Nov 14, 2018

November 7, 1970: Marty Weinberg Interview

Marty Weinberg interviewed an usher during a set break in the Saturday show at the Capitol Theater, Port Chester.

MARTY: Hello, sir. Do you enjoy being usher here?
USHER: Uh, sometimes. Not when I have to hassle people. [...]
MARTY: Was there ever a concert where you never had to hassle people?
MARTY: When? Besides the Dead.
USHER: Uh, no, the Dead is the most - the worst one to hassle people.
USHER: 'Cause of the fire laws the way they are, when everybody smokes here - you know, like, it's a bummer.
MARTY: Well why do you have to keep people off the aisles?
USHER: 'Cause that's another fire law. [There's] people in Port Chester, particularly the fire commissioner, who want to close down this theater. [to audience] Don't smoke that joint! Pass it around.
MARTY: I see you're blackmailing with us.
USHER: No, man. [...]
MARTY: Yeah, but like, if there's a fire here, first of all man, don't matter if the aisles are cleared or not, they're gonna be filled up in two seconds anyway.
USHER: Oh, sure, but if there are people in the aisle...people sitting, not standing so much - lot of times, the people just come down and sit down in the aisles - and if they're sitting, like, you just run 'em over.
[Someone in the audience asks something.]
USHER: That's the fire marshals.
MARTY: What are they doing in here? How come there's only one -
USHER: [to audience] I suggest you put that out! 'Cause I don't wanna lose my job.
MARTY: There was only one last night. How come there's so many tonight?
USHER: Because the fire commissioner himself is here.
MARTY: Is that the guy who was around last night, that funny guy -
USHER: He wasn't here last night. First time he's ever been here.
MARTY: Oh, does he like it? Does he like the concert?
USHER: No, he wants to close the place down.
MARTY: Is he gonna be able to?
USHER: Yeah.
MARTY: Yeah? There's gonna be a concert tomorrow night, I hope.
USHER: I hope.
MARTY: Yeah, good. Sunday night concert's always the best.
USHER: Yeah, this one has been the best since Thursday.
MARTY: No, last night was pretty good, Thursday -
USHER: No, tonight's better. Well, it has a lot to do with the audience, tonight's audience is much better than last night.
MARTY: Well, last night they did some pretty good stuff - like, Thursday night [...]
USHER: It was a really good concert last night. But like, if they play the same tonight as they did last night, I think they're playing better.
MARTY: Well first of all, it's only like ten after 12 now, and last night - by the ten-minute break, it was 1:00 in the morning already.
USHER: Yeah, I know.
MARTY: They haven't been playing as much tonight. Maybe they'll play more tomorrow night. Usually the last night concerts are the best.
USHER: Well there are gonna be so few people here tomorrow, compared to the other ones, though.
MARTY: They'll sell out eventually, probably - sell all the $5.50s, at least. It looked like you almost sold out on Thursday night.
USHER: Well no, you see, that's [a fallacy]. When we sell out, it means there are at least 300 people standing.
MARTY: It means you're selling standing seats?
USHER: No. Free passes.
MARTY: Oh, I see.
Audience member: How many people are on the Dead guest list?
USHER: On the Dead guest list? Not very many, 14, 15 tonight.
[Audience member asks a question.]
USHER: Yeah, but it doesn't work that way. The people on the Dead list are backstage, those are the people we see in back of the equipment. [some discussion with audience member] For this show, they're not even letting ushers go backstage.
MARTY: They're not? Do they usually let ushers go backstage?
USHER: Oh, yeah. [It's] a big thrill standing on the side watching somebody.
MARTY: Huh, I'm really disappointed with the -
USHER: The easiest concert we ever had was James Taylor.
USHER: Everyone just sat here in total -
?: I just snorted some cocaine! And I feel good.
?: You did, great. Great!
MARTY: Is the fire commissioner - what about the police department, are there -
USHER: I believe there are two uniformed policemen in here and four non-uniformed.
MARTY: Is anyone busted in here?
USHER: Uh, one of my friends was busted earlier this evening.
MARTY: For possession or selling?
USHER: Possession.
MARTY: In the theater?
USHER: Yeah. He's smoking pot and the cop walked right up to him.
[A nearby audience member is surprised: "Really? You hear that?" Tells a friend that someone "got taken out by a cop."]
USHER: Good on Howard, ran after him.
MARTY: He did?
USHER: Yeah. He managed to talk the cop into letting the kid go.
MARTY: That's good - are they busting kids outside here at all?
USHER: A lot.
MARTY: Yeah?
[An audience member asks the usher who someone by the door is.]
MARTY: How'd you get a Grateful Dead t-shirt?
USHER: One of my friends made it. Two dollars.
MARTY: He made it? Two dollars? I'd like to buy one!
USHER: Go to Flushing, Union Street. Tell him -
MARTY: How would you like to buy some tapes of the Dead?
USHER: No chance.
MARTY: I have Dead tapes...


  1. A unique example of an audience interview during a 1970 Dead show. It was recorded in the middle of a noisy crowd, so I couldn't make out every word.

    Marty was clearly a bold taper. He later recalled that compared to the uptight Fillmore East with its well-trained ushers, at the Capitol Theater "I could be a little looser with holding the mic because they weren't as paranoid in there... The crew there was basically hired for the night to keep the fire laws in check, they weren't really there to keep me out." At the Fillmore he had to hide his microphone to avoid being busted, but at the Capitol he could hold it freely. Even when they saw him taping, "No one asked me who I was... There was an interview with an usher [I] recorded...I would do things like that. At one of the [February '71] shows, there was a bomb scare at the Capitol Theater, everyone had to evacuate the theater while they searched, and I remember interviewing people while they were walking out. 'Did you like the show?' They said, 'Wow, the news guys got here pretty quickly.' I said, 'Oh yeah, we're here quick.'" (Taping Addendum, p.14)

    I love how they're debating the merits of each show in the middle of the run - Marty believes Friday's show has been the best, but the usher thinks tonight's show is better: "they're playing better...tonight's audience is much better." Marty's doubtful about this, noticing how short the show's been ("they haven't been playing as much tonight"), and indeed Saturday was the runt of the run. Marty feels that the last night will be better, since "Sunday night concerts are always the best."

  2. Marty's comment about the Dead taking a ten minute break at 1am seems to confirm that there were two electric sets on the 6th the same as the 7th, not one long one. It is interesting to learn that they only took ten minute set breaks when there was no stage rearranging for the crew to do, they really were "back in just a little bit."

    And only 14 or 15 guests on a run where they had NRPS with them goes against the impression that the Dead always had a bigger guest list than other acts, even when far from home.

  3. I wondered if I misheard "the ten-minute break," I thought their set-breaks were always a lot longer. Deadlists says that per Dave Tamarkin, the 6th just had "a long pause to correct technical difficulties between Good Lovin' and Alligator," so maybe it really was just a long pause rather than a full break.
    Actually the 7th is distinct in that run for having two separate electric sets - the 5th & 8th, I think, have just one electric set each; but on the 7th, Weir announces "a short break" after Casey Jones. (And Marty takes the opportunity for an interview.) Maybe the Dead were hoping to play some giant set that night but weren't feeling it and bailed out instead with two short sets.

    Actually, I don't think it was the Dead's regular practice at that point to split electric sets in two. In early 1970 they'd experimented with the acoustic segments between two electric portions, but otherwise, all through the year the electric sets had almost always been continuous, without breaks. (Very few exceptions, like 10/17 or 11/7.) It appears to be in late December '70 when they started consistently doing the two electric sets that would become the norm in 1971.

    Anyway, it's too bad the usher didn't ask Marty what Dead tapes he had to sell!

  4. Pardon the lack of activity on Dead Sources this month. I've been working on a giant post for the GD Guide that should be done soon.