Oct 7, 2020

November 20, 1970: Palestra, University of Rochester, NY

Airplane Drops In

San Francisco's Grateful Dead played to an enthusiastic, near capacity audience in the Palestra two weeks ago. In the longest concert since last year's Buddy Guy-Luther Allison affair, the Dead rocked the Palestra until 3:30 am. And after that people were still screaming for more. 
The Dead first made their appearance on the rock scene in the late sixties, and along with the Jefferson Airplane and the Quicksilver Messenger Service, produced the well-known San Francisco sound. Since then, the group has adopted a more easy-going country style. It is the mixture of these two sounds that makes the Grateful Dead concert the exciting event it is. 
The evening's first set featured the New Riders of the Purple Sage, a group that formed this past spring. The Riders have been touring with the Dead, and feature the latter's Jerry Garcia on pedal steel guitar and Pig Pen on harmonica. Their music is country rock and when they started to get it together, the result was a good, solid, folky sound. They started off innocently enough, though, doing a collection of old standards such as "I Walk the Line," "Why, Oh Why," and "Portland Woman " - good, but nothing any second rate Nashville band couldn't have done. This became apparent during "Lodi," a song made popular by Creedence. It reeked of mediocrity. 
Then the band started to jell, and the feeling that seemed so distant in earlier numbers began to fill the Palestra. The set ended with a stirring rendition of "The Weight" which finally convinced me that someone knows what the words to the song actually mean. 
But even this was just a preview of what was to come. When the Dead finally appeared as a group to do part two of the concert, it was easy to see why they are considered one of today's top rock bands. Together for about six years, they have always been recognized as a fine instrumental group. Recently, they have incorporated three-part vocal harmonies in their sound and have established themselves as a talented vocal group, as well. 
Their selections reached as far back as their first album, from which they did "Cold Rain and Snow." But the bulk of their music came from later compositions, including a number of songs from their latest record, such as "Trucking," "Friend of the Devil," and "Candyman." One of the highlights of the evening was an inspired medley including "Saint Stephan," "Not Fade Away," and an interesting percussion solo featuring Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart. The solo thrived on a variety of rhythms and was able to come off as well as it did because both men seemed so very together. 
The Dead's second set ended with "Casey Jones," and those not high on cocaine were certainly high on something else - the Grateful Dead. But just to add a little icing to the cake, it was announced during intermission that some "friends from 'cross town" were coming down, and people were hugging each other over the prospect of the Jefferson Airplane showing up. 
The Dead returned to do a few more numbers, and by the time they were finishing up with "Uncle John's Band," it became apparent that a jam session really would take place, as Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Cassidy of the Airplane were seen backstage. 
Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir, on guitar, and Phil Lesh on bass, had been outstanding throughout the concert, but their talents were featured to an even greater extent during the ensuing jam. Jack Casady and Grace Slick, who were both present, never did get to perform. 
But by then, nobody really cared. Garcia, Kaukonen, and company were still amazing the UR's rock fanatics and no end was in sight. The session reached its high with "Reelin' and Rockin'," an old favorite, and kept up until early Saturday morning.

(by Jeff Newcorn, from the Campus-Times, University of Rochester, 4 December 1970) 


  1. Reviews from student newspapers are usually good, and this doesn't disappoint. The coverage of the Dead's set isn't very descriptive but does add to our knowledge of this great show.

    The show was scheduled to start at 9 pm, so if it went to 3:30 that makes for quite a long evening; even at close to 3 hours the existing audience tape isn't complete. It was recorded by student Bob Stone, and is a very good-quality AUD for the time. One Archive reviewer remembers "watching Stone and friend do the recording at the concert. They didn't bring enough tape with them for the long concert so they kept making hasty decisions about what to record over, thus the odd cut-offs and flips." He sighs on dead.net, "It's a shame Bob Stone didn't bring enough tape with him."

    The New Riders set apparently wasn't taped. It's a surprise to read that Pigpen was on harmonica; I don't know of any other Pigpen appearances in an NRPS set, so this could be the writer's mistake, but maybe Pigpen did sit in on a song or two. The writer was not impressed with the New Riders, but he was evidently a Dead fan, naming multiple songs from their albums.
    All the Dead songs mentioned are on the tape, with the Dead's first two-hour set running from Cold Rain to Casey Jones, so it's likely near complete. (The taper wasn't as enthralled with the Other One drum solo as this reviewer though, stopping the tape!) But according to this, the next set started with a few more Dead songs ending with UJB, so it seems that wasn't the show encore as the tape order implies, and some songs may be missing here.
    Several members of the Airplane then dropped by, but only Jorma actually joined the Dead onstage for the jam session. A couple of the long jams are sadly cut on the tape, and quite a bit more could be missing.
    The Airplane were playing the Rochester War Memorial that night. One reviewer says, "I was at the Airplane show, same night... The band said the city wouldn't let the band jam w/ Dead there, so anyone who could, should beeline it over to U of R for a 'jam'. We did."
    A dead.net reviewer recalls, "Some remember Jack also jamming with them, however I just remember Lesh greeting Jack and trying to get him on stage by playing the White Rabbit bass riff while they were back of the stage between sets." Another reviewer concurs, "Phil tried to coax Jack and Grace out with some White Rabbit licks, but to no avail." (Another witness claims, "Jorma and Jack did play, Grace announced that she'd love to sing for us but her voice was trashed." But everyone else agrees that only Jorma performed.)

    The article says there was a "near capacity audience" but one witness recalls differently: "the gym wasn't very full...there was plenty of room to sit or lie down." Jugs of either apple cider or orange juice were being passed around the audience; needless to say many of them were "heavily under the influence."

  2. The guy who copied the master tape to make dubs for circulation commented on the Archive: "My tapes suffer from absences in the late set with the Airplane, but not some of the drop-outs and reel-flips or the 'nearby radio station'... This encoding is almost certainly from cassettes with significant drop outs - I have the 'originals.' If somebody wants to do a better job, let me know at peterr@snowcrest.net... If somebody wants to re-encode this one-of-a-kind show, I will gladly share."
    That was in 2004. I don't know if anyone ever contacted him for a better copy.