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“Where Were You?” – French Frith Kaiser Thompson at The Ashkenaz, in Berkeley, California [March 8th, 1987] – michaelconen “where were you?”

This post has been in the works, off-and-on, for years; between different scanning attempts, editing, and then, “life” throwing a few obstacles in my way – but, it has finally happened, and I can share the majority of the frames that were taken at this particular evening’s performance. The show was barely mentioned in the local newspapers, due to the fact that the band only decided to try out several numbers from the recording sessions that were taking place, at about the same time.

I had been made aware of the shows taking place, thanks to Henry Kaiser, who was a frequent customer at the record store I worked at during this time, called Asta’s Records, in Oakland. He had an in-store performance a few years later, at Asta’s [March of 1990], as part of a series of local artists that we supported, by stocking their independent releases and attempting to promote further, such as Penelope Houston (of The Avengers) and her group The Birdboys, The Sneetches, and Sordid Humor.

During one of our conversations, I had told him that I had seen Richard & Linda Thompson a few years earlier, as well as several solo appearances, in the meantime, and had photographed that date Where Were You? Richard and Linda Thompson, at The Second Story Bloomington, Indiana [May 29, 1982], and when he let on that he was recording with him, I eagerly asked if it would be possible to be allowed to photograph them, if and when they performed in the area. He answered that he would think about it, and when the time came, Mr. Kaiser told me it would be possible to do so when they appeared at The Ashkenaz

Now, admittedly, I had only become aware of Henry’s work, after moving to California, in early 1983, and especially after beginning to work at Asta’s, due to my colleague’s efforts to promote what was lovingly termed “Difficult Music” [the name given to the vinyl section within the store, stocked with all sorts of what became termed Experimental Music, in many other shops, as the years went by]. This section in the store was reserved for many artists whose releases were not easy to “catagorize“, and often, because they were not “easy listening” for the average consumer [including artists like Throbbing Gristle, Nurse With Wound, Keiji Heino, Swans, Merzbow, John Zorn and numerous others]. As for the others in this line-up, I was well aware of Richard Thompson’s career, as noted in my post of photos from the link for the show in the previous paragraph. John French’s work with Captain Beefheart and The Magic Band, had been introduced to me in the early 70′s, but I was too late to be able to catch any incarnation of the Captain and his group, in a live setting [too young to get into clubs they appeared at, often hours away, and Don van Vliet retired from performing about a year before my arriving in California]. I had become aware of Fred Frith, due to his role with Henry Cow, initially, because I had become a devotee of exploring any & all releases that I could find, on the early Virgin Records‘ imprint, and would find him appearing with all kinds of artists, as the years went along. What a surprise, then, when the full line-up of this collaboration was revealed! It was hard to know what to expect, other than there would most likely be a balance of songs, and considerable “stretching out”, based on their respective careers and abilities. The live show was most satisfying, and less experimental – in my mind – than expected. The day of the show, I was allowed in, after the sound-check had been completed, and just before the rest of the crowd was let in, but it was a packed house, and I simply had to “stay put”, in the spot I had chosen to shoot from. As usual, I tried not to use the flash, too much, but the stage lighting was minimal, so the results are mixed [to me]. The most disappointing matter, was the fact – that is often the case, in my experience – that I could not get any decent photos of the drummer, John French, due to the equipment blocking sight lines. In fact, I only managed two frames taken as the band first took the stage!!

The above image was selected by Henry Kaiser, to be used for the SST Records label CD issue of “With Enemies Like These, Who Needs Friends”, released a few months after the FFKT performance in 1987.


Additional Reading Links:

John French Wikipedia page:

Fred Frith Wikipedia page:

Henry Kaiser Wikipedia page:

Richard Thompson Wikipedia page:


Henry Kaiser Innerviews page:

Crazy Backwards Alphabet photos by Michael Conen: Where Were You? Crazy Backwards Alphabet at the Berkeley Square, Berkeley CA [February 13, 1988]

French Frith Kaiser Thompson SetListFM page:


John French entry on site:

Fred Frith official website:

Henry Kaiser website:

Richard Thompson official website:


Henry Kaiser Cuneiform YouTube playlist search page:

John French, “Through the Eyes of Magic” book (Barnes & Noble):

Richard Thompson, “Beeswing” book:


NOTE: It’s been a while, and a lot has changed over the past few years, but hoping to get back to sharing more of my archives of images, in the coming weeks, months, years. Leave comments or questions below, and thanks for dropping by and checking the photographs and memories I have chosen to share.