In Wolfgang’s Vault, you’ll find Van Morrison singing “Cyprus Avenue.” But it won’t be the original track from his 1968 album Astral Weeks; it’ll be a different, nearly eight-and-a-half-minute rendition, which you’ll watch Morrison perform onstage at New York’s Fillmore East on September 23, 1970. Those who have seen Morrison perform live in any era tend to describe it as an experience highly distinct from hearing him sing on record, and ultimately a necessary one for those seeking to fully appreciate his work. Unlike so many musicians who rose to great popularity in the late sixties and early seventies, Morrison continues to tour, and so these opportunities remain available. But how many of Morrison’s fans could possibly have made it to his shows at the Fillmore East back then? How many, for that matter, were alive back then? Those of us who weren’t have Wolfgang to thank, I suppose, for making available these historic concert clips that deepen our understanding of artists like Morrison.
Yet Wolfgang himself, it turns out, is no longer among us. Known in full as Wolodia “Wolfgang” Grajonca, he rose to prominence when, after a name change and a trying relocation from Berlin to San Francisco, he became the west coast concert promoter and iconic counterculture rock impresario Bill Graham. Small wonder, then, that the internet archive which bears his name contains so much compelling vintage concert footage. Browse it by performer, and you’ll spot many of the names you’d expect to: Jefferson Airplane, The Band, The Grateful Dead. But dig even deeper and you’ll find real surprises, like Yoko Ono playing Giants Stadium in 1986 and a vast cache of songs, captured on thrillingly lo-fi video, performed by visually pioneering and media-satirizing new wave band The Tubes. An afternoon spent in Wolfgang’s Vault makes a fine primer on the most enduring rock played in Graham’s heyday, but also yields some delightfully odd performances you’d never expect to see today.