Tag Archives: Rock Venues

Unknown Anderson Theater

Unknown Anderson Theater

Plant based Mexican food

Unknown Anderson Theater

I wonder how often diners enjoying some plant based Mexican cuisine al fresco at NYC’s Bar Verde look across the street and notice the curtain cartouche atop 66 Second Avenue?  And if they notice it, do they think it’s simply an architectural flourish or that it signifies something more?

For those of us who love live rock and roll, it’s more.

When it comes to the “best” of something, we are often age-myopic, that is, we narrow potential candidates to own personal or generational memories.

Ask a Boomer, “What was the best NYC rock venue?” and the Fillmore East will be at or near the top selection. While there are many other venues that had great music, Bill Graham’s venue had a cachet  that set it apart.

Ironically, for all its historic weight, the Fillmore East provided its musical paradise only over only 3 years, 3 months, and 20 nights.

Unknown Anderson Theater

Neil Louison and Sandy Pearlman

Neil Louison and Sandy Pearlman attended Stony Brook University on Long Island about an hour and a half away from New York City.  Louison and Pearlman organized some concerts at Stony Brook. Pearlman also managed Soft White Underbelly, a Stony Brook-based band that he’d eventually re-name Blue Öyster Cult

Unknown Anderson Theater

Crawdaddy magazine

Unknown Anderson Theater

After he graduated from Stony Brooke in 1966, Pearlman wrote for Paul William’s Crawdaddy magazine [a journal that John Rockwell said in a NY Times article was ” “the first magazine to take rock and roll seriously.”] Pearlman and the magazine decided that a concert venue would be a great idea.

The first location they looked at was the Village Theater at 105 Second Avenue.  The venue was originally built as a Yiddish theater in 1925-26 .

The deal quickly fell through, but they soon found another old theater just two blocks away. It had opened in 1926 as the Public Theatre and “had focused on Jewish acts including Yiddish Vaudeville as well as the showing of Yiddish films.” (from Cinema Treasures)

The theater had been renamed the Anderson Theater by 1968 and though smaller than the 105 Second Avenue location, 66 Second Avenue looked fine.

Unknown Anderson Theater

February 2, 1968

And so on February 2, 1968 the Anderson Theater opened for rock shows with Country Joe and the Fish, Jim Kweskin and the Jug Band and–no surprise here–Pearlman’s Soft White Underbelly.

Some of the names associated with the Anderson are very familiar to Boomer rock enthusiasts. A light show by Joshua White (Joshua Light Show site) .  John Morris helped organize and the following year was a big part of the Woodstock Music and Art Fair. Chip Monck was also associated–another Woodstock MC.

Unknown Anderson Theater

Hells Angels Little Rascals

On one hand the inexperience of the managers gave the enterprise an Our Gang feel, but given the financial stakes it also could turn ugly at times. John Morris remembers “catching a Yale lock that had been thrown across the hall just before it hit my wife… It was a zoo.”

Yet the acts that were part of the Anderson’s short lifespan are well-known. Big Brother and the Holding Company’s first NYC appearance was at the Anderson on February 17 with BB King.

On March 6, the theater hosted a benefit concert for war resisters.

The Yardbirds played on March 30.

Unknown Anderson Theater

Enter Bill Graham

Bill Graham was already successfully presenting rock concerts in San Francisco. He attended the Big Brother concert at the Anderson and thought that New York could be a good spot, too. And what specific spot was Graham looking at?

The Village Theater, 105 Second Avenue.

Unknown Anderson Theater

March 8, 1968

And so on March 8, 1968 Graham’s Fillmore East opened and its amazing historic run began.

And Graham invited many of those people working at the Anderson to become part of it. They did.

The Anderson Theater slowly faded away given the Fillmore competition, Graham’s expertise and determined style, as well as the inexperienced Anderson crew.

Some of the other shows were:

  •  March 6, 1968, the theater hosted a benefit concert for war resisters featuring Country Joe and the Fish and the Fugs.
  • Eric Burdon and the Animals, March 1968

    Unknown Anderson Theater

  • November 23, 1970: Traffic, New Riders of the Purple Sage, and the Grateful Dead
  • The Cockettes in November 1971
  • Captain Beefheart, January 15, 1972
Unknown Anderson Theater

CBGB Theater

By the late 1970s, the Anderson Theater was empty.

Hilly Kristan had opened his famed CGBG venue at 315 Bowery on December 10, 1973.  Four ears later, he decided to open a second venue nearby. Nearby by ( 3/10ths of a mile) was, what else, the Anderson Theater.

And so the Anderson Theater, renamed the CGBG Theater, opened on December 27, 1977 “with Talking Heads headlining, supported by the Shirts and the Tuff Darts. The next night it was the Dictators, the Dead Boys, and the Luna Band (formerly Orchestra Luna). Then Patti Smithheadlined December 29, 30, and New Year’s Eve. (20thcpunkarchives article)

The attempt was a short-lived one. According to Roman Kozak’s This Ain’t No Disco: The Story of CBGB: After the Patti Smith dates the Theater closed. The place was briefly used as a rock and roll flea market and there was a show with the Jam the following March” [March 31, 1978]

Punk had arrived at the Anderson, but not for long. 

Today only the aforementioned curtain cartouche indicates that the building was ever something other than apartments with a first floor commercial space.

Unknown Anderson Theater

Sandy Pearlman

Producer Sandy Pearlman Dead at 72 | Pitchfork

Sandy Pearlman’s life with music did not end with the Anderson Theater. He continued to be a part of Blue Oyster Cult and its success as well as being the Black Sabbath’s manager from 1979-1983.

He founded Alpha & Omega Recording in San Francisco and was a pioneer of digital music as a vice president of Goodnoise Corporation, later eMusic.

He was a professor at McGill University in Montreal and then at the University of Toronto.

He died on July 26, 2016 (NY Times obituary)

Unknown Anderson Theater

Straight Theater San Francisco

Straight Theater San Francisco

1702 Haight Street, San Francisco

Straight Theater San Francisco

Straight Theater San Francisco

Rock Venues

Rock shows were not unusual by 1967, but rock venues still were. The notion that someone could open an establishment solely for the presentation of rock and roll events was risky.

The beginning of such venues centered in San Francisco: the Matrix, the Avalon, and most famous of all were Bill Graham’s Fillmores: the Fillmore Auditorium (later “moved” to become the Fillmore West). And of course there was Graham’s equally famous NYC venue, the Fillmore East. The challenge of keeping such venues maintained as well as profitable forced Graham out of those venues within years of their opening.

Straight Theater San Francisco

Haight Theatre

The Haight Theater was originally, as were so many rock establishments, a movie theater.

Straight Theater San Francisco

With the influx of “hippies” into the Haight neighborhood by the mid-60s, it made sense to convert the failing building into a rock venue. Such an enterprise required permits which the city of San Francisco was reluctant to issue. The idea of having a “dance studio” with live music cleverly skirted the legal issues.

Straight Theater San Francisco

Straight Theater

And so the Straight Theater(1702 Haight Street at Cole) came into being in mid-1967 competing with the established Avelon and Fillmore.

After weeks of renovation, it’s private christening was on June 15, 1967. From Lost Live Dead: The “Straight Theater Christening” was a private event–thus not requiring a permit–to celebrate the opening of the Straight. …The two acts performing at the event were Oakland’s Wildflower and a neighborhood band, the Grateful Dead (it was that kind of neighborhood).

The night… was particularly momentous. The hugely anticipated Monterey Pop Festival would begin on the next evening (Friday June 16), in which numerous local San Francisco underground bands, most without even records, would share the stage with major acts from Los Angeles, New York and London. The Who were playing the Fillmore of June 16 and 17, and heading down to Monterey for their Sunday (June 18) show. Most of the famous Haight Ashbury bands still lived in the Haight, for the most part, so the Straight Theater Christening was apparently the coolest of the cool parties, and in some ways the last night before Monterey Pop irrevocably expanded the San Francisco scene beyond the City’s borders.

Straight Theater San Francisco

July 21, 1967

The Straight’s official opening night featured Quicksilver Messenger Service, Mount Rushmore, Salvation Army Banned, Mother Earth, and The Dossier with Lights by Reginald

According to the Deadlists Project site, the Dead played the Straight three times: two nights later July 23, 1967 and on September 29 & 30 that same year. They had apparently also used the site as a rehearsal hall, being so close to “home.” Surprisingly for the Dead, the only recording is a Neal Cassady “Rap Jam” from the July 23 show exists.

With fits and hesitations and reboots, the Starlight Theater continued with music and supplementing with movies and dance lessons. Many “big names” played including Steve Miller, Lightning Hopkins, Quicksilver Messenger Service, John Fahey, The Charlatans, Santana Blues Band, Charlie Musselwhite, and the James Cotton Blues Band

Big Brother and the Holding Company, Sons of Champlin, Congress of Wonders, Curley Cooke’s Hurdy Gurdy Band, Indian Head Band, Ace of Cups, and Phoenix (with Lights by Straight Lightning) all played on an 24 April 1968 show to help save the Straight, but only for a year.

Straight Theater San Francisco

Denouement and demolition

Straight Theater
The Straight Theater in 1978. Photo: San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library

The Straight Theater’s last show was on April 5, 1969 [Sons of Champlin, Passion, Marvin Gardens, The Angels Own Band Chorus, Bicycle, Asoke Fakir, Morning Glory, Congress of Wonders, Rush, Last Mile, Glass Mountain] and on August 13, 1979 the building was demolished.

Here is a video interview with three former workers at the Straight Theatre with lots of information about the Straight’s birth.

Straight Theater San Francisco

Fillmore Auditorium San Francisco

Fillmore Auditorium San Francisco

Jefferson Airplane at the Fillmore Auditorium (photo from Wolfgang’s Vault)
Fillmore Auditorium San Francisco

Chet Helms

In 1966 Chet Helms (friend of Janis Joplin and the one who connected her with Big Brother and the Holding Company) teamed up with a commune  called Family Dog and started putting together a series of  shows at the Fillmore Auditorium. Family Dog and Bill Graham, new to the world or rock venues, hosted events on  alternating weekends. The two promoters would lock horns many times over the years, and it was always a contrast in styles. Bill Graham had a reputation as an aggressive, no-nonsense business man, whereas others saw Helms as a more down-to-earth guy who was less interested in money and more focused on throwing a great party. His lack of business skills is one of the reasons Chet never made a much money in the music business, but he was never short on ideas.

The Fillmore Auditorium had been used in December 1965 by Bill Graham in his first foray as a rock promoter.

Fillmore Auditorium San Francisco

SF Mime Troupe

Fillmore Auditorium San Francisco
Mime Troupe benefit ad

The Grateful Dead had performed there as part of Ken Kesey’s January 8, 1966 Acid Test (a very interesting recording of the Dead at that event)

…then the first rock shows as just rock shows (February 4, 5, and 6, 1966) were held at the Fillmore Auditorium.

Fillmore Auditorium San Francisco

Jefferson Airplane

Fillmore Auditorium San Francisco
poster from first show (“Jefferson airplane fillmore poster 1966” by Bill GrahamUploaded by We hope at en.wikipedia – eBay itemimageTransferred from en.wikipedia by SreeBot. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Jefferson_airplane_fillmore_poster_1966.jpg#/media/File:Jefferson_airplane_fillmore_poster_1966.jpg)
Fillmore Auditorium San Francisco


The Fillmore Auditorium was not the first rock venue in San Francisco. The Matrix had opened six months earlier on August 13, 1965 showcasing the Jefferson Airplane, which singer/founder Marty Balin had put together as the club’s “house band.”

On October 16, 1965, the Family Dog had put on a dance and concert a the Longshoremen’s Hall with the Jefferson Airplane, the Charlatans, and the Great Society. 

Fillmore Auditorium San Francisco

Bill Graham

Bill Graham kicked off his 1967 Summer Series with an incredible lineup at the Fillmore. Headlining the show were Rock and Roll’s biggest new stars, the Jefferson Airplane whose album, Surrealistic Pillow, was climbing the American pop charts. Last on the bill behind Jazz guitarist Gabor Szabo was a relatively unknown guitar player named Jimi Hendrix.
“Jimi first came to San Francisco right after Monterey Pop. …He opened and then Gabor Szabo and then the Airplane. That was the first night. Afterward, the Airplane asked him if they could open the show. Jimi took the town by storm.” Bill Graham (poster from Wolfgang’s Vault site)
Fillmore Auditorium San Francisco


From the Fillmore site: The Fillmore represented the pinnacle of creative music making in the late 1960s. From December 10, 1965, when Bill Graham produced a San Francisco Mime troupe benefit (Jefferson Airplane with Great Society and Mystery Trend; the Warlocks, later the Grateful Dead, kicked off the show), until July 4, 1968, The Fillmore audiences experienced a 2 1/2 year musical and cultural Renaissance that produced some of the most innovative, exciting music ever to come out of San Francisco. The careers of the Grateful Dead, the Jefferson Airplane, Santana, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Big Brother and the Holding Company, Moby Grape, the Butterfield Blues Band, and countless others were launched from The Fillmore stage. The most significant musical talent of the day has appeared there: Jimi Hendrix, Otis Redding, Cream, Howlin’ Wolf, Captain Beefheart, Muddy Waters, The Who – well, you get the picture. Or you’ve heard the stories. If you’re lucky, you were there.

In July, 1968, the Fillmore Auditorium morphed and moved to the Fillmore West, a west coast counterpart to Graham’s already-opened Fillmore East in New York City.

The site remained basically the same and has been a venue under different names at various times since. Today it is again the Fillmore.


Fillmore Auditorium San Francisco