Feb 16, 2018

September 28, 1975: Golden Gate Park


LOS ANGELES - For one fine but fleeting afternoon it was the "Summer of Love" all over again as the Grateful Dead (Grateful Dead) and the Jefferson Starship (Grunt) joined forces in a free concert held in Golden Gate Park. A crowd in excess of 25,000 braved the chilly weather to gather in the long, narrow Linley Meadows area, hours before the designated starting time of 12 p.m.
The concert/event - billed as "Unity Fair '75" - was conceived as a benefit for a San Francisco organization called People's Ballroom. The group was instrumental in making all the proper arrangements for the concert, even before the prospective bands were contacted. People's Ballroom officials were hopeful that if this concert came to pass without major incident, future free concerts could be held on the more spacious Polo Field.
For the Dead and the Starship - who hadn't played on the same bill in five years - this concert was certainly more significant than a mere rehashing of past glories. For both bands it was an affirmation of their renewed strength, as evidenced by their current chart hits - the Dead's "Blues for Allah" and the Starship's "Red Octopus."
The show started right on time, as the Jefferson Starship opened with "Ride The Tiger." The group's enthusiasm was readily apparent as they gained momentum. Unfortunately, equipment failures soon set in, and it took about 30 minutes to rectify the problems.
Once back onstage, the Starship had no trouble rekindling the spark as they surged into "Play On Love," which featured Grace Slick in a familiar role - proselytizing for love and its free expression. This number was often reminiscent of the old Airplane days, when the band's stage manner was particularly strident. Guitarist Craig Chaquico continues to prove his worth by keeping the tasty licks flying.
A flash from the past was inevitable on this afternoon, and "White Rabbit" was it. Grace Slick, in a seemingly effortless performance, proved this tune has lost none of its eerie charm, even though its ambiguous message - "feed your head" - once seemed so controversial.
Marty Balin, who has re-emerged as a creative force in the Starship, joined Slick in a duet on "Sweeter Than Honey," and he was in rare form on this aggressive vocal. For an encore, the Starship chose an old favorite, "Volunteers," which was received warmly by the huddled masses.
The Grateful Dead have always been considered among the most popular American cult bands. They've sold a lot of records over the years, but have never been as hot as they are currently. Perhaps the "cult status" is now a thing of the past. On this afternoon, the Dead got a chance to show off their new musical accessibility.
Jerry Garcia and his chrome-plated guitar neck were the stars of the Dead's leisurely-paced set. The bright textures that characterize the band's overall sound were especially welcome in the open-air setting. Expressive lead figures conjured up by Garcia were the highlight of "The Music Never Stopped," which also featured Donna Godchaux in high vocal counterpoint.
The audience was quickly won over to this uncommonly engaging mellowness, which continued with "Beat It On Down The Line," "Franklin's Tower," and an extended version of "Truckin'."
"One More Saturday Night," a Chuck Berry-like rocker from Bob Weir's solo lp, "Ace," got the band into a groove that didn't want to let up - and one only wished that this concert didn't have to end. But it did, as all good things do.

(by Mike Harris, from Record World, 18 October 1975)

Thanks to Dave Davis.

See also: http://deadsources.blogspot.com/2012/12/september-28-1975-golden-gate-park.html


  1. Record World was a music-industry magazine that focused on record-label news, industry figures, tour info, charts, etc. from a business perspective, so this is a pretty square review, but still a good overview of the day.
    The same issue had a little review of the 'Music Never Stopped' single: "One of the more commercial sounding tunes from the 'Blues for Allah' album, the Dead have finally come up with a song that can be given serious AM consideration. Despite the title, programmers should find no trouble fitting this one in."
    The concert reviewer has kind of the same commercial slant on the Dead: they used to be a "cult" band but now they're getting more popular and have a "new musical accessibility." (Yes, the famously accessible chart hit 'Blues for Allah.') They even play hit singles in their shows! No mention that they're no longer touring...

    Starship manager Bill Thompson spoke a bit about putting together this short-notice show in a 12/20/75 Record World interview:
    "We had wanted to do a free concert before we left and we have some people in San Francisco known as the People's Ballroom - they usually put it together and then just pass the hat around to pay for all the labor and everything. It's groovy to do it that way. We were looking for an opening act on the show and a week beforehand somebody from the People's Ballroom called me and said, 'Who do you want to open?' I said, 'I don't know - maybe Jerry Garcia, maybe Kingfish, maybe the Sons of Champlin, somebody.' She called back and said, 'What would you think about the Grateful Dead?' I said, 'Incredible, but would they do it?' They hadn't played in such a long time. So Paul got in touch with Garcia. He wanted to do it, and so...we kept the publicity down very low, we tried not to mention them at all. The day before we just said Starship was going to do it with friends. And I still think we had 40 or 50 thousand people there. It was good. There's some talk of us playing dates with the Dead next summer, which we might do."

    The People's Ballroom put on a series of free shows in San Francisco (that was their main purpose) - I found it odd that this show is here called a "benefit," but they raised money by asking for donations. Some more info from one of the coordinators is here (in which Bill Thompson appears in a very different light):

    My own hiatus is over, and while I have time I'll try to post as much as possible.

  2. Yep. This was Sept. '75. I was there. Great day.

  3. It was a fine day, I was new in town and living the dream...