Jul 19, 2012

July 9-12, 1970: Fillmore East


For the second time within two months Bill Graham's Fillmore East, N.Y. presented an evening with the Grateful Dead, a top San Francisco sextet. The Dead performed four shows (July 9-12), one each evening, starting at midnight and running into the early hours of morning.
By playing one show per evening with no time limit, the Dead was at its best. Dividing the show into three segments, an acoustic set, the New Riders of the Purple Sage, a country offshoot of the Dead, and the electric Dead, the band played for six hours. Since the Dead's music is based upon spontaneity and a communal interaction between the band and audience, there is no barrier between musician and fan, a concept that makes for a unique evening that is a refreshing change from the normal concert format.
By breaking the evening into three segments the Dead are able to achieve a continuing building of energy levels. The acoustic set is a relaxing prelude to the happy spirit of the Riders of the Purple Sage, which in turn readies everyone for the electrical set, by which time everyone was literally dancing.

(by Jeff, from Variety, July 22 1970)

* * * * *


A crescent moon peered down upon the streets. It was midnight, and the Dead were about to come to life at New York's Fillmore East.
For the Grateful Dead, staging the group's first concert-at-midnight last weekend, each song becomes only a starting point.
The Dead work into their celebration very slowly. They begin with only two acoustic guitars, an electric bass and drums, performing songs like "Dire Wolf" ("Don't murder me / I beg you, please don't murder me." Lyrics by Robert Hunter, Ice Nine Publishing Company, ASCAP) and "Me and My Uncle." Someone in the audience shouts "Turn it up!" and Jerry Garcia, head Dead, quickly retorts "Don't worry man. It'll get louder!"
As the quippies change the stage around, a clip of Richard Nixon's Checkers speech is projected before a howling audience (of which most are too young to remember it firsthand).
A second subset of the Dead, the New Riders of the Purple Sage, emerges for the next set. Garcia, new on steel guitar, and Mickey Hart, the drummer, are still present. So too is David Nelson, the mandolin player, now on lead guitar. The new faces are Marma-Duke, acoustic guitars, an electric and an unidentified bass player. The Riders start off with "Wake Up, Little Susie," and then move into some traditional country and western tunes. The band is perfectly together, each song surpassing its predecessor. The second set closes with a version of "The Weight" so good that it tops even the Band's.
It is now 3:15 a.m. Loud hissing emerges from the P.A. system, while on the screen, we see spacemen wrapped in plastic bags emerge from graves. Suddenly Mickey Hart's drums explode, Garcia's guitar takes off and the Grateful Dead inject a whole new spirit of life into the crowd as they open with "Morning Dew."
Everything begins to move. There is a real rapport between the band and the audience. The people are on their feet and moving. The Grateful Dead have managed to transform the Fillmore into a giant multi-tiered dance hall. The rows of seats have dissolved into a mass of squirming bodies. The communal consciousness of the Fillmore reaches higher and higher with each song.

The Grateful Dead have not always been able to get together. When the whole West Coast rock scene was just beginning, Jerry Garcia, guitar and banjo player, teamed up with Ron (Pigpen) McKernan and Bob Weir to form Mother McCree's Uptown Jug Champions. But there wasn't much of a demand for jug bands in 1964 and the Champions were getting hungry. As a result, they allowed themselves to be persuaded to follow the rocky road.
Phil Lesh, an old friend of Garcia, was recruited as a bass player. Then Garcia added Bill Kreutzmann on drums and came up with a spiffy little blues band called the Warlocks.
The Warlocks played their first gig in July, 1965. They played so loud, though, that they wound up getting booted out of the club where they were working. As fate would have it, Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters heard the band and liked them. So out went an invitation to the Warlocks to pack up their instruments and head for the hills of La Honda in time to provide music and/or entertainment for Kesey's first Acid Test (the whole story is chronicled in Tom Wolfe's "Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test").
The Warlocks became completely immersed in the vortex of the drug culture, and when Kesey left for Mexico after the spring of 1966, they simply moved in with Augustus Owsley Stanley (the "Acid King," who at one time resided in Alexandria, Va.) After one particular drug experience, the Warlocks changed their name to the Grateful Dead and in winter of 1967, recorded their first album for Warner Brothers, "The Grateful Dead" (WS 1689). This album still stands as one of the best first efforts of any group.
It was not until a full 18 months later that the Dead made another appearance on record. But what an appearance! They had added a second drummer, the amazing Mickey Hart, and a keyboard man, Tom Constanten. They had dumped their producer, Dave Hassinger, in the middle of the process, with Lesh and Garcia assuming the production end of the recording. They had worked in four studios and had utilized tapes from live performances. All of this was blended into one of the finest albums of 1968, "Anthem of the Sun" (WS 1749). This was followed six months later [sic] by "Aoxomoxoa" (WS 1790).
This spring, [sic] Warner Brothers released "Live/Dead" (2WS 1830), a double-record album that comes closest to capturing the spirit of the Dead live (although nothing really can). Their latest offering, "Workingman's Dead" (WS 1869), was released two weeks ago and hints of the type of thing the Dead do when they use acoustic guitars.
With each album, and with each performance, the Dead get tighter and tighter as a musical unit. Each brings much to the band as an individual musician. Overriding this, though, is the great communal insight that permeates the music. Much of what they went through - the West Coast, the drug culture, the rock 'n' roll star syndrome - is there. After their first album came out, they had a great deal of trouble discovering exactly where they were as individuals and as the Grateful Dead. So they all moved out to a farm and set up a community for artists.
The Dead had gone through the heaven and hell of drugs, and their farm in Novato helped mellow things out. Sometimes it's hard to appreciate, but after sticking with it, the realization comes that the Dead have an overwhelming love and respect for life.

During last weekend's midnight concert, Garcia loomed above the whole celebration like a warm teddy bear, firing out notes from his guitar as if it were a machine gun. The whole band answered perfectly, sensing exactly where he was going and exactly how to follow.
They play "Not Fade Away," then shift into "Casey Jones" and eventually work into "Dancing in the Streets."
The distinction between band and crowd dissolves as the Dead go into "Turn On Your Lovelight." Pigpen lets loose with the lyrics, and the audience, providing accompaniment for the band by clapping, stamping, shaking tambourines and beating cowbells, answers back:
"I'm begging you baby
I'm on my knees
Turn on your light
Let it shine on me
Turn on your lovelight
Let it shine on me"
(Lyrics by J. Scott, D. Malone, Don Music, BMI)
Garcia's guitar flies higher and higher. The whole Fillmore moves in time to the drumming of Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann. A cannon explodes. The song ends. The lights come back on. The Dead have come to rest. It is 6:30 a.m. and outside, the sun is starting to smile down upon the city.

(by Tom Zito, July 19 1970)

Courtesy of snow & rain at the Transitive Axis forum.

See http://archive.org/post/329307/the-grateful-dead-comes-to-life-fillmore-east-july-1970



  1. The Variety reviewer (Jeff) is the same one who gave a rave review of the 5/15/70 show. I don't know if he was their regular Fillmore reviewer, but he was a Dead admirer. So it's a pity his reviews are so short.

    Tom Zito would later write a scathing review of the Dead's Baltimore '73 show, lamenting how far they'd fallen since this Fillmore run. I'll transcribe that later.

    It's not known which show he went to. Possibly he went to the Thursday 7/9 show, which we don't have, but he says it's a "weekend" show. His description seems to conflate songs from the last two shows.
    Using the tapedates for convenience - on 7/11 the electric set opened with Morning Dew, introduced by a film clip of Night of the Living Dead. (Zombies, not spacemen!) They later played Not Fade Away & Casey Jones. On 7/12 they played Dancing and closed with a big Lovelight.
    (Also, Me & My Uncle was an electric song both nights, not acoustic; and Little Susie was acoustic on 7/12, not NRPS. NRPS did close with The Weight on 7/12.)

    So he's not giving us an accurate setlist, just jumbling up a few songs from the last two shows. At any rate, it says a lot for a journalist to attend two all-night shows in a row!

    These shows are another good example of shortened tape-times - the shows themselves lasted some 6 hours, but the tapes are only 3 1/2 (though with many stops). I imagine the breaks were quite lengthy, if the acoustic set was at midnight & the electric set didn't start til 3:15.

    The call from the audience to "turn it up!" reminds me of the 11/6/70 acoustic set, when someone calls "Louder!" and Garcia replies, "Listen more carefully."

    Both reviews mention the merging of band & audience. But Zito, interestingly, never really mentions the Dead's jams and focuses instead on how much they rock. (Viola Lee, the staggering finish to the run, he omits entirely.)

    Bad as our tapes are, the building of energy levels described in these reviews can clearly be heard on the tapes.

  2. Zito would seem to be on the show that folks would have entered on July 9th, calling it the "first concert-at-midnight".

  3. It's very tempting to assume that Zito went to the "lost" show of this run, but there are some difficulties with that theory.
    One, due to the setlist reports of people who attended July 10th, which don't match the tape at all, it's now thought that the tape dated "July 10" is misdated (like all the tapes that first circulated from this run), and actually comes from the first night, July 9.

    Two, Zito's song list doesn't seem entirely trustworthy and may not come from just one night. He gives us:
    Dire Wolf [played on 7/11]
    Me & My Uncle [played as an electric song on 3 nights in this run - so it's very unlikely to appear in an acoustic set]
    Wake Up Little Susie [said to be in NRPS set, but they never played this song - was in acoustic set on 7/11]
    NRPS - The Weight closer [as on 7/11]
    Morning Dew opener (preceded by horror film) [this was how the electric set on 7/12 opened]
    Not Fade Away [played on 7/12]
    Casey Jones [played on 7/12]
    Dancing in the Streets [played on 7/11]
    Lovelight [played on 7/11]
    Show ends at 6:30. [The actual 7/10 ended with UJB at 5:30.]

    The "7/10" tape has not a single song on Zito's list except for NFA, which was the encore, so he couldn't have attended July 9.
    People who attended July 10 report Morning Dew (opener), Casey Jones, Dark Star>St Stephen>NFA>Lovelight, UJB (closer). One attendee remembers Lovelight ending the show at 5 am; a newspaper review has UJB ending the show at 5:30. (UJB also closed the shows on both July 11 & 12.)

    If we say Zito went on the 10th, some songs match but we'd have to account for his not only giving a much later end time, but scrambling the song list and somehow failing to mention the popular "Live/Dead" numbers. This is possible. But I'd be much more impressed by his reporting if he actually went to two Dead shows in a row, July 11-12, conflating his notes on both shows for the article.

    1. Also, Zito mentions this exchange in the acoustic set:
      "Someone in the audience shouts 'Turn it up!' and Jerry Garcia quickly retorts 'Don't worry man. It'll get louder!'"
      This sounds quite a bit like the exchange after Dire Wolf on 7/11, when people shout "Louder!" Garcia replies, "Yeah, make it louder, turn everything up louder, we need it all loud." (Applause.)

  4. Wow, I just came across this & see there are very recent comments, so I'll add one that may be of interest. I was at 2 of these shows, the 11th & 12th. I first met Jerry Garcia at the end of the first show; we talked about music for awhile & he said "Come back tomorrow night, I'll get you in & we can continue this." I showed up at the stage door the next evening & he was already out there smoking a joint. So this was a memorable weekend for me; I still sometimes stop where that doorway is (the only still-recognizable part of Fillmore East) & have a hit in commemoration.

  5. By the way, Tom Zito has confirmed that he did see multiple nights of the Dead at the Fillmore East, not only in this run but when they came back in September '70. Of the later run, he wrote Dave Davis, "I did attend much of the run but alas, remember very little of the setlists. Certainly several versions of 'St. Stephen,' and every show closed with 'I Bid You Goodnight.'"
    So I believe this is a composite review of a couple shows.

    Zito was a big Dead fan in 1970 - this was only his second article for the Washington Post (after a review of "Let It Be"). He wrote in another article of his tastes: "I can listen to any kind of (good) blues, the Grateful Dead, and the Rolling Stones endlessly." Workingman's Dead was among his top-five desert-island records that year, and he praised American Beauty on its release. He wrote in an October '70 piece that the Dead typified "the real essence of rock." Describing a typical Dead show: "A lot of their music takes off from basic blues patterns, but where it goes is impossible to say... They now make mellow, mellow music. They'll start off with a basically acoustical set, work into country-western material, and finally build into some very loud yet amazingly soothing rock music... I have never seen the Dead play for less than five hours."

    But by 1973 his enthusiasm had dimmed and he found their shows dull. By then, he said, they'd "gone astray...the music isn't what it once was." The Post's one-line review of Wake of the Flood: "Their first studio album in several years. For this we had to wait several years?"

    1. I can't disagree with Zito's comments. The loss of Pigpen took a lot of grit out of the band.

  6. I was at the show that Dustin Hoffman movie was shot first...The Dead played like 3 songs and Jerry said I I can't get into this and walked off the stage...we waited like 90 mins before the New Riders came on,then a break and the Electric dead to over.i had work that morning ...lol.

    1. That was 9/18/70 at the Fillmore East - Hoffman, Shel Silverstein, and Dr. Hook & the Medicine Show played before the Dead's show, for the movie "Who Is Harry Kellerman and Why Is He Saying Those Terrible Things About Me?"
      The Fillmore scene: