Friday, January 30, 2015

Sometimes You Get To Meet Folks That Leave An Indelible Mark

Old poster by Chuck Sperry for a Family Dog Production featuring Phil Lesh

Nothing beats a good story and for this Throw Back Thursday, if you work around a cast of characters befitting a Seinfeld episode then surely you have some yourself. I used to work live shows in the early 2000's as a front of house manager at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco. It's one of the premier music venues in the entire country due to the great sound, history and overall ambiance of the room. One of the awesome folks I got to meet and get to know over the years there was Chet Helms. He was a legend in the Bay Area for concert promotion as his polar opposite and rival was Bill Graham, who went on to revolutionize the live concert industry. Chet was absolute salt of the earth and was a genuine soul. Although I am not a fan of the jam band style of music, I always enjoyed working with these folks as they became good friends and had great conversations. 

One of the last shows I got to work with Chet was a special production he put together with Phil Lesh of the Grateful Dead. Somehow I got nominated to go pick up Phil Lesh, as he had left his BMW at the front of the club. We ended up getting stuck in a traffic jam and here I am with a music legend making small talk, while driving him around and heading back to the show. Not 10 years earlier all I could do was laugh about people tripping their brains off with tye die shirts and dancing in circles, while we hardcore brethren did the same thing with fists flying wearing shirts about truth, strength and never give up, yet fully sober. At the end of the show, we sat around having a few drinks and Chet gave me a batch of posters from the evening and some of the back stage signage. Now that he has passed on, it serves as a great memory about all the folks we encounter while we hop from one train station to the next. RIP Chet Helms, we all miss ya at the shows and for your great stories on Janis Joplin, whom you helped to introduce to the music community.