Feb 24, 2018

January 10, 1970: Community Concourse, San Diego


The Greatful Dead, heroes of countless tales from the underground, players of many free gigs all over the country, and the best goddamn rocknroll band in the land, is coming to good ole San Diego by the sea. They will be playing a concert at the Community Concourse, January 10th. The Dead probably has the most devoted following of any of the bands that have been around for a time. When the Dead are in town, all the freaks suddenly appear out of nowhere to dance and laugh and enjoy the good long sets. Of all the bands in San Francisco that started out so promising before succumbing to the tasteless type of the mass media, only the Greatful Dead has remained to remind us of what Free music is all about. They are the band that cut a couple records only because they were badly in debt from playing free gigs and helping others out.
The list of events that they have participated in is endless: the Trips Festival, the 67 Peace March, Monterey, People's Park benefits, outside San Quentin walls while the abortive strike was going on, the Great Be-In, inside the Fillmore for bail money for Street Fighters, outside the building of Columbia University when it was occupied by our brothers, inside the Family Dog to help Chet Helms try and salvage something from the remains of the hip community in San Francisco, in parks in San Francisco, New York, Denver, and other cities. These are a few of the more memorable happenings that come to mind.
They tried to start a dance hall for the People that didn't have the bread to get into Graham's Place. They were in on most of what has been going down in San Francisco for the past five years or so. Their house has been the scene of innumerable parties and at times the hub for many of the musicians in the bay area. They are coming here just after the release of their latest record. Live Dead (Warner Bros.) is a two-record set that captures the intensity and feeling of their music. As on their previous album, Aoxomoxoa, Owsley is one of the consulting engineers.
Jerry Garcia is perhaps the most underrated guitarist playing today. He is ignored by all those 'hip' rock critics that seem to abound everywhere; the same guys that tell us what rock music is all [about].
The two percussionists, Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann, are rarely mentioned but their sense of timing puts many prominent rock drummers to shame. Phil Lesh and Bob Weir compliment Garcia to make a formidable threesome on guitars. Tom Constanten is on keyboard and of course Pigpen is there on organ and congas. I suggest that you stick a speaker in each ear and sit back and enjoy a couple hours with Live Dead. The concourse is not the best place to listen to music, especially the Dead, but until we can support a place where we can listen and dance to music, it will have to suffice. Try to scrape the bread together and go hear the Grateful Dead; you won't be sorry.

(from the San Diego Street Journal, 2 January 1970)


Rock music from San Francisco has grown less important in recent months as many of the good bands have fallen apart and acid rock, the music form peculiarly San Francisco's since 1965, has faded away.
The Grateful Dead, who are generally credited with being the first of the city's popular underground bands, have, however, played it smart and explored other musical territories.
Saturday night in concert at the Convention Hall, the Dead proved themselves a spunky cowboy band instead of specialists in acid rock. The group image has changed. Everybody has shorter hair and wears a lot of woodsy, Marlboro-looking costumes. They have that same sort of free-for-all atmosphere on stage as always and the new music goes down very well indeed.

The Dead appeared about 11 p.m. and the set did not break up until almost 12:30 a.m. One of the first things we heard was an old country song, "I Know You're Gonna Miss Me When I'm Gone," delivered with lots of down home plunkety-plunk. Throughout the set there were songs about bandits and card games, Santa Fe and West Texas County and holdups. "Drive That Train" and "Don't Murder Me" were especially fun.
But the Dead saved the best for last - Ron (Pig Pen) McKernan's "Lovelight." The tune [has] been a part of the Dead repertoire for almost as long as they have been alive, but it comes out differently at each performance, lasting anywhere from two minutes to two hours.
Saturday night's "Lovelight" ran for about 45 minutes. McKernan, who usually plays conga drums and harp with the Dead, built things up and let them fall and did it all over again and again singing "Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine." The set broke up joyfully with the audience clapping and dancing and stomping.

The Sons of Champlin, who preceded the Dead, tried the same sort of audience participation, but didn't do it nearly so well. The Sons' problem of the evening seemed to be deciding whether or not to play. The band took 30 minutes to arrange equipment on stage and spent another 30 minutes clunking about through fragmentary repertoire before getting into anything solid. Once, the whole set dissolved while the lead guitarist went over to play the piano, which he then decided didn't work. He tried the organ instead. That did work, in fact it worked very well through the rest of the set. The band sailed with him at the keyboard.
Before the Sons we heard Aum: A guitarist and vocalist who breathes mothy sighs into the mike while a drummer and bass player make powdery noises that sometimes go rough and angry. The vocalist screams then - but not very well.

(by Carol Olten, from the San Diego Union, 12 January 1970)

Thanks to Dave Davis.


1 comment:

  1. The Street Journal was a radical underground paper, and the article here gives an idea of how lots of young people perceived the Dead in 1970. The writer is familiar with many of the Dead's activities over the past few years (though he exaggerates their devotion to free music). They were considered the People's band, participating in righteous causes, preserving the ideals of the '60s, even going in debt to help others out: "only the Greatful Dead has remained to remind us of what Free music is all about." They are, in short, presented as legendary heroes of the underground, as well as being "the best goddamn rocknroll band in the land."
    (Although, given that this was written in January '70, he quietly omits Altamont from their list of accomplishments!)

    The mainstream Union reporter is not quite so dazzled, and sees the Dead more on strictly musical grounds. She seems relieved that acid rock has "faded away" and the Dead have turned into a cowboy band, playing pleasant fun country-style tunes like "Driving That Train" and "Don't Murder Me."
    She must have seen them before - she notes that they dress differently now, but the "free-for-all atmosphere on stage" remains the same, and she's apparently heard them do Lovelight before.
    She says Lovelight was 45 minutes - though the Dead could do such epic versions sometimes, this one only runs about 25 minutes on tape; but even 45 minutes of Lovelight wouldn't be enough for the joyful audience "clapping and dancing and stomping." Like other reviewers, she notices how much better Pigpen is than other singers at stirring up the audience.