Janis Joplin's San Francisco
Janis Joplin, San Francisco and the Summer of Love represent the face, the place and the time of legendary change. Surrounded by all things psychedelic and revolutionary, Joplin was a pivotal player in the Haight-Ashbury scene. Her power still lingers, tripping its way through San Francisco's hip streets. Check out these seven stops for a trip that evokes the best of Joplin and her counterculture vibe.
The Coffee Gallery
This North Beach destination went through some colorful times, but it was always bohemian to its core. Before life as The Coffee Gallery, it was known as Miss Smith's Tea Room, capturing younger generations of Beat pursuits. By 1954, it was The Coffee Gallery and it was under this name, in 1963, when country-blues hopeful Janis Joplin sang a cappella to earn money and make a name for herself. She was joined by Jorma Kaukonen on occasion and met fellow performers and future band mates Peter Albin and Jim Gurley there as well. The Coffee Gallery trickled away in 1980, was renamed The Lost and Found Saloon and finally became Maggie McGarry's pub in 2006.
While not much remains of the original coffee house, the regular live music, beer and jubilant atmosphere keep those Joplin memories alive. The pub is open most days from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Head out for a pint, and while you're there, take a moment to recall her rendition of "Bourgeois Blues."
A long-time city favorite, Vesuvio Café has welcomed authors, musicians, artists and other free spirits through its doors since 1948. Drawn to the Beat movement, and later to psychedelic rock, Joplin was just another patron who loved to hang out and chill behind its doors.
You'll spot Vesuvio Café from down the street thanks to its vibrant murals. If not, the sign with a guy sans clothing should catch your eye. This bar is open Monday thru Friday, 8 a.m. to 2 a.m. and weekends 6 a.m. to 2 a.m. Cocktails are wild and original, just like its list of famous patrons. Try the Jack Kerouac (tequila, rum, cranberry and orange juice) or the Seagrams Tea with vodka and lemonade. Keep your eyes peeled. You never know who could walk through those doors.
As a music venue, Avalon Ballroom blinked in and out of existence, lasting from 1966 to 1969. Yet in those four years, it brought Joplin to mainstream attention and showed just how much her memory would linger. Joplin was in Texas in 1966 when she heard word of a new band, Big Brother and the Holding Company, interested in her vocals. Never one to pass up an opportunity, Joplin headed for San Francisco, joined the band and sang her way to lead vocals. 2016 marks the 50th anniversary of her jump to fame.
This venue, once a dance academy in 1911, offered a prime spot for free-wheeling counterculture. Joplin made her first appearance with Big Brother at the Avalon. As the band became widely popular, they continued to play there for the next few years.
Argonaut Ad Agency owns the building these days, but the history, the vibes and the classic psychedelic posters live on. Wander around the building's exterior, soak up the memories and then continue your journey in Joplin's footsteps.
Like the Avalon, The Fillmore operated as a large venue with sold-out concerts. However, The Fillmore is still kicking up its heels with weekly events meant to get your pulse pounding and your feet hopping. Back in 1966, Joplin and Big Brother built up their fan base at venues like these. Although the Fillmore moved away from musical acts during the 1970s and 1980s, it reopened in 1994 with renewed fervor for the sound of rock. Check out a concert and revel in the beat. You can almost hear Joplin still belting out those vocals.
The Fillmore West
Opened as a second Fillmore location in 1968, The Fillmore West was destined for a short life. During its four years, though, the venue held concerts with big names in rock. The opening concert, on July 16, 1968, featured Joplin and Big Brother.
Now a Honda dealership, the building's ballroom/concert roots have been replaced with the need for speed. Drive by with the windows down, or stop on the corner and let the sounds of "Piece of My Heart" float down the street. Chances are someone will join in shortly.
Golden Gate Park
The Polo Fields of Golden Gate Park witnessed the birth of The Human Be-In on January 14, 1967. This event captured the attention of thousands, who were encouraged to "Turn on, tune in and drop out." Many rock and psychedelic rock bands took to the stage, including Joplin and Big Brother. Golden Gate Park remains one of the best places in the city to commune with nature and escape the frantic pace. Set up a picnic, invite your friends and chill out listening to Joplin and her contemporaries.
At its height, the Winterland, which wowed crowds from 1966 to 1979, had a capacity for 5,400 fans. Packed houses were common. Joplin and Big Brother performed at the Winterland on numerous occasions. After the band split, Joplin formed her own band, Kozmic Blues Band. The new band also made multiple appearances at the Winterland during 1969.
Now just a memory, this ice rink turned music venue was torn down in 1985 to make way for condominiums. You won't find evidence of past concerts, but you may come across a tenant or two with first-hand experience.
Janis Joplin's life was short-lived and dramatic, but her legacy as a pioneering woman of rock endures--and it is nowhere stronger than in San Francisco.