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
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
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. :-)
Brother On Tour
October 12, 2002
Return to Avalon Ballroom
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
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
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".
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