(FILLMORE EAST, N.Y.)
For the second time within two months Bill Graham's Fillmore East, N.Y. presented an evening with the Grateful Dead, a top San Francisco sextet. The Dead performed four shows (July 9-12), one each evening, starting at midnight and running into the early hours of morning.
By playing one show per evening with no time limit, the Dead was at its best. Dividing the show into three segments, an acoustic set, the New Riders of the Purple Sage, a country offshoot of the Dead, and the electric Dead, the band played for six hours. Since the Dead's music is based upon spontaneity and a communal interaction between the band and audience, there is no barrier between musician and fan, a concept that makes for a unique evening that is a refreshing change from the normal concert format.
By breaking the evening into three segments the Dead are able to achieve a continuing building of energy levels. The acoustic set is a relaxing prelude to the happy spirit of the Riders of the Purple Sage, which in turn readies everyone for the electrical set, by which time everyone was literally dancing.
(by Jeff, from Variety, July 22 1970)
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GRATEFUL DEAD COMES TO LIFE
MIDNIGHT ACTIVITY AT FILLMORE EAST
A crescent moon peered down upon the streets. It was midnight, and the Dead were about to come to life at New York's Fillmore East.
For the Grateful Dead, staging the group's first concert-at-midnight last weekend, each song becomes only a starting point.
The Dead work into their celebration very slowly. They begin with only two acoustic guitars, an electric bass and drums, performing songs like "Dire Wolf" ("Don't murder me / I beg you, please don't murder me." Lyrics by Robert Hunter, Ice Nine Publishing Company, ASCAP) and "Me and My Uncle." Someone in the audience shouts "Turn it up!" and Jerry Garcia, head Dead, quickly retorts "Don't worry man. It'll get louder!"
As the quippies change the stage around, a clip of Richard Nixon's Checkers speech is projected before a howling audience (of which most are too young to remember it firsthand).
A second subset of the Dead, the New Riders of the Purple Sage, emerges for the next set. Garcia, new on steel guitar, and Mickey Hart, the drummer, are still present. So too is David Nelson, the mandolin player, now on lead guitar. The new faces are Marma-Duke, acoustic guitars, an electric and an unidentified bass player. The Riders start off with "Wake Up, Little Susie," and then move into some traditional country and western tunes. The band is perfectly together, each song surpassing its predecessor. The second set closes with a version of "The Weight" so good that it tops even the Band's.
It is now 3:15 a.m. Loud hissing emerges from the P.A. system, while on the screen, we see spacemen wrapped in plastic bags emerge from graves. Suddenly Mickey Hart's drums explode, Garcia's guitar takes off and the Grateful Dead inject a whole new spirit of life into the crowd as they open with "Morning Dew."
Everything begins to move. There is a real rapport between the band and the audience. The people are on their feet and moving. The Grateful Dead have managed to transform the Fillmore into a giant multi-tiered dance hall. The rows of seats have dissolved into a mass of squirming bodies. The communal consciousness of the Fillmore reaches higher and higher with each song.
The Grateful Dead have not always been able to get together. When the whole West Coast rock scene was just beginning, Jerry Garcia, guitar and banjo player, teamed up with Ron (Pigpen) McKernan and Bob Weir to form Mother McCree's Uptown Jug Champions. But there wasn't much of a demand for jug bands in 1964 and the Champions were getting hungry. As a result, they allowed themselves to be persuaded to follow the rocky road.
Phil Lesh, an old friend of Garcia, was recruited as a bass player. Then Garcia added Bill Kreutzmann on drums and came up with a spiffy little blues band called the Warlocks.
The Warlocks played their first gig in July, 1965. They played so loud, though, that they wound up getting booted out of the club where they were working. As fate would have it, Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters heard the band and liked them. So out went an invitation to the Warlocks to pack up their instruments and head for the hills of La Honda in time to provide music and/or entertainment for Kesey's first Acid Test (the whole story is chronicled in Tom Wolfe's "Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test").
The Warlocks became completely immersed in the vortex of the drug culture, and when Kesey left for Mexico after the spring of 1966, they simply moved in with Augustus Owsley Stanley (the "Acid King," who at one time resided in Alexandria, Va.) After one particular drug experience, the Warlocks changed their name to the Grateful Dead and in winter of 1967, recorded their first album for Warner Brothers, "The Grateful Dead" (WS 1689). This album still stands as one of the best first efforts of any group.
It was not until a full 18 months later that the Dead made another appearance on record. But what an appearance! They had added a second drummer, the amazing Mickey Hart, and a keyboard man, Tom Constanten. They had dumped their producer, Dave Hassinger, in the middle of the process, with Lesh and Garcia assuming the production end of the recording. They had worked in four studios and had utilized tapes from live performances. All of this was blended into one of the finest albums of 1968, "Anthem of the Sun" (WS 1749). This was followed six months later [sic] by "Aoxomoxoa" (WS 1790).
This spring, [sic] Warner Brothers released "Live/Dead" (2WS 1830), a double-record album that comes closest to capturing the spirit of the Dead live (although nothing really can). Their latest offering, "Workingman's Dead" (WS 1869), was released two weeks ago and hints of the type of thing the Dead do when they use acoustic guitars.
With each album, and with each performance, the Dead get tighter and tighter as a musical unit. Each brings much to the band as an individual musician. Overriding this, though, is the great communal insight that permeates the music. Much of what they went through - the West Coast, the drug culture, the rock 'n' roll star syndrome - is there. After their first album came out, they had a great deal of trouble discovering exactly where they were as individuals and as the Grateful Dead. So they all moved out to a farm and set up a community for artists.
The Dead had gone through the heaven and hell of drugs, and their farm in Novato helped mellow things out. Sometimes it's hard to appreciate, but after sticking with it, the realization comes that the Dead have an overwhelming love and respect for life.
During last weekend's midnight concert, Garcia loomed above the whole celebration like a warm teddy bear, firing out notes from his guitar as if it were a machine gun. The whole band answered perfectly, sensing exactly where he was going and exactly how to follow.
They play "Not Fade Away," then shift into "Casey Jones" and eventually work into "Dancing in the Streets."
The distinction between band and crowd dissolves as the Dead go into "Turn On Your Lovelight." Pigpen lets loose with the lyrics, and the audience, providing accompaniment for the band by clapping, stamping, shaking tambourines and beating cowbells, answers back:
"I'm begging you baby
I'm on my knees
Turn on your light
Let it shine on me
Turn on your lovelight
Let it shine on me"
(Lyrics by J. Scott, D. Malone, Don Music, BMI)
Garcia's guitar flies higher and higher. The whole Fillmore moves in time to the drumming of Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann. A cannon explodes. The song ends. The lights come back on. The Dead have come to rest. It is 6:30 a.m. and outside, the sun is starting to smile down upon the city.
(by Tom Zito, July 19 1970)
Courtesy of snow & rain at the Transitive Axis forum.