Jul 31, 2012

November 20, 1971: Pauley Pavilion, UCLA


The scoreboard over the arena floor should have read Concert Goers - 10, Pauley Pavilion Ushers - 0 at last Saturday's Grateful Dead-New Riders of the Purple Sage concert.
The sounds were good, despite acoustical problems of presenting a rock concert in a basketball arena. But at times, the audience couldn't have cared less.
As the lights dimmed for Purple Sage's nearly two-hour set, people began dropping like flies from the arena-level seats onto the playing floor where those with $5 tickets sat and danced.
The ushers stood - either helpless or uncaring - as the group made the 12-foot drop. They also stood by watching and absorbing the strange smells wafting through the arena as many people smoked marijuana.
More than 400 joined what was already a sellout crowd and swelled the ranks to nearly 2,000 standing, sitting, bobbing and dancing bodies.
During the concert, which was broadcast live on FM station KMET, balloons and frisbees flew through the air and the crowd rocked to the sound of Purple Sage and the Pig Pen-less Grateful Dead.
Purple Sage brought the audience to its dancing feet with the lively sounds of Johnny Otis's "Hand Jive." The performance was good and kept the attention of the crowd, which waited patiently for the Dead.
Although suffering from the absence of Pig Pen (Ron McKernan) who is recuperating from a kidney operation, the Dead played two sets and sounded like a different group each time.
For the first 90 minutes, they seemed oblivious to the people, spending as much as five minutes between songs retuning their guitars and trying to get the bugs out of the sound equipment.
But after a half-hour break, they returned and played the song "which rocketed to the number one spot in Turlock, Calif. within a week," "Truckin'." It was the beginning of a second 90-minute set which included 25-minutes of jamming, some Chuck Berry tunes from their new album, and "Casey Jones."
The Dead, in the old Fillmore West-type informal setting, played to the crowd's highest expectations during the second set. It was only too bad that the sound system gave them as many problems as it did.

(by Kathy Lemmon, in 'The Now Generation' column from the Santa Ana Register, November 25 1971)

* * * * *


PAULEY PAVILION, U.C.L.A. - When the Grateful Dead come to town it's a real event, and this college concert was no exception. License plates in the parking lot indicated attendees from all over Southern California and, no doubt, most felt this to be one of this year's real biggies.
There was dancing on the lower level and fairly comfortable seating for those of us who vastly prefer such arrangements. And - glory be! - the back of the stage area was roped off so that nobody was forced to sit behind the Warners' group. This should be the practice of every group and every promoter but, sadly, isn't.
The music went on for hours; again, Dead fans were probably thrilled. Selections from albums going back to the first were presented, plus additions such as "El Paso." Pianist Keith Godchaux more than filled in for an ailing Pigpen; he's now a permanent member of the group. (Mr. Pen will in the future, forsake his organ playing and concentrate on singing "Good Morning Little Schoolgirl" and "Turn On Your Lovelight.")
Second-billed were Columbia's New Riders of the Purple Sage, who started as sort of a Dead equivalent to the Airplane's Hot Tuna but who have now apparently given up any sharing of personnel - they have their own steel guitar player and drummer. They performed an opening set that ran for at least an hour. Most of the songs were from their first album, with a couple of ringers like "Down in the Boondocks" thrown in.
Both bands are pretty good for the idiom (long-haired pseudo-country) that they have chosen to work in. And they put on a pretty good show, even if the Dead seemed to take ten-minute breaks between every number.

(by T.E., from the NY Cash Box, December 4 1971)

* * * 
Pauley Pavilion, Los Angeles
It is indeed ironic that although the Grateful Dead have always been one of the tightest, funkiest groups around, they have only just begun to receive mass recognition and popularity. They are probably the best dance band in the country and play with an exhilarating enthusiasm which is rarely found in today's jaded pop world. In no way can a Dead concert be termed a rip-off as they regularly perform an amazing five-hour set. 
Their set this time was highlighted by a 40-minute version of "Truckin" which showcased an incredibly fluid jam. Trading off vocal and lead guitar chores, Phil Lesh and the gnome-like Jerry Garcia performed in a relaxed, self-assured manner. The group is quite simply a lot of fun and spending an evening with them is like being with five very close friends who delight in you as much as you in them. 
Playing a captivating blend of bluegrass and rock, The New Riders' set took on the appearance of a giant country hoedown with the audience square dancing. Ex-Airplane drummer Spencer Dryden is playing better than ever and lead singer and guitarist John Dawson combines an ebullient stage personality with musical skill. Standout numbers included "Hand Jive," "Louisiana Lady" and the fast-paced "Jukebox Song." 

(by Shelly Heber, from the "Talent In Action" column, Billboard, 4 December 1971)
* * * 
Despite a series of sound system problems that seemed to continually distract the Grateful Dead and cause delays between songs Saturday night at UCLA's Pauley Pavilion, the group proved every bit as good as its fans have been saying for so long now. As soon as Jerry Garcia began the vocal on the opening selection ("Bertha"), the reasons for enthusiasm about the Dead became obvious, reasons that seemed unclear to me at times on their often uneven albums. The Dead has an excellent instrumental design to its music and flavorful vocals. It is currently working in a country vein and included Marty Robbins' "El Paso" in its set. 
Besides the music, part of the effectiveness of the evening Saturday came from the concert setting. In the style of the Fillmore West and Winterland concerts in San Francisco, promoter Mike Davenport removed chairs from the arena floor so people could move about freely (even dance if they could find room) or sit in permanent seats on the concourse levels. By removing the chairs, the concert had a more informal atmosphere and confrontations with ushers over things like keeping aisles clear were eliminated. 

(from the Los Angeles Times, 23 November 1971)

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  1. Both reviewers complain about the Dead's long tuning breaks between every song!
    The tape reveals it wasn't THAT bad - more like every other song...

    Weir starts the second set by introducing Truckin':
    "This is our new piano player here, he's Keith Godchaux, and we think he's pretty good. And we're gonna start this set off [laughter] with a song that went straight to the top of the charts in Turlock, California! And that's a fact!" (Garcia adds, "Mister showbiz." Garcia's clearly quite tickled by Weir's intro.)

    Though the second reviewer doesn't much like the Dead, he seems fairly knowledgeable about them - perhaps from covering them before.
    Someone told him that Pigpen was returning to the group, but their prediction was off... Pigpen did play organ again, and sang a variety of songs, but not Schoolgirl.

  2. Note also that the first reviewer says that the capacity at Pauley was "2,000." Pauley is a big place, so unless its a typo, they must have restricted the crowd to the gym floor and the lower level bleachers. I had always wondered how the Dead could play Pauley Pavilion in 1971, capacity 12,000+--it's comparable in size to the Oakland Coliseum--but it seems like they were playing in a limited seating config.

  3. I added a rave review from Billboard - so gushing that it reads more like promotional hype than a concert review. The Dead are exhilarating, amazing, "the best dance band in the country," "one of the tightest, funkiest groups around." The other reviews of the show don't succumb to this kind of hyperbole! But comments like these were not rare at the time, and could be found in many articles. One attendee went to the show and "realized this was the tightest band I'd ever seen."
    This reviewer didn't recognize the Other One as a separate song, but heard it as part of "a 40-minute version of Truckin' [with] an incredibly fluid jam."
    Points for calling Garcia "gnome-like!"

    1. Also added a very brief review from the LA Times. This one agrees with the Santa Ana reviewer that the Dead were distracted by "a series of sound problems" which caused many delays between songs.
      Nonetheless, the reviewer was impressed: doubtful of the Dead's uneven albums, they were won over from the first song, realizing why Dead fans were so ardent.
      The reviewer also liked the open chair-free dance floor, which eliminated usher hassles and encouraged dancing and an "informal atmosphere." This was also stressed by the linked Free Press review.