The Winterland Ballroom, often referred to as Winterland Arena or simply Winterland, was an ice skating rink and 5,400-seat music venue in San Francisco, California. Located at the corner of Post Street and Steiner Street, it was converted to exclusive use as a music venue in 1971 by rock promoter Bill Graham and became a common performance site for many of the most famous rock music artists.
Winterland was built in 1928 for the then astronomical cost of $1 million. Opened on June 29, 1928, it was originally known as the "New Dreamland Auditorium." Sometime in the late 1930s, the name was changed to Winterland. It served as an ice skating rink that could be converted to an entertainment venue. Early acts/shows at Winterland included Shipstads and Johnson Ice Follies. In November 1944 it played host to an authorized production (but somewhat americanized) of the Follies Bergere. It also was host to opera, boxing, and tennis.
As a music venue
Starting with a 1966 double bill of Jefferson Airplane and the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Bill Graham began to rent the venue occasionally for larger concerts that his nearby Fillmore Auditorium could not properly accommodate. After closing the Fillmore West in 1971, he began to hold regular weekend shows at Winterland. Various popular rock acts played there, including such bands and musicians as Bruce Springsteen, The Rolling Stones, The J. Geils Band, The Who, Queen, Slade, Boston, Cream, Yes, KISS, The Doors, Jimi Hendrix, Steppenwolf, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Styx, The Allman Brothers Band, Grateful Dead, The Band, Jethro Tull, Pink Floyd, Rush, Electric Light Orchestra, Genesis, Jefferson Airplane, Traffic, Golden Earring, Grand Funk Railroad, Humble Pie, Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band, Robin Trower, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Sha Na Na, Loggins and Messina, Lee Michaels, Heart, Journey, Deep Purple and Elvis Costello. Led Zeppelin first performed their song Whole Lotta Love here. Many of the best-known rock acts from the 1960s and 1970s played at Winterland or played two blocks away across Geary Boulevard at the original Fillmore Auditorium. Peter Frampton recorded parts of the fourth best-selling live album ever, Frampton Comes Alive!, at Winterland. The Grateful Dead made Winterland their home base and The Band played their famous last show there on Thanksgiving Day 1976. That concert, featuring numerous guest performers including Neil Young, Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, and many others, was filmed by Martin Scorsese and released in theaters and as a soundtrack under the name The Last Waltz. Winterland was also host to the Sex Pistols' final show on January 14, 1978.
During Winterland's final month of existence, shows were booked nearly every night. Acts included The Tubes, The Ramones, Smokey Robinson, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, and on December 15–16, 1978, Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band. Springsteen's December 15 show was simulcast on local radio station KSAN-FM and Springsteen historians consider that show one of his most legendary. Winterland closed on New Years 1978/1979 with a concert by the Grateful Dead, New Riders of the Purple Sage, and The Blues Brothers. The show lasted for over eight hours, with the Grateful Dead's performance — documented on DVD and CD as The Closing of Winterland — lasting nearly six hours itself. The final show was simulcast on radio station KSAN-FM and also broadcast live on the local PBS TV station KQED. Winterland was eventually torn down in 1985, and was replaced by apartments. Its original back entrance door for musicians is currently up for sale on Wolfgang's Vault for $1,000,000.
Live recordings at Winterland
The following films and recordings were made in whole or in part at the Winterland Ballroom:
- The Band - The Last Waltz
- Grateful Dead - The Grateful Dead Movie, The Closing of Winterland
- KISS - Kissology Volume One: 1974–1977
- Sex Pistols - The Filth and the Fury
- Sha Na Na - "Live at Winterland (1974)" (bootleg)
- The Allman Brothers Band - Wipe the Windows, Check the Oil, Dollar Gas
- Big Brother and the Holding Company - Live at Winterland '68
- Cream - Wheels of Fire, Live Cream, Live Cream Volume II, Those Were the Days
- Electric Light Orchestra - Live at Winterland '76
- Peter Frampton - Frampton Comes Alive!
- Grateful Dead - Steal Your Face, Dick's Picks Volume 10, So Many Roads (1965-1995),The Grateful Dead Movie Soundtrack, The Closing of Winterland, Winterland: 1973: The Complete Recordings, Winterland June 1977: The Complete Recordings
- Jimi Hendrix - Live at Winterland and The Jimi Hendrix Concerts (live tracks of various gigs)
- Jefferson Airplane - Thirty Seconds Over Winterland
- Bruce Springsteen - Live/1975–85
- Sex Pistols - "Live at Winterland 1978" (Bootleg)
- The Band - "The Last Waltz"
- Genesis - Winds on the Pier - March 25, 1977 (A+ Bootleg)
- Led Zeppelin - Blowup - November 6, 1969 (Bootleg)
- Humble Pie - Live at Winterland
- Paul Butterfield's Better Days - Live at Winterland Ballroom (1973)
- Sha Na Na - "The Golden Age of Rock 'n' Roll"