the red dog saloon
we spent saturday shopping and stumbling around virginia city, the old haunted mining town . it's only 30 mins from reno, but it's really a world away from anywhere.
clinging to the side of a mountain and gazing over the depleted comstock mines, the town looks much the same as it did a hundred and thirty years ago, with costumed cowboys and dancehall girls everywhere you look. and except for the slew of novelty shops and hordes of motorcycles, you'd think you really were in the old west.
it has a very checkered history, being known for it's lawlessness, burning to the ground in 1875, being called the first industrial city in the u.s., boasting almost 30,000 residents at its zenith and where samuel clemens lived when he adopted the nom de plume 'mark twain' while working on the local newspaper 'territorial enterprise'.
the main drag, 'c' street, still has the wooden plank sidewalks that run in front of buildings that resemble a living western movie set. i swear there must be more saloons per capita than anywhere in the world, (it is said the town once had 100 saloons!). there seems to be one saloon every other building on the street, with names like 'the bucket of blood' and each having some relic or attraction devoted to the past.
we were really looking forward to visiting the red dog saloon again, but were pretty shocked to find that it no longer existed.
the history of the red dog is quite different from the city it was born in. originally known as the long branch saloon, then the old comstock hotel, the red dog saloon is widely acknowledged as the birthplace of the 1960's psychedelic movement.
in early 1965 a group of bay area ex-patriots moved to virginia city and bought the abandoned comstock hotel. they spent months refurbishing the dilapidated building, and opened on june 29th with the charlatans, (dan hicks and michael wilhelm included), playing their debut concert, (they played there 6 nights a week for the next 3 months, with the scene getting bigger and wilder).
the poster designed for the show, (now called 'the seed'), is thought to be the first example of psychedelic concert art. and it was the first l.s.d. fueled show, with owsley passing out his homemade potion to patron and band alike.
the 4' by 6' in-house light show created by bill ham is also credited as the precursor to the flamboyant effects that later graced many a stage and album cover.
over the next couple of years almost every band from the growing frisco music scene had either visted or played at the red dog, (janis joplin supposedly had her own special table). but eventually the bands strayed away as the movement grew, and so the legend was born.
the red dog changed hands a few times and had been closed on and off since it's heyday, but i thought it would be there forever . . .
we stood there and looked at 76 n. 'c' street in disbelief. it was only a shell now . . .
the red dog had just re-opened in '03 when we went in for a drink and marveled at the ambiance of the place; the old musty posters, the reeking incense, the ancient chandeliers and mirror behind the beat-up bar. there was a small stage in the rear and the walls were still a shiny blood-red, but one got the feeling that the place had been remodled once or twice since '65.
since we prolly won't be back this way again, i would've loved to see it once more but i guess not, (i am a sucker for historical places and hate to see them disappear).
well, as they say, 'que sarah, so what' . . .
the life and times of the red dog saloon (an excellent documentry dvd with footage of the charlatans, the dead, the airplane and other west coast psychedelic bands in the early days)