Feb 28, 2018

March 17, 1970: Kleinhans Music Hall, Buffalo, NY


For many years there was a strong debate as to the musical veracity of rock music. Now with the rockophile's mind overflowing with the rhythm and texture of such groups as The Mothers of Invention, Capt. Beefheart and his Magic Band, etc., the debate is decidedly over.
Rock is solid, musically and intellectually.
Standing in a paramount position among the vast pantheon of rock gods and goddesses is one group. An American group whose musical virtuosity and tenacity has won them respect and fame.
The group calls itself The Grateful Dead. Their musical capabilities extend from highly progressive, and aggressive, rock to Cageian electronics.
Music is a way of life for many and when an occasion arises when two forms come together and form one "new" musical entity, a certain amount of apprehension fills the air of the music community.
"The Grateful Dead with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, Oh, Wow!!!"
Why not? But it's true The Grateful Dead will scamper across the breadth of the United States to meet with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of Lukas Foss and do what comes natural to most musicians - jam.
Tuesday, March 17 at Kleinhans Music Hall, a musical marathon shall commence. First on the evening's agenda will be the Buffalo Philharmonic under Lukas Foss doing the music of John Cage.
Next, onto the stage will step The Grateful Dead. They, too, will do an entire set.
Finally, the merging of two musical forms, the Dead and the Philharmonic in an old-time jam session. Also on the program will be a new concept in light shows. Laser beams!
They shoot conductors, don't they?

(by Joe Fernbacher, from the Spectrum, University at Buffalo, 13 March 1970)

* * *


The Grateful Dead, a rock group from the West Coast, will appear with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra on the Marathon concert from 7 pm. to 11 p.m. Tuesday in Kleinhans Music Hall.
The group will replace two rock groups that had been scheduled originally - The Byrds and Raven.

It is the first appearance here by the Dead. Members of the rock group are Jerry Garcia, lead guitar; Phil Lesh, bass guitar; Bob Weir, rhythm guitar; Mike Constanten, piano and organ; Billy Kreutzman and Mickey Hart, drums; and Pigpen, conga drums.
The group with the "San Francisco Sound" has recently released a live double album, "Live Dead." The group's songs include "Dark Star" and "St. Stephen."
The Marathon program will begin with Lukas Foss and the Grateful Dead performing "Non-Improvisation," a Bach Destruction with the music of Bach played against and within a wall of rock sound.

The Grateful Dead will perform two 45-minute sets - before and after Foss's "Geod," scheduled at 8:30 p.m.
John Cage's Variations III and IV will be played simultaneously, possibly involving the Grateful Dead along with the symphony orchestra.
Rock band and symphony orchestra will conclude the program with a confrontation beginning at 10:15 p.m.
The program will benefit the orchestra. Tickets are $4.50.

(from the Buffalo Courier Express, March 14 1970)

* * *


The Grateful Dead, hard rock’s national headliners in festivals and top-selling albums, will join the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and Lukas Foss in the Philharmonic Rock Marathon, this evening at 7 in Kleinhans Music Hall.
The Road, area rock group, also will appear.
Confirmation of the Grateful Dead followed an earlier cancellation of The Byrds. “The Dead” are accepting expenses but waiving their usual huge fee, to help the Philharmonic benefit and for the “privilege and delight,” as they put it, “of working with Lukas Foss.”
It will be a four-hour concert in six parts, any one of them a major event. The whole program, in fact, is history-making as the first fully-shared concert by a rock group and symphony orchestra.
Also, a far-out light-show outfit from Michigan called Sonovision is bringing in about $4000 worth of equipment including a laser beam and prism, for the latest thing in lighting effects on the music hall walls.

The program will open with conductor Foss as guest pianist with the Grateful Dead in a non-improvisation – pianist Foss playing the Bach Concerto in F Minor and the rock artists surrounding him with a rhythmic and electronic counterpoint.
At 7:30 PM “The Dead” will orbit on their own - two drummers, organ, guitars, trumpet, congas - for an hour of their album settings in whatever version inspires them at the time.
At 8:30 PM Mr. Foss and a battery of sub-conductors will lead the orchestra in the American premiere of the Foss “Geod,” complete with laser show.
At 9 PM “The Dead” will take over again. At 9:40 PM Mr. Foss will conduct Variations II and III by avant-gardist John Cage.
Then, 10:15 PM to closing, the Philharmonic and “The Dead” will jam in a musical challenge session. This part of it isn’t exactly clear at the moment, but both groups will be playing, perhaps with some kind of underlying principle in mind.
Unreserved seats throughout the house at $4.50 (there was a previous quotation of $3.50 but that was before the present setup) are available in the Philharmonic box office in the music hall, Buffalo Festival ticket office in the Statler Hilton Lobby, Denton, Cottier & Daniels, and Norton Hall, UB Campus.

(from the Buffalo Evening News, 17 March 1970)

* * *


The exact moment the Grateful Dead got their sound together physically sent a sublime shock through Kleinhans Music Hall Tuesday evening.
The shock had a positive impact. It was a happy realization by both the audience and the Dead that the first few amorphous moments of sound-searching had suddenly found a vehicle to ride to inventive heights.
From this metamorphic instance in the Philharmonic Rock Marathon, conceived by Lukas Foss, one could feel the extraordinary rapport between the Dead’s rock and the orchestral prose, and also between both of these and the highly responsive young audience.

For 2200 in Kleinhans Music Hall, the Dead offered some of their best material in their set's limited time. After each member analyzed what his fellow Dead were feeling this particular night, the creative improvisation began.
The Dead uses two drummers, Mickey Hart and Billy Kruetzman, to form a “figure 8” of sound around the guitars and organ. This duo broke from the set rhythm of “Dark Star” into a ping-pong drumming contest, adding a new beat with each volley.
They closed the match with a duet synchronizing move for move. Lynn Harbold, Philharmonic percussionist, joined in this number on Hart’s drums doing a fine job.
Jerry Garcia's lead guitar had some really sharp and sweet phrases. He is very contented looking and you’re sure he just has to have dimples under his bushy beard and smile.
Another exciting team is Phil Lesh's bass and Bob Weir's rhythm guitar. Like a scholar reading his notes, Lesh in wire-rimmed glasses sets down perspicacious bass lines. Weir is constantly moving, with flourishes interweaving around the bass and lead guitars.
Pigpen, the Dead’s organist, brought the clapping crowd to its feet with his “Love Night.” He is the individualistic loner in denim jacket and cowboy hat.

The Road, a group from Buffalo, performed in another section of the marathon. Lead singer Nick DiStephano has a good voice with the rest of the group harmonizing closely in Feelin’ Allright, What a Breakdown, and Delta Lady.
As conductor Foss played his Bach non-improvisation, the Road came in around him with their wall of sound, providing a bit too much rhythm and shout and not enough free-form experimentation.
The Grateful Dead worked their wave of music more adeptly around this free-form style with a lot more adroit ramifications.

At the end of the program, the Dead showed more experience when two conductors standing back to back divided the orchestra for a battle. On one half stood Jan Williams with the Road and on the other Lukas Foss and the Grateful Dead.
The closing rock-Philharmonic challenge is the most exciting new concept of contemporary music. As the groups and orchestras jammed, the atmosphere was intensified with a laser-beam light show. Rapid patterns and curves of pure light chased along the walls in time with the music like frantic balls of yarn. During this experimental work, a really exciting thing happened – a rock audience finally listening to a symphony group on its own terms suddenly took the initiative and began making music themselves by imitating the instruments and calls of the musicians.
As an evening of rock and symphony avant-garde it was not only entertaining and often exciting, but carved new territory for players and listeners in both styles.

(by James Brennan, from the Buffalo Evening News, 18 March 1970)

* * *


The marathon concert which brought together the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and two rock bands – the Grateful Dead and the Road – was a strange imbalance of ecstasy and cool. The program Tuesday night in Kleinhans Music Hall drew a good house – about 2,300 – for a benefit of the orchestra.
People came to hear the Grateful Dead, and indeed, when that group got warmed up it seemed the audience would not be content with anything less than having the Dead finish the concert by themselves.
Speaker fuzziness spoiled the first vocal number, but after the sound system was improved the group went through several numbers with good effect, including a long performance in which the beat had most of the audience clapping and, as space permitted, dancing.
The soundscape of the Grateful Dead is an interesting blend of organ, percussion (drums and resonant gongs) and guitars. Two firecrackers were set off on stage, increasing the excitement. During one number, Philharmonic percussionist Lynn Harbold sat in with the Dead on drums.

Following intermission Foss led a performance of his “Geod” for orchestra. This entailed the use of four additional conductors, and laser-beam light projections created by Sonovision.
If Foss couldn’t give the rock audience the music it wanted, he could try to pass with a light show. But even the light show was soon pale once the few effects had been comprehended.
The idea behind the laser-beams is that they are realizations in color and design of the music sounds. The four colors are green, blue, yellow and red. Starting from a point of color, a design blossoms in nervous lines that squiggle and dart over walls and ceiling.
The play of lines made the light show something of an animated game. But soon the agitated patterns were not very interesting. (Circular forms, used during the final part of the program, were quite beautiful to see.)
The music of “Geod” requires five conductors to give cues to play audibly and inaudibly. Most of the music is very quiet, familiar tunes played against a soft curtain of sustained tones, with snippets of wind phrases for gentle agitation. “Taps,” “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” “Going Home” and a very slow “Merrily We Go Along” were some tunes heard.
Sounds included gentle singing from the orchestra, organ, harmonica, accordion and mandolin. The audience joined in clapping at one point, and by the end of the performance was making knocking, popping mouth sounds that seemed to fit quite well.

The program ended with an attempt to merge symphony orchestra and rock bands in an improvised jam. It didn’t work very well. Jan Williams and Foss issued spoken directions (“Attention: Attack...Gliss downward...Vibrato”) which made the performance rather unspontaneous. Only when a rock band came alive did the jam work.
The program began with Foss at the piano, playing Bach in the “Non-Improvisation” with three groups – The Road, members of the orchestra, and the Dead. Road played a set, and then there was a piece by John Cage, which included a lecture by Cage from loud speakers and live performers strolling through the concert hall.

(by Thomas Putnam, from the Buffalo Courier Express, 18 March 1970)

Alas, no tape! 

Thanks to Dave Davis and Jay Gerland:

See also: http://deadessays.blogspot.com/2010/04/buffalo-31770.html  


  1. Though most of these articles have also been posted on the Dead Blog site, I'm also including them here in the interests of completeness and duplication of sources. I combined several accounts of the show in the old GD Guide post reconstructing the show, which also has more memories in the comments.
    Although the audience memories have many elements left out of the newspaper reports, these reviews also include more specific detailed descriptions of the night's events, so we need all of them to fill out our knowledge of this remarkable lost show. With no recording, we're lucky to have an hour-by-hour account from many witnesses.

    The Spectrum (the student newspaper of the University at Buffalo) does not seem to have reviewed the show, unfortunately.
    The show was a benefit for the Philharmonic Orchestra - the Spectrum reported on 4/8/70, "The proceeds for this concert served directly to benefit the Philharmonic in its annual maintenance fund drive."

    There is some confusion over how many sets the Dead played - the advance announcements state that they will play two sets, but it appears the other band, the Road, joined the program unannounced and played a set of their own, cutting the Dead down to one set. (The audience was not happy about this: "they were terrible.")
    But some attendees recall there being two Dead sets, one after the big jam with the orchestra: "The Dead did another set... They sent word that they were too tired for an encore, and everybody got up to go... The Yellow Brick Road offered to play another set, but no one wanted them to."
    Another witness clarifies, "The Dead wanted to play a second set and started to but it went past 11:00PM so the union electricians cut the power to the stage and brought the house lights up. Angry response from the crowd. Jerry may have said they 'were too tired to play more' to calm things down."

    One thing not mentioned in the papers is that during the "battle of the bands," members of the audience joined in - dead.net attendees recall:
    "I was on stage at the end of that extended jam session playing some percussion with a bunch of other folks from the crowd!"
    "My dad was at this show and during the extended jam at the end he was on stage and got to take the drums for a few minutes."
    (This is along with the audience "making music themselves by imitating the instruments and calls of the musicians," clapping along and "making knocking, popping mouth sounds," as the newspapers relate.) One witness says, "I also remember Pigpen playing this huge set of gongs and other percussion during the jam with the Philharmonic."

    Another interesting detail omitted from these articles: "The Dead played on top of a lift platform, which rose when they played and dropped when the symphony played."
    "Kleinhans had a motorized orchestra pit that could lift up flush with the stage. The Dead were down in the pit when they started their set in the dark with a very slow and loose Dark Star. They segued into St. Stephen after rising up to stage level."
    "The stage is a hydraulic platform that was down and all you could see was a few red lights from the amps... They started with "Feedback" before the stage slowly rose out of the ground with the band on it running right into the next song."

  2. A 9/28/70 article in the Spectrum complaining about the anemic music scene in Buffalo had a paragraph on this show:

    "The Grateful Dead appeared with Lukas Foss and the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra. The music could only be described in one word - Bizarre. The Dead played a set which included such numbers as "Saint Stephen", "Dark Star", and the Pig Pen Fan Club favorite "Lovelights". The Philharmonic even let its hair down playing a piece by John Cage and a Foss piece called "Geod" which showed the versatility and imagination of the composers as well as that of the musicians. Then after all this, The Dead combined with the Philharmonic in a sort of battle of the bands type of thing that was unmatched by anything else that I've ever seen in the Buffalo area, and this was all made possible through a ticket price of only four dollars."

  3. I didn't take the time to see if you reported this, but Les Kippel, in Relix 3, 1 (January-February 1976), reported that this event was recorded on a 68 track machine. The publication date was not 4/1, so I don't quite know what to make of this, but there you have it.

    1. Les Kippel's full report:
      "I heard a story about one of those legendary Dead concerts the other night. It seems that this concert was with the Buffalo Philharmonic. The band played Dark Star, Saint Stephen, and Good Loven [sic] with them. Mickey took over the drums, gongs, etc of the orchestra while their man took over his drum set. The concert was in front of 3000 people, none of whom knew who the Grateful Dead were. From what I understand, it was quite something to see and hear. Imagine 40 violins during Dark Star. For the tape freak--YES, it was recorded....on a 68 track machine."

      This was a secondhand report, and somewhat garbled... I'd bet that everyone in the audience knew who the Dead were, and had come for that reason. And the orchestra did not play during Dark Star (or any of the Dead's songs), the rock/orchestra jam was in a separate set. And the 68-track machine was somebody's joke!
      The drummer exchange did happen, though - from other reports:
      "Lynn Harbold, Philharmonic percussionist, joined in [Dark Star] on Hart's drums, doing a fine job."
      "I remember clearly a Philharmonic drummer sitting in with Billy, while Mickey played various percussion instruments around the stage."