poster for Avalon show 1/68
|While a teenager living in Oakland, CA, Faren Miller kept a remarkable journal of the many shows she attended in the late Sixties. The following entries describe two different Kaleidoscope performances. The first was at the 1967 Berkeley Folk Festival. This show featured the original lineup of the band. (The performance was broadcast on local public TV.) The second show, at Avalon Ballroom on 1/18/68, featured the Lindley/Feldthouse/Crill/Brotman/Lagos lineup.
After receiving a Ph.D. in English from UC Berkeley, she went on to work as editor and book reviewer for Locus, "the newspaper of the science fiction field." Her fantasy novel "The Illusionists" was published in 1991. She currently lives in Prescott, AZ & is working on another novel.
Excerpts from her journals will be published in an upcoming issue of Ptolemaic Terrascope.
The following journal entries appear with the kind permission of the author.
Berkeley Folk Festival - 7/3/67
Today Mom and I went to a panel discussion at the Berkeley Folk Festival and got a surprise treat as well. In the panel discussion were Country Joe MacDonald, David [Lindley] (head of The Kaleidoscope), Mayo (leader of Red Crayola), and Ron (leader of Crome Syrcus). All four of these groups are electric bands, and the discussion was called "Rock Music as a Means of Expression?". This topic was soon discarded, after Joe had said it was an insult because of the question mark. Joe was very sleepy at first (it was only noon) and sat with the blank stare of a child awakened from its nap. Dave of Kaleidoscope looked a lot like Paul McCartney -- same eyes, nose mouth, chin! He was also quite intelligent and lucid. He and Joe [once Joe woke up] were both excellent speakers, and moderator Ralph Gleason was left far behind, trapped in his preconceptions of proper group behavior.
Joe said he thought of himself as an artist not an entertainer, and neither he nor the other group leaders felt obliged to conform to restrictions if they played "at an Elks' Club Easter Dance" (Ralph's idea). Joe told the story of a gig at the San Francisco Hilton where he was stopped in the middle of "Grace" because it "wasn't a dance tune." He said people first tried to twist, then waltz; then they tried to laugh. The group only took the gig because they were starving and needed the $50 promised. Joe was quite serious about his music and said of course he loved it -- all groups dig their own music (or if they didn't, "they should be playing something else!").
Dave said he liked both Turkish and Bluegrass music and added that C&W was "the coming thing" [as turned out to be true in the following years]. This led to a long discussion of whether there could be hippie C&W, climaxed by a record man's revelation that Flatt & Scruggs's next album would be folk rock. Joe looked delighted. He had been astonished when Mayo (from Houston) told him that the Country Joe & the Fish album was selling in Texas. Joe commented on seeing Jimi Hendrix at the Monterey Pop Festival, demonstrating how he had been grooving along and then, when Jimi burned his guitar, his jaw dropped and his eyes bugged out. I'm not sure he really approved of the action, though afterward he said he did like having his mind blown ("my friends do it all the time"). Other bits from Joe: he's 25 and he has a 15 year old brother who is, at the moment, even less ready to compromise his ideals than Joe is.
The panel discussion lasted from 12 to 1:30 and was great (except for Gleason inanities). Half an hour later, we got an unexpected chance to see the Kaleidoscope, Red Crayola, and Crome Syrcus, plus Jimmy Cotton's Chicago Blues Band in concert -- free!
The Kaleidoscope opened with a great set of bluegrass and Turkish music (just as Dave had said they liked). They did "Louisiana Man" [which I later found out was Cajun, not bluegrass], "You Don't Love Me, Yes I Know" ("an old rock and roll song"!), a song they'd written themselves, and an instrumental, then closed with "Egyptian Gardens". The song of theirs had a C&W flavor, but not the corny sort. In the instrumental, Dave had great solos on a weird guitar whose neck had an extra bar of wood at the neck and a harp like bunch of strings. [I did a little sketch of this. Maybe a dobro.] He set it on his lap to play it. Sol, the wildest looking member of the group, had his hair in a short ponytail, a moustache, shades, and he wore a shirt with a denim torso and wildly patterned full sleeves. He played solo bouzouki in the instrumental while standing on one leg with the other bent and propping up the instrument! (The song was quite long too, but he bore up.) He sang with an unusual nasal voice which I liked. The other lead singer (who did "Louisiana Man") was a country-looking fellow with a moustache, big teeth, a funny hat, a vest, and "blind man" shades [PD: Chris Darrow]. There was also a drummer with a long ducklike face and shaggy dark hair [PD: John Vidican], and an organist(?)/ bass man who looked like a pleasanter Jerry Rubin [PD: Chester Crill].
I liked the Kaleidoscope very much. I didn't like the Syrcus except in a number where Dave [Lindley] joined in, and one other weird song with feedback, fast guitar, and Latin Mass chanting! As for Red Crayola, some of the panel members had warned us about their "awfulness" [tongue in cheek, I presume] but I enjoyed them. They are wildly electronic-music, but not the aimless noodling sort (despite their leader's nebulous non-philosophy). They created walls of organ/feedback/drums that sounded like music turned inside-out. They worked together beautifully, aided by John Fahey (of all people!).
Last on the bill was blockbuster Jimmy Cotton and his Chicago Blues Band. He is very mellow, not of the "guts'n'blood screamer" variety, but he did get really turned on in performance. He played harmonica on his knees and down on the floor, and during one song he left the stage and sang sans mike. The last number was very rhythmic, and a lot of people danced. One of the dancers looked like he could have been a younger brother to Dave, though he was straight, with white keds and a haircut.
This was really the Poor Man's Lucky Day. Everything we saw was free!
Avalon Ballroom - 1/18/68
Tonight we went to the Avalon for an earsplitting but delightful evening. The performers we saw (and most definitely heard) were the Quicksilver, the Kaleidoscope, and the Musselwhite Band.
The Musselwhite Band was on first, and they did the same dance number things they’d done at New Orleans House [Berkeley, a few weeks ago on New Year’s Eve], quite pleasant to listen to. Musselwhite’s harmonica playing can be almost like a singing voice at times. Charley was his usual, half-shwacked-seeming self, drawling indecipherably now and then between numbers.
Then came the Quicksilver, slightly scarred from all the recording in L.A. -- David was most noticeably affected, looking tired and thinner than usual (which suited him, though, since he’s generally quite stocky). He wore a green and white striped t-shirt and jeans. Gary was even down-homier in jeans and a sloppy old shirt, his hair almost completely obscuring his eyes and half of his nose most of the time. John and Greg, on the other hand, were remarkably spiffy. Greg wore a dark coat, light trousers, white shirt and tie(!), and John wore dark trousers and a purple cossack shirt with braid down the middle and on the high collar.
Chandler Loughlin, the Avalon’s over-loquacious MC, was onstage haranguing as the Quick tuned up, but they found a delightful way to get rid of him. All of a sudden, they started into what seemed to be an instrumental number, so Chandler quickly announced them and left the stage. As soon as he was gone, they went back to their tuning, the sneaky devils! When they had finished tuning at last, David grinned: “And now, for our third number...” The set started with “Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You”, its usual banging self -- though now it’s even louder because Gary has some gadget that makes his guitar louder and treblier. Then came “Codeine”, magnificent, crashing, with David singing his lungs out and John flailing about like a poplar in a high wind. “Walkin’ Blues” was crunchy and gutsy, the latter quality stemming from Gary’s surprisingly deep voice. Ditto “Mona”, which also featured some interesting guitar by both John and Gary.
“If You Live Your Day Will Come” was interrupted for me when a bearded fellow in front of me shouted (twice, till I heard him) the question, had I been to Music 5? I shouted Yes, and he shouted that he worked there. He seemed to recognize me, even with my spectacles, and he’d been looking at me every now and then when he wasn’t occupied with his girl friend. He may have recognized the Grace in me rather than me, since I looked particularly Grace-ly in black boots, black tights, black skirt, black turtleneck, and silver medallion necklace. [In those days, despite the specs, I somewhat resembled Grace Slick of the Airplane -- it was mostly the hair and makeup.]
The last number of the set, “Who Do You Love?”, featured some strident Duncan guitar and some deliberately out-of-hand feedback blasts from John. That was the first aural assault of the evening, though it sounded good except for the “too piercing, man” parts. The Quick straggled off, followed by the two sound engineers whom they now have with them to fix up the havoc John wreaks with the amplifiers. [I later added a note that this was the debut of the “leathery-faced” soundman whose identity I would learn in August.]
The Kaleidoscope made it onstage, and a chastened Chandler didn’t blab quite so much as they tuned up. Sol was bushier in beard and hair, and minus the sun glasses for once, but his bolero hat gave him away. David Lindley wore a fantastic Chinese looking frock coat-cum-robe. Their old bass player wasn’t there (whether sick or out of the group I don’t know); his replacement [PD: Stu Brotman] was a trim, moustached fellow in a suit and tie fancier than Greg’s! The drummer looked the same as usual, but the violin/organ player had shaved off his moustache and cut his hair, so he looked five years younger.
Their first number was a magnificent thing starting with amazing, sinister violin scrapings and going on to include feedback, Turkish clarinet (by Sol), vocal (by Sol), vocal through an echo chamber box (by Sol), and bouzouki playing (by Sol)! It was really fantastic, a piece of genius! [This might have been “Egyptian Gardens”.] Next came an odd version of “O, Death” with a long, humorous-tripout monologue (by Sol, of course) in the middle. After that came a blues number sung in a remarkable Delta-singer voice by the organist/violinist, who also played good blues harmonica. The next and last number was the mind-blower and ear-destroyer: a freaked-out version of “The Beacon From Mars”. It started innocently enough with Sol (yup) singing, but by the middle it was a terrifying chaos of the most piercing, aberrant feedback I’ve ever endured in my life. I sat like a yogi with my head down, trying to concentrate on something else as the sounds ripped through my skull and played around with my nervous system... suddenly, the diabolical Kaleidoscope went into a lovely passage where David played his guitar with a bow! This respite was followed by a renewed onslaught that finally drew to a close, leaving my head numb. Luckily, I could still hear quite well, so the lingering numbness was the only after-effect.
When I went upstairs to see my parents, relax, and have a soda, my dad told me he’d had a good talk with David Freiberg a little while before. Dad was waiting at the food bar to get coffee, and David (who was also getting coffee) was next to him. When David got his coffee (black), the man at the counter asked for his 15¢; David said, “I’m in the Quicksilver.” The man looked skeptical, but grudgingly accepted the claim. David muttered to himself, “I would have paid him if he was going to be that way about it.” Then Dad said hello and asked David how the album was going. As he had when I’d asked him that a month before, David shrugged hopelessly. Then he volunteered that they would be taping after the night’s Avalon gig, and it would be their “last chance.” He left after that, but in the crush Dad was still next to him a few minutes later, so he lightly tapped David on the shoulder and asked if they were really recording that same night. David said yes, and looked weary at the thought, adding that they’d be there till about six in the morning. Dad asked where they’d be doing it, and David said it was the Coast Studios. Then Dad wished him luck and went off for good. David’s perpetual magic spell was there even though he was tired, and Dad said he felt good after the encounter.
[Listening to all that took up much of Musselwhite’s second set], but the band was still on as I went back downstairs, squashing through crowds and narrowly avoiding flailing dancers. I finally got a seat on the floor and waited for the Quick’s second set.
This one included “Pride of Man”, “Back Door Man”, “Dino’s Song” (the song that always makes me happy), and “Smokestack Lightning” (whose triple-speed crescendos plus flashing strobes make you feel like you’re speeding through space with blithe disregard of light years). But during “Smokestack”, John blew his amp -- after the number, the engineers scurried over to repair the damage (accompanied by great poppings and cracklings), while David observed with a smile, “Cipollina’s done it again!” They ended the set with [“The Fool”,] that lovely “raga” where David sings and speaks the words “life is love.”
Afterward, David zoomed into the dressing room, leaving the door open so I finally got a peek inside. It’s a little, cozy room with chairs and tables and musical equipment scattered around, lit by some dim lamp. While David was already in the room’s shelter and Greg and Gary were heading that way, good old John was still standing by the stage, “holding court” with some miscellaneous friends and admirers.
As we left the Avalon, to our surprise it was raining. Ignoring that as much as possible, we made it back to the car, still filled with the beneficent glow that the Quicksilver always impart.