Friday, February 12, 2010

505 Parnassus Avenue, Steiniger Auditorium, UC Medical Center Auditorium, San Francisco, CA March 4, 1967: Big Brother and The Holding Company/Steve Miller Blues Band/Robert Baker

March 4, 1967 Steiniger Auditorium, University of California Medical Center, San Francisco, CA 
Big Brother and The Holding Company/Steve Miller Blues Band/Robert Baker

This relatively obscure Spring 1967 event is interesting mainly for its venue. One recurring theme of San Francisco underground rock was how sympathetic fans of bands found gigs for them in unlikely places, which could not be repeated once the long-haired bands were revealed in the flesh. In particular, many educational institutions had an "entertainment budget" that allowed students (usually on some school appointed committee) to hire acts that were popular with the student body. In 1960s California, this generally meant folk or jazz music, and perhaps some Beatles-style rock bands for a dance. It did not usually include psychedelic weirdness.

This specific instance is interesting because the University of California at San Francisco was and is strictly a medical and professional school. While part of the University of California system (then including Berkeley, UCLA, Davis, Santa Cruz, Santa Barbara, San Diego, Riverside and Irvine), UCSF had no undergraduate component. All the students were studying for advanced degrees in medicine, to become doctors or other professionals. It was still the 1960s, however, and somehow some aspiring doctors managed to get the Med school's auditorium for a Benefit concert. Big Brother and The Holding Company were rising stars, and had been Fillmore and Avalon headliners for some time. The Steve Miller Blues Band, while based in Berkeley, were also up and coming (Robert Baker was a hip comedian).

UC Medical Center was within walking distance of the Haight Ashbury. While I am unable to determine the current name of Steiniger Auditorium (which may in fact have been remodeled or replaced), I am fairly certain that it was at what is currently known as "The Parnussus Campus" at 505 Parnassus (at 2nd Avenue). This is just up the hill from The Panhandle and The Haight. As a result of some peculiar features of Haight Ashbury geography, if Janis Joplin was coming from the apartment she shared at the time with Joe McDonald on Lyon Street, it would have been quicker for her to walk rather than drive.

I do know of one other rock show at UC Medical Center, at the Student Union on Arguello and Parnassus (which don't precisely intersect, but close enough). Sopwith Camel and The SF Mime Troupe played a show there on May 27, 1967, but even then that was a smaller deal than Big Brother. Still, the Med School seems to have caught on, and after 1967 aspiring doctors seemed to have had to go the Fillmore and Avalon like everyone else.

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