Feb 20, 2018

December 26-27, 1967: Village Theater, NYC


NEW YORK - Disgruntled fans stayed through two acts in the unheated Village Theater for one of the uncommon Gotham appearance[s] of the Ungrateful Dead.
The Warner Brothers team were the standouts by far on a three-name bill which included the local NYC Take Five and mid-western femme soloist Peggy Emerson. Among the elements that put the crew across with the crowd were their creative visual impact as well as the excellent musicianship that has placed them in favor with a coast-to-coast following.
An interesting innovation for the group was use of double-drumming with new percussionist Mickey Hart joining the regular fivesome for extra drive. Looking good throughout their performance, the group was especially fine in "School Girl, Alligator," [sic] from their up-coming LP, "Caution" and "Cold Rain in the Snow."
Next stop on the Grateful Dead's itinerary is Detroit.

(from Cashbox, 6 January 1968)

Alas, no tape!

Thanks to Dave Davis.


  1. Great to find a review of the Dead's otherwise lost New York shows in December '67!

    It starts out like it'll be a negative review (disgruntled fans, the "Ungrateful Dead," no heat in the theater), but then the Dead turn out to be the standouts on the bill. Mickey's addition is noted with appreciation, and they're said to be excellent musicians who were "especially fine" at this show...and they even looked good with their "creative visual impact!" Since the Dead were never known for their visual impact, I'm guessing this was the light show...
    And we even get some songs from the set: Schoolgirl, Cold Rain & Snow, and Alligator>Caution (almost certainly performed as a medley, though split in the review). What's interesting is that the reviewer must have spoken to someone about the song titles - no one could possibly know otherwise that "Caution" was a song title, or that "Alligator" was going to be on their next record.

    The program for the show (linked) said that after Peggy Emerson's "tear songs," the Dead would play "in concert rendition of new numbers from records you'll be hearing in 1968." The Village Voice ad shouts, "Recorded on stage -- wild light show!" At first I thought this meant the Dead were to record these shows -- but no, per the program, actually only the opening band Take Five were recording their sets. The program even offers a coupon: "Good for $1.00 list price of record being cut at this theater by Take Five."
    It's maddening to know that this completely forgotten band was recording their show and the Dead weren't! (It doesn't appear that Take Five ever released a record, actually.)

    McNally wrote about the Village Theater shows: "The building was essentially a wreck, and snow actually came through a whole in the roof while they were playing. It was so ungodly cold that the drummers played in gloves and people built a bonfire on the floor in front of the stage." (p.234)
    There are a couple memories of these shows on setlists.net - everyone remembered Schoolgirl! (No one remembers a bonfire.) There were early & late shows each day, and they weren't well-attended: "I don't think there were 400 people present between the 2 shows." One person wrote in detail, "I attended part of the first set, being too young to stay out so late. There were about 50 or so people who attended, most of whom were standing around in an area at the front between the stage and the front seats. There was a first act, a young woman dressed in cowboy style (white boots) accompanied by an electric guitarist who picked away unimpassioned while she sang some folk songs...
    I can recall Good Morning Little School Girl...Beat it on down the line, Cold Rain and Snow...two other songs that I didn't recognize before I had to leave in the middle of an extended jam. Weir joked about that some snow was falling on them through the roof as they played at one point. It was really only an occasional flake."

    The Dead are said to be on their way to Detroit...is it possible? The Dead were long thought to have played in Boston on Dec. 29-30; however it appears that they actually played there on Dec 8-9 and may not have returned. On the other hand, I couldn't find any trace of a show in Detroit at that time either.

    1. Considering how few people attended these shows, it's funny that a couple witnesses got in for free. An attendee on deadlists, who was with a whole group of people who snuck in the theater (!) recalls, "I don't remember the set list, only that Pig did a bitchin' Schoolgirl, and at the end of the first show one of the band said if we wanted to stay for the late show we were welcome to, and another one (Weir?) said 'yeah we didn't sell any tickets for that one either.'"

  2. Philip Elwood wrote an article on the Fillmore East in the San Francisco Examiner in '68, mentioning its previous incarnation:
    "When Graham took over the Manhattan plant, it was the East Village Theater, a short-lived home of avant-garde concerts, poetry readings, theatricals, and protest meetings. I attended a Grateful Dead show last winter in the place prior to Graham's takeover. It was dirty, cold, poorly lit, and insufficiently powered."
    (from "Our Famed Fillmore Goes East - With a Difference," SF Examiner 10/27/68)

  3. I was there, also had to leave at end of first set to make the train back to Phila. (I was still in HS. I remember they did a lot of songs from the first album and ended the set with a sizzling Viola Lee Blues.

    1. Thank you Anon. I was there, too, a high schooler, and Viola Lee Blues was the standout of the night.

  4. I was there. An usher let us in the side door. I don’t remember much just that we weren’t sure who was who but the music and light show kicked ass.

    1. Same here. We offered the usher a joint and he let us. That all ended when Bill Graham took over the place soon after. He ran a tight ship which was why some locals used to curse him out when he introduced groups. Bill would always come back at them, cursing and defending himself. I only remember Jerry and Pig from this show but it started me on the lifetime road of fandom.