GRATEFUL DEAD BROADCASTS ITS POWER
John Pete was sweating, standing there on the stage of Northrop Auditorium Tuesday afternoon. Tuesday evening was the Grateful Dead-New Riders of the Purple Sage concert which KQRS radio, the station of which Pete is the program director, was going to broadcast live on FM stereo radio.
Pete was in shock because it was 3 p.m. and the group's equipment had yet to arrive. One hundred and fifty pieces of equipment, $100,000 worth, were still at the airport.
Pete had been working on this concert for the past five weeks. Minneapolis was the first stop in a nine-city tour for the Dead-New Riders entourage, which includes, along with the aforementioned hardware, 22 people to do things with it.
All their concerts are sell-outs, and the Dead wanted to be sure that everyone who wanted to could hear the music. The broadcast was set-up with the Dead, KQRS, and Warner Bros. and Columbia Records. It would be broadcast straight through, for five (or, as it turned out, six) hours with no commercial interruptions, the time being paid for by Warners and Columbia, for whom the Dead and the New Riders record, respectively.
The last needed piece was found and set up at 6:55 p.m.; the concert was to begin at 7:30. But the New Riders of the Purple Sage came on at 7 to play a couple of songs to test the broadcasting lines.
Pete was on the phone to the radio station, telling them to "Go! Go!" as the New Riders swung into an hour and a half set of country rock,
The New Riders were led by John "Marmaduke" Dawson, who writes all of the material and sing lead. He looks the improbable cowboy: slight, wide-eyed, an elf in country-western clothes. His music is lush, sweet country, songs that tell of the mournful cowpoke.
Foundations were laid for the Dead by Jerry Garcia, who played pedal steel guitar with the New Riders.
After a short break, the Dead came on for the first of two two-hour sets. Things were going off without a hitch. John Pete was beginning to look victorious. And then there came the Dead.
There is no other band in the world who can do what the Dead do to a crowd. They are all near-virtuosos on their instruments and they don't stop at being good. Or even at being better.
The Dead's whole trip seems to be shifting emphasis. They seem to be out of the whole period that began with their association with Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters. Their music then was just wildly innovative energy music that enchanted audiences with its mind-rending power.
Now they've mellowed out a little. Oh, the power is still there, but an even more cerebral quality is present now that grabs the mind totally.
The second set was the high energy stuff that musical dreams are made of. They did "That's It for the Other One," featuring an excellent drum solo by Bill Kreutzman, "Truckin," "Sugar Magnolia," "Uncle John's Band," then jammed into an incredible version of the old Rolling Stones hit, "Not Fade Away." They played for close to four hours, building the sound and the levels of the songs.
The radio broadcast went perfectly. Backstage, Pete relaxed and said, "If you asked me now if I'd do another one of these broadcasts, I'd say no. Ask me tomorrow morning and I'd probably say, "Well, who's coming to town that we can broadcast?"
Marshall Fine is a senior in journalism at the University of Minnesota and a freelance critic of popular music.
(by Marshall Fine, from the Minneapolis Star, 20 October 1971)