This post begins a project listing the major Berkeley and East Bay rock concerts from 1965 to 1969, and is part of our Berkeley Music Project. This post is focused on the first rock concerts in the East Bay in later 1965.
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.
East Bay Rock Pre-History: 1965
In the fall of 1965, the first rumblings of the psychedelic rock underground were felt in San Francisco. The initial Family Dog event was held at Longshoreman’s Hall in San Francisco on October 16, 1965. Berkeley and San Francisco had been linked closely for about 100 years, and this was no exception. The first marks of pyschedelia were visible in 1966 as well.
October 30, 1965 Harmon Gym, UC Berkeley Larry Hankin/Jefferson Airplane
This show was bassist Jack Casady’s first show with the Airplane, replacing Bob Harvey. Casady considered the Airplane unprofessional and unrehearsed. Harmon Gym was the UC Berkeley basketball arena (the current Harmon Gym is at the same location, but its a new, much larger facility).
The University of California had a substantial budget for student entertainment, and enterprising students could get on the appropriate school committees and invite who they wanted. Folk and jazz artists played Harmon Gym regularly, and the Airplane were probably considered a "folk" act. Larry Hankin was a featured player at The Committee, and he was the headliner. The poster says “Presented by Local 1570, AFT”.
November 5, 1965 2000 Life Sciences Building, UC Berkeley The Fugs/Allen Ginsberg/Country Joe and The Fish
Presented by The Pretentious Folk Front
Transient members of the Instant Action Jug Band played their first show where admission was charged outside of their home base, the Jabberwock. They were billed as Country Joe and The Fish, since the name was somewhat identifiable as a result of the Rag Baby record. Barry Melton played electric guitar in public for the first time, and Richard Saunders played bass. Barry recalls We played with Richard, as a trio, for a number of gigs in that period including, but not limited to, a gig in the City at the Coffee Gallery and at least one, if not two, at the Cabale (Ed: it would be called the Questing Beast at this time).
Berkeley was a hotbed of activism and excitement, but there were no gigs outside of coffee shops. The Pretentious Folk Front was a joke organization of ED Denson and others created for the sole purpose of getting access to a University venue, using bassist Richard Saunders (then a student) as a front man. 2000 LSB was a 300-seat lecture hall well-known to Berkeley students. Unlike San Francisco, Berkeley lacked any unused ballrooms or easily available commercial buildings, so campus venues were initially the most likely candidates for rock concerts.
The Fugs were a political New York folk-rock group who sang songs like “Kill For Peace”. Their members included future author Ed Sanders (Helter Skelter) and the infamous Tuli Kupferberg, and their touring ensemble included Holy Modal Rounder Steve Weber (as well as drummer Ken Weaver). The Fugs were doing a tour of college campuses and other political hotspots. Allen Ginsberg was the legendary Beat poet, of course, and regularly appeared at political events.
November 27, 1965 Peter Voulkos Studios, Berkeley Mystery Trend
Peter Voulkos was an artist in Berkeley, and this event was more like a private party at his studio on 1306 3rd Street (at Gilman). 3rd Street, now a trendy shopping district, was a largely deserted industrial area near the San Francisco Bay. The Mystery Trend (named after a mis-heard Bob Dylan lyric) featured artist/musician Ron Nagle, among others.
December 3-4, 1965 Community Theater, Berkeley Bob Dylan
The Berkeley Community Theater at 1930 Allston (at Mivia) was a 3,500 seat auditorium. It was both a civic building and part of the Berkeley High School campus. It was regularly available for rent, but its public function insured that it could never be any sort of permanent venue, as it had no concessions or parking, and generally insisted on a curfew of 11:00 pm or midnight.
Bob Dylan brought his electric band to Berkeley, where he was enthusiastically received (unlike on the East Coast). Dylan played an acoustic set and then a 40 minute electric set backed by The Hawks, who would become The Band some years later (although session drummer Bobby Gregg had temporarily replaced Levon Helm). The electric set of December 4 circulates as a bootleg (often called Long Distance Operator).
December 30, 1965 Oakland Auditorium Arena, Oakland Beach Boys, The Turtles, Jackie Lee, others
The Oakland Auditorium Arena was at 10 Tenth Street, and had been the main venue for Oakland events since it was built in 1913. The Arena had a capacity of about 7000. Everyone from Buffalo Bill to Elvis Presley had appeared there. The Beach Boys were a huge act, and the Turtles were popular as well. This would have been a typical, if high profile, rock show at the time.
The Turtles had already headlined in the East Bay, at a "Teen" dance club headquartered at the Golden Gate Fields horse track in Albany, but Teen "Go-Go" dances were a slightly different animal than rock concerts.
December 31, 1965 Rollarena, San Leandro Peter Wheat and The Breadmen, Emeralds
One of the principal promoters of Teen shows in the East Bay (and indeed the whole Bay Area) was Bill Quarry. He promoted many shows in the East Bay, and a fair share in San Francisco, usually under the name Teens and Twenties (TNT). The typical teen show had a headline act with hit on the radio, and several local acts in support.
One of Bill Quarry’s main East Bay venues was The Rollarena, a roller skating rink in San Leandro (10 miles south of Oakland) at 15721 East 14th Street. Roller skating rinks, like ballrooms, were left-over bits of architecture that could be converted for use by rock and roll (and in some cases were converted ballrooms in the first place). Many roller skating arenas had terrible sound and were not remembered fondly by musicians or fans. Many British Invasion bands played shows like these throughout the United States, supported by local acts.
Quarry had been booking and promoting shows at various smaller halls around the East Bay (including Carpenter’s Hall in Hayward), but established an agreement to promote shows at the Rollarena in San Leandro on Friday nights, starting on New Year’s Eve 1965/66. The Rollarena was a skating rink most of the week, and Quarry’s staff took it over at 5 pm on Friday nights and converted it to a concert venue, and broke it down after midnight. Groups played ‘dances’ every weekend, sometimes headlined by popular out-of-town acts.
Next: East Bay rock concerts January-March 1966
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