Jul 25, 2012

March 24, 1971: Winterland


There were some mighty strange doings at Winterland last night - Yogi Bhajan, Sufi dancers and choir, and members of Kailas Shugendo all mingling and performing on stage.
Plus the good ol' Grateful Dead.
And about 4000 miscellaneous characters - Dead fans, freaks, mystics, religionists, spiritualists, and few semi-straights who apparently came in expecting a typical night with the Grateful Dead in concert.
Of course, in many ways it was a typical Jerry Garcia-Grateful Dead affair, since the strange, incongruous, and sometimes outrageous are all part of the Dead's daily life style.
Garcia's long tenure as our town's purest rock artist has brought him in contact with various religious sects and beliefs. Last night's function was his way of raising some money for such friends, many of whom are neighbors up Novato way where the Grateful Dead's farm is located.
Local members of Kailas Shugendo, a Buddhist sect dressed in oriental-style hiking attire, presented ritual segments, including their fire-walk, and were followed by Yogi Bhajan, dozens (at least) of whose disciples were in the audience, chanting and swaying.
"I get high just listening to him," a mesmerized young lady whispered to me, eyes closed, following the incantations. More than half the huge crowd got deeply into Bhajan's thing.
Then a long set by the Sufis, not looking much like their mystic Moslem spiritual forebears, but nonetheless a dedicated and quite captivating bunch of folk.
The rock-oriented portion of the audience, after a couple of hours of all this, got noisy and restless, clapping in unison and yelping, "we want the Dead."
So out came the Grateful Dead, immediately plunging into electric accompaniment for the Sufi choir (about 25 voices). It was a glorious, wonderful combination.
Harder rock was on the way as midnight came and went, Garcia remarking to me, "It's all in the spirit, right there (thumping my chest) - we get it from music, they (waving to the stage) get in their own way. But the spirit's the same - we're all one."

(by Philip Elwood, from the San Francisco Examiner, March 25 1971)



  1. Deadlists notes that this show was a "benefit for the Sufi Choir of San Francisco (who opened)."

    Strictly speaking, this isn't a review of the Dead's show, since the reviewer apparently left before the Dead's set, saying nothing about it. The preliminaries are notable, though.

    He does mention an unusual incident, where the Dead played with the Sufi choir. We don't have a tape of this unique moment, unfortunately. (But there's a photo of it in the Taping Compendium.)

    One witness on the Archive writes, "The Sufi choir and dancers were kind of cool; they came out first, it was dark with drums and some kind of fire on stage. They had some middle eastern music, and as it was kind of winding down, there was that familiar guitar sneaking in from behind - Jerry kind of hiding in the back. The audience perked up."

  2. Another more complete account of the show (with photos) is here:

    "After performing several beautiful pieces on their own, the Sufi choir was joined by Dead members Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, and Bill Kreutzmann for their last two pieces. The Dead members provided delicate droning chords below the choir’s angelic harmonies, with Garcia’s leads dancing around the choir’s melodies – a magical, all too brief collaboration."