroom. Rubin seems to have figured out that the market was moving away from folk towards rock, and his timing was excellent. A number of excellent and interesting bands played The Trauma, although details are hardly complete.
The first show I know about at The Trauma was February 24-26, 1967 with Lothar and The Hand People. The last I can confirm was The Mothers of Invention playing 6 nights at The Trauma at the end of 1967 (December 26-31). Unfortunately, Rubin's excellent timing merely provided a "proof of concept" for the Electric Factory, which opened up in February 1968, just a block away. Apparently The Trauma survived into early 1968, but it could not compete with its larger rival.
Another early Philadelphia area psychedelic venue was a club called The Kaleidoscope, in a converted movie theater n Main Street in the suburban town of Mayanuk. I do not know the exact address. The proprietor was one David Carroll. I'm not sure how long it was open (a Commenter reports that it opened after The Trauma). Among the only groups that I know for sure that played The Kaleidoscope were The Mandrake Memorial, who was one of (if not the) founding underground groups on the Philadelphia scene, and The Ultimate Spinach (from Massachusetts). A New Jersey garage band called The Satyrs recalled opening for the Spinach and Mandrake Memorial at The Kaleidoscope, but other than that I know little about the venue. Apparently the Kaleidoscope did not survive the opening of the Electric Factory.
The Electric Factory, 2201 Arch Street
The Electric Factory, a former tire warehouse, opened in early 1968 at 2201 Arch. The owners were the Spivak brothers, all experienced bar owners in the Philadelphia area. Their booker was Larry Magid. They rapidly dominated the concert scene in Philadelphia, and the Electric Factory were the most important promoters in Philadelphia until they ultimately were purchased by larger corporate interests in the 1990s.
The Electric Factory was a critical stop on 60s concert tours, and an integral part of the "Premier Talent" (Booking Agency) circuit that included both Fillmores, the Boston Tea Party and Chicago's Kinetic Playground. Philadelphia was a big, important city and Philadelphia fans were not shy about showing their appreciation or displeasure (a trait that has endured). However, since the Electric Factory did not generally use posters with collectible art for advertisements, the venue has been somewhat lost to 60s rock history. There were many relatively trivial 60s venues that had a famous poster or two, often printed in The Art Of Rock or otherwise promulgated, that are recalled much more often than the Electric Factory. Outside of Philadelphia, the early history of the Electric Factory is largely ignored, and I am attempting to begin to correct that here.
This list represents my best efforts at determining early 1968 shows at the Electric Factory, as well as shows promoted by Electric Factory concerts. Anyone with additional information, insights, corrections or recovered memories (real or imagined) is encouraged to Comment or email me, and I will update the list accordingly.
February 9-10, 1968 The Chambers Brothers
The date is approximate. This was the first show at The Electric Factory, and I have assumed it was the weekend before the Peanut Butter Conspiracy. In the Winter, the Electric Factory usually just had shows on Friday and Saturday night, although sometimes for bigger acts they played other days of the week as well. Sometimes there were Saturday afternoon matinee shows (3-7 p.m.). I assume there were shows every weekend, but I have not been able to locate all the dates.
February 16-17, 1968 Peanut Butter Conspiracy/Woody’s Truck Stop
The Peanut Butter Conspiracy list has the group playing the entire week (February 13 thru 18, Tuesday thru Sunday) but weekend gigs only seem more likely.
Woody’s Truck Stop had featured teenage phenom guitarist Todd Rundgren, but he had left by this time.
February 21-22, 1968 Jimi Hendrix Experience/Soft Machine/Woody's Truck Stop
Jimi Hendrix played early and late shows both nights. These dates were a Wednesday and a Thursday, so presumably other acts played the weekend.
March 1-3, 1968 Country Joe and The Fish
March 15-17, 1968 Big Brother and The Holding Company
March 22-24, 1968 Mothers of Invention/Nova Local
The handbill says that each Saturday has a matinee show from 3 to 6, so the Mothers would have played both afternoon on Saturday March 23. I assume many of the other billings had Saturday afternon matinees as well, but I haven't yet pinned that down for sure.
March 26-31, 1968 Muddy Waters American Blues Band/American Dream
American Dream was a Philadelphia band featuring lead guitarist Nick Jameson, who became the bassist for Foghat in the late 70s.
There would have been a Saturday matinee show on March 30.
April 2-4, 1968 Beacon Street Union
The flyer (above) has Boston's Beacon Street Union as the headliner from Tuesday through Thursday. A different source has legendary jazz guitarist Wes Montgomery (along with locals The American Dream) from April 1-4 (Monday through Thursday). These aren't actually incompatible. If Montgomery actually played the Electric Factory, it would have been his only known performance at a rock club. Montgomery was a truly epic guitarist; when he died on June 15, 1968, the Grateful Dead dedicated "Dark Star" to him at the Fillmore East, the only time they ever dedicated that song to anyone.
April 5-7, 1968 Butterfield Blues Band/Pandora’s Box
April 8-11, 1968 Butterfield Blues Band/Hugh Masakela
Butterfield Blues Band would have headlined a Saturday matinee on the afternoon of April 6.
>April 12-14, 1968 Cream/Woody’s Truck Stop
Cream canceled, and played the next week. Its not clear if there were shows these nights.
April 16, 1968 American Dream
This was a Tuesday night. It appears that as Spring came on, the Electric Factory made an effort to be open six days a week, at least some of the time.
April 17-18, 1968 Stan Kenton & His Neophonic Orchestra ‘Concert and Lecture’
West Coast Big Band leader Stan Kenton was a very important figure in jazz, although he was never a huge commercial success. It does appear there was an effort to book jazz artists on weeknights (given the April bookings for Wes Montgomery, Hugh Masakela and Kenton).
April 19-21, 1968 Cream/Woody’s Truck Stop
Cream was rescheduled from April 12-14. Cream would have headlined the Saturday matinee on April 20.
>April 19-21, 1968 Blood, Sweat & Tears/Elizabeth
Al Kooper had just quit Blood, Sweat and Tears, so they canceled out. It appears that Cream took over BST’s dates because Kooper had quit.
April 22, 1968 ‘Dance Marathon’
This would have been a Monday afternoon show, probably featuring local bands.
>April 23-28, 1968 Woody's Truck Stop/American Dream/Elizabeth/Edison Electric
This was billed as "The Sound of Philadelphia" on the March poster (above), but the Grateful Dead ended up as headliners for the weekend. Perhaps these four groups still played Tuesday thru Thursday, before the Dead moved in as headliners.
April 26-28, 1968 Grateful Dead/Amboy Dukes/Edison Electric Band/The Amazing Beymont
Based on the two advertisements, the Grateful Dead seemed to have been added rather hurriedly. I have written about the peculiarities of the Dead's April 1968 itinerary elsewhere--suffice to say it appears a Miami sojourn was cut short.
Grateful Dead manager Rock Scully has an hilarious description in his book of the Dead's stay in Philadelphia on their first visit to the Electric Factory. The Dead were housed in a "hotel" that appeared to be a house of prostitution on top of a blues bar. The boys in the band were very unsettled by this, and forced Scully to find students willing to put them up for the week--except for Pigpen, who loved the place and spent the whole time hanging out and playing blues at the bar. Since the Grateful Dead continued to work with the Electric Factory throughout their entire career, presumably better accommodations were provided in later visits.
The Amboy Dukes, a Detroit band featuring lead guitarist Ted Nugent, were riding a big hit with the newly-released "Journey To The Center Of Your Mind."
May 1-3, 1968 Blue Cheer/Elizabeth/Henry Crow Dog
Blue Cheer had cachet insofar as they came from San Francisco, but their music was pretty far from the sinuous folk rock improvisations typical of the Fillmore. Blue Cheer was a loud, loud, loud and proud power trio, playing through veritable wall of Marshall Stax amps. Their first album Vincebus Eruptum, and their hit single "Summertime Blues" were mostly regarded as curiousities except by those who thought they were awesome. Although Blue Cheer was modeled on Cream, their overwhelming sonic assault sort of prefigured Led Zeppelin and Heavy Metal.
May 8-10, 1968 Iron Butterfly/Henry Crow Dog
Iron Butterfly was a Los Angeles-based band (they were actually from San Diego) whose debut album on Atco was fairly popular. The band's mega hit album In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida and the accompanying title track would not come out until the next month (June 1968). Iron Butterfly are somewhat unfairly recalled as one-hit wonders today, but in fact they were probably the second band to break out of the Los Angeles underground and tour nationally (after The Doors) before they hit Platinum record status (the Platinum record was invented by Atco for Iron Butterfly, incidentally).
My sources run dry for identifying any shows for the rest of May and June, except for the Canned Heat show. I have every reason to believe there were shows at the Electric Factory every week, and probably most weeknights throughout the Summer. At some point during the Summers, the Electric Factory held free concerts at the Belmont Plateau in nearby Fairmount Park, advertised as "Be-Ins." They apparently mostly featured the local groups like American Dream, Elizabeth and Edison Electric Band, but I don't know precisely who played, and if any of the National headliners ever showed up.
June 7-9, 1968 Canned Heat
Canned Heat was another band that had broken out of the LA underground and was touring Nationally. They had had a big hit with "On The Road Again" in late 1967, and they were a very popular live act.
For the next entry in the Electric Factory series, see here.