NORTHOFSANFRANCISCO

 

Latest Update: December 7, 2009

 

This page contains artwork from those cities, towns and venues that are still, broadly, in the Bay area but are north of the City itself.  It stretches as far a field as Sacramento.  Many of the venues are in Marin County which is just north of San Francisco, across the Golden Gate Bridge.  The Pacific Ocean is its Western edge.  Highway 1 (the Pacific Coast Highway) runs along the coastline, but the main thoroughfare is Highway 101, which heads North to Sonoma, Mendocino and beyond.

Thanks as ever are due to Corry Arnold and to Skip Lacaze who contributed details about the Farallon East in Stinson Beach.

The Ark, Gate 6, Sausalito, CA

Sausalito is 10 miles from San Francisco by road, just across the Golden Gate Bridge.  In the 19th century, Sausalito was where the ferry to San Francisco met the railhead to logging operations in Northern California. With the advent of the Golden Gate Bridge, however, Sausalito was passed by, allowing it to ultimately reinvent itself as a charming old seaside town on San Francisco Bay. Otis Redding was in Sausalito when he wrote “Sitting On The Dock Of The Bay.”

The Ark, an old converted Ferry boat (the Charles Van Damme) at Gate 6 in Sausalito, served as a sort of "after-hours" club for many of the San Francisco bands, much as The Sweetwater in Mill Valley did for the likes of Jerry Garcia years later.  The Ark tended to have shows running from midnight to six in the morning, and rarely paid the groups playing.  They were however all fed a complimentary Huevos Rancheros breakfast in the morning for in exchange for financial compensation 

The Ark was run on a somewhat ad hoc basis, scheduling shows between 8pm or 9pm and 2am and then from 2am to 6am (when breakfast was served) and occasionally weekend matinee shows from 2pm to 6pm. Although there are lots of nice posters and handbills advertising the shows it was in many cases either wishful thinking or word of mouth that led to the artists named being included. As the Ark rarely had the money to pay performers, they were all fed a complimentary Huevos Rancheros breakfast in the morning (in exchange for financial compensation). As such it became very much an after hours club for some of the San Francisco bands (notably Moby Grape - who also used it as a practice venue during the latter part of 1966 and made their live debut there). The Ark also hosted “Battle of the Bands” contests for local High Schools (e.g. Terra Linda High, Tamalpais High, Marin High and Redwood High – who could forget the Wrong Way, Mainline Prosperity Blues Band, Blues Majority and Delphic Oracle). The posters, although often difficult to interpret, can be trusted for the smaller bands listed as appearing but not always for the name bands who sometimes found paying shows to play after the posters would printed.  For some reason the Ark posters have never been particularly attractive to collectors; although I personally have always rather liked them. 

The Ark posters have also caused a lot of confusion over dates – particularly the October and November dated shows by Moby Grape and Big Brother - listed most often as 1967. One of the Freudian Slips posters adds to this confusion and I now believe that one or more of these shows may have taken place in 1966.

The Barn, Rio Nido, CA

The Barn in Rio Nido was a venue only open briefly in 1969. I believe the venue was formerly known as the Rio Nido Dance Hall. Rio Nido is on the Russian River in Sonoma County, about 75 miles North of San Francisco, and about 20 miles Northwest of Santa Rosa.  Despite Rio Nido’s northerly location, it is still in Sonoma’s well-to-do wine country, but in the 60s Northern Sonoma County was quite rural, with a small population and few tourists.

The Rio Nido Barn was both different and far away from The Barn in Scott’s Valley, near Santa Cruz, which was open from 1966 to 1968.

Bear Valley, CA

Bear Valley is about 180 miles East of San Francisco, between Lake Tahoe and Yosemite, and in the general vicinity of “Gold Country (where the 1849 Gold Rush took place).  The principal tourist attraction is skiing, and many ski lodges were also the local saloon for these small towns.  Although Lake Tahoe, Yosemite and the surrounding areas were quite far from San Francisco, they were always satellites of the City for recreation and relaxation.

Calaveras County Fairgrounds, Angels Camp, CA

Davis, CA

Davis, California is about 75 miles Northeast of San Francisco, straight across the Bay Bridge and up Highway 80, and just 15 miles shy of the California state Capitol in Sacramento. UC Davis was founded in 1905 as the University farm for the University of California (then only in Berkeley and Los Angeles).  It served as the UC Agricultural Institute from 1909 onwards.  In 1959 the institution was expanded to become a full-service research institution.

While Davis never had the history or cachet of Berkeley or Westwood, it nonetheless served as the fun college town for staid Sacramento.  The city was ripe for the British Invasion, and many bands formed there, playing the lucrative fraternity and teen circuits in Davis and Sacramento and surrounding areas.  The complicated and incestuous history of Group B, Oxford Circle, Andrew Staples, Blue Cheer and Kak is more easily understood by the fact that Group B and Oxford Circle were rivals and friends from Davis, and the band members continued to work together when they all moved to San Francisco.

Freeborn Hall is the main hall at the University for concerts and lectures.  It has a capacity of 1800 for festival seating/dance configurations (1,318 with seats).  Freeborn Hall is still used regularly for concerts, although larger events have moved to the Recreation Hall basketball arena nearby.

Dream Bowl, Vallejo, CA

The Dream Bowl was on Highway 29 between Napa and Vallejo.  It had been a popular country venue in the 1950s (it probably dated back much earlier, to at least World War 2). It was also used as a rock venue in the late 1960s (there is a poster in The Art of Rock, AOR 3.20, mislabelled as 1967 in “Napa”).

Euphoria, San Rafael, CA

The Euphoria, at 737 East Francisco Blvd, has a lengthy and confusing history as a Marin venue. At various times it was known as the Litchfield Palms, the Bermuda Palms, the Euphoria and Pepperland. All of these venues were basically the same place. Some photos suggest that the Bermuda Palms was a bar that was a slightly different venue—or perhaps a slightly different entrance—from the Euphoria or Pepperland, since they appear to have been open at the same time.

Among other things, the Bermuda Palms (whatever name it may have had) was only about two blocks away from the Grateful Dead’s studio/headquarters on Front Street (known as Le Club Front).

Fairfax Park Pavilion, Marin County, CA

Fairfax is in Marin County, 22 miles North of San Francisco, a few miles up Sir Francis Drake Boulevard from San Anselmo.  Fairfax Pavilion is in the center of town, and has been the “center of cultural and athletic activities” in Fairfax since the 1930s.  Although the configurations may have changed over the years, it appears that Fairfax Pavilion is an indoor venue at Bank Street and Elsie Lane, next door to (or part of) Fairfax Park.  There are currently outdoor stages at Elsie and Bolinas Road, but I do not know if the facilities were identical in the 1960s.

Farallon East, Stinson Beach, CA

Stinson Beach is 24 miles from San Francisco, up Highway 1 along the coast, six miles North of Muir Beach.  It too is bracketed by the ocean and parkland.  It is a tiny beach town.  Skip Lacaze recalls "Farallon East had for many years been the "Surf Club," a bar and restaurant with a sort of dinner club feel at one end (red banquettes and dim lighting), a family-style dining room at the other end, and a main room with a long bar, a shuffleboard table, and a dance floor. The owner, Friday, tended the bar all day in the 50s and early 60s. It was used to house a military unit during WWII (Coast Guard or Navy) and was supposed to be haunted by an enlisted man murdered by a mess boy with a butcher knife. It was also called the Red Whale for a while - after it was Farallon East, I think. I vaguely remember that there was some friction with some of the locals after rumours circulated that the Red Whale was owned by gays or was seeking a gay audience."  The restaurant was eventually demolished and the new office for the Stinson Beach County Water District was built on the site. Their address is 3785 Shoreline Highway, so the restaurant probably used 3785 Highway 1. There was no mail delivery in town, so some people were sloppy with street addresses. Note that The Farallons are uninhabited islands 25 miles off the Marin coast.

Guerneville, CA

Inn of The Beginning, Cotati, CA

Cotati was a sleepy, iconoclastic community that dated back to the 19th century, and a generally interesting place, for a rural area. As development expanded beyond Santa Rosa, the largest city in the County, Cotati was in danger of being annexed by Rohnert Park, a growing suburb of Santa Rosa. As a result, the town incorporated as a city in 1963 to control its own destiny.

As part of the dramatic expansion of state-funded education in California, Sonoma State College was founded in Santa Rosa in 1960 (taking the faculty, staff and facility of San Francisco State’s Santa Rosa Center, founded in 1956). However, by 1966 the entire Sonoma State campus had relocated to a new site in Rohnert Park. Calling the campus and the county “bucolic” does it a cruel injustice; year-round balmy weather and a beautiful setting made Sonoma State a desirable campus immediately.

Eccentric Cotati, just next to Rohnert Park, immediately became the ‘college town’ associated with the Sonoma State campus. The free-thinking history of Cotati made it a nice fit with the newly expanding Sonoma State campus. The Inn of The Beginning was founded in 1968 as a coffee shop and bar that provided both a local watering hole and a venue for local groups. The opening night band on 9.28.68 was Bronze Hog, featuring guitarist Frank Hayhurst. Hayhurst, at one point, became co-operator of the Inn, and now owns a music store in Cotati. The Inn of The Beginning, at 8201 Old Redwood Highway, after some fits and starts, remains a Cotati landmark. The Bronze Hog still plays there periodically, and that sums up Cotati in a nutshell.

Cotati’s friendly atmosphere and convenient location of The Inn made it an attractive place for the many world-class musicians who lived in Marin to use the Inn of The Beginning as a venue to work on new material or try out a new lineup. Over the decades, the likes of Van Morrison and Jerry Garcia played there many times, often with very little publicity. Ironically, this has led to an expansion of the legend beyond its actual width; the New Riders of The Purple Sage played there in 1969, probably more than once, but this has led to the unsustainable story that the Grateful Dead used to play there “every Tuesday.” Janis Joplin is reputed to have joined Big Brother there one night in 1970, and it is impossible to say whether she did for certain.

Click here for an interesting perspective on Cotati in the 60’s.

Keep in mind that the “Vito” in the photograph was a former Los Angeles co-conspirator of Carl Orestes Franzoni, about whom Frank Zappa said (in his liner notes to Freak Out) “someday he will move next door to you and your lawn will die”. Vito and Carl Franzoni were the ringleaders of the Hollywood denizens who danced at the Whisky to the Byrds and the Mothers, and generally introduced ‘Freaking Out’ to the world. Vito moved to Cotati in 1968, which gives a good idea of Cotati’s appeal at the time.

Irwin Street Warehouse, Fairfax, CA

The Irwin Street Warehouse was at 502 Irwin Street, near downtown (and very near the Bermuda Palms). A few shows were held there in 1967, but otherwise little is known nothing about the venue.

Lake Amador, CA

Lake Amador had a small fishing resort in Amador County, in the heart of California’s Gold Country.  Presumably the Gold Rush promoted show on October 4, 1969 was held nearby. The geography and watersheds may have changed due to dams subsequently constructed in the area.  Gold Rush also promoted a show at Calaveras County Fairgrounds on December 6, 1969.

Lion's Share, 60 Red Hill Avenue, Marin, CA

San Anselmo is about 20 miles from San Francisco, just West of San Rafael, up Sir Francis Drake Boulevard. The Lion’s Share, at 60 Red Hill Avenue, opened in 1969. In the early 1970s, the Lion’s Share was a popular hangout for local musicians, who (it being Marin and all) often might be Van Morrison or members of The Grateful Dead or Big Brother. Former and future Sons of Champlin road manager Charlie Kelly ran the sound board. The house band typically featured Mike Finnegan or Bill Champlin backed by former members of The Sons. On one particularly memorable night, Champlin and The Sons (in their ‘Yogi Phlegm’ incarnation) launched into a wild fusion jam that cleared out every patron and employee in the bar, leaving only Phil Lesh to dance by himself at the bar.

Mill Valley, CA

Mount Tamalpais, Marin, CA

Mt. Tamalpais State Park in Mill Valley, about 15 Miles North of San Francisco (801 Panoramic Highway, Mill Valley).  At the top of the 2,571 foot peak is the Mountain Theater (the Cushing Memorial Theater), a 3,750 seat natural stone amphitheatre constructed in the 1930s.  It was built to accommodate the “Mountain Play,” which has been performed every spring since 1930.

Various other events, usually musical theatre productions, had always been held there.  Due to access issues, patrons must be shuttled to the top of the mountain by buses, since there is almost no parking on the peak.  In the 1960s, some rock concerts were held there.  After a few modest shows in 1966, a particularly legendary show, the “San Rafael Fantasy Fair and Magic Music Festival” was held on June 9-10, 1967 (rescheduled from June 2-3).  Although it featured a great bill, with a mixture of underground and popular acts, and prefigured the Monterey Pop Festival which was held the next week, the relatively huge crowd overwhelmed the venue.  All future rock concerts were banned at the site, although the “Festival of Growing Things” on July 1-2 did take place, as it was previously scheduled.

The venue continues to be used regularly for Musical Theater and other low-key events.

Muir Beach, Marin, CA

Muir Beach is 18 miles from San Francisco, where Highway 1 meets the Ocean and turns North up the coast.  Western Marin includes Muir Woods National Monument and The Golden Gate National Recreation Area, so development has remained at a minimum and the area remains comparatively untouched. Muir Beach is a small town on the coast.

Muir Beach Lodge and Tavern (I am not certain if they are separate buildings) were very far from anywhere.  Thus in the 60s, when noisy psychedelic rock bands were not always welcome, Muir Beach was sufficiently removed from even pastoral Marin that it became an excellent spot for a party.  Muir Beach was too difficult to reach at night (Highway 1 is a twisty, unlit mountain road), so it insured that the venue would never become popular outside of Marin.  I believe the Muir Beach Lodge was quite a small venue.

Pepperland, San Rafael, CA

Petaluma, CA

Petaluma is about 40 miles North of San Francisco, up Highway 101, still in Marin but near the Sonoma County line. The venue is at 1094 Petaluma Boulevard South.

Russian River, CA

Sacramento, CA

Sacramento is the Capitol of California, and by and large its primary industry is government.  It is a regional transportation centre, situated on two rivers, principal rail lines and principal highways (I-80, I-5 and US99), but it is still primarily a government town.  Sacramento is a warm, pleasant place to live, about 90 miles Northeast of San Francisco, up Highway 80.  Davis, Berkeley and San Francisco, all relatively near, attracted the best and worst of the more interesting types in the 1960s, but Sacramento was big enough to remain a useful out of town gig for Bay Area rock bands.

Most of the Sacramento venues, such as Governor’s Hall, California State Fair Grandstand, The Merchandise Mart, Cal Expo - Building A, were at the California State Fairgrounds.  Other venues, such as Sacramento Civic Auditorium Men’s Gym, Sacramento State College (now California State University at Sacramento) and Hughes Stadium, a small football stadium at Sacramento City College, were also put to use.  Little is know of a number of smaller venues, for example, The Trip Room, El Rancho Convention Center in West Sacramento, The Mill and The Gallery at Sacramento State College.

The Sound Factory in Sacramento has its own entry below.

San Rafael, CA

San Rafael is about 18 miles from San Francisco. Although not large, it is still the largest city in Marin County.

Santa Rosa Fairgrounds, Sonoma, CA

Sonoma County is the next county north of Marin on Highway 101, although a small wedge of the County touches San Francisco Bay.  onoma is now known as a wine-producing region that rivals Napa, its neighbouring County.  In the 1960s, however, Sonoma was just another agricultural area, and grapes were only one of many crops.  Santa Rosa is about 55 miles North of San Francisco, up Highway 101.  It is the largest city in Sonoma County.  The Fairgrounds are located at the intersection of Highways 101 and 12.

The combination of Santa Rosa’s central location in the County and the increasing enrolment in nearby Sonoma State made the Santa Rosa Fairgrounds a good ‘extra date’ for bands.  Many groups added a Thursday or Sunday in Santa Rosa, or bands that were co-headliners at the Fillmore West often headlined alone in Santa Rosa.

The Santa Rosa Veterans Memorial Building, occasionally used for shows (such as on June 27-28, 1969), is at 1351 Maple Avenue, just across Highway 12 from the Fairgrounds.

Santa Venetia Armory

Although a separate town about 2 miles North of San Rafael (20 miles North of SF), Santa Venetia is almost a separate district of San Rafael.  The Santa Venetia Armory, at 155 Madison, was the National Guard Armory, and apparently a regular site of “Teen” dances in the mid-60s.  It was used briefly for psychedelic rock concerts in 1966-67, before it was superseded by the Fillmore and the Avalon.

Sausalito, CA

Sound Factory, Sacramento, CA

Thanks to John Kenner for letting me use images from his collection

The Sound Factory is Sacramento’s best known psychedelic venue, due mainly to the high quality of poster art produced for it in 1968.  The Sound Factory was located at 1817 Alhambra Boulevard.  The only knowledge about shows at The Sound Factory comes from posters, and there may have been more shows than there were posters.  It does appear that there was a run of shows from June into September 1968, featuring San Francisco Fillmore West regulars (and, intriguingly, Pink Floyd on 8.16-17.68), and then the venue appears to have shut down. The venue appeared to reopen in December, and there is evidence of March 1969 shows with Ten Years After and Jethro Tull, but afterwards the venue appears to have closed for good.

 

Pioneer Ballroom, Suisun City, CA

Suisun City is about 47 miles Northeast of San Francisco, heading East on Highway 80.  It is near the now-closed Travis Air Force Base.  Nothing is known about the Pioneer Ballroom, and only the fact that the poster exists causes this venue to be known at all.

In the 1940s, a string of ballrooms and other venues were utilized to provide entertainment for wartime workers newly-located to California.  Since the workers had money to burn and were away from their families, performances were lucrative indeed (Bob Wills, for example, moved to California for a while in the 1940s).  Given that Suisun City was near an Air Force Base and on a major rail line, I have to assume that there were a significant number of workers who needed entertainment, so the Pioneer Ballroom may have been a remnant of that circuit.

Vichy Springs, Napa, CA

Napa County is just East of Sonoma County, separated by some low mountains. Solano is just east of Napa. Solano, too, has a wedge abutting San Francisco Bay, and Solano’s wedge is the site of a substantial U.S. Navy Base at Vallejo, the County’s largest city. Although Napa and Solano were always agricultural Counties, the expansion of Navy and shipbuilding facilities in Vallejo during World War 2 changed some of the dynamics of Napa and Solano Counties. Now, of course, Napa County is well renowned for its world-class wineries, while Vallejo’s Naval Base closed in 1996.

The Vichy Springs are natural hot springs, and a resort was established in 1854.  In fact, the Resort is in Ukiah, in Mendocino County, but it is near Sonoma and Napa County.  The Charlatans played one show at The Glass Menagerie here on September 3, 1966.  This remains the only known event at this venue.