Friday, June 4, 2010

Kinetic Playground: 4812 N. Clark St, Chicago, IL Performance List 1968 (New! Improved!)

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

[I have received so much great information about the Kinetic Playground that I am updating my original post]

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. Thanks again to everyone who sent me amazing clippings, recollections and corrections in order to improve my previous post.

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 21, 1968--according to the Chicago Tribune, the police raided the Electric Theater and shut it down. I do not know for sure how long it was closed, but at least some of the following shows must have been canceled. I suspect they were up and running by the next weekend (Friday May 24), although the Friday entertainment music listings in the Tribune (below) had probably been prepared in advance.

May 22-26, 1968 Electric Theater Steppenwolf/Influence

May 31-June 2, 1968 Electric Theater James Cotton Blues Band/Holy Om
According to the Chicago Tribune (h/t Joe), James Cotton seems to have replaced Muddy Waters.

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/The McCoys/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. The McCoys, from Indiana, were trying to remake themselves into a psychedelic blues band, which was a long way from "Hang On Sloopy."

July 12-14, 1968 Electric Theater Spirit/Peanut Butter Conspiracy/T.I.M.E
Although the dates are slightly approximated (the Chicago Tribune said "this weekend"), all the groups were from Los Angeles. Spirit were rising stars, and Peanut Butter Conspiracy somewhat fading ones. T.I.M.E was connected to the Steppenwolf/Toronto crowd, now relocated to LA.

July 17-21, 1968 The Electric Theater Earth Opera/Sunshine Company (19&20)
Thanks to a Commenter, we know from a flyer that Peter Rowan and David Grisman's baroque-psychedelic-folk rock band, Earth Opera, headlined for a four day stretch, joined by the airy pop of the Sunshine Company (from LA) for the last two days.

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 

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 ultimately 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. 

August 9, 1968--the club officially changed its name to The Kinetic Playground (per the Trib)

August 14-15, 1968 Kinetic Playground Mothers Of Invention/Canned Heat
Earlier ads featured Julie Driscoll and Brian Auger, but it appears that Canned Heat took their place.

(a clip from the Chicago Tribune entertainment listings for Tuesday, August 16, 1968--h/t Joe)

August 16-17, 1968 Kinetic Playground Mothers Of Invention/Them
This would have been a Tuesday and Wednesday night, but Frank Zappa was much beloved in Chicago and this would have still been a very big deal. Van Morrison had left Them two years earlier, but the 1968 configuration was still apparently a pretty good live band.

August 18, 1968 Kinetic Playground Them/Litter

August 24, 1968 Kinetic Playground Litter/Bangor Flying Circus

August 30, 1968 Kinetic Playground Litter/Nova

August 31, 1968 Kinetic Playground Nova/Chicago Slim Blues Band
Chicago Slim Blues Band replaced Chicago Transit Authority, who had been advertised earlier.

September 1, 1968 Kinetic Playground Litter/Nova
The groups replaced Pink Floyd, who canceled. 

September 2, 1968 Kinetic Playground Eric Burdon and The Animals

September 6-7, 1968 Kinetic Playground Procol Harum/Mandrake Memorial
September 8, 1968 Kinetic Playground Mandrake Memorial

Mandrake Memorial were Philadelphia's leading underground psychedelic band. 

September 13-14-15, 1968 Kinetic Playground Illinois Speed Press/Pride
Pride was the new name for the Lemon Pipers  

September 20-22, 1968 Kinetic Playground Kensington Market

October 4-6, 1968 Kinetic Playground John Mayall/Pacific Gas & Electric

( a clip from the music listings of the Chicago Tribune for Thursday, October 10, 1968--h/t Joe)

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

October 12-13, 1968 Kinetic Playground Rotary Connection/Pacific Gas & Electric/Fever Tree
P,G & E were a Los Angeles blues-rock band. Fever Tree was often thought to be a Bay Area band, because of their hit "San Francisco Girls" but in fact they were from Houston, TX.

(a clip from the Chicago Tribune entertainment listings on Friday, October 18--h/t Joe)

October 18, 1968 Kinetic Playground Steppenwolf/Ten Years After
October 19-20, 1968 Kinetic Playground Ten Years After
At this time, Steppenwolf were huge stars, and Ten Years After were just another up and coming English band. They were probably on their second American tour at the time. Ten Years After made it big by touring constantly, and no city loved them more than Chicago.

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, 1968 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
Buddy Miles was the headliner, as Deep Purple was not yet well known. 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

For 1969 shows, see the original post here. I will continue to update this post as more information comes in, and re-post when there is enough information. Thanks again to everyone who helped.

25 comments:

  1. Re: June 12-15, 1968 Rotary Connection.....

    A poster exist and the exact date is "June 12-16"

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  2. There was an article in the Trib about re-opening after the 5/21 shutdown. I have to go back to find it. I don't recall that any shows had to be canceled, but, again, I just have to check.

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    1. I have 2 articles from the Chicago Tribune. The first from May 21, 1968 on the closing "last night" which happened the night of May 20, 1968. The second was from May 22, 1968 about the re opening "tonight" and states that the Steppenwolf & Influence opening concert would go on as planned.

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  3. I worked at the Electric Theater from opening night until late summer of 1969, maybe three months before the fire. Check out my posts on the original version of this blog for my story.

    I remember the CPD raid and the aftermath. A couple of days after the shutdown I remember a couple of high ranking uniformed officers showing-up during the afternoon and going to the offices upstairs. After a short time, they came back out and one of them was in the process of stuffing a fat, plain white envelope in his uniform coat pocket before leaving the building. I'm not sure what was in the envelope, but we never had any problems with CPD again. In fact, they stopped by regularly to chat with Aaron Russo for about 10-15 minutes every week . . . probably about old Chicago traditions.

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  4. Mike, your comments on the history of the Electric Theater/Kinetic Playground from the inside are truly amazing.

    The direct link is http://rockprosopography101.blogspot.com/2010/03/kinetic-playground-chicago-il-4812-n.html?showComment=1275891285152#c4047859857465888577

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  5. Very interesting to see that Aaron Russo opened the ET with the idea that it would be a "Theater For The Arts," only to discover that he needed big rock bands to pay the obligations to his investors.

    Any idea who Russo's investors might have been?

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  6. I can't believe it...it's true, this place actually exsists. My father told me the stories of his golden days as a caddy or runner at this place the Electric Theater. He also told me stories of the Mexican Mafia and trips to Venizuala. I'm 32 now and He o.d.'d one last time when I was 17, which was a month after I gratuated high school. My dad's name was Elvis Gipson "Big E". He was a big man, tough, sweet, to the point very direct. I asked him if he was a bouncer, but he told me what he did there, was played the middle man, between the theater staff and the band's staff. If someone wanted something he got it to them or whoever they sent for it. One time he had to bring something to the Jafferson Airplaine band and Gracie opened the door wearing mirrored contacts. He didn't always get to deal with the band members directly, but some he did. Towards end of my dad's short 48 years of life, he wasn't affraid to tell of his many adventurous stories. High on vodka, and cocktails of perscription drugs, crack cocaine and marijuana, he stayed in a halucinigenic state of mind, but now it is finally confirmed that these stories of this place he worked at in Chicago really are true. His name was Elvis and if any one reads this that may have known him, or worked with him, tell me more. This is so comforting for me.

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  7. If you were going to get conversation about your Dad and the stuff around him, it'll probably be here. I only read and comment here (and learn a ton), but from that perspective will just say welcome!

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  8. http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=128184&id=628519000
    In my Facebook "phottos" section, there are many photos from the Kinetic

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    1. link is no longer. is there a new one.

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  9. Above comment is for RC McWilliams in facebook- look at "photos"

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  10. vegas, those are amazing photos, thanks for linking to them. I assume that they were from October 31, 1969 at the Kinetic?

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  11. Nobody mentiond The Flock or Joe Wright's Thursday Night Jam? I went to the KP every night until it closed. I was in high school.

    In fact, not mention is warm up band, Santana. B Band, Jethro Tull, and Headliner LED ZEP.

    I sat through both shows that night. How could you leave that out??? Gary J. Clyman, Bass Player, etc.

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  12. Lived in Marengo and I was a little too young...no car or driver's license so did not make it to the Electric Theater...though I had friends who went and filled me with wonderful stories...I know it did re open in the early 70's cause I did see several shows ther....JoJo Gunne, and David Blue and Tranquility opening for Mark-Almond who I did not see cause my girlfriend (now wife) had to get home. I did make the Aragon my home away from home starting in 1971.....saw so many great shows there...wish someone would do a history of that place...Muddy Waters, Spirit, Dr. John, J. Geils, Kinks, Foghat, Little Feat, Lou Reed, Ian Hunter, New York Dolls, ZZ Top, Fleetwood Mac, Nazareth, Brian Auger, Grand Funk, Litter, Argent, Joe Walsh...the list goes on...thanks for bringing back some great musical history!

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  13. i remember big brother playing and many others but dam you did a good job telling the story but nobody said it was only $5 to get in,surfer a chicago outlaw worked the ticket both

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  14. Hi everyone I just joined and this my first response. This is such a cool blog not only because music is my passion well those that know me would differ stating its my disease lol I am also from Chicago but also the owner Aaron Russo RIP was a true blue patriot exposing what is really going down with the NWO. Funny but in one of his interviews he mentioned that he was paying off the CPD 1,000 or so I think a week protection. Anyways google his name & you will be shocked about what he was exposing before his untimely death & how the elite marginalized him with either twisted lies or just the ole he's a communist tags media manipulated BS. Aaron Russo was a good man that was a real patriot!

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  15. I was the bassist for Holy Om and we were the original house band. (See above) We played the first week the theater was opened and many time after that. Arron Russo was our manager. I have a copy of the original Electric Theater poster dated April 3rd, 1968. Glad to share history.

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  16. The "Theater" was not the Rainbo, it was directly to the south of the Rainbo in what was formerly the Uptown Bowling Alley.[7]

    7.)^http://wiki.answers.com/Q/How_did_Rainbo_Gardens_evolve_into_Kinetic_Playground

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  17. there's an ad for the Uptown Bowling Alley with the same address here:
    http://www.uptownupdate.com/2010/06/uptown-1960-bowling-mecca.html

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  18. I used to skate at the Rainbo ice rink in the mid-late 1970s. I was too young to go to the Kinetic Playground and knew nothing about it. Alas! I would have loved the place and the great musicians and bands who played there. I was at the Aragon Ballroom in the early 1980s for general admission shows, standing in line in the alley on the west side of the building.

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  21. I was there often when I finally "discovered" the Kinetic Playground in 1969. It would be impossible for me to list all the great bands I saw but Led Zeppelin, MC5, Blood Sweat & Tears, T-Rex (Bolan and Took), and Faces with Rod Stewart are a small sampling. Being stoned I could be wrong on some of this and don't want to disrespect the late Abbie Hoffaman who once said, "if you remember the 60's you weren't there. I would love to see a list of the 1969 band dates to see what I don't remember. Tuesday was local band night and my favorite when they played was The Flock. Illinois Speed Press also played the Kinetic. And yes, as Gary Falkenberg mentioned on 2/5/12, it cost $5 to get in. And I want to think it was $4 if you paid early but not sure if I remember that correctly through the orange sunshine. And one last thing to mention was the little igloo type rooms they had with curtains where one could toke up. Does anyone remember these rooms or was that just another "trip" down memory lane. Thanks for this blog. This was the place to be for those few precious years.

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  22. Those little white rooms were real. I remember seeing Lou Reed there in seems New Year's Eve 1972.

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  23. God, I saw a lot of these bands in the day...some I can still remember...:) I was in high school...Damen and Lawrence neighborhood...we'd go and hang out and do acid in those rooms...The Rotary Connection were there a lot...they had a few members that loved to trip also! The strobe lights and the melting graphics on the walls and ceiling..."Ride My Sea Saw" playing in the background...I loved that place...

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