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All rights reserved
|By NICK TAVARES
STATIC and FEEDBACK Editor
San Francisco may easily be the crown jewel city for any music fan. Clubs and venues packed nightly, record
stores around every corner, the history, the acceptance, the hills, the ocean — everything adds up to an artist’s
But there always has to be one place for the faithful to flock. In the case of the music fan and musician, they flock
to the Fillmore.
Being very good music fans, we too made a pilgrimage to the fabled auditorium, and just in time to catch
favorites Black Rebel Motorcycle Club in action — and it was stellar.
Settled on the edge of Japan Town in the city, the
Fillmore has gone through ups and downs,
openings and closings, but has been roaring
uninterrupted since 1994. The building was
originally a dance hall, and in the mid 1960s, Bill
Graham revitalized the old building as the
centerpiece of the burgeoning music scene.
Hosting the likes of the Grateful Dead, the
Jefferson Airplane, Cream, Jimi Hendrix and the
Who, the Fillmore Auditorium tapped into a
unique movement in American history.
But due to economics and the crumbling
neighborhood surrounding the building, Graham
moved into the Fillmore West in late 1969, south
of the old Fillmore. Further economic trouble,
and the fact that the acts of the time were starting
to command bigger paychecks and bigger
|A view from the Fillmore's hallowed stage
audiences, both the Fillmore West and the Fillmore East, opened in New York City, shut down in the early 1970s.
By 1979, Winterland, San Francisco’s other hip, slightly larger venue owned by Graham and the site of The
Band’s Last Waltz concert and movie, was also closed, bringing an end to an exciting era in the city’s music
But the memories didn’t die, and the history and tradition of the
Fillmore concerts were embedded in the minds of the city and the
music-loving nation. After a few one-off events in the late 80s, the
original Fillmore auditorium received its grand re-opening in 1994,
three years after Graham died in a helicopter crash. That year, the
likes of Beck, Smashing Pumpkins and Ben Harper graced the stage
of the venue, and the Fillmore’s mojo was back.
One step in the building is a step into a timecapsule. Greeted by wall-
to-wall portraits of the latter- and current-day greats to have played
there — the Dead, Tom Petty, Sonic Youth, Radiohead, etc. — any
audience member has to work hard not to be walloped by the groovy
vibes. In the play area, the right wall is totally covered by a red curtain,
while the bar flanks the left wall. And on the left side of the room is a
balcony area, with what must be hundreds of posters from the old
days decorating the sides.
Grabbing a beer from a surprisingly friendly barstaff (I got a draft of Fat
Tire, an awesome lager not seen east of the Mississippi river), I sat
and took in the atmosphere of the place. It was nearly religious being
in that building.
Of course, what really makes the Fillmore is the music, and on this
night, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club did nothing to disappoint.
Supported by the spacy, shoe-gazing quintet of the Morning After Girls
and a set from Elefant, with frontman Diego pleasing the crowd in
spite of a broken leg, B.R.M.C. opened with a track from its newly-
released, limited EP Howl Sessions, the haunting Peter Hayes-sung
|From left: drummer Nick Jago and guitarist Peter Hayes of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
“Feel It Now.” After the blues-tinged riffs of “Shuffle Your Feet” and “Ain’t No Easy Way” and the gospel of “Howl,”
the band broke out the big guitars and strobe lights on “White Palms,” shaking the room the way Hendrix and
Sonic Youth might’ve done before them.
“It’s great to be back,” Hayes said, “and especially in a place like this. Never thought we’d get to play here.”
B.R.M.C. strutted their stuff for more than two hours, with highlights including the slow burn of “Red Eyes &
Tears,” the fury of “Whatever Happened To My Rock N’ Roll (Punk Song),” the lamenting “The Line,” and then the
near-closing wallop of “Heart + Soul,” followed quickly by the Howl hidden track “Open Invitation.”
For all the history and the atmosphere, what makes the Fillmore great is the concerts. In the coming months,
Danger Doom, Stephen Stills and Eels will all grace the hallowed stage, keeping the music and the history alive.
And while you’re there, grab a pint of Fat Tire. I guarantee it’ll complete the experience.
|BLACK REBEL MOTORCYCLE CLUB
Feel It Now
Shuffle Your Feet
Ain't No Easy Way
Six Barrel Shotgun
In Like the Rose
Weight of the World
Shade Of Blue
Red Eyes and Tears
Spread Your Love
Heart + Soul