Jul 16, 2012

April 3, 1970: UC Fieldhouse, 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)

* * * 


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:


  1. Matt Smith writes:
    "The show was promoted by a guy named Jim Tarbell (who also ran the Ludlow Garage). After the gig, he paid the band in fine Persian rugs since it didn't make much money."

  2. The reporter here calls the Hog Farm's presence a "bummer," as they gave speeches "telling everyone how together they were and asking for money for their communes."

    In an April '72 interview, Garcia had a story about this show:
    "The one thing we've really got to offer...is the capacity to create good energy. And that's what our real value is, if any. Socially it'd be groovy to tie that in on [another] level...for example, let me give you the example that to me was most perfect. That was about two years ago we played in Cincinnati, Ohio, and with us there helping out were the Hog Farm... What happened was we played the gig and it was incredibly high and everybody had a real good time. The following day the Hog Farm people with the help of the local radio station, the FM station, underground radio, organized a lot cleaning thing. What they did was they went to a very poor part of town, found an empty lot that people had been dumping garbage in for years, and in the space of one day they cleaned out all the garbage in there, still on the basis of that initial energy from the concert... They used the radio to describe to people what was going on, and say we need all the help we can get, we need a couple of trucks, you know, and people came right through with it. At the end of the day they left a playground for the kids in the neighborhood... So that's the thing of following through with that energy... Our energy is not topical. It doesn't make a political statement, it doesn't make a statement concerning morals or anything like that, it's just...good clean energy. And if after that energy has been flowing, then it's a matter of somebody stepping in saying, look we've got this good energy, let's move with it, let's go ahead and do something... And that would be the best way we can relate [to society], but as it is we do benefits."

  3. I remember Jim Tarbell well - one of the good guys. And I remember how great the concert was.. The next day I had to work in Oxford at Dr. Jim Thomas's dental office. No sleep, ha - but I was so much younger then. Around 10 am Ken Babs and Ken Kesey came in the front door of the office to say hi to Dr Thomas. Ken Babs played basketball with Dr Thomas at Miami U. What an experience the whole event was! Thanks for posting the interview with Jerry Garcia - amazing times.

  4. Garcia commented on the Hog Farm cleanup a bit later, in the Paul Krassner interview published in the Realist in 1985. My document makes it hard to copy and past quote, but it's more or less what you describe above.

    1. Yes, his account in '85 was very similar - it was clearly a story he liked to tell:

      "I remember one time a long time ago - Ken Kesey and Wavy Gravy were involved with it too, I guess not coincidentally - we played someplace funny, like Cincinnati, at a university there, and they had Kesey speaking there, and the Hog Farm was there also, and this was in '69, maybe '68. We went there and played and the people got off on it, just enormously, and we left town, but the Hog Farmers stayed behind, and the day after the concert they got on the local FM radio station - back in those days, they had loose, free-form radio - and they said, there's this vacant lot - there was this lot in the black section of town that had old tires and bedsprings and junk and garbage and all kinds of shit - and they said, "Let's clean up this lot." And they got people to stop there, sort of steaming on the energy of the concert from the night before, kind of continuing that feeling.
      At the end of the day, when those ladies came home from their jobs over on the white side of town, there was a *park* there. It's like taking the energy of that high - Wavy Gravy and the Hog Farmers have such grace in doing things like that - and to me, that's always been a great service model, you know, how can you turn this into something, how can you take it another step, without it turning into some kind of willful mind manipulation? And that was one of the times that happened, really spontaneously. It was just great, and we got such lovely feedback from it. But for me, it's always been this model of, if you get the right elements going there and people who are clear about that good energy, there's definitely stuff that you can make happen that turns out good, and everybody feels good about it."

  5. I added the announcement for the show from the March 28 Enquirer.

    Knippenberg was a regular music reviewer in the Teen Ager section of the Enquirer, where he'd reviewed the Dead's 1968 appearance. (He also reviewed the Dead's shows in Cincinnati over the next couple years, which I'll post later.)

    The underground Cincinnati newspaper Independent Eye also ran a review of this show in their 4/9/70 issue, but I have not been able to find a copy.