The Fillmore in 2010
|Former names||Majestic Hall|
|Address||1805 Geary Boulevard|
|Location||San Francisco, California|
The Fillmore is a historic music venue in San Francisco, California, made famous by Bill Graham. Originally named the Majestic Hall, it became the "Fillmore Auditorium" in 1954 when Charles Sullivan acquired the master lease from the building owner, Harry Shiffs, and renamed it the "Fillmore Auditorium". Named for the neighborhood rather than its original location at the intersection of Fillmore Street and Geary Boulevard, it is situated in the historical center of the Western Addition neighborhood, on the edge of the Fillmore District and Upper Fillmore (lately known as Lower Pacific Heights). In the 1930s, 40's, 50's, and 60's, before redevelopment, this location was considered the heart of the San Francisco Fillmore District.
Graham also opened a Fillmore East in New York City in March, 1968. In July, 1968, he opened an additional venue in San Francisco under the same brand. Formerly known as The Carousel Ballroom at Market Street and South Van Ness Avenue, he called this The Fillmore West.
On May 27, 28 and 29, 1966, The Velvet Underground and Nico led by Lou Reed played the Fillmore Auditorium as part of Andy Warhol's Exploding Plastic Inevitable avant-garde, multimedia show premiered in New York City. Their light show engineer Danny Williams, who pioneered many of today's standard practices in rock music light shows, built a light system at the Fillmore that included stroboscopes, slides and film projections onstage. Conceived by Andy Warhol, Danny Williams and using some of film maker Jonas Mekas's ideas (Mekas pioneered film projections during concerts at The Cinematheque in New York), the show also included wild, free dancing both in the crowd and onstage. At Bill Graham's request Danny Williams soon came back to the Fillmore to build more. These innovations were to become part of the Fillmore Auditorium's prestige and image and were also used at the Fillmore East and Fillmore West venues, both opened in 1968.
In the mid-1960s, the Fillmore Auditorium became the focal point for psychedelic music and counterculture in general, with such acts as The Grateful Dead, The Steve Miller Band, Jefferson Airplane, Quicksilver Messenger Service, The Doors, Jimi Hendrix Experience, The Byrds, Big Brother and the Holding Company, Santana, Frank Zappa's Mothers of Invention, The Allman Brothers Band, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and British acts The Who, Pink Floyd, and Cream all performing at the venue. Besides rock, Graham also featured non-rock acts such as Lenny Bruce, Miles Davis, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Charles Lloyd, Aretha Franklin, and Otis Redding as well as poetry readings. The Grateful Dead were regulars at The Fillmore, having played a total of 51 concerts from 1965 through 1969.
Also, B.B. King's well received performances at Fillmore Auditorium served to introduce many fans to the authentic sounds that had already inspired blues-rockers including Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Bob Dylan. B.B. King subsequently became a counter-cultural icon appearing at many rock festivals.
The venue had a legendary ambience as well as the stellar performances, often with swirling light-show projections, strobe lights and uninhibited dancing. The cultural impact of the Fillmore was very large. It is referenced by Hunter S. Thompson in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas in a description of the counterculture of the 1960s in the San Francisco Bay area.
Fillmore West and Fillmore East
After two years at the Fillmore Auditorium, because of a deteriorating neighborhood and the modest capacity of the hall, Bill Graham opened another venue in July 1968 nearby at 10 South Van Ness Avenue, at the corner of Market Street which was renamed Fillmore West in contrast with Graham's Fillmore East auditorium in the East Village in New York City.
The Elite Club
The original Fillmore location became a venue called The Elite Club. For several years in the early 1980s, punk promoter Paul Rat booked punk rock shows at this venue. Punk bands that performed at The Elite Club include Bad Religion, Black Flag, Bad Brains, The Dead Kennedys, The Red Rockers, T.S.O.L., Flipper, Gang of Four, and Public Image Ltd.
Reopening and national franchise
The Fillmore reopened under Graham's management in the mid-1980s, but it was damaged and closed by the Loma Prieta earthquake of October 1989. After Graham died in a helicopter crash in 1991, those close to him decided to carry out his final wish to retrofit and reopen the original Fillmore, which required much structural work. The Fillmore reopened on April 27, 1994, with the band The Smashing Pumpkins playing an unannounced surprise show, and Primus playing the first official reopening show the following night. The Fillmore has once again become a San Francisco hot spot with frequent shows. For a standard show, the capacity of the Fillmore is 1,199 guests.
Live Nation has recently begun a campaign to expand the Fillmore "brand" by changing the names of a number of established clubs it owns around the U.S. This includes clubs in Denver, Detroit, the Fillmore at the TLA in Philadelphia, the Fillmore at Irving Plaza in New York City, and the Fillmore at the Jackie Gleason Theatre in Miami Beach, Florida. The Fillmore Charlotte opened in June 2009. A Fillmore in the Washington, D.C., suburb of Silver Spring, Maryland, broke ground in 2010 and opened in late 2011.
The Fillmore is also well known for its psychedelic concert posters by artists who in the 1960s included Wes Wilson and Rick Griffin. Copies of the night's poster are given to fans free of charge as they exit selected, sold-out shows. A chronological collection of these posters is on display in the mezzanine level of the auditorium today.
Other traditions are carried on to this day at the Fillmore in San Francisco. One is a large tub of free apples for concert goers positioned near the entrance. Another is a "greeter" who welcomes each guest as they enter with: "Welcome to the Fillmore!"
- Harlem of the West The San Francisco Fillmore Jazz Era chroniclebooks.com
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- "Concert Vault". Wolfgang’s Vault. 2010. Retrieved 2010-04-06.
- B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center http://bbkm.publishpath.com/
- "04/16/1982 - San Francisco, CA | Tours & shows | The Bad Religion Page - Since 1995". Thebrpage.net. Retrieved 2013-10-19.
- "Fillmore History". Bill Graham Presents. 2005. Archived from the original on 2006-05-05. Retrieved 2010-04-06.
- Jason Koebler. "Live Wire: What the Fillmore in Silver Spring Could Mean for Local Clubs".
- Staff writers (February 18, 2009). "Hendrick to build Fillmore Music Hall". The Charlotte Business Journal. Retrieved 2010-04-06.
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