Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Longshoremen's Hall, 400 N. Point Street, San Francisco, CA 94133

Capacity 300[4]

This odd-shaped building, built in 1959 at a cost of 1.4 million, served as one of the crucibles of the San Francisco acid-rock scene. The sailor's union hall (really). The first Family Dog dances were put on here in 1965. Chet Helms's roommate was the son of the Longshoreman's union attorney (and is currently the SF District Attorney).
The Longshoremen’s Hall was never used by the Sailors Union, and the Maritime Hall (home of the Sailors Union of the Pacific) was never used by the Longshoreman’s Union. They are related trades (somewhat) but very different unions.
The use of Longshoreman's Hall was partially facilitated by the membership of many Hells Angels in the Longshoreman's Union.(2)

Ralph Gleason agreed that San Franciscans should be able to dance to rock and roll. He had mentioned the lack of dancing at the Matrix in his very first Chronicle column on the band. So when the Family Dog members–a young woman named Luria Castell, accompanied by two friends, Ellen Harmon and Alton Kelley–came to see him in October about putting on a dance concert, Gleason was all ears. He said he'd help any way he could.
Castell had been a political activist and had recently returned from L.A., where she'd enjoyed dancing to the Lovin' Spoonful in a discotheque, wondering why San Francisco couldn't have the same. Harmon had come to the city from Detroit, quit her straight job and lived in a tree. And Kelley was an artist from Connecticut, into exploring the possibilities of day-glo paint and collage and experimenting with new art forms. The fourth Family Dog member, Jack Towle, didn't come to that initial meeting.

"San Francisco can be the new Liverpool," Castell told Gleason right off the bat. She proceeded to outline the plan of this decidedly unbusinesslike troupe, to reunite dancing and rock and roll in San Francisco. In his 1969 book, The Jefferson Airplane And The San Francisco Sound, Gleason wrote, "There was a reason that they picked San Francisco in which to start and it wasn't just because they all happened to be there at the time." Those reasons, among others, were that New York was too large and Los Angeles was "super-uptite plastic America."

But mostly, it was because San Francisco was San Francisco, and that was where it had to happen.

Neither the Family Dog nor Jefferson Airplane were operating in a vacuum. An undercurrent had been bubbling toward the surface for some time in San Francisco, but one group of young renegades from straight society was not always aware of the other. Rock groups were forming all over the place, more of them, it seemed , every day. Same for politically active groups, protesting social conditions and our nation's policies abroad. Artists were experimenting with new graphic forms and previously unexplored media such as light. New advances in electronics offered previously unimagined directions in which the music could go. Castell, Harmon and Kelley ran this all down to Gleason, how they wanted to bring it all together. They told him about the dance they were planning for Longshoreman's Hall. Gleason said he'd be there.

Permits were secured, bands were enlisted, handbills were drawn by Kelley and printed by Joe Buchwald, and the word went out.

When Gleason arrived at the hall, he couldn't believe what he was seeing. Everyone approaching the hall, Gleason wrote in his book, appeared to be going to a costume party. He described men dressed as characters out of the Old West, long-haired girls in longer dresses. There were "riverboat gamblers" and "mining camp desperados," black leather and brown buckskin. Inside, the scene was even more colorful. The crowd, Gleason reported, danced wildly all night as the bands played. The light show, although primitive by later standards, pulsated to the beat of the music.

"It was orgiastic and spontaneous and completely free-form," Gleason wrote. He described the happy coexistence of hippies wearing buttons for peace and political types wearing buttons touting the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). What also impressed Gleason was that the Family Dog, the promoters, were out there dancing with the rest of them. This was unheard of at traditional dance events!

Jorma Kaukonen: In the beginning, when we first started playing, the audience was mostly sitting down, because that's what audiences were trained to do then. But then audiences began to realize, "Hey, we don't have to sit down. It's rock and roll, for Chrissakes."(5)

Bill Thompson: I remember long lines of people, holding hands, dancing to the music. I mean, 20, 30 people sometimes, going around in a circle. They'd get caught up in the energy of the music, and the excitement. There was so much freedom. This was not like school dances–that was a whole different story, everything was regulated.(5)

Bob Harvey: Longshoreman's was the foreshadowing of the psychedelic dance concerts. But it was more than just music and dance. It felt like belonging, like family. It was my last gig with the band. I knew I was going and it felt so bad.(5)

Paul Kantner: Before the dances, we were just the band at a party, because we weren't connecting with an audience, even at the Matrix. And the party was often much more interesting. I mean, there was a structure there of a stage, and an audience. But, quickly, that wall broke down almost instantaneously.(5)

"The first time that music and LSD interacted in a way that really came to life for us as a band was one day when we went out and got extremely high on some of that early dynamite LSD and we went that night to the Lovin' Spoonful (10/24/65) the Family Dog, Longshoreman's Hall, it was one of the first ones, and we went there and we were stoned on acid watching these guys play. That day, the Grateful Dead guys, our scene, we went out, took acid and came up to Marin County and hung out somewhere around Fairfax or Lagunitas or one of those places up in the woods and just went crazy. We ended up going into that rock and roll dance and it was just really fine to see that whole scene - where there was just nobody there but heads and this strange rock & roll music playing in this weird building. It was just what we wanted to see... We began to see that vision of a truly fantastic thing. It became clear to us that working in bars was not going to be right for us to be able to expand into this new idea."[8]

Jerry performed here on
Grateful Dead
Trips Festival
Big Brother And The Holding Company also performed.
The Dead may not have performed due to Jerry's broken guitar.[11]
"We had this guy build us a soundboard; Buchla. He lived in San Francisco and he built us this thing called the Buchla Box. I think he worked on the Moog synthesizer. This guy was unbelievable. At the Trips Festival at Longshoreman's Hall [a venue with seats on all four sides of the floor], the weekend of January 22, 1966, he had ten speakers set up around there in the balcony.
He had this board in which he could run the sound around in circles. He would isolate one, and have sound wheeling around the room. He had this thing like a piano that was just flat and you ran your fingers across it and it would play the notes. Made it himself, absoulutely fantastic. He made up this box for us that was essentially a mixer and a mike amp and a speaker box and an earphone box."[12]

1/23/66 Grateful Dead
Trips Festival
Acid Test.
Big Brother And The Holding Company also performed.
"One memorable element of the Dead performance came when champion gymnast Dan Millman leapt off the balcony onto a trampoline under a barrage of stobe lights - no one could be quite sure if it was real or an illusion."[15]

4/9/66 Grateful Dead
Spring Mobilization To End The War Benefit[6]
Sopwith Camel, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Big Brother And The Holding Company, Country Joe And The Fish also performed.
The Grateful Dead also performed in the Panhandle, San Francisco on this date.

4/22/66 Grateful Dead
Trips Festival
The Loading Zone also performed.

4/23/66 Grateful Dead
Trips Festival
The Loading Zone also performed.

4/24/66 Grateful Dead
Trips Festival
The Loading Zone also performed.
Organized by Stewart Brand, Ken Kesey, Owsley and others. Ten thousand music lovers and hippies attended this sold-out event, with a thousand more turned away each night. The Grateful Dead came on stage, and 6,000 people arrived to listen to great music, take the acid test and witness one of the first fully developed light shows of the era.”[2][7]

11/4/68 Grateful Dead[3]
Mark Lane Benefit.[13]

7/16/69 John Dawson, David Nelson (unbilled) and Grateful Dead Hell's Angels Wake for Gino Heinicke
Cleveland Wrecking Company, Ice opened. Santana also may have performed.
The Dawson/Nelson, Garcia group (New Riders) attempted to perform but equipment problems scuttled that performance.(10)
Jerry plays a 1968 (or 67) SG Standard with a Bigsby tremolo tailpiece. Used from December 1968 to August 69. Seen in Woodstock film and also the Playboy After Dark. Also recognizable by it's large "batwing" pickguard.

Bob Roberts contacted Jerry when Gino Heineke was killed by the Gypsy Jokers in Golden Gate Park. He asked Jerry if he'd play a tribute for Gino. Jerry said yes immediately.[9]

10/8/72 Merl Saunders Tom Fogerty[4]

Longshoremen's Hall, San Francisco, CA
1.)^McNally, Dennis, A Long Strange Trip, pg. 191.
2.)^Hawley, Andrew, Avid Collector Seeks Original 1966, 2012-10-03,
3.)^DeadBase XI
5.)^The Hangar,
7.)^An Unofficial History of San Francisco's 60's Music Halls
8.)^Garcia, Jerry, A Signpost To New Space, pg. 20-21
9.)^Clark, John, Dead Angel, pg. 95-96.
10.)^Arnold, Corry, August 1, 1969 Bear's Lair, UC Berkeley: Jerry Garcia backing Marmaduke, 2009-09-15,
12.)^Babbs, Ken, Taping Compendium,
14.)^The Hangar,
15.)^Jackson, Blair; McNally, Dennis; Peters, Stephen; Wills, Chuck, Grateful Dead - The Illustrated Trip, pg. 48.
16.)^chewy91377's channel, ‪Grateful Dead and jefferson airplane and the chosen family‬,


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  3. Yes, Santana played at a Hell's Angels dance at the Longshoremen's Hall around 1968. I rode my chopper over from Oakland for the gig.