This blog post is about The Capitol Theater resurgence in Portchester, New York.
The San Francisco Scene on the East Coast
When I look back on the concerts I attended at The Capitol Theater I was thankful to see the psychedelic sounds of San Francisco were well represented.
Our first concert at The Capitol featured Santana and John Lee Hooker at the late show on Friday June 12, 1970. We bought the tickets late and got seated in the balcony. You had a great seat no matter where you sat as the vantage points were all conducive for the stage. John Lee Hooker opened for Santana. I am embarrassed to say that I wasn’t a patient concert goer like I am today. We were rude to the great bluesmen and kept shouting for Santana. I regret my actions that night and wish I treasured John Lee Hooker’s set more than I did. It turns out that was the only time I got to see him play.
When he came back out for an encore we groaned but let me tell you this, he schooled us that night. He did a rendition of “One Bourbon, One Scotch and One Beer” that included the boogie blues beat that enthralled me. He turned me around with that number and I was cheering for him when he left the stage. Little did I realize how much Carlos Santana respected John Lee Hooker until years later when they recorded The Healer together.
Santana ripped the roof off The Capitol that evening. I recall they were bathed in a warm red light most of the night. I owned the first album Santana and played it all the time on my hi-fi system. Their percussive sound formed a rhythmic beat that kept us dancing out of our seats.
I didn’t see Santana in concert again until 2002, 32 years later. I have seen them live 15 times since the first show in Portchester. They are my favorite band and I have every one of the Santana recordings in my music library. 42 years of music and still going strong, Viva Santana.
The next concert by a band from San Francisco was our first concert by The Grateful Dead on November 7, 1970. I was sitting in the balcony the night of the Santana show when the sound system started playing Workingman’s Dead. The announcer stated that The Grateful Dead would be playing a bunch of dates at The Capitol in November. I ran right downstairs to the lobby box office and purchased our tickets for the third row.
Seeing The Grateful Dead and the New Riders of the Purple Sage that close was a pretty awesome deal. NRPS featured Jerry Garcia on pedal steel guitar. Jerry played right in front of us and he was spectacular on pedal steel guitar. He loved playing that instrument. He smiled throughout the entire NRPS set. I was especially taken with the vocals by John “Marmaduke” Dawson on “Last Lonely Eagle”.
The Grateful Dead played from 9:00 pm until 4 am the next morning, which was an incredible feat. I loved the energy the band gave off and how cosmic it all felt. You could tell they loved playing The Capitol. I loved the people twirling in the lobby and how happy everyone was to be there. I am glad this show was taped and I can play it often to relive the experience.
The following week Jefferson Airplane pulled into town. We attended the late show on November 13, 1970 which featured Jefferson Airplane, Hot Tuna and E Pluribus Unum. I was excited to catch Jefferson Airplane with Grace Slick on vocals, along with Marty Balin. They were a powerful combination with Jorma and Jack playing behind them. The JA set was a classic music choice of their catalogue. Hot Tuna was a surprise that night and they also featured Papa John Creach on fiddle.
We would see Hot Tuna again January 20, 1971 on a cold winters night. They headlined for a bill that featured Big Brother and the Holding Company and John Hammond. The funniest part of that show was that there were so few people in The Capitol due to the snow storm that we were invited to stay for the second show, which we did. The guy behind us tried to get an encore from Hot Tuna but Jack Cassady just told him come to the second show, its free 😉
- Capitol Theater in Portchester, NY Plans Triumphant 2012 Return, Part I (musicofourheart.me)
- Live Music to Return to Capitol Theater in Port Chester, N.Y. (nytimes.com)