Aug 6, 2013

October 30-31, 1970: SUNY, Stony Brook


There’s one more thing you must do before it all falls apart: spend the night with the Grateful Dead of San Francisco. It is an experience that compares with birth trauma or sky diving. You just have to be there at three in the morning when you find yourself totally overwhelmed by all the sound, your body resonating with Lesh’s every bass note, your eyes burning, closed… Then in the midst of it all, you somehow feel that something – you can’t be sure – but something would feel just right at that moment and yes…from within all that sound, Garcia comes through with a few notes from somewhere and you know that there’s somebody way up that’s paying attention.
When the Dead played SUSB three years ago, the lights came on at 3:10 a.m. Nobody applauded or yelled for more, because there just wasn’t anymore left. Folks were just too exhausted – some from dancing, and the rest from just listening. And the Dead had played the last drop of sound that was left in their instruments. Suddenly you realized that there were basketball hoops and incompletes and Stony Brook…and you’re out in the street again.
Come hear Uncle John’s Band, playing to the tide.

(by Hank Teich, from the Stony Brook Statesman, October 30 1970)

Another article, “Conflict Nearly Kills Friday ‘Dead’ Concert Before Polity and Univ. Officials Agree” notes:
“A Friday night edition of the Grateful Dead concert, originally set for Saturday only, was added about three weeks ago by the SAB in an attempt to accommodate the great numbers of people trying to get tickets.” The gym was already scheduled for an International Students Affair that evening, but the conflict was resolved after some negotiations.



The Grateful Dead concerts attracted thousands of people to Stony Brook this weekend. During the three-day period gate-crashers forced their way into the gym, several concert-goers were treated for bad trips, campus police helped to save two people from carbon monoxide poisoning, and 12 persons were arrested for possession of narcotics.

At a Student Activities Board (SAB) meeting last night, the students in charge of planning concerts discussed the problems surrounding the gate-crashing that preceded Saturday’s late concert. “The Grateful Dead were very uncooperative,” said one SAB member, explaining that the group insisted on continuing their first show until midnight, the time set for the start of the late concert. As a result, the second concert could not begin on time, and impatient ticket-holders waiting for the second show were joined by gate-crashers in the pushing and shoving that developed. In the chaos that followed, some members of the crowd allegedly threatened hired security guards (not connected with campus police) with broken bottles, and according to student reports the guards hit some members of the crowd with clubs. Attempts to check tickets were abandoned.
As a result of the problems of the Dead concert, the present process of ticket sales was once again criticized, discussed and defended. Alternative methods of checking tickets before concerts are being considered.

Despite the pushing and shoving that occurred late Saturday night, campus infirmary officials say that there were no reported injuries over the weekend, though several individuals were treated for bad trips.
“About 15 or 20 students were treated for bad trips” during the concert, said Elizabeth Palmieri, Director of Nursing Studies and program coordinator of a service set up by the health service to treat students for “ill-effects” from drugs. “It was fantastic,” she said, describing the support and cooperation which students, faculty and staff members showed in working with the health services throughout the weekend.
Volunteer workers were apparently very successful in “talking the kids out of bummers,” said a member of the health service. “We tried to limit the sensory input,” explains Mrs. Palmieri, who is also an assistant professor of psychiatry and mental heatlh. “At the infirmary,” she says, “we used sparsely furnished, darkened rooms, and allowed only one or two volunteers to speak to the person we were treating.”

According to a police report, early Saturday morning Joseph Modica, a guard at the gym, found two youths locked in a car with its motor running. He immediately called Security, saying that the two young men “appear to be dead.” When Patrolman Charles Cali and Sgt. Plog arrives, it was apparent that the two youths had been overcome by carbon monoxide fumes and revived them with oxygen. With the help of associate professor Edgar Anderson of the Health Center, who reportedly massaged one of the victim’s chest after his heart had momentarily stopped beating, they saved the lives of the two and took them to St. Charles Hospital. The two youths are reportedly in good condition.

Campus security officers were also involved in the arrests of twelve persons for possession of narcotics. Saturday night Patrolman Charles Cali was talking to a young man who was apparently “on a trip,” and he asked the youth “Are you holding?” In response, the young man produced eight joints of marijuana and gave them to the uniformed officer. Eleven of the arrested youth’s travelling companions were arrested the next morning as campus security stopped and searched their mattress-lined U-haul van to find marijuana, pills, needles, and $800 in cash.

(by Tom Murnane, from the Statesman, November 3 1970)

Another article, “Security Arrests 12 for Narcotics,” goes into more detail about the drug arrests.of the “twelve out-of-state non-students apparently visiting the campus for the Grateful Dead concert Saturday night.” The campus police are praised for their vigilance.

An editorial, “Rearrange SAB Priorities,” complains about the crowded conditions at the Dead shows. Excerpts:
“Going to a Stony Brook SAB concert used to be more of a good time than it has been lately. As recently as last year, it was still possible for a good concert in the gym, crowded as it was, to be an opportunity for Stony Brook students to get together and feel together, enjoying an evening of good music.
The good music is still there, but two disturbing trends that are emerging have changed the concert atmosphere for the worse. The first trend involves the evolution of many a Woodstock “Child of God” into an increasingly popular phenomenon, the “rip-off revolutionary,” who is determined to gain access to a rock show by any means necessary without paying, without pausing to consider the physical damage and high tension potential violence atmosphere he may leave in his wake. [ ... ]
[The second trend:] Since late last spring, SAB has created the impression that it is concerned to a great extent with turning Stony Brook into the rock capital of Long Island. Observers might readily conclude that SAB has been too willing to bring to the campus huge crowds of people that it cannot control and is less concerned with the old ideas of providing entertainment for the student body. [ ... ]
It makes no sense to continue the “open arms toward everybody on the Island” attitude that began with the outdoor Jefferson Airplane concert last May. We can’t do it yet because, simply, there is no room to put everyone and security arrangements, although improved, aren’t yet down pat. As long as people across the state believe “there’s room for everyone at Stony Brook,” repetitions of the Saturday Grateful Dead confusion will continue.
There is no way to justify insatiable drives to pack the rafters to the hilt for each concert. If SAB eliminated Village Voice-Newsday advertising and concentrated more on giving most tickets to students, there would be no reason to hire incredible policing forces and no danger of risking catastrophe at each show. What would have happened this weekend if someone had phoned a bomb threat and security had tried to end the concert and clear the gym? What would have happened if a fire started during Saturday’s late show when all aisles were hopelessly blocked after SAB, faced with a crowd bent on immediate entry and about to destroy itself, was forced to declare a free and open concert?”

From another editorial, “Polity and the Gym”:
“Close to four weeks ago, the Student Activities Board asked Mr. Leslie Thompson, the Athletic Director, for use of the gym on Friday, October 30 for two more Grateful Dead shows. The reason for the request was that several thousand ticket requests over and above a sell-out of two regular shows, were phoned into the ticket office. Remembering the damage incurred at the Ten Years After concert this summer, when there were more people than seats, the SAB wisely decided to accommodate these requests (and obviously open up another two shows for students also) by asking for Friday night’s use of the gym."
(Thompson initially denied the request, but after a dispute between the Athletic Dept. & the Student Council, the gym was made available for the Dead show.)

From “An Open Letter to the Student Body” by the SAB Chairman:
“The late show of Saturday night’s Grateful Dead concert was the latest demonstration of the student body’s indifference and apathy toward the facilities of this campus as well as to the feelings of each other. This was the concert you slept in the gym to get tickets for, but how many of you were able to sit in those seats that you fought to get? The other three concerts were orderly and calm, and people were able to find their seats. Those that needed first aid attention were able to get it because the aisles were clear. These three concerts were sold out mainly to guests of students and the general public.
This is not to say that all of the chaos, the fence trampling, pushing shoving, bottle throwing etc. was done by us. We are all aware of the many hangers on who were looking for any way into the gym. But we on line out there did nothing to prevent them and as they pushed and shoved we were right there behind them pushing and shoving away. Much of the delay and ensuing havoc could have been avoided if the students cared just a little about what was going on on their campus. The Student Activities Board and student security can do just so much without your cooperation. We want to enjoy the campus concerts as much as you do. Without your help there will be absolutely no reason to continue for the rest of the year.”
(Another letter in reply complained that the SAB didn’t handle the crowd very well: “How can you expect a skinny, roll-up fence to hold back a massive herd of people?”)


An article in the 11/6/70 issue pointed out that $22,000 was expected from the mostly sold-out Dead shows, but only $15,000 had been counted. The matter was cleared up in an 11/10/70 article, “'Dead' Receipts Not Lost.” This article summarizes:
“The aftermath of the four-concert series saw far less trouble than the concerts themselves. The Grateful Dead were originally contracted to play two shows Saturday night only, on October 31, but a heavy ticket demand led SAB to schedule two additional performances for Friday night. Three out of the four concerts were virtual sellouts.
At the Saturday midnight performance, thousands amassed in an impatient mob outside the Gym entrance ramps. At times campus police allegedly had to club the crowd back. The threat of riot by hundreds of angry non-ticket holders forced SAB to open the Saturday midnight concert to all.
Student leaders the following day accused SAB of mismanagement and gross irresponsibility, specifically citing inadequate planning and crowd control. SAB countered by pointing to the Dead’s refusal to end the early show at an hour which would have allowed the late show to begin on time.”

(In other news, articles in all these issues state that constant bomb threats are continuing to disrupt the campus, with dozens of buildings cleared & classes canceled each week as a result of the bomb threats. Despite grumblings, no one knows what to do about it, and it's become a routine part of university life.)

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  1. The Grateful Dead had played Stony Brook a couple times before, a "stealth show" on 6/3/67 and the 5/4/68 show that the first writer remembers ending in exhaustion at 3 am.
    An article at the time commented on that show: "In a set without a break that lasted over two hours, they played one epic number that lasted over an hour. The Dead were at Stony Brook, but the audience was nowhere at all, perhaps partly because the lightshow, which was good, very good in its own right, but inexperienced, was off on some trip that intruded on the music instead of backing it."

    The actual article on the Dead's shows, as is all too typical for this period, ignores the shows altogether and writes only about crowd problems, drug arrests, bad trips etc. To read some of the press on Dead shows in these years, you'd think they were nightmarish experiences.
    Granted, the gate-crashing issue was becoming very common, with crashers also filling the 10/10/70 and 11/21/70 shows, among others, and the Dead were bugged by this (especially if the crowd was violent).
    The Student Activity Board spokesman reports that on Saturday the Dead were "very uncooperative...the group insisted on continuing their first show until midnight, the time set for the start of the late concert. As a result, the second concert could not begin on time."

    The Dead were indeed in a bad mood on Saturday. The shows in general were poor, with the late show on Saturday perhaps the nadir of their 1970 performances - the playing is often really sloppy, even painful to hear.
    The student sound crew was running the PA system, and the band was quite irritated by them. At one point Weir yells: “Hey man, turn the microphones up, leave ‘em right there - don’t touch the fucking things, man, ‘cause you don’t know what you’re doing!” And Pigpen: “Mister soundman sir...if I don’t get it the way I want it, I’m going to rip off your head and shit in it.”
    The Dead don't sound quite so disinterested on the 30th as they do on the 31st, but it's worth noting the banter after Good Lovin' in the early show on 10/30:
    Phil: "This is gonna have to be our last song due to considerations of time-"
    [crowd complains]
    Garcia [sounding irritated]: "Yeah yeah, it's a bummer, but you know, it's the first show, man! How often do we have to go through this shit?"
    Phil: "Once the people who're here for the second show get in, then if there's any room left, you people can all show your ticket stubs and come on back in."
    Weir: "So what you gotta do, as soon as we get done, as soon as you hear our last note, you gotta all pick up and split real quick, and you gotta hang out outside, and then everybody else can come back and you can come back..."

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  2. Archive reviews of 10/31/70 offer a couple personal accounts of the Saturday night shows:

    "The early show which I was at, was just a bunch of college students just sitting quietly in their chairs, very surreal for a real fan. We didn't have tickets to the late show, which was very popular; shortly after the show started, we heard this rumble, and some one shouts out, 'They stormed the doors!' So, it became a free show. I just followed a bunch of people and we made our way pretty close up. Needless to say Garcia was not happy with those rowdy city people."
    "I had no ticket but was able to buy one at the Student Union building easy enough. The audience was tame enough and opening were the New Riders, Jerry playing pedal steel. Once the Dead took the stage it got weird...could have been what was in the air that night. Many people came dressed in [Halloween] costume... Between the NRPS and the Dead they showed old Betty Boop cartoons. When the first show ended we all started to file out the back door. I just made it out when this huge throng literally lifted me up and I found myself drawn back into the gym, like a bottle floating on an ocean."
    (A similar mass-storming of a Dead show would happen on 11/21/70, also at a university gym. Garcia would complain in an interview this month about playing colleges: "Why the fuck should they mob musicians? ...[It happens] only when we play at colleges, man. That's the only place where it's going on like that.")

    Other accounts agree, "The crowd was let in free for the late show, no tickets taken at the door." As these stories & the newspaper articles make clear, the crowd of gate-crashers surging through the door overwhelmed what "security" or ticket-checkers there were.
    The late show also started very late - it was scheduled for midnight, but the 8 PM early show ran late (as the Dead wouldn't cut their show short), so the late show seems to have gone from something like 2-5 AM. One person remembers, "the early show 'merged' into the late show as the early show ran late, the crowd in the back of the gym waiting to get in got restless."

  3. It was my birthday. I don't remember a lot about it, but I think I actually bought a ticket, and I'm sure I had a good time. Usually, I would sneak into SB concerts by climbing down an outside ladder inside a ventilation grate for the heating system, walking through the boiler room, then taking an elevator up to the gym. A lot of work to go to, to save $2-3, but it was fun.