The Ballroom Blogs

My idea is simple enough. Link the best known ballrooms and rock venues in the world (along with a few obscure ones) and detail their history. List the gigs, the people that played and embed any YouTube clips that relate to the bands or the place at that time.

When I was 14, I got a job as a barman, in one of the busiest dancehalls/ballrooms in Scotland. More than 2,000 people would cram in there, every Friday and Saturday night. The spirit bar, that I worked on (there was a beer bar, as well) had 13 barmen/women which shows just how big and busy it was. 

It was 1971, so I missed the greats of pop and rock but I saw everyone the U.K. charts had to offer and the showbands that filled in when the stars weren’t available. It was noisy, sweaty, loud and violent but it was also GREAT FUN. Who cares then, if I’m just a bit obsessed with the idea that ballrooms and clubs were the way to see bands. I hate stadium gigs. I want to be able to see the sweat on the forehead of a lead singer without it being on a 60 foot screen. I want to be back having fun.

Maybe this is the closest I’ll ever get. Whatever my reasons, I hope you enjoy it and CONTRIBUTE!

If you were there, tell the world about it!

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One Response to The Ballroom Blogs

  1. Ron Hildebrand says:

    I soooo much agree, the ballrooms were the place to see a band, not a stadium! I spent a lot of time at the Avalon, Filmore and Winterland venues in San Francisco, and was almost always hanging over the edge of the stage, or within just a few feet of it.

    Do you recall the opening of Janis & Big Brother’s Ball and Chain? Most recorded versions begin with a quick four note opening run, a pause of a couple beats, and then a big power chord by Sam Andrews. But the earliest tapes don’t have the pause and that power chord.

    I don’t remember the location this happened, but it must have been the first time Andrews played the opening with the pause and that chord, as it took Janis by surprise. She was gripping the mike stand with both hands as she often did, Sam hit the first few notes, paused a few seconds, and then came that power chord. Janis’s mouth literally dropped open, and she pivoted around, hanging on the mike stand, to stare open-mouthed at Sam, with a big grin as I recall.

    You’d hardly notice something like that from 200-300 feet away in some huge auditorium, but it was a great moment to see from just 15′ feet away.

    Another time at the Avalon, there was a guy, obviously speeding to the limit, who was dancing like a crazy man, constantly moving with “great enthusiasm” through each set all night long, right in front of the stage. Sort of distracting, actually.

    He disappeared during the last break, but just as that set started, the guy must have been completely played out, but Chet Helms himself wheeled him up in front of the stage, this time in an old, wooden wheelchair! He was pretty much dead-to-the-world by then and almost nothing was moving, except that his right arm was sitting on the arm rest of the wheelchair, and his hand, with index finger pointed up in the air, was the last part of his body still moving, and moving just as energetically as his whole body had been moving just a couple hours before!

    Lots of great memories from those small venues, that’s for certain!

    Ron Hildebrand

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