The Avalon

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This article is about The Avalon Ballroom (Regency II) on Sutter Street. For The Regency Center (Regency I) next-door on the corner of Sutter Street and Van Ness Avenue, see The Regency Center.
Avalon Ballroom
Former names Avalon Ballroom
Address 1268 Sutter St.
Location San Francisco, California
Coordinates 37°47′15″N 122°25′17″W / 37.78761°N 122.42129°W / 37.78761; -122.42129Coordinates: 37°47′15″N 122°25′17″W / 37.78761°N 122.42129°W / 37.78761; -122.42129
Type ballroom
Built 1911
Opened 1966
Closed 1969

The Avalon Ballroom was a music venue in the Polk Gulch neighborhood of San Francisco, California, at 1244 Sutter Street[1] (or 1268 Sutter,[2] depending on the entrance). The space operated from 1966 to 1969, at the height of the counterculture movement.


The Mantra-Rock Dance poster

The building that housed the Avalon Ballroom was built in 1911 and was originally called the Colin Traver Academy of Dance.[3][4][5]

The Avalon was founded by Robert E. Cohen, impresario Chet Helms and his music production company, Family Dog Productions, which had offices on Van Ness. Bands were frequently booked to perform at the Avalon on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Extraordinary posters advertising each event were produced by psychedelic artists, including Rick Griffin, Stanley Mouse, Alton Kelley and Victor Moscoso.

In the 1960s, at the Avalon, two bands typically performed two sets during the evening beginning at about nine o'clock. Many local bands, such as Quicksilver Messenger Service and the Steve Miller Band, served as backup bands, as did the early Moby Grape and headliners such as The Doors, the 13th Floor Elevators, the Butterfield Blues Band and Big Brother and the Holding Company, which Helms organized around singer and performer Janis Joplin in spring 1966.

The Grateful Dead played at the Avalon 29 times from 1966 through 1969, and recorded two live albums, entitled Vintage Dead and Historic Dead, in the autumn of 1966. 2 tracks of their famous "Live/Dead" album were also recorded there in early 1969, The Eleven and Turn On Your Love Light.[6]

On January 29, 1967, it hosted the Mantra-Rock Dance musical event, organized by the local Hare Krishna temple, which featured Hare Krishna founder Bhaktivedanta Swami, along with Allen Ginsberg, The Grateful Dead, Moby Grape and Big Brother and the Holding Company, with Janis Joplin.[7]


The Avalon occupied the two top floors of the multi-story building at 1268 Sutter. An L-shaped, second-floor balcony surrounded the first-floor along the south and western walls, and the dance area was in front of the elevated stage in the northeast corner where musicians performed. The entrance doors were downstairs, and opened onto Sutter Street.[8][9]

The Family Dog, at 2125 Pine Street[10] was a hippie commune, which hosted dances and events,[11][10][12] eight blocks[13] from the Avalon, frequented by Helms and his friends. The Avalon was not as large as the Winterland Ballroom or The Fillmore, which had been used by Helms before Bill Graham allegedly violated their partnership agreements. However, the Avalon had the capacity of up to 500. The ballroom was 80 to 100 ft (24 to 30 m) by 160 to 180 feet (49 to 55 m). This area included the stage, which was 40 to 50 feet (12 to 15 m) wide. The dance floor could accommodate several hundred dancers. An omnipresent light show was created by several local lighting companies.[11][12][14][15][16][17][18][19][20][21][22][23][24][25][26][27]

Closure and restoration[edit]

The Avalon lost its lease in November 1968; Cohen and Helms moved on to other pursuits — Helms became an art dealer, while still occasionally producing concerts. Cohen went on to form the national touring audio company, Bob Cohen Sound, that would tour with many former Avalon acts, and later founded Clearcom Intercom Systems.

The space was converted in 1968 to the Regency II Movie Theater, that operated by Blumenfeld Enterprises until 2001.[28] The neighboring building, known as the Regency I Movie Theater was formerly the Regency Ballroom.

In 2003, after learning from Stanley Mouse that the building was available, neo-hippie Steve Shirley (aka Morning Spring Rain) of the Hog Farm commune and backed by Michael lazar (owner of Shadow Lounge) and partner Michael Conners restored and re-opened the Avalon Ballroom. The venue Produced 70 plus concerts between 2003 and 2006.[29][30] The former Avalon Ballroom was later used as the offices for fabric design company American Pacific Linens.[31] Since 2012 it became the headquarters of the internet company[32] The entire former ballroom space was renovated.[33] As of early 2016 The Avalon is now the office of the ad agency Argonaut.[34][35][36][37]

Pop culture[edit]

"Combination Of The Two", the opening song of Cheap Thrills, the second album by the Big Brother and The Holding Company, was a homage to the rock ballrooms of San Francisco, and there is a direct reference to the Avalon in the lyrics: "Everybody over at the Avalon Ballroom in the San Francisco Bay".[38] According to Sam Andrew in the documentary Nine Hundred Nights, he wrote Combination of The Two for the San Francisco late 60s scene, and "The Two" were The Fillmore and The Avalon.

Starting in August 2013, the building was used as the residence and principal filming location for The Real World: San Francisco (2014).[39][40][41][42][43][44][45]


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  2. ^ 1923 p.1832 Puckett's College of Dancing 1268 Sutter
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  29. ^ Selvin, Joel (2003-04-22). "Avalon's spirits rising / Restored music hall holds the city's past". The San Francisco Chronicle. 
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  31. ^ Alex Bevik (August 19, 2013). "The Old Avalon Ballroom May Be Next The Real World House". Curbed SF. Retrieved 2013-12-12. 
  32. ^ Ha, Anthony. "Wantful Opens Sutter Street Workspace For San Francisco Startups". Retrieved 23 October 2016. 
  33. ^ Blanca Torres and J.K. Dineen (Jun 1, 2012). "Now playing at old Avalon Ballroom: Internet startup". San Francisco Business Times. Retrieved 2013-12-12. 
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  35. ^ "December 18, 2002 - Police Department". Retrieved 23 October 2016. 
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  37. ^ "Case Studies - Polatnick Properties, Inc.". Retrieved 23 October 2016. 
  38. ^ Cheap Thrills. 1999 CD reissue booklet, with notes by John Byrne Cooke.
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External links[edit]