Jul 24, 2020

September 25, 1970: Pasadena Civic Auditorium, CA


It was a nice night for chucking out to the Pasadena Civic Auditorium. The evening air was nice and warm, and the headliners at the concert were none other than the Grateful Dead. I had heard all sorts of fascinating stories about the Dead, so it was with awe and wonderment that I approached the auditorium.
I have never attended a concert at the Pasadena Civic before, and I must say that the promoters of the show have found themselves a nice little place. The seating is comfortable; the stage is easily visible; and its acoustics are pretty good. There seemed to be a slight inconvenience for mutual ticket holders in that they had to wait in rather lengthy lines in order to exchange said slips of paper for the real thing. However, once inside everything was smooth, quiet and controlled.
This was the case as the first group of the evening performed. They were the New Riders of the Purple Sage, who are a group of lads who hang around and jam with the Dead. Performing with them was Jerry Garcia on pedal steel guitar. The set, which lasted for about an hour, was slow and unimpressive. And the band members were all so listless that I half expected them to crash right on stage any minute.
Musically, the Sages travel deep into Country and Western territory with an occasional stopover in Monotony. The only times that they managed to excite the audience to any appreciable extent was during their last two numbers, which were "The Wait" and "Honky Tonk Women." Instrumentally, they were loose and lazy with Garcia's slide work being the only sound that was comfortable to listen to.
Following their performance, there was a brief intermission wherein the audience milled about, met their neighbors, got stoned and above all, anxiously awaited the arrival of the Dead. After a few moments, the lights dimmed and the M.C. (a bearded pipe smoking freak) appropriately introduced the Dead as rockdom's most outrageous group.
The spotlights came on to reveal the Dead in all their grace and splendor. Jerry Garcia, the figurehead of the group, stepped forward and spoke to the audience. He was warm and friendly, which is surprising when one considers that his appearance closely resembles that of a grizzly bear wearing work clothes. This, of course, is due to the mass of black frizzy hair which covers his head and face except for his eyes and nose. As spokesman and lead guitarist for the group he is perfect.
After the opening remarks, they started off their set [with] "Casey Jones" which let the audience know right off that the Dead were in good shape tonight.
Following their first song, there was a slight delay during which time Garcia got the houselights turned up and the spotlights turned down so that the group and the audience could see one another. From then on, the show was out in the audience as well as on stage, because most of the crowd was up and dancing in the aisles as soon as the second number started.
It nearly goes without saying that the efforts of the crowds did not go unrewarded, for the Dead went on to play some of the finest San Francisco type music to be heard in a long time. As usual, almost all of the faster material broke into those long instrumental jams for which the Dead are famous. It was during these jams that Garcia displayed his talents on the guitar which have made him one of the most popular figures in the music scene. He plays with such apparent ease that he makes those long, high pitched leads of his look like child's play.
That evening, the Dead went on to play cuts that were representative of their past album efforts. The set also included a large dose of the Dead's new country material. The crowd loved all, although [--line missing--] slower material as they were with the faster stuff. This is due to the fact that when people come to a Grateful Dead concert, they are coming to move to the music, to dance to the music and not just listen to it. That is why everyone really went berserk during "Good Love" and "Mona," even though they aren't typical Dead material.
One can't really blame an audience for getting so excited during the Dead's performance because the mood and the tempo and the feeling of the music is just begging you to "get your hands out of your pockets" and freak, especially during a tune like the fast-paced "Good Love," which - besides being a rocker - was a vehicle for [a] double drum solo between Hart and Kreutzman. Other tunes that were performed that evening to the delight and enjoyment of all present were "Dark Star," "Easy Wind," and a slowed down rendition of "Candy Man."
But the highlight of the evening came when "Mona" trailed off and then turned into "Turn on Your Lovelight" which has got to be the most requested and favored Dead song of all time. Even the most stoned out downer freaks were up and dancing to this one. And why not? Garcia's riffs were high, flawless and clear, the drumming was tight, and the rest of the group's backing efforts were smooth and well integrated.
After "Lovelight," the Dead left the stage to the sound of an insatiable horde that could have listened to the Dead play all night. As it turned out, they only played for a measly hour and forty minutes.

(by Jacob Wiesel, from the Los Angeles Free Press, 2 October 1970)

Alas, no tape!


  1. An excellent review of a lost show.

    Some audience memories from setlists.net & dead.net:
    "This was the first show I saw in a venue with seating... At some point the powers that be determined that dancing in the aisles was a fire hazard, so in came a bunch of firemen to get people to sit down. The mood turned tense in the middle of the music. It caught Jerry's attention and it seemed to me that he used his guitar to reach down and completely defuse the situation."
    "Yes, the ushers and the firemen would not let people dance, that is until Pigpen sang "Turn on Your Lovelight." Then so many people rushed down the aisles to the front of the stage that there was nothing that they could do."
    "This was my first show and I haven't been the same since. I remember there was no smoking in the auditorium and there was a mad crush of people in the restrooms smoking during intermission."
    "I remember Weir at the mike before the show talking gibberish...wonderful weirdness.... Folks kept throwing joints from the balcony down to us."
    "The music was superlative. Garcia's steel playing was piercing."
    "It was a great show. I seem to remember comments about the house lights going on and off."
    "This one opened with a fresh sounding "Casey Jones"...with a rolling steam locomotive rhythm and also had a really hot "Easy Wind" as I recall. NRPS still had Jerry sitting in on pedal steel and also sounded great with Marmaduke doing a decent Mick Jagger impression on "Honky Tonk Women"."
    "When the house lights came on during the first set just about everybody booed because we wanted to smoke our dope - there were uniformed Pasadena's finest in the house and who knows what other kind of heat. Jerry stepped up to the mic and said "No no no you don't understand. We want to see you too!". However a little later on they dimmed the lights. Great set by The New Riders. Garcia sounded mighty fine on pedal steel. The Dead were cooking, finished with Love Light and they shot off their famous cannon at the end. No encore in those days."
    "This was my second show and I was by now a full on Dead fan. I thought this was a great show because the venue was gorgeous, one of those old art deco movie theatres from the 1920 in Southern California. It was small enough to feel close to the band but large enough to get crazy at the end when they introduced "Casey Jones"... I also liked the New Riders of the Purple Sage set that opened for the Dead, as it featured Jerry on pedal steel which I thought Jerry played brilliantly and Mickey on drums as he got to shine."
    "Being my first show, and being 'influenced' by lotsa very fine Oaxaca, much of the show is a bit hazy. I do remember waiting forever for the show to begin. Jerry on steel, with NRPS, being very 'piercing' at times, 'Dirty Business'... Then, chuggin' 'Casey Jones' opener (finally, after much milling about on stage). Great show with 'out there' jams...Pigpen lettin' loose on 'Lovelight'....nice, poignant 'Morning Dew'....an a capella 'Goodnight'."

  2. Wiesel hadn't seen the Dead before, but knew their albums and their reputation for "long instrumental jams." Even before the show he anticipated them "with awe and wonderment," and the review leaves little doubt he'd be anxious to see them again. The Dead are viewed like demigods "in all their grace and splendor," headed by a friendly grizzly bear. And the rest of the crowd (like always) were excited and "berserk," dancing and begging for more.
    Wiesel hated the monotonous New Riders, but perhaps the audience wasn't as bored as he thought - lots of other people thought they were just great, with special praise for Garcia's piercing steel playing.

    Wiesel doesn't mention the Dead taking a setbreak which suggests they just played one set, but attendees seem to remember two sets as usual. In any case, 100 minutes was a pretty short Dead show for the time. The show was supposed to start at 8, so I don't know if they started late and ran into curfew or what.
    Wiesel doesn't seem to notice the cops and firemen that bugged the other attendees - he says everyone was dancing in the aisles from the Dead's second song, but from other reports it sounds like firemen were trying to stop this during the show. Everyone noticed the houselights coming on, which wasn't unusual - at the 11/27/70 Chicago show, one person remembers, "When the Dead took the stage - they put the house lights up full and left them up bright for the whole show with the announcement "Usually the people get to see the Dead, tonight the Dead get to see the people!" This was probably in response to some kind of fire/safety thing, the place was just way over packed." This is almost exactly what's reported in Pasadena.

    An apparently bogus setlist is online, but these are the songs reported here:
    Casey Jones (opener)
    Easy Wind
    Good Lovin' (w/ drum duet)
    Dark Star
    Lovelight (closer)
    Songs from the older studio albums aren't mentioned, but "the set also included a large dose of the Dead's new country material." One audience member also recalls Morning Dew and We Bid You Goodnight.

    This review is yet another confirmation that Lovelight was the Dead's most popular song at the time. It's sad to hear about another lost Dark Star (although no one else seems to remember it). But did they actually play Mona? This might seem unlikely - and yet the reviewer seems to be pretty scrupulous with his song titles, even writing "Good Love" (as the Dead sang it) instead of "Good Lovin'" and noting "a slowed down rendition of 'Candy Man'" (a song which had not come out yet, so he thought it was a cover). Not only that, but an attendee of 11/27/70 wrote that the Dead played Mona that night as well! So it's possible a rare Dead cover song in fall '70 was simply never taped.

  3. I would hypothesize that Mona was actually NFA. It does seem unlikely that folks would confuse them, but the way the dead started NFA with the drums could be reminiscent of the way Quicksilver started Mona on "Happy Trails". But, who knows, maybe you are right, it was played a few times, and none of the performances are available on tape.

    1. My first thought was that Mona was actually NFA...a simple, sensible explanation.
      - the Dead sing "not fade away" dozens of times in NFA, making it harder to mistake - in fact I don't remember ever seeing any other reviewer mistake NFA for Mona.
      - the guy who wrote the setlist for 11/27/70 specifically separated NFA and Mona, saying, "The notes indicate Not Fade Away might have appeared further ahead [not together with Mona as said below)."
      - there were other songs at the time that the Dead only played briefly - for instance Second That Emotion, played only in April '71. If it had been played only in Oct/Nov '70 we might never have heard it. Some other Dead covers had similarly short lifespans.
      - this is only circumstantial, but the Dead weren't strangers to Mona - not only did they cover it on 10/27/91, perhaps as a nod to Gary Duncan (with Weir singing), but since it was a tune on the Rolling Stones Now album they very likely would have covered it back in '65 as well. (Weir also sang it with Kingfish in the '70s.)

      In short, the case for Mona is fairly strong. But with no tapes, it can never be proven, and it's possible both of our 1970 witnesses were mistaken....maybe the Dead actually did Hey Bo Diddley instead!

  4. The Dead played brilliantly. I was 19 and my best college friend and I took my Dad to his first (and only) Dead concert. Being already a huge Dead fan and guitar enthusiast, I had listened to Casey Jones on Working Man's Dead many times. Jerry played his solo with reckless abandon. It was fast, fierce, and like nothing I had ever imagined. You had to hear it to hear it (to paraphrase Weir). Easy Wind was also ripping. Bob's vibrato on the backing riff was so powerful and precise I had to point it out to my Dad.

    Alas, Dad had to leave early for a long drive with Mom back to Rancho Mirage. So he missed Dark Star and Lovelight.

    I recently listened to the tapes of three other shows attended in those days: Fillmore East, 6-21-69; Capitol Theater, 6-24-70; and El Monte Legion Stadium, 12-26-70. All as good (or better) than remembered. Wish there were a tape of "Dad's" show I could share with my wife and son.

    1. I wish there was a tape too! Those were the days when you could catch a Dark Star at every show...