Saturday, February 25, 2012

Keystone (New Monk), 2119 University Avenue, Berkeley, CA

 In 1968, the place (The Monk) moved closer to campus, to the corner of University and Shattuck Avenues. The new club at 2119 University was called The New Monk. It had local rock bands headlining on weekends, but most of the time it was just a beer and pizza place for college students.

In Berkeley California, just two blocks from the UC campus, there stood a cavernous, shabby, dark, and wonderful club called the Keystone Berkeley. It was a venue for rock and roll shows.

It became the place where more important living was done and more memories were formed than any other place in the Bay Area. It stood at the intersection where University and Shattuck Avenues formed a "T". University ran due east from the bay and the Berkeley marina, about 2 miles away. Shattuck ran due north from Oakland, heading straight for the Keystone, which lay not along its side, but directly in its path at the top of the T. Here, the headlights of the oncoming traffic, before making a forced left turn onto University, would light the front of the club and the crowd milling outside waiting to get in, magically marking it as the place to be after dark; a down-to-earth Berkeley equivalent of klieg lights sweeping the sky to draw attention.
In the middle of 1971, however, The New Monk started booking higher profile club bands. Jerry Garcia and Merl Saunders played there on June 4 and 5, 1971, and then again on June 26 and June 27. At the end of August, Keystone owner Freddie Herrera officially announced that he would be buying the New Monk. It's my belief that Herrera had been booking the New Monk already for some months. Garcia played Keystone Korner 20 times in 1971, so clearly it was the preferred venue, but Herrera's takeover of The New Monk put it on Garcia's radar..
In March, 1972, the New Monk changed it's name to Keystone Berkeley, to distinguish it from Keystone Korner in San Francisco. The first Keystone Berkeley show I have been able to find was March 2, 1972, with the Sons Of Champlin. The first Garcia/Saunders show at Keystone Berkeley was soon after that, on March 8, 1972. (lostlivedead)

The club had a conventional setup, a rectangular room with the stage at the far end, opposite from the bar. There was a little balcony for the soundboard and a few tables (members of the Dead would sometimes watch the Garcia Band from the soundboard). Backstage, such as it was, was a big room behind the bar. It can be viewed on the inside cover of the Jerry Garcia/Merl Saunders Live At Keystone album.
there was no backstage per se, as the stage was on the opposite end from the bar and the back room. Thus the band--including Garcia--had to walk through the audience to get to the stage.  It was actually on the East Coast where the Dead became really huge, and Garcia became larger than life. Nonetheless it was still astonishing that the Dead could headline Madison Square Garden, and a few weeks later Garcia would play this bar where he had to walk through the crowd to get to the stage. (lostlivedead)

The Keystone served mostly as a home for local bands on the way up (or often going nowhere), but also sometimes featured bigger acts on the way down, or enjoying brief revivals after having already hit bottom once. The acoustics there could have been anything from perfect to horrible. My untrained ears didn't care. As long as a stack of amps could rock the room, my friends and I were happy. Someone from the club must have thought differently, because one night strange sound baffles (or maybe deflectors?) suddenly showed up on the walls to both sides of the stage, apparently in some effort to improve the sound. I never noticed any difference. It didn't matter, because the sound was not what the place was about. Heat and sweat, fun and energy were what it was about. If a good band was forcing a high ticket price, there were usually tables set in front of the stage. For the cheap shows that wouldn't draw very well, the tables were cleared to form a large dance floor. The long walls to the left and right of the stage had benches that were about 30 inches high and ran the length of the floor. They were made of plain boards, three high and one deep. They reminded me of the storage bins that circled the floor in the basement of the house where my two brothers and I were raised in Brooklyn. Those held blankets, toys, books, and whatever else would have been useless or in the way upstairs. They were just big enough so that a boy playing out of sight of his parents could climb in and pretend to be a vampire in his coffin. The ones at the Keystone were scaled to adult size. If they too opened for storage, I never saw it, but they were perfect perches for this new nocturnal life, where I could suck beers between feverish wild dances.

Paul Pena began playing in Bay Area clubs, opening shows at the Great American Music Hall and the Keystone in Berkeley for Jerry Garcia and Merl Saunders. "We were friends," says Pena of Garcia. "I didn't know him well, but I knew him well enough for him to recognize me. I opened for him in the Keystone for around three years. As a matter of fact, that's how I started being able to work out here at all -- the first thing I did was call the Grateful Dead office."

Pena said of Keystone owner Freddie Herrera, "His idea of an audition was for me to come and open up for Garcia and Saunders. That went on for some time. Whenever he would have somebody, not knowing who would open, he would call me."

Saunders recalls Pena fondly. "A great player," he says. "I have always wanted to produce him." He remembers hearing Pena at the Keystone and being immediately struck by his talents. "I heard something from the back of the room, and I said, 'I gotta use this guy again.' "

In 1973 Pena was recording at Grossman's Bearsville Studios, and this time he had a sizable cast of musicians working with him: Jerry Garcia assisting on guitar, Merl Saunders on keyboards, a cappella soul singers the Persuasions on backup, and Ben Sidran, who had been playing with Steve Miller and Boz Scaggs since the early '60s, on piano.

Today in Berkeley, University Avenue still forms a T with Shattuck. The traffic still flows there, the same building still stands, and each night it is again thrust into the spotlight - except now it's a drug store and I shop in it to buy my razor blades and shaving cream. They're over on the east wall where we sat and drank our beers. Waiting at the register while the bar codes are scanned on my purchases leaves me standing exactly where the stage was. I can close my eyes for one second and a guitar is being played right above me, the girls are screaming just behind me, and the flaming cymbals are there on my left. The ghost ship of the Keystone refuses to go down. Sugaree still echoes in my head. I open my eyes, and then my wallet to pay for my stuff, with the knowledge that in spite of all I now see around me, rock and roll is not dead in here because I still care. As I'm saying "Have a good one," and accepting my change, I finally, but silently make my request in this place: "Let the music and the feelings of the Keystone live."
(excerpts from Howie Spielman)

The last marquee

In 2004 a five story apartment building was built on this site. The architect was Kirk Peterson.
Last sold on 4/20/2007
Last assessed at $15,648,613 on 2010

Jerry performed here at least 206 times.
6/4/71 Merl Saunders
6/5/71 Merl Saunders
6/26/71 Merl Saunders
6/27/71 Merl Saunders
3/8/72 Merl Saunders
3/9/72 Merl Saunders
7/11/72 Merl Saunders
8/18/72 Merl Saunders
10/6/72 Merl saunders
10/7/72 Merl Saunders
10/12/72 Merl Saunders
11/4/72 Merl Saunders
12/7/72 Merl Saunders
12/20/72 Merl Saunders
12/21/72 Merl Saunders
12/29/72 Merl Saunders
1/12/73 Merl Saunders
1/13/73 Merl Saunders
1/17/73 Merl Saunders
1/19/73 Merl Saunders
2/2/73 Merl Saunders
2/3/73 Merl saunders
3/6/73 Merl Saunders
3/7/73 Merl Saunders
3/11/73 Merl Saunders
3/12/73 Old And In The Way
3/13/73 Rowan Brothers and Old And In The Way
4/6/73 Merl Saunders
4/7/73 Merl Saunders
4/8/73 Merl Saunders
4/27/73 Old And In The Way
4/28/73 Old And In The Way
6/19/73 Merl Saunders
7/7/73 Merl Saunders
7/10/73 Merl Saunders
7/11/73 Merl Saunders
7/20/73 Merl Saunders
7/21/73 Late show Merl Saunders
7/22/73 Late show Old And In The Way
8/4/73 Merl Saunders
8/30/73 Merl Saunders
8/31/73 Merl Saunders
9/1/73 Merl Saunders
9/2/73 Merl Saunders
10/6/73 Old And In The Way
10/11/73 Merl Saunders
10/12/73 Merl Saunders
11/3/73 Merl Saunders
11/5/73 Merl Saunders
12/22/73 Merl Saunders
12/23/73 Merl Saunders
1/17/74 Merl Saunder
1/18/74 Merl Saunders
2/7/74 Merl saunders
2/10/74 Merl Saunders
2/16/74 Merl Saunders
2/17/74 Merl Saunders
3/9/74 Merl Saunders
3/14/74 Merl Saunders
5/5/74 Great American String Band
6/6/74 Merl Saunders
6/12/74 Merl saunders
6/13/74 Merl Saunders
6/14/74 Great American String Band
7/12/74 Merl saunders
7/13/74 Merl Saunders
7/21/74 Merl Saunders
7/22/74 Merl Saunders
8/9/74 Merl Saunders
8/10/74 Merl Saunders
8/11/74 Merl Saunders
8/31/74 Merl Saunders
9/1/74 Merl Saunders
10/3/74 Merl Saunders
10/4/74 Merl Saunders
10/5/74 Merl Saunders
10/15/74 Merl Saunders
11/1/74 Merl Saunders
11/2/74 Merl Saunders
11/27/74 Merl Saunders
12/6/74 Merl saunders
12/7/74 Merl saunders
12/12/74 Merl saunders
12/31/74 Merl Saunders
1/21/75 Merl Saunders
1/22/75 Merl Saunders
2/7/75 Merl Saunders
2/8/75 Merl Saunders
3/1/75 Legion Of Mary
3/2/75 Legion Of Mary
3/15/75 Legion Of Mary
5/6/75 Merl Saunders
5/12/75 Legion Of Mary
5/21/75 Legion Of Mary
5/22/75 Legion Of Mary
5/23/75 Legion Of Mary
6/3/75 Legion Of Mary
6/4/75 Legion Of Mary
6/11/75 Merl Saunders
6/21/75 Legion Of Mary
6/22/75 Legion Of Mary
7/6/75 Legion Of Mary
8/5/75 Jerry Garcia Band
10/8/75 Jerry Garcia Band
10/9/75 Jerry Garcia Band
10/11/75 Jerry Garcia Band
10/12/75 Jerry Garcia Band
11/8/75 Jerry Garcia Band
11/17/75 Jerry Garcia Band
11/18/75 Jerry Garcia Band
11/29/75 Jerry Garcia Band
12/17/75 Jerry Garcia Band
12/31/75 Jerry Garcia Band
1/26/76 Jerry Garcia Band
1/27/76 Jerry Garcia Band
1/28/76 Jerry Garcia Band
2/13/76 Jerry Garcia Band
2/14/76 Jerry Garcia Band
2/24/76 Jerry Garcia Band
2/25/76 Jerry Garcia Band
5/20/76 Jerry Garcia Band
7/8/76 Jerry Garcia Band
7/9/76 Jerry Garcia Band
7/20/76 Jerry Garcia Band
7/21/76 Jerry Garcia Band
8/11/76 Jerry Garcia Band
8/16/76 Jerry Garcia Band
8/21/76 Jerry Garcia Band
8/22/76 Jerry Garcia Band
9/10/76 Jerry Garcia Band
9/11/76 Jerry Garcia Band
9/12/76 Jerry Garcia Band
11/7/76 Jerry garcia Band
11/15/76 Jerry Garcia Band
11/22/76 Jerry Garcia Band
12/21/76 Jerry garcia Band
12/22/76 Jerry Garcia Band
12/23/76 Jerry Garcia Band
1/28/77 Jerry Garcia Band
1/29/77 Jerry Garcia Band
1/30/77 Jerry Garcia Band
4/10/77 Jerry Garcia Band
6/12/77 Jerry Garcia Band
6/13/77 Jerry Garcia Band
7/1/77 Jerry Garcia Band
7/17/77 Jerry Garcia Band
8/6/77 Jerry Garcia Band
8/7/77 Jerry Garcia Band
11/15/77 Jerry Garcia Band
11/16/77 Jerry Garcia Band
12/19/77 Jerry Garcia Band
12/20/77 Jerry Garcia Band
12/21/77 Jerry Garcia Band
2/14/78 Jerry Garcia Band
2/15/78 Jerry Garcia Band
2/16/78 Jerry Garcia Band
2/17/78 Jerry Garcia Band
3/3/78 Jerry Garcia Band
6/10/78 Jerry Garcia Band
6/11/78 Jerry Garcia Band
6/17/78 Jerry Garcia Band
8/12/78 Jerry Garcia Band
10/10/78 Jerry Garcia Band
10/11/78 Jerry Garcia Band
10/12/78 Jerry Garcia Band
10/24/78 Jerry Garcia Band
11/2/78 Jerry Garcia Band
1/30/79 Reconstruction
1/31/79 Reconstruction
2/20/79 Reconstruction
2/27/79 Reconstruction
3/4/79 Reconstruction
3/29/79 Reconstruction
4/14/79 Reconstruction
4/15/79 Reconstruction
4/26/79 Reconstruction
5/25/79 Reconstruction
6/15/79 Reconstruction
7/6/79 Reconstruction
8/3/79 Reconstruction
9/22/79 Reconstruction
Ed Neumeister met Garcia through the band Reconstruction in 1979.  Kahn and Garcia had formed the band, along with keyboardist Merl Saunders, drummer Gaylord Birch, and saxophonist Ron Stallings. Neumeister recalls how he became part of the band, “I think they rehearsed once or twice and they decided they would get another horn player, so Stallings recommended me, and actually Ron called me. He said, ‘Yeah, we’ve got a gig on Saturday and we’re rehearsing Thursday. It’s just a door gig.’” Neumesiter knew who Garcia was but did not follow the Grateful Dead, “I had no idea to be honest the following that Jerry had. I showed up for that first gig and there were wall-to-wall people. It was at Keystone Berkley.”
The first time Neumesiter met Garcia was at the rehearsal for the performance at Keystone Berkley. He remembers that Jerry was “just a guy, just a guitar player.” As Neumesiter walked into the rehearsal room, John Kahn was the only person he knew at the time, so he “shook hands all the way around” before starting the rehearsal. He describes Jerry as “a very humble, just quiet guy.” The band consisted of “just five guys in a room having fun.” Neumesiter said that Garcia “never gave the aura of superiority in any kind of way even though he was the one drawing the crowd. There was no doubt about that…there was no ego involved. None of that superstar, whatever comes with being a superstar. I only noticed it when we showed up to the gigs. Jerry was just one of the cast. That’s what he wanted to be.”
Neumeister recalls Garcia’s dedication to music. “He practiced all the time, or at least he always had his guitar in his lap. He was playing all the time, so whenever we had a rehearsal, on the breaks or before it started, he was moving on the guitar. He played really 24/7 it seemed like.”
Neumeister recalls one specific instance of Garcia’s devotion to his craft during a recording session. Neumeister, who had written the horn arrangements for the session, was discussing the arrangements with Garcia, “He decided for the recording we would extend the horn section—trumpet, some trombones—and we actually double tracked some of it so it was six horns. Jerry sat in the recording studio and not in the booth, so he could hear the track being mixed with the horns. He sat in with the horns, and he was very, very focused and concentrated and extremely detail-oriented. You wouldn’t think this about Jerry sometimes, but he was looking for perfection. We were there until we got it absolutely perfect. He was really into it being really, really clean and tight. Of course that’s what you want but on the other hand you think of Jerry as being this loose improviser.”(1)

10/7/79 Jerry Garcia Band
10/21/79 Jerry Garcia Band
11/18/79 Jerry Garcia Band
12/17/79 Jerry Garcia Band
12/22/79 Jerry Garcia Band
1/27/80 Jerry Garcia Band
2/26/80 Jerry Garcia Band
2/27/80 Jerry Garcia Band
8/7/80 Jerry Garcia Band
8/8/80 Jerry Garcia Band
1/30/81 Jerry Garcia Band
1/31/81 Jerry Garcia Band
2/1/81 Jerry Garcia Band
4/23/81 Jerry Garcia Band
5/23/81 Jerry Garcia Band
5/24/81 Jerry Garcia Band
7/26/81 Jerry Garcia Band
8/20/81 Jerry Garcia Band
8/21/81 Jerry Garcia Band
9/18/81 Jerry Garcia Band
12/19/81 Jerry Garcia Band
2/26/82 Jerry Garcia Band
3/27/82 Jerry Garcia Band
4/30/82 Jerry Garcia Band
5/1/82 Jerry Garcia Band
5/8/82 Jerry Garcia Band
6/11/82 Jerry Garcia Band
1/13/83 Jerry Garcia Band
1/23/83 Jerry Garcia Band
1/24/83 Jerry Garcia Band
2/28/83 Jerry Garcia Band
5/6/83 Jerry Garcia Band
11/15/83 Jerry Garcia Band
3/10/84 Jerry Garcia Band
3/11/84 Jerry Garcia Band
3/21/84 Jerry Garcia Band
3/22/84 Jerry Garcia Band

1.)^Neumeister, Ed,  Sforzini, Hank, Five Musicians Remember Jerry Garcia, 2012-08-20,

1 comment:

  1. The band dressing room was behind the bar so Garcia and other musicians had to walk out through the crowd and take the half step up to the stage. It was all very intimate.