Sunday, August 16, 2009

200 Grand Avenue, Oakland, CA-Veterans Memorial Building


The Veterans Memorial Building in Oakland, on 200 Grand Avenue (at Harrison St), just across from Lake Merritt, was only used for rock shows a few times in 1966. There were a few "teen" dances, and two "psychedelic" shows. The relatively nondescript flyer for one of these obscure shows has circulated quite widely.

On September 24, 1966, Deed Of Shame headlined over The Friendly Stranger, Motley Crew and Iron Butterfly. Deed Of Shame and Motley Crew remain unknown to me. The Friendly Stranger were a psychedelic blues band from San Francisco. The Friendly Stranger played a gig in San Diego, and impressed one of the other bands on the bill, a San Diego group called The Palace Pages. The Palace Pages promptly changed their sound and changed their name to The Iron Butterfly. This Oakland show is certainly the first out-of-town gig for the band under the name Iron Butterfly.

The Oakland Veterans Memorial Building is a beautiful, 1930s era auditorium with a basketball court in the middle, like a high school gym. It would only fit a few hundred patrons. The building has been restored since the 1960s, but was probably somewhat rundown. Although the Lake Merritt area is beautiful in the daytime, it was probably somewhat seedy at night during the 1960s. Certainly by the late 1970s the area was genuinely dangerous at night, although by the mid-1980s, when I moved to the area, the city of Oakland had taken major steps to improve the area, and now it is a wonderful area.

As a result of the venue's small size and unappealing location, I know of no other rock shows at the Oakland Veterans Memorial Building. Now nicely restored, it is used for community athletic and social events.

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