Aug 28, 2018

1968-1969 Short Pieces

(Sometimes I come across pieces that are too brief to post by themselves; a few are collected here.) 

12/1/68 Grande Ballroom, Detroit

Dear Editors,
I've read so many uncomplimentary articles about the Grande Ballroom that I just had to write in and tell you what a wonderful time I had Sunday, Dec. 1st. Uncle Russ had the Grateful Dead in to do their thing along with the Popcorn Blizzard. The Hog Farm was also on hand to supervise a group therapy thing.
There was something for everyone and it was so beautiful I couldn't believe it. A group of Rocks let me play jump-rope with them. I sat on the floor next to a guy who was diligently coloring and started coloring with him. He was kind and we joked about his work of art. The kids around us were tapping a balloon back and forth, the object...simply keeping it off the floor and I loved it. A jester gave me a lollipop and I thanked him. I played ball with a kid whose name I didn't even know and when that lost its appeal, I took up tinker toys.
The Dead played for 2 hours...straight through the candle burning, right through the paper plate tossing, and they were still going when I left.
I never had so much good clean uninhibited fun in my life. I thank you, Grande Ballroom, I thank you Uncle Russ.
Marlene Bordin

(from "Letters," the Fifth Estate (Detroit), 12 December 1968)

* * *

1/31-2/1/69 Kinetic Playground, Chicago


[ . . . ] Closely dig the tricks of the bass guitarist; the second most overlooked man in most rock groups . . . Watching the bass has become one of my favorite pastimes at live performances.
Several individuals stand out clearly, and as much as I don't cotton to the glory trip, they should at least be given some semblance of equal time with the lead players, drummers, and singers who seem to get most of the limelight.
A few weeks ago at the Electric Theater (whoops, Kinetic Playground), Phil Lesh of the Grateful Dead gave a short course in the advantages of playing the bass keyed to the lead guitar. Jerry Garcia is a very fine guitarist, but the intricate and imaginative Lesh lends power and sustenance to every note he plays.
Another superb supporting bass player is Jack Cassidy of the Airplane. Listen to some of the cuts on "After Bathing at Baxter's," notice how Cassidy will sometimes hold back, entering the fray at the crucial moment with a dramatic, unexpected run. He, like Lesh, is a distinct and inseparable part of the "sound" that characterizes the group.
[ . . . ]

(from the Chicago Seed, 15 March 1969)

* * *

12/19/69 The New Old Fillmore, San Francisco


Do you remember how groovy it used to be to go to the Fillmore (on Fillmore St.) and get stoned? Are you bummed by the monstrosity that the Fillmore West has turned into? Well, old buddy, there's hope for you yet.
The New Old Fillmore (on Fillmore St.) has been running weekend music events for more than a month now, but I only made it over there last weekend. What a gas! A crowd of people, but there was room to move even up near the front. What there was, to get right to it, was good vibes. I dug the Grateful Dead (who seemed bored) and the Rhythm Dukes (who haven't quite got it together yet), danced with chicks I never met before, smoked a lot of other peoples' dope, and generally had a really great time.
The Dead's bassist was late, so Garcia and Lesh [sic] came out with acoustic guitars and sang folk songs for a while. It could never have happened at the Fillmore West, but at the New Old Fillmore it seemed right on. What we need around here are more places where we can be easy together, and share whatever we have. There used to be a lot of such places, but lately they have been in short supply. If you've got a weekend free (and you've got some bread - there's always that), bop on down to Fillmore Street and recapture those carefree days of old. Tell 'em Black Shadow sent you, and maybe they'll let you in for free.

(from the San Francisco Good Times, 1 January 1970)

* * *


"I am sitting here with the cat listening to the Grateful Dead and thinking of you and hoping all is well. The Grateful Dead are nice but it is the idea of them I enjoy more than the record, maybe; now I'm playing Howling Wolf and getting a more visceral shudder."
(from a letter by Angela, the San Francisco Express Times, 2/8/68)

"Every so often some groovy new place will open up such as the Kaleidoscope . . . But the Kaleidoscope and the Cheetah and the Shrine are really rock places where one goes to stimulate the senses and abandon oneself through the mass rock confessional. Anyway, some people still dig to talk with other people and more often than not, words seem out of place if not totally sacrilegious when uttered to a stranger during a set by the Grateful Dead."
(from "Looking Out," by Elliot Mintz, the Los Angeles Free Press, 8/2/68)

"In San Francisco the audience grew with its performers who grew with their audience . . . Lots of San Francisco bands started off with their audience and then developed hoping people would dig what they were doing...but it was all an inside trip...backs to audience they are reaching out to the audience...doing things that are entertaining, working to the audience...Jerry Garcia dances for the audience; before, no one looked at the audience. . . .  People like Janis Joplin and the Grateful Dead should have themselves filmed. . . with a performance, you see it better on TV than you do being there and seeing it on the stage..."
(from Sal Valentino interview by Liza Williams, the Los Angeles Free Press, 1/24/69)

"[It's A Beautiful Day] seem compelled to insert the same minor keyed electronic freak in the middle of each song. Psychedelic Breakdown obligato. It's all right for the Good Ol' Grateful Dead to come unmoored in the middle of each song, but for most groups it gets to be a drag."
(from "Seattle Pop Festival" by J. Cunnick, Helix, 7/31/69)

"When she gets into a song, she pulls you in with her and holds you there till she's ready to let go. The experience is not unlike sitting on the floor in front of a stage containing the Grateful Dead when they're really ON: it's one that you don't forget."
(from "Jacques Brel," the Berkeley Barb, 9/26/69)


  1. Didn't have a place to stick all these, so why not here...

    Detroit: A puzzling letter - I don't think the Dead show was quite like a kids' playground, so at first I thought the writer was satirizing the scene. But it's possible this falls into the occasional sixties trend of seeing people at psychedelic events as becoming like children again, being more free, open, uninhibited and playful. (And sometimes, as in the 2/19/69 Dead recording, this literally happened onstage.)
    I don't think the Hog Farm's presence was known before, but they were frequent visitors to Dead shows. The 12/20/68 East Village Other ran an article on the Hog Farm (a "conglomerate joy of 60 or so childlike people"), who were traveling across the country. In it, Hugh Romney said:
    "We'll do our show for anybody who is willing to get in a pile and hum... Anything can happen as long as nobody gets hurt. We have lots of paint and paper we put out, and as many as 200 have worked on the same painting. We have also a 50 foot hotdog which inflates for people to go inside and be projected in and on. We have volleyball and ping pong and a lot of fancy games like the circle joke and the gong bong; games to get high on. At the University of Michigan 5000 people simultaneously sat down in concentric circles and spoke and moved as One..."
    With stuff like that going on, perhaps this writer's "group therapy" experience wasn't so far-fetched! At the time, the Hog Farm wanted to get the Dead to play in a traveling "circus tent" wandering across America.

    Chicago: More bass players were listed, but I was most interested in this early Lesh-centric view of a Dead show - Garcia usually gets the praise in early reviews, but here it's pointed out that "Lesh lends power and sustenance to every note he plays."

    The Fillmore: nice to find a review of the Dead's first acoustic set! He gets a name wrong, but accurately describes how it came about. It's odd that he thought the Dead "seemed bored" during the show, but he still had a great time, smoking dope, dancing with chicks, and enjoying the good vibes. "We can share the women, we can share the wine..." The Dead played a few shows in late '69 at the "New Old Fillmore" (where the old Fillmore had been). This writer hates Bill Graham's oppressive Fillmore West, and longs for the "carefree days of old," back when things were easy and groovy. (Many 1969 articles are nostalgic for the days of old, 2 or 3 years before.)
    "Black Shadow" was 22 at the time, and already felt that music had been better a few years earlier. He wrote in a later article complaining that new records weren't interesting anymore: "I remember the first time I listened to the Grateful Dead on acid. And there's nothing happening now that's anywhere near as heavy... The Dead are still in there fighting, but I don't know how much longer they can hold out - I heard two tracks from their new album, and they sound tired." ("Record Wrap," SF Express Times 3/19/70) So his assertions that the Dead now sound "bored" and "tired" make more sense coming from such a jaded old music veteran.

  2. Wavy Gravy mentions the Detroit show in "The Hog Farm and Friends" on p 46.

    "We pulled the whole show in back of Barry's house [where the Hog Farm were staying in Detroit] and it was a squeeze. Like slipping 60 circus midgets in a phone booth - in the snow. Barry and Moe sold their clothes and wordly mush and we hooked up with the Grateful Dead for a western reunion. Babbs is back after driving in triangles for a month.

    "There is a fantasy afoot to mobilize the Dead and everybody else into a fantastic convoy of maybe 500 souls. A circus tent that holds 10,000. We have a powwow with Jerry Garcia and it sounds too good to be true. That night the Dead are booked into the Grand Ballroom, Detroit's psychedelic cavern of funk with the Hog Farm pushing soft piles of people sailing saucers, blazing birthday candles for Buddha.

    ""I love you, but Jesus loves you the best. And I bid you good night, good night." Sleep tight little piggies. Babbs and the Dead go west and we saddle up the Hog and head for New York City."

    That seems to mesh pretty well with Marlene's account so I think it can be taken literally. I also suspect it is where DeadBase got their We Bid You Good Night entry for this show from and the context in which Wavy quotes the lyric should not be taken to mean they necessarily played the song.

    It's good to learn "Jerry Garcia dances for the audience" in LA!

    1. Good find! "Sailing saucers, blazing birthday candles..." I'd initially thought Marlene just made it all up, but it seems the Detroit crowd was playing games after all. Remarkable.
      Does Wavy Gravy mention other Dead shows in the book? I've suspected the Hog Farm appeared at more Dead shows than is generally known.

      Jerry dancing sure caught my eye. We know he was pretty animated onstage in '69, and I always assumed he just became more motionless over time, but then again I don't recall him boogieing much in any '67 film clips. Sal Valentino claims that in earlier years "no one looked at the audience" and San Francisco bands didn't pay any attention to them. He's generalizing though, not talking about the Dead particularly, and who knows when he saw them. (He'd been in the Beau Brummels, who never played with the Dead, and was living in Los Angeles by early '69; but later in 1970 he joined Stoneground.)

    2. Wavy mentions a few: 70-3-27 where the Dead were initially booked but did not play; 70-4-3; 70-6-21; 70-8-4 onwards Medicine Ball Caravan tour that the Dead bailed out on, maybe more. I'll check, fire up the scanner and send them to you tomorrow once I get over the excitement of 6 Hollywood Festival songs and more Roundhouse rehearsals coming out on DVD/BR.

  3. runonguiness, Can you elaborate on "6 Hollywood Festival songs" and "more Roundhouse rehearsals"?

    1. From the Long Strange Trip DVD bonus:
      "This DELUXE EDITION boasts a previously unreleased, six-song live performance from the band’s first show overseas, recorded on May 24, 1970 in England at the Hollywood Festival, along with backstage footage." In the announcement Lemieux claims they're releasing "the entirety" of the UK '70 footage, which presumably will include more of the Roundhouse rehearsals.