|The Ace Of Cups opened for Quicksilver Messenger Service (with whom they shared management) at The Bank in Torrance, CA (suburban Los Angeles) on September 21, 1968|
Denise Kaufman-guitar, harmonica, vocals
Mary Ellen Simpson-lead guitar, vocals
Marla Hanson-organ, piano, vocals
Mary Gannon-bass, vocals
Diane Vitalich-drums, vocals
|The Berkeley Barb ad for Berkeley's New Orleans House from Dec 29, 1967. The Ace Of Cups are fairly unknown, so they are relegated to Monday night (Jan 1, 1968)|
February 2-4, 1968 Committee Theater, San Francisco: Congress of Wonders/Ace of Cups/Dino Valenti
The Committee was a hip improvisational theater troupe. They had their own theater at 836 Montgomery, and sometimes they booked rock bands instead of themselves. Dino Valenti was a folksinger who had written "Get Together" some years earlier. He had recently gotten out of prison from a drug bust in 1965. Thanks to fellow scholar LightIntoAshes, who not only found this listing, he found a review of the concert. Folk singer Sandy Darlington (of the duo Sandy & Jeanie) reviewed the Ace of Cups performance for the Express Times of February 15, 1968
"The Congress of Wonders presented themselves, the Ace of Cups, the Charles Lloyd Quartet, and Dino Valenti at the Committee Theatre for six days, January 30 through February 4. Excellent light show by Ben Van Meter. [...]
Then the Ace of Cups! Five groovy girls playing groovy rock music. A taste treat for the eyes and ears. It was unbelievably charming. Especially when you think of all that might have been wrong with them and wasn't: bitchiness, cloying sweetness, growling butch biceps, a topless revue with clothes, clumsy music...all those things I imagine most men half expect to see, and to which they plan to react with compassion and tolerance in the interest of erotic fantasy.
It wasn't like that at all. They are enjoyable to look at, and they do dress nicely and they smile, but it doesn't seem like an "act" as much as like five friends playing music together. Good music.
All of them sing; at least four sing lead. They use all sorts of different vocal combinations to get different textures. Their harmonies range from tight five voice Hi-Lo type to open harmonies with lots of 4ths and 5ths like in Sacred Harp hymns and Gregorian chants to slightly discordant effects reminiscent of Honegger.
As the ending to their last set, they came to the front of the stage and sang an unaccompanied song asking that there be No More War.
The fact that they didn't flaunt their sex made them all the more sexy. What more could you want? It was the first time I'd ever wanted to be a groupie."
(Sandy Darlington, "Act of Congress," SFET 2/15/68 p.11)
|A psychedelic nightclub on the corner of High and University seems appropriate, right? (The Poppycock, at 135 University Ave in Palo Alto, was on this intersection--photo 2018)|
The known performers, from various sources, were
Grateful Dead/Blue Cheer/Kaleidoscope/Jeremy Steig and The Satyrs/Charlie Musselwhite and Southside Sound System/Santana Blues Band/Frumious Bandersnatch/CloverI don't know if Ace Of Cups actually played.
|A benefit held outside of The Ark, April 6-7, 1968|
(update: Denise adds "Gale Garnett’s band was called “The Gentle Reign”. It was misspelled on the poster for that gig and other places as well. Wanted you to know. They practiced right next door to us at the [Sausalito] Heliport. ").
|The Balconades Ballroom was at 181 W. Santa Clara St in San Jose, and was a rock venue for a few months in 1968 (h/t The Flamin Groovies site)|
May 16-17, 1968 Balconades Ballroom, San Jose Flamin Groovies/Ace of Cups
Summer '68 West-Pole TV Special, KQED-tv, San Francisco
Ralph J Gleason was the influential popular music critic for the San Francisco Chronicle, and he was essential in getting people to notice that something interesting was happening to rock music in 60s SF. Gleason was also a producer at KQED-tv, San Francisco's public television station (Channel 9), so he was also responsible for a lot of fine jazz and rock getting broadcast on TV throughout the entire decade.
In 1968, Gleason co-produced (with Bob Zagone) an hour-long KQED special about "Adult Rock in San Francisco." It was called "West-Pole," after Polte's booking agency, although that is never properly explained. There was footage of all the major San Francisco bands, plus live clips of two West-Pole band, the Sons of Champlin and Ace of Cups.
The three live performances of Ace of Cups, professionally shot in (what I presume to have been) KQED studios, are the best record we have of the Aces in their prime. There's no audience, of course, but as a result the cameras get an especially intimate look. It's easy to see how Ace of Cups looked like a band that couldn't miss. Most online sources will list the date of these three videos (all easily accessible on YouTube) as August 16, 1968, but that is incorrect. The "West-Pole" special was actually broadcast on August 16, so the recording had to be earlier in the Summer, probably May or June.
"West-Pole" was ultimately released on DVD, paired with another Gleason/Zagone special, 1970's "Go Ride The Music," which featured Jefferson Airplane and Quicksilver Messenger Service.
|An obscure handbill for a free concert in Golden Gate Park on June 23, 1968|
|The Sound Factory, in Sacramento, was briefly a competitor to the Fillmore and Avalon|
|The Eureka Times-Standard of August, 16,1968, reported that the Ace Of Cups would headline the "San Francisco Rock Show" at the Humboldt County Fairgrounds on Friday night. Also, 173 animals would be for sale in the livestock pen.|
This was a big three-day event at the Palace of Fine Arts over Labor Day weekend, although the last day probably wasn't held. On Saturday, the first day, the Aces played the afternoon show. Mike Bloomfield and a pick-up band played (filling in for H.P. Lovecraft).
Faren Miller, (then a Berkeley teenager, and a thorough and accurate diarist) has a detailed review in her diaries, and it contains the most detailed contemporary description of an Ace Of Cups performance. The billing was somewhat different than what she describes, and its not clear who were no-shows and who she simply missed or didn’t comment on. John Handy, Steve Miller, Big Mama Thornton and HP Lovecraft were billed, and Mike Bloomfield was not. Miller specifically refers to HP Lovecraft as no-shows, but the rest aren’t referenced.
|A flyer for a benefit at the Berkeley Community Theater on September 20, 1968, with the Grateful Dead and The Ace Of Cups|
The Ali Akbar College of Music was moving from a house in Ascot Drive in the Oakland hills to Berkeley. Owsley's girlfriend, Rhoney Gissen, arranged for Owsley to move into the Ascot Drive house in return for helping the school move. Denise Kaufman had taken sitar lessons at the school during the Summer of 1967.
A unique feature of this night's Grateful Dead performance was an extended drum performance with two Indian musicians (I believe Shankar Ghosh and Vince Delgado).
September 28, 1968 Straight Theater, San Francisco Movies/Congress of Wonders/Ace of Cups
LightIntoAshes found this listing in the SF Examiner. It appears the theater showed movies, with Congress of Wonders playing inbetween and Ace of Cups after (probably). The listing was
"Revolution 7, 11
What's New Pussycat? 8:45
Congress of Wonders 6:30-10:40
plus Ace of Cups"
Quicksilver Messenger Service/Youngbloods/Ace Of Cups/Freedom Highway/Cold Blood/Flaming Groovies/Frumious Bandersnatch (Ace Of Cups canceled)
The Mid Peninsula Free University was known as “Free You,” and they regularly organized free concerts in Palo Alto’s El Camino Park. However, in the end QMS canceled (they were listed as "tentative" on the flyer), to be replaced by Steve Miller Band, and Ace of Cups didn't play either. The actual lineup was Steve Miller Band (with a guest appearance by Carlos Santana), Frumious Bandersnatch, Phoenix and Freedom Highway.
|The Ace Of Cups opened for Quicksilver Messenger Service at the Avalon in October, 1968|
|The Berkeley Barb ad for Berkeley's New Orleans House, Dec 27 1968|
It is appropriate then, that Ace of Cups finally get to release the album they might have released some decades ago. Few bands from that era can even muster a quorum, much less all original members. Another World Tour, at least the world of Southern Marin County, will surely follow.