Dec 25, 2015

January 31 - February 1, 1970: The Warehouse, New Orleans


Saturday nightwind cold down dark of Tchoupitoulas. Saturday blue cold nightwind blue cold. Welcome to the warehouse, Tchoupitoulas.
I am the warehouse. Goo goo goo joob! Tripping flipping, red brick ripping, crescent city slipping down the delta.
Sometimes this city is a dung heap. You know it. The Jefferson Airplane know it. The Grateful Dead know it. But why get into that? Understanding and action are one. A unitary process. When you dig it, in other words, it's done. Things will either get better here or the city that care forgot will find itself flushed "straight down the Mississippi River to the Gulf of Mexico."
So anyway, the Warehouse is an attempt on the part of some person or persons calling themselves Beaver Productions Inc. ("We're local people.") to make a dung heap bearable to the bugs that call it home. That's you and me, brother roach.
So anyway, the Beavers have procured a beautiful old red brick warehouse at 1820 Tchoupitoulas Street with room for five thousand insects, more or less, under its hundred year old beamed ceiling. Now they are trying to fill it, with people and sound. Friday night's bust won't help. (Members of the Grateful Dead and Owsley Stanley were arrested at their hotel in a drug raid after Friday night's show. - Editor's Note.)
Nor will reports that some members of the audience were stopped and searched by New Orleans Police while many others received parking citations or had their cars towed away by our super-efficient friends in blue tow trucks. All of which is not irrelevant to music.
Last weekend's inaugural Beaver production included the Grateful Dead, Fleetwood Mac, and the Flock, uh, Flock. All three groups appeared on both Friday and Saturday nights, with Fleetwood and the Dead returning Sunday afternoon for a legal defense fund benefit performance made necessary by Friday night's display of creole charm and hospitality. This turned out to be the high point of a generally successful weekend. OK.
Fleetwood Mac are one of the best rock groups around. Too few people know it, however, and in spite of three pretty good albums and a hit single ("Albatross") they are still largely unknown outside of Merrie Olde. Perhaps it is because they, like the Dead, are better heard live than on plastic. At any rate, they are good. Really good. Drummer Mick Fleetwood is capable of almost anything. His art is flawless as he pounds life into the group, driving them beyond what you think they are capable of.
His relentless rhythms set the pace for lead guitarist Pete Green, whose skill, versatility and originality border on brilliant. These two, Fleetwood and Green, usually carry the group, but when Jeremy Spencer (organ, guitar) uncorks his teen-age dream voice on oldtimers like "Great Balls of Fire," look out. Fleetwood's music is a combination (yes, another damn synthesis) of basic black and British rock and roll. Their lyrics are unspectacular but their instrumental power is tremendous. After a rather slow start, they build and build, getting tighter and harder as they go, until the crowd is on its collective and individual feet and heads are bobbing all over the place. They are nothing but fun.
Flock, on the other hand, are loud, derivative, and boring. Their violinist seems to remember just enough of his classical training to be pretentious. Their horn section proves once again that blacks know better than whites what to do with horns. Between songs they give you the ol' bullshit about what a bringdown the south is and how they sure can't wait to get home to Chicago and don't forget the REVOLUTION guys n gals. Whee! Saturday night at the groovies! I heard they were better on Friday. Perhaps.
Now to the Dead. There are a few magical bands and the Dead are one of them. Unfortunately, they couldn't get together with the sound system Saturday night and so a promising set was shortened somewhat by the treachery of certain electronic devices. And so Jerry Garcia, who emanates peace and light (each member of the Dead is a star) played acoustic guitar and sang to us. He was joined by bass player Phil Lesh and rhythm guitarist Bob Weir, and together they created some beautifully poignant moments while the cops towed our cars away. The Dead represent the best of what happened in San Francisco several years ago. They also represent the best of what's happening in music right now. The best.
Sunday afternoon, the Dead completed the set they had been unable to finish the night before and this time even Pigpen was fantastic. Their old "psychedelic" songs, like "Cold Rain and Snow," sounded better than ever and their new "country" songs, like "Don't murder me" are perfect. As it is impossible to explain magic, it is impossible to explain the Grateful Dead. Garcia's guitar screams, then gently weeps and all is love. His voice, soft and assured renews your faith in living things. Lesh's bass is innovative, intricate and always provides a firm foundation for Garcia's and Weir's lyrical fantasies. Bob Weir is the kind of person you trust instinctively and his singing and playing justify your confidence fully. Drummers Bill Kreutzman and Mickey Hart are adequate and occasionally more so. Pigpen is Pigpen and the group wouldn't be the same without him. The music of the Grateful Dead is pure light.
When the Dead got into "Love Light" they were joined by Fleetwood Mac in a jam of incredible power that lasted well over an hour non-stop and flew through so many changes that the stunned crowd was almost as exhausted as the musicians at the finish of it. Anyone who taped that session has a collector's item. Garcia and Green traded some beautiful licks and Fleetwood's drumming was, again, flawless. The bands obviously respected each other and I wouldn't say that the Dead were better, for although their influence was obviously dominant, there was only one band playing, the Grateful Mac. Let your love light shine. Theirs did. Like a diamond in a dung heap.
Next weekend, the Beavers are presenting Jack Bruce, Sly, the Rascals, PG&E and several lesser lights. Watch Bruce. He may be the surprise of the weekend.

(by Tom Voelker, from the NOLA Express, February 6, 1970)

For a review of the 1/30/70 show, see:

1 comment:

  1. I got a scan of this article, but no info on where it came from. Obviously it must be one of New Orleans' underground papers, as you can tell right away when the writer riffs on 'I Am The Walrus!'
    Voelker seems rather ashamed of New Orleans (a "dung heap" where the police hassle people, but maybe "things will get better here"), and pleased by the new music venue at the Warehouse.
    He went to the Saturday & Sunday shows. Like the other reviewer (who only saw Friday), he admired Fleetwood Mac and hated the Flock. (The Fleetwood Mac shows from Jan 30-31 are in circulation from Bear's tapes. I think they're incomplete though - both reviewers mention 'Great Balls of Fire,' and apparently Fleetwood Mac played a 15-minute 'Rattlesnake Shake' as the encore on 1/30, but these aren't on the tapes.)
    Voelker was an especial fan of the Dead, making them sound almost supernatural (Garcia "emanates peace and light" and so forth), though the drummers are only "adequate." He was thrilled by the big Lovelight with Fleetwood Mac at the bust fund benefit show. ("Anyone who taped that session has a collector's item.") "Don't murder me" is also singled out as a perfect new song - this is before Workingman's Dead was recorded, but he can tell that the Dead's new songs are in a country vein, something emphasized by the impromptu, "beautifully poignant" acoustic set on Saturday after Phil's amp failed.
    Fleetwood Mac had been friends with the Dead since summer '68 - Mick Fleetwood recalled that at these Warehouse shows (or one of them), "the whole audience had been spiked from the water fountains" by Owsley, and Fleetwood Mac was also dosed, "absolutely out of it on acid," making it difficult for them to play! (McVie apparently had to sit out the jam with the Dead on Sunday, and Phil Lesh remembers Mick being very high, though the reviewer here only mentions that Mick's drumming was "flawless.") One friend of the band remembered, "We were all on Owsley's acid...they were all so high they couldn't play their instruments and were having a mass panic...only Mick was able to perform a bit."
    Nonetheless, Fleetwood Mac enjoyed their time with the Dead enough to jam with the Dead again at the Fillmore East on Feb 11.