Jul 3, 2019

March 17, 1971: Fox Theater, St. Louis


The Grateful Dead is alive and well - despite all the years it has been putting electric shocks into rock.
The six-man San Francisco band takes its name from an Elizabethan folk song about persons consigned to roaming the earth because they cannot die. When death finally comes, they are grateful for it.
Last night, The Dead, one drummer short, performed in the Babylonian splendor of the creakingly-old Fox Theater.
It was the first night of a two-night engagement in St. Louis.
The Dead trailed on to the stage almost an hour late. There had been some minor quarrels back stage over arrangements for the concert. But the approximately 4000 rock music freaks didn't seem to mind the Dead's delay.
The gaudy Fox is a good place for the Dead.
Jon McIntire, born in the St. Louis area and manager of the rock group, called the Fox "a boss place." Translated, that means McIntire and The Dead liked the place.
One source suggested that the Fox, which opened Jan. 31, 1929, might well become sort of a Fillmore Midwest - between the two famous Fillmore rock halls on the East and West coasts.
The crowd last night included many hair freaks in Salvation Army clothes, who could not have been long into chewing bubble gum when The Dead first exploded on the psychedelic music scene. That was in San Francisco in the Acid Test days of the middle-1960s. Then it used frenetic rhythms, blasting decibels, light shows, and mind-blowing music. Last night, The Dead's music was more economical.
The musicians opened their set with their traveling song, then went into several country- and blues-flavored songs, including "Me and Bobbie McGee," a current big single from the late rock diva Janis Joplin's album "Pearl."
Bob Weir, the rhythm guitarist, handled that vocal nicely, but a more vibrant vocal was Ron (Pigpen) McKernan's "Turn on Your Lovelight." Many in the crowd screamed and danced.
Pigpen, cowboy hat pulled low over his face and moustache, danced around on stage handling several instruments.
Particularly noteworthy was Jerry Garcia's electrifying flights in his lead guitar sequences. He is a flashy, good guitar player, with an on-stage image of a bearded, elder statesman of rock.
Phil Lesh, bass, and Bill Kreutzmann, drummer, (second drummer Mickey Hart was not in the concert) provided able support as The Dead got into more electronic musical flights.
The concert ended just before midnight with many in the crowd dancing and shouting, "Play all night."
The Dead were preceded by the New Riders of the Purple Sage, who are members of The Dead's musical family in Marin County, Calif. The Riders rode the range between rock music and country. The closer they got to country, the better they sounded.
Both groups are to appear again tonight at the Fox Theater. 

(by Thomas Newsom, from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 18 March 1971)  

Also from this issue:


Police arrested six persons suspected of drug violations and handled the explosion of a smoke bomb in the lobby of the Fox Theater, where the Grateful Dead rock group performed last night.
Tony Paluso, theater manager, told police he kicked the smoke bomb out a side door when it began to sputter in the lobby about 9 o'clock. Bomb squad detectives took charge of the bomb.
Extra police details patrolled the theater area, because of the size of the crowd near the theater.
[Two people] were booked suspected of illegal possession of narcotics. Police said they had found what was believed to be marijuana and hallucinative drugs in the suspects' automobile.
[Four others were also] booked suspected of narcotic violations... [One] was offering LSD for sale.

Thanks to Dave Davis

See also:


  1. A good complement to the other review of this show I posted from the St. Louis Globe-Democrat. Both papers reviewed the first night the Dead played the Fox, which is somewhat "lost" (the show recording is in the Vault, but does not circulate, perhaps due to bad cuts). This review focuses more on the actual music the Dead played, though the reviewer (typically for a mainstream newspaper reporter) sounds very distant from the Dead's scene.

    The Dead started almost an hour late (no surprise); after a 90-minute NRPS set, the Dead came on at 9:15, and the show ended before midnight, to the disappointment of the crowd. Truckin' was the opener, and Lovelight was most likely the closing number (contrary to a setlists.net commenter).
    This reviewer, though probably not too familiar with the Dead, appears to know more about them than the other reviewer did - the other reviewer didn't name a single song or bandmember. This reviewer notices that Mickey Hart isn't there, calls Truckin' "their traveling song," and is able to identify the singers.
    The story about the "Elizabethan folk song" isn't correct, but it's at least more accurate than the old '67 belief that the name came from the Egyptian Book of the Dead.
    The distance people in 1971 felt from the '60s is well-captured here when the reviewer talks about "the Acid Test days of the middle-1960s" when the Dead appeared on the scene, and their current fans were just small children. Actually it had only been five years before! (Garcia is even called an "elder statesman of rock"...he was 28.)

    Naturally the paper also includes police arrest details from the show - the next day's issue would add to the toll as more were arrested the next night:
    "Police last night [3/18] arrested more persons suspected of drug violations in the vicinity of the Fox Theater... Six [more] persons were booked suspected of possession of marijuana... [They were] accused of having discarded a bag containing a marijuana cigarette...of having a marijuana cigarette, and...of smoking a pipe containing marijuana."
    (In a striking editorial combination, a small article next to the show review reported that "Donald J. Henry, who admitted spiking potato chips with LSD at a gathering because he wanted to make it a good party, was sentenced yesterday to six years to life in prison.")

    The Post-Dispatch had carried an interesting story by Newsom on March 17 ("People Need Bread For Rock Music") about how much money rock musicians were making and St. Louis fans' complaints. It included a few words on the Dead:
    "Carl Bianco, promoter...has been promoting rock concerts at lower ticket prices than other promoters who bring rock to St. Louis. For an advanced general admission of $3.50, a person can get into the concert. Rock concerts at Kiel Auditorium by out-of-town promoters usually run from $4 to $6...
    Bianco, who is bringing the Grateful Dead to town for two nights, Wednesday and Thursday of this week, said he was trying to get rock music at a lower price in St. Louis...
    The Grateful Dead...oppose excessive commercialism in their industry. Bianco said that several promoters were trying to get the concert for St. Louis, but he was selected to promote it, because of the lower ticket prices he was willing to charge. The group, whose manager Jon McIntire, from the St. Louis area, wanted to play the concert in the old ornate Fox Theater. McIntire's parents live in Belleville. He attended Washington University.
    In a traditional 'one night city,' The Grateful Dead is willing to try a two-night stand."

    1. I'll quote more from the "People Need Bread for Rock Music" article - though non-Dead, it adds context to the frequent gate-crashing and 'free music' protests at Dead shows at the time:

      "The people began arriving early on a recent Friday night for the Poco concert in the field house at Washington University. Some brought food and wine and spread out on the gym floor to eat and drink.
      There was a lot of love, and there were balloons flying about in the air. Questions were whispered about how many 'narcs' were in the place.
      In the counter-culture, 'narcs' are the bad guys. They are narcotics agents who look for drugs, and after the recent shooting deaths of a policeman and a pusher on Waterman Boulevard, a lot of persons were nerved up.
      Shortly after 9 p.m., Poco came on. The place was really grooving. There were about 3,500 persons enjoying the music and the scene. But about 50 or so, 'the crazies,' had been up to 'revolutionary tactics.'
      The crazies rushed the doors on the Big Bend Boulevard side of the field house to let their brothers and sisters in. 'Music to the people!' someone shouted. Some glass was broken. At least one fight started. Guards on the doors let the people in.
      A week or so before, during the Richie Havens concert, the guards had tried to keep the gate-crashers out. About 200 persons outside went on a rampage. Windows were broken. The police were called.
      Thrown stones, broken glass, and violence do not mix well with rock music. Carl Bianco, promoter of the concerts in the field house, said that he would not promote any more concerts there...
      'I'm tired of fighting them,' he said of the unruly youths, 'and the school is sensitive.' [...]
      Bianco has been promoting rock concerts at lower ticket prices than other promoters [...] But a radical underground newspaper in St. Louis has taken on Bianco. In a recent issue, the paper accused Bianco of 'making a bundle.' It said: 'Rock groups are, for the most part, almost as good rip-off artists as rock promoters. Maybe even more. They sell us back our culture, build on our pain, joy, and anger, for a price.' [...]
      Bianco said, 'I'm visible and local, and they know me. How do you go about fighting Golden Star Productions on the West Coast?' Or any other big promoter. [...]
      The argument in St. Louis over the price of rock is symbolic of what is going on across the country. [...] Most rock musicians themselves increase their prices as they gain in fame. [...] Carl Bianco is arguing that revolutionary politics and rock music don't mix. Unless the musicians themselves agree to play free for the people, the price will have to be paid..."

      The rest of the article discusses how much money various popular musicians make...although the Dead's fee is not mentioned.