Sunday, August 23, 2009

6300 Moraga Way, Oakland, CA: Montclair Recreation Center 1970-71

According to a long-ago eyewitness, the concerts were held in the biggest room in this building
According to an eyewitness, this building was still a working fire station and was not part of the concerts
While doing research for our Loading Zone Family Tree and Performance History, I came across numerous references to a series of shows at the Montclair Recreation Center in Oakland from 1970 to 1972. This was very surprising, because not only were there very few rock venues in Oakland, the Montclair neighborhood is in the Oakland Hills, not Downtown or near Berkeley, and I cannot think of any Oakland Hills rock venues even to this day. The Montclair Recreation Center, at 6300 Moraga Way (just after Moraga meets Thornhill) is a city park, with various picnic and play areas, plus nice grass fields, but it is relatively small.

When I was in the East Bay, I took photos of the only two buildings that could have housed rock concerts. Of course it has been many years, and a building that was used may have long since been torn down. Nonetheless, when I was there only two structures seemed like possible locations for rock concerts: a street level building that looks like a converted house (top), now boarded up, and an administration building that seems to have some community meeting rooms (below). Light show performers were identified for most events, so clearly the shows were indoors. The photos were taken August 11, 2009.

My sole source of information about these concerts was listings in the Wednesday "Teen Age" section of the Oakland Tribune, usually in the "What's Doing" section. These were free listings that included Fillmore concerts, charity events, High School dances and so on. Some listings refer to the "weekly" Saturday night concert, suggesting that I am missing many shows in my list, but at this juncture I have no way of determining that. Mostly the Tribune lists a single act plus a Light show, so it leads me to think that these shows were for teenagers and ended fairly early. I can see the Montclair neighborhood preferring that their teenagers stay home, at the price of a little noise, instead of looking for trouble and fun in Berkeley or San Francisco.

The shows first started being listed in Fall 1970, and a notice suggests that they are newly instituted. The Oakland Tribune of October 7, 1970 said the bi-weekly shows were co-sponsored by the Center and the Montclair Junior Women’s Club, which makes it clear that the operation had some civic "purpose" like keeping kids in the neighborhood on Saturday nights. Of course, the shows were sometimes more than bi-weekly, but a civic sponsor would explain why there seems to be little evidence of shows during holidays and high Summer. The bands were not obscure, but rather the sort of bands that headlined local clubs or played third on the bill at the Fillmore West. I did see a few notices for shows in 1972, but they featured considerably more local acts. Since the organization and financing of these shows is obscure, its hard to draw too many conclusions.

Here is my list of shows at the Montclair Recreation Center in Oakland for 1970 and 1971

September 19, 1970: The Tyde
October 10, 1970: The Fog
October 24, 1970: AB Skhy
October 31, 1970: Loading Zone
November 7, 1970: Loading Zone
November 14, 1970: Loveship
November 21, 1970: Beggar’s Opera
November 28, 1970: Joy Of Cooking
January 9, 1971: Loading Zone
January 30, 1971: Joy Of Cooking
February 6, 1971: Tyde
February 27, 1971: Cat Mother
March 13, 1971: Full Moon (formerly The Womb)
March 20, 1971: Loading Zone
March 27, 1971: Pipe
April 24, 1971: Western Addition
Wendy Haas, later of Azteca, was the lead singer for Western Addition.
May 1, 1971: Ice
May 8, 1971: Barry Melton and The Fish
May 22, 1971: Loading Zone
May 29, 1971: Gold
June 12, 1971: Malo
July 3, 1971: Sopwith Camel
July 10, 1971: Clover
September 19, 1971: Loading Zone
October 2, 1971: Barry Melton and The Fish
October 23, 1971: Jabo Stokes
November 6, 1971: Cat Mother
November 20, 1971: Loading Zone


  1. I just saw this post but I can clear up a couple of questions you had since I was one of the teenagers who went to the concerts. The building with the cute roof was at the time a working fire station and had nothing to do with the rec center. The second picture is correct, the concerts were located in the biggest room. These concerts attracted huge crowds that spilled out into the surrounding park where there were various nefarious goings-on, which eventually led someone, let's just call that person The Man for historical flavor, to put a stop to the concerts. As far as who played there, Tower of Power played at least once, and I recall Commander Cody. My friends recall Santana and Malo. But this was a long time ago and they may have been confused with some venue in Berkeley. I am 100% certain about Tower of Power and Commander Cody. I think you're right that the concerts were meant to be a way to keep us wild hippy youth out of trouble, however, we just got into wild hippy trouble right there at Montclair Rec Center.

    1. Bonnie, thank you so much for clarifying this lost bit of Oakland history. Is the internet great or what?

      Your friends may not be so wrong. Malo definitely played Moraga Way, and their lead guitarist was Jorge Santana, Carlos' younger brother. I'm sure the Santana band proper did not play the Montclair Rec Center, as they could headline Madison Square Garden even then, but it's not far-fetched to think Carlos dropped by to jam with his brother.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. I inverted the order of the photos and added captions, so what is referred to in Bonnie's comment as "the second" photo is now on top (first).

  2. As a 12 year old just entering 7th grade at Montera in 1970, I pretty much lived in Montclair Park after-school during that time.

    On the photograph, you can't actually see auditorium where the stage was. The frontmost windows are part of the office, while the street facing door at the top of the stairs on the left led to an anteroom that opened into the auditorium through two large folding doors, with a fireplace in between.

    I don't remember a lot of the specific acts; I mostly hung outside with friends. I remember the "light show" as being an overhead projector with some colored oil between gel sheets; very low tech.

    My sister and her friends talked about seeing Tower of Power; later in life I'd come to regret missing that show.

    The bands were booked by the great Helen Lore, who was the center director. I asked her why she stopped putting them on and she told me it was because of complaints from the homeowners across the freeway.


  3. I was at that Tower of Power show at Montclair Rec Center, probably 1971. They did not have an album out yet, but I remember being blown away and thinking they were going to be successful.

  4. Commander Cody played at Provo Park in Berkeley. T

    There were free concerts there for quite a while in the late 60's.

  5. I remember seeing Tower of Power in Montclair.It was fifty cents to get in.

  6. I was one of the recreation directors at Montclair during the period of time the concerts were happening. The bands were also booked by a guy named Dan Lyles, another director. I silkscreened the posters for the shows after my freind, Donnie Hunt pawned the job off on me. John Lee Hooker played a gig there, as well. We were always trying to get Creedence Clearwater to play but I don’t remember that happening. The room was maybe 3,500 sq. feet so it was an intimate setting for the shows.

    1. Thanks for the eyewitness account. Did any of the posters survive?

    2. No, they did not unless some of the local kids still have them. Some were collector’s items depending on the band. Donnie Hunt became an artist of some renown, designing and hand painting guitars for several Bay area heavyweights. His posters were beautiful. Mine were much more crude...Also, nice work on this blog. It’s interesting stuff. The Bay was so rich musically during that period... still is.

    3. A couple of comments to Chicotd since my post here four years ago:

      Dan disappeared from view early on. He wanted to be a concert promoter but there was no way to compete with the juggernaut that was Bill Graham Presents.

      Donnie passed away twenty four years ago and I still think of him all the time. He was a huge influence on my life. Donne’s guitar custom work was exclusively for Joe Satriani, and he also painted on sport jackets for others. Sadly I never took him up on the offer to have one.

      Neil Mitchell, another director there but maybe a few years later, passed away in February 2017. We kids were so hard on him!

      And Helen herself passed the summer of the same year; afaik there was no memorial service for her.

      The city improved the Rec Center a bit; to make the facility accessible, ramps were installed to lead to the circular patio in front of the arts & crafts studio, with an elevator leading up to the center itself. The city pushed out the east side of the auditorium just a bit, taking over the little patio where the metal ping pong table was. Of course it’s all been shutdown since March.