Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Tangent, 117 University, Palo Alto, CA

Special thanks to Corry Arnold!

As folkies, some members of The Warlocks had played a few of the coffee houses, but the main port of call for Mother McCree's Uptown Jug Band Champions was The Top Of The Tangent, at 117 University. The Tangent was a pizza parlor, and The Top Of The Tangent was a coffee shop on the top floor where folk musicians played and hung out.(1)

The Top Of The Tangent was started by two doctors at Stanford hospital, Stu Goldstein and David Schoenstadt, who were looking for something interesting to do. The Top Of The Tangent was, as the name suggested, just a room above the pizza parlor, and it opened in January 1963. The room seated perhaps 75 people. While the Tangent kept regular restaurant hours, the Top Of The Tangent seems to have only been officially open for Wednesday night "hoot night," and on weekend evenings. Weekend admission was $1.50.(2)

"There was something called a Scopietone (sp?) at the Tangent that was like a jukebox except there was a screen that played a video of the artist performing the song.(4)

The Top Of The Tangent was a folk club, and folk clubs were fairly passe by 1966. By the end of 1967, Palo Alto had it's own rock club, The Poppycock, just two doors down from The Tangent. Although The Poppycock wasn't large by rock standards, probably holding somewhere between 300 and 500 patrons, it dwarfed The Top Of The Tangent. Nonetheless, the Tangent itself remained open, and in doing newspaper research I have seen bookings at least as late as 1969. I have a feeling that the upstairs room remained part of the restaurant, and was used occasionally for various folk or theater performances.

Around 1969, The Tangent became home for a weekly local songwriters "collective," started by an engineer named Chris Lunn. The events were basically "open mike" nights, a continuation of the Hoot Night folk tradition. The best of these songwriters played around Bay Area clubs under the name "Palo Alto Folk And Blues Collective."

I think The Tangent, or The Top Of The Tangent, anyway, changed it's name to The Trip Room in 1970 or '71. However, there was a large fire that burned down The Poppycock building in 1972 (which by this time was a jazz club called In Your Ear), and I have to think the Tangent building was damaged too. Thus the current building must not be the same as it was back then. Downstairs, at 117 University is a restaurant called Rudy's, which has a reputation as one of Palo Alto's last "regular" joints where you can get a burger and a beer instead of the more typical exotica (e.g. Croatian-Italian-Asian Fusion) that Palo Alto is now famous for.

There is a different entrance to the stairs to the second floor of Rudy's, and the door is marked 119 University. I have to think that the area of the offices of 119 University are roughly the same as The Top Of The Tangent, where The Warlocks were born and took some of their earliest steps. Earlier this year, the sign on the door shows it to be the offices of a company called MindTribe. MindTribe is a technology consultancy whose mission is "to develop successful products that expand the realm of human possibility."(1)

An establishment called The Palo Alto Deli, at 117 University (owned by Max and Bertha Feldman), had an extra room upstairs, and that turned into The Tangent. If I understand correctly, The Tangent was a sort of pizza parlor, and the room above it was "The Top Of The Tangent," the little folk music place. It apparently seated about 75 people.

The club opened in January 1963, and it instantly became the Folk Music hangout for Palo Alto bohemian folkies. Jerry Garcia and The Wildwood Boys were known to have played there as early as February 23, 1963, although no doubt Jerry had already played there by then, at hoots if nothing else. The club was also the birthplace of Mother McRee's Uptown Jugband Champions. By 1965, Garcia and Bob Weir worked a few blocks away at Dana Morgan Music (on Ramona), and Bill Kreutzmann worked at Swain's (on Hamilton).

In March 2006 I was in Palo Alto and I took a picture of the building as it stood, and more or less stands as recently as last year. The building housed a pub named Rudy's, as well as a German restaurant called Elbe. Elbe has sinced closed, and seems to have become an adjunct to Rudy's. Downtown Palo Alto since the 1960s has become an extraordinarily upscale dining Disneyland, and apparently Rudy's remains one of the last "dive bars" in Palo Alto, where non-rich people can hoist a few and have a burger.(3)

Today, in 2012, Rudy's Pub occupies the second floor, where Top of the Tangent used to be.

Jerry performed here on
2/22/63 Wildwood Boys
2/23/63 Wildwood Boys
5/4/63  Sara Garcia
"Valiantly, Jer also tried to learn the fiddle when she [Heather] was a baby.
That was painful to be around. But she's a violinist now."
And also;
"We sang together and I played a little autoharp and my little rosewood Martin guitar.
He played most of the instruments."(6)(7)

5/1/64 Mother MCree's
5/2/64 Mother McCree's
7/??/64 Mother McCree's
7/??/64 Mother McCree's
7/16/64 Mother McCree's
7/17/64 Mother McCree's
7/18/64 Mother McCree's
"Some Stanford students recorded Mother McRee's at the Top Of The Tangent in 1964 for Stanford radio station KZSU-fm, and the tape was ultimately released as a cd."(1)

"It was also around this time that  Jerry, Troy, Dave and, I think, Hunter and I played a STATEMENT at The Tangent. The boys felt that there was a “snob” screening process creeping into the Tangents musical format. The boys thought it was getting too “exclusive.” So, as a “statement,” Troy arranged a Bach piece for us that we played for one song and then we played “Wildwood Flower” with nose flutes, stovepipe horns, Kazoos and Banjo (of course). 
Then, hooting like maniacs, we ran out of the room. I don’t think any one of us played The Tangent again."(1)

Summer 1965 Warlocks
"I remember seeing the "Warlocks" at the Full Circle, leaving because I thought their music stunk -- Dead Heads should know about the Warlocks."(6)
In the Summer of 1965, the Warlocks regularly played at The Top Of The Tangent.

1.)^Arnold, Corry, Lost Live Dead, 2009-09-06, North To San Francisco,
2.)^Jackson, Blair,  Garcia, An American Life, pg 47.
3.)^Arnold, Corry, Lost Live Dead, 2010-02-06,
4.)^Harris, Sherri, 2011-10-23, t=551#add_comments
5.)^Van Maastricht, Norm, reflections on the essa,
6.)^Greenfield, Robert,  Dark Star-An Oral Biography Of Jerry Garcia.
7.)^Troy, Sandy, Captain Trips, p. 47, 258.

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