Sunday, February 27, 2011

Pepperland - then and now

The music hall called Pepperland is somewhat of a legend in Marin County lore. Although it was open, on and off, for less than three years, and fully operational for less than a year, it played host to a pretty amazing and diverse roster of international talent, including Pink Floyd, Captain Beefheart, Chuck Berry, and many others.  I got up to Pepperland two times, once to see what was billed as the Acoustic Grateful Dead and another time to see a dynamite quadruple bill of Grootna, Lamb,  Boz Scaggs, and Taj Mahal’s tuba band.  Pepperland has been discussed recently on a couple of the Bay Area related music blogs, so I thought I would deviate again from a chronological diary of shows to talk about this funky little venue.

Bermuda Palms 1950s? Image courtesy of Rebecca David.
(Check out her great book, Mid-Century By the Bay
calmodbooks.com)
The Aliens performing at Bermuda Palms, early 1960s. This is clearly the same stage setup used when the hall became Pepperland. 
Pepperland had its origins as part of a motel/restaurant complex called the Bermuda Palms which was built in the 1930s by a San Rafael builder/entrepreneur named Whitey Litchfield.  Located in downtown  San Rafael at 737 E. Francisco Blvd., just off of Highway 101, the club was readily accessible from Sonoma, San Francisco, and the East Bay, yet it was far enough away from those centers to have a distinctly laid-back Marin County vibe.

Poster from the Janis/Big Brother/Gold Hell's Angel's
Party 5/21/70
The layout of the Palms is shown nicely in the 1967 postcard shown above (the cars in the parking lot suggest that the picture was taken much earlier). The ballroom, adorned with the large Litchfield's sign, was located on the front of the property and the W-shaped motel was behind the hall and between Francisco Blvd. and Front Street. A photo taken at an Aliens gig in shows what the hall looked like in the mid-1960s (read more about the Aliens here). A Bermuda Palms poster shows a bill featuring the Sons of Champlin, as does the poster for the infamous Hell’s Angel’s party in the club on May 22, 1970 featuring Janis Joplin and Full Tilt Boogie, Big Brother, and Gold (admission $1!) still had the site identified as the Palms.

By late June of 1970,  the dance hall at Litchfield’s was renamed  Euphoria, and had a brief, but storied,  stint that included gigs by Big Brother as well as two nights featuring the Grateful Dead, the New Riders, and Rubber Duck. David Crosby participated in the Dead’s acoustic set the first night and, at the second,  Janjs Joplin appeared again to trade boozy sexual innuendos with Pigpen on “Lovelight.”

The Glyph sound system at Pepperland circa 1970-71















At the end of July, the club closed its doors while it underwent an extensive facelift, emerging in mid September as Pepperland, a Beatles-themed hall that featured a quadraphonic sound system that was one of the earliest projects for sound engineer John Meyer, who  later founded Meyer Sound, the East Bay company that started out building custom PA systems for the Dead and others, and has developed into one of the world’s premier sound reinforcement developers and manufacturers.

To complement the psychedelic décor, the support girders for the hall’s roof were adorned with painted portholes that mimicked the designs present in the fanciful craft piloted by the Beatles in their 1968 cartoon movie Yellow Submarine.  Even the sound system blended into the décor, with the speakers molded into huge conical fiberglass structures as shown above.What appears to have been Pepperland’s grand opening featured an eclectic triple bill of Hot Tuna, Captain Beefheart’s Magic Band, and jazz flute maestro Charles Lloyd. From then well into 1971, the club offered really interesting triple bills of acts that would normally be Bill Graham’s stock in trade in the city. Notable among these was a legendary Pink Floyd gig in which the band needed to use the ballroom floor to accommodate  all of their gear, and one of the shows was plagued by power failures as Floyd’s massive sound system taxed the club’s electrical capacity.  The relatively Pepperland portion of the gig list below was culled largely from the web site of Universalightforms, a site run by Bob Pulum, founder of legendary light show crew the Brotherhood of Light, who became the house visual artists at the club beginning with the club’s second gig with Frank Zappa and the Mothers.  According to Pulum’s site,  Pepperland’s first incarnation lasted from that initial show until an April 11, 1971 bill with Quicksilver,  Hot Tuna, and Lizard, after which the promoters allegedly split with the proceeds of that show.  Pepperland reopened in September with some of the original employees, including the BOL, in place, but the new venue seems to have only stayed open a few months, closing for good in January, 1972.  A nice selection of poster images from Pepperland and Euphoria can be found in this page at the great Chicken on a Unicycle web site.

The Litchfield’s motel appears to have been open during this entire time and developed somewhat of a shady reputation in the 1970s. This reputation is supported indirectly by the Grateful Dead tune "Shakedown Street," which was written  in 1978 about the neighborhood surrounding the band’s Front Street studios, which were directly across the street from the rear of the Litchfield’s complex.

Today the site houses a somewhat gentrified Motel 6. In front of the motel is a large building that recently housed the Zebra sofa store, and which was clearly the original Euphoria/Pepperland building. In 2008, the historic Litchfield’s sign was restored on the building through the efforts of Perry Litchfield, Marin County lawyer and Whitey’s son.

Jerry Garcia and David Crosby
Pepperland 12/21/70 Photo: M. Parrish
When I visited Pepperland in 1970 and 1971, it seemed like quite a trek up to the wilds of Marin from Palo Alto, but at least the hall was easy to find once in San Rafael,  located as it was on a frontage road right off of 101. What was immediately impressive about the hall was its modest size. Although it competed directly with the Fillmore West for headliners, Pepperland seemed to have been, by the most generous estimate, no more than half the size of the F. West/Carousel, which was already relatively tiny by today’s concert hall standards. As you can see from the photos, it had less-than-optimum dimensions for a music hall, a long, low building with exposed horizontal girders supporting the wide A-framed roof.  In its Pepperland makeover, these became girders of the enormous submarine one was supposedly inside within the hall. An interesting concept, but not an entirely convincing fantasy.  However,  combined with the exotic Meyer sound sculptures and the light show (it appears that none was operational at the 1970 gig, but Brotherhood of Light was very evident at the Mahal show) made for a fairly exotic interior setting, particularly when contrasted with the utilitarian trappings that surrounded the building.

George Marsh and Jerry Hahn Pepperland 12/21/70
Photo : M. Parrish
The 12/21/70 concert has been written about at length elsewhere, most recently in a lengthy blog post by Jerry Garcia’s Middle Finger. The photos I took at this gig are truly terrible as I was unable to adjust for the very low light conditions, but I was able to adjust the images using photoshop, and share a few of them here to give a bit of visual record from the event. These first two images just came to light a few weeks ago when I found a fragment of negatives from the first part of this show. What proved to be a marathon evening of music got underway with a spectacular set by the Jerry Hahn Brotherhood, one of the Bay Area’s most amazing, but generally unheralded, musical aggregations of the era. The group, comprising jazz guitarist Hahn, blues-rock keyboardist and vocalist Michael Finnegan, and the superb rhythm section of drummer George Marsh and bassist Mel Graves, had a relatively short lifespan, disbanding soon after the show I attended. Rocking hard, armed with a splendid set of songs mostly penned by non-member Lane Tietgen, this short lived quartet was very much akin to a Bay Area version of The Band.  They did release one fabulous, eponymous album on Columbia, but never achieved the popularity they richly deserved. This was the only time I got to see them, and I believe the group broke up shortly thereafter. I will write much more about this great group at a later date.

Mystery Musicians Pepperland 12/21/70
Photo: M. Parrish
What happened next is not entirely clear. I know that John Kahn played an unbilled set as (I believe) just a duo with a blues guitarist whose name I do not remember (none of the usual suspects like Bloomfield. Gravenites, Bishop, or the like) but I seem to have no photo record of this set. On the other hand, I do have this enigmatic photo of a jazz guitarist and drummer that was positioned chronologically on the film between shots of Hahn and the New Riders. As noted in the jgmf post and the attached poster, Howard Wales was billed in the advance posters. In a response to jgmf, I indicated that Wales had not played, but it is conceivable that he did play and I did not remember it. It was a very long evening of music, and an additional set by Wales and company would perhaps get the headliners coming on as late as they in fact did appear. What I believe I expected was for Garcia to play with Wales, which did not happen. At the time, seeing Wales himself would have been no big deal, as I had seen him a number of times with A.B. Skhy. So either this photo is of the guys who played with Kahn or perhaps part of Wales' band. Neither of the more familiar musicians are visible, so this is likely to remain a mystery unless more information is forthcoming. The guitarist looks somewhat like Terry Haggerty, but I am pretty confident that it is someone else.

Spencer Dryden and David Nelson of NRPS
Pepperland 12/21/70 Photo: M. Parrish
After Kahn and friend(s) came the New Riders of the Purple Sage. I'd seen them many times in 1970, but this was the first time I had seen them with Spencer Dryden on the drum kit instead of Mickey Hart. They played a nice long set, with no real surprises except for the switch in drummers, and finished up well after 1 AM.

Jerry Garcia's nose and David Crosby
Note: Garcia playing an SG and Crosby a Gretsch 6 String
Pepperland 12/21/70 Photo: M. Parrish
The headliners were billed as the "Acoustic Dead" but the group that took the stage was an impromptu quartet comprising Garcia, Lesh, Kreutzmann, and David Crosby. Two tapes of this ensemble (it remains an open question whether Mickey Hart substituted for Kreutzmann in the earlier gigs) from the Matrix a few days earlier (the exact date(s) of those tapes are debated) circulate widely, but their tenure was short lived, and this may have been the last time the quartet performed. I was only able to hear part of their set, which opened with "Alabama Bound" and also included "Deep Elum Blues," "Motherless Children" and "Triad." Clearly they played a lot more (which, based on the tapes from the Matrix show, would have included primal versions of "Bertha" and "Bird Song"), but at that point I was dragged out by my father, who had to go to work the next morning. As noted elsewhere, at least Weir and Pigpen could be seen wandering around backstage, so it is likely that the Dead did indeed play later.


There seemed to be nothing like a curfew at Pepperland, and the musicians were clearly in no hurry to get anywhere.

Crosby, Kreutzmann, Lesh Pepperland 12/21/70
Photo M. Parrish
An interesting question begged by this show's billing, as well as that for the 12/31/70 New Year's show, was the specific timing of the demise of the Dead's 1969-70 acoustic sets. Both of these shows advertised the Dead playing acoustically, but it appears that this did not come to pass at either gig. The last shows at which acoustic sets are verified are the 11/5-8/70 Capitol Theatre shows, and a plethora of subsequent November (11/16, 11/20, 11/29) and December (12/12, 12/26-28, 31) shows are known that do not include acoustic sets. The reasoning for the abandonment of these sets is unclear. The amplification of the acoustic sets was always problematic, and Mickey Hart's imminent departure may have also figured into the issue. Whatever the reason, there is no documented record of the band stepping onstage with acoustic guitars until the 11/17/78 Hunger Week benefit in Chicago (which I got to attend, and will write about another day).

The issue of the drummer for this ensemble has been a source of some confusion. When the tapes of the Matrix show first circulated in the mid-1970s, the tape notations listed Mickey Hart as the drummer. During the Dead's acoustic sets in 1970, who provided percussion seemed to be almost random. Either Kreutzmann or Hart would generally be the principal drummer (except on the many occasions when only Garcia, Weir, and Lesh performed without percussion), so seeing a sole drummer onstage was no big deal. When I was recently able to scan the negatives from this show, it became clear that the drummer this evening was Kreutzmann, not Hart, so it seems equally likely that this was the case at the Matrix show/rehearsal earlier in the week. As discussed over at JGMF, I do not recall seeing Hart in the hall (and only one drum kit was onstage), so he most likely did not perform that evening at all.

Taj Mahal Tuba Band at Pepperland 4/2-4/71
Photo: Dr. Che
The only other time I made it to Pepperland was the next March, for a great bill of three hometown acts and headliner Taj Mahal with his unique four tuba band. As noted earlier, the Brotherhood of Light did provide visuals for that show, which was one of the last under the sponsorship of the original Pepperland booking agents. This show opened with an unbilled set by Grootna. Although this group did perform during the closing week of the Fillmore West, and recorded a single, eponymous album for Columbia produced by the Airplane's Marty Balin, they never really broke nationally, or even achieved headline status in the Bay Area. Grootna consisted of vocalist Anna Rizzo, guitarists Slim Chance and Vic Smith, bassist Kelly Bryan, and drummer Greg Dewey,  who had played at Woodstock in the final incarnation of Country Joe and the Fish and went by the nom de plume of Dewey DaGreeze in Grootna. The group's tight blues-rock set probably consisted principally of material from their single album.

Next up was Lamb, which had originated as an acoustic duo consisting of guitarist-vocalist Barbara Mauritz and guitarist-keyboard player Bob Swanson. By the time of this show, they had expanded to an electric quartet, which included bassist David Hayes and a percussionist. The group's eclectic material was jazz influenced, and driven by Mauritz' powerful, hypnotic vocals. Their second album, Cross Between, featured Jerry Garcia on three cuts.

During 1970 and 1971, one of the Bay Area's best bands was the octet led by by Boz Scaggs. After departing the Steve Miller Band at the end of 1968, Scaggs took a year or so off from performing, but cut a legendary, eponymous album in Muscle Shoals with a lot of help from Duane Allman. When that album garnered a lot of airplay. Scaggs went ahead and assembled a band to, as much as possible, capture the tight big band sound he had captured on the album. The new group featured drummer George Rains (late of Mother Earth and the Sir Douglas Quintet), bassist David Brown, jazz keyboard player Jymm Joachim Young, guitarist Doug Simril, and a horn section comprising sax player Mel Martin, trombonist Patrick O'Hara, and trumpeter Bill Atwood (replaced at some point by Tom Poole). The group's diverse sets were drawn mostly from the Atlantic Scaggs album and the band's first Columbia album, Moments, both of which featured a blend of rockers and soulful ballads that were very different than the disco material that brought Scaggs his greatest commercial success in the late 1970s and 1980s. A high point of their sets as the time was a long, spacy version of "Baby's Calling Me Home" which Scaggs had contributed to the first Steve Miller Band album, Children of the Future.

Taj Mahal was ubiquitous in the Bay Area during the era, but this was the first time, to my knowledge, that he performed locally with the remarkable band he assembled for a couple of tours that was documented in The Real Thing. Taj was always staking out new musical territory, but the so called "Tuba band" was perhaps his most audacious (and probably expensive) experiment. Comprising first call musicians like guitarist John Hall (later leader of Orleans), one-time Hendrix bassist Billy Rich, pianist John Simon, drummer Greg Thomas, and conga player Kwasi "Rocky" DziDzournou, the group's most startiing element was the quartet of tuba players led by Howard Johnson and also featuring Bob Stewart, Joseph Daley, and Earl McIntyre.

Few vocalist-guitarists have enough presence not to be upstaged by a quartet of tubas, but the combination worked remarkably well. Taj used the tubas mostly to provide a tremendous bottom to tunes like "Sweet Mama Janisse" and the extended "You Ain't No Street Walker Mama, But Honey I Love the Way You Strut Your Stuff." After doing a couple of songs solo, Taj brought the rest of the musicians out for a slow, breezy version of "Ain't Gwine To Whistle Dixie (Anymo') highlighted by both exclamations from the tuba section and Hall's jazzy guitar. It was a great set and, given that it was a Saturday night, we stayed until the end. 

The Interior of the Pepperland Building Circa 2/2011
The stage was located back by the flat Screen TV and
the exercise balls. Photo: M. Parrish
The Bermuda Palms/Euphoria/Pepperland Building
Circa 2/2011 Photo M. Parrish
Curiosity about the current state of the building and the Litchfield’s site led to a Cryptical Road Trip to sunny San Rafael, Taking the exit off of 101 that leads to the Richmond San Rafael Bridge onramp, a sudden sharp left turn leads to Francisco Blvd., a high volume frontage road that parallels 101 on its eastern side. A few blocks northward,  the Litchfield’s property loomed, replete with the large, restored sign. Emerging from my car I discovered that the building has been carved up into a few retail areas,  one of which is currently occupied by a Fitness Warehouse. Comparing the interior photo to the best shot I could find of Pepperland in its prime (a great shot by Dr. Ché from the interior of Taj Mahal’s Real Thing album, which  was not recorded at Pepperland, but at the Fillmore East), it appears that the stage area was located just about where the exercise balls now reside. Needless to say, the submarine trappings are long gone, as is the Meyer-built Glyph sound system. The proprietors of the store had no idea of the building’s illustrious past, but also didn’t seem all that interested.

The former site of Le Club Front as of 2/2011
Photo: M. Parrish
Being in the neighborhood, I popped around the corner to pay my respects to the former site of Le Club Front. The warehouse, which most recently housed a plumbing supply store, is currently unoccupied. I got out to take some photos, but beat a hasty retreat when a truck pulled up to the curb and what looked like some clandestine transaction got underway.  It was clearly time to bid adieu to shakedown street,  and a memorable bit of Marin County rock history.











Gig Lists

Bermuda Palms

7/28/67             Sons of Champlin, Baltimore Steam Packet,  Thursday’s Island, Mieville Square,  The IV Kings.

5/21/70            Hell’s Angels Party with Janis Joplin and Full Tilt Boogie (billed as Main Squeeze, but they had broken up by then), Big Brother and the Holding Company, and Gold.


Euphoria

7/3,4,5/70  Big Brother and the Holding Company, A.B. Skhy, Joy of Cooking

7/14, 16/70 Grateful Dead, NRPS, Rubber Duck

7/20/70  Country Joe and the Fish, Southern Comfort

7/24,25,26  Chambers Brothers, Boz Scaggs, Southern Comfort


Pepperland 

9/18,19/70 - Pepperland Ballroom Hot Tuna, Capt. Beefheart, Charles Lloyd

9/25,26/70 - Pepperland NBL Productions - Frank Zappa & Mothers, Tim Buckley, Kindred

10/16,17/70 - Pink Floyd, Kimberly, Osceola

10/24,25/70 - Steve Miller, Jerry Hahn, Dan Hicks & Hot Licks

11/13,14/70 - Incredible String Band, Doug Kershaw, Joy Of Cooking

11/28/70 - Leon Russell, Capt. Beefheart, Clover, Truk

12/18,19/70 - Chuck Berry, Sir Douglas (or Edward’s Hand?) , Boz Scaggs

12/20/70 - Joan Baez

12/20/71 – Grateful Dead?, Crosby/Garcia/Lesh/Kreutzmann, John Kahn and?, NRPS, Jerry Hahn Brotherhood

1/22,23/71 - Youngbloods, Sea Train, John Fahey

1/29,30/71 - Cold Blood, Boz Scaggs, Stoneground

2/5,6/71 - Elvin Bishop, PG&E, Tower Of Power

2/20,21/71- Big Brother, The Sons, Clover

2/26,27/71- Spencer Davis, Dan Hicks&Hot Licks, Country Weather

3/5,6/71- Steve Miller, John Lee Hooker, Bronze Hog

3/12,13/71- Lee Michaels, Joy Of Cooking, Fourth Way

3/11/71 - Linda Ronstadt, Clover, Little John, Chris Darrow

3/19,20/71 – It’s A Beautiful Day, Odetta, Victoria

4/2-4/71 - Taj Mahal, Boz Scaggs, Lamb, Grootna

4/11/71 - Quicksilver, Hot Tuna, Lizard
Last NBL show

9/9-11/71 - Steve Miller, Yogi Phlegm, Nazgul, Clover

9/24,25/71 - Mike Bloomfield, Stoneground, Clover

11/13/71- Tower Of Power, Cold Blood, Norman Greenbaum

12/4/71 - Boz Scaggs, Earthquake, Staton Bros.

12/11/71- Joy Of Cooking, Commander Cody, Crossfire

1/22/72-  Tower Of Power, Redwing, Roger Collins

48 comments:

Anonymous said...

Interesting post. I attended the first Pepperland show w/ Beefheart. That was the weekend when Hendrix died, and on the night I went, Steve Miller also played out of respect.

Jerry Garcia's Middle Finger said...

Absolutely wonderful. Great post, and I absolutely love the photos. Thank you for sharing!

cryptdev said...

I envy you for having seen Beefheart at Pepperland. I wish I had gotten up there a few more times! Thanks for the note.

mandala said...

great article! i was there for those july '70 dead shows and especially remember the janis and pig lovelight! after the show, as we were all leaving, janis came out from the next door bar with her own bottle of jack daniels, toasting us all! that was the last time i saw her...

Anonymous said...

Great research and article/photos. I live in the Northbay and have wondered about this venue since getting a tape of 7-14-70 many years ago. Thanks for posting. -Lance

Anonymous said...

Loved the article! I caught the Taj Majal tuba band down at Memorial Auditorium on Stanford campus around 1973.

David Gans said...

Thanks so much, Michael! You have an amazing memory, and a warm writing style.

Corry342 said...

I second everyone else's emotion. This is a truly epic post, even by your already high standards.

cryptdev said...

David, Corry, and others:

Thanks for the kind words. I had always wondered what became of the Pepperland site, so it was fun to go up and find out.

uliT said...

a very nice one michael and i finally get to see those pictures you once mentioned while walking thru the hills on the kaiserstuhl

cryptdev said...

Uli:

Great to hear from you. I remember that walk well. You certainly live in a beautiful part of the world.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the well researched post.
I worked at Pepperland, so was there for all of the shows, as well as during the time the venue was being redone prior to the opening. (Also worked for Whitey Litchfield briefly, after Pepperland closed.)
Although much of the history of that venue is "lost in the haze," you did a pretty accurate job of capturing some of it. One note is that the actual space that Pepperland was in was not the building with the "Litchfields" sign atop it, but the somewhat non-descript building immediately to the northwest. (The rounded corners of the original exterior still exist, though the appearance of the building has changed much since that time.)
The actual concert lineups also often differed from what was advertised, so posters from the era are sometimes only a vague indicator of who played. (The owners of Pepperland did not come from a background of concert promoting... We'll leave it at that.) To my memory, the Grateful Dead never played while the owners who opened Pepperland were there. There was some bad blood between the two organizations.

I was also at the Angels' party when Janis played, prior to the venue being called Pepperland. A very crazy evening, that was.

The venue was also briefly called "The Citadel" sometime before the Pepperland days, but I rarely, if ever, come across references to it by that name.

Anonymous said...

Another note: The Aliens' performance of the '60s appears to be on the stage of the Bermuda Palms nightclub (within the building under the "Litchfields" sign) and not in the building that was later used for Pepperland. The stage in the photo is lower than the Pepperland stage was, and appears to be the same height as the Bermuda Palms stage.
At the time of Pepperland, the Bermuda Palms nightclub was unused.
An interesting bit of trivia is that the Bermuda Palms nightclub occupied the site where the pool formerly was. (I would imagine that once the freeway came through, sunning poolside was not as glamorous as it once might have been.) The nightclub was built right over the pool, and the pool still existed under the stage, though because the entire area is built on low lying tidal flats, the pool was low enough that it would have floated if left empty, due to the level of the groundwater. To prevent this, a hole had been broken through the bottom of the pool, and a sump pump sat in it, to drain it when the tide rose. There was a small door under the stage that allowed access to the old pool.

cryptdev said...

Thanks so much for this great information. I'm still struggling with the geography of the old facility. I thought I had matched up the stage area with the wall furthest away from the frontage road in what is now the athletic equipment store, but maybe that was the Bermuda Palms stage area. It's a surprise to learn that the two venues were in different buildings. Looking at the Google Earth photo, I can see what you are talking about with the rounded corners of the Pepperland building. Looks like another trip to Marin is in the cards - fortunately I'm headed up there again soon.

I'm sure memories are hazy, but do you happen to remember anything about that 12/21/70 show. As I mentioned, Crosby and Garcia were cranking away when we left, but I wondered if anything interesting happened later in the way of a jam. You did note that the Dead per se never played there during the Pepperland era. It's too bad, as it would have been a convenient place for them to do low key gigs if the politics had worked out better. It was certainly a great place to hear music while it lasted.

Anonymous said...

Yes, the building you see on Google Earth was the site of Pepperland. You can see that it is comprised of a couple of additions. That caused the interior space to be broken up. Although the official capacity was 2,000, there were three "rooms" and the sight lines got worse the further one got from the stage. The stage was against the wall that is the farthest from Francisco Blvd., and it was nearly impossible to see the show from the room that was closest to Francisco Blvd.
The main space, where the stage was, was divided in two, with a partial wall between the two areas. Only the top half of the wall was solid, with the lower half being mostly open aside from some posts. This was enough to detract from the view of the stage, though. The light booth was perched above the openings and on the stage side of this wall. (The sound booth was behind double glass, on the right hand wall in the main room, as one faced the stage.)
Pink Floyd did bring their own quadraphonic system: two semi trailers full. As I remember, they were not especially impressed with the house system.
The photos of the stage that include the Glyph speakers can give a sense of scale. The exponential horns on the bass speakers opened out to about 6 or 7 feet, I believe. (The drivers were 15" speakers.) During shows there were often people lying down inside of them. I doubt it enhanced the audio to be in there, but it might have enhanced "other aspects" of their experience at the time.

I wish I could help with more details of the 12/21/70 show. Unfortunately, the "haze" that generally hung in the air back then makes the memory even hazier. I also happened to see a lot of the Dead, New Riders, and various combinations of various members at a lot of different venues around that time, so few shows stand out. ...One that does, and that I don't believe I have ever seen mention of since, is the "Barn Dance" that was held at the Family Dog at Playand. It was a country hoe-down theme, and if I remember correctly, it was all acoustic. There were bales of hay strewn about, "folksy" things like bobbing for apples, and a band composed of Garcia on banjo and David LaFlamme on fiddle, amongst others. (There were also several plastic trash barrels filled with Kool Aid that was pretty heavily laced with psychedelics. Needless to say, things got a little strange in there, as the night wore on.) If you have blogged on that night.. or know of any reference to it, I would love a link, to see how well my memory serves me about the details.
Forgive the digression, though. I agree with you that Pepperland would have been an extremely convenient venue for the Dead, perhaps to show up unannounced and work stuff out before a crowd. At the time, I very much regretted the trouble that prevented them from playing there, and always held out the hope that things would change. Unfortunately the place closed long before that ever had a chance to come about.

Anonymous said...

I also just took a closer look at the Bermuda Palms postcard you posted. Not only does it clearly show bits of the Pepperland building in the background, but the pool is visible.
Comparing it to the aerial view on Google Earth, one can clearly see the addition on the Litchfield's / Bermuda Palms building that was built over the pool and once housed that nightclub. I would highly doubt that anyone would have gone to the trouble to fill in the pool since the '70s, so it quite likely is still there, under whatever business that now occupies the space.
Though unrelated to the music, that might be an interesting little side detail of the venue to investigate, if you do make another trip to Pepperland.

cryptdev said...

I also remember that sightlines were a real challenge at Pepperland due to the geometry of the room. I hope I can get into that building (and it would be great to see if I could find the buried pool as well).

Thanks also for the information about the Barn Dance at the Family Dog. A colleague of mine wrote about it recently (http://lostlivedead.blogspot.com/2010/04/family-dog-at-great-highway-august-13.html) but he was unclear about who played that evening. I knew that LaFlamme had played with the NRPS and maybe the Dead on occasions (and Jerry guested on the second IABD album) but this is the first I've heard of the two playing bluegrass together.

cryptdev said...

Hey Anonymous:

If you're still out there, I wonder if you can clarify whether Euphoria was located in the Bermuda Palms or Pepperland buildings? Thanks again for your great eyewitness comments!

The Yellow Shark said...

It was at the Pepperland building (737). Ross

cryptdev said...

Ross:

Our friend the former Pepperland employee has convinced me that Pepperland proper was in the building next door to the Motel 6/Athletic Supply Store that is currently identified as 737 E. Francisco. That building is currently numbered 777, but my supposition is that the entire Litchfield's complex was numbered 737 back then, hence the source of some of the confusion. The 777 Building, which is occupied by the Hiiko store in the google streetview photo, was Pepperland but, according to the former employee, the Bermuda Palms shows were actually in the Litchfield's sign building that I photographed. Hence this begged the question of where the Euphoria shows were. My guess is that they were in the Pepperland building as you surmise, but it would be nice to have eyewitness verification. I plan to return to San Rafael shortly to take some more photos and hopefully straighten this out some more.

Anonymous said...

great mrmories !
i was at the youngbloods gig and well remember the fab sound syatem...

bonedaddy_hanz said...

I was at the Youngbloods/ Joy of Cooking show on June 2, 1972. I remember the date because it was the day before my brother's 20th birthday and we attended the show together. I hadn't seen either band before so I didn't have much frame of reference. The sound was pretty decent if I recall and the music generally was inspired.

Jesse Colin Young's strong vocals carried the show, Banana was more than a striking image on stage. I remember the ladies in Joy of Cooking also made an impression on me, I guess. It's been so long, it's hard to recall their set but I do remember The Youngbloods song list which also included a number of instrumentals featuring Banana.
I believe it was a quartet at the time with JCYoung, Banana, Joe Bauer and Michael Kane.

Anonymous said...

Holy Smokes, this makes my brain freeze. I was at 'a' Hot Tuna show when I was younger, and my problem is that my entire life I've been telling people that I was at a Hot Tuna Pepperland Show 'New Year's Eve, 1975/76. The fact that this list shows now shows at all (let alone a Hot Tuna show) after 1972 makes me 11 years old when they played April 11th. Problem number two is that I do not recall Quicksilver playing and that Hot Tuna was the headliner, jamming til forever. Interesting part one: this show being one of my first in Marin County where I lived, was that my first concert was Quicksilver Messenger Service at Winterland, which I had always assumed I'd gone to previous to this...by a wide margin. Interesting part two: I went with my older brother and several of our friends, and my brother (being kind of a jerk a lot of the time) left me outside a 'sold out' show far from my home telling me that 'it would be easy to get a ticket from somebody coming to the concert'. I was kind of scared and bummed that I was left out there, but within about ten minutes, a couple came by offering tickets. Bought one, went inside, had a great time. But I'd ALWAYS thought that it was ok I'd been left outside as I would have been 15/16 at the time of my memory. Now I realize my brother and several of our friends left an 11 year old outside a rock concert to fend for himself. Oh well: it was the 70's!

cryptdev said...

Well, I'm grossly overdue for comments on some of these. It's been a pretty crazy summer. Bonedaddy Hanz - thanks for the recollections about the Youngbloods show. They seem to have played there reasonably often, and I would certainly caution that the gig list was the best I could pull together but is certainly not guaranteed to be complete.

As for Anonymous' memories of the Tuna show, again they could conceivably have played there at some later date. The Litchfield family has held onto the property to the present day, and it is not clear at what time it was reconfigured to its current commercial configuration. If you were indeed 11 years old, being outside a 1972 Tuna show at that age would have been quite an adventure! Thanks for your recollections.

Unknown said...

My best friend and I hitched to Pink Floyd show from sonoma County (we were 16 years old).We sat on the floor maybe 15 ft from the stage.I still have the handbill....No on e believes me when I tell them i saw Pink Floyd in San rafael (when they were a cult band)...We were waiting in a short line in front to get in and the band came up looking to find the proper way to get in....BTW there is a bootleg of the gig (complete with the power outage ) available on the net called "Pepperland In The West"....I also saw the Taj mahal /Boz Scaggs gig (Tubas)...Man,epic stuff! Thanks for the great write-up! Pepperland was a great venue....

Bruno Ceriotti said...

About Hot Tuna, I know (from a poster) that they play at the Bermuda Palms on February 19, 1972 with Osceola and Stoneground also on the bill.

cryptdev said...

I envy the experience you and your friend had seeing Pink Floyd at Pepperland. Given the amount of equipment they displayed on the back of Umagumma, I can only imagine all that stuff stacked up on the floor of Pepperland.

cryptdev said...

Bruno:

Thanks for the addition of the '72 Tuna show. It's likely that these venues were used for a number of one-off gigs like the Tuna show you mentioned after Pepperland ceased to function - I just listed all the ones I could find. Because of the conversion of both former venues to retail space, this sadly wouldn't be possible today.

Anonymous said...

I saw the tube show with Taj, too, and clearly remember the white horns. I don't remember anything about the rest of the show but thanks for filling in the lineup!

moeses said...

haha at the guy who used to work there...Yeah, my dad was one of the owners, and definitely wasn't in the music business

moeses

Jerry's Brokendown Palaces said...

Hot Tuna played Pepperland on 9/18+19/70. Captain Beefheart and Charles lloyd were also on the bill. I'm looking at the poster.

cryptdev said...

Thanks for the Addition JGBP. There does not seem to be a comprehensive set of Pepperland posters around, so any additions are helpful.

Bruno Ceriotti said...

JBGP you're right!

In John "Drumbo" French's autobiography, you know, the Magic Band's drummer, he remember some funny stories about that gigs with Hot Tuna.

Also, speaking of Captain Beefheart and Leon Russell gig on November 28, 1970, they actually played there also on November 27. See the poster and the review of the gigs here:

http://www.freewebs.com/teejo/gigs6870/701127pepper.html

cheers,
Bruno

cryptdev said...

Bruno:

Thanks for these insights. The Tuna/Beefheart/Lloyd shows must have been quite a triple bill!

Repack Rider said...

I was the roadie for the Sons of Champlin. I certainly remember working the shows there.

I was there to collect for a gig, and the owners, who were losing a lot of money, were having the kind of an argument that you want to get out of the building before the gun comes out.

cryptdev said...

Thanks for posting Repack Rider. Sounds like another day in the glamorous life of a roadie!

joxer6 said...

For the record, the Beefheart Tuna show on Friday was the day Hendrix had died. As a tribute, Steve Miller also played.

Jake Baker said...

I played at Pepperland on the bill with Hot Tuna in a band from Bolinas called "One." I don't recall anyone else being on the bill. I DO remember it was the first time I ever snorted Coke (with the bass player) -- in a VW bus parked outside the front doors of the venue!

All I can say about that experience is that he and I ran away with the show, leaving the other musicians in the band in the dust with their jaws on the floor! ;-)

cryptdev said...

Jake:

Thanks for your comment. Since the One album (which I remember fondly) came out on Grunt in 1972, the gig may have been after Pepperland was abandoned by the original promoters in Mid-1971. Sounds like a memorable evening for you:)

Jim Cochran said...

I went to a great show at PepperLand/Bemuda Palms sometime in early 1972...It might have been the February 19, 1972 Hot Tuna, Osceola and Stoneground show......
But it was Osceola opening->Stoneground( get long set)-> Copperhead( Cippolina ..2 long sets )-> 90minute break then ->Hot Tuna started at close to 2:30+am...think they had another gig that night as well..shoe got over at 4:30+am....does anyone remember this gig?

duckpond49 said...

My girlfriend and I drove up from Palo Alto to see Pink Floyd. My recollection was that PF was set up against the back wall, opposite the entrance on a very low riser. The big Glyph horns were set up in the corners and there were Shure vocal columns set up every 20 feet or so along the walls in between. The wooden floors and exposed metal rafters reminded me of a roller rink I used to go to as a kid. There were slide projectors up in the metal rafters projecting fisheye photos of farm animals into the painted "portholes" on the walls ala' the "Atom Heart Mother" cover.
Keyboardist Wright had a joystick that he used to swirl his synth and other sounds around the room or have them rip through the room, front to back to great effect.
A few steps up at the back of the performance space was another space with a trippy sculpture in the center, a female hand holding up a glowing sphere or something all surrounded by "angel hair" and all under a plex dome. There were probably only a few hundred people there, certainly no more than 500, sitting on the floor in the center with a good 10 feet of space around the perimeter. And yes there were some folks sitting up inside the big Glyph bottom horns. There were no power problem during the show and yes, it was a masterful Floyd performance.

cryptdev said...

Great memories - thanks! I will always regret not making it to one of those Pink Floyd shows. Sounds like you went on 10/16, which was the night with no power failure. I really admired the sense of style that the promoters brought to Pepperland, even though it was apparently not their main gig,

Anonymous said...

I'm WRomanus, member of Magna Qualitas Records. We soon will release the Pink Floyd Pepperland show with an unreleased sound quality. It's the one with no less of 5 power failures. This is the first show, the one held the 16th so duckpond49 attended at the 2nd day.
We know for sure 'cos I personally met one of the tapers, Ron C., in May 2010. They re-used the master tape cassette the 17th in Berkeley to tape the Jethro Tull show.
Thr Pink Floyd show was saved onto a Scotch 7" reel.

Bart Edwards said...

I went to the Young Bloods, Sea Train, & John Fahey show. It was January 22. The little poster that I have doesn't give the year. Ticket price was $3.50. The next show (Jan. 29th) was Cold Blood, Boz Scaggs, & Stone Ground

Bart Edwards said...

I saw Young Bloods, Sea Train22, & John Fahey on January 22. The little poster have doesn't give the year. The ticket price was $3.50. The following act was Cold Blood, b
Bos Skaggs, & Stone Ground The ticket price was 3.50 Did any one ever go Santa Rosa Memorial? Big quansanhut, No ventilation. Greatshows and the bigest contact high you ever had

cryptdev said...

That was 1971, just a few weeks after the David and the Dorks show. A tape of the Youngbloods set from one of those nights was broadcast on KPFA a few weeks after the show.

Anonymous said...

I remember seeing a double bill Chuck Berry, Sly and the Family Stone and the Meyer sound thang was totally ROCKIN

cryptdev said...

What a great double bill! Did Sly back up Chuck Berry? Chuck usually uses bands he is billed with - just travels with his guitar and a suitcase.