As I said, I seem to be in a music mode at the moment. I am working on a book, but very excited about the lyrics I wrote this summer. I hope you’ll be hearing more about that soon.
Meanwhile, I have one daughter who, like her older brother Nick was, is obsessed with music. She has very definite, distinctive tastes, is knowledgeable about current music, and seems to know every band playing. She goes out to some form of music show every night (she’s a senior in college). Music is her passion!!! She also knows all the venues, and she never invites me to join her at the concerts and shows she goes to. That’s HER world!!! And I respect that. But recently, she made an exception, and invited me to join her at a concert on her birthday, along with some of her friends. (I almost never achieve ‘cool’ status when my kids are younger. I only get slightly more ‘cool’ as they get older!! And more tolerant!!). I was very excited to be invited to a concert with her, and intrigued that it was going to be at the Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco. I’ve heard about it for years, and it is a very famous venue. I had no idea what to expect, and was curious to see it. But how special or exciting could a music venue/concert hall be? The answer to that is ‘Very’.
We entered the theater through a single door with the usual suspicious looking, very stern, slightly ominous security people outside. I was very insulted however that no one asked for my ID (boo hoo), but they checked everyone else diligently, and then we headed up the stairs. And what struck me immediately as we entered the lobby outside the main concert hall was that this was no ordinary theater. It had the instant aura of history, with framed photographs of all the famous people who played there in the 60’s and 70’s when it started. Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and all the faces of a long lost time. And I’m not even sure why, but there was an instantly friendly, cozy atmosphere that reminded me of those days, in my youth. I was never part of the music scene, having married someone much older when I was 17. And at the age when my contemporaries were going to concerts, I was in college at 15, and then married and had a child in my teens. So rock concerts were never my thing. I was going to dinner parties with my French banker husband as his child bride. And THIS was a whole other scene, the world of Jimi, Janis, and all those immensely talented people who were casualties of an era, and have long since disappeared. It was almost as though one could sense them there, as benign spirits. The Fillmore seemed like a throwback to me of those early days of hippiedom and flower power, and so much hope for the future, a new era, and a generation who demanded and established change. The Fillmore almost seemed like a monument, and even shrine, to that time.
We went upstairs to a kind of balcony, looking down at the floor of the theater. There were no seats downstairs, everyone was standing, and in the darkened room, the band came on, and everything came alive. I’m embarrassed to tell you that I don’t know what kind of music it was, what genre, and don’t remember the name of the band (a long name!!), but the music was great, the beat was good, and the crowd loved it (and so did I). They swayed and waved to the music. It was mesmerizing. My daughter and her friends loved it, and so did I. And upstairs where we were, there were seats and tables, and walls covered by more of the framed photographs of an earlier time. I felt enveloped all night by the aura and spirit of those earlier singers, once so beloved, so famous, so talented, who changed the whole music scene, many of whom died so much too young. There wasn’t an eeriness to it, and it wasn’t sad, it filled me with a kind of awe and respect, and nostalgia as I remembered them. It was impressive to think that they had played in this same hall where I was standing, and it must be equally impressive for the musicians who play there now. Imagine playing on the same stage where Janis Joplin once played and others like her. I couldn’t voice my feeling of nostalgia to my daughter and her friends, they were too young to understand—-and it would only have confirmed how ‘un-cool’ I am. A friend had come with me, who is between the generation I was remembering, and the young ones now, he’s a great music fan, and admirer of Joplin, Hendrix and the others, and when we spoke about it later, he had the same feeling I did, that we were standing in hallowed halls. It really touched me, and it was a wonderful evening in a remarkable and truly historical place. I really loved it!!
Standing there, I also couldn’t help remembering Bill Graham, who founded The Fillmore all those many years ago. He was a truly remarkable man. I met him several times when I first came to San Francisco, and had dinner with him a few times. He was totally immersed in that exciting music world. I was in my twenties by then, the sixties were long past, but he ran a remarkable music venue, and had established an important institution in the history of that time. He was an intriguing person, who had survived the holocaust, although he had lost almost all of his family (except one sister, I think). He had a son he adored, and told me that he had survived most of the Second World War in Germany, hiding on the streets, as a child and young teenager. I didn’t pry about his experiences, but one could tell that they had formed a remarkable person, tough, strong, creative, a genius in his field with his finger on the pulse of the musical world, and yet a person of great tenderness and humanity. He had clearly lived an interesting life, and left an extraordinary legacy behind. I was saddened when a few years later he died in a helicopter accident at a relatively young age. But he left something very special behind for so many people to enjoy and remember him: The Fillmore is a monument to the man, that remarkable time and the people who played there. I was very moved by being there, and even now, it is a very, very special place, and a part of history, culturally and in the music world, that we will all remember forever. And even now, the music goes on…….