GRATEFUL DEAD SHAKE MCDONOUGH
The Grateful Dead and their family of supporting musicians, sound men and friends showed up at Georgetown last Friday night, and from start to finish their appearance was filled with excitement. It all started when, instead of being left at McDonough Gymnasium, they were dropped off at the main gate. Their resultant walk around the campus undoubtedly shook up a few of the alumni who had returned for Saturday's Homecoming game. It is doubtful that they were ready for a confrontation with the Dead.
The audience, however, was ready and waiting to encounter the amazing Grateful Dead, who have a reputation for putting on long and powerful performances. They had to wait quite a while though, before the Dead actually went on. Conditions were hectic and chaotic in the gym, and the concert was delayed until a semblance of order appeared. At this point it was deemed safe to begin the concert, and The New Riders of the Purple Sage took the stage.
The Grateful Dead show consists not only of the Dead themselves, but also of their subgroup the New Riders. The New Riders contain some members of the Dead (Jerry Garcia and Mickey Hart), but also include three other musicians. Unlike the Dead whose speciality is good old rock and roll, the New Riders of the Purple Sage are a country and western group. Unfortunately, the Riders were not at their best on Friday night, and their set at times was dull and lifeless. They started off well, with "Six Days on the Road," but after that there was a long period during which they went downhill. During this time, the much vaunted Grateful Dead sound system did not seem to be working, and the rapport with the crowd that is a Grateful Dead trademark was notably lacking, perhaps because the house lights were shining brightly and drawing the attention of the audience away from the band.
Nevertheless, things began to cook again when the Riders started "Lodi," a number originally recorded by Creedence Clearwater Revival. Their next selection was equally good. Entitled "Take a Long Sad Look at the Last Lonely Eagle," it featured beautiful country harmony and some fine pedal steel guitar played by Jerry Garcia. Their versatility, however, was illustrated by their last section, which was a rock classic done in the country style. "Honky-tonk Women" really moved, and again it was Jerry Garcia who provided the spark that got the group going. His pedal steel guitar was consistently excellent all evening, and it provided one of the few highlights of what was a generally disappointing set.
But the Dead came back to make up for it. Garcia was again the one who set things in motion. Already warmed up from having played with the Riders, he got things off to a flying start by playing "Casey Jones." This song is featured on Workingman's Dead, one of the finest albums of the year. It would be hard to duplicate the excellence of the recorded version, but the Dead managed to do it. The Rhythm section was perfect, and as the song progressed, they sounded more and more like a train roaring down the tracks to certain destruction. They quickly shifted gears, moving right into an old Merle Haggard country standard called "Mama Tried." The band's harmony was stunning and remained so throughout the evening.
The next few numbers were new material, and they showed the Grateful Dead's steady drift towards the country sound. One song featured some fine country yodelling by Pig Pen, the group's organist and sometime vocalist. Other songs during this part of the show were equally mellow in their sound. "Goin' Down by the River" and "Goodbye My Child Again" featured fine guitar by Bob Weir and Garcia. The sound system by this time was working excellently, and the band's fine playing was boosted by the best sound system ever seen at Georgetown.
When the first note of "Good Lovin'" echoed through the gym, the whole tone of the concert changed. The subdued country sound gave way to the madness of Grateful Dead rock and roll. The transmogrification of "Good Lovin'" was something which would amaze the Young Rascals. A drum duet between Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzman began the song, and when the rest of the band came in, the audience reacted quite excitedly. Playing primal rock and roll, the Dead managed to drive the audience almost to the point of ecstasy. After doing a number from their second album, Anthem to the Sun, they launched right into an old Buddy Holly and Rolling Stones number, "Not Fade Away." That did it: mass insanity ensued as the Dead sang on.
This song went on for close to 20 minutes, during which time the Dead wandered through all sorts of startling improvisational themes, only to suddenly be right back where they started. It was a stunning example of musical virtuosity, and the audience knew it. They responded warmly, and persuaded the Dead to come back for an encore. They chose "Uncle John's Band," a perfect way to calm down the crowd but still let them go home feeling satisfied. The Dead poured it on, and they were gone. They left, however, the memories of one of the most unusual musical evenings that Georgetown has ever witnessed. McDonough will never be the same again, and for this we're all grateful to the Dead.
(by Larry Rohter, unknown publication, October 27, 1970)
Thanks to Uli Teute.
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The Georgetown university paper The Hoya mentioned the upcoming show in the October 22 issue:
"Homecoming '70 arrives on the Hilltop tomorrow... The activities get underway tomorrow evening, when McDonough arena will be the scene of a four to five hour concert by the Grateful Dead, the famous San Francisco rock group. Led by guitarist Jerry Garcia, the Dead will feature the fine country rock sound that made their latest LP, Workingman's Dead, such a tremendous success. Kevin Moynihan, chairman of the weekend, announced that tickets will be sold today and tomorrow from 10 to 4 at the Tree, and reminds concert-goers to bring a blanket."
[The Homecoming dance on Saturday featured local group Claude Jones and the "Baltimore soul" group Tommy Vann and the Professionals.]
("Manhattan, Dead at Homecoming '70," 10/22/70 Hoya)
Another article in the October 22 issue:
THE GRATEFUL DEAD, HERE? YES, HERE!
At one time, it would have been impossible to conceive of the Grateful Dead playing at Georgetown as they will tomorrow night; Homecoming two years ago, after all, gave us Gary Puckett and the Union Gap. Seemingly, Georgetown has come a long way...or has it? Even if the selection of the Dead were accidental, and even if the "Hilltop" hasn't significantly altered, things will be different after the Dead perform.
The Grateful Dead are really coming, say the Homecoming people...(pinch me)...for their first concert in D.C. As early as 1966 (illustrated in the Vintage Dead live LP released recently), the group was into good things. In spite of the predominance of Tommy James and the "Hanky Panky" on the radio, the Dead were turning on people in San Francisco to the amazing togetherness and totality of their live music, incorporating such innovations as light shows and playing at informal, but large, ballroom dance concerts. Their first studio album for Warner Brothers (as their latest, Workingman's Dead) is unpretentious, good, amazingly well-produced and together rock...(if this claim sounds like a hype, contrast The Grateful Dead, Warner Bros. #1689, to any other LP issued during the earlier half of 1967). In between these first and latest efforts, the band added a second drummer (their music always contained opposition: vocal to organ, acoustic to electric guitar, drum to drum) and experimented with sophisticated recording, editing and adding of psychedelic things (Anthem of the Sun, Aoxomoxoa and Live Dead, to a degree).
It is, however, through the medium of live performance that the Grateful Dead establish their most intense communication with an audience. Word of their concerts, and not radio airplay, accounted for their initial success. When the Dead play in concert, their music is distinct from their recording; they allow the potential for live performance to be attained: full, long sets, intricate arrangement and harmony, a truly wide selection of music (including steel and country, with the Riders of the Purple Sage, an intra-Dead band which usually precedes the full set).
The Grateful Dead at Georgetown promises to be a set of contrasts: a San Francisco rock phenomenon, a family of sorts, playing for a Hoya homecoming; the D.C. freaks it is certain to attract and the Hoyas... Yet the experience of the Dead should turn on everyone present. The hype and bad sound system which marred the Poco concert, even the horrendous acoustics of McDonough "arena," may be overcome. The PA for the Dead will be provided by Hanley Sound, recognized as the finest for Woodstock and the last Stones' tour.
With the Grateful Dead, American rock music approaches an art form; their albums, and often their concerts, are beautiful. Nothing remains to be said except you had better not miss it.
(by Peter Barry Chowky, 10/22/70 Hoya)
The November 5 issue of the Hoya reported the dire results of the Dead's show on the front page:
"Violations of fire regulations and drug laws have prompted University officials to suspend future concerts in McDonough Gymnasium - pending a report by a newly established commission entrusted to study the problems.
However, the Traffic concert, scheduled for Nov. 15, will be held as planned.
The decision to suspend future concerts was made by the Vice President for Student Development, Dr. Patricia Rueckel.
In explaining the decision, Dr. Rueckel noted that after the Grateful Dead concert Oct. 24, "a number of questions and complaints were raised both within and outside the University community."
Dr. Rueckel also pointed up the fact that during the Dead concert, local fire department officials requested that the concert be stopped. This request was made, according to Dr. Rueckel, because of "overselling of tickets and general havoc within the gymnasium."
Over 6,000 people attended the concert - 2,000 more than fire regulations will admit.
In addition, Dr. Rueckel stated that both she and the University's attorneys had "questions concerning the flagrant violation of drug laws during the concert."
Accordingly, Dr. Rueckel has appointed a commission composed of students, faculty members and administrators to study [...] events in the gymnasium which attract crowds that are not preponderantly Georgetown students. [...]
The Traffic concert was not cancelled because the University and the concert promoters had entered into a contractual agreement with the English rock group, Dr. Rueckel stated."
("University Suspends Concerts Indefinitely." 11/5/70 Hoya)
The November 12 issue of the Hoya followed up:
"[A] newly created commission to study the feasibility of future campus concerts [was created] in the wake of the controversial Grateful Dead concert Oct. 24." Although "concerts in the gym would not be financially possible without the attendance of non-Georgetown students," university policy held that "the preponderance of the audience must be from the Georgetown University community." Clearly the Dead's show drew many non-students from around the area.
The Director for Student Activities noted that "McDonough provides practically the only facility that can handle concerts in the D.C. area, with the exception of Washington Coliseum. Constitution Hall has had a policy forbidding rock bookings for almost a year." One commission member said that "the Administration is not interested in eliminating concerts, but just alleviating the problems."
"Such problems include the great amount of traffic in the Georgetown area, fire hazards in McDonough gym, violation of drug laws by concert-goers, and even complaints from trans-Potomac residents of Virginia concerning the outdoor speakers through which those who could not be admitted for the Grateful Dead concert listened outdoors."
The next scheduled show in the gym was Traffic, November 15, and the campus commission claimed that "it would be an improvement over the Dead affair...extra security precautions, as well as improved ticket distribution methods." It was warned that the conduct at the Traffic show would determine whether concerts could continue at the gym.
("Concert Seen As Test For Future Gym Events," by Rich Hluchan, 11/12/70 Hoya)
The bad news followed on the November 19 front page:
UNIVERSITY CANCELS ALL ROCK CONCERTS
All University sponsored rock concerts have been cancelled following the incidents during last Sunday's appearance of Traffic at McDonough Gymnasium.
The official announcement was made Sunday evening by the Vice President for Student Development, Dr. Patricia Rueckel. Her decision came in the wake of the concert, following an evening marked by excessive vandalism to the entrance passage to the gymnasium.
In making the announcement, Dr. Rueckel noted that approximately ten percent of the audience was composed of members of the University community. "If ten percent of the audience were from Georgetown University, I'd be surprised," she stated.
She also added, "I don't think we have a primary responsibility to offer entertainment to all of the teeny-boppers in Washington."
In addition, Dr. Rueckel recalled the fact that the conduct of the Traffic concert was considered a "test" for future concerts. To that point, she observed, "obviously the test has failed." ...
[It's also noted again that rock concerts on campus could violate university policy that "a preponderance of individuals at social events must be from the University community."]
Dr. Rueckel extended her apologies to members of the student populace for the decision. "Rock concerts of this nature are considered a meaningful experience by a certain segment of the student populace, and I am sorry for them," she stated.
In addition, damage to the windows [in the gymnasium] has been estimated at $3,000.
In addition, major damage was reported inside the gymnasium itself. One fibre-glassed backboard fell to the floor because it was being used by several individuals as a vantage point to observe the concert. However, no injuries were reported concerning the incident.
The same issue also carried a complaint from the Library Cataloger in the Letters to the Editor:
"I ask whether it was worthwhile having the Grateful Dead rock concert at McDonough Gymnasium Friday night, Oct. 23, considering the damage and the litter.
About 9 a.m. Saturday morning "Sarge" Wilson, equipment manager at the Gymnasium, told me that 6,000 persons had been at the concert - obviously an overcrowding. There was litter everywhere, even though at that hour the maintenance personnel had made a good beginning to clear it up. There was a fetid, barroom smell in the air. The newly painted lobby had many black smears which were not there before.
As a result of too little parking available for such a large crowd on Friday night, the two wooden barriers to the lot behind the Library were broken overnight... Again I ask, was it worthwhile?"