Contra Costa Times, March 2, 2006
Graham's Vault Stocked With All Things Rock 'n' Roll
AS A LIVE MUSIC columnist, I'm always seeking news in the world of live music, and it's safe to say that this month's breaking story in the world of recorded live music would have to be Wolfgang's Vault.
Surely you've heard about it by now, the archive of tapes, films and rock 'n' roll ephemera from the collection of Bill Graham Presents. But have you actually heard it? If you haven't, waste not one more minute and log on to www.wolfgangsvault.com, click the button that says Vault Radio, and away you go on a time-travel trip through the concerts of your youth. Or a trip through the concerts of others' youths, concerts you never went to but may've heard about, or even ones you didn't know existed on live tape.
Are you catching my enthusiasm yet? We are talking historic Bay Area live music moments ... the Sex Pistols at Winterland, Boz Scaggs at the Paramount Theatre, Bruce Springsteen at Berkeley Community Theatre, the S.N.A.C.K. concert at Kezar featuring Neil Young, Bob Dylan and The Band, the Jefferson Airplane at the Matrix, the Grateful Dead and Santana at the Fillmore, and even Elton John singing "Honky Tonk Women" there in 1970.
I still haven't yet mentioned Jimi and Janis and Miles and Muddy, Emmylou at the Boarding House and even Rahsaan Roland Kirk, plus all those locals like Stoneground, Graham Central Station, the Chambers Brothers.
Of course, Bill Graham didn't just rule West Coast venues. He also presciently stashed tape on Derek and the Dominos at Fillmore East and Joni Mitchell on the Rolling Thunder Revue tour at Madison Square Garden, among others. It's blowing my mind just writing it all down! And no, I am not being paid for this announcement.
So why am I so excited? Because to tell you the truth, I don't think there's been an undiscovered cache of live music this exciting since I don't know when. And because I'm jaded: I thought I'd heard all the Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Led Zeppelin and White Stripes boots worth hearing, and that I had enough music in my collection to last a lifetime. But the quality of these nuggets is so good, and the rarity of the performances leaves me breathless. Honestly, I'm not sure I've ever really listened to "Dazed and Confused" from Winterland in '69 because I don't like that song that much! And yet ...
The added bonus is that most of these performances were held back in the day, when audiences were quiet, shouts of "Woo-hoo" were unheard of and the proverbial shout-out for "Freebird" hadn't yet flown. There is, however, an actual performance of the song by Lynyrd Skynyrd at the Oakland Stadium in '77, which, for the record, I attended as teenager, but, due to the condition I was in, I cannot report on the show to you now. (Please note: It was the '70s. We were all that way.) And though I can tell you everything about Peter Frampton's appearance at that same venue, same year, I'll spare you and leave a listen to Vault Radio to ignite your memory. Relive Pink Floyd in Oakland or experience Laura Nyro at the Fillmore for the first time. Just turn the sucker on and get on with it.
Even if you were there, or thought you were there, not all of us have the benefit of sharp, focused memory with total recall. But see, music can do that for us, and in this shining moment as I listen to Ronnie Van Zant and Co. keep on choogling, I am reminded of lying face down on the Green, wondering when these Southerners were going to get the heck off the stage so Steve Miller could come on. Am I right? Oh dear, I'm sorry to remind you of all this. I'm actually sorry to remind me of it.
So if there's anything bad about the Vault, well, I'd say it's that -- the power to recall the bad as well as the good. And then there's this matter of the long version of "Suzy Q" by the East Bay's own Creedence Clearwater Revival, which, for those who know the song, serves as a reminder that Creedence was far better at penning workingman's hits than they were at jamming (thank goodness for the fade ...).
But as they say, don't take my word for it. And as they also say, if you don't like the music, go out and make some/hear some of your own.
STEVE WYNN, formerly of indie-rock prototype feedback artists the Dream Syndicate and now leader of the heaven-sent Miracle 3, returns to the Ivy Room with songs from a new album, "... Tick ... Tick ... Tick." The tastemakers over there at Rolling Stone and Mojo like it; I haven't heard it yet, but Steve's a friend from the class of '80-something, so of course I like it. Seen him live aplenty and he's a pro; sort of a combo of prime-of-life Bob, Bruce and Lou (Reed, in case you don't know), before the twilight years set in.
Details: Steve Wynn and the Miracle 3 appear at the Ivy Room for a special early show at 4 p.m. March 5. Cover is $7. Call 510-524-9220 for information. They also appear at Cafe Du Nord, March 6. Show is at 9 p.m. Tickets are $10. Call 415-861-5016 for information.
Denise Sullivan's The Show Goes On runs every other week in TimeOut Weekend. Send news items to The Show Goes On, c/o music editor, Contra Costa Times, P.O. Box 8099, Walnut Creek, CA 94596-8099.
By Denise Sullivan
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