ROSE PALACE ROCKS WEEKEND SCENE
It looks like the Los Angeles area finally has a permanent home for rock concerts, akin to the good vibes of San Francisco's Fillmore and Avalon ballrooms.
The name of the place is the Rose Palace.
After only two weeks in operation, it's assimilated the best features of Los Angeles' historic (and no more) hallowed halls of rock: Shrine Hall, Cheetah, and Kaleidoscope, and taken some care to avoid making the mistakes that sent the aforementioned establishments into ruin.
For instance, the capacity is equal to the Shrine (about 8,000), yet there are no posts, pillars or balconies obstructing the view of the stage. The floor, though concrete, is covered with a one-inch layer of artificial grass (very apropos). And gone are the days of hot, sticky-sweltering concert hall. This place gets actually cold as the night rolls on. In other words, the place is set up for audience enjoyment.
But these features are only subordinate to the big issue: talent. Booking good shows, ultimately, is what makes or breaks a rock ballroom. Happily, the Rose Palace (run by Scenic Sounds) makes it quite well. Take last weekend for example.
The show started off with the local debut of Jethro Tull, an English quintet whose music predominantly falls into the jazz-rock genre. Riding the crest of the second wave of English pop groups, Jethro Tull (named after the inventor of the plow in England) is unique enough in its approach [and dedication] to make a dent in the American market. The group is led by the [elf-like] antics of flutist Ian Anderson, whose on-stage stance is highly derivative of a giant flamingo bird [at] rest...only Anderson doesn't rest, he's constantly moving, conveying the [same] kind of visual excitement that the Who's Peter Townscend specializes in.
The group's material runs [from] Roland Kirk "Serenade to a Cuckoo" to their own rocking "Dharma for One," to a nonsense song called "[Don't] Wanna Be a Fatman," the [latter] finding Anderson playing oud [and his] drummer beating tablas. Anderson keeps up a constant dialogue with the audience and is repaid with a [great] deal of rapport.
At one point, he emptied a [pot] of cigarettes into the audience...the crowd threw them back. Later, Anderson made a public apology for the length of his hair: "I'm sorry about it being so long and all, but it does hide me pimples."
The Grateful Dead were probably responsible for attracting most of the sellout crowd. And they were up to the task of entertaining them, particularly Saturday night. The first thing you notice about the Dead, even while they're tuning up, is the smell of cannabis in the air. It might have been there before, but somehow it's more apparent with the Dead's sets.
Musically the Dead also fall into the rock-jazz category, but for different reasons than Jethro Tull. The Dead specialize in long, long musical improvisations...the hallmark of jazz.
Led by the fluid guitar of Jerry Garcia, they buildup constantly-moving crescendos of sound that are interspersed with brief (and usually inaudible) vocal bridges. The seven-man group, which includes two drummers and a conga bopper, kept most of the audience on their feet.
The Butterfield Blues Band closed the show in style. Paul Butterfield's vocals are moving deeper and deeper into the better category, as exemplified by his rendition of the Blood, Sweat and Tears song, "More and More" (although Butterfield's version could be subtitled, "More and More, Baby"). The current personnel are a tight unit, featuring a potent horn section and an excellent new young guitarist.
"Free-form musical improvisation was order of day last weekend in pop music concert at Pasadena's Rose Palace. Providing music were The Grateful Dead (left), who specialize in tunes lasting at least an hour apiece; and new English group called Jethro Tull (right), who are led by clowning antics of flutist Ian Anderson. Daily Sundial photos by Pete Senoff."
(by Pete Senoff, from the Valley State Daily Sundial, 28 March 1969)
Thanks to Ron Fritts.
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The LA Times also had a few words on the March 21 show....
BRIEF, BRIGHT LIFE OF ROCK 'N' ROLL [excerpt]
(Most of the article is about putting together a radio program on the history of rock music.)
. . . The structure of the program forced me to define the major contributors and contributions to rock music, and the list turned out to be quite finite, despite the enormity of 20 years of heritage. There are many more Fabians and Impalas than there are Little Richards or Drifters, and a lot of what is significant today is not going to sound good in 10 years. Will the Supremes be remembered then as hazily as the Chantels are now? I suspect so. How will Jimi Hendrix's music compare with Clarence Frogman Henry's?
It is harder to do reviews now, hard to go to the Pasadena Rose Palace, as I did Friday night, and find anything relevant to say about the Grateful Dead and the Paul Butterfield Blues Band (I missed Jethro Tull - the shows start earlier than they did at the Shrine).
The Dead were not as good as they have been. Lead guitarist Jerry Garcia lacked both enthusiasm and polish. Butterfield, though, turned in an exciting set, highlighted by his wailing vocals and the band's driving horn arrangements. But Butterfield is only a hard-working technician. His harmonica playing does not compare with that of Sonny Boy Williamson, Little Walter, or Sonny Terry; his singing is beneath any of those three or a score of other bluesmen, and his band is less exciting than Bobby Blue Bland's, Ike and Tina Turner's, or Ray Charles'.
Butterfield is restating tradition rather than adding to it, and restating it not quite as well as the originals. My perspective is unfair since this is Butterfield's time, but it is harder to do reviews now. Little Richard has reminded me of too much.
(by Pete Johnson, from the Los Angeles Times, 24 March 1969)