Sep 8, 2018

October 30, 1968: Jerry Garcia at the Matrix


The rock jam sessions at The Matrix on Fillmore Street, judging from a couple of hours there last night, are the most consistently interesting experimental music in town.
The Matrix a few years ago was the seed bed of what is now the astonishingly successful San Francisco sound.
The new music that guitarist Jerry Garcia and his friends were getting into last night may indicate history will repeat itself and The Matrix will be the home of a renaissance in the San Francisco rock musicians' attitudes.
Garcia, the prodigious instrumentalist and nominal leader of the Grateful Dead, is a spokesman for more freedom of expression and a far looser and expanded musical scene.
"Fate brought us together here tonight," he quipped, "so this is fate music."
"We're trying new things, feeding ideas to each other, using new instrumental blends, inviting guests to join us...we are enlarging our world."
The Grateful Dead is still alive, but Garcia doesn't believe in months on end of traveling, doing regular concerts, playing things safe.
"We may have a full Grateful Dead show some day," he said, "with girl singers, more complex rhythms. We may even enlarge the band."
Last night with two drummers, guest guitarist Elvin Bishop, and bassist Phil Lesh, Garcia was getting into more fascinating and enjoyable expressions than I run into in most of the more stereotyped rock and jazz clubs and concerts.
This electronic experimentation will never be commercially successful. It has long-line themes with continuous improvisation. Far closer to the jazz sessions of old than to the neatly processed pop-rock of today.
The Matrix is a relaxed musical workshop. It's a beer-wine place with neat decor, an inexpensive menu, a beautiful sound system, and some beautiful people, too. 

(by Philip Elwood, from the San Francisco Examiner, 31 October 1968)


  1. This is almost too remarkable to comment on, but a couple brief things:
    "Fate music!" The quote confirms that the 10/30 tape is accurately dated.
    Elwood doesn't mention Jack Casady being there. Not that Casady couldn't have arrived later on, but he doesn't play on the tape of 10/30, contrary to common belief.

    The unspoken context is that the Dead had said they would split up, but they didn't: "the Grateful Dead is still alive." Garcia's remarks here are ambiguous, though, as it sounds like he's tired of "regular concerts." (The "months on end of traveling" is a bit rich, though, since the Dead hadn't yet been out of the state longer than a month. But it's likely the fall '68 tour was already being booked.)
    What did he mean by "a full Grateful Dead show"? As Elwood quotes him, it's brief and vague. He was already thinking of enlarging the band (Constanten would join 3 weeks later), although a "girl singer" was still 3 years away. "More complex rhythms" were perhaps what the Hartbeats were trying to achieve.
    Although I don't believe the Hartbeats were used for Dead auditions (no way Bishop or Casady would ever join), they show what he had in mind: "trying new things...using new instrumental blends, inviting guests to join us..."
    But the Dead would soon retreat from the experimental ambition here, work on solidifying the material they had, and shift to a less complex, more song-focused approach. Meanwhile Garcia would continue to use the Matrix as his jamming outlet - but contrary to Elwood's hope, that didn't result in a rebirth of San Francisco music, just in the birth of a Garcia side-group.

    1. I think the "full Grateful Dead show" would have been the Dead plus the Pigpen revue mentioned by Christgau in the "NY Times" next July - "it was revealed that this was a breakup with a difference: two groups would result but the new one, to be called the Pigpen Revue, would tour with the Dead."

      It's good to have confirmation that it's Phil on bass. I wonder if there is any significance in him not identifying the drummers. Given that he identifies Phil and says Elvin is a guest why does he say "with two drummers" instead of "with THE two drummers" (implying Bill and Mickey) or "with two drummers, one of them a guest" or even name the drummers? It could mean neither Bill nor Mickey was there, but more likely he had a low opinion of drummers and didn't think them worthy of mention.

    2. FATE MUSIC - right.

      It's pretty incredible that this exists. Man.

      RoG, thanks for pointing out the Pigpen Revue idea. We have discussed Pigpen on the side in connection with the Fall '71 solo show that was advertised - it's at Lost Live Dead. I think we discussed the idea of a solo album, and that may connect to the Revue idea. The timing (1969) is right for "I'm A Loving Man" and all that. Of course it also sort of prefigures the "An Evening with the Grateful Dead" format. Again, interesting.

      LIA, I think you are right no Jack on 10/30. But he is present on 10/8, I think. Didn't you just do a post summarizing the Hartbeats tapes? I forgot that I had made a mental note to go through it.

    3. The Hartbeats tapes:

  2. The 19:12 Dark Star jam placed at then end of (some versions of) the 10/30/68 tape (after Prisoner of Love, Clementine jam, tuning) includes a second bass player whose round solid tone certainly sounds like Casady. If this piece belongs here, Casady showing up late in the game is certainly plausible, and reviewers going home (or back to the office) without hearing the whole show out is standard procedure. And whether or not this piece is correctly dated 10/30/68, it plainly belongs to the October 68 Matrix sessions.

    Notice that Phil answer's Jerry's "fate music" comment by riffing on the opening ("fate knocks") motif of Beethoven's 5th symphony. This 10/30/68 tape is amazing, with or without the second Dark Star.

    Check out Billy & Mickey's mind meld in the Other One jam (there is no doubt in the world that it's them).

    Notice that Phil teases Dark Star again at the end of the Lovelight jam, which seems to come at the end of a sequence that starts with the first Dark Star jam -- so plainly the idea of going back to it was in the air.

    The Dead pranked Chronicle pop music "critic" Joel Selvin one year at the Greek by having someone feed him a fake setlist for the second set after he split during the first -- which his "review" then erroneously quoted. But how can you have egg on your face when your face is egg?

    1. I have a contrary theory: the Clementine jam & Dark Star found at the end of the 10/30/68 tape are not actually from that date. They're the start of a different Hartbeats show, with Lesh on bass. (Casady doesn't play on any Dark Stars.)