Sep 2, 2014

March 21-28, 1972: Academy of Music, NYC


The Dead played seven nights with one night off; Saturday was their benefit for the New York Hell's Angels. Then they played as backup band for Bo Diddley, ranged in a grinning line behind Big Bo's black silk bulk, the best band he's ever likely to play with. It was party night, and their own set was loose, nothing too strenuous. The first night and the last were the musical high points, but Sandy Alexander, president of the New York chapter of the Hell's Angels, was ecstatic, and why not, indeed? He'd come with his brothers from 3rd Street and all over the USA, riding shotgun to the Angels stagecoach on their gas buffalos. They pulled up to the curb on 14th Street in a ragged but impressive line (what else can you expect in Saturday night traffic - 'The Wild One?') and after they'd all been filmed by Geraldo's Hipnews Concession, the Grateful Dead their old buddies went and threw a monster of a party for them. What a fuckin' night!!!
As the boogie progressed, tasty party mayo splashed all over the green leafy stuff - hard cash for bail money, spark plugs, chrome polish, and all the other expenses of high style Angel living. The Breed never showed up (luckily for them), and the party was cool. No Rolling Stones to slide that little extra manic hysteria in there; no Altamont, no stabbings, just party time, everyone awash in a frothing sea of vile foamy liquids, innocent but potent macrobiotic cookies, weed by the ton, coke by the ounce, speed by the pint, Boone's Farm strawberry wine...
"Let's get it on for the Hell's Angels of the USA!" yelled Bob Weir into the mike, and while some more impressionable brothers almost swooned away from sheer excitement, the band launched into their first number - "How sweet it is, to be loved by you..."
WATCH OUT FOR THE FUNNY-LOOKING JUG, they had told me by way of warning, but the intrepid drugger in me took over, and in the twinkle of an eye, while the Dead launched into their best-ever "Dark Star" (this being Tuesday night, the last show), a jabbering circle of groupies, writers, chemists, and Angels dissolved into misty dayglo abstracts to the festive tinkle of discarded nitrous oxide cylinders plinking onto the floorboards like so many spent shellcases. If only it had been like this at Verdun; it probably was like this at Da Nang. Is that really an unhorsed knight I see lumbering ducklike in fetid armor? A plastic toy cowboy horseman minus steed? A Viking lost in a time warp? A Roman slave-master? Why, no, nothing of the kind; it's just an out-of-town Angel reeling away from his turn at the hose, playing walking custard pie.
Why is Jerry always off on the sidelines, grinning that hairy grin?
Tuesday night again; two Bronx groupies bump and grind their way past the demure ladies of the Dead tribe, like cheap hookers in a free-school communal dining room. One of the velvet cutie-pies washes Bob Weir in a flood of garlic from a yellow maw, and confides that she used to be a topless dancer (and worked her way up?). Weir says "far out." Just another little vignette of the road, another mote in the old sunbeam. Why is that hairy man grinning?
Tuesday night the Dead played the best set I have ever heard, every note in place, every opportunity for improvisation taken. "Trucking" slid into one of Weir's new high-power country rockers, loaded with melody and texture and sweet sliding riffs; that boy has finally learned to sing, with a vengeance. The Pig rendered sweeping blues, blowing everything from his tiny emaciated frame down into his wailing harp. Jerry took the lead on "You Win Again" from way back, and then it was time for some sensuous pyrotechnics with "Mister Charlie." "Brokendown Palace" followed, back in the sweet groove, then "Cumberland Mine" with a rip-roaring extension, another new Weir number, "Big Railroad Blues" slamming down the track almost like Casey's train, "El Paso" like Marty Robbins 10 years on and out, a magnificent collage of pieces from "Anthem of the Sun," "I Know You Rider," and then, to top it all off with a true blast of sheer power, "Casey Jones," roaring the first set to a close. Thunder and lightning could do no more.
By the time they were done with "Wharf Rat," "Dark Star," "Sugaree," "Playing in the Band," "Not Fade Away," "Going Down the Road," and "Saturday Night," several thousand delirious people had entered orbit - and we're back where we started. As usual the second set was much, much heavier than the first, and Tuesday night the boys in the band were on the ball as never before in my five years of Dead experience.
Sitting hunched over on an empty speaker case while the Academy crew sweated to comply to the strenuous demands of the Dead crew seeking perfection (that's the name of the game, all the way from self-management to guitar strings), Jerry Garcia pulled on an only-the-tops-special, relaxing before the serious stuff started that first night. "It's really far out, just too fuckin' neat, man," he said with that same huge grin, "I mean, we've only just started gettin' into what we can do. There's no limit...and we're all feelin' good." Now, ain't that good news?

(by Patrick Carr, from Grapevine (Toronto), May 17, 1972)

Thanks to 


This could be a reprint of Carr's article from the 4/6/72 Village Voice, "Why Is That Hairy Man Grinning?"
I haven't seen that, so can't be sure.

This was a review Carr wrote of the 12/7/71 Felt Forum show: 


  1. Carr was a big fan of the Dead (as his 12/7/71 review illustrates), and he attended at least 2 or 3 nights of this Academy of Music run. He describes the 3/25 Saturday Hell's Angels benefit - the Bo Diddley set, and the unique Dead "How Sweet It Is" opener.
    Then he goes into setlist details for the 3/28 Tuesday show, which made a big impression on him - "the best set I have ever heard...the band were on the ball as never before in my five years of Dead experience...thunder and lightning could do no more."
    Aside from skipping some of the new songs, his account of the first set is accurate & in order except for the strange mention of the "collage of pieces from Anthem of the Sun," which was only in his mind.
    The weird thing is that he gives a partially inaccurate setlist for the second set, including Wharf Rat and "their best-ever Dark Star" (which was only played on 3/23 - the only Wharf Rats in this run had followed the Other Ones on 3/21 & 3/26). I'm not sure what to make of this - either he attended multiple nights and jumbled up the songs a bit; or after drinking from the funny-looking jug, he couldn't tell what they were playing as it all "dissolved into misty dayglo abstracts."
    (Of course, he didn't intend to give a precise, unerring account of the setlist - he jumps from one show to another in the article, conveying the general party feeling of the event - it's just an odd little aberrancy when he managed to list a dozen songs they did play on the 28th, in order.)
    On the other hand, it's an interesting bit of fan shorthand to say they played "their best-ever Dark Star" - even in 1972, with only two live albums available and before the Dark Star mythology of later years, that statement already suggested so much more than to write, "they played one heck of a long Other One." And he was experienced enough to say, "as usual the second set was much, much heavier than the first," commenting that the band was better than ever. He also mentions that Weir "has finally learned to sing," and observes Pigpen's "tiny emaciated frame."

    He briefly notes the Dead crew "seeking perfection" - he knows enough about the Dead to see that as their goal, in everything "from self-management to guitar strings."
    The comment from Garcia that "we've only just started gettin' into what we can do" is true, touching, and characteristic of Garcia - in fact, he would still be saying the exact same thing in '80s interviews ("we're just getting started, there's so much we haven't even done," etc).

    On a technical note - while I suspect this is more or less the same article that ran in the 4/6/72 Village Voice ("Why Is That Hairy Man Grinning?"), the GD Bibliography quotes from that article a phrase that the Dead are "the most beloved freak band on earth," which is missing here; so this could be an edit or a rewrite.

  2. I posted pic of Bo Diddley, Jerry and Weir playing at Thanks for getting this stuff out there - so many data, so little time!

  3. I found Carr's full original article from the Village Voice (this is only the second half) and posted it here: