TICKETS TORN IN HALF: THE LAST WEEKEND @ FILLMORE EAST-Saturday Night June 25, 1971-Late Show:
FILLMORE EAST closes with the longest and in my opinion one of if not the best set ever given by the ALLMAN BROTHERS BAND. Also on the bill were the J. Geils Band and Albert King .
THIS WAS AN END OF AN ERA for all who ever walked through those doors or graced that small but amazing stage. It is rumored that the greed of some bands (Led Zeppelin) demanding more money (Madison Squrae Garden money) and/ or limiting their shows to once a night threw BILL GRAHAM in a tizzy, so it was announced that Fillmore East would be closing it’s doors for good on Sunday, June 27,1971 and that night, the grand finale would be an “audience by invitation” only. Since I knew there was limited hope for me to score a ticket for that night I felt I needed to be there on Saturday, June 26 for the late show. A few weeks prior to the said date, I was speaking with a woman who worked the box office. Somehow, we two had become friendly over the last few months. She was about 25 or so, nice woman, pretty, and soft spoken with a hard edge if you can imagine that and she knew I was an Allman Brothers Band fan who also loved Albert King so she got me one ticket for the late Saturday, a seat in the middle section of the front balcony. Cool.
JUNE 25: ALLMAN BROTHERS BAND, J. GEILS BAND, and ALBERT KING at Fillmore East, I call Saturday night the show to end all shows as Sunday night show was broadcast live and after listening to it Sunday night had NOTHING compared to Saturday late show. Saturday afternoon my buddy Jim and I took off early in the afternoon as I would attempt to score a ticket for him. I wasn’t on Second Avenue more than 15 minutes before I had an Orchestra seat for my buddy, sold to me at cost ($5.50). We went for dinner, returning to the line up for the late show about 9PM, listening intently, as the ABB could be heard out in the street doing their first show. After the early show was cleared we were seated in the hall by midnight, where we saw the most incredible set by Albert King, followed by a set from The J. Geils Band. Then, The BROTHERS took the stage, introduced so eloquently by Bill Graham, and the BROTHERS played what is rumored to be their finest set ever. I was there and I agree. The sun was up as we headed toward the subway, meeting up with some of our town locals who also attended the show.
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. 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, the eclectic bill was 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 had the con. 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 and when that liquid hits its victim, well that grouch turned happy ala Orange barrel sunshine of the LSD variety.The crowd roared.