Jun 22, 2015

September 30, 1972: American University, Washington DC


It's over. After several weeks of anticipation, AU was put on the map by the appearance of the Grateful Dead Saturday night. It was quite an evening, and I doubt if it will ever be forgotten. Who can forget the $30,000 it cost? Who can forget the aggravation it caused? Who can forget those who spent two sleepless days and nights on dorm security duty? Who can forget the 25 OD's? Who can forget the way Jan Goldsmith played God with the students' [ -- ] and kept the identity of the band away from those who paid for it?
Granted, AU students need and deserve good concerts and other diversions; after all, how often can one go to the Tavern? However, a band like the Dead simply have no business being at AU. We simply do not have the staff, facilities or physical [ -- ] that are necessary to run the concert properly and ensure the safety of all. True, nothing happened - except 25 OD's - but I feel that we were just lucky this time. Who can say how much longer our luck can hold out? Can we afford to find out?
Even if facilities were not a problem, the cost certainly would be. The Student Union and Goldsmith have a yearly concert budget of $80,000. The Dead cost $30,000. Next month, Chicago is scheduled to appear here for a mere $18,000. That leaves about $32,000 for the seven remaining months of the academic year. To make matters worse, each one of us ended up paying for about 3 outsiders at the Dead concert, since several sources estimate that about 75% of Saturday's crowd were not from AU! I doubt that many of us are willing to foot the bill for the entertainment of the entire metropolitan area. What's more, there is not one good reason why we should.
The people who ran the medical station and provided extra dorm security deserve much more praise than the Dead's uninspired and boring performance. These people, who all served without pay, treated 25 drug overdoses and numerous minor medical problems. It is impossible to tell just how much we owe those who provided extra security in the dorms. Who knows how many rip-offs were averted by their presence? Those of us who were here during [ -- ] know what a living hell those dorms can be when invaded by mobs of outsiders, with little or no extra security on duty.
Most students resent Goldsmith's childish attempts to conceal the band's identity. Our money paid for the group, and we had a right to know who it was immediately after the contract was signed. Of course, Goldsmith will say that this was done for security reasons. If that is true, he and his cohorts had no business bringing a band on campus whose presence might cause security problems of such a magnitude that secrecy was felt necessary.
What is the solution then? Obviously, it is not to cancel all future concerts - we need and enjoy them. However, we were lucky this time because our hastily arranged medical and security facilities somehow worked. We can't take such a chance next time. If "Greatspender" Goldsmith likes to throw around 18 or 30 thousand dollars, let him throw in another thousand for decent security, better medical services, and pay for those who help out. If he continues to be so callous of those who live on campus (he doesn't), and so careless with our thousands of dollars, he should be brought to task by either recall or impeachment.
The creation of the Student Union Board has enabled the students to place the blame for poorly-planned and overpriced concerts right where it belongs. If the Chicago concert is handled in a similar manner, we'll all know where the blame should go.

(by Gary Lipkin, from the American Eagle, 6 October 1972)

* * *

The same issue had a letter to the Eagle from the Washington Free Clinic, explaining why they were not at the concert. An excerpt:

Recently the Washington Free Clinic was asked to handle medical emergencies at the Grateful Dead concert this last Saturday night. We feel that our position warrants an explanation to the community.
For the past three [years] the Washington Free Clinic has continually seen to the health needs of the community; community meaning many things to many people, those interested in alternative health services, students, and so called "freaks." The administration of AU, unlike other area universities, has consistently failed to meet the health needs of its students, whether it be a full time MD, birth control education and prescription, or a 24 hour infirmary. Many of the problems encountered by AU students, such as VD, pregnancies and birth control, have been dealt with here at the Washington Free Clinic. While other schools in DC, such as Howard and GW, have responded to their students' needs, we at the Washington Free Clinic have carried the burden for AU, while our requests for support have only met with strain and struggle from the Student Union Board (SUB). . . .
The SUB concert budget for this year is $80,000. We understand that $30,000 of this went to this concert. $20,000 directly to the Dead, approximately $2500 for security (to protect buildings and grounds) and the rest for miscellaneous items such as a mobile house for the group's comfort (dressing rooms at AU were not adequate), [ -- ] drinks for the Dead at their hotel, special T-shirts for "staff," two limousines with drivers and special treatment for 50 of the Dead's friends. It seems strange that the SUB and the administration had the foresight to budget for all of the above items, while not considering health care until the last minute.
Meanwhile, the health needs of the people were basically ignored. If AU cannot accept the responsibilities accompanying a concert, they should not even attempt it. To do so is irresponsible.
We felt that under the circumstances we could not respond to AU's last minute request. The administration and the SUB knew for at least a week that the concert was definite, yet failed to tell anyone until last Tuesday.
At this point they dumped all health problems on [ -- ], who called us. For the Washington Free Clinic to adequately equip the concert with people and supplies, we would have had to work close to 24 hours a day through Saturday. We felt that our request for a $500 donation was not out of line. Once more, AU expected the Washington Free Clinic to assume responsibility. . . . 


See also: http://www.american.edu/americanmagazine/in-closing/fall2007.cfm

Thanks to jgmf.blogspot.com


  1. As we've sometimes found in college papers, this isn't a review of the show but a nagging conservative editorial about how badly it was managed by the authorities.

    This was a "free" show, but the Dead were still paid by the Student Union Board ($20,000 directly + another $10,000 in expenses). The writer complains that university students were outnumbered three to one by "outsiders!"
    I suspect that the secrecy the writer complains about might have been a stipulation of the Dead (along with their "comforts"). They knew well how many people would come swarming if a free show was announced ahead of time.
    I don't know why the Dead agreed to make this a free show, but it must have been quite a score for Goldsmith, who was a student organizer in the SUB.

    Nothing is said of the Dead's performance, of course, except that it was "uninspired and boring" (not that you'd expect this writer to say any different). The emphasis is on security, medical services, ODs, misspent funds, who to blame for this fiasco, etc. Behind it all, you can get a sense of why this was one of the last free shows the Dead ever played, if this was the official response. (Garcia mused in interviews about how the authorities always seemed to be afraid of free shows and would try to never allow them.)

    My copy was blurry and cut-off, so there were a few words I couldn't make out.

    1. Thank you for the rambling, "liberal" viewpoint.

      Once again, the left proves that fiscal responsibility is a topic they don't believe in and/or understand.

      Sadly, Jerry paid a serious price over the years, due to the fact that the Dead needed to perform excessive concerts for the sole purpose of compensating for their own, self-admitted fiscal irresponsibility.


      Conservative Deadhead since '68.

    2. How is his note rambling?

      I think those of us on the left understand fiscal responsibility much better than the Clown and his right-wing stooges in Congress do right now.

  2. As for those who attended the concert, they all seem to fondly remember the topless dancer who appeared with the Dead.

    There may have been an actual review in the campus paper, I don't know - there was one in the Washington Post.
    From the Ghosts of DC site:
    "[The Dead played] in front of about 10,000. It was sponsored by the student government...and was slated for a 5 p.m. start on Saturday, September 30th, 1972 …
    The weather that day was bleak, overcast with the threat of rain. Not only that, but electrical difficulties backstage were preventing the band from going on, delaying the show well past the start time...
    Here’s an excerpt from Bob Galano’s Washington Post review the following week.
    'The Dead, whose names and faces have changed over the years, played nothing that stopped the show and sounded somewhat adversely affected by the cold. Not even 50 speakers and the ensuing volume could mask the sloppy updates and listless tempi.
    But the audience was a gracious one, and though otherwise unmoved by the performance they seemed to enjoy the free music and found themselves applauding, ignoring the obvious lack of musical excitement.
    Some of them recalled a “fantastic” concert given in the area by the Dead a few years ago and were therefore a bit more disappointed than others by Saturday’s weak performance. However, despite the bad weather and the flawed showing, the majority was glad to have come.'"

    Interesting that Galano, a 'professional' reviewer, would find the Dead sloppy, listless & unexciting. (The last show the Dead played in the area was 10/23/70, at Georgetown - it's revealing that some people who attended both shows found this one disappointing.)
    Audience members also remember it being cold and wet in the muddy soccer field, though the sun peeked out mid-show. It was a mellow occasion, with little advance notice, mostly word-of-mouth. Apparently lots of drugs were consumed, since that stands out in many accounts (along with the dancer)...

    And some memories from the AU website, which presents the show in a more glowing light:

    "There were thousands of tie-dyed, dancing young people on the AU athletic field on September 30, 1972, but nobody was counting, because there were no tickets and the music was free...
    Somehow the administration agreed to the influx of rock bands, recalls the student organizer behind many of the shows, Jan Goldsmith, SPA/BA ’73, now a judge and law professor in San Diego...
    But when the students nabbed an act as big as the Dead for a free show—free to students, that is, since the band’s fee was a then-controversial $20,000—Goldsmith and the Student Union Board got cold feet. Until the last minute, in a nervous effort to staunch off-campus crowds, they denied the band was coming.
    It didn’t work. “Word quickly spread all over the country that the Dead were doing this outdoor free concert, and kids from all over came to this thing,” says Gary Gurner SOC/BA ’73, who was on the concert committee...
    Meanwhile, the crowds of Deadheads who followed the band found their way to AU. “We were scared stiff things were going to fall apart, or people were going to riot,” Goldsmith recalls.
    Then university chaplain R. Bruce Poynter estimated the crowd for “five hours of high-decibel sound” at 12,000 to 14,000. He was anxious, too—but was pleasantly surprised. “It was a good-natured crowd, even a gentle crowd,” he wrote at the time, although “if one looked at the field after the people had gone, one wondered if this is in fact the ecologically sensitive generation or the throwaway culture.”

  3. I was one of the “outsiders.” We heard a rumor that the Dead would be playing at American University, and based solely on that, drove to Washington from Tuscaloosa, Alabama. When we arrived, we asked the first person we saw what he knew about the concert (nothing),walked about another 100 yards and ran right into it. We had a wonderful evening, despite the chill and damp. Especially memorable was the stripper who performed at intermission, dancing to the Stones’ Can’t You Hear Me Knocking. My all time favorite Dead concert. Thank you, Mr. Goldsmith.

  4. That sounds awesome! Ahhh, to be young again.

  5. Well, we thought it was an awesome show. we were students at American, the student fees paid for it to my knowledge. However, we had to supply something for 5000 people the first year in 30,000 the next year.!!!LOL
    However, how come I can’t find anything about the first concert with the much smaller numbers of people?

    1. And yes, it was played on the same soccer field behind the women’s dorm ? Am I the only one that was there? Yes, I was H on A as we all were lol but I sure remember it and had T Shirt forever haha