For Grateful Dead freaks
5,000 DANCE TO DEAD BEAT IN N.Y. MARATHON
"Cocaine's for horses, not men," or at least so goes the song by the Byrds. But don't tell it to the Grateful Dead. Driving themselves on coke, the Grateful Dead play the best concerts around to the greatest audiences. Earlier this week the Grateful Dead held their first annual dance marathon in the Grand Ballroom in Manhattan Center, New York, to a crowd that traveled great distances to be there: even Case Tech had someone there. There was one person who claimed to be seeing the fifteenth consecutive Grateful Dead concert.
The Sunday concert was to start at 8 p.m. By four o'clock the streets around the ballroom were flooded with people looking for tickets to the sold-out performance. Hours before the show, hundreds of people were waiting to get in. About five thousand people occupied the ballroom that had a capacity of 2000.
A Dead crowd is amazing. Before the concert even started the crowd was going crazy. While tapes of the Rolling Stones were being played, the crowd was responding as if the group was there. A full house joined in to sing 'You Can't Always Get What You Want' and 'Jumping Jack Flash.' Balloons were flying everywhere and the crowd was in a general state of euphoria.
The concert started with the New Riders of the Purple Sage, a splinter group of the Dead with Jerry Garcia on the pedal-steel guitar and Spencer Dryden (formerly of the Jefferson Airplane) on the drums. Throughout their performance the crowd was dancing, clapping, and doing everything else but sitting still. The New Riders were doing everything from 'Down in the Boondocks' (you must have heard it on top-40) to a fantastic rendition of 'Honky Tonk Women.' Doing mostly blues, the New Riders material was excellent. Not too many groups receive the kind of response they got from the audience, and the tremendous greeting they received was nothing compared to what was to happen later when the Grateful Dead was coming on.
The Grateful Dead, minus percussionist Mickey Hart who recently quit the group, played with one drummer - Bill Kreutzmann, and put on quite a show. Surprisingly, it was neither Pig Pen nor Garcia that captured the crowd, but rhythm guitarist Bob Weir. Weir, doing most of the vocals, made whatever you heard on those superb Grateful Dead records sound very weak as opposed to the way the Dead played that night, and that is quite a feat.
Playing only acid rock, even with material from 'American Beauty' and playing very loud, the Dead made the marathon no ordinary Dead concert (which is a gas anyway). The Dead did not need to bring the crowd off its feet: there were no seats. The room in the hall allowed people to form great circles and dance together to the music, and some music it was.
The first big thing the Dead did was 'Morning Dew,' and it never sounded so good. They did many Pig Pen songs from 'Easy Wind' to 'Good Lovin' (a Rascals song) which he sung with Weir. Surprises were many. 'Me And Bobby McGee' was one, and so was Berry's 'Johnny B. Goode' which was done better than any of the numerous versions of the song that were recorded.
'St. Stephen' and the Stones' 'Not Fade Away' were combined into a magnificent medley that just cannot be described. 'Truckin' and 'Sugar Magnolia' were both done electrically. Both, especially the former, were superb. Needless to say, 'Casey Jones' was the crowd's favorite - there wasn't a soul sitting still for a moment of that song. If you could imagine 5000 people singing
"Driving my train,
High on cocaine,
Casey Jones better
watch your speed"
and soon, then you will get but a glimpse of what that song did to people. The concert was closed, as all Dead concerts, with 'Uncle John's Band,' done electrically. That was like 'Casey Jones' all over again.
The concert was advertised as a dance marathon where the Grateful Dead would play as long as the audience would continue to dance. It was obvious that if that were to happen, the Dead would have to play all night. So, after six hours of music came 'Uncle John's Band' and the end of the concert. The ending surprised the audience, most of which could have easily stood three or four more hours of music. The audience refused to believe it was all over. A full half hour after the concert half the crowd was still there waiting for more.
(by Joe Kattan, from the Observer (Case Western Reserve U), 9 April 1971)