Avalon Ballroom
1268 Sutter Street

Steve Miller,Mother Earth   The Avalon Ballroom was my favorite. It was here in June 1966 that Janis Joplin made her first public appearance with Big Brother and the Holding Company. Chet Helms was the director of the Family Dog that put on a series of great concerts between April 1966 and November 1968. Helms  brought us an eclectic mix of shows. You would see Moby Grape and Steve Miller Band but also some great rock and rollers like Bill Halley and the Comets or Bo Diddley. Bo Diddley appeared with Big Brother one night and sent us into a frenzy of musical delight. And the free psychedelic posters I got papered my apartment walls.
      The place was originally built in 1911 and was called the Puckett School of Dance. The upstairs ballroom had a beautiful wooden floor, an L-shaped balcony, mirrors, columns and oh, yes, red flocked wallpaper.
      Dear Helms lost his permits and another production company called Soundproof Productions of all names, took the place over for the next year but of course it was not at all the same. Then for some years it was a multi-movie house and whenever I would go to see movies there and walk up the stairs , I would feel a flood of memories.
This was a beautiful place to go and I had many of my happiest evenings at the Avalon Ballroom dancing to the bands I also attended Steve Gaskin's Monday Night meetings.
Chet Helms died June 25, 2005 and the Avalon Ballroom is now the a mattress company.
The Day Chet Helms Died by Allen Cohen


My last visit to the Avalon Ballroom

On the evening of October 12, 2002, Big Brother rocked us again and the new Avalon was christened with real hippie vibes. Theirs and ours. :-)


Big Brother On Tour
October 12, 2002

Return to Avalon Ballroom
I arrived early to check out the space, walk around and feel the vibes. I talked with the artists and vendors setting out the Hemp goods, crystals and stones, T-shirts and such. Posters were available and I got a few of those from the artist, The Murph. The lightshow people were setting up. They had a sign on their table that said "Don't bother me" or words to that effect. Light wizards don't like to to be bugged when they are doing their thing. :-) There were people from back in the daze and beautiful young people too. Everyone was mellow, friendly and already feeling groovy.

Unfortunately, due to a lack of publicity, not as many people attended as would be expected for such an special occasion.
The first band, Melvin Seals began playing as the fragrance of incense and sacred herbs filled the space as I sauntered about peeking into everyplace. The new Avalon Ballroom entrance is at the right address and the lay out of the space is mostly familiar, but gone is the magic carpet, flocked wallpaper, velvet couches, mirrors, and wooden dance floor. It is not our Avalon Ballroom, however, the smiling happy faces of the people as they gathered warmed it up and because I was wearing my invisible rose-colored glasses as usual for all such occassions, it was not difficult for me to feel transported back through time just by walking up those stairs once more.

When Big Brother set up and began to play, I left this earth and took a trip to paradise. Felt heart's joy from being there to hear and see the psychedelic rock band I have always loved so much. Peter Albin: Bass and Vocals, Sam Andrew: Guitar and Vocals, Tom Finch: Guitar, and Dave Getz: Drums.  They rocked out their high voltage music and extraordinary skills as only they can. Lisa Mills was terrific. I loved her. She has a strong voice and gave her whole heart doing justice to Janis' songs. The audience was small but as Lisa said, it was mighty.  I'm sure I'm not the only one that can only whisper today for all the screaming and carrying on that we did last night. Big Brother and The Holding Company shared their special magic again in that way that only happens when you "Do What You Love".

They played all my favorites. The years rock and rolled off me and I was that hippie girl again grooving on the scene, lifted to that higher place by the music of Big Brother and The Holding Company. All too soon, it was over and Sam Andrews was saying they had to go because there was another band that was going to play. I could not imagine what band could possibly follow Big Brother that night. I did not stay to see them. I had seen and heard what I came for.  Although I would have loved for the band to play until the sun came up in the morning, I am grateful for what they gave us all last night. I sure did have a wonderful time letting my freak flag fly again. I'm sure everyone there enjoyed the experience as much as I did. I sincerely thank Big Brother and The Holding Company for taking care of themselves and being still here for us.

Today I walk in a daydream of imaging how wonderful it would be if the Avalon Ballroom were completely restored to the original. Bring back the flocked wallpaper, the crazy carpet, mirrors, wooden dance floor, the original comfy ambiance, and some food too, with less expensive drinks and great music every weekend forever. :-)...Nicole Savage,www.sfheart.com

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