My late night at the Fillmore Auditorium

by  Freedom Dancer

Entering  the iconic Fillmore Auditorium on Friday night, looking hip with a colorful peasant blouse cinched by a thick leather black belt, along with jeans and boots, I put up with a required frisking as we entered the historic venue. Even Bill Graham would have raised his eyebrows to learn that in the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s, an East Bay chic like me had never visited the concert hall, so rich with the history of the Bay Area music scene.

A Lebowski-ish bearded mellow man with a ski cap asked me open my tiny purse to make sure I wasn’t bringing drugs in to see a bluegrass band concert.

Horseshoes and Handgranades were opening for the headliners, The Infamous Stringdusters.

Drugs? You say? Why I am one of the only people I know who didn’t try marijuana in the 60’s, I said, straightening my babushka and looking at him square in his swollen irises.

Well, you are really missing out, my dear,he responded lovingly.

It’s not good for your brain or your health or your lungs,I said sweetly and softly.

What? are you, a doctor?

Yes, I answered,  a neurologist, so I know what I am talking about.

And with that, I entered a world of yore and lore–the Fillmore in the Fillmore.

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The Poster Room

All the musical names of my youth had played the Fillmore: Jefferson Airplane, Tower of Power, Johnnie Cash, Janis Joplin, Led Zeppelin, the Grateful Dead, the Doors, Credence Clearwater Revival, the Allman Brothers, the Who and other groups known for psychedelic tripping to the light fantastic.

And groups not of my youth but of my kids’ youth stood on the stage and wailed or blasted or whined or hooted: the Dead Kennedys, the Smashing Pumpkins, Queen Latifah, the Mother Hips, Jefferson Starship and Counting Crows.

We headed up to the Poster Room where colorful posters of most of the headliners lined the walls like a super-sized stamp collection.

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What I didn’t know was that I would have to stand for the entire show.No seats!

My lower back and feet grumbled upon learning this news, but hey!, I’m Cheri Block, hipster from the East Bay, yeah…Gramma Hipster with a glass of respectable Chardonnay, yeah…

My short-girl survival instincts told me to hustle to the front of the stage as fast as I could or I would see nothing. That move proved to be genius.

Flanked by my 13-year-old musical grandson, my 6’2″ son-in-law, my daughter (who earned several yellow cards and one red card in her high school soccer career) and my husband wearing a very cool cap and who is not to be messed around with when things get tense–I felt, well, safe.

By the time the headliners were in full throttle,  it was the 60’s. People with grey hair (Class of 68), beards and hippie shirts, young Appalachians and Alaskan-looking fishing and hunting men chugging one craft beer after another, solitary weirdos doing their version of the bluegrass hokey-pokey by themselves in the corner,  lots of clean-cut folks  having a good ol time, and yes, baby boomers vaporizing weed and blowing it into the air (for all of us to breathe)–so much for checking for DRUGS at the door.

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Horseshoes and Handgranades

The New Orleans dinner we had at the Elite Cafe, about as heavy as an anvil in my stomach, proved to be a sustaining fact0r throughout a curious blast through the past.

How lucky was  I to have been to my first Fillmore concert at the age of 66 with my 13-year-old grandson?

On the way home in the BART car, I put on my doctor hat and discussed Mary Juana with him. He is a jazz musician with a great brain and good judgement, so I think he listened.

Right on, you groovy dudes!

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About Cheri

Writer, artist, cable television host, grandmother to four!
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13 Responses to My late night at the Fillmore Auditorium

  1. ShimonZ says:

    a number of points I don’t agree with in this post, but it is always very good to get your impressions. And though I’m quite a bit older than you, you can be sure I wouldn’t have stood on my feet through a concert at your age. Can’t imagine why you were willing to suffer so.

    • Cheri says:

      I stood because I was there.
      Luckily, I have been working out so I did pretty well. I was willing to do it because my kids bought the tickets and provided the experience. You know how that is, right? Thanks for your comment.

  2. shoreacres says:

    Mythic is the word, of course. When I was living in Berkeley, both the Fillmore and Fillmore West had closed, and the Fillmore didn’t reopen until I was gone. Still, the music was wonderful, all around the city: there were the Bread and Roses concerts in SF, groups like Tower of Power in Oakland, and the Klezmorim were just getting started when I was there. They played at Freight and Salvage, and there was a gypsy group that used to frequent a coffee house on the north side of campus that was great.

    I still can pick out “Incense and Peppermints” after only two notes. One of my sailing buddies went to high school with Janis Joplin, and everynow and then I just have to crank up “Golden Road”.

    Have you read Joan Didon’s White Album? You surely must have. The section about her visit to a Doors recording session is — well, interesting.

    • Cheri says:

      I have not read White Album. I shall check it out.
      Mick Gillette (who just died) was our friend. He was part of the Tower of Power. Can you believe that they played at our high school dances????
      It was a kick to finally go to the Fillmore. I doubt I will go back (because I do not want to stand again…) but so grateful to have experienced it once.
      You are amazing, Linda.

      • shoreacres says:

        Oh, you must read The White Album. Topics include Bishop James Pike, Georgia O’Keefe, the Cali water system, writing angst, Tate/La Bianca, the Reagans. It’s a fascinating group of essays from the seventies that I still read at least once a year, and dip into more often. I’ve worn out a couple of copies.

  3. Richard says:

    Brilliantly written. Pacy, sustained, highly charged, atmospheric. It’s as though I was there. My brain is visibly pulsating. Is this what the weed does to you? I’d never had it before.

    • Cheri says:

      Hi Richard,
      I love the word pacy. Well done, Sir Richard.
      You are always so kind. What would I do without a reader like you? (Probably shut down my blog…). I have never smoked weed and don’t intend to. I know it is bad for you, despite what all of the pro-weed smokers will say.

      • shoreacres says:

        One question no one has been able to answer for me is what will happen when the pro-marijuana forces come up against the no-second-hand-smoke folks. There seems to be an inconsistency there that could require popcorn and a beverage somewhere down the line.

  4. Cheri says:

    Excellent question, Linda. I was thinking about that exact dilemma on Saturday night. I was just as outraged at marijuana smoke (which is worse for lung cancer than tobacco smoke) as I would have been in a 70’s Bingo auditorium. You are so optimistic! Popcorn and a beverage? These folks would meet over brownies and coffee!

  5. wkkortas says:

    I had no idea the Fillmore was still standing ( I think I have it inextricably confused with the Fillmore East, which is still standing but not a concert venue?) As far as standing at a concert, I haven’t done that since….probably the early 80’s. Any music I see live now involves seats if not couches.

  6. Cheri says:

    Have you been to the Fillmore? Fillmore Auditorium? I had a long talk with my son today, who has been to hundreds of concerts, especially to see the Mother Hips. He disabused me of my stereotypes and my ignorance of the concert experience.
    I disabused him. We discussed tattoos, white men, heavy metal, country, standing, drunk people, and the Poster Room.
    Then I Face-Timed with his two adorable little girls.

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