Earlier this afternoon, my Cousin Michael sent an email to me. All it had was a link, the poster you see on the left and this date: May 10, 1968.
Were we there? Did we see Jimi Hendrix at the Fillmore East? I don’t remember.
I was nearly 18¹. That winter and spring Michael and I, along with our friend Larry, spent a lot of Friday and Saturday nights at the Fillmore East.
Actually, when we began going it was called the Village Theater, the same name it had when it was a legitimate Yiddish theater. The name change came after Bill Graham of San Francisco took over.
I’m sure there’s nothing like it now, nor was there anything else like the ‘Fillmores’ then. The theater itself was a large house with a balcony. The seats and carpeting were threadbare and torn. What the Fillmore East had going for it were the acts.
I know I saw Grateful Dead there (on the bill with Moby Grape). I think I saw Cream, maybe Credence too. Even in New York, these big acts really had nowhere else to play. And ticket prices were low – $2 or $3, I think.
What I remember most about the Fillmore East was the Joshua Light Show. This was a multimedia presentation before the word multimedia was coined. It was usually rear projected on a screen behind the acts.
In the psychedelic 60s, Joshua was… well, it was very psychedelic. I marveled at what they did and often came up blank trying to explain how they did it. This was a pre-electronic, pre-computer rough hewn multimedia experience. It was all optics and ingenuity.
I really wasn’t a crazed music fan in the 60s. I covered at work for someone else so he could go to Woodstock, missing the number one event of the decade. Still, being at the Fillmore East transcended the music. It was as much a statement of who I thought I was, as an experience.
If I could step back to ’68 and see myself in that decrepit Second Avenue theater on the (at that time) unfashionable Lower East Side, I’m sure I’d cringe. The past is never kind.
Back then it was totally right. Back then, I was hip. Really, I was.
¹ – Back then, being 18 meant you could drink. It didn’t mean you could vote. The legal age for voting was 21.