Jul 4, 2017

February 2, 1969: Labor Temple, Minneapolis


Big-time rock action begins for the first time in Minneapolis on a regular basis with a combination concert and dance (or whatever you want to do) by the Grateful Dead at 8 tonight at the Minneapolis Labor Temple, 117 SE 4th St.
The concerts will be held every Sunday evening. They will feature either nationally known underground rock groups or groups that are just starting to break into the big time.
Sponsoring the concerts is a group of six young men who call themselves The Community News. Most of them are college students. The News specializes in putting on psychedelic light shows and recently has been staging dances and concerts with local groups in Dania Hall.
David Anthony, who will be president of the News when it soon becomes a corporation, said the concerts will be unique in the Twin Cities because they'll be the only ones staged as they are in such places as Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco or the Kenetic Playground in Chicago.
"We'll have the Community News light show and people will just come in and mostly sit on the floor in little groups and groove with the music. What we want to achieve is an intimacy you just can't get in a big hall like the Minneapolis Auditorium or the Armory.
"The atmosphere's just wrong in those big places. There's the act and there you are and there's no real good relationship between the audience and the act."
Anthony said ticket sales for the first show have been good with mail orders coming from as far away as North Dakota and South Dakota. He is expecting the hall to be filled to its capacity of about 1,650.
Among the groups lined up for future Sunday nights are the Rotary Connection, the Spirit, Polcol Harum, the Buddy Miles Express (tentatively), Jeff Beck, and Blood, Sweat and Tears.

(by Allan Holbert, from the Minneapolis Tribune, 2 February 1969)



Minneapolis' first major league rock hall opened Sunday evening with a flourish unprecedented in this chilly climate. Putting heat into the night at the Minneapolis Labor Temple was the incomparable Grateful Dead with a performance worthy of such rock emporiums as San Francisco's Avalon or the Fillmore West.
Playing the first set was a local group, the Black Widow Apology, which was fair to middling, and the whole scene was presided over by the Community News light show, which has come a long way since Dania Hall, the westbank's own rock parlor.
The Grateful Dead is one of San Francisco's ranking rock groups that got a big push back in the early '60s when a Bay Area chemist, Augustus Stanley Owsley III, came to their support with unlimited financial aid that provided the massive electronic baggage necessary for their heavy yet sophisticated sound.
Sunday night, after a slow start and minor equipment trouble, they got it all on more than well enough to justify Owsley's generous support. It would be difficult if not impossible to single out any performer as the star of the evening. Jerry Garcia, sporting a big, bushy beard, played an incredibly deft and lyrical guitar, all the while underscored by Phil Lesch's wandering, penetrating bass. Add to that the complex beats of two excellent drummers and you have the finest rhythm section in all of rock and probably beyond.
The Dead play a style of music that could best be described as seemingly about to fall apart at any moment, yet the group is so tight that regardless of how far afield they may wander, they all come together at exactly the right moments. Sunday night they did it in the extreme. The excitement and tension they generated was so compelling that by the concert's end, despite nearly unbearable heat, they had everyone in the place bouncing and screaming for more. The rapport between audience and musicians was superb.
Taking this concert as a whole, this reviewer would give the new rock hall a triple-A rating. If they needed a full house to get them over the financial hump, they got it and then some. In fact, if fault is to be found with Sunday's show, it's that the hall was too small. A little breathing room would be appreciated, but that's such a small thing to quibble about when the music was so great. More! More!

(by Johan Mathiesen, from the Minneapolis Star, 3 February 1969)

Thanks to Dave Davis.

See also the Tribune review:


1 comment:

  1. An announcement from the 1/26/69 Tribune:
    "Another attempt at a Twin Cities underground rock-blues ballroom will open Feb. 2 in the Minneapolis Labor Temple, 117 SE 4th St. David Anthony, a local booker of pop music groups, will do the booking for the producers of the hall, Community News, former producers of Dania Hall concerts. It will be called The Temple and open with Sunday concerts only, running from 8 [p.m.] to midnight. The Grateful Dead will play at the opener, followed Feb. 9 by The Rotary Connection and Jethro Tuhl. Others on the schedule are The Spirit, Jeff Beck, Ten Years After, and the Who. Tickets are $3.50."

    For a complete musical history of the Labor Temple, see:

    The Star reviewer was very appreciative of the Dead, writing a perceptive description of their music. (I wonder where he'd read about Owsley's patronage?) The Tribune review, on the other hand, was more distanced and "square" - probably an older reviewer.
    The hall was packed; plenty of people wanted to see the Dead (it may have been overbooked, since the reviews mention that the place was filled with no "breathing room," and the Tribune claimed over 2,000 people attended although the hall capacity was smaller). I'm surprised to read of long-distance mail-order tickets - the remote Dakotans had to go far afield to see the Dead!
    The Dead had begun their midwest tour with a couple shows at the Kinetic Playground in Chicago, starting a long, strange tradition of touring the midwest in the dead of winter. They'd return to the Labor Temple in April - the newspaper ad said: "Return by Popular Demand! See the foremost group of the Underground scene. Broke all attendance records first time here!"

    Both reviews mention "a slow start and minor equipment trouble." The Tribune wrote, "After a long delay for setting up their nearly 100 pieces of equipment, the Grateful Dead came on with...a horrendously penetrating hum from an amplifier gone mad." Typical for Bear-era shows! Our tape, though, starts with Schoolgirl already underway.
    The band was apparently nonplussed by seeing people sitting quietly on the floor instead of dancing. After Schoolgirl, Garcia heatedly says, "Come on man, we come all the way across the country and leave the comfort and beauty of California and come out here in the cold miserable [midwest] and what do we get? What do we get? People who can't dig it! Too weird!" (Weir adds, "It was sheer hell.")
    Over the top of this, Lesh exclaims, "This is the first dance concert in your city in eleven years! Why don't you all take advantage of it?"
    But by the end of the show, the reviewer says, "everyone in the place [was] bouncing and screaming for more."