Reviving ghosts -
talks at the Chet Helms Tribal Stomp and Ghost Stories
It was the 40th anniversary of a unique era of San Francisco music history that had made a huge transformation of music forever. It wouldn’t go forgotten. Some of the legends of the 60s era took some time to talk to me backstage at the Chet Helms rhompin tribal fest and it was eye opening. I mean come on. I was a bass player in a pop band, taught music to kids, played solo at numerous cafes and have worked with bands that evoke lots of different eras and some that have their own original sound. A few dare to jam for long periods of time and evoke some of the rock and spacious melodies I love about Quick Silver and Starship, Big Brother and the Holding Company, and the Grateful Dead. Mostly though, getting a 60’s 101-501-quick-fix-all-in-one-day-seminar was renewing for a lot of people. Families that run together and aren’t blood that create a place for people of all sorts of backgrounds, loved and not loved, alienated and conditioned to look for acceptance elsewhere find love and peace and they did with Chet Helms and Family Dog.
Families and made-up families make great shows and since I’m promoting this great ghost story festival with the Aoki - Izu family at the Jewish Community Center November 11th & 12th and the entire family is in the show, how appropriate to be at a Family Dog party.
Here are a few things I learned at the Chet Helms rhomp and then I‘ll give you the details about the ghost festival coming up with taiko drums and jazz.
James Gurley said, “Chet was one of the best people ever. He was all love. He was honest, had integrity, and was always fair and an ideal gentleman. He walked the walk. They don’t make them like they used to.”
Terry Haggerty of “Sons of Champlin” said, “When you’re playing music, you don’t think.” And in response to a question about whether music steers people together for the experience, he said, “We have a common sense of humanity and we gain satisfaction from not having a need to be pushed to open up and experience things together.”
Eric McFadden said, “I’m overwhelmed in a good way. People like Chet deserve this. He needs to be satisfied.” And in response to a question about what would Chet want to hear today if he was at the stomp, “Anything with passion and sincerity.”
Pete Seers said, “There are still some promoters that have what Chet had. He was generous, polite, strong, and sent out good feelings. He sent out ripples of generosity.”
Vince Welnick said, “Chet was one of the greatest men of all times. Now it’s less about the music and more about your report card. He helped make musicians and now you have to drive a 30 mile high building to be someone.”
Martin Fierro of Zero, who was discovered by Jerry Garcia while he was playing horns in Golden Gate Park said, “When I played with Legion of Mary in 68 with Garcia I was a kid from Texas and I’d been given a chance to play with one of the greats.”
Ben Komins who runs a record store in Santa Cruz talked about Chet, “Chet ran Big Brother as his house band and once he and Janis got on the scene and made it fun to be a part of, it was fun to hang out at all these shows. He brought up all these bands including Country Joe, Sons of Champlin, Nick Gravenites, Quick Silver Messenger. Bill Graham was threated by Chet Helms and saw what he was doing at the Avalon, so he betrayed Chet. They worked together at benefits but that’s about it. Bill didn‘t like it that Chet let people in for free and when Chet started to get hassled by cops, that wasn’t cool, cause he was nice to them and had always been nice to sailors too, uniformed people.”
Linda Welnick said, “Lots of people made certain clubs their regular weekly hang out back then. It wasn’t unusual for me and some friends to be at the Fillmore every week.”
Slick Aguillar with Jefferson Starship said, “Have some fun for Chet. Gotta love we’re here.”
Glenn Allen Howard, a record historian, said, “Chet wasn’t going to get scared by a Red Scare when he produced a show in the Soviet Union, he knew there were just people, music lovers there.”
Barry Melton said, “Chet was always thinking about other people. Chet gave me my first gig and was a wonderful guy. The Family Dog tradition is being carried in cause concerts, the spirit remains in San Francisco, and in the way that many people still try to bring together community in spite of it all.”
Linda Imperial said, “I’m running into people I haven’t seen in 30 years. And they’re still doing it and that’s successs. It’s slander to give up on your dream.”
Brenda Wong Aoki hasn’t given up on her dream to bring her stories to life. Next week, she’s releasing her book “Mermaid Meat: The Secret to Immortality” at a live performance of these ghost stories as part of Ghost Festival V. They are performed live with taiko drums and jazz and feature Brenda performing them through spoken word and jazz. The literary life comes to life and the jazz of jazz pioneer Mark Izu entwined with taiko drums is spellbinding and riveting. Their son Kai Kane Aoki Izu plays percussions and is a remarkable performer. The performance will be at the Jewish Community Center, November 11th & 12th. Brenda Wong Aoki’s story about Kuan Yin is about her own mother who was an orphan, a Ming Quong girl, and a visit from her grandson in Chinatown who learns during this visit the story of the legend of Kuan - Yin and that in purifying your soul even death can not kill you. Mermaid Meat explores the idea of immortality and what it would really be like to live forever. The haunting eloquence of these pieces appeals to those of us who ask ourselves questions that people have asked for thousands of years.
Back by Popular Demand!
First Voice’s Brenda Wong Aoki and Mark Izu in association with
The Jewish Community Center of San Francisco present Ghost Festival V
MERMAID MEAT - THE SECRET TO IMMORTALITY
Kuan-Yin: Our Lady of Compassion
Mermaid Meat, Black Hair, The Bell of Dojoji
WHAT: MERMAID MEAT THE SECRET TO IMMORTALITY featuring Kuan-Yin: Our Lady Of Compassion and Mermaid Meat, Black Hair, The Bell of Dojoji
Part of Ghost Festival V written and performed by Brenda Wong Aoki in concert with Mark Izu, taiko soloist Janet Koike and Kai Kane Aoki Izu
Directed by Jael Weisman
*Includes mature themes and erotic content, not recommended for children under 10
WHEN: Friday and Saturday, November 11-12, 2005
TIME: 8 pm
WHERE: Eugene & Elinor Friend Center for the Arts
Jewish Community Center of San Francisco
3200 California Street @ Presidio Avenue, San Francisco
TICKETS: $25 General Public, $22 JCCSF Members, $15 Students
For group discounts of 10 or more call (415) 221-0601
BOX OFFICE: (415) 292-1233 or www.jccsf.org/arts