Our interest is in rock bands who played the Fillmore or Avalon during this period. I have tried to define this as broadly as possible, generally including bands who at least wanted to play the Fillmore (even if they didn’t), but I have generally shied away from pop acts. I have included some comments about the bands and venues, where relevant, but they are not exhaustive. I have assumed that anyone who actually reads this knows about, say, The Doors or Bill Graham.
In order to keep the scope of these posts plausible, I have generally refrained from listing shows that only featured local "garage" bands made up of mostly High School students, even though some of them had fairly substantial followings. I have also consciously excluded the popular groups who played teenage dances throughout the East Bay (for Bill Quarry and others) as those scenes have been fairly well documented.
Venues include, but are not limited to
• Berkeley Community Theater
• Provo Park, Berkeley
• Harmon Gym , UC Berkeley
• Pauley Ballroom, UC Berkeley
• Greek Theatre, UC Berkeley
• Oakland Auditorium, Oakland
• Oakland Coliseum Arena, Oakland
I have also included events at nearby Maple Hall in San Pablo and The Rollarena in San Leandro when there was a meaningful headliner, but the list is not exhaustive for those two venues. The list does not include performances at East Bay clubs, which we are covering in other lists (currently we have completed The Jabberwock, The Questing Beast, The New Orleans House and The Freight and Salvage, with more to come). Scholars who are more focused on the posters, handbills and more site-specific information about the venues should look on the Berkeley Art page.
Like all scholarship, this project is an ongoing work in development. This information is the most accurate available to us at this time. Parties with corrections, insights, information or recovered memories should Comment or Email.
Berkeley and East Bay Rock Concerts July-September 1966
The San Francisco Underground rock explosion that would lead to "The Summer of Love" was rolling full speed ahead in San Francisco. However, although Berkeley and East Bay hippies made up a significant portion of the audience at the Fillmore and the Avalon, the absence of a viable rock venue in Berkeley meant that with the University of California on Summer break, there were only intermittent rock concerts in the East Bay, mostly at San Leandro's Rollarena, 18 miles south of the UC Campus.
July 3-4, 1966 ASUC 9th Annual Berkeley Folk Music Festival
The Berkeley Folk Festival had been a popular annual event since 1958, but for 1966 one of the headline acts was a rock band, namely the Jefferson Airplane. At this distant remove, the Jefferson Airplane seem to be peripheral to folk music. However, that was not the view of either Paul Kantner or manager Mathew Katz. Kantner had been an aspiring folksinger in Venice Beach and San Jose, and specifically sought out a female singer to give his band Weavers-like harmonies. Jorma Kaukonen, though more focused on blues guitar, was well-known in local folk circles, so the Airplane would have felt very comfortable at a Folk Festival. Manager Katz, meanwhile, had originally tried to peddle the Airplane to booking agents as a “FoJazz” band. The Airplane thus became the first electric rock group to play the Berkeley Folk Festival.
>>July 3, 1966 Pauley Ballroom, UC Berkeley Jefferson Airplane, Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, Alice Stuart Thomas, The Gypsies “Special Gypsy Fiddle Program” (afternoon)
The Airplane’s role in the Gypsy Fiddle Program remains unknown.
>>July 3, 1966 Pauley Ballroom, UC Berkeley Jefferson Airplane, Country Joe and The Fish, Greenbriar Boys “Dance Happening” (evening)
Pauley Ballroom was a low-ceilinged room in the second floor of the Student Union. While well-situated, the room was designed for visiting lecturers, and the low ceilings insured horrible sound for electric music. Country Joe and The Fish, Berkeley's newly-electric folk rock band, had also been established folk musicians. This Pauley event was an implicit concession that the Berkeley audience wanted a Fillmore style show to go along with the workshops and panel discussions of the Festival.
>>July 4, 1966 Greek Theatre, UC Berkeley Pete Seeger, Jefferson Airplane, Robert Pete Williams, Greenbriar Boys, Alice Stuart Thomas, Sam Hinton, Charley Marshall, Phil Ochs, John Fahey, others (afternoon finale with all performers)
In the early 1960s, college age folk musicians had split into various camps, amongst them those who liked commercial folk music like the Kingston Trio, and those who were ‘serious’ about folklore and accurate reproductions of original musical styles. The latter camp was more into jazz, more pretentious and more into drugs and for the most part leaped into long-haired rock and roll with both feet. There was still a viable folk scene for East Coast bands like the Greenbriar Boys, but California folk music abruptly disappeared in a haze of feedback and funny smelling smoke.
Pete Seeger had been the folksinger most upset by Bob Dylan’s electric performance at Newport the previous year, but I do not know whether he cared that he was ‘co-headlining’ with a rock band full of used-ta-be folkies. Electric rock acts were becoming more and more common at college folk festivals in any case.
July 22, 1966 Rollarena, San Leandro Love
Since AM radio differed throughout the country, San Francisco radio often played quite different songs than were popular elsewhere. As a result, groups like Love (who were on the charts with “My Little Red Book”) sometimes headlined teen shows at the Rollarena, even though they were a progressive Underground band from the Sunset Strip. Without eyewitness accounts, its hard to say whether Love came off well or poorly to the suburban audience.
There certainly would have been other local acts on the bill, but they are unknown to me.
July 29, 1966 Rollarena, San Leandro Jefferson Airplane, Soul Venders, System of Soul
The Jefferson Airplane were on the verge of splitting with their manager, Mathew Katz. Most of the disputes were about money. However, one very real issue was that Katz wanted the increasingly successful Airplane to follow the path to stardom blazed by the likes of Paul Revere and The Dave Clark Five. Needless to say, Messrs Kantner and Balin did not share this goal, and were determined to become successful as serious artists, like Bob Dylan.
This gig sums up the crossroads that the Airplane had reached. Although no account or tape of this show survives (to my knowledge), it is clear that the photogenic, tuneful Airplane could have moved over to the Teen circuit quite easily. Remember that Paul Revere and The Raiders were still appearing weekly on ABC-tv’s Where The Action Is, and many areas had local ‘Shindig’-like TV shows (Shindig itself had been canceled). Nonetheless, save for a few exceptions like this one the Airplane steadfastly focused on the Fillmore and “serious” shows.
System of Soul and The Soul Venders were Oakland “teen” bands.
August 26, 1966 Rollarena, San Leandro The Yardbirds, The Harbinger Complex, Peter Wheat & The Breadmen, The Just VI
This show was presented by Bill Quarry’s Teens And Twenties, and featured a Friday night show (August 25) at San Francisco’s Carousel Ballroom (two years before Bill Graham moved the Fillmore there and called it the Fillmore West).
For a teen show, this was actually quite an inspired booking. The Yardbirds were a popular British Invasion band, but unlike some British bands the Yardbirds were genuinely special. This lineup featured Jeff Beck on lead guitar. The great single “Over Under Sideways Down” had been released in the US in June 1966 and was a big AM hit. Producer and bassist Paul Samwell-Smith, a key component of the Yardbirds sound, had left the group to become a producer (he would later have big hits producing Cat Stevens). Replacing him on bass was veteran British session guitarist Jimmy Page. There was a general idea that Page would ultimately switch with rhythm guitarist Chris Dreja, but there had been no time to rehearse.
After a performance at Catalina Island on August 23, the next night in Monterey was canceled, and then Jeff Beck became quite ill. With no time whatsoever to rehearse, Page took over lead guitarist duties for the Yardbirds on Friday night at the Carousel, with Dreja switching to bass. Although Beck rejoined soon after, he only stayed a few more months. Page remained the Yardbirds lead guitarist until the band broke up in July 1968. Its remarkable that Page's Yardbirds debut as lead guitarist came at the future location of the Fillmore West.
The Carousel bill from the night before was repeated at The Rollarena on Satrurday, August 26. The Harbinger Complex and Peter Wheat and The Breadmen were both from Fremont and were punky garage-rock bands. Both of them released a few singles (Harbinger Complex on Mainstream, The Breadmen on Amber). The lead singer of The Harbinger Complex was reputedly asked to leave his Fremont high school as a result of causing too many teenage pregnancies.
September 6, 1966 Finnish Brotherhood Hall, Berkeley Wildflower
The Finnish Brotherhood Hall was a tiny building on 1970 Chestnut, just off University. The Wildflower probably had a bit of a following of their own by this time, and could try and headline a small hall.
September 11, 1966 Tilden Park, Berkeley Blues Project, Country Joe & The Fish
The Blues Project were playing at The Matrix all week, but this was an afternoon show. Tilden Park was the big city park in Berkeley, in the Berkeley Hills, and regularly used for folk shows. However, this is the only rock show that I know of at this venue.
September 13, 1966 Finnish Brotherhood Hall, Berkeley Wildflower
September 17, 1966 Pauley Ballroom, UC Berkeley Quicksilver Messenger Service, Loading Zone
By mid-September, school was back in session, or close to it, and activities started up again in campus buildings. This show at Pauley Ballroom was on a Saturday night. An eyewitness reports that it was poorly attended. At this point, while Quicksilver Messenger Service had a sterling (and well-deserved) underground reputation from the Fillmore and Avalon, they would have been merely a rumor to most students.
September 23, 1966 Rollarena, San Leandro 13th Floor Elevators, Staton Brothers, Elements of Sound
The 13th Floor Elevators were from Austin, TX, and after a pot bust and a hit single they had relocated temporarily to the Bay Area. Since the Elevators had an electrifying effect even on people used to seeing the likes of Quicksilver and The Airplane at the Fillmore, its difficult to comprehend how they may have appeared to a teen audience in the suburbs. Roky Erikson certainly took as much acid as anyone in San Francisco, and was an intense, weird guy by any standard. The mystical, intense aspect of the Elevators was plausible at the Fillmore or the Avalon, but very far from a roller rink, so it’s an intriguing question how the band was received in the suburbs.
Staton Brothers and Elements of Sound were both local bands.
September 24, 1966 Veteran’s Memorial Hall, Oakland Deed of Shame, The Friendly Stranger, Motley Crew, Iron Butterfly
This quite obscure gig has nonetheless received a certain amount of attention for having its boxing style poster reproduced in Paul Grushkin's book The Art Of Rock. This gig featured the first known out-of-town gig by the then San Diego based Iron Butterfly. Veteran’s Memorial Hall, at 200 Grand Avenue, was a tiny hall (capacity a few hundred) across from Children’s Fairyland in Lake Merritt. The venue had been used occasionally for “teen” dances featuring local bands.
Deed of Shame and Motley Crew are unknown to me, although I have seen a photo of the Motley Crew (spelled Mottley Crew in the photo caption) and they may be a Richmond High band. The poster says “A Beautiful Thing”, but this appears to be the name of the dance (or the promoter), not a band. The Iron Butterfly, then called The Palace Pages, had opened for the Friendly Stranger in the San Diego area, and had been so impressed with the “psychedelic’ vibe that they changed their name. This presumably accounts for an unknown San Diego band appearing at obscure Bay Area venues.
The Oakland Veterans Memorial Building, at 200 Grand Avenue, as it appeared in August 2009
September 30, 1966 California Hall Deed of Shame, Universal Joint, Friendly Stranger
Another “A Beautiful Thing” show. As the rock market expanded, the relatively tiny Veterans Memorial Auditorium, with poor parking and far from Berkeley, was shunted aside as a rock venue. To my knowledge it was not used for rock shows after 1966. The building has subsequently been refurbished, and continues to be used for local community events.
Next: East Bay Rock Concerts October-December 1966