Thursday, February 17, 2011

2201 Arch Street, Philadelphia, PA The Electric Factory: Concert List January-June 1969 (Philadelphia III)

[this post continues the series about rock concerts at the Electric Factory in Philadelphia in the 1960s]

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. These posts about the Electric Factory marks the beginning of my effort to organize and analyze Philadelphia rock history in the 1960s. There are considerably more dates to be found, but these posts will make a good starting point (update: thanks to Bruno, the list is largely complete).

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 post presents the lists of Electric Factory concerts from January through June 1969, as well as major Philadelphia rock events during that period. The list is almost certainly not complete. Our knowledge of shows at venues like the Fillmore, the Avalon or Detroit's Grande Ballroom comes from the wonderful (and collectible) posters that lived on in dorm room walls long after the venues ceased operating. However, the Electric Factory rarely used colorful, artistic posters to advertise the shows. I think the Electric Factory advertised on the radio and with print-only ads in various newspapers, making it harder to discern their schedule.
This post represents my best efforts at determining early 1969  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. 
(For earlier efforts at psychedelic ballrooms in Philadelphia as well as the first half of 1968 for the Electric Factory, see here, and for the second half of 1968 see here)

January 10-11, 1969: Buddy Rich/Sweet Stavin Chain/Virgin Spring

January 17-18, 1969: Iron Butterfly/Sweet Nothin'

January 24-25, 1969: Mother Earth/Edison Electric Company/Virgin Spring
An early ad featured the group Genesis. Whoever, "Genesis" was, it wasn't the English group featuring Peter Gabriel. There was a Los Angeles group called Genesis, featuring at least one former member of The Sons Of Adam, and it may have been them. On the other hand, probably ever region had a band named Genesis, so I wouldn't jump to conclusions yet. A Commenter reports, however, that Genesis leader Jac Ttanna says
We were scheduled for an east coast tour around that time, but the band broke up in Houston after playing only three shows, and we never made it up the coast. It's possible that gig was part of the tour schedule, but we didn't play it. Maybe they brought in some imposters to take our place, or maybe it was just a local band with the same name. It definitely wasn't us.
I am more inclined to the theory that the booking was indeed for the Los Angeles Genesis (it fits some other details), but they must have been replaced or the show canceled altogether.

Mother Earth were based in San Francisco, and featured singer Tracy Nelson. Like many San Francisco bands in the 60s, the members were actually from elsewhere (Nelson from Wisconsin and the rest of the band mostly from Texas).

January 31, 1969 Baltimore Civic Center, Baltimore, MD: Blood, Sweat & Tears/Rhinoceros/Spirit/The Nazz/Mother Earth "The Electric Factory Presents The Baltimore Rock Festival"
I do not know if Electric Factory did a lot of promotions in Baltimore, or if this was a one-off. It appears, by default, that the Philadelphia venue was closed that weekend.

February 7-8, 1969: Spirit/Chicago Transit Authority/Noah's Ark

February 11-12, 1969: Mothers of Invention/Paul Pena
Although this booking was a Wednesday-Thursday show, rare for the Electric Factory, keep in mind that Thursday February 12 was a National Holiday (Lincoln's Birthday). Thus the two days were kind of like a weekend. The Mothers had headlined the Electric Factory the previous year (March 22-24, 1968).

Paul Pena was a bluesy solo performer. He later moved to the Bay Area, and rather unexpectedly one of his songs, "Jet Airliner" was rearranged by and became a huge hit for Steve Miller.  Pena replaced the British band Gun, which featured Paul and Adrian Gurvitz, then calling themselves Paul and Adrian Curtis.

February 14-15, 1969: Grateful Dead/Paul Pena
The Grateful Dead had also headlined the Electric Factory the previous year (April 26-28, 1968). The venue had been in business long enough that they were starting to become a known stop on "the circuit."

There are tapes of the Grateful Dead performances from both nights. The Saturday night tape (Feb 15) is nearly 3 hours long, typical of Dead performances in those days. These tapes are among the relatively few that survive from the Electric Factory in the 60s.

Pena also replaced Gun on this bill.

February 16, 1969: Tim Buckley/Good News

February 21-22, 1969: Canned Heat/American Dream

February 23, 1969: Blood, Sweat & Tears/Sweet Stavin Chain
Blood, Sweat and Tears had been scheduled to play Electric Factory in April 1968, but they had canceled, probably because Al Kooper had just quit. Now they were back with new lead singer David Clayton Thomas.

February 28-March 1, 1969: Rhinoceros/Valentine

March 7-8, 1969: Three Dog Night/Flying Burrito Brothers
The Magical Mystery Tour movie also played.

March 14-15, 1969: B.B. King/Sweet Nothin'/Damion

March 16, 1969: Pete Seeger/Jean Ritchie/Michael Cooney "Sing Out Benefit"

March 21-22, 1969: Woody's Truck Stop/Thunder & Roses/Fire Eye and The Farm/Black Flag

March 23, 1969: Ian and Sylvia and Great Speckled Bird/Cashman/Pistill & West

March 28-29, 1969: Taj Mahal/Donny B. Waugh/Mountain

March 30, 1969: Procol Harum/Edison Electric
Edison Electric bassist ‘Freebo’ recalls meeting Bonnie Raitt around the time of this show (whether at the show or not isn't clear). Freebo went on to accompany Bonnie for some years.

April 1-2, 1969: Steppenwolf/Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation

April 4-6, 1969: Ten Years After/Gun/Sweetwater
Ten Years After was one of many English bands working through the Premier Talent Agency. A fantastic live band, they made no less than 28 American tours from 1968-74. Every time they played a show like the Electric Factory, they created a buzz for the next time they came through town.

Sweetwater were an interesting group from Los Angeles. They played Woodstock, but broke up soon afterward when lead singer Nancy Nevins was hurt in a car accident.

April 11-12, 1969: Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger and The Trinity

April 12, 1969: The Spectrum, Philadelphia, PA: Jimi Hendrix Experience/Fat Mattress
 Hendrix had played the Electric Factory the previous year, but by this time they were among the biggest acts in rock. I believe that this show at The Spectrum was promoted by the Electric Factory.

April 18-19, 1969: Crazy World Of Arthur Brown/AUM
According to one account, the Electric Factory was shut down around this time by the Philadelphia police, as a public nuisance and a gathering place for drug dealers. Bruno found numerous advertisements for shows, but some of them may not have been played.

May 2-3, 1969: Pacific Gas & Electric/Raven

May 9-10, 1969: Iron Butterfly/Black Pearl

May 16-17, 1969: Sea Train/Elizabeth
Sea Train was an outgrowth of the old Blues Project, but by this time the band had migrated to the Bay Area and lived in Marin County. Violinist Richard Greene may have been a member by this time.

May 23-24, 1969: The Who/Sweet Stavin Chain
The Who had just released their new album, Tommy. They would never play a place in Philadelphia as small as the Electric Factory again. It must have been a heck of a weekend.

May 30-June 1, 1969: It’s A Beautiful Day/American Dream/Fat Band

June 6-7, 1969: Bobby Darin/The Churls or Lighthouse/The Churls
This was a rather unexpected booking. Bobby Darin was a much more interesting performer than most people give him credit for, and he had a sort of "folk" side that was later forgotten when he started framing himself as the next Frank Sinatra. In that respect, it would be very interesting to know whether Darin played with his usual Vegas-style ensemble or appeared in some other configuration.

Lighthouse were a Canadian group who had a sort of orchestral sound. I don't know who actually headlined in the end--I suspect it was Lighthouse.

June 11, 1969: New York Rock And Roll Ensemble/Good News
The New York Rock And Roll Ensemble, some mostly Julliard trained musicians who figured there was more money in rock, were a sort of 60s highbrow act. I assume they played opposite Sly at the Spectrum since it was presumed they didn't draw from the same audience.

I don't know why the band played on a Wednesday night. The NYRRE often played in conjunction with local symphonies or "Pops" orchestras.

June 11, 1969: The Spectrum, Philadelphia, PA: Sly and The Family Stone
I think Electric Factory promoted Sly at the Spectrum, but I'm not certain. Sly was starting to become huge throughout the US, but I have to imagine he was even bigger in Philadelphia.

June 13, 1969: Alice Cooper/MC5
June 14, 1969: Alice Cooper/Sweet Stavin Chain
An ad says “Frank Zappa Debuts Bizarre World of Alice Cooper.”  Zappa had signed Alice Cooper to his Warner Brothers imprint, Bizarre Records. The ad also has Edison Electric as the opener for both shows, instead of MC5 and Sweet Stavin Chain. I don't know who really opened.

June 20-1969: Elizabeth/Sweet Nothin'/Sweet Stavin Chain

June 22, 1969: The Nazz
Philadelphia's The Nazz, named after a Lord Buckley reference, featured guitarist Todd Rundgren, and were a popular band in the Philadelphia area. June 22 was a Sunday. I have to assume that some other acts were booked for the weekend of June 20-21. It may also be that local acts regularly played Sunday, but little record of them survives.

In the Summer of 1968 and probably in the Summer of 1969, the Electric Factory regularly put on at least some free concerts at the Belmont Plateau in nearby Fairmount Park, but I have been unable to determine further details. These seem to have featured the local groups that mostly opened the shows at the Electric Factory, like American Dream, Elizabeth or Sweet Stavin Chain. I assume these were on Sunday afternoons, but I have almost no direct information.

June 27-28, 1969: Velvet Underground/American Dream
There are still numerous weekends where I have been unable to find out who played at the Electric Factory, but these posts are making a good start. Anyone with additional information, corrections, insights or recovered memories (real or imagined) about Philadelphia rock shows in the first half of 1969 is encouraged to contact me or Comment.

The Summer of 1969 was a big Summer for rock, and it was certainly big for the Electric Factory and the Philadelphia area, which is covered in my next installment.