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Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Demise of the Matrix, 1971


The Matrix at 3138 Fillmore Street (San Francisco, CA, 94123) [map | JGBP]: it's daunting to type those words and then imagine adding much to what we know, so meticulously gathered over decades. So I'll zero in on a relatively blank space: the venue's demise in 1971.

Ross Hannan and Corry Arnold's Chicken on a Unicycle hosts the data. Here's what we have from 1971 through the end of the year. (I won't discuss the venue's 1973 manifestation, which was in a different space, formerly Moulin Rouge, Casa Madrid, Mother's and Mr. D's, and later the Soul Train, Hippodrome and The Stone, at 412 Broadway (San Francisco, CA, 94133) [map | JGBP].)

Tuesday
02 February 1971
Jerry Garcia, Merl Saunders 

Wednesday
03 February 1971
Jerry Garcia, Merl Saunders 

Thursday
04 February 1971
John Fahey

Friday
05 February 1971
John Fahey

Saturday
06 February 1971
John Fahey

Monday
08 February 1971
Jerry Garcia, Merl Saunders 

Tuesday
09 February 1971
Jerry Garcia, Merl Saunders 

Wednesday
10 February 1971
Boz Scaggs

Thursday
11 February 1971
Boz Scaggs

Friday
12 February 1971
Jerry Garcia, Merl Saunders 

Saturday
13 February 1971
Jerry Garcia, Merl Saunders 

Tuesday
16 February 1971
Larry Coryell

Wednesday
17 February 1971
Larry Coryell

Thursday
18 February 1971
Ramblin' Jack Elliott  

Friday
19 February 1971
Ramblin' Jack Elliott  

Saturday
20 February 1971
Ramblin' Jack Elliott  

Tuesday
02 March 1971
Jerry Garcia, Merl Saunders 

Wednesday
03 March 1971
Jerry Garcia, Merl Saunders 

Thursday
15 April 1971
Danny Zeitlin Trio

Friday
16 April 1971
Danny Zeitlin Trio

Saturday
17 April 1971
Danny Zeitlin Trio

Tuesday
11 May 1971
Jerry Garcia, Merl Saunders

Tuesday
02 March 1971
Jerry Garcia, Merl Saunders 

Wednesday
03 March 1971
Jerry Garcia, Merl Saunders 

Thursday
15 April 1971
Danny Zeitlin Trio

Friday
16 April 1971
Danny Zeitlin Trio

Saturday
17 April 1971
Danny Zeitlin Trio

Tuesday
11 May 1971
Jerry Garcia, Merl Saunders 


Here is an updated table. I have posted this as a Google Documents spreadsheet which, shockingly, Blogger is entirely unable to handle other than as a link. I reproduce the table as a picture here. These data, based mostly on my research in San Francisco Chronicle microfilm at the amazing San Francisco Public Library, will be concatenated into the Chicken at some point.

Table xxx. Matrix 1971 gigs, as of 9/28/2014.
January and February don't reveal anything particularly noteworthy. On February 7, Joel Selvin (1971) published an interesting little piece in the San Francisco Sunday Examiner and Chronicle Datebook (my beloved SFSECD), retracing the history of the venue and tying it to Garcia and Saunders experimenting with jazz-rock fusion in the contemporary period. Identified co-owners Ray Bregante and Peter Abrams give no hint of trouble in paradise. But then, after the reformed Sopwith Camel performs in the first week of March, the listings dry up. On March 8th, John Wasserman reports “Disheartening news -- the Matrix closed, maybe permanently," promising more information in the Wednesday column (Wasserman 1971a). Following up, as promised:
Nobody – mainly owners Ray Bregante and Peter Abrams – seems anxious to be contacted. From good second-hand information, it appears that they just got tired of hassles and, as long as two months ago, had expressed a desire to find a bigger place or just shut down. The Matrix has been surviving by the skin of its frets for a long time but had hoped to make a profit through the release of live albums. Among other things, this hasn’t worked out. More later. (Wasserman 1971b).
The promised further information never materialized, as far as I could find. On March 24th Wasserman (1971c) notes that the Matrix has reopened --this ended up being about a two-and-a-half week hiatus--, and listings pick up a little bit. There is no indication that the weekend with Jesse "Lone Cat" Fuller, May 14-15, will bring the curtain down. The Matrix drops from view, the Pierce Street Annex moves into the space, and the rest is history, at least until the relative present.

What happened?

I don't know. There's no reason to doubt JLW's rendering, that people just got burned out. It's probably just that simple, and is so characteristic of the human condition, bangs and whimpers mixing company, fraternizing. But I love the bookending: as the Matrix preceded the ballrooms on the front end of San Francisco's psychedelic era, it also anticipated their passing, little more than six weeks before the closing of the Fillmore West.

REFERENCES:
Selvin, Joel. 1971. The Matrix Club and the Rise of Rock. San Francisco Sunday Examiner & Chronicle Datebook, February 7, 1971, p. 4.
Wasserman, John L. 1971a. Aretha Franklin – Boss Blues Lady. San Francisco Chronicle, March 8, 1971, p. 39.
Wasserman, John L. 1971b. The Real Match Was at the Fillmore. San Francisco Chronicle, March 10, 1971, p. 54.
Wasserman, John L. 1971c. Some Travesties in the Music Biz. San Francisco Chronicle, March 24, 1971, p. 42.

See also:
Some recent cites: on 3/3/71, see "Contradictions Are Fun"; on 5/11/71 see "Hey Merl, you wanna do that tune in 'G'? Get spaced out a little?"; on Jerry and Merl at the Matrix see my lengthy discussion with Corry Arnold, "Jerry Garcia and Merl Saunders at the Matrix - A Dialogue". More generally, click on the Matrix tag to see when it has come up here on the blog.

2 comments:

  1. have a new tape copy of the 5 11 71 short chunk a few gens but from a venerable collection. while i dont expect much, maybe it has a few extra seconds or something, will share the music and news as soon as transferred

    ReplyDelete

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