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Haight Ashbury Free Band

Click on the picture to see who's who

From 1987 to 1990 (and a bit longer) I played in an improvisational group called the "Haight Ashbury Free Band" (HAFB). The band was founded by Nick Porcaro. Nick has an extensive web site covering the whole life of the band. I guess that I played with the "Old Freeband", and a few gigs with the "Out Freeband".

I first met Nick when I was working for a startup company called "Aida". Nick had just been hired to be our system administrator and had just driven himself out from Texas. He arrived in this really big "bad" black Pontiac Grand Prix, "The Batmobile". (Later the batmobile was redecorated at the paint-in.)

Nick wound up living the the Haight in San Francisco, and he wanted to start a Rock and Roll band. The Old Free Band played Rock, Jazz and country tunes, with lots of room for players to improvise. Members that I remember include Nick Porcaro (keyboards), David Rhoades (flute, sax), Larry "the O" Oppenheimer (drums and vibes and Nick's Roommate), Steve Oppenheimer (keyboards), Pat Scandalis (Guitar), Rob Griffith (Bass), Rick King (Soprano Sax), Peter Tucker (drums), Ernst-Martin Schär (bass), Cynthia Mullis (Sax), Peter the Hippie (Dancer), Cat Taylor (Fiddle), Kenny Lyon (Bass), John Hendrix (Guitar), Kathy Ketman (Dunbek), Tim Parkhurst (Drums), Eddie Rosario (Drums), Candy Johnson (Accordion), Dan (Sax), Dean Gustafson (drums), Michael Fallon (guitar), Maya Cain (Video and posters), Ellison Horne (Video) Dan Miller (Sax), David Roth (Video Toaster Artist), Kaylynn (Dancer), Mary Alice Fry (Dancer), Bernard Balas (Clown).

Nick was pretty much the energy and focus of the Free Band. He got everyone together, figured out where to rehearse, came up with wild ideas for how to play (example, from the back of rented flat bed trucks). Nick was able to attract the energy of artists as well as musicians. Freeband shows were often recorded and video taped; most of the gigs had some kind of dancer, some of the gigs had real time projection processed video and some of the gigs had really great posters. As far as I know we never earned (or intended to earn) any money. The gigs were just a venue for artistic expression. .

When we first started out the band was fairly "straight". However as time went on, the band's music became more and more "out". I believe that the exact moment when things started to veer out was at the Anarchist Coffee house in June 18, 1988 while playing Dave Brubeck's "Take Five". Up to that point, I think that we had mostly been the Haight Ashbury Polite Band. You can only go ba-dum ba-dum dum-dum for so long before it makes you bored stiff. Here is a recording of the HAFB playing "Take Five" at the Anarchist Coffee House July, 1988. It starts out with Larry the O's Rap about the origin of the title "Take Five". It starts and ends politely enough, but the middle is wonderfully chaotic. I think that this track is Nick Porcaro - keyboards, Larry "the O" Oppenheimer - drums, David Rhoades - Flute, Pat Scandalis - Guitar and Bass, Cynthia Mullis Sax.

The HAFB was at times chaotic, but this was the funnest band experience that I've had to date.



Revision History

02/22/2003 (gps) Initially written

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