The Franklin and Marshall College gym was filled to the brim last Saturday night. There were hundreds of ticketless, anxious people waiting outside all night in hopes of being let in. There were thousands inside totally losing it over the Grateful Dead's music. Yes, the Dead were in town.
The show all began with a sub-group of the Dead called The New Riders of the Purple Sage. The New Riders are a light country band cruising through an hour set of good time down home music. The crowd just loved their version of Billie Joe Royal's "Down in the Boondocks" and the Stones' "Honky Tonk Women." Jerry Garcia was the man of the evening, playing a pedal steel for the New Riders and laying down some licks that would make some big time cowboys shake in their boots.
Then just as everyone's backsides could no longer stand the pain of wooden bleachers, we were given a break while the Dead got set up.
The equipment was simple. The home made PA system with about a dozen high frequency horns came through beautifully. They really cared how they sounded. All their amps were small, one stacked on top of another, and the sounds were clean and mellow.
When they came on everyone was jumping around dancing and singing and clapping and getting it on. They did a lot from their last two albums, Workingman's Dead and American Beauty, including their first number, "Casey Jones" (with some mighty fine lines).
Garcia switched to lead guitar for the Dead, and lead guitar he did play. He is definitely one of the most accomplished musicians around. Also I might congratulate Bob Weir who played second lead guitar and rhythm guitar. I've never seen two guitarists work closer "live." I'm told that Cippolina and Duncan of old "Quicksilver" were on top, but since that split I think it's Garcia and Weir all the way.
They played a few lengthy sets and quite a few people got upset at the space allowed between numbers. The Dead took their time and I'm sure you'll agree it was worth the wait. They came back on with "Truckin'" and won over again.
In the last set, definitely their best, they jammed and jammed on every song. The music was so fine. They ended almost five continuous hours of playing with many people's favorite Dead song, "Uncles John's Band." It was tremendous, all full of harmonies and guitar and peace of mind. The Grateful Dead made everyone happy.
There were no interviews because some people in charge were too concerned for themselves rather than the public or the Dead, but I didn't mind because I was off with the Grateful Dead and that's a fine place to be.
(by Ray Eicher, from the York Daily Record (PA), 17 April 1971)
* * *
Some background to the show:
October 30, 1970:
In an interview on Tuesday, Ashok Sikand, president of the SUB [Student Union Board]...projected future SUB concert success. . . .
SUB is currently working on groups for next semester. Sikand suggested that, "If students are interested in a group which they do not think we are giving serious consideration to, they are encouraged to submit petitions.
"Students have approached me on the possibility of booking the Grateful Dead," Sikand continued. "The promoter and myself believe the concert to be a financial risk, because of projected lack of support from the student body. Over 1000 signatures disavowed this belief, and as a result, the SUB is now giving the act serious consideration for the second semester."
(from Naomi Kaneda, "SUB Lists Shows in First Semester," F&M College Reporter 10/30/70)
January 12, 1971:
GRATEFUL DEAD TO APPEAR IN MARCH
Ashok Sikand, president of the SUB, has announced that the Grateful Dead have been signed for March 6. As a result of changes in SUB policy, Sikand is confident that this concert will not be subject to the irresponsibilities that followed the bomb scare at the James Taylor concert.
According to Sikand, the crowding of the lines "was the most dangerous situation I have witnessed at any concert here." He admitted that during the rush to get back into the Gym, three girls were trampled underfoot, and numerous barricades were broken.
"The situation came about because we could not open the doors at the time we had planned. This, in turn, was caused by the fact that the performers were having trouble with their sound tests," Sikand related.
The same situation occurred at the Laura Nyro and Santana concerts, when these performers' equipment checks were running late. SUB policy is to open the doors early to eliminate competition for seats, but this is impossible when the performers are making sound tests. The result is an unwieldy line of ticket holders. In a meeting with the Security department, members of the SUB came to the conclusion that the only solution to the problem is in forcing the performers to complete their testing on time. Sikand noted, however, that this is often difficult to accomplish because of the simple fact that a time provision in the contract is not easily obtainable.
"Schools like F and M have less bargaining power, especially with big-name groups. In my negotiations with the Dead, I have had considerable difficulty in getting them to agree to a time provision," Sikand added.
Sikand emphasized that the SUB and the College must make sure not to allow the situation which happened at the Taylor concert to happen again. "Bomb scares are something we must live with," he explained ruefully, "but the dangers that were caused by irresponsible behavior must be eliminated."
"Should a repeat of the Taylor concert happening ever occur again, the future of concerts at F and M will be in jeopardy," Sikand warned.
The SUB is working on a standardized procedure for evacuating the Gym in emergencies. He noted that there were complaints from people who held tickets but were discouraged from returning to their seats after the bomb scare. In answer to these, Sikand said that the SUB made an effort to get everybody who was outside the Gym back into their seats, disregarding the fact of whether they had ticket or not.
[ . . . ]
(by Jimi Weiner, from the F&M College Reporter, 1/12/71)
February 2, 1971:
SUB RESCHEDULES DEAD; CLARIFIES CONCERT POLICY
The Grateful Dead will appear at F and M on Saturday, April 10. According to Ashok Sikand, chairman of SUB, the Dead cancelled their contract for March 6 because of a rescheduling of their Eastern tour. All of the group's March dates were cancelled.
In an effort to clear the air over the difficulties in obtaining the Dead and other performers for appearances here, Sikand explained that SUB always looks into acquiring the "standard top acts" for concerts. But, he noted that the business of signing rock groups is a "funky one," that a contract with a rock group is "not like one with IBM."
In reference to the Dead, the SUB chairman pointed out the great amount of "hassling" that SUB had gone through in trying to reschedule the group. He commented that the student organization had made more than the usual effort to schedule the Grateful Dead. This, Sikand said, was because of the great student demand for the concert which resulted in a petition containing over a thousand signatures requesting the Dead.
In order to avert recurrences of the chaos at the James Taylor concert, SUB is trying to insert a time clause in all contracts. This would mean that, at the scheduled time of the concert, the doors would open regardless of whether the group was "ready" or not. Noting that the type of situation that arose at the Taylor concert could become very dangerous, Sikand said he hoped this policy would be initiated as soon as possible.
[ . . . ]
(by Steve Israel, from the F&M College Reporter 2/2/71)
March 12, 1971 article.
April 2, 1971:
GRATEFUL DEAD PERFORM IN MAYSER ON APRIL 10
The Grateful Dead, California's children, will be appearing at F and M next Saturday night at 8:00 in Mayser Center.
To say anything about the Dead is to repeat the history of rock music itself. But not only have they been one of the major forces behind the development of music, they are the symbols of the West Coast counter-culture, the first acid-freaks who gathered with Ken Kesey to perform the first "electric Kool-Aid acid tests."
Says member Phil Lesh: "The Grateful Dead is trying to save the world. We are trying to make things groovier for everybody so more people can feel better more often, to advance the trip, to get higher, however you want to say it..."
And the Dead indeed make people feel good. Notorious for the amount of time they stay on stage, they once gathered at the Fillmore with the Airplane and elements of Traffic and Procol Harum and produced one of the most spontaneous, most far out concerts seen recently.
More noteworthy lately, however, has been the group's radical shift in music styles and their as yet not-too-clearly understood role in the Altamont disaster.
The Dead have guaranteed a three-hour concert. It will depend on the audience reaction they witness whether they'll want to stay all night. Bad vibes, like the ones that have been consistently recognized during F and M concerts, will quickly put an end to the magic of the Dead...this is only fair warning.
Ashok Sikand, president of the SUB, has stated that it is advisable for students to purchase their tickets by the end of the day as they are not expected to last past today.
(from the F&M College Reporter 4/2/71)
April 6, 1971:
Grateful Dead...Grateful Dead...Ggggrratttefulll Deeeeaaad...it just keeps rolling off your tongue and you keep saying it over and over and you remember the magic that happened the last time you saw them. What a great band! Those guys, they just reach on down and swallow you and you don't know what happened.
Around 1965, each of the people who eventually got together to form the Dead had reached the end of the road as far as rock experience. They were just drifting around, lost, not really able to concentrate on the music that was currently going around.
Until they met Ken Kesey, that is. As they describe it, they were able to explore the things that had never been open to anyone else before. They started playing at the Acid Tests down at Kesey's place in La Honda and suddenly there was so much for them to find out! "And we'd be playing, or, when we were playing we were playing. When we weren't, we'd be doing some other stuff. There were no sets, sometimes we'd get up and play for two hours, three hours, sometimes we'd play for ten minutes and all freak out and split... It wasn't a gig, it was the Acid Tests where anything was OK."
You really can't understand what and why the Grateful Dead play unless you realize that music is "like Yoga" to them. They live, breathe, and do everything else with music, and Jerry Garcia admits that it's the only thing that really makes any difference to them. "Nobody has to fool around with musty old scores, weird notation, and scholarship bullshit, you can just go into a record store and pick a century, pick a country, pick anything, and dig it, make it part of you, add it to the stuff you carry around, and see that it's all music," says Garcia.
There's no apparent reason why the Dead can't make it successfully in the commercial field. They are basically what Michael Lydon calls "hard rock/white R and B, slightly freaked - not very different from Steppenwolf, Creedence Clearwater, or the Sir Douglas Quintet." But things have changed a lot since the Acid Tests. Instead of spontaneous freaking out by a lot of people who don't know what is going on, and are part of the Acid Test experience entirely, the Tests have reverted to a mass television show, where you sit in a chair and watch a light show flashed up on a screen behind the musicians, you know, so you can see the musicians and watch the light show at the same time. It's the whole production side of it, the contracts, the ticket hustling, the reversion to old order shows that the Dead have found incomprehensible and definitely not part of their trip at all.
They never were much good at business. The summer of 1969 saw the Dead with $60,000 in unpaid bills on their hands and their dealings in the rock business world uniformly disastrous.
They could put out five or six [top]-selling singles within a week and maybe they know that. But what the promoters and most of the public don't understand is that the Dead can never accept the confining and intolerably choking atmosphere of made-to-order music - though their last two albums have really proven otherwise.
In a way, maybe the Dead feel that sometimes; too often in fact, they don't get what they expect on stage. The audience doesn't quite let them be themselves; they ask for imitations, they demand a certain order to the performance. Better to try and make the earth stop turning. No, the Dead will [act] unnatural only up to a certain point and then they will sadly realize that this was just another disappointment. Like the time they played at Portland: the crowd is not really asking for what the Dead want to give, but the only thing they can give. "We'll be back, folks," says Jerry, "we'll be back after a break." Bob Weir laughs as he hears Jerry's announcement. "It's really something when you have to lie to get off the stage."
(by Jimi Weiner, from the F&M College Reporter 4/6/71)
Thanks to Dave Davis.
This review makes the Dead's show sound a lot longer than it was. The other review concurs that the total show (with the New Riders) was five hours, which must have included long breaks. The Dead played two sets, and didn't really "jam and jam on every song" (as usual in early '71, most of the jamming was in Pigpen's big numbers). Maybe the reviewer was used to the shorter guitar solos of other bands - his Dead frame of reference was their last two albums, not the earlier 'psychedelic' material. He was struck by how well Weir & Garcia played together.ReplyDelete
This was the Dead's first tour using their own PA system, which the reviewer was impressed by. McNally writes, "Using local sound systems had caused many unacceptable problems the previous fall, so early in 1971 the band purchased the Alembic PA... With the new PA, the Dead needed more hands...now [the crew] grew considerably in numbers... The new crew members' first big tour would hit colleges across Pennsylvania in April." (p.395-6)
I added a number of articles leading up to the show from the Franklin & Marshall College Reporter. A number of items of interest - the thousand-signature student petition requesting a Dead show on campus; the chaos prevailing at recent shows (including such hair-raising rock performers as James Taylor and Laura Nyro); the normality of bomb scares; the ever-present threat that future shows at the college may be halted; and the difficulties the student union had in negotiating a contract with the Dead (who refused to accept a time clause, and cancelled their initial March date).ReplyDelete
The Dead themselves are trumpeted as the second coming: "one of the major forces behind the development of music," "the symbols of the West Coast counter-culture," and they're "trying to save the world" to boot. Their recent spontaneous 11/16/70 appearance at the Fillmore East has already become legendary, as well as their lengthy New York shows, and it's hinted that they may well "stay all night" (unless the audience puts out "bad vibes" and ends the magic).
Weiner's article before the show is mostly drawn from Lydon's 1969 Rolling Stone article on the band; he doesn't say anything about when he might have seen the band before. But he does stress that the audience shouldn't come with expectations about how the show should go; the Dead need to "be themselves" in spite of any audience demands. And he gives one of the best brief descriptions of a Dead show: "they just reach on down and swallow you and you don't know what happened."
Some great eyewitness stories at archive.org's one fileset for this show.ReplyDelete