If you were one of the few people who wasn't at the Sports Arena Sunday afternoon for the Grateful Dead concert, you've probably heard by now just what went down. Frankly, this was one of the greatest musical/sensual experiences the Atlanta hip community has ever had, rivalled only by another Dead offering in Piedmont Park after last year's Atlanta pop festival. Except that this year's big blow-out had more to do with where we are at now.
Imagine it: THE HAMPTON GREASE BAND, forever associated with Atlanta/Piedmont Park/Twelfth Gate/Sports Arena/everywhere we have needed their weird, hilarious brand of heavy rock: THE GRATEFUL DEAD, the West Coast Rock band most closely associated with the spirit of COMMUNITY, a band that has most consistently served the needs of the people and helped to raise their political and sensual consciousness, evoker of high-powered acid and swirling colors and hair, good times and free music in the streets and parks from the old days of the Haight (before HARD DRUGS and media-induced EGO TRIPPING), come like Pied Pipers to our own Piedmont Park to spread the word of what community can mean, back again but this time with another Rock group to tie together the experiences of West and South - THE ALLMAN BROTHERS BAND, the folks who took a lot of the hype and bullshit out of "white blues" and put a lot of their own grace and dignity and soul into the music, more in love with Atlanta than ever after successful excursions into Fillmore territory, East and West, after a beautiful album of some of their best of last year (a new one waits around the corner and it'll be better, just you watch), back in Atlanta for an unannounced jam with the Dead...
And who here in Atlanta will ever be the same? What we felt (and what other sense could you invoke to turn people on to the event?), inside and out, head and body, was the power and beauty of the many strains of our own community coming together, after another year of paying dues and fucking up, coming together in a few precious, explosive hours of what, for want of a better term, we will call Ecstasy!
SOME OF THE NICEST THINGS OF ALL:
*A big crowd - most of us back together again after a series of bummers
*No chairs on the dance floor
*No reserved seats
*Pigs that you could count on the fingers of one hand and still have some fingers left
*Total absence of uptightness and Atlanta paranoia
*Down home, sweaty, funky, sleazy, good ole Atlanta Sports Arena where nobody gets busted
*Announcement by Ed Shane that the Allman Brothers were present and would jam with the Grateful Dead
*Outasight stage built by community people for the Community Benefit
*Community staffed stage crew
*New material by the Hampton Grease Band, including more trumpet than usual, and probably the strangest setting for "Won't You Come Home, Bill Bailey" we can imagine
*"Evans," as usual, bringing down the house - Jerry and Holbrook (drums and bass guitar) leading the group in a building Spanish progression while Hampton shouts "Evans! Evans! Evans!"
*Jerry Fields doing some fine singing
*The Allman Brothers lending their equipment to replace the Dead equipment left behind in Boston by the airline
*Dope and more dope and very good dope, too
*Sam Cutler, former stage manager for the Rolling Stones (he is one of the individuals that the Stones and everybody else involved in the Altamont disaster, including you and me, are singling out to put the blame on instead of recognizing what Capitalism and Ego-tripping can do to crush the world we are trying to build), serving as stage manager for the Dead
*Murray Silver, turned on to Kent State, and hinting that this "may be my last concert," shouting "Power to the People!"
*ACLU lawyers and freaks playing pickupsticks on the floor during breaks
*Instant replay of the Atlanta International Frisbee Contest
*Red fists on strike T-shirts worn by Sam Cutler and Dead stage crew
*The music of the Grateful Dead
*Vibrations that kept building and building until we moved on up to a whole other level
*Jerry Garcia's twanging, singing guitar, and the look on his face, and on the faces of the rest of the Dead as total communication between music and people was established
*"Mama Tried" by Merle Haggard, one of the first straight C&W songs to be picked up on by Rocklovers
*The first appearances on stage of Duane, Greg, Berry Oakley and Butch Trucks
*The first soaring blue notes played by Duane Allman - and what it did to the crowd; the duo riffs he played with Garcia and how the jam turned on the musicians participating in it
*Murray Silver in the crowd, wearing on his head a wreath of green, looking like a Bacchus figure from the Satyricon
*An incredible, unbelievable, destroying Southern hymn played by The Grateful Dead and the Allman Brothers Band: "Will the Circle Be Unbroken?" Most accurate theme of what was happening
*Brief burst of terror at the very end of the music as a firecracker exploded with an incredibly loud BAM!, a bright flash, and a cloud of smoke - a perfect audile exclamation mark for this most profound musical/community statement at the Sports Arena
(by Miller Francis Jr, from the Great Speckled Bird, May 18 1970)
See http://digitalcollections.library.gsu.edu/cdm/compoundobject/collection/GSB/id/1878/rec/98 courtesy of Georgia State University Library
Thanks to http://jgmf.blogspot.com/2011/03/gd19700510-sunday-may-10-1970-atlanta.html - see for more scans & info
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David Powell: "I don't know if it was recorded, but my favorite version of "Dark Star" was one I saw the Dead perform live in Atlanta on Sunday, May 10, 1970 at the small Sports Arena. It was memorable because Duane Allman sat in & played second lead with Jerry. The Allman Brothers had driven up from Macon to lend the Dead some equipment that day and later sat in to play an encore set with the Dead. The opening act was Atlanta's Hampton Grease Band. As I recall, the Allman Brothers did not play a set by themselves, but sat in & played with the Dead as an encore set. That $3.00 ticket price was one of the best concert bargains I've ever enjoyed! ...Glenn Phillips, one of the guitarists in the Hampton Grease Band, the opening act for that memorable Dead concert, later recorded a version of "Dark Star" with Henry Kaiser."
Alas, no tape!