Wednesday, May 26, 2010

San Francisco Museum of Performance and Design

Something's Happening Here: The San Francisco Rock Scene

The Charlatans, 1966 @ Herb Green (courtesy MPD)

 San Francisco's neighborhoods are full of little known but interesting spaces. To me, one of the more fascinating is the Museum of Performance and Design. Tucked away on the 4th floor of the Veterans Building (401 Van Ness Ave) and in part of the space formerly occupied by SF MOMA (before its move to 4th Street), the current exhibit is of particular interest to those of us who came here in the 60's.

We were drawn by the promise of a new way of living (aka, sex, drugs and Rock and Roll). Rod McKuen's poetry about Stanyan Street became a best seller, almost everybody was drenched in patchouli oil, draped love beads around their necks, believed in free love, thought that we were going to change the world forever -  and listened to the music. The Avalon Ballroom was in its heyday and music promoters like Chet Helms were pioneering psychedelic light shows, the forerunners of today's music videos.

Before rap, before heavy metal, heck before disco, SF's music scene blossomed with bands like The Beau Brummels, The Charlatans, Country Joe and the Fish, and Quicksilver Messenger Service. We could hear Janice singing in funky little dives and Grace Snick was the ice princess for a whole generation of young men (and maybe even a few women). Men wore their hair long, we all got into Indian religion and transcendental meditation, spoke of peace and love even while the Vietnam War was raging. It was sometimes silly, sometimes innocent, certainly naive and it was over far too soon.

Co-curators Melissa Leventon and Alec Palao evoke this rich era using a wealth of rarely seen footage, posters, images, and costume from private and public collections and from the artists themselves. Visitors are able to sample extremely rare audio and video clips, some of them drawn from the important archive of recordings from San Francisco’s KSAN that are now in MPD’s permanent collection.

Just a few of the key original items on display include:

Costume pieces worn by Janis Joplin, Carlos Santana, Sly Stone, and others
the full-sized original painting featured on the Grateful Dead’s Anthem of the Sun album cover
The famed “Captain Trips” hat worn by Jerry Garcia
original posters from classic Bay Area venues, including the Avalon Ballroom and the Fillmore Auditorium
Rare letters, documents and one-of-a-kind ephemera from the Bay Area's 1960s rock'n' roll heyday
Iconic and previously unseen photographs from the archives of photographers such as Baron Wolman, Herb Greene, Bob Seidemann, Bill Brach, and Elaine Mayes
Musical instruments used by John Cipollina (Quicksilver Messenger Service), Merl Saunders, Dan Hicks, and others

The exhibition will be open to the public September 25, 2009-August 28, 2010.
Admission is free, with a suggested donation of $5.
Gallery hours are Wednesday-Saturday, 12:00-5:00 pm.

401 Van Ness Ave, 4th Floor
Thanks to David W. Summer of the Museum of Performance and Design for his invaluable help on this.


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