Avalon Ballroom

sin dance

The Avalon Ballroom is a music venue, in the Polk Gulch neighborhood of San Francisco. The space operated from 1966 to 1968 and reopened in 2003. Large events include ‘Pagan Fest USA,’ that is held in May. The building that housed the Avalon Ballroom was built in 1911 and was originally called the Colin Traver Academy of Dance. The Avalon was founded by Robert E. Cohen, impresario Chet Helms and his music production company, Family Dog Productions, which had offices on Van Ness. Extraordinary posters advertising each event were produced by psychedelic artists, including Rick Griffin, Stanley Mouse, Alton Kelly, and Victor Moscoso.

Many local bands, such as Quicksilver Messenger Service and The Steve Miller Band, served as backup bands, as did the early Moby Grape and headliners such as the The Doors, 13th Floor Elevators, The Butterfield Blues Band, and Big Brother and the Holding Company, which Helms organized around singer and performer Janis Joplin in spring 1966. The Grateful Dead recorded two live albums, entitled ‘Vintage Dead’ and ‘Historic Dead,’ here in the autumn of 1966. In 1967, it hosted the ‘Mantra-Rock Dance’ musical event, organized by the local Hare Krishna temple, which featured Hare Krishna founder Bhaktivedanta Swami, along with Allen Ginsberg, The Grateful Dead, Moby Grape, and Big Brother and the Holding Company, with Janis Joplin.

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