Friday, December 31, 2010

2119 University Avenue, Berkeley, CA: The Keystone Berkeley

(a photo of 2119 University Avenue [at Shattuck] in Berkeley as it looked in 2009. Only the arches hint at the structure of the Keystone Berkeley club that was located at the site 15 years earlier. If you can still see the outlines of the Jimi Hendrix mural around the entrance, you may need medical attention)

Recent discussions on the vagueness of Jerry Garcia Band history in the late 70s and early 80s has reminded me of the unique relationship between Jerry Garcia and the Keystone Berkeley. I am only able to discern parts of the story, but the facts as they can be seen are quite remarkable. People who were not attending Garcia Band shows in the 70s and early 80s may not realize what an unprecedented arrangement Garcia and his various aggregations seemed to have with the Keystone Berkeley. To outline some of the key points that I will illuminate in my post:
  • Jerry Garcia played the Keystone Berkeley 206 times between 1972 and 1984, a number that dwarfs any other venue he played at in any configuration
  • Garcia shows at the Keystone almost never sold tickets in advance--they were available day of show only, in a venue that officially held about 500 people
  • Paradoxically, Garcia shows at the Keystone were almost never sold out, in my experience, anyway. You would see people buying tickets and getting in well after the show had started
  • Garcia never came on stage until after 11:00 pm, usually well after 11:00 pm, and shows ran right up until 2:00 am (last call), making for very late weeknights
Planning to see a Keystone Berkeley show was often fruitless, as shows were often canceled, added or re-scheduled with regularity--one of the attractions to the club and Garcia of not having any advance tickets that would need refunding. The band also came on so late that the next day was a write-off, and it was rarely a weekend, so that often at 11:00pm on a cold Tuesday the idea of staying up til 3:00am just seemed like too much, or no one would go with you, or your car was out of gas, or whatever. Missing a JGB Keystone show wasn't a big deal, however, since the Garcia Band would usually be back the next month.

On the other hand, one Sunday night--May 24, 1981, as it happened-- my roommate and I were sitting around at 11:00pm, talking about the Dead, and I mentioned that Garcia was playing Keystone. My roommate said "are there tickets?" I said, there's always tickets, and off we went. 10 minutes later we found a good parking space near Shattuck and University, paid our money at the door, and there we were. Shortly after we arrived, the band made its way on stage and Jerry kicked it off with "Sugaree," which made for a lot better Sunday night than watching re-runs of "MASH."

Jerry Garcia had achieved rock star status by 1967, and by the mid-70s he was starting to achieve some of the material rewards that went along with it. Yet when Garcia played the Keystone Berkeley, he was just another local guy playing a dive--and trust me, it was a dive--and the crowd happened to be whatever yahoos were able to blow off work or school the next day. That's the reason that every Keystone tape has that laid-back, drifting feel where time seemed to have no meaning. If time had meaning to you, Deadhead or not, you weren't at Keystone Berkeley drinking beer at midnight on a Tuesday waiting for Jerry to come on stage.

The Keystone Berkeley was a sawdust covered dump in a sketchy area of town that sold overpriced, watered down beer to a crowd of doubtful lunatics who were never going to be employee of the month, if they even had jobs. God, I miss it.

Keystone History, Part 1: The Keystone Korner
Freddie Herrera opened a club called the Keystone Korner at 750 Vallejo Street in San Francisco. The club was just a few blocks off of the "entertainment" district on Broadway. It had previously been a rock club called DenoCarlo's, and various local bands had played there in  1968, including a regular Monday night residency for Berkeley's Creedence Clearwater Revival. Herrera took over the club in 1969 and tried to make it into a topless dancing place, but it was too far from Broadway to capture the tourists and sailors. Fortuitously, Nick Gravenites wandered in, and he was looking for a club that he could use for various ends.

As a result, starting in mid-1969, The Keystone Korner became a rock club, often featuring various expatriate Chicagoans who had relocated to San Francisco, including Mike Bloomfield and Elvin Bishop. Bloomfield and Gravenites played there almost every other weekend from September 1969 through March 1970, and the little venue was sort of like their clubhouse. The first call bass player for the Bloomfield/Gravenites band was John Kahn, which I believe to be an important part of the story.

The Matrix
The first "hippie nightclub" in San Francisco was The Matrix, at 3138 Fillmore. It was actually a beer and pizza joint that didn't allow dancing (by law), but it was a place for longhairs to hang out while local bands played whatever they felt like playing. A lot of cool 60s San Francisco bands played The Matrix, particularly on weeknights. Jerry Garcia took to jamming there regularly, and the basis of what became the Jerry Garcia Band started as a regular Monday night jam session at the Matrix in early 1970. Garcia, Howard Wales, Bill Vitt and John Kahn made up the regular crew, and after Wales ultimately left and was replaced by Merl Saunders, that "group" started to play out a little bit. Nonetheless, the Matrix was the original home base of the Garcia/Saunders group, just as Bloomfield and Gravenites anchored the Keystone Korner.

However, in Spring 1971, the Matrix closed. Garcia and Saunders would need another place to call home, and they seem to have chosen Keystone Korner. The first Garcia/Saunders Keystone Korner show was April 1, 1971, but their first extended run was in May 1971, after the Matrix had closed. Bloomfield and Gravenites had largely stopped playing Keystone Korner by this time. I have to think John Kahn's familiarity with the club may have been in a factor in encouraging Garcia and Saunders to play there regularly.

Keystone History, Part 2: The New Monk
In the 60s, there was an infamous beer joint in Berkeley popular with fraternity boys called The Monkey Inn, known as "The Monk," and located on 3109 Shattuck, between Prince and Woolsey (the site today seems to be the La Pena Cultural Center at 3105, just next to the Starry Plough at 3101). In 1968, the place 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 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..


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Keystone History, Part 3-The Keystone Berkeley
Herrera ran both the Keystone Korner and The New Monk throughout 1971. 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.

Garcia/Saunders played Keystone Korner 19 times in 1972. However, in July of '72, Herrera sold the Keystone Korner to Todd Barkan (former pianist for Kwane and The Kwanditos), who turned it into a jazz club. Garcia and Saunders did play two dates for Barkan on July 7-8, 1972, that had been previously scheduled, but from the Summer of '72 onwards the Keystone Berkeley was Garcia's go-to choice for casual gigs with all his side bands, and he played a dozen shows there in 1972. Other Dead spinoff groups played there as well, particularly during the 1974-76 period.
(The March 1974 Keystone Berkeley calendar)
A Note On The Name
The New Monk was re-named the Keystone Berkeley in March 1972 to distinguish it from the Keystone Korner. At some point in the mid-70s, the name was changed to The Keystone, since Keystone Korner had no connection to it, and in any case didn't book rock acts. However, everyone called it "the Keystone, in Berkeley," or just "Keystone Berkeley" but strictly speaking it was "The Keystone."

Of course, in early 1977 Herrera and his partner Bobby Corona opened the Keystone Palo Alto (about which more below), and the official name of the Berkeley club reverted to Keystone Berkeley.

Keystone History, Part 4-Keystone Palo Alto and The Stone
The Keystone Berkeley was one of the leading rock clubs in the Bay Area. However, the sort of band who could headline the Keystone on a weekend was about at the level to be 2nd or 3rd on the bill at a Bill Graham show. There was intense competition between Bill Graham Presents and Keystone for acts, and much accusations were thrown about, usually directed at BGP for threatening not to book acts, etc. Generally speaking, however, acts that played Keystone did not play Graham shows and vice-versa, or not in the same year, anyway. The Jerry Garcia Band was a complicated exception, but in the mid-70s at least Garcia did not often play BGP shows.

Good bands played Keystone Berkeley, but they were generally on their way up or their way down. When they were hot, they played for Graham. A lot of Bay Area heavyweights played Keystone between record deals or else just as they were getting their new band together, looking to graduate. Garcia's part-time status was unique, essentially, to Garcia, but it must have frustrated Bill Graham no end.

In early 1977, Herrera and his partner Bobby Corona took over a club called Sophie's, at 260 S. California Avenue in Palo Alto, and re-named it the Keystone Palo Alto. The Jerry Garcia Band had already played Sophie's 7 times (in various incarnations) in 1975-76. Keystone Palo Alto allowed Corona and Herrera to book acts for two nights rather than one, and made them a better competitor to Graham. In 1980, Corona and Herrera opened The Stone in San Francisco, at 412 Broadway, and this allowed them to book touring bands for three nights, making them direct competitors to the Bill Graham hegemony (I have written about the rock history of 412 Broadway elsewhere).

Once Keystone Palo Alto and The Stone opened, Garcia could spread his shows out amongst the three clubs. Every few months, he typically would play one night at each club over three consecutive nights, but this would vary based on which acts were playing the three clubs. If there was a popular act playing one of the other clubs on a certain night, Garcia would sometime play an extra night at a different club (e.g., if Tower of Power was booked at Keystone Palo Alto on a weeknight, Garcia would play two nights at The Stone instead of one in Palo Alto). As far as I know, both Keystone Palo Alto and The Stone stuck to the pattern of only offering Garcia tickets on the day of the show and starting at 11:00 pm or later (I have seen a Keystone Palo Alto ticket stub from 1985, so Palo Alto--typically-may have had it's own arrangement).

An Economic Assessment of Jerry Garcia at the Keystone Berkeley
The Keystone Berkeley was an economic entity designed to sell beer. Technically, it was a restaurant, which by California law meant that it had to serve food but could then also serve food and wine. I guess a few people bought fries or Chardonnay, but basically the Keystone sold beer on draft, by the gallon. The club was open six or seven nights a week, even when only local bands played for a dollar cover charge. There were usually two acts, and they often played two sets each, as far as I know, in order to extend the evening. Bigger acts had tickets available in advance, but the Keystone was more oriented towards getting people to wander in and hang out and listen to music, drinking beer the whole time. Once, for example (On Oct 6 '83) I saw the latterday New Riders for free at Keystone Berkeley, with the provision that you had to buy two beers (which you paid for at the door in return for drink tickets). That was a pretty clear assessment of where the money was.

The odd set up of Garcia shows at Keystone Berkeley makes perfect sense when considered from the point of view of beer sales. People would line up at Keystone Berkeley for the day's show starting in the morning. Why, I don't know, since everyone usually got in, but Berkeley was tolerant and a lot of people had come from far away. In any case, the doors would open at 7:00 pm or something, and the drinking would begin immediately. I think there were a few tables in the tiny balcony behind the soundboard, and some benches around the sides of the main floor, so perhaps these were desirable, but the point was that Jerry attracted a crowd that came early and liked to party.

Since everyone was drinking beer and not the harder stuff, and there was some food, the crowd at the Keystone was always pretty drunk, but not totally gone. Of course, for a Garcia show some other substances dominated, but in any case with no Whisky or Tequila in play, the whole thing was manageable in a rowdy sort of way. There was always an opening act, usually a solo guitarist type, keeping the patrons entertained while they drank. In the later years, they were usually local blues or folk guitarists (like Steve Hayton [sp] or Mike Henderson), but they never seemed worth getting there early for. Of course, having made this determination, the next time I showed up at 10:45 for a JGB show I discovered that I had just missed a set or more by Ramblin Jack Elliott (Jan 24 '83), so some interesting players may have opened on occasion. Nevertheless, the point was to get people there early and keep them drinking beer, and the laid back nature of the Garcia audience was custom made for the Keystone's business model.

I only became conscious of the Keystone's peculiar business arrangement with Garcia when some friends in my dorm with fake ID's attended the January '76 JGB show where Keith and Donna debuted (Jan 26 '76; they had no idea who would replace Hopkins until Keith walked on stage). However, I have no reason to believe that things were much, or any, different from 1972 to 1975. For example, have you ever noticed that no one has any ticket stubs for Garcia shows at the Keystone Berkeley? That's because there weren't any. You couldn't buy tickets in advance, and they just stamped your hand when you went in. This also meant that the entire evening was pretty much an all-cash transaction at the door and at the bar, always attractive to businesses who don't like to leave complicated paper trails.

Jerry Garcia shows at the Keystone Berkeley were advertised in the paper and the club's monthly flyer, but they were often changed. Garcia would be booked for two or three days in a row, and one would be added or dropped at the last minute. Since no tickets were sold in advance, no money had to be refunded. I have to think this was one of the key attractions to Garcia. He could book shows at Keystone Berkeley, knowing that if there were last minute complications in his schedule he could simply add or subtract dates as needed. Of course, from an historian's point of view this makes things very difficult, as there were so many changes, but the flexibility was essential to Garcia's willingness to playing the club.

Since the Keystone Berkeley was generally open every night anyway, it wasn't catastrophic if Garcia canceled or re-scheduled a date. The opening act would just play anyway, and maybe another local act would be booked, and a few beer drinkers would wander in, but that was what the Keystone would have booked anyway, so it was worth giving Garcia the opportunity to play. By the same token, if a local band was booked on a weeknight, and Garcia abruptly wanted to add a show, it seems the Keystone just kept the local band's booking and made them into the opening act.

The 1980s
By the time the 80s rolled onwards, Garcia was playing at The Stone and Keystone Palo Alto as much as Keystone Berkeley. In fact, JGB played more shows at The Stone than either of the other two, both because The Stone was nearer Marin and because it had fewer really good bookings to conflict with Garcia's dates. I also think that as the Grateful Dead became bigger, Garcia's schedule became more rigid. There were fewer dates at the Keystone Berkeley, and indeed all of the Keystones, but there were fewer last second additions and subtractions of dates either.

Changes in the rock market and the parking situation in Downtown Berkeley caused the Keystone Berkeley to close in Spring 1984. Garcia's last shows at Keystone Berkeley were March 21-22, 1984, and the club closed soon after. Between March 8, 1972 and March 22, 1984, Garcia had played an incredible 206 times at the Keystone Berkeley, in a variety of bands. I do not believe there is a single venue that the Grateful Dead played more than 50 times, and Garcia quadrupled that at Keystone Berkeley, a fact that many Dead scholars take for granted. The Garcia configurations that played Keystone Berkeley were:
  • Garcia/Saunders
  • Old And In The Way
  • Great American String Band
  • Legion Of Mary
  • Jerry Garcia Band
  • Reconstruction
Garcia continued to play for Bobby Corona and Freddy Herrera at Keystone Palo Alto and The Stone, but the two clubs closed as well in 1986 and 1987, respectively. Starting in 1987, the Jerry Garcia Band started to perform regularly for Bill Graham Presents. Granted, the JGB was bigger than they had ever been, but the loyal Garcia could have worked for Bill any time, but he stuck with the Corona/Herrera partnership as he had since 1971 until they went out of business. The loyalty Garcia showed to the Keystone family is remarkable in its own right, and to my mind largely unremarked upon.

"Backstage" At The Keystone Berkeley
No discussion of the unique circumstances of Garcia at the Keystone Berkeley would be complete without explaining the stage set up. 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. I never tried to go back there (not my style), but people have many legendary tales.

However, in retrospect, the remarkable thing about the Keystone Berkeley was that 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.

In the 1980s, more and more people either visited the West Coast or outright moved to the Bay Area to be nearer the Dead. Seeing Garcia at the Keystone was a must-do. Typically, visitors or new arrivals would be thrilled to discover that "tickets were still available," not realizing they always were, and spend all day in line. One of my friends, a Manhattanite himself (hi Bobby), took a special pleasure in finding some newcomer near stage right (the steps to the stage were there) and getting him to look at the stage just as the lights went down. As the eager eyed Deadhead peered backstage, looking for Jerry amdist the hubbub, my friend would wait and say "hey, look behind you" and there was Jerry walking right past them (and Steve Parish and Keystone security staff, too, of course). Every time the astonished visitor would say "he couldn't do this in New York [or wherever]," and indeed he couldn't. Right up until the end, for all it's hassles, rowdiness and late hours, Jerry Garcia at Keystone Berkeley was a singular event that had no parallels in the Dead world.

Aftermath
Sometime in the late 90s, I was in Berkeley on a hot day, walking on University back towards campus. I was fading, so I ducked into a drugstore to grab a soft drink or something. As I stood in line inside the Thrifty Jr store, I had a weird moment of recognition. I looked around, and realized I was in the remodeled Keystone Berkeley. Where I was standing would have been right in front of the stage. For a moment all my memories came rushing back, about things passed, ne'er to be seen again.

I walked away in a different mood. I couldn't see the outline of the 40-foot high mural of Jimi Hendrix that had adorned the entrance in the 80s, but I knew it was there.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Grateful Dead Equipment Truck Itinerary January-February 1970

(a truck very similar to the 1969 Grateful Dead equipment truck--photo courtesy Hewitt)

In the last few decades, there has been plenty of attention to the precise touring schedules of 60s rock bands like the Grateful Dead and others, leading to fairly precise chronologies of where the band was playing on a specific day. While there are numerous tales about the adventures of various bands driving through assorted travails to make a show, little attention has been paid to how the band's equipment arrived. To some extent, there are few "roadie sagas" for 60s rock because bands did not yet tour with their own sound systems. While bands carried their own guitars and usually their own amplifiers, the sound reinforcement system (Public Address Systems) depended on the promoter, sometimes supplemented by an equipment sponsor who provided gear on site. The Grateful Dead's very early commitment to traveling with their own sound system meant that the Dead helped invent the parameters of late 20th century rock touring, because the equipment and the band had to end up in the same town.

By late 1969, the Grateful Dead had a National profile and could perform in many parts of the country, even if their albums sold poorly and the band was always broke. From 1966 onwards, thanks to Owsley, the Dead had defied the model that a rock band should risk their performance to whatever sound equipment a promoter provided, and thus the band brought their own gear to the show. Many 60s groups brought their guitar players amplifiers with them, but vocals and drums were only audible if the Public Address system was adequate, and in many cases the guitarists' amps were the only way those musicians were heard. The concept of mixing sound was unknown besides the Avalon and the Fillmores, and perhaps a few other advanced ballrooms.

The Grateful Dead rejected the catch-as-catch-can nature of touring sound systems, and brought their own sound reinforcement and mixing equipment with them. For venues with good sound systems, like the Fillmores, or major rock festivals, the band could travel with less equipment, but for most venues the group simply brought the whole sound system. The members of the Dead generally flew from venue to venue, as air travel was comparably cheap at the time, but the band's touring schedule was dependent on the equipment truck getting from venue to venue. Thus, the Dead's touring schedule required a coherent itinerary, running East to West or North to South rather than jumping from place to place.

A glance at the current touring schedule of any major band will show how conventional this is today, but the Dead were the first group to both formalize the arrangement and become dependent on it at the same time. This post will look at the Grateful Dead's touring schedule when the band started to link its touring schedule to the equipment truck, and in so doing look at the very beginnings of modern rock touring.


View Grateful Dead Equipment Truck Itinerary January-February 1970 in a larger map

(This map creates a facsimile of the obligations of the Grateful Dead's equipment truck for January and February 1970)

In the past, I have looked in detail at the Grateful Dead's touring schedule for different periods of time. For this post, rather than looking at the band's touring, I am looking at what I have determined to be the itinerary for the Grateful Dead's equipment truck. Since the history of a band's equipment is almost completely undocumented, I have had to make numerous assumptions in order to present a realistic picture. In order not to bog down the post, I have described some of my assumptions at the bottom of the post.

Anyone who can find evidence to correct, update or further refine this itinerary should do so in the Comments or email me. For those who are interested in the touring itinerary of the Grateful Dead, see my posts here
Equipment Trucks
Hewitt Jackson, road manager for the group Sanpaku, San Francisco contemporaries of the Grateful Dead in 1968 and '69, commented on the importance of equipment trucks:
Once a band accumulated too much equipment to be carted around to gigs by the musicians in their individual cars and established a regular equipment crew, what to do? ...Most bands that had roadies seem to have some kind of used truck or van that got their gear from place to place. If not you had to rent a truck, which was expensive. At some point, if the band seemed to have a future it became cost-effective to buy a used furniture or other box truck - I drove many for one band or other.

At any rate I remember that The Dead's crew showed up somewhere in a NEW step van (similar to the one above). It was white with no markings of any kind, kinda stealth. No other band had a truck like this. We were waaaay impressed. [The crew] and I dreamed that someday we would have a similar truck to haul around Sanpaku's equipment. I think The Dead quickly outgrew the step van because they were hauling around Owsley's monster sound system as well.
The Dead and Owsley had seen the future, although at the time it may have seemed that they were just possibly deranged. However, by mid-1969 the Dead could be booked in many parts of the country, but to provide the uncompromising Grateful Dead experience their equipment had to go with them. At the time, the Dead had rented a warehouse at the largely decommissioned Hamilton Air Force Base in Novato, CA, in Marin County. The warehouse was actually near downtown Novato, and a place called Pinky's Pizza, but for practical reasons I have used the main base address for my map (35 Hamilton Drive, Novato, CA, 94949).

When the Dead played shows where they obviously had to fly, then the band either trusted the equipment at the venue, as they did at the Fillmore East, or were simply paid enough to justify the trip regardless of the sound. In some cases, they may have been paid so much that they could fly all their equipment, but I am unable to determine that with any certainty. What follows, then, is not the Grateful Dead's January-February 1970 tour schedule, but the itinerary of the Grateful Dead equipment truck. It is possible that some legs were by plane, but as near as I can tell this is the route driven by the Dead's crew in a truck very similar to the one in the photo above. Based on Hewitt Jackson's comments, it's likely or even possible that their was more than one truck.

January 1970
The Grateful Dead had a brief post-Christmas tour at the end of 1969, in Texas, Florida and Manhattan, but they must have flown. While I cannot account for what equipment they used in Texas (on December 26, 1969 at SMU), they would have used "house" systems at the Hollywood Festival in Florida (Dec 28) and at the Fillmore East (Jan 2-3, 1970). The first trip of the New Year would have been a single Saturday night show in San Diego on January 10, 1970. Assuming the crew drove, the trip would have looked as follows (for precise directions, see the map above):
  • start: 35 Hamilton Drive, Novato, CA, 94949
  • January 10, 1970: Golden Hall, Community Concourse, San Diego, CA ( 202 W C St, San Diego, California 92101)-518 miles
  • return: 35 Hamilton Drive, Novato, CA, 94949-518 miles 
I am confident that the Grateful Dead band members flew to their Saturday night show in San Diego on January 10, but the economics would have encouraged them to send the equipment crew by truck. The crew would have returned to Novato before the trip to the Pacific Northwest. California residents should recognize that Highway 5 was largely incomplete in those days, and the truck(s) would likely have had to take Highway 101, a considerably slower and more difficult drive.

The next weekend (January 15-18), the Dead were playing in the Pacific Northwest. The truck would have had the following itinerary:
  • start: 35 Hamilton Drive, Novato, CA, 94949
  • January 15, 1970: [unknown venue], Seattle, WA (1416 7th Avenue, Seattle, WA 98101)-797 miles. The Seattle date is uncomfirmed, but the date would only have been contemplated because the band had Friday (16) and Saturday (17) shows scheduled in Oregon. If they actually played Seattle, they would have added "just" 161 miles to the drive.
  • January 16, 1970: Springer's Ballroom, Gresham, OR (W. Powell Blvd at SE 182nd Ave, Gresham, OR 97030)-181 miles
  • January 17, 1970: Gill Coliseum, Oregon State U., Corvallis, OR (SW 26th St, Corvallis, Oregon)-97.5 miles
  • January 18, 1970: Springer's Ballroom, Gresham, OR (W. Powell Blvd at SE 182nd Ave, Gresham, OR 97030)-97.5 miles
  • return: 35 Hamilton Drive, Novato, CA, 94949-636 miles
The Grateful Dead played two shows in Hawaii on the weekend of January 23-24, but they obviously flew there, so I have left the dates out of this specialized itinerary. I would be curious as to how much of their sound equipment they took to the venue, but I am unable to answer that question at the time.

After the weekend in Hawaii, the Dead had a weekend show in New Orleans, followed by a show in St. Louis, and then an immediate return to San Francisco. They definitely brought their own equipment on this brief tour, but I do not know if the crew drove or flew. If they drove, the tour itinerary would be as follows:
  • start: 35 Hamilton Drive, Novato, CA, 94949
  • January 30-February 1, 1970: The Warehouse, New Orleans, LA (1820 Tchoupitoulas Street, New Orleans, LA 70130)-2,292 miles. This 2,200+ mile leg may have been flown rather than driven. Keep in mind, however, that the crew would have had to drive to the airport, offload the equipment, fly to the New Orleans Airport, rent a truck and pick up and load the equipment, so it would hardly have been a luxury trip. Many members of the crew may have spent the night of January 31 in jail.
  • February 2, 1970: Fox Theater, St. Louis, MO ( 527 North Grand Boulevard, St. Louis, MO 63103)-680 miles. If the crew had rented a truck in New Orleans, they still would have had to drive it to St. Louis. We know from a review that the equipment was late, suggesting winter road problems. keep in mind that winter travel, particularly outside of the West Coast, often requires driving in formidably difficult conditions that are only magnified in a truck ((update: another Commenter found some evidence that the Dead's equipment had been held by the New Orleans police, so they had to rent locally, which would have explained the delay).
  • February 4, 1970: Family Dog On The Great Highway, San Francisco, CA (Balboa Street at Great Highway, San Francisco, CA 94121)-2060 miles. If the band had rented a truck in New Orleans--not a certainty--they would have had to return it in St. Louis, and return to SFO to offload the equipment into their own truck and take it to either Novato or (more likely) directly to the Family Dog. Although most Deadheads would consider Family Dog and Fillmore West shows as "home" shows, for the crew it probably was like most nights, getting in from St Louis just in time to set up in San Francisco, and then breaking down and setting up at Fillmore West.
    February 5-8, 1970: Fillmore West, San Francisco, CA (1545 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94103)-5.9 miles. My own supposition is that the crew did not take the equipment to the Family Dog, but rather to the Fillmore West. I think the Dead used the Family Dog system to play their abbreviated show (update: and presumably they got their equipment back from the New Orleans police, and returned it to the Bay Area).
  • return: 35 Hamilton Drive, Novato, CA, 94949-25.2 miles
For the purposes of this itinerary, even if the Dead's crew had flown to New Orleans and rented a truck, in itself a fairly expensive proposition, the crew still had to drive a truck to St. Louis, so to some extent this leg of the tour depended on an equipment truck. This was distinctly different than flying to a city, playing a venue, and flying home, as the Dead would do the next week (February 11-14), so I have included it on the truck itinerary. 

After the Fillmore West weekend, the Dead flew to New York to play their legendary shows at Fillmore East on February 11 and 13-14, including a show mid-town at Ungano's on February 12. Fillmore East had a great sound system, and it was one of the few venues where the Dead felt comfortable without their own sound system, so the travel is not part of this itinerary.

The Dead's next run of shows was three nights in Texas. I don't know if the band flew from New York to San Francisco to Texas, or direct to Texas--and if so, what did they do in the meantime?--but I have assumed the crew drove the equipment to Texas from California. If they flew, they would have had to have rented a truck in Texas. The all-driving itinerary would have been as follows:
  • start: 35 Hamilton Drive, Novato, CA, 94949
  • February 20, 1970: Panther Hall, Ft. Worth, TX (1000 Throckmorton St, Ft. Worth, TX 76102)-1,723 miles. Just to reiterate, it's possible the crew flew the equipment to Ft. Worth, and rented a truck at DFW.
  • February 21, 1970: Convention Center, San Antonio, TX (200 E. Market St, San Antonio, TX 78205)-267 miles
  • February 22, 1970: Sam Houston Coliseum, Houston, TX (801 Bagby St, Houston, TX 77002)-196 miles
  • February 23, 1970: Municipal Auditorium, Austin, TX (400 S. First St, Austin, TX 78704)-165 miles. Even if the crew had flown to DFW, they still would have had to drive 600 miles in Texas and had to load in and load out the equipment three times in three days. I doubt that they could have gotten a direct flight from Austin to SFO, so they would have had to return to DFW or change planes, which would have added 191 more miles. 
  • return: 35 Hamilton Drive, Novato, CA, 94949-1,773 miles
As I have discussed elsewhere, this was a momentous period for the Dead, including discovering that their manager Lenny Hart was embezzling from them and recording Workingman's Dead. An electric rock band is inextricably bound to their equipment, however, and reviewing the map shows what a brutal touring schedule the band had. Keep in mind also that Winter road conditions are never ideal, and that the Interstate Highway system at the time was considerably less developed, and the driving for the crew must have been even more difficult than the contemporary Google map would suggest.

Although the Dead returned home after their Texas excursion, whether the crew had driven or flown, they would have only had a few days before they loaded up and headed out for the weekend at the Family Dog:
  • start: 35 Hamilton Drive, Novato, CA, 94949
  • February 27-March 1, 1970: Family Dog On The Great Highway, San Francisco, CA (Balboa Street at Great Highway, San Francisco, CA 94121)-24.9 miles
  • return: 35 Hamilton Drive, Novato, CA, 94949-24.9 miles
If the crew drove every leg that I have listed here, the equipment truck and the crew driving it would have logged 12,082 miles. Some commuters may say that they drive 12,000 miles every month or two, but they are not likely to have been driving an overloaded step van at 3 in the morning, on their way to Oregon or St.Louis, with the finances of the band riding on their arrival.

Now, of course, every band on tour probably prints out a Google map of their itinerary as they wend North and South, East and West. The Grateful Dead are currently fashionable for "marketing lessons" they supposedly have imparted, but their impact on modern touring was far greater than has normally been recognized.  Indeed, with GPS and cell phones, the isolation and adventure of the road has probably been normalized. But think about being a long-haired rowdy in 1970, driving a truck from California to the Northwest, and back, and then to the Southeast, and back, and then to the Southwest, and back, bad weather, an old map, no cell phone, on an enterprise with no precedent and no friendly faces at the truck stop.

Other bands took their Fenders and a Marshall or two and hopped on a plane, and if the sound suffered sometime, well, maybe it would be better the next night. Why would a band take on the expense, and add the risk that the equipment didn't even show up--who would do that? The Grateful Dead were living hand-to-mouth in 1970, and even more so when they discovered Lenny Hart's perfidy, so depending on the crew to show up with the truck added a whole new layer of risk to their already rickety enterprise. Of course, the Dead sounded better than any other band touring at the time, and every place they played a legion of Deadheads were converted, so despite the band's defiance of any reasonable Risk Management propositions, their Quixotic insistence on getting the sound right turned out to be a Signpost To New Space rather than a ticket to obscurity, even it meant 12,082 road miles.

Google Map Notes

Saturday, December 4, 2010

John Kahn Live Performance History 1969 (John Kahn III)

(part of the listing from the "Opening Today" section of the San Francisco Chronicle Datebook section of November 7, 1969)

Jerry Garcia's musical history outside of the Grateful Dead is remarkable for its breadth and longevity. Notwithstanding the Grateful Dead's extensive touring schedule throughout its 30-year history, Garcia played a remarkable number of shows with his own aggregations for 25 of those years. Garcia's principal right hand man for his own endeavors from 1970-1995 was bassist John Kahn, who besides playing exceptional electric and acoustic bass also took care of the musical business of the Jerry Garcia Band. Kahn hired and fired musicians, organized rehearsals and often helped choose material. Although Jerry approved every move, of course, without Kahn's oversight Garcia could not have participated in the Jerry Garcia Band. In many respects, the Jerry Garcia Band (under various names) was to some extent the Jerry Garcia and John Kahn Band; if Garcia had not met Kahn he would have had to be invented.

Most Deadheads are at least generally aware of Kahn's importance to Garcia's non-Dead music. However, Kahn is usually viewed through the filter of Jerry Garcia and his music. For this series of posts, I am looking at Jerry Garcia through the filter of John Kahn. In particular, I am looking at John Kahn's performance history without Garcia. Kahn's extensive studio career has been largely documented on the Deaddisc's site, so I don't need to recap it beyond some specific references. The posts so far have been:
  • John Kahn I: Performance History 1967-68: A review of John Kahn's migration to San Francisco, his transformation from an acoustic jazz bassist to an electric R&B bass player and some history of his early live work.
This post will focus on John Kahn's live performance history for the year 1969.

John Kahn and Mike Bloomfield
Drummer Bob Jones, an integral part of T&A and Memory Pain with Kahn, recalls when he met Bloomfield, which was probably when Kahn met him as well. Many bands rehearsed at the Sausalito Heliport, including the Dead, Country Joe and The Fish, Electric Flag and many others. As a result, it was a good place for unaffiliated musicians to hang out and jam. As a result, all sorts of musical connections were made. Jones recalls
Some time after or during Memory Pain, Chuck Steaks invited Kahn and I to an [Anonymous Artists of America band] jam at their ranch in Novato.  Mike Bloomfield came to this jam as well.  It was at this jam that the event occured that I described to you when Mike stuck his head in [and complimented my singing and drumming, and joined in the jam].

This was my first meeting with Mike.  I cannot speak for John but I think it may have been his first meeting too but I cannot swear to it.  Mike hired me at this meeting to play on the Fillmore records so he was pretty impressed (as evidenced by the first thing he said to me).

Mike Bloomfield was a great musician and America's first great guitar hero. By late 1968, he had already left the powerful and influential Butterfield Blues Band for the Electric Flag, and he had left the interesting but unsatisfying Flag in mid-1968. He had also been a major part of Al Kooper's Super Session album, released to great fanfare in July of '68. Bloomfield was a restless soul, striving to make great music but uncomfortable with his own success, and yet everything he touched seemed to turn to gold. As discussed in a prior post, Bloomfield and Kooper agreed to play a weekend at the Fillmore West, and Bloomfield asked Kahn to play bass. Kahn had jammed with Bloomfield a few times since they met, probably at the Heliport (I now don't think Kahn played at the Palace Of Fine Arts in August '68, but that is a side issue), but being part of the headlining band at the Fillmore was a big deal for an aspiring musician.

The Fillmore West shows were a great musical success, with the highlights released on the February 1969 Columbia album The Live Adventures of Mike Bloomfield And Al Kooper. This album was John Kahn's first appearance on an album, and it was a fairly high profile record. For reasons that appear to have been due to Bloomfield's abrupt departure from Electric Flag, he seems to have owed Columbia some albums. The exact genesis of Bloomfield's plans remain murky, but the essence of it was that in early 1969 Mike Bloomfield formed a band and John Kahn joined the group as bassist.

The Mike Bloomfield Band, 1969
Members of the Mike Bloomfield Band casually refer to it by that name, but they were almost never booked under that name. It does appear, however, that Bloomfield's participation and Columbia Records contract defined the group, but Bloomfield preferred to share the credit. The group was usually known as Mike Bloomfield, Nick Gravenites and Friends, or Bloomfield/Gravenites/Naftalin, or variations thereof. The basic band was
  • Nick Gravenites-vocals
  • Mike Bloomfield-lead guitar, vocals
  • Ira Kamin-organ
  • Mark Nafatalin-piano
  • John Kahn-bass
  • Bob Jones-drums
Kahn, Kamin and Jones had been in Memory Pain together. Gravenites had been in the Electric Flag with Bloomfield, and Naftalin had been in the Butterfield Blues Band. Bloomfield wasn't a bad vocalist, actually, but he wasn't that interested in singing, and in any case Gravenites was a great blues vocalist and songwriter. The first known performances of the Bloomfield Band were at the Fillmore West.

January 30-February 2, 1969: Fillmore West, San Francisco, CA: Chuck Berry/Bloomfield-Gravenites-Naftalin/Initial Shock
Chuck Berry was headlining a weekend (Thursday-Sunday) at the Fillmore West, and the Bloomfield-Gravenites-Naftalin aggregation supported them (Initial Shock may have backed Berry, but I'm not sure of that). Columbia recorded the shows, so some good tapes circulate of these performances. A horn section was added for the shows, along with a conga player. The additional musicians were
  • Noel Jewkes-tenor sax
  • Snooky Flowers-baritone sax
  • Gerald Oshita-alto and baritone sax
  • John Wilmeth-trumpet
  • Dino Andino-congas
The tapes reveal a loose, flowing sound with jazzy horn arrangements overlaid over a basic blues groove. Bloomfield is stellar, of course, but he does not dominate the proceedings. The sound of the tapes suggest that Bloomfield very much wanted a band, rather than a Bloomfield solo vehicle.

February 6-February 9, 1969: Fillmore West, San Francisco, CA: Bloomfield-Gravenites-Naftalin/The Byrds/P,G&E (no Byrds on Feb 9)
The Bloomfield band returned to Fillmore West to headline the second weekend over The Byrds. Columbia was there to record the proceedings. Bloomfield had a famous self-destructive streak, and he did not show up on Friday, February 7. Ironically, the Columbia engineers would roll tape on the Byrds for a few numbers each night to set their levels, and on the 7th The Byrds had to play an extra long set to cover for Bloomfield's absence, as they waited for him to show up. When the Byrds tape was discovered many decades later in the Columbia vaults, it was a true find for Byrds fans, as the extended set forced the Byrds to play some rarely performed numbers (released in 2000 on Columbia as The Byrds At Fillmore West February 1969). However, it was not a good night for Bloomfield fans.

By general accounts, Bloomfield was not in great shape throughout the second weekend, and the promise of the first weekend was not met with a more relaxed and confident band. Tracks from the first weekend were used on a few albums, but the second weekend was not apparently very productive. The Mike Bloomfield album Live At Bill Graham's Fillmore West and side 1 of the Nick Gravenites album My Labors were recorded at the first Fillmore weekend, so Kahn appeared on both albums. Some tracks, heavily modified, may have been used on the Bloomfield album Its Not Killing Me as well.

February 17 (?), 1969: Avalon Ballroom, San Francisco, CA: Mike Bloomfield & Nick Gravenites/Sons Of Champlin/Ace Of Cups
This show was a benefit. It was scheduled for "Chinese New Years"and could have been any time between February 17 and 20.

March 15, 1969: Boston Arena, Boston, MA: Super Session with Mike Bloomfield & Al Kooper/Lighthouse
Kahn specifically recalled playing this show in Boston with Kooper and Bloomfield. Skip Prokop of Lighthouse probably played drums. The ensemble was scheduled the previous night (Mar 14) at The Rockpile in Toronto, but did not play.

Boston Arena, built in 1910, was on 238 St. Botolph Street. It holds about 6,000. It is currently known as the Matthews Arena.

March 27-30, 1969: Fillmore West, San Francisco, CA: Butterfield, Bloomfield & Friends/Birth
I'm not certain of the exact configuration of performers at this show. I believe that the Bloomfield band played with special guest Paul Butterfield, but I don't know this for a fact. I have to assume that John Kahn played bass for these shows, but I have no confirmation yet.

Around this time, Bloomfield was in the studio with Nick Gravenites working on the album that would be released as Its Not Killing Me. Bloomfield was not very interested in his obligations to Columbia Records. Nick Gravenites, an experienced producer, seems to have been the principal driver of the project. Kahn participated in the album, although exactly on which tracks isn't clear. Gravenites was a great producer, but he was a true bluesman, not formally trained, and I would suspect that Kahn helped write horn arrangements and other more formal musical contributions. Kahn would have been a particularly useful part of the team in this respect.

At this juncture, it's worth pointing out a certain parallel between Nick Gravenites and John Kahn with respect to their professional relationships to Mike Bloomfield and Jerry Garcia. Bloomfield let Gravenites organize his various projects in a way that was comparable to how Kahn would organize the Jerry Garcia Band in the next decade. Bloomfield was only interested in touring on the West Coast, and mostly just in the Bay Area, and he was more interested in playing live than rehearsing. When there was a scheduling conflict with a backing musician, a substitute was found, and the results were part of the improvisational flavor of the music.

The Bloomfield-Garcia comparison can only be taken so far; Garcia's limitations for his performing had more to do with Grateful Dead obligations than anything else, whereas Bloomfield willfully tried to keep his enterprises on a casual scale, sometimes to the detriment of the people he worked with. For the purposes of my posts, however, it is interesting to see that the peculiar part-time role Kahn played for Garcia for 25 years had a precursor in the Gravenites/Bloomfield arrangement.

May 31, 1969: Exhibition Gardens, Vancouver, BC: Mike Bloomfield & Friends/The Youngbloods
Bloomfield was still a big star, and he seems to have consented to do a show in Vancouver. It would have been a relatively quick in-and-out trip, and it doesn't seem to have been part of a "tour." There's a chance that this show was on March 31, 1969, not May 31, and I have never been able to confirm either date.

The Bloomfield band doesn't seem to have played many shows during this period. I think Kahn was working in the studio on various Bloomfield related projects,  but I haven't quite figured out how he was making a living. Kahn had moved to Forest Knolls in Marin by this time (near Lagunitas), so he seems to have been getting by.  Kahn, Bloomfield and others seem to have worked on a film soundtrack in Los Angeles during this time (Medium Cool), and this would seem to have been Kahn's first taste of doing sessions in his native Los Angeles.

June 15, 1969: Berkeley Community Theater, Berkeley, CA: Mike Bloomfield & Nick Gravenites/Southern Comfort/Womb/Marvin Gardens/Joy of Cooking/Last Mile/Lazarus/Cookin' Mama Benefit for The Alameda Youth Council
By May 1969, Bob Jones had formed a band called Southern Comfort. Besides Jones on drums and lead vocals, the other members of Southern Comfort were guitarist Fred Burton (who had played with Kahn in Memory Pain), tenor saxophonist and vocalist Ron Stallings (a member of T&A with Kahn, and later in Reconstruction), trumpeter John Wilmeth, organist Steve Funk and bassist Bob Huberman. Kahn was still close to Bob Jones, and continued to hang out and write songs with him, some of which turned up on the 1970 Southern Comfort album co-produced by Kahn and Nick Gravenites. However, while Kahn was friends with most of Southern Comfort, his primary focus remained the Bloomfield band.

As Southern Comfort's gig schedule increased, however, the needs for a substitute drummer to fill in when Jones had a Southern Comfort show increased as well. Jones's dual obligations to the Bloomfield band and Southern Comfort would play an important role in John Kahn's future.

August 15-16, 1969: Family Dog On The Great Highway, San Francisco, CA: New Lost City Ramblers/Mike Bloomfield & Friends/Southern Comfort
The Family Dog on The Great Highway was Chet Helm's new venture out at Ocean Beach.

Some posters suggest that Bloomfield & Gravenites were backed by Southern Comfort, but Bob Jones has assured me that did not occur, to his memory. Since Southern Comfort and the Bloomfield band appeared to share a booking agency, some promoters may have thought the groups crossed over, but despite Bob Jones presence in both they were separate aggregations.

In the case of the August Family Dog show, Southern Comfort was sharing the bill with the Bloomfield band, so Jones could play both sets. However, Jones does recall that on one night the party got out of hand and he left early, so he can't say who sat in on drums that night in his stead.

September 19-21, 1969: Keystone Korner, San Francisco, CA: Mike Bloomfield/Nick Gravenites
The Keystone Korner was a little San Francisco club on 750 Vallejo Street, a few blocks off Broadway. According to Joel Selvin, Nick Gravenites stumbled onto it one night when owner Freddie Herrera was trying to make it pay as a topless club, but it was too far from the action. Gravenites had another idea, and the club soon became a sort of clubhouse for the expatriate Chicago blues players like Gravenites.

The Bloomfield band played the Keystone Korner just about every other weekend from late Summer 1969 until the early Spring of 1970. Their shows were dutifully announced in Ralph Gleason's Chronicle column, but there was relatively little publicity otherwise. Bloomfield was still a big name at this time, and the idea of a genuine guitar hero making regular appearances at a tiny little club in San Francisco was yet another thing that set San Francisco apart from other rock markets. Once again, part of the peculiar Garcia Band mojo seems to have been pre-figured by Bloomfield, and I have to think that Kahn was paying attention to what did and did not work.

September 26-27, 1969: Keystone Korner, San Francisco, CA: Mike Bloomfield
Our knowledge of these Keystone Korner shows comes from Ralph Gleason's column. I don't find any significance in the fact that Gleason listed the bookings under slightly different names each time (Mike Bloomfield, Bloomfield & Gravenites, Mike Bloomfield & Friends). Nonetheless, it does point up the casual nature of these bookings. While there's every reason to think that Kahn played every booked show, there's no guarantee that he did, nor is there any likelihood that the band didn't have various substitutions at different chairs on occasion. This doesn't exclude Bloomfield, who was notorious for not showing up, presumably leaving Gravenites to front the band (which he was very capable of).

Southern Comfort had another show on September 26, at the New Orleans House in Berkeley, so another drummer must have filled in for Bob Jones. Jones, not surprisingly, doesn't recall who took his place, and may not have known anyway, but it's revealing with respect to Kahn's education as Jerry Garcia's straw boss. The Bloomfield band didn't rehearse much, mainly because Bloomfield wasn't that interested in rehearsing per se, but as a practical matter it allowed for much more fluid booking policies. The basic trade off of the Bloomfield band seems to have been that it was better to have superior musicians with minimal rehearsal than to have lesser players with lots of times to practice. For part-time players like Bloomfield or Garcia, it would have been hard to keep quality musicians occupied, so a built in system to allow substitutes showed an inherent preference. Kahn can not have missed the lesson, as it seems to have driven the hiring for the drum chair for Garcia/Saunders throughout the early 1970s.

However, by all accounts the Keystone Korner was kind of like the Mike Bloomfield clubhouse, and he enjoyed playing there. Ironically, Bloomfield's regular appearance at clubs like Keystone Korner lowered his status in the Bay Area, and by the mid-70s he was just another guy playing rock clubs. This was probably fine with Bloomfield, but it made playing in his band less lucrative for his sidemen.

October 3-4, 1969: Keystone Korner, San Francisco, CA: Mike Bloomfield

October 17-18,  1969: Keystone Korner, San Francisco, CA: Mike Bloomfield & Nick Gravenites
The clip above is from the "Opening Today" section of the October 17, 1969 Chronicle.

October 24-25, 1969: Keystone Korner, San Francisco, CA:    Mike Bloomfield & Nick Gravenites
Southern Comfort were at the New Orleans House this weekend, so another drummer must have sat in for Bob Jones.

November 6, 1969: Gym, College Park High School, Pleasant Hill, CA:  Mike Bloomfield & Friends/Country Weather/Bronze Hog/Sanpaku/Orion/Daybreak

November 7-8, 1969: Keystone Korner, San Francisco, CA: Mike Bloomfield & Nick Gravenites

November 14-15, 1969: Keystone Korner, San Francisco, CA: Mike Bloomfield & Nick Gravenites

November 21, 1969: Centennial Coliseum, Reno, NV: Mike Bloomfield & Nick Gravenites

November 29, 1969: Lanai Theater, Crockett, CA: Mike Bloomfield & Nick Gravenites
Crockett, CA was a peculiar little sugar town on a distant part of the Bay, 10 miles North of Richmond. The venue is a fascinating mystery, but it does seem like Quicksilver manager Ron Polte tried to make an old movie theater in Crockett into a rock venue. I have been to Crockett, although not recently, but it is a small out of the way place even now, and it must have been quite remote in 1969. The town is on the Northeast corner of the San Pablo Bay, on the Carquinez Straight. Crockett, despite being unincorporated Contra Costa County, has always been the corporate headquarters of C&H Sugar, so the area around Crockett was always an important commercial area. Perhaps the Lanai Theater served to entertain the local workers, maybe during WW2 or earlier, but I know nothing about the venue.

I doubt this show was well attended, but it was probably a weird ghost town scene nonetheless. The Bloomfield site reports that Gregg Thomas (of Mint Tattoo) played drums instead of Jones.

December 5-6, 1969: Keystone Korner, San Francisco, CA: Mike Bloomfield & Nick Gravenites

December 13, 1969: Loma Prieta Ballroom, San Jose State College, San Jose, CA:    Mike Bloomfield & Nick Gravenites
The Loma Prieta Ballroom was a newly opened room in the San Jose State student union. The capacity was a little less than 1,000, although who knows how many students really fit in there.

December 26-27, 1969: Keystone Korner, San Francisco, CA:    Mike Bloomfield & Nick Gravenites