Jan 25, 2019

December 13-14, 1968: The Bank, Torrance CA


The Grateful Dead, one of the original components of the San Francisco sound, journeyed south to the Bank in Torrance over the weekend for what amounted to a progress report on the development of their music.
Unlike other bands of the same era, the Dead's music has survived the pressures of commercial success and popularization.
While other groups were rapidly releasing albums in an attempt to capitalize on a moment, the Dead waited over a year to release their second record, hoping that it would be a further exploration of a territory they were only beginning to discover. The result was nearly fatal with a fickle public.
Their brilliant performance at the Bank this weekend went far toward obliterating any early demise. Guitarist Jerry Garcia displayed his prowess as an innovator capable of sustained solos that are never dull. His strength lies in the lyrical progressions he employs to develop thematic lines.
Bassist Phil Lesh combined with the Dead's two drummers to create a series of exciting contrapuntal bottoms that were highlighted by frequent, but never wanton, variations in time signature. Rhythm guitarist Bob Weir provided catalytic themes from which Garcia and Lesh drew inspiration. Weir would state a theme, wait for Garcia to interpret the statement, and then move on to another idea.
The Grateful Dead seem to function in a musical hinterland that utilizes the potential of its individual members in relationship with its group entity. Each member of the band is concentrically related to the unit, allowing individual freedom of exploration and the security of a fixed position at the same time.
In keeping with the Bank's policy of providing balanced quality booking, Magic Sam, a superb Chicago blues band, also performed.

(by David Mark Dashev, from the Los Angeles Times, 17 December 1968)

Thanks to Dave Davis.

* * *

EARWAX  [excerpt]

The Grateful Dead played at one hell of a funeral last weekend as the Bank announced it is closing down.
Main reason for the death of the fifth Los Angeles rock club to close within a year was pressure from the local gendarmes who have done their best for the last four weeks to intimidate Bank patrons. It was not unusual to see a dozen or so cars being searched between the club and the Hamilton Street offramp, a distance of one quarter of a mile.
The scare tactics worked on the less faithful with a subsequent drop in attendance.
The Bank was one of the few nightspots around that maintained an intimate atmosphere so important to the moodiness of most bands. Now smogville is left with the Ash Grove, Troubadour, Whiskey, and the Shrine - with the Ash Grove being the only club where bands can get it on with any frequency.
The Dead's great lead guitarist Jerry Garcia displayed his genius for nearly three hours on Saturday night without boring anybody. Magic Sam and blues guitarist Richard Dennis aided Garcia in making the Bank's farewell a rousing wake. The club's "family" are planning a final "Screw L.A." party for New Year's Eve for the official burial. Sad to say we'll all rest in peace. 

(by Bob Barnett, from the Valley State Daily Sundial, 20 December 1968)

Thanks to jgmf.blogspot.com

Alas, no tape! 

See also this list of shows at the Bank:


  1. A positive review from an intellectual critic. He writes like a classical-music professor, seeming out of place in the rock-review section of a mainstream newspaper. Instead of telling us what the band played, or much of anything about the show, he analyzes the players' styles in a rather pretentious manner; but the conclusion is that they're "brilliant." (I also thought it was funny when he says the Dead "seem to function in a musical hinterland.")

    These were the last shows at the Bank, which was only open for a few months in 1968. The venue was getting pressure from the police hanging around and busting people at the shows, cracking down on the hippies; one employee sadly recalled, "they intimidated the audience to extinction." Another employee lamented, "When the shows would end, there would be a half dozen cop cars spaced up and down the streets to pull people over and harass them."
    The poster for the Dead shows implored people to no avail:
    "The Police can only close us with YOUR fear. Please help us, the Music, and yourself. Bring Friends to the Bank. Come clean, be safe, be happy."

    Some audience memories of the Dead shows:
    "I saw the Dec 13 Dead show. Fantastic show. Great 360 full circle light show, lots of overhead projectors with color wheels doing the oil/water shapes to the music. There were sheets hanging down that we walked through to enter the music zone. All I can remember is Weir walking up to a mic and saying "I hope you all are ready for tonight, because we sure are", first song Lovelight..."
    "I was at that concert, at least the Friday night one. I do remember somebody from the group coming to the front of stage right before the Dead started. He had a paper bag and was pulling out handfuls of white tabs of acid and throwing them to the audience who were sitting on the floor... The Torrance PD must have gotten wind of that because a whole bunch of them were outside the place after the concert."
    "At the Dead show, one of their crew had a brown bag full of Acid and was throwing it out to the audience from the front of the stage... When we were leaving the place was ringed with police in riot helmets and we had to walk through to get to our cars! I didn't see them grab anybody so I think they were there to intimidate us. That may have been the last show [at the Bank]."

    1. Future Garcia Band drummer David Kemper was a stage manager at the Bank in Torrance. He remembers one of the Dead's '68 shows there:
      "They came with Owsley. He passed out these little green capsules [of LSD] to everybody. They played, and they were good. But then when they left, there were all of those capsules everywhere on the floor. And my part of my job was to clean up, so I swept the floor and put them all together into a bag. There was a shitload of them, probably 500."

      This corroborates the memories above of acid being tossed out to the audience! Little wonder the place was surrounded by cops and closed after these shows.

  2. I added a second short review recently found by JGMF. Aside from lamenting the police harassment that closed the club, not much is said of the Dead except that Garcia was great and they played for three hours. I don't know who "blues guitarist Richard Dennis" was, but it might mean something that neither review mentions the other advertised opener, Turnquist Remedy.

  3. I remember seeing the Dead twice at the Bank back then. At one show they opened with Morning Dew and Jerry broke a string on the opening chord! They gamely finished the song and he announced “well, I broke a string and we fucked it up!” They fixed the problem and the rest of the night was magic. I believe this is the show when the finished with Feedback. Not exactly a rousing finisher. The December show had Magic Sam opening and he was pretty good. It was Christmas time and they had a kind of hippy fashion show between sets. I’m reasonably sure the Dead had nothing to do with that! Pigpen wasn’t at the October show with Jerry answering inquiries with “his old lady is sick so he stayed home.”

    1. Great memories! Especially interesting to hear that Pigpen skipped the 10/18/68 show at the Bank - it looks like he basically took the week off from the Dead to stay with his "old lady" Veronica, who was being hospitalized after a stroke.