Reading back over the first ten years of shows I realize that my personal history with this venue only really just scratched the surface. Sure, I saw many of the traditional folk artists that gave the Main Point it’s original idenity; Eric Anderson, Tom Rush, Dave Van Ronk. The opener for the December 1970 Dave Van Ronk show was Jonathan Edwards, who who quickly became a regular and a club favorite. I may have seen him there three times before he released his first album, including memorable co-billings with Bill Withers (September, 1971) and Alex Taylor (June, 1971). Alex was somewhat of a regular at the Main Point also, performing there numerous times.
In the wake of James Taylor’s huge 1970 success, James’ musically inclined siblings all got recording contracts and all appeared at the Main Point. After James, Livingston has had the most sustained career success and he too was a regular performer at the Main Point and I enjoyed seeing him there many times. Alex passed away in 1993 leaving us five albums including two excellent efforts for Capricorn from 1971 and 1972 that have both been reissued on CD. I can’t find Kate Taylor in the Main Point listings, but I know I saw her there around the time of her first album Sister Kate in 1971. But for my junior drivers license (which is what you got in PA from age 16 until turning 18 and which carried a midnight curfew) I might have seen all four of the Taylors. I was in line on the fourth of July 1970 for tickets to that night’s James Taylor show (opening act, Manhattan Transfer). By the time I reached the front of the line the early show had sold out and I regrettably passed on buying tickets to the late show.
Emmitt Rhodes played the Main Point in early 1971, drawing from his self titled debut album which he wrote, sang, played all the instruments, engineered, and recorded at home, a record that met or exceeded most of the expectations that fans held for Paul McCartney’s similarly produced first solo album. In July of 1972 the Strawbs rocked the house with a full band, over from England to play songs from their then new release Grave New World with its FM radio hit “Benedictus”. When I went by the Main Point a few days before the show to buy tickets I was treated to a few songs by Chi Coltrane who was playing at the time, offering a very high voltage performance characterized by her top twenty hit “Thunder and Lightning”.
In 1969 and 1970 I twice went to the Main Point to see the American Dream, a local Philadelphia band that made one classic album produced by Todd Rundgren in 1970 that included the very radio friendly “I Ain’t Searchin’ Anymore” and the novelty tune “Frankford El”. Philly local trivia: Nick Jameson, the guitarist of the American Dream went on to become an actor, appearing in the latest two seasons of 24 as the Russian President Yuri Suvarov. It was mentioned above that the Main Point opened amidst a blizzard in 1964. I have fond memories of another show there that took place despite a blizzard in early 1978 when Bruce Cockburn took the stage and performed for about twenty or twenty-five hardy souls who made it to the Main Point despite maybe a foot of snow that had just fallen.
This menu is from April, 1971. The food at the Main Point was always as enjoyable as the music, which was a testament to the work of Jeanette Campbell. The baked beans and bread, the brownies, and the hot cider with cookies were especially memorable, and check out the prices.
How The Main Point looks nowadays
The photo above is not credited, but the long lines down the sidewalk on Lancaster Avenue were a familiar sight during the Main Point’s era. Unlike its successor, The Point, the Main Point was only open for shows, seats were not reserved, and the audience would queue up long in advance of the opening of the doors. Click on the above page from the 10th Anniversary Publication to enlarge and read some of comments from both customers and artists about the Main Point.
Live radio concerts, mostly on WMMR were an occasional treat. One such broadcast, the 2/5/75 Bruce Springsteen show was recently posted by another XPN Guest Blogger for your listening pleasure. Some broadcasts, such as that one by Springsteen have been widely bootlegged, others now reside only in radio station archives and maybe a few listeners’ tape collections.
Springsteen was broadcast from the Main Point multiple times, including another classic show from 10/31/73, also on WMMR.
Jackson Browne is another artist who was broadcast multiple times, including an acoustic duet show with David Lindley on 9/07/75 that was part of a string of shows to benefit the Main Point during one of it’s many periods of financial difficulty. The beauty of the music that these two artists performed together in the duet acoustic format is hard to put into words. Mid-set, Jackson left the stage for a short set of David Lindley fiddle tunes, during which he bummed a cigarette from me. Incidentally an old friend of mine recalls seeing Jackson Browne and Bruce Springsteen on the same bill in the early seventies at a nearby show at the Villanova Fieldhouse. They’ve shared the same stage many times in later years doing benefit concerts for various political and social causes.
WIOQ broadcast an artist named Moon Martin (now there’s an obscure one) from the Main Point in 1978. George Thorogood and Jesse Colin Young also had broadcasts from there.
One of the most memorable radio concerts from the Main Point was a 6/20/76 show by Warren Zevon carried on WMMR during which he personalized “Werewolves of London” to include lines like “Werewolves of Bryn Mawr” and “Werewolves of greater Philly”.
Ultimately the fact that the Main Point did not serve alchohol most likely was a primary factor in the financial problems that ultimately led to it’s demise. Ironically, years later, the lack of liquor license (and resistance to expansion) would also result in the closing of The Point, a more than worthy successor to the Main Point that operated a few doors down the street from 1998 to 2005. Considering the rich history of the Main Point, there are many more legends and stories than could be told here. I had never heard before that Blind Faith played the Main Point, I’m wondering if they used the club for practice and a non-publicized performance. If you wish to add your own memories of the Main Point, please do so by adding a comment to this post.