Nov 1, 2013

May 14, 1974: University of Montana, Missoula


Members of the Grateful Dead emerged in the early days of Haight Ashbury flower-power-dom, playing together first as a jug band and later as the band that supplied the ultimate acid-rock to a new audience with new tastes.
Since then, they have set out on the musical paths of country, rock, blues and jazz, creating a niche all their own in the music world.
Seven thousand Dead admirers filled the University of Montana Field House Tuesday night, expecting to witness an important part of the music of the 60’s and 70’s. They weren’t betrayed.
Unlike most rock bands that perform as concerts a 90-minute blast of amplified sound, the Dead began slowly and methodically, flowing through “Bertha,” “Mama Tried,” and “Deal.” Each song built on the energy of its predecessor.
The energy did not come out as wildly driving music, but was there in the smooth exactness of Jerry Garcia’s lead guitar and Bob Weir’s innovative rhythm guitar riffs. All the Dead, including Garcia, Weir, bassist Phil Lesh, pianist Keith Godchaux, singer Donna Godchaux and drummer Bill Kreutzman, came through the phenomenal 480-speaker system individually distinctive, but wedded into a sound that is the Grateful Dead.
The wall of speakers, which cost about $35,000 to put together, made the music loud, but not a blare. It is the most innovative and experimental system in the world. Each of the five band members has an individual sound system tied into the whole.
But the musicians were the important ingredient, and Garcia is one of the best musicians there is. He nonchalantly stood onstage, bracing himself on one leg as the other rose and fell with the tempo of the music. Garcia was at his peak in the half-hour “Playing in the Band” jam, when he took a foray into rock, jazz and finally an electronic neverness that left the crowd spellbound.
Weir was outstanding as a country crooner in Marty Robbins’ “El Paso,” in “Mama Tried” and the encore, “One More Saturday Night.” Of course, Garcia’s familiar high-pitched vocals were there to complement Weir’s, and Donna Godchaux’s voice, while unsure at times, harmonized beautifully with Weir and Garcia.
But the night was not all roses. One incoherent jam in the four-hour concert rambled on for 40 minutes.
After the Dead left the stage from their second set, the crowd roared one of the loudest and longest ovations given to a band performing in Missoula. Several minutes later, as the Dead stepped back on stage, Weir was struck on the head by a plastic pitcher that flew from the crowd below him.
“Thanks a lot,” he said gruffly.
It was a distasteful conclusion to a fine performance.

(by Steve Shirley, 'Music Review' from the Missoulian, May 16 1974)

(Thanks to DaveMar)


  1. Since I haven't posted in a while I will start off this month with a few shorter reviews.

    This reviewer mentions Mama Tried a couple times, but it's not on the tape of the show. Perhaps he mistook one of Weir's other songs for it.
    Though he praises a spellbinding Playing in the Band, Dark Star did not win his favor: "one incoherent jam rambled on for 40 minutes."
    But in general he was impressed by the band (though mentioning that Donna's voice was "unsure at times").

    Audience members recall that the Aber Day Kegger had been held on campus, and one rowdy soul had come to the Dead show armed with a plastic pitcher from the kegger, and flung it at the stage before the encore. His aim was true, and it hit Weir on the head - on Miller's tape, when the band comes back for the encore, you can hear Weir say, "Thanks a hell of a lot." They go on to play the encore anyway (though some in the crowd were hoping for a third set).

    There was also a brief show announcement in the May 14 Missoulian, "Around Missoula" section:

    'Grateful Dead' at U Tonight; Bonanno Lecture Set May 21

    Because of a rock concert by “The Grateful Dead” at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the Harry Adams Field House at the University of Montana, a free public lecture on prison reform by Bill Bonanno has been postponed by the Program Council of the Associated Students of UM until Tuesday, May 21.
    Admission to Tuesday’s rock concert by “The Grateful Dead” will be $6. Doors to the Adams Field House will open at 5 Tuesday afternoon. The concert is also sponsored by ASUM Program Council.

  2. Considering how awful reviews can be I thought Mr. Shirley did a fine job overall.He seemed to understand the subtleties of the presentation from sound quality,pacing of the music,different genres,and how each musicians contribution made the music what it is.Although I am confused with his praise of PITB and his contention that WRS->Dark Star->China Doll was an "incoherent jam" that rambled for 40 minutes.

    Timely placement for a review off this show since it was just announced as the choice for Dave's Picks 9.An odd choice,but the entire band is in good form for the show and extraordinary versions of Brown Eyed,El Paso and PITB plus an interesting 26 minute Dark Star are all reasons to look forward to it.

  3. An ad for this show highlighted part of the Dead's contract stating that the Dead had the right to perform for at least five hours. "Artist's reputation will be substantially and materially damaged if Artist is prevented from performing for said full five hours."
    (There were few '74 shows, though, where the Dead actually made full use of this right! Missoula wasn't one of them; the tape is less than 200 minutes.)

    The Dave's Picks 9 CD has another interesting review of this show from the Montana Kaimin, which you can read here: