'DEAD' TO PLAY
A band that emerged from the San Francisco underground to gain perhaps the most devoted and fanatical following in the rock world will perform here Tuesday.
The Grateful Dead will appear at 8:30 p.m. at the University of Rochester Palestra. Appearing with them will be the New Riders of the Purple Sage. The concert is sold out.
(from the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, 23 October 1971)
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Last Night In Review
LONG WAIT FOR 'DEAD'
Even the most fanatical fan of the Grateful Dead (and we all know the Dead fans are most fanatical of all) must have had occasion last night to ask himself, "Why bother?"
More than 3,000 fans were forced to wait several hours in front of the University of Rochester Palestra until the first row of waiters was pinioned against the building wall, and each successive row layered on the next.
The doors finally opened about 9:30 p.m., one hour after the scheduled start of the concert. Some in the audience had been there since 6:30 p.m. WCMF-FM had arranged to broadcast the concert beginning at 9:30 p.m.
Once inside the Palestra, where the breathing was not much better, the New Riders of the Purple Sage immediately began to turn the tide on the audience's lingering annoyance.
The New Riders are not a run-of-the-mill warm-up act, but a completely professional group worthy of top billing.
They spread their gentle countrified sound, very reminiscent of the Grateful Dead, over songs ranging from those of Merle Haggard to the old Ricky Nelson hit "Hello, Marylou."
The resemblance to the Grateful Dead is not purely coincidental, since Jerry Garcia, lead singer and lead guitarist of the Dead, plays the steel guitar quietly in the background for the Riders.
One unsatisfying moment in their performance was a venture into "I Don't Need No Doctor," played and sung proficiently but performed without the instinctive feeling of a great blues band.
When the Grateful Dead made their appearance just before midnight, the level of excellence the New Riders had attained was merely a launching pad.
The Dead has a reputation as one of the greatest performing bands in the world and they deserve it.
The band consists of Garcia, Bob Weir on rhythm guitar, Phil Lesh on bass guitar, Bill Kreutzmann on drums, and Keith Godchaux, filling in last night for organist Ron "Pig Pen" McKernan.
They came running out and into "Bertha," a song written by Garcia and Robert Hunter, who writes many of the Dead's songs. The audience was with them from the start, groups dancing in circles, bouncing, clapping hands over their heads.
The band appears to play with a minimum of frills - no strutting Mick Jagger, no guitar-twirling-smashing Peter Townshend, no drumstick flipping a la Keith Moon.
In fact the only frill was a simulated flamethrower, sending streaks of light in the air.
The Dead is one band that appears to perform without egos out front. Garcia frames some exquisite guitar solos, playing from the side of the stage, barely visible to half the audience.
The Dead's songs are only convenient landmarks for the audience on precise musical journeys into the stratosphere.
A beautiful version of John Phillips' "Me and My Uncle" featured Phil Lesh doing a final vocal. [sic]
The Dead, the one band that could play all night and does, was still going early in the morning.
(by Mark Starr, from the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, 27 October 1971)
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First off, a little Grateful Dead news - Due to illness, don't expect to see Pigpen making concert appearances with the Dead for a while. It seems that the laws of nature and human chemistry have finally caught up with Pigpen, and he'll be laid up in the hospital for a little while, recovering from what is said to be serosis of the liver. In his absence the Dead will have someone by the name of Keith Jarron playing organ and piano, but fear not, Pigpen will rejoin the Dead as soon as his recovery is complete.
THE GRATEFUL DEAD
A CONCERT U OF R STYLE
At 5:30, four hours before the start of the concert, the truck pulled in and a complete sound system was unloaded. As the speakers, amplifiers, and preamplifiers were hauled to the stage, I noticed stickers on all of the crates. They read "Good old Grateful Dead," and for a moment I thought, "Boy, how far from the truth could they be." No more three hour versions of "Dark Star" or "St. Stephen," but rather short, sweet versions of "Me and Bobby McGee" and "Truckin'."
The Dead have changed, there's no denying that, but it was a natural evolution. The San Francisco pioneer group that played a major role in the creation of the Acid Rock scene has now turned to an almost country-western sound.
The guitar genius of Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir and the unique sound of Phil Lesh's bass is still there, but they are much more interwoven, whereas in the early days, ninety minute solos by any of the band was not uncommon.
Tuesday night's four hour set went really well and the Dead did a large selection of songs, ranging from cuts from their two newest albums, "American Beauty" and "Grateful Dead Live," to an old Rick Nelson favorite, "Hello Mary Lou, Goodbye Love." The appreciative audience applauded every number.
At the end of the concert, the crowd showed their thanks, content to leave with a head full of sweet Dead sounds.
Earlier in the evening, while backstage, I saw Guru Garcia open a piece of foil, swallow, take a drink of water, and smile. Maybe those stickers weren't so wrong after all.
(both articles from the Stylus, SUNY Brockport, 2 November 1971)
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'ROUND THINGS ARE...BORING'
I just sat down, turned on the radio, and was sadly greeted by news of the death of Duane Allman. A few years ago death in the music world came very unexpectedly, all being isolated incidents. This is no longer the case. There are reasons for Brian Jones, Jimi, Janis, Alan Wilson, and the all but physical death of Johnny Winter. And one reason might be the continuous pressure that we the audience place on these people? Well, it's something to think about!
All this leads me to the apparent musical stagnation of the Grateful Dead. Let me first explain to you what the Grateful Dead meant to me before last Tuesday, and what they mean to me now. For the past few years, there had been very few things that meant more to me: a few family members, a friend or two, my girlfriend. That was about it. My love for the Dead had even surpassed my love for the San Francisco Giants, a group of people I had lived and died with for 11 years.
I loved them for two reasons, one being that they played the fucking best rock music ever. As Lenny Kaye said in his review of Live Dead: "The Dead is five years ahead of any rock band. They play music other groups don't even know exist." Secondly, I found their attitudes beautiful. They played their music and if you couldn't dig it, that was no reason for them to compromise themselves or their music. As Garcia once said, "On our first tour, people were constantly walking out. But the people who liked us came back every night."
Then a strange thing happened (or should I use "inevitable") and the great masses discovered the Dead. As the crowds got larger and larger, some changes began to occur in their music. Those legendary all-night jams began to shorten, their acoustic sets were stopped, and since the new Dead freaks were those who were purchasing Workingman's Dead and American Beauty, a Dead concert was now designed to please that new audience. The Dead were true blue and indeed gave them what they wanted to hear - spotlight on "Uncle John's Band" and "Truckin." It's a helluva lot easier to just repeat the chorus to "Casey Jones" over and over again than to work and attempt to achieve a musical high like in "Viola Lee Blues" or "Dark Star." I guess that's it in a nutshell.
The high point of a Dead concert used to be musical, but it is no longer that. A Dead concert used to be a reinforcement of life, an affirmation of an alternative lifestyle. Now it's just a temporary alleviation from the monotony and sordidness of our lives. It is not so different from the way our parents use the once every three months bar mitzvah or wedding to forget how much it takes to go on. The point of all this being that the Dead are now able to satisfy their audience with just a trifle of what they are capable of.
So I found myself in Rochester last week, hoping that I would find the band that has given me so much pleasure in the past. But even before the show began I received news that Pigpen was in the hospital with cirrhosis of the liver. I had enough doubts about the show to begin with, and this news just made it that much worse.
Once inside the gym, I found myself right in front of the stage, maybe two feet away from Sam Cutler who promptly introduced the Riders. They seem to be shifting their sound from strictly country to include funkier material. This is evidenced by Marmaduke's shift to electric guitar, and bassist Dave Torbert doing two or three lead vocals. His songs were all hand-clapping, ass-shaking tunes. Anyway, the Riders put on one fine show. Their set included many cuts from their album, with great renditions of "Last Lonely Eagle" and "Henry," which Marmaduke dedicated to "anyone who has ever made a living by smuggling dope."
The stage was now set for the Dead, and it was the first time I was ever apprehensive before seeing a band. And my apprehension became even more real before they played a note. The stage was inundated by at least ten men wearing Grateful Dead skull shirts. And when I looked up at the gym backboard, I saw about five more skull stickers. And on the drums and everywhere else I looked all I saw was the ominous "skull." And then I realized what had happened, this really was The Grateful Dead Show, just like it had said on the ticket.
"The hottest rock & roll band this side of New York City," said Sam Cutler and the Dead broke into "Bertha." And then "Playing in the Band, Big Railroad Blues, Me and My Uncle," and "Me and Bobby McGee." I never saw a greater album push in my life. I wouldn't even have minded so much, but I was hearing the exact replica of the album, note for note. Absolutely no spontaneity, and spontaneity was what the Dead used to be all about.
And not only was their music lacking but their attitude was also. I've never seen anyone more bored than Bill Kreutzmann was that night. My mind wandered back to before the show when Phil Lesh had refused to give me a backstage pass because, in his words, "These passes are for beautiful chicks," and he proceeded to give them to three girls who happened to be wandering by.
Then came "Sugar Magnolia," and I told my friend to watch as Phil Lesh shoots his arms into the air at the end of the break. The end of the break came, up went Phil's arm, and my friend stared at me in disbelief. It had all become so contrived!
When it was over, I spoke to their manager and expressed my great disappointment in what I had just seen. His reply was: "We think there is something for everyone in our show now." I said to myself, "Yeah, for me and many other longtime Dead people there was about five minutes tonight where the Dead forgot about pleasing the masses and got down to playing." When they did that I knew they were still the best musicians around, not that there was any doubt about that.
It is evident that they've decided to take the easier path. But can we really blame them? They're only human, and so now that they've finally made it they're cashing in on it. No different than anyone else, right? Or mostly anyone else anyway. My only hope is that when things get a little less hectic, the Dead can once again settle down to the business of making great music, instead of the business of making money. That the Grateful Dead Show will deteriorate into the just plain old Grateful Dead. For now I'll content myself with recordings of what used to be and sit back and hope it can be again.
(by Terry Bromberg & Jesse Levine, from the Spectrum, University at Buffalo, 5 November 1971)
Thanks to Dave Davis.
Released on Download Series vol. 3.