Feb 17, 2012

September 15, 1967: Hollywood Bowl


Two of the best-known San Francisco rock groups, Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead, held forth at the Hollywood Bowl Friday night. A third northern combo, Big Brother and the Holding Company, backed out without notice.
Although there were a few good moments, it was generally a bad evening, thanks to inept sound balancing, bad singing and an exhibitionist audience (spurred by some poorly chosen words from Grace Slick and Marty Balin of the Airplane).
The Grateful Dead were hurt most by the acoustic imbalance, which sapped their voices of any ability to compete with their instrumental sound level.

Weak Vocals

At best they are not an overpowering singing group. Against the handicap of underpowered microphones, their vocal efforts became foolish, with the exception of Pigpen's (group organist and subject of several pop posters) delivery of "Good Morning Little Schoolgirl," a good blues number.
Weak microphones crippled "Cold Rain and Snow" and "Five," both of which are predominantly vocals, but they recovered with "Morning Dew," during which they invited the audience to dance on the grass which carpeted the front of the stage.
A few straggled up at first, then more, until the crowd numbered about 200 for the Grateful Dead's last number, an excellent lengthy tour de force punctuated by applause for Jerry Garcia's lead guitar playing. The gyrating extras did not interfere with the performance and left when the Dead quit for intermission.
Surrounded by metaphysical props (an hourglass, a world glove, a wooden Indian, a weathervane capped by a gold eagle, a wooden rocking horse, a wooden seal, a wooden cat with a monkey's face and a purple altar), Jefferson Airplane began their set with "Somebody to Love," featuring Grace Slick.

Sloppy Singing

The microphones still were weak as the sextet progressed through "She Has Funny Cars," "Young Girl's Sunday Blues," "Martha," "Two Heads" and "It's No Secret." Both Marty Balin and Miss Slick sang with more vigor than precision, a sloppiness most notable in their final three songs: "Plastic Fantastic Lover," "Ballad of You and Me and Pooneil" and "White Rabbit."
Grace Slick asked for dancers after their third number, but Bowl guards enforced a demilitarized zone in front of the stage and allowed no one through.
Balin remarked that the guards could not stop 20,000 determined people (he was about 5,000 off in his audience estimate and about 19,500 off in his estimate of determination, but perfectly correct in his assessment of uniformed tactical capabilities).

(by Pete Johnson, from the LA Times, September 1967)
Thanks to snow & rain at the Transitive Axis forum.


(The Jefferson Airplane set was also taped by the same taper.)


  1. = Beat It On Down the Line!

  2. In the 3/9/68 issue of the Los Angeles pop-news magazine KRLA Beat, there's an interview with the Jefferson Airplane that mentions this show (at least, the Airplane's set) -
    "The Airplane caused quite a stir in this city last summer when they played the Hollywood Bowl. It seems that they wanted the audience to be able to dance - a perfectly logical request except that the Bowl is a concert stadium and not a dance auditorium, a fact which the police noticed immediately as they tried to undo the 'damage' Marty, Paul, and Grace were doing.
    'It's important for the audience to dance so that they won't feel inhibited, they have to feel free, and not have cops standing around...that's a drag, no one can enjoy themselves.'
    Then Paul added, 'I also like wiggly bodies, they turn one on. The audience is more involved, dancing is like applause, it shows they are with you, but unlike applause it goes on all the time.'"
    http://krlabeat.sakionline.net/issue/9mar68.pdf (p.6)

    I also wrote a little description of the Airplane's set in a comment elsewhere:
    "I checked the tape of the 9/15/67 Jefferson Airplane show, which is quite an interesting example of 1967 crowd control.
    For the first few songs, the Airplane are concerned that no one is dancing: "Why don't you dance? You can't dance?"
    But security is stopping people from dancing; the band replies: "Come up and dance, how can they stop you? There's about 20,000 of you! You got feet, come on up!"
    The appeal works, all too well. A few songs later, the band appeals people to move away from the monitors and to sit down - the crowd has to get off the stage.
    Then the security head stops the show and tells everybody to clear the stage & sit back down before the show can continue.
    Later on Grace asks people to please bring back the stage props.
    There are also a couple announcements from the band - "We'd like to invite you all to the park tomorrow," & "Come to our party tomorrow in the park." On tape, though, the park isn't identified."