Mosh pit lays waste to historic Palo Alto night club

“Mosh pit destroys historic Palo Alto night club” screams the headline in my mind but lo, it is actually the even more dangerous and depraved real estate industry that will bring the wrecking ball to 260 California Avenue, the former Keystone and Edge night clubs where yours truly, if I did not actually mosh, maybe skanked or nodded my head in time to people like Everclear, John Lee Hooker, 7 Mary 3 and Greg Kihn. (I missed most of the highlights like Jerry Garcia and Smashing Pumpkins, but probably caught 50 shows there, and produced exactly two).

I found this amazing round-up of the epic history of the site, including a link to Sara Wykes’ article from 1986 when the Keystone became a tomb-stone. To the true old timers and ODH (original deadheads) the Keystone was Sophie’s for a while. Jerry Garcia apparently played the room 81 times and I am going to amend to claim I caught one of those shows, dragged there by Tim Harris before I was a deadhead (and my count is about 12 for actual dead shows — including Frost, Shoreline, and Greek).

Today’s Weekly had a notice about 260 California Avenue for a public hearing 8:30 a.m. Thursday December 20 in chambers. Hayes Group on behalf of Tarob M&C Investors for construction of “a new three story, approximately 27,000 square foot building.” That’s about 300 new workers, who of course will want to park in the adjacent neighborhoods despite the proximity to CalTrain.

But the loss of a cultural amenity like the Keystone or the Edge is what I bemoan. I noted however that Rock and Roll strike back in small ways with the opening of a Freebirds World  Burrito joint (who feature rock memorabilia as a design motif and are named for the Skynyrd song) and a School of Rock franchise midtown, but still we are a “Waste Land” in the Eliot sense as far as contemporary culture. And I still get visions regarding TLPW 456 my campaign to Save the Varsity.

Not to be nostalgic, but the two shows I produced at the site were with Trova Latino featuring Juan L. Sanchez in January, 1994 and Danny Barnes Trio, Jerry Hannan and The Blue Eyed Devils in 2002. That’s pure trivia compared to the type of act that came thru the Keystone in its hey-day and only slightly less so for The Edge. Sara Wykes of the Merc in 1986 offers this list, in an article about the Keystone giving way to the Vortex, which was supposed to be a more sedate venue: By then, the Keystone was booking groups on their way up — such as Blondie, The Cars, The Tubes, John Lee Hooker, Tom Petty and The Talking Heads. And occasionally, someone like Neil Young or Bruce Springsteen (would sit in — Bruce supposedly hopped on stage for a short set on what was billed as a Clarence Clemons show). Sara Wykes aka S.L Wykes, who wrote for the Merc for 24 years, is now a medical writer for the pr office of Stanford Hospital, was on Pat Burt’s re-election team and I met once or twice over the years most notably to me that is when Squirrel Nut Zippers cancelled last minute for a Labor Day, 1995 show at Cubberley and rather than canceling show I kept trying to get them to show up, including calling them from the stage and having the audience yell “get well, jimbo” to the supposedly ailing lead singer Jimbo Mathus who cut the rug and the DuNord the night before before succumbing to some bad clams at The Grub Stake post show. Sara is on a list of people waiting for make-good in the form of SNZ t-shirts or something (I have on file the list) excuse the long digression.

Maybe because it went thru a metamorphosis more than an abrupt closure like the Varsity, people don’t lament the Edge’s demise, but I would say in terms of live music there was as much or more there than at the Varsity, which of course most people think of for film (or as Gary Meyer recalled recently, it was “a triple threat” with food, music and film; I think of three things re the Varsity: Tuck and Patty in the courtyard, Bogie double-features and the poster of Bogie at The Varsity I hung in my freshman dorm).

The Weekly had a blurb about the project working its way thru the pipeline in July, including negative comments by Bob Moss and Bill Ross. Maybe rather than a “mosh pit” of reaction we should have a “moss-ross pit”.

But it would be interesting to either use the demolition of the 260 California Avenue building as opportunity to reflect and re-group as a cultural community, not protest progress per se but use the case as further impetus to make good somewhere somehow before we plunge into total and irrevocable philistinism. Jerry is dead, Hooker is dead, but some of us still have mouths, pens, blogs, time and some money; three chords and the truth, if you will. hurry up please its time.

edita, months later: jim harrington weighs in on topic, from may, 2000:

edit to add, a year later, sitting at a public hearing re nearby 385 Sherman, Bill Ross talking about, mentions 260 Cali, can neighbors actually enforce issues of construction adjacent, I added this to PA Weekly article from spring, 2014 about multiple sites in Cali Ave/Ventura area: (385 Sherman is by Minkoff, and Brick Rob Zirkel as architect, opposed by Birch Court 19 member HOA nearby, Ross works with)

when hippies and Deadheads came here to party???

That’s a weird reduction and distortion about the history of Keystone, Edge and Illusions as a cultural amenity.

Suffice it to say a) the hippies and deadheads were from here, did not merely come here, b) they stopped a war rather than, like the new brand of tech workers, seek to profit from it.

Cali Ave is like a war zone and a reconstruction.

How about a park for Ventura, if Fry’s leaves, instead of more dense housing? As precedent i offer Greer Park which when the drive-in movie left, became a major Palo Alto public amenity. (Drive-in>brick-and-mortar::parks)

About markweiss86

Mark Weiss, founder of Plastic Alto blog, is a concert promoter and artist manager in Palo Alto, as Earthwise Productions, with background as journalist, advertising copywriter, book store returns desk, college radio producer, city council and commissions candidate, high school basketball player; he also sang in local choir, and fronts an Allen Ginsberg tribute Beat Hotel Rm 32
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