Oct 24, 2017

April 17, 1969: Quadrangle, Washington University, St. Louis


The Grateful Dead gave a rock concert on the Washington University Quadrangle last night, but some county residents were not grateful.
The sound, they said, was enough to wake the dead.
Police in St. Louis County got several calls about midnight complaining that the amplified beat of the acid-rock group from San Francisco was audible a mile away.
About 300 young persons, many in hippie attire, were found grouped around a band shell on the quadrangle, listening to music played to the flashing of psychedelic lights. Police suggested the Grateful Dead stop living it up, and the concert ended.

(from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 18 April 1969)

Thanks to Dave Davis. 

Released on Download Series vol. 12.

* * *

An announcement for the 4/18/69 Purdue University show: 

Original 'Acid Rock' Reaches Purdue

"The GRATEFUL DEAD? At Purdue? I don't believe it!" was the first reaction. The second, from another student, was "The GRATEFUL DEAD? Who are they?" Alas, the GRATEFUL DEAD. After all these years one might think that just about everyone knew who they were, if not by hearing them, then at least by reputation. They were the first of the big San Francisco bands, that's right, even before the Jefferson Airplane moved up from Los Angeles. And they probably invented the term "acid rock," for it was they who played at Ken Kesey's notorious "acid tests," wherein a punch bowl containing that nefarious substance would be served up with the music.
But that was years ago. Today, after two records on Warner's, and innumerable live appearances, coast to coast, they are considered by many to be the finest hard rock group in existence. Reviewer after reviewer has been captured by the power of their live performances; performances which, sadly, will probably never be really captured on record.
The reason for this is simple: a GRATEFUL DEAD performance, when they are going, may last for several hours, with absolutely no let-up, as songs merge completely into one another. They played continuously for four hours a few weeks ago in San Francisco, in a show which left everyone agape for weeks, and for which nobody could find the words to describe. And that is in San Francisco, where nothing surprises anybody anymore.
The GRATEFUL DEAD consist of Ronald McKernan ("Pigpen"), vocal; Jerry Garcia, lead guitar; Bill Kreutzmann, drums; Micky Hart, drums; Phil Lesh, bass; Bob Weir, rhythm guitar; and Tom Constanten, keyboards. "Pigpen" used to play the keyboards in the original group, but now has gone over strictly to vocals and snatches of harmonica. And now there are two drummers in the group, instead of one. Very powerful. Very powerful.
Jerry Garcia is one of the hardest and fastest lead guitarists in the business, with a technique comparable to masters such as Clapton and Bloomfield; he is also rumored to be a brilliant bluegrass banjo picker. The rest of the band members are all superb background singers and supporting musicians, and each will have his say before the night is over, if it ever gets to an end at all.
That's it. The GRATEFUL DEAD. At Purdue, FOR REAL. The dance-concerts will be held in the Union Ballrooms, from about 8 to 12 p.m., Friday. Tickets are $3 at the door and $2.50 in advance; they may be purchased under the mural in the center. The proceeds will go to the support of the boycott, and there may be some discussion of the boycott before the concert starts.
Also appearing will be Purdue's gadfly, George Stavis, who claims that his Vanguard record will be available "imminently." He sings and plays funny things on guitars and banjos which are sometimes compared, by people who should know better, to Indian music. A pleasant time is guaranteed for all.

(by George Stavis, from the Purdue Exponent, 17 April 1969)


  1. A very short notice - one of many newspaper articles that were only interested in Dead concerts insofar as the police were involved. (The Dead also provided a good excuse for jokes with their name, which this piece indulges in several times.)
    And one of many shows that were cut short by the authorities! A dead.net witness reports the "show ended abruptly when somebody literally pulled the plug on the power in the middle of Caution at the order of the cops." Thus a fine show came to an early end...
    One attendee recalled, "The Dead played outside in the Quad under the tiny bandshell used for symphony concerts. I can never listen to Dark Star without thinking of sitting under the huge trees in the Quad staring up at the stars in the night sky... Laying on the grass under the stars and listening to Dark Star and St. Stephen as The Dead jammed under the bandshell was nothing short of magical."
    (He also recalled, "I'd heard the Grateful Dead before, playing in the small gym at Webster College in St. Louis with roll-out bleachers and a crowd of maybe 200." However there's no record of an earlier show at Webster College, unless it was an unnanounced surprise gig back in '68.)
    Note the crowd isn't huge - only 300 in the audience. When the Dead played two nights at the National Guard Armory back in May 1968, only 340 people attended! As McNally wrote, "They flew to St. Louis for two nights, traveling 2000 miles to sell fewer than 400 tickets. The promoter, of course, lost his shirt." (p.264)

    I don't know if Washington University had its own newspaper at the time that might have reported on this show. Haven't found any reports of the earlier St. Louis shows in May '68 or 2/6/69.

    The next day, the Dead headed to Purdue University in Lafayette IN, where students were protesting over fee increases. "A capacity crowd in the Union Ballrooms for a dance featuring the 'Grateful Dead' was informed of [President] Hovde's decision [to increase student fees], but leaders avoided any disturbances which might have ensued by keeping the band playing."
    400 students had marched on the president's office earlier that day with demands, and police were called to patrol the campus, but the evening of the 18th when the Dead played was quiet.
    "Some of the police attributed the quiet to the fact that most of the students who might have gone to the administration building were at the dance instead.
    Rumors ran rampant, all the way from the National Guard being called in to one that all those present at the dance would storm the administration building when Hovde's decisions were made public...
    When the announcement was finally made, there was a slight reaction of anger, but no disturbances were reported.
    The day which opened with a march on the administration building ended with a marshmallow fight at the dance." (from the Purdue Exponent, 4/21/69)

    A marshmallow fight at the Dead dance! Peace on campus! And this was the band university administrators were terrified to allow on their premises.

  2. I added an announcement from the 4/17/69 Purdue Exponent for the upcoming show there, which is unique since it was written by the musician who would open for the Dead!
    A big fan, he calls them "the finest hard rock group in existence." He was well-informed about the Dead (he'd heard of Garcia's banjo skills, for instance - he was a banjo player himself) and had heard about a San Francisco show "a few weeks ago" where "they played continuously for four hours...in a show which left everyone agape for weeks, and for which nobody could find the words to describe."
    This was the 2/19/69 Celestial Synapse show, which was written up in a Rolling Stone article (the April 5 issue). The article isn't quite as breathtaken about the show, so he may have read about it elsewhere as well, or simply exaggerated.
    He certainly gives the impression of having seen the Dead before with his descriptions of their live power (he knows that Pigpen just plays a bit of harmonica now), but no telling when or where. He laments that their shows will never be captured on record; but Live/Dead had already been recorded, and it would come close.

    The Exponent called the upcoming show a "Boycott Benefit Dance," and the article says, "The proceeds will go to the support of the boycott, and there may be some discussion of the boycott before the concert starts."
    Students were boycotting the Memorial Union to protest the fee increases, and there had been rallies and demonstrations the previous few days. The April 16 Exponent reported, "Financial aid to the food lines will come Friday night from a dance featuring the Grateful Dead, a San Francisco acid-rock group.
    Sponsors of the dance, the Peace Union has said that profits above the cost expense of the band will go in part to purchase food for the lines next week. The remainder of the profits will be used to obtain a legal aid for students.
    Because of prior scheduling the dance will be from 7 p.m. to midnight in the Union Ballroom. Speakers have been asked to discuss the boycott issue."

    Attendee Jerry Eagan wrote a lengthy account of his experience at the Purdue show in Deadbase.

  3. Jon McIntire, one of the Dead's road managers, had grown up in the St. Louis area and graduated from Washington University. I don't know if he was at this show.
    When the police stopped the show mid-Caution, the Dead announced, "They're taking our road manager to jail if we play any more..."

    1. Some memories of the 4/17/69 show from Washington Magazine:

      'Bob Shelli emceed the Grateful Dead show. Shelli, who also helped band members with their equipment, recalls that the cowbell mounts on Mickey Hart’s drum kit had broken the previous day and needed repair. At first, he and Hart approached the music department to try borrowing some additional drums (timpani) for the show — a request that could not be granted on such short notice. Then, the two walked down to the architecture school, where Shelli asked a friend, John Reeve, if he could weld the set back together. Reeve did, and Hart was able to put down an outstanding performance in the Quad.
      At one point in the Grateful Dead’s long show, Bob Weir remarked on an ominous-looking sky, “This is what they call ’tornado weather.’” It started raining just as the band played “Morning Dew.”
      “A little rain came for a while but didn’t bother anyone,” says Jan Fitzgerald. “Everyone was so relaxed, and the show was just a big picnic.”
      The show went well into the night. Mark Edelman adds: “It probably had to do with the cloud cover or something, but it was so loud people were complaining about hearing it in Webster Groves. People called the chancellor to complain.” The concert was abruptly cut short when the police threatened to arrest the band’s road manager if they didn’t stop playing. After a moment of initial disappointment as the show came to a halt, the crowd regrouped with a thunderous burst of applause for the band’s exuberant performance.'