Friday, June 10, 2005

Well I'm Harvey the Hunter, that's my name...

We turn now to my alma mater. My brother, who among many other things is the king of the misheard lyric, used to enjoy singing the above botched line from Led Zeppelin's "How Many More Times" to me in reference to my status as a Hunter College student. It may not be thee most prestigious school on Earth, but I'm proud to be a Hunter alumnus--prouder still that I went there on a full scholarship, which included a free dorm at its Brookdale campus at 1st Ave. & 25th Street. Imagine, four years in Manhattan, gloriously rent-free!!! Unfortunately I was often so bogged down with responsibilities (studying, copy-editing the school paper, and a part-time job) that finding time to properly enjoy an extended adolescence in the city could be a challenge. Not that I was chained to my desk at all hours--I managed to get out & have fun regularly. But the majority of my all-nighters involved working on essays, not drinking myself blotto or checking out new bands downtown. Which kinda sucked when I was in such close proximity to the Center of the Universe. Many potential nights of fun were sacrificed to the Demi-gods of Good Grades. I graduated in four years' time, but I might have been a happier soul had I slacked off a bit and gone of the typical CUNY 5- or 6-year plan. Jeez, one pal of mine seemed to be on the 10-years-plus plan! But as is my wont, I digress...

HUNTER COLLEGE AUDITORIUM, North Building, 1st Floor, 69th Street b/w Lexington and Park Avenues. (Hunter's official address is 695 Park Avenue, but most main entrances are near the subway stop at 68th & Lex.) I believe the North Building was erected in the late '30s (at any rate, its elevators actually had operators!), and IIRC the Auditorium had an elegant art-deco feel to it. Granted, my memory may be fuzzy. The hall seemed severely underutilized during my time at Hunter. I can recall stepping foot in there only twice--for a speech/Q&A session by then-Mayor David Dinkins, and for my graduation, during which soprano Jessye Norman was given an honorary doctorate. But there was a period when the place saw a fair share of action. In the late '60s and early '70s, a number of Fillmore East-caliber bands put on shows at the Auditorium, including:

The Youngbloods, with Phil Ochs, Feb. 25, 1967. Ochs played there again on October 23, 1971.

The Jefferson Airplane--an uncomfirmed date in October, 1967.

The Doors, with the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, November 24, 1967 (and possibly another date in 1968, if these photos are correctly dated.) A poster for this gig can be viewed here; evidently the show was sponsored by the Alpha Epsilon Pi frat! [Which surprises me, 'cause I'd always heard Hunter was a women-only institution prior to 1968.] [UPDATE 10/19/2007: Just found a site with some images from this gig!]

Jimi Hendrix, March 2, 1968. Supposedly the Troggs opened--there must have been quite a jam during "Wild Thing."

Vanilla Fudge with Every Mother's Son, March 16, 1968--quite a study in contrasts.

Cream, March 19, 1968. Read personal recollections from a fan here.

Janis Joplin with Big Brother and the Holding Co., November 15, 1968.

Pink Floyd, May 11, 1971.

Country Joe, October 25,1971.

[I know I recently read somewhere that the Byrds also performed there, but I didn't copy the link and now I can't locate the blasted reference.]

Somewhere along the line the powers that be must have nixed the idea of further rock concerts at the Auditorium. Marianne Faithfull played the College in 2000, but that was at the campus' smaller Sylvia and Danny Kaye Playhouse. Shows by Hunter-centric bands and/or other local acts probably take place at parties elsewhere on campus (I can remember the Toasters playing at Brookdale's cafeteria ca. 1990), but it seems like the Auditorium is given over exclusively to lectures, classical concerts, and other dignified events of that ilk.

UPDATE 6/10/2010: I posted several Hunter College '67 concert ads here.

UPDATE 11/18/2011: Please see the revised and updated post on 1967 ads for Hunter and other colleges here.


Corey Bearak said...

The Airplane concert took place Sat. Oct. 1, 1967. My aunt and her soon to be husband - both students at Hunter - took me six days short of my 12 birthday. I've been looking for a set list which is how I found this blog

Sherry said...

Thanks for this post. You know, the assembly hall isn't in such terrible condition. Fix a few seats and arm rests, and concerts can return.

Anonymous said...

FWIW, the Pink Floyd show happened on November 5, not May 11. This site's a fun read!

Anonymous said...

- re Jimi Hendrix, Hunter College Auditorium 1968: i was at that show & i don't remember the Troggs opening --
- if you keep in mind the dinky size of the venue, you can see that Hendrix had not yet caught fire in America -- also keep in mind that in 1968, a lot of concert technology that we now take for granted was either new or non-existent -- so i went to the show expecting to hear a lot less than what was on "Are You Experienced?", my only Hendrix album at the time --
- consequently, i couldn't believe it when Hendrix replicated the album's effects onstage -- the classic example being, he would step on a pedal & his solo would keep playing, while he simultaneously played a different part on his guitar -- - old hat now, but astonishing then --