Oct 23, 2017

July 4, 1969: Kinetic Playground, Chicago


WOW. What a terrible day! It was a hot humid Fourth of July, with too much traffic. I was tired and my hair was dirty. Worst of all, I was just beginning to realize that my boyfriend wouldn't be back in town for another month and a half.
Why did it have to be the day when both The Buddy Miles Express and The Grateful Dead were at the Kinetic Playground? I didn't want to go sit on the Playground's sticky floor, I wanted to go home and take a shower. I was in a pretty bad mood when I got there.
More trouble. I had a hard time getting in. The Coke I had was too sweet. I was sick of seeing the same slides and movies on the walls.
But I really like Buddy Miles, and he almost canceled out the resentment I was feeling - almost. He does the best things alone, singing and playing with his drums, with just a little accompaniment from the rest of the group. However, more than half of the set was spent with the five-man brass section overwhelming Buddy's voice. I'm not sure if this was the fault of the Playground's P.A. system or the group itself. Probably some of both. 
Robb Baker, who wrote about Buddy's very poor reception at the Fillmore in New York two weeks ago, would have been happy about the response he got at the Playground. By the end of his set, the whole audience was on its feet, shouting and clapping, as Buddy cried, "Is it good for one more time?"
Several of the songs were from his recent album Electric Church, such as Otis Redding's "Cigarettes and Coffee" and "Wrap It Up." Live performance is always better, but at least on the album the brass section doesn't drown Buddy's voice out.
I was expecting a lot from The Grateful Dead, so naturally I was disappointed. Aside from liking their music, I was fond of them for being one of the few rock groups to make a habit of giving free concerts. They also have the reputation of having an excellent stage presence.
But the performance was nothing out of the ordinary. And while the music itself was excellent - somehow they have found a way to bring more country into their music without losing any of the old blues - it would have taken something more to get me out of myself that night.

(by Sally Simpson, from the Chicago Tribune, 8 July 1969)

Thanks to Dave Davis. 



  1. Sally Simpson was the reviewer for the Tribune's "The Sound: Music and Radio for Young Listeners" column in the summer of '69 - she was 17 years old. (Fellow columnist Robb Baker seems to have been pretty young as well.) I think the Tribune was one of the papers at the time that decided to have teens write a column on rock music "for young listeners" - perhaps reaching out to younger readers, or perhaps the adult columnists didn't want to do it!
    Anyway, she was a good reviewer - she generally offered appreciative & astute analysis of the bands she saw, though in the next column after this, 7/10/69, she lambasted the mediocre "pseudo-primitive" Iron Butterfly - but this isn't one of her better examples. The review is as much about her bad mood that day as about the show. (It wasn't uncommon for younger reviewers to give more of a personal feelings-oriented slant to their reviews, though you don't see that much in the mainstream papers like the Tribune.)
    In any case, she hadn't seen the Dead before - she talks about their "reputation" more than their actual presence - and they didn't do much for her. She was more impressed by opener Buddy Miles (as Baker had been). As she notes, this show was full of country tunes, as well as some of "the old blues," and was pretty average for '69 - the next night had more jamming, and who knows, maybe if she'd gone that night she would have had a different impression.

    I assume Sally Simpson was her real name, but given the Who had performed "Tommy" at the Kinetic Playground a month earlier, I imagine her as a Who fan...

  2. Loving this '69 material, and then ... Sally Simpson!