Jul 27, 2012

January 21, 1971: Freeborn Hall, Davis CA


The Grateful Dead concert tomorrow night is one of those concerts that people have been preparing for for at least a week and will probably take another week to recuperate from after it's all over. I guess you just have to say that the Dead in Freeborn is a heavy thing for Davis. The concert should result in a few more Dead freaks to add to the long list of those who already think that the Dead are the best group around. And even a light show, a finger in every pie in every eye.
The Entertainment Board is providing the act, Jerry Garcia, Phil Lesh, Bob Weir, Rod McKermen (Pig Pen), Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzman will provide the fine music, the crowd will provide the rest of the good vibes, and you gotta provide your own high time. Tickets cost $2.50 at the MU Box.

There are only 140 tickets left for Grateful Dead as of 3pm Tuesday. Also John Sebastian-Poco tickets will go on sale this Friday, for the February 6th concert. $3 for students.

(from the California Aggie, January 20, 1971) 

* * *


Last Thursday night Freeborn came alive to the music of the Grateful Dead.
The last time this reviewer saw the Dead was in '68 at the old Carousel Ballroom (now the Fillmore West) and between then and now there has been a great change. The principal characters are all the same but the music has changed from the old acid rock to a more down home sound.
The Dead played two sets during the evening. Both sets had the audience on their feet. "Reelin' and Rockin'" brought a cheer and heads nodded, but when the Dead launched into "High on Cocaine" there wasn't a person standing still.
The group preceding the Dead was the New Riders of The Purple Sage. This group had many of the same musicians as the Grateful Dead but proved to be a disappointment. Their sound was not at all unusual or unique and sounded very much "like everybody else." The most successful song of their set was "Lodi" which got the audience moving.
The first group of the evening was James and the Good Brothers. The group consisted of two guitars and an auto harp which produced a warm and mellow sound. I wish they had played longer than they did. As far as I was concerned the New Riders could have been replaced with this group. One song I especially liked was "Bobby McGee."
Other thoughts on the concert: Freeborn was packed with much of the audience consisting of the usual "teeny boppers" and high school "cools." The light show was good but what is a light show, after all, without a strobe light? There were problems with forged tickets and gate crashers which didn't bother anybody except the Entertainment Board.
The next big concert is John Sebastian and Poco on Feb. 6.

(by an Aggie Reviewer, from the California Aggie, January 27, 1971) 

Courtesy of jgmf.blogspot.com

* * *  

Pardon the imperfect state of this transcription. My scan of the article is all but illegible. [Words in brackets] I could not make out. I hope to find a better copy sometime and fix this up.


Christ's image faded into an amoeba shape on the screen as a half-caked guy, stage right, did arabesques and three groupie-type chicks, stage left, gyrated. To top it all off, a giant white balloon floated down toward stage center like a blanched, bloated grape.
The scene was Freeborn hall at UCD (where else?) last night and the [occasion] was a concert-light show-dance-Hieronymous Bosch happening starring The Grateful Dead, who were very VERY much alive.
From the start I knew the evening would be different from others in Freeborn. As I walked outside with about 1,999 others, some dude walked up and shoved an icy blueberry into my mouth. When someone does something as presumptuous as that, what can you do but politely suck on the damn thing? That's what I did, but my mind was screaming, "It's LSD! Someone's finally done it, like at Halloween, and it's too late! What a lousy thing - to [??] a blueberry like that!"
This turned out to be idle reflection, as I only had a colossal headache and blue teeth by the time the crowd's momentum gravitated me into Freeborn.
Appropriately, as soon as I seated myself on the floor in the rear of the room, a fellow jammed beside me asked if I had a joint he could borrow. I told him I was all out and anyway, marijuana made my teeth [black]. He seemed satisfied and the concert began shortly, after 2,000 people had settled onto their paisley floor pillows, sleeping bags, afghans and P-jackets.
Unfortunately, it was a tripartite event. Two groups preceded The Dead. Starting a little after 8 p.m., it didn't end until [1:30] a.m. and by the time The Dead came on around [10] p.m., Freeborn was hot, sweaty and pulsating, to the beat of my pounding head.
The first group, James and the Good Guys, Canadian friends of the Dead, were pleasant on two guitars and one auto-harp. They did well with other peoples' songs - "Parking Lot," "Oakie from the Skokie," "Can't Find My Way Home" - but who doesn't these days?
What they called "acoustic rock and roll" was their most effective sound.
Although their "Delta Lady" wasn't Joe Cocker's and their "Bobby McGee" wasn't Janis Joplin's, they were good. The three [men] knew their instruments and harmonized well together. More original material or arrangements might have made a difference in positioning them somewhere between "a dime a dozen group" and "special."
Between the appearance of Good Guys and The New Riders of the Purple Sage, a volleyball game with a giant red balloon absorbed nearly everyone's attention. The balloon thing was getting downright surreal.
Although several members of The Dead sing with the Riders, the groups sound nothing alike. The Riders' sound could be as [funky] country-western, but not as full and controlled. Everyone [seemed] happily [??] when they launched into a rendition of the Stones' "Honkey Tonk Women." It was indeed hard to stand still.
But we hadn't tasted anything yet. The Dead. They were out of this world. I'd never seen them perform, but I'd heard about, read about their early San Francisco days. They've been credited with starting the acid rock stuff that's faded out but [meanwhile] reaped small fortunes for several groups who made it. Together for about 10 years, the Dead show it. For at least two solid hours (discounting long [pauses] between songs for tuning [16] strings) they displayed their versatility - from the old days' hard rock (including [30-minute] improvisations) to their current mellow, [hot], country sound all in one.
I felt at the end that if, as some critics say, rock is coming to a close and if I had one night to [??] the '60s rock all [??], I'd want The Grateful Dead there. For [much of the time].
By the time The Dead got into "Trucking," the evening had erupted into an orgiastic, cathartic experience. Having removed his shirt because of the heat, a long, lean guy was blinking on and off in the light of a strobe. Mentally [putting] each jerky movement after the one before, it became apparent he was dancing a waltz. Another guy was jumping, hands straight down at his sides, chin up, up and down in place like a yo-yo. It was a free-for-all [replete] with everything from raw rock (ah, John Lennon with his primal return to Chuck Berry rock would have loved that part of the evening) to wailing, electronic, musical [??ery] very loud.
When Jerry Garcia on lead guitar and Bob Weir (I think) on rhythm guitar got to picking in The Dead's newer, better style, it was like an itch you can't scratch, a [p??] you couldn't [locate]. "Pig Pen" on harmonica was exceptional and the two drummers were very [sensitive] for rock drummers.
After making out a lengthy, identifiably "Dead" [moral], the group left the stage. Like [??-??] Woodstock, the gathering [??] the announcement - a guy named Bill was called backstage because his wife was giving birth... Freeborn shook with foot-stomping, clapping, shrieking and accompanying sounds for long [???] in anticipation of an encore. It never came. A nearby couple screeched in unison, "Long Live The Dead!"
Parched and drained, I shuffled toward an exit, hoping for a glimpse of the blueberry [man] and another chance at an icy berry.

(by Hilary Abramson, from the Woodland Democrat, January 22 1971)


  1. I hope to get a better copy at some point to fill in the blanks. This was like deciphering an ancient, torn papyrus.

    This article also has a picture of Garcia on pedal-steel with the New Riders. The caption:
    "BOOGIE WAH!!! - The Grateful Dead rip up the UCD Freeborn Hall air in the finest of style before an overflow crowd last night, bringing stomping crowds and very few neckties. Rave on, brother... Play on, drummer..."

    The tape of this show does not circulate.
    Lemieux has included a couple songs on the Taper's Section. (He played a clip on 1/19/09, which has vanished.)

    Partial known setlist:
    Mama Tried
    Around & Around
    Cumberland Blues
    Casey Jones
    a Pigpen blues song
    (I don't know where the current deadbase setlist comes from, so I don't trust it, but it does mostly match and is plausible.)

    According to Deadbase & the GD Illustrated Trip book, Mickey Hart didn't play this show. I trusted that before, but they're clearly wrong, since this reviewer saw two drummers.

    The JGMF blog notes that there was another brief review of this show in the campus paper (with pictures) - it would be nice to know what it said.

  2. well two years passed and what do we get ..... an uncirculated tape from this show.. (most likely identifying the Pigpen blues song as Smokestack)

    here is the setlist

    Set 1:
    s1t01 - Cold Rain And Snow
    s1t02 - Me And My Uncle
    s1t03 - Smokestack Lightning ->
    s1t04 - Truckin'
    s1t05 - Dire Wolf
    s1t06 - Hard To Handle
    xxxxx - Sugar Magnolia (Missing)
    xxxxx - Black Peter (Missing)
    xxxxx - Mama Tried (Missing)*
    s1t07 - Around And Around
    s1t08 - Cumberland Blues
    s1t09 - Casey Jones

    Set 2:
    s2t01 - That's It For The Other One ->
    s2t02 - Cosmic Charlie
    s2t03 - China Cat Sunflower ->
    s2t04 - I Know You Rider

    * is part of 4 songs from the sbd which i assume derive from tapers section as mentioned above
    downloaders will find the usual credit takers i.e c.miller and sandy troy in this case

  3. The show closed with Uncle John's Band (also missing from the audience tape). One thing the tape makes clear is that the deadbase setlist was very accurate.
    The second set is really short - maybe they had curfew issues? I wondered if they played more missing songs - the tape is about 100 minutes, but it was stopped between songs, so along with the songs we know are missing, it may comprise the whole show. (The reviewer here says the Dead played at least 2 hours, discounting long breaks; elsewhere I think it says they played from about 10-1:30 which doesn't suggest a shortened set.)

    The tape is not on the Archive yet, though it should be before long. As for the sound quality, the band is a little quiet & distant - and the audience is noisy, lots of annoying talking and clapping along. The music's clear, though, and the guitars stand out.
    The first-set highlight is definitely Smokestack Lightning>Truckin'. Smokestack is pretty quiet & laid-back, but they switch right into Truckin', and Pigpen plays bluesy harmonica all through Truckin'! Very unusual, and adds a nice touch to the ending jam. (I think they segue into Dire Wolf from Truckin' too, but a tapecut makes that unclear.)
    After the long Mickey/Billy drum break, the Other One in the second set is really good, very tense & spacy - Garcia lets off some Hendrix-style feedback, and the jam hits some incredible spots, with Weir & Garcia really locking in. The band plays with quiet/loud dynamics, dropping from a roar to a whisper. (Pigpen's organ can be heard in the jam sometimes too.) There's a short but sweet Cryptical outro - the transition to Cosmic Charlie is unique & fantastic, a spontaneous melodic creation. Cosmic Charlie itself is played a lot faster than usual - it would be the last one til 1976.

    Still hoping someone has a good copy of this article to share so I can improve this transcription!

  4. I added two more short pieces that were posted on the JGMF site.
    The concert preview is amusing - "the Dead in Freeborn is a heavy thing for Davis" (I bet few people were saying that at their last appearance there in January '67). Clearly a lot of fans had been made in the meantime, since the writer refers to "the long list of Dead freaks who already think that the Dead are the best group around." We get a sense of a Dead show as an Event, something to joyfully anticipate and prepare for, and which "will probably take another week to recuperate from after it's all over." There's also a sly reference: "you gotta provide your own high time."

    The Aggie review is brief - didn't like the New Riders, liked James & the Good Brothers. One interesting thing is that this reviewer last saw them in '68 at the Carousel, but says that their "old acid rock" days are over and they've switched to a "down home sound." Needless to say, he doesn't mention the outstanding Other One in his review, instead noting the crowd-pleasing rockers that closed the first set. (I presume he didn't follow the Dead much, since he seems not to even know the name of 'Casey Jones'?) The second reviewer Abramson, while not familiar with their music, at least talked about their versatility & different musical styles in the show.
    The Aggie reviewer grouses a bit about "the usual teeny boppers and high school cools" (actually, I'm pretty certain these are the characters who are chattering through the music all over our tape!).
    He also mentions that (just as with every Dead show around this time), "there were problems with forged tickets and gate crashers which didn't bother anybody." Apparently it wasn't THAT packed - not like the next night's show at Lane Community College in Eugene where, out of 7000 attending, over a thousand crashed in! ("Standing room only, unable to dance or even shuffle, little room to breath," said one attendee...)

    That reminds me that our picture of early 1971 is still incomplete. This "lost" first show of 1971 turned out to be even better than expected, once the audience tape surfaced. Our 1/22/71 tape is seriously incomplete, only 8 songs and likely missing over an hour of music, at least the second half of the show. 3/21 is a similar case - from all reports, it was a huge show, but only 45 minutes are on tape. The current low standing of those shows would probably be revised if the full tapes came out. 3/13 and 3/17 are not circulating at all, though they're in the vault. I look forward to the day when all these can be heard...

    Anyway, a few pictures of this show are on the JGMF page - an Archive commenter noticed that this is likely Garcia's first show playing a customized Alembic guitar. He only played it briefly before trying out some other guitars & switching back to a Strat.
    More curiously, one picture shows another guitarist (likely from James & the Good Brothers) onstage during the Dead's set. Not sure where this appearance can be heard on the tape, though.