The Keystone’s Heavy Metal History

The Ramones played here… Metallica… Mötley Crüe…and just about every hair band from the 1980s. This is the place where Cliff Burton played one of his last shows with Trauma before joining Metallica… and it’s the location of Kirk Hammett’s first show with the band.

This is the Keystone Palo Alto. The original Keystone was in Berkley on University Ave (now a drugstore). A second venue was set-up to theoretically make it easier for people to park (assuming they had cars). This was the brainchild of Big Bob Corona, a Bay Area music promoter (and later a 73-year-old true crime victim).

In January 2013, I visited The Keystone out of curiosity. The aura surrounding the place was so sad and creepy, like the heyday of its existence had long since past… and all life and vitality had since been sucked out of the building.

I ended up circling the building a few times before going to one of the small but interesting foodie restaurants around the corner. I avoided the building on my way out because it creeped me out so badly.


I thought this was the last time I’d think about the Keystone. However, a year later I found myself in Old Palo Alto trying to use the building as a landmark to orient myself. But for some reason, I couldn’t find it.

This was strange because Old Palo Alto is tiny and mostly a strip of shops, some condos, and a Caltrain station next to Fry’s Electronics. Thinking I was turned around, I parked and wandered around a bit. I can’t even remember why I was in Old Palo Alto.

Upon discovering the same restaurant from my first visit I did a double-take and circled the building looking for the Keystone… but it was gone. In its place was a gigantic hole filled with construction vehicles and dirt. Apparently the Keystone had long outlived its purpose and was torn down to make way for another building. Here’s a video of the building being torn down in October 2013.

It made me think about how terrible Bay Area residents/musicians/fans are with their music scene and remembering their musical heroes. Where are the memorials to the dead? In Seattle, a small and smelly grunge band hung around for a few years until their singer killed himself. There is a massive museum exhibit dedicated to them.

In Los Angeles, the Ramones passed away and there’s statues and a festival every year.

Where’s Cliff Burton’s memorial with his Rickenbacker, sketchbooks, and Misfits t-shirts? What about Janis Joplin? And Exodus’ band members Paul Baloff and Evan McCaskey? Does anyone even remember the cursed Jefferson Airplane drummers? And, it’s not just the dead; why don’t fans honour the living Bay Area musicians who helped change the face of modern music?

Either way, here is the Keystone in January 2013 (renamed Illusions):


And again in January 2014:


2 comments on “The Keystone’s Heavy Metal HistoryAdd yours →

  1. Being my Uncle I only new him as a caring man who brought my father by to make sure my mom and I were OK always with something for me. I first him in 1977 and did visit the Keystone. What a night and a long drive home to Santa Barbara. I am grateful to have met him. RIP Bob and to all pack light its a short trip………….Danny

  2. Big Bob Corona.. was an awesome promoter who cared about the music.. He helped us as Sadus to play many great shows in the early days of Metal..

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