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Wednesday, July 04, 2012

River City, Fairfax

Was just looking up some gigs at River City, 52 Bolinas Avenue, Fairfax, CA, 94930. Saw that a gent named Ron Barbarita apparently booked it ca. fall 1975, when JGB played there a few times.

Immediately went to JGBP, which hasn't reported on the venue yet, as far as I can tell. The Google yielded an article in Pacific Sun on "Country Porn", with this little tidbit:

It all started at a little nightclub in the downtown called River City, where co-owner Ron Barbarita (Phil Lesh was also a partner) had worked diligently to establish his venue as the place to go for quality entertainment in Marin.

I'd really like to learn more about this, and in particular the nature and timeframe of Phil's involvement. Anyone got anything?


  1. There is a tape of Too Loose To Truck from River City dated 5.6.76. This group, comprising Lesh, Haggerty, John Allair and Steve Mitchell, are only known from a handful of verified performances, but may have played together more frequently during this era. If Lesh was a partner in River City, perhaps they played there more regularly.

  2. I'm always skeptical of these stories about how band members (of any band) own venues. I think I heard many times that Garcia was a partner in the Keystones. Also, what does "partner" mean? Full-on participant, or just loaned the owner a few thousand bucks to make payroll one time?

    Now, Phil liked hanging out in bars in those days (per his book), so I wouldn't be surprised if he might have been a regular at River City, but it just seems like a story that expanded in the re-telling.

  3. Phil clearly likes hanging out in a bar these days:) He's at Terrapin Crossroads almost every day when he's not on tour, usually playing music.

  4. Heh heh, good point about Phil. Bob Weir, as well, if I am not mistaken, with the new Sweetwater.

    Corry, I take your point about "partner", but I think you protest its inherent ambiguities too much. I think the ambiguities of "partner" are useful and interesting. It's good we have a word for that slice of the empirical terrain occupied by relationships that involve exchanges of favors and considerations (sometimes monetary), but no real paperwork. (And, humanistically, I am happy that there remain such spaces, where the system world can't quite capture the fluidities of the life world, and all that.)

    So, Phil spending a lot of time in bars (per his book), and the fact that, from this distance of nearly 40 (!) years, this particular bar enters the Garcia narrative to a statistically very improbable degree, it makes me interested. I wonder where Nicky Hopkins like to drink? Mill Valley?

    Regarding Keystones --though I partly fear a valuable comment thread on that in a hard-to-find place!--, I agree with you that Jerry and Fred weren't business partners in the formal, officialized ways. But they certainly enjoyed very tight, extensive, lucrative ties together. So my point is that they were not Partners, but partners.

    One final point, since it's on my mind with visions of official records spinning through my eyeballs: the racial disparities in the paper, or once-paper, record are striking. I could imagine existing, somewhere, in someone's filing cabinet, business papers from River City. (If you are a person holding those, please feel free to give me a friendly hello,!) I'd hope I could imagine finding similar things from black clubs on Broadway in Oakland, or Latin clubs in the Mission, or whatever. Some combination of they-never-existed and I-have-no-social-context-for-tapping-what-is-there just defies equal coverage. I am becoming acutely aware that extremely valuable materials are experiencing extremely high mortality rates these days. Old records (paper and vinyl!) and old memories which form valuable primary data for our future colleagues are succumbing every day to the ravages to time.

    Scan those documents, people, and share them, if you can. History will thank you.

  5. That said, I wonder if the Pacific Sun would have had calendars in the fall 1975 period (if not beyond), including possible River City (52 Bolinas Avenue) and Sleeping Lady (58 Bolinas Avenue) listings? That publication is available on microfilm, right next to functional digital scanners. These are not the beautiful high-end technological masterpieces now available at the San Francisco Public Library, but they work just fine. Earlier spins through earlier periods of Pacific Sun (ca. 1969-1973) yielded little but frustration.

  6. I have a copy of Too Loose Ta Truck playing at River City on 5/17/76.

  7. as i'd said in another thread, i was at the river city club on 8/12/75 seeing the rowan brothers and phil was at the bar. this was the night before the dead's great american music hall show. i understand phil had just come from their dress rehearsal at the gamh. we heard about the next night's dead show while we were there. we went down the next night and managed to get in for most of it.

  8. was the Sept 21, 1975 River City show actually on that date, I have a 10/3 Marin Daily Independent that suggests Thursday 10/9/75 which is an open day in deadbase. true or not ?

  9. 9/21/75 has a contract and a mention in the IJ.

    ! ref: AFM;
    ! Mention: "Grateful Dead Veteran Back," Independent Journal (September 19, 1975), p. 21.

    On 10/9, yes, I have that one in my spreadsheets.

    ! ref: AFM;
    ! listing: [contra] Oakland Tribune, October 5, 1975, p. 14-E;
    ! listing: "Sonoma State's Benefit Set For Sunday At Football Field," Independent Journal [San Rafael, CA], October 3, 1975, p. 20.


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