BALLROOM IS NO PLACE FOR A CONCERT
Sure recipe for a mob scene - the Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead in a downtown ballroom on a Friday night in June.
The Carousel last night was jam packed, but crowd quantity did not guarantee musical quality, and neither group was at its best form.
These affairs aren't dances, they are concerts. The San Francisco sound is no longer the catalyst for dancing. The fans either don't want to dance or they can't because of sardine-can conditions. So what's happening on stage, through the loud speakers, is the whole scene.
And as a concert hall the Carousel is woefully inadequate. The light show doesn't illuminate enough of the stage; the sound system, last night, was distorting badly; and if 3000 people are going to sit, there might as well be chairs.
Far more bodies would be closer, and more comfortable; maybe the created floor space would then invite dancing. I miss it.
The Jefferson Airplane always comes on strong, and they did last night. But after "It's No Secret" the set I heard became muddled. Grace Slick is singing louder and guttier than in the past but seems to have lost some of her melodic beauty. Her duets with Marty Balin have a sameness and often are hurried and ineffective.
The Airplane's ensemble strength was inconsistent; even the heavy bassist Jack Casady was often lost in the acoustic imbalance. Lead guitarist Jorma Kaukonen, always steady, worked in some nice solos and wah-wah effects with his usual taste.
But the group's long experiments-in-sound, electronic dissonance, drum breaks, etc., failed to come off.
The Dead should be Grateful for guitarist Jerry Garcia. Without him, last night, their set would have been a shambles, a joke. Garcia's astonishing performance consistently places him ever further ahead of his colleagues.
(by Philip Elwood, from the San Francisco Examiner, 8 June 1968)
https://archive.org/details/gd68-xx-xx.sbd.vernon.9426.sbeok.shnf (might include some recordings from the Carousel, June '68)