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Another group of would-be rock impresarios took over the room for a few shows the next year, but live music hasn't been heard in the Avalon since Iron Butterfly was on the charts. In fact, the fictitious business name "Avalon Ballroom" long ago expired, and Nob Hill Hotel owner Rudy Columbini took out a new license a while back and briefly used the name for a dance hall in one of his buildings three years ago. He gave the license to landlord Scott Robertson, an old friend.


Shirley, who lives in Cave Junction, Ore., with his pregnant wife and their young child, promotes his concerts primarily on his Web site (http://www.morningspringrain.com/). "He's got the youth," said Hog Farm tribal elder Wavy Gravy. "He finds them on the Internet. That's where they hang out. He speaks their language."


Shirley is not an experienced promoter. He is still figuring out small details like advance ticket sales, box-office staffing, advertising and publicity. A catering company operates the bar. His house manager previously worked on the catering crew of the Hog Farm's annual PigNic. "Every show, I learn something new," Shirley said.


But Shirley does have the spirit. He put together a loose-knit house band, the Avalon All-Stars, that features former members of the Jerry Garcia Band, Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention, and others. Sheets cover the side wall for the psychedelic light show. A curtain helps dampen the room's bright sound. He acknowledges the spiritual role of Helms, who runs an old-school downtown art gallery. "He comes in from time to time," said Shirley. "He's got a standing welcome."

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