Feb 6, 2019

November 17, 1968: Eagles Auditorium, Seattle


Re-tribalization will be the keyword Sunday afternoon from 3 to 9 when the Grateful Dead rock group moves into the Eagles Auditorium (7th and Union) for a benefit concert to help Indian fisherman in their battle to retain traditional netting rights on the Nisqually and other Washington rivers.
Admission is a flat $2 per head. Children under 12 will be admitted free.
Al Bridges, an Indian leader who has led numerous fish-in protests at Frank's Landing near Olympia, will introduce the Dead.
Suzette Bridges, a vivacious and articulate young lady, will present the tribes' side of the fishing feud.
Backing the Dead will be the Bryon Pope Ensemble from Los Angeles, Easy Chair, Light, and Papa Bear. The Retina Circus light artists will provide illuminations.
Part of the funds from the benefit will be used to establish a bail fund for Indians and others arrested for allegedly illegal fishing. This year alone there have been 27 gill-netting arrests. Bail - formerly set at $250 - has been raised to $1000.
The Indians also must replace nets confiscated by the state. They cost between $60 and $100 apiece.
Some 40 persons, Indians and non-Indians, have established a communal colony at Frank's Landing on the Nisqually. Some live in teepees; others in tents and crude hogans. They contend that the Medicine Creek treaty of 1854 gave the Indians the right to fish in "their usual and accustomed places" for "as long as the sun shall rise, the streams shall flow and the grass shall grow."
The state, on the other hand, claims the treaty is invalid and that the Indians must adhere to seasonal regulations.
The colony at Frank's Landing is seeking to re-tribalize, to return to the bounty of Nature. But it hasn't been easy. They've been tear-gassed, terrorized and hassled by citizenry and officialdom alike.
Now they've dug in for the winter. It promises to be a long, wet one.
Their choice of the Dead for Sunday afternoon's gig is an apposite one. The Dead more or less started the whole concept of group tribalization on a musical level. Beginning with Ken Kesey and his early Acid test prankstering, the Dead (originally called the Warlocks) have solidified under their Chief, Gerry Garcia, as a sub-tribe with something to say - and the sound and talent to give their message a voice.
The Dead and the Indians. Far out!

(by Bob Houston, from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, November 15, 1968)



by Roger Downey:

From Herodotus to Stanley, Pizarro to Powell, mankind has loved explorers. And not only seekers in space; Nietzsche, Beethoven, Buddha, William Burroughs; what fascinates us is not their discoveries, but the risks taken to make them. We are an adventurous race at second hand.
At Eagles' Sunday the Grateful Dead mounted an expedition into the unknown, using portions of the work-in-progress called Anthem for the Sun as navigational charts. Define it as a problem (and you can't, for a problem suggests an answer): given, the universe determined by the instruments, the players' physical endurance, their creative energies: to transcend that universe by devouring it, filling it up, shattering it by pressure from within, and thus reaching Somewhere Else. Now if Somewhere Else were really the goal, and not the journey of exploration, the Dead would fail: beyond the limits of music is not Somewhere Else, but only Not-music. The end of the journey comes at the point where the senses can absorb no more, the mind can no longer comprehend, hold together, the experience; as in orgasm, things fly apart, returning to their separateness; but not unchanged. The terrain defined has been used up, thoroughly experienced, exhausted; and in the process, as in the art of love, the musicians, and the audience, so far as it can follow them, are used up, exhausted, as well.
In music, if anything is possible, and equally likely, the result is necessarily chaos. The Dead maintain a lifeline back to ordinary musical experience by their use of rhythm, refusing to allow the integrity of the line to be disrupted. When it begins to weaken, there is an immediate lessening of other musical tensions until it is re-established. This is not to say that there is anything simple about the Dead's rhythms: the section of WIP (not recorded yet, but played at Eagles' and Sky River) in 11/4 time, subdivided 3+3+3+2 is, with sections of Stravinsky's Soldier's Tale, the most exciting use of rhythm as a creative, not just a sustaining, element that I have ever heard. Over and through the polyphonic rhythmic texture, Garcia, Weir, and Lesh (who is as much a melodic contributor as the two guitar players) create a contrapuntal, ever varying texture of lines that tightens and thickens until disaster seems inevitable, then relaxes only to tighten again. It is always the texture that is important. Melody as such, solos, are secondary. Harmony in the almost defunct traditional sense is nearly absent; it could only get in the way of the development of the primary all-enveloping texture of sound.
The experience I have said, like love, is exhausting; I, and I'm sure many in the audience, longed toward the end for each climactic surge to be the last; but when the last climax came, we realized that it was in fact the only one, necessary and final.
Like good lovers, the Dead do not abandon you at the peak, but return you, not at all quickly, to earth. In the last section, the insistent pulse of rhythm is absent, melody irrelevant; the texture is open, full of yawning vacancies and sudden violent displacements. When you land, the journey seems to have been inevitable from the beginning; your feet touch ground as lightly as leaf falls.
For what it is worth, the Dead succeeded in getting an Eagles' audience on its feet and kept it there for the duration of the piece. When it was over, and the crazy calls of "More!" had died away, someone came out on stage and told us to stick around for the rest of the program. All respects to the others that played, that is like announcing, "You have just been present at the end of the world. Please stay tuned for our next big attraction."

by Max Smith:

The Dead is up there on the stage playing, and they are really looking at us, the audience, and it looks like they love us and if they didn't, wouldn't bother to pretend. And I am surrounded by people I love, and who love me. But still something is wrong. Our blood is rioting, but we're sitting there quietly as if listening to a sermon or watching Chet and Dave. A few people move with the music, but stay seated.
Karma and I are sitting there wanting to dance, wanting to pulse with that music, wanting to tell what we know and feel.
So we dance, and yippee, everyone is dancing. And the Dead is dancing with us.
Right in front of the stage is Floyd Turner, dancing like there's no tomorrow, a combination whirling dervish, Charleston and twist with extraordinary virtuosity. He is expressing what he has been wanting to express all this time and we in a circle around him, clapping, feel his expression, real and powerful. Communication achieved. A cataclysmic orgasm is no better.
Then I notice the performers up there above our heads, on a stage five and one half feet high, and I realize that I envy them; I want to be up there. The stage belongs to the people. I feel the collective power of the people behind me and I feel my own ego, a monster engaged all these years in a puritanical society where "showing off" is a high taboo.
I dance toward the stage, then retreat. This several times; then riding the crest of the music, leap to the stage, pulling Karma up behind me. We are met by angry beard heads. "You're not supposed to be here." Fire regulation.
But they don't want everybody up here. O.K. then: two at a time. We get off the stage and boost two more up. Everybody can take a turn. Nobody else wants to go up. It seems to me they are afraid of looking silly; I will go up and show them it doesn't hurt to look silly, so I go up and fall on my face and get up, as if nothing happened. "See, it doesn't hurt to look foolish; come on up." Then it occurs to me that this may be another case of someone trying to lead people where they don't want to be led, of someone not knowing the people he's trying to lead.
Floyd and I are backstage after another hassle with the stage crew. He is telling me he has deep love and heavy ideas, but no words to express them. The number ends, and we rush onto the stage to take bows.
I see Mike Watson, who has worn himself slick arranging for the benefit, and I explain I wasn't trying to sabotage the show, but that people as spectators are automatons. He understands, but he explains it is the Indians' benefit, not mine. I agree, but I want to say something to the crowd. I am full of joy at the truths I have discovered, and full of myself. So Mike says I should make the closing remarks, and I agree.
But I am burning to talk. Right then. For too long I have been following leaders and listening to most of them by people who know less and care less about people than I do. So I go to the microphone, at a point when the stage is empty between groups. The microphone is shut off, and I do not have a voice like Norman Mailer.
Another hip looking, angry face orders me to get off the stage now.
"I have something to say."
"You better get off here."
"I just want to say something."
I leave.
He follows me and asks me who I am. I tell him my name and that I'm a citizen who wants to speak, He tells me his name, Boyd, and explains that I'm not on the program and that there is a schedule.
"But between groups, there's only recorded music."
"You should go to the Helix. They're nice over there. They'll let you write something. Or, speak over station KRAB; it's a good place to air your views."
"Yes, but I want to speak now,. By tomorrow, someone else may have the message or it may be lost."
He's sorry, but the program is running late already. I go back stage to prepare my closing remarks. It will be a soaring epic of the Indians, but I can see that Buffy, Suzette, and the other poetic voices of the Indians have done that as beautifully and powerfully as it can be done. I will tell them in thousands of words how limited words are...I am beginning to have an inkling that I may be just another boring speaker.
Through the curtains I watch the next act, a rock group with a good sound, and a talented mime with a painted clown's face. An angry stage manager stomps up. The curtain must be kept closed for the "continuity of the light show." I can stay, but the curtain must be zipped up, the state K.P. inviolate, the mystique of the performers preserved.
I am thinking of this mystique while I watch the performers perform back stage. It occurs to me that maybe my mind is distorting all of their behavior to fit my new hypothesis, but what I say, as I rap to a performer's woman, seated back stage, seems valid.
"You people are Gods. And you like to keep it that way. You're scared of the audience, 'the masses.' Afraid that they'll find out they can sing and dance and play too, afraid you'll lose your bread and butter. I see what the Mime Troop (San Francisco) meant by wanting to do away with rock bands. They only wanted to do away with labels, album covers, copyrights on music, copyrights on the truth."
She smiles, silent.
I hear applause, so I return to the stage for one more bow.
Later, Byron Pope's jazz group, the last on the program, is playing. At first what they are playing is not pleasant, discordant to my stoned head. I would rather play with my friends than listen, so we make a circle, hand-in-hand, and start a snake dance through the dwindled audience.
Wait a minute. It dawns on me that they are excellent musicians and that they are already mad from having to play to an empty house. I reason: performers aren't Gods, but because of their discipline and mastery, deserve some attention.
But what about Elizabethan audiences? If they didn't like the show, they let the performers know about it. The exchange between them and the actors added to the show.
In this case, it seems to me that Byron Pope's group exchanged for our inattention the most pissed-off music I had ever heard.
But it was honest and when it wasn't hurting my head, beautiful and fresh,
The short set is finished and the house lights are on. The remaining few scuff through the papers and bottles. I am disappointed about not speaking, and I feel for an instant as empty as the hall. But there are all my friends, goofing and smiling. And the Indians have a couple thousand dollars and some new allies for their struggle. 

(from the Seattle Helix, November 21, 1968) 

Thanks to jgmf.blogspot.com 

Alas, no tape!

1 comment:

  1. A little out of place chronologically, but I forgot to post this earlier.
    The newspaper announcement mostly focuses on the Indians' legal issues, but presents the Dead as the leading attraction. Unfortunately this mainstream reporter had no insight into the "tribe" of the Dead, using the concept as a joke. (He says the show will be from 3 to 9, but deadlists may be more accurate, listing two shows at 3 and 9. The poster is ambiguous; I'm undecided.)
    It's a little surprising to find from the Helix articles that the Dead did not play last; among some five bands, at least two groups followed them. Apparently this backfired, since by the last band the audience had "dwindled" and the place was almost empty. Downey says that when the audience was asked after the Dead's set "to stick around for the rest of the program," it was a ridiculous request since no one could follow the Dead.

    The Helix had two articles on the show under the "Grateful Dead" heading - oddly enough, they'd done the same for the Dead back in January '68. In fact the Helix covered the Dead extensively on most of their '60s stops in Seattle, including two interviews; clearly the Dead's visits were considered big news by this underground paper.

    Max Smith's piece isn't really about the Dead, more about his burning desire to hop on stage and give a speech. (An audience phenomenon the Dead hated.) Everyone from the stagehands to the benefit arranger to the show promoter tries to stop him, so he ultimately delivers his speech to a helpless lady backstage. "The stage belongs to the people!" he declares. He sounds insufferable, but is also humorous, self-aware and insightful; in fact this piece closely describes at least his perspective of the evening and brings up many questions about what an 'appropriate' audience response to a rock band should be.

    Downey writes entirely about the Dead's show, in very pretentious fashion, and isn't an easy read, but his admiration for them stands out. And he followed their music very closely: one remarkable thing is that he already recognized the Eleven as a distinct section of their new suite (after seeing it at Eagles and at the Sky River Rock festival), though he has no name for it but WIP ("work in progress"). He has a pretty good description of the Dead's style in the Eleven.
    It sounds like quite a show; he says the audience was exhausted after climax upon climax. (Both reviews find it notable that the Eagles audience actually got up and danced during the Dead's set, rather than passively sitting as usual.) He says the Dead played "portions" of Anthem of the Sun but doesn't say which; the way he describes "the last section," it seems that the Dead ended the set with Feedback.

    Jazz musician Byron Pope was interviewed by John Cunnick in the next issue of Helix:
    "He expressed concern and some surprise at being referred to as an 'angry musician,' and showed me an article in Helix which described his music as 'dissonant and pissed off.' 'Our music is pure spirit, we play from within, from love. Love and hate are so close that some people can't tell the difference.' Pope repeatedly emphasized the independence of his music...from the musicians' relationship from society, 'the bop musicians were angry, they played music that people, at the time at least, couldn't understand; we play to create love in the listeners.' ...
    "Although he frequently plays at Eagles, Pope is not a rock fan. He doesn't attack the music, but feels that rock musicians are materialistic and money motivated, and feels that 'music is purer if you search the inner man without motives from outside.' He considers rock musicians somewhat overrated. 'Go into any black church in Seattle, and you'll find two or three unrecognized Janis Joplins.'"