Fifty years ago this week BILL GRAHAM opened FILLMORE EAST with a show featuring BIG BROTHER and THE HOLDING COMPANY, TIM BUCKLEY, and ALBERT KING.
This little venue at 205 Second Avenue off of Sixth Street in the Lower East Side of Manhattan was my home away from home from my first night there in 1969 until it’s closing weekend June of 1971. During that period I saw almost every type of music imaginable. Experiencing live music was a real education for me and here at Fillmore East it was at the Ph.D level of instruction. Jazz, folk, rock, experimental, comedic, whatever, this eclectic bill was all presented usually with a light show in the background. The seating of about 2700 was theatre style, no ballroom here. Programs were distributed at the door and you were escorted to your reserved seating by real ushers wearing their official garb of Fillmore East yellow and green football jerseys. Snacks, no alcohol,were available on the second floor, and all seats were a gem as the sight lines were amazing and the sound system the best in the land (at that time).
Most nights two shows were offered (separate admissions), one at 8 PM and the second scheduled for 11:30PM, Friday and Saturday evenings. The proprietor Bill Graham ran this place as if it was on Broadway. Bands were expected to be ready at show time AND conform to their given time slots. Mr. Graham would introduce the bands (when he was in town) or one of the Fillmore managers were left to the honors. Intros were usually pretty classic for the “head” billed act. Intermissions were entertaining also, as cartoons, or short films would be shown. A crowd favorite was THE SUNSHINE MAKERS, a black and white cartoon from 1935. Obvious a fan favorite because of the way it displayed: Sunshine as a liquid when it hit its victim, well that grouch turned happy ala Orange barrel sunshine of the LSD variety.The crowd roared in delight every time it was played.
So thanks to FILLMORE EAST for the memories.