Jun 19, 2013

July 8, 1970: Mississippi River Festival, Edwardsville IL


EDWARDSVILLE - The Grateful Dead, a California-based "Acid-Rock" group, drew a crowd of 8,500 young persons Wednesday night to the Mississippi River Festival - the largest attendance thus far for the current season.
Backstage, young girls and long-haired men crowded around the group's equipment and moved spasmodically to the music. A very young, brown-haired girl in white bell-bottoms danced alone while patterns from the light-show played across her and the screen behind her.
The crowd, most of whom purchased the $2 lawn tickets, rushed into the Festival tent and occupied all available seats. Their progress was not blocked by any Festival ushers.
After a low-key start with folk songs and country based tunes, the Grateful Dead livened the concert with a 23-minute rendition of "Good Lovin" that included drum solos by two drummers playing simultaneously.
The show was late starting because of a delayed arrival by the music group, but the fans did not seem disappointed.
They cheered, applauded, whistled and used all other orderly means to show their enthusiasm for the show.
A light show complimented the music, throwing jerking, ballooning, unusual patterns along the walls and resembling, as one observer put it, an amoeba in ecstasy.
Backstage remained crowded throughout the show as members of the show mingled with SIU officials and various other young persons who crashed the gates.
In a trailer behind the Festival tent, a nurse treated various injuries of spectators who found their way back to the show.
"Nothing serious," she told a Telegraph reporter. "Mostly bruises from falling down or falling over things. Just things like that."
The crowd was almost exclusively young. Long-hair and bears, mini-and-micro skirts, bell-bottomed slacks and denim shorts, and the "braless look" were the most evident fashions.
A blond-haired girl in white formal dress walked barefooted through the crowd. An occasional firecracker interrupted the sounds of the show.
Before the show, several young girls came to the stage area and asked for autographs. They were told to wait until after the show.
The Grateful Dead, formed in California in 1965, first became famous through "underground" music and the hip colonies of the West Coast. Even today, their music is played mostly on "progressive rock" stations. They limit their recording mostly to albums and prefer playing live concerts.
The "Dead" are considered somewhat of an oddity among musical groups because they have managed to stay together for six years. They describe their music as an effort to find "a new musical form." They don't know what it is, but they say they are determined to find it.
The Wednesday night concert was the first true rock concert this year at the Festival. The next non-symphony concert will feature jazz attraction Cannonball Adderly at 8:30 p.m. Friday night.
Henry Mancini, noted composer and orchestra leader, will appear Sunday night at 7:30 p.m. Lawn tickets are still available, although tent seats are sold out.

(by Doug Thompson, from the Alton Evening Telegraph, July 9 1970)

Thanks to Lost Live Dead

Alas, no tape!

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  1. Another lost show...

    It sounds like the Dead likely started with an acoustic set, as in their other summer 1970 shows - "a low-key start with folk songs and country based tunes."
    But the only song noted is Good Lovin', since the drum solo caught the reporter's attention & he recognized the song.
    Music seems not to have been his beat, though - this reads like he would be more at home reporting a fashion show! The girls in the crowd get lots of attention.

    He did speak to the nurse - but instead of the tales of acid casualties you might expect at a Dead show, she surprisingly reveals that there's "nothing serious" (just bruises on the spectators falling down in their excitement at seeing the Dead!).

    Note the young girls asking for autographs from the Dead. "Told to wait until after the show," you can imagine the rest...

    For this reporter, the Dead are clearly part of some strange alternate "underground" world he isn't familiar with. "Progressive rock" and "new musical forms" don't sound like his bag! "They limit their recording mostly to albums" reads like a strange statement today, but through most of the '60s, singles ruled.

    The Dead came directly from San Francisco, but still managed to be late.
    Nothing is said of NRPS. They were probably accompanying the Dead to the Fillmore East shows on July 9-12, but they may not have played here. I wonder who did the light show, though; did the Dead bring their own light crew?
    The Dead would play the Mississippi River Festival again in 1980.

  2. No NRPS for this one. The light show was local...Electric Rainbow, which was basically my older brother, Brian Harvey, and a group of family and friends. Brian was one of the real pioneers of the scene in the St. Louis area and founded Electric Rainbow originally to provide environmental lighting for a small club/converted theater down the road in Belleville, IL called the Palace. Over a stretch of a few years we did, I think, five shows with the Dead, two full seasons of the MRF (including a couple shows with the St. Louis Symphony), a whole load of other touring bands and lots of local bands. For a while there we were the go-to light show for pretty much any promoter bringing in music from SF, California generally or most stuff that seemed even vaguely psychedelic. We lost Brian in late 2004.

    1. The light show was mentioned in a newspaper picture caption:
      "More than 8,400 young electric rock fans showed up at Wednesday's night's Mississippi River Festival show by the Grateful Dead in the first rock concert of the 1970 season. Above, a long-haired young girl, carried away by the music, is silhouetted on stage against a backdrop of colored lights in a light show performed by the Electric Rainbow. The concert, which started about half an hour late, lasted until almost midnight, with the audience shouting for more, more, more."
      The show was scheduled for 8:30, so the Dead played for almost three hours. (They probably kept the break after the acoustic set short.) But three hours wasn't enough for this crowd!

  3. It's really mind blowing that you pose the question,I wonder who did the light show and get a response from the gentleman's brother who actually did the light show.I would guess you are sometimes quite surprised by who and the quality of responses you receive here at your site.

  4. I found a photo of the Dead playing acoustic guitars at this show, which confirms that there was an acoustic set.
    Added the photo.

  5. Too Bad this archive gone. Even the university paper, the alestle did not keep it's front page photos of the "battle of the bands" during the summer of 1970.

  6. Fifty years ago tonight - my first show!! Glad to see and read the stories here.