Freedom & Family: First Days Of The Fillmore – Part 1
I was somewhere deep inside the most beautiful hallucinatory state when the angel’s hand breached my dream curtain. That ornate red, garnet and gold divider of dimensions disappeared along with all of the infinite and expansive universe I was creating inside my slumbering mind. The waiting pre-dawn journey from the Central Coast to San Francisco unfortunately required me, for the moment at least, to remain awake and lucid. Some light post-apocalyptic style packing and we soon found ourselves driving, eyes and hearts open wide into a night slowly letting go of yesterday’s companion and a sun welcoming us up the 101. And just as the orbit began its warmest part of the rotation, Mother Nature blessed us with a meteor shower as the last closing seconds of the night sky posed a canvas, displaying maybe her most majestic visual powers of all. We were somewhere around seventeen shootings stars deep and smiling in silence when the Bay Area’s outermost welcoming rings began presenting themselves in the new days dawn.
You know that feeling when you top a hill or round a curve and see the approaching skyline of a big city on the horizon for the first time with your very own eyes? That’s a very specific sensation and it returned once again as I made that left onto Geary off of Post sometime just after 8:30 am that first morning. It was all there. The trees out front bathed in an autumn sheen usually reserved for October back in Mississippi. But here, in mid December San Francisco, they helped frame the signs and color the streets. Lysergic landmarks burned previously into my brain during hours spent flipping through box sets and books on the music and stories only the ages and hallowed halls such as the Fillmore could hold. I remember the moment when I stopped myself from walking too fast through the crosswalk. Keeping myself from getting too close to the buildings exterior that I’d miss any of the charm and street wise ambience I was out so early seeking. I had walked alone through Japantown merchants opening their shops and windows. Allowing smells of spice and creativity to float across the mornings newly exhaled breath. And even though I’d made sure to bring all the proper credentials before leaving the hotel, I didn’t dare venture too close or enter the revered Fillmore walls. Ever aware of making my own respectful and proper first impression on the venue. I returned later for soundcheck, further prepared with eyes stretched and widening with wonder. I don’t remember walking back over the second time so much but I do remember the sound of CR’s voice floating from an elevated open door as we ascended the tall side entrance stairway. The one I’d seen so many times in various documentaries and Fillmore footage through the years. But here I was, continuing up those stairs and into the buildings awaiting cavernous cage. About to float above and across a threshold I never dreamed I’d cast any type of breeze or shadow upon. Passing through this not-so-imaginary line happened so fast it was much like the climb and furious descent of the wooden roller coasters I’d tamed on the countless family vacations of my youth. And as I found myself mentally coming to grips with where I was standing, I was also suddenly cosmically aware that my feet were having no such hesitations or trouble. And as this band of universal groove & invention danced with different tempos around Neil Young’s “World On A String”, my body checked its compatibility with their time changes. And I found myself in full flight and swing just mere minutes after entering these visually familiar but physically foreign surroundings. Maybe I’d missed “Roll Another Number” at a previous soundcheck in LA or San Diego while hustling between California coastal communes from show to show. I must have as they needed only a quick run-thru before moving on and burning down a few requests from Raven and Sean to help accurately dial and tweak the corners and bounce back the proper vibe for the evening.
What happened next could never be fully described by any language or tongue in which I can currently trade. But, it must be told in some form nonetheless and if you know me or my adoration for Betty Cantor-Jackson in every way, you know why I’m building this up so much! I MET BETTY!!!!! I was able to walk up to that famous board and look into those beautiful eyes and thank her for everything she’s ever done for us. Letting her know just how important she is to not only me, but the CRB and all of us inside this mandalic circle of live music. My tears of joy and gratitude falling not alone as her smiling eyes joined mine and she held me in one of the most memorable embraces of my life. A promise to talk more later freed those magic hands and ears for work and as I slipped further into the backstage shadows I could see Betty still setting our controls for the heart of the sun. Ben Knight’s eclectic pre-show spins provided the push toward the perpetual motion we’d soon enter for the next few days. And as the first rail riders began to gather just after doors, the love and family vibe carried over into the opening on stage tuning and the first notes of the run. I soon felt the band move passed me and up those six fluorescent edged steps to the stage where they all strapped on their specialized weapons of sound. It was then that I turned and watched those first 5 rows of freak faces come alive, ready to set sail upon that psychedelic sea with our own ancient scrolls, flow, rhythm, stories and rhyme. Are you ready for night one? I thought I was…….*
*(Watch for Part 2 coming tomorrow!)
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The Day 1 Fillmore Gallery is Here : ,-CA