'GRATEFUL DEAD' COMING BACK - ALL READY TO WOO CINCINNATI
When you talk about psychedelic music, major movement originators, San Francisco, 1966, or social institutions of the rock world, there's no way you can omit the Grateful Dead.
Remember them? Back in mid '66, they were one of the two major groups (the Airplane being the other) to first sell the San Francisco sound - acid rock, blues based but so incredibly far removed as to sound like a simulated acid trip.
The Grateful Dead are seven guys, guitar and drum oriented, clean and hard in their music. They're kind of a social institution, always throwing free concerts (they were pioneers in the free field) for a worthy cause; leading the way when others are confused; one of the groups who dared to be freakie and ugly when rock groups were supposed to be well groomed and pretty.
People in Cincinnati haven't had much of a chance to get together with the Dead - their albums are few, and a very small estimation of the group's talent, thereby obscuring the Cincinnatians' main avenue of approach. To make matters worse, they've only been here once, and that a relatively small scale affair a year and a half ago.
BUT GOOD NEWS! They'll be back - Friday night at UC's Armory Fieldhouse at 8:30 p.m. to kick off the UC Spring Arts Festival. This concert is on a slightly larger scale than their last appearance - $3 a head and somewhere in the neighborhood of 10,000 people invited - complete with supporting acts like Ken Kesey and the Pranksters and the Lemonpipers.
Unfortunately, too many people are unfamiliar with the Dead. That's understandable, as their commercial efforts are nil and their tours fairly limited. But it shouldn't be that way.
As we said before, the group is one of the pioneers of acid rock from the "back then" period. Used to be, their music was slower than conventional hard rock, warped, distorted, lurching around the senses, and grinding on for seemingly endless periods. It was that and little more.
Today, it's that and lots more.
It's bizarre and wildly together country and western guitar licks over somebody else's 11-4 time with two other rambling solos going on somewhere else on stage.
Put it together and it sounds at first chaotic. Give it a chance however, and it takes on a number of hues.
Like the Dead are mixing a number of things - acid, blues, muted country, hard rock - and coming up with a totally unclassifiable sound. It can sound like anything you want it to. That's part of the beauty of it all.
You can hear lots of this on "Live/Dead," the group's latest Warner Bros, release, but not nearly as much as in concert. Their stage shows are far ahead of their album performances to date.
You can see yourself Friday. Complete with custom made light show (the Dead were one of the first to play around in that department too) and no reserved seats, they're ready to woo Cincinnati.
The reason there are no reserved seats is because the Fieldhouse will be be more of a ballroom than concert hall Friday night. Just like the early days of Dead music, you'll be able to lay around, sit, circulate and play prom queen, snuggle on blankets, or dance - and their music is highly danceable.
It's nice in a lot of other ways too. It makes you feel secure and happy all over. But you have to hear and feel it all yourself - UC's Fieldhouse, Friday at 8:30. It's sure to be a nice trip.
(by Jim Knippenberg, "Soundings" column, from the Cincinnati Enquirer, 28 March 1970)
* * *
'GRATEFUL DEAD' SHOW LIVELY
A lot of the good people came together Friday night at UC's Armory Fieldhouse. Unfortunately, there also were a lot who didn't.
The occasion was a Grateful Dead concert, held in conjunction with the UC Spring Arts Festival. Also featured at the concert were the groups Devil's Kitchen and the Lemon Pipers, playing in front of an elaborate but frequently ineffective light show.
Before the Dead came on, while the warm-up groups played, the music wasn't the main thing. The main thing was a freaky social occasion where friends could meet, smoke, chat, dance about and live in freakiness.
Off in corners, people led snake dances, clapped, exploded, played ring around the rosie, tossed frisbies and hugged each other. Throughout the audience, small knots of people danced gaily about, making sure to avoid the huge mob which lay sprawling all over the floor.
Between the hard rock sounds of the two warm-up groups, both of which were solid and skilled enough, but neither very breathtaking, members of the hog farm hovered around the mike.
They spent a lot of time telling everyone how together they were and asking for money for their communes. For their performance, they receive the "bummer of the year" award. Many of the people who were truly into the concert were pulled out by mouthy children from the west.
But everything changed when the Dead appeared on stage. By now, the light show, roving spots, pinpoints of lights and smoke thick enough to chew were doing all they could to create a "total environment."
The Dead brought us all together again. Standing up there on stage, the group is like [a] living textbook on rock history of the last five years. Back in the mid-'60s, they were among the first to play acid rock - music aimed at reproducing the sensations of a good LSD trip without benefit of the cap. Today, they're doing slightly different things.
Still approximately 10 years ahead of their time, the group is now more into a "roots of rock" thing. They have a lot of subtle country sounds, hard rock sounds of the "good old days," and a more electronic sound than before. Their country sounds aren't particularly overt, but more a suggestion type thing - like the Band.
(by Jim Knippenberg, from the Cincinnati Enquirer, April 6 1970)
See also Knippenberg's November '68 show review: