Jun 28, 2018

November 1970: Trouble Ahead

11/15/70 Washington Ave. Armory, Albany 


Albany, NY (AP) - An acid-rock concert turned sour Sunday evening for some 4,000 young people when a bomb scare forced them out into cold rainy streets and the featured performers disappeared before playing a note.
George Frieje of Zebra Enterprises, the local promoters of the concert, said The Grateful Dead, an eight-piece rock band, failed to return to the armory where the concert was being held after police searched for the bomb that a caller claimed was hidden in the building.
Frieje said the group had received a $10,000 guarantee before the show started. He said other performers kept the show going until 2 a.m. today but that the more than 4,000 people in the audience had paid $5 each to hear "The Dead" until 4 a.m.

(from the Troy Times-Record, 16 November 1970)


Sunday night was very strange. Jane, Bunny, and I arrived on time and ready to go. I remember that clearly, sitting down in those folding chairs in the monster Washington Avenue Armory.
Then, the clear image of a loud A.M. radio dj announcing EUCLID, a local group. They sent out loud sounds, and danced around on the stage, but sorry to say, it sounded to me like some stoned Hell's Angels doing a poor imitation of the DEAD and LED ZEPLIN. They carried a lot on volume but they were the local band, and visions of Rolling Stones successes danced in their heads. Their songs were indistinguishable from each other, and each took years to end. You kept thinking that they were finished and that you were that much closer to the DEAD, but they weren't and you weren't.
I spoke with the equipment man for the DEAD, and he promised to try and arrange an interview.
Then, finally, Pacific Gas and Electric. I'd seen them before, and I remember having a great time, but that's all I remembered. Same again. They were really tight, but no lasting impression. I do remember that they played "Are You Ready?"
Then someone walked to the mike and said, "We're having electrical problems and we have to clear the area. No reason for panic, just evacuate. Come back in an hour, and you won't need tickets."
I immediately knew it was a bomb scare. A lot of people proceeded to call impoverished friends to tell them it was a free concert.
When we returned, I again spoke with the DEAD's equipment man:
"The DEAD split for New York."
"Aren't they gonna play?"
"Not with all this shit going on. I watched them carry out the equipment."
It was midnight. On came Buddy Miles. No announcement yet.
I was waiting around, wondering how the crowd would react. At this point, I knew that they didn't know. Miles asked the audience to get ready to go through big changes. "Here it comes," I thought. No, he played "Changes."
As for his performance, what can I say? You were there or you weren't. Very simply, Buddy Miles spaced me right out the window. He was fantastic.
If anybody could tell the crowd about the DEAD, he could. He had them on their feet, blindly following every sound.
Finally he told them, and did a few more numbers. Then the lights went on and it was over. A lot of people felt that Buddy Miles alone was worth the five dollars. A lot of people still wanted to hear the DEAD, but felt powerless and left. A few hundred stayed on to shout at the state, "We want the DEAD" over and over. They also broke chairs.
Busting chairs, like calling in bomb threats, is pretty silly and kind of sick; but I would suggest that anyone who felt that they didn't get what they paid for should write, call, demand money, demand the DEAD, boycott Zebra concerts, organize. Zebra productions isn't about to leave town - they have too many more concerts. If enough people are mad, they'll have to act.
I decided to make the most of things for the moment, and Bunny, Koz, and I left the concert, skipping into the rain, stoned on Buddy Miles.

(by Jeff Burger, from the Albany Student Press, 17 November 1970)

See also:

* * *

11/20/70 Palestra, University of Rochester


Twenty-three young men arrested outside a rock concert at the University of Rochester Palestra late Friday and early Saturday were released without bail to their parents yesterday by City Court Judge Wilmer Patlow.
The father of one youth put up $25 bail, but Judge Patlow later returned it, saying he wanted to treat all 23 the same.
The 23 are alleged gate crashers who tried to sneak into the Palestra to hear a concert by a rock group, the "Grateful Dead." A UR spokesman said none of the 23 was a UR student.
The arrests [were] made in groups by UR security police between 9 p.m. Friday, when the concert began, and 3:30 a.m. yesterday, when it ended. They were turned over to city police after UR police signed complaints against them.
Charges ranged from loitering, criminal trespass and lewdness to possession of dangerous drugs and possession of a stolen credit card...
[omitted names & addresses]

(from the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, 22 November 1970)

* * *

11/21/70 Sargent Gym, Boston University


Several thousand young persons massed at the BU Bridge and on Commonwealth Avenue last night, many of them disgruntled at their failure to "crash" a concert at Boston University's Sargent Gymnasium by The Grateful Dead, a rock group.
The crowd dispersed after 36 patrol cars were dispatched to the scene. Five persons were arrested, two were reported injured.
Several thousand had gathered outside the gymnasium despite the fact that its 2200 seats had been sold out almost two weeks ago.
Those arrested and their charges are as follows:

[names & addresses omitted]
...attempting to rescue a prisoner and inciting to riot;
...possession of marijuana and assault and battery on a policeman;
...disorderly person;
...disorderly person and possession of marijuana;
...disorderly person.

Many in the crowd had attempted to get to the concert earlier with counterfeit tickets.
The crowd on the BU Bridge dispersed within minutes of the call for reinforcements from the detail of 15 policemen near the concert site.

(from the Boston Globe, 22 November 1970) 


BOSTON (UPI) - Thousands of persons who came to Boston University Saturday night to attend a rock concert became unruly when they couldn't get in because someone had sold counterfeit tickets.
With so many tickets - real and bogus - sold, the Sargent Gymnasium soon filled to capacity, the overflow backing up along the street outside.
Police said the problem was created by the phony tickets to the concert given by a rock group known as the Grateful Dead.
Those who couldn't get in became irate and allegedly manhandled the security guards. One guard was injured but it was not immediately determined if that was brought on by the ruckus or by an unrelated incident.
Several thousand students massed along Commonwealth Avenue which runs in front of BU, creating a huge traffic jam. City police were called in to help unsnarl the mess and about 50 members of the Boston Police Tactical Squad were nearby in a parking lot.
However, when the situation eased the police left.

(from the Lowell Sun (MA), 22 November 1970) 

The Hartford Courant (CT) reported:

... Police said some members of the overflow crowd, disgruntled at having purchased bogus tickets, finally charged the door, injuring the gatekeeper.
A policeman on duty arrested two persons. When he took them to a police box, about 100 shouting youths followed.
The policeman summoned reinforcements, and the crowd dispersed when two dozen squad cars arrived.
The crowd caused a traffic tieup for hours on busy Commonwealth Avenue...

("Melee Started by Rock Fans in Ticket Fraud," 23 November 1970) 

See also:


  1. McNally writes of the November 15 no-show:
    "A local underground paper...asserted that the Dead 'walked out of the Washington Avenue Armory Sunday night with $7,500 cash in their pockets without ever appearing onstage.' The reporter's only basis for this notion was that Cutler had carried a satchel when he left. The local promoter, George Freije, had booked the Dead at the last second after Bonnie and Delaney had canceled... When a bomb threat cleared the hall, the band left. Twenty years later, the same reporter concluded that the threat was in fact an excuse for the promoter to end the show early, and since the Dead never saw any money, their departure was in order." (p.382)
    (The article cited was Donald Wilcock's "Ungrateful Dead Rip Off Tri-Cities" from the 11/19/70 Lotus-Nexus.)

    One friend of the promoter's claimed that the Dead's "manager called in the bomb threat" since "they were so hammered they could not perform," and that the promoter was deeply let down and offered refunds; but this of course has not been confirmed.
    Other witnesses:
    "Saw dead hanging around. Then, bomb threat. Let back in. Buddy Miles announces the Dead are gone during his set. Very strange!"
    "I remember the extraordinary show Miles put on before giving us the bad news. The crowd DID go wild before evacuating the building, throwing chairs, screaming and hollering and in general trashing the place. The scene was like a riot with people being all squeezed in. I had all I could do to get out of there with my life...lost my shoes. Buddy Miles outdid himself that night but naturally, the Ded-Heds were disappointed...and mad."
    "By the time Buddy informed the crowd that the Grateful Dead had "split" the show had been in progress for about four hours already. If the Dead had taken the stage at that point it would indeed have turned into a marathon show. And yes, there was disappointment at their decision to 'split.'"

    I don't have other news reports of the Rochester show, but this piece illustrated the gate-crashing problems that followed the Dead, along with the usual newspaper focus on police arrests. The show was already sold-out.

    The Boston show was a more significant problem, with "thousands" of people trying to crash in. Other reports describe the scene inside the gym:
    During the New Riders' set, "the fire doors at the back of the stage were forced open by a crowd of ticketless Dead seekers who had broken past the police outside to get into the gym; they sprinted into the audience to get away from the guards at the doors. Police grappled with the gate-crashers; the atmosphere of a street fight shot through the area near the stage; finally the police got the door closed."
    "Sargent Gym was cold and tense as gate-crashers triggered the police to drag some of the deadheads out the door by their arms and hair. They screamed in protest as the cops moved in... Tickets were $3.50, and some had been counterfeited, delaying the start of the concert and adding to the tension."

    It's a little puzzling why, having built up a Boston following at the Tea Party over the course of nine shows in 1969, the only show the Dead played in Boston in 1970 was in a university gym. (The Tea Party was still open.) In following years, they would play two or three-night runs at the Music Hall, or single shows at the larger Garden.

    1. Strange as it may seem today, bomb threats were quite common at concerts and universities at the time (as well as other places). Other Dead concerts were temporarily halted by called-in bomb threats, and many people used the opportunity to get in free when the audience was let back in (as the Albany reviewer notes here). The SUNYA campus paper that ran the article held notices of several bomb scares on campus just that week! But people took the interruptions in stride.

      By the way, although the main Rochester city newspaper had no interest in the Dead's show other than the arrests there, it's possible there may have been a review of the show in the University of Rochester student paper, the Campus Times. Student newspapers are almost always the best sources in reporting on shows.

  2. The Albany aftermath:

    George J Freije and others comprising the New Concert Associates Inc., have instituted a $20,000 damage suit against the rock group, The Grateful Dead, in Supreme Court for Albany County.
    The action charges that members of The Grateful Dead left the Washington Avenue Armory last Nov. 15 with a $10,000 cash advance without performing after a hoax bomb scare developed.
    Sanford Soffer, Albany attorney for New Concert Associates Inc., which sponsored the concert, confirmed that members of the rock group were served papers relating to the lawsuit by Bronx deputy sheriffs while they were performing a concert there.
    It was also noted that The Bronx deputy sheriffs had also attached some of the paychecks of the performers. The attachment service was made at a rock concert in Gaelic Park in The Bronx about two weeks ago.
    Mr. Freije said since the performance he has been "paying back" the thousands of fans who paid in advance to see The Grateful Dead perform. He is also suing for reputation damage.
    The Washington Avenue show got under way with an appearance by Buddy Miles and by Pacific Gas and Electric appearing on schedule. A bomb scare call at 10 p.m. led to the place being emptied by police order. There was no bomb. A second scare came later and again the place was emptied.
    The Grateful Dead then took off, Mr. Freije said.
    (from the Troy Times Record (NY), 9/22/71)

    Armed with a Supreme Court order of attachment dated Aug. 26, and with the aid of New York City and Bronx County sheriffs' offices, New Concept Associates, formerly Zebra Enterprises...attached $107,620 in proceeds from a New York City concert featuring The Grateful Dead...
    The concert was held at Gaelic Park in Manhattan and featured the rock group that allegedly walked out of a Washington Avenue Armory concert last Nov. 15.
    Freije said The Grateful Dead were paid $7,500 in cash by Zebra Enterprises before the group left the armory without performing...
    A bomb scare was received causing an evacuation of the armory. The bomb threat proved false and, according to Freije, The Grateful Dead left the scene.
    Freije added that individual members of the rock group were also served summonses returnable in Albany Supreme Court.
    In addition, attachments were served on International Famous Agency, the agency for the group, the Gaelic Park box office, Ticketron, and Howard Stein, the promoter for the New York City engagement...
    The total amount of the attachment includes a suit brought by Freije for damage to his reputation amounting to $100,000.
    (from the Troy Times Record, 9/25/71)

    I was not able to find the outcome of the suit.