May 22, 2020

April 3, 1970: Fieldhouse, University of Cincinnati, OH


Last Friday The Grateful Dead presented a concert at the University of Cincinnati, and I doubt whether the Fieldhouse will ever be the same. The good feelings that hung in the air, the aroma of little cigarettes (I wonder what they could have been?), the vibrancy of the music, must certainly have caused a change in the molecular structure of the place.
The concert brought together various groups that helped to make the evening a good one. The Hog Farm was there, handling the technical aspects. One of the best things about the show was a spectacular and genuinely mind-opening light show, certainly the best I've ever seen. It used film, design and light to great advantage.
The story of the evening, however, was music. The first group to appear was the Lemon Pipers, a solid local band that did some blues-influenced rock. Good instrumentalists (except for the drummer who was monotonously heavy and not up to some of the tempos), the group started strongly and then got bogged down in some slow things that made their set run out of gas rather quickly.
The second group was Devil's Kitchen from Illinois. Ironically, they weren't very good instrumentally, and their singer is woefully bad, but they have a very fast drummer that kicks them into sounding like a pretty good band.
I should point out, however, that everyone knew that the bands were there just to warm-up the audience for the Dead. As such, they did their job well and were politely received by the happy audience.
After Devil's Kitchen left, there were the usual open-mike ramblings and then someone put on some Santana tapes. People wandered around, shaking to "Jingo," and then, "From San Francisco, here they are, the Grateful Dead!"
There they were, the two drummers, Pig Pen, Jerry Garcia, the works! There is no doubt about it, The Grateful Dead are one of the finest rock bands around. They played one of the longest and most exciting sets of rock I've ever heard. Some of the highlights: a long and friendly acoustic segment with a good version of "Wake Up Little Suzy," a crowd pleasing version of Bobby Bland's "Turn On Your Love Light" featuring a great solo by Garcia on guitar and a good shouting vocal by Pig Pen, a chugging version of "Good Loving" that led to interpolations of other tunes and a tremendous drum duet (along with the usual brilliance of Garcia). It is hard for me to single out other great moments, for the band's greatness lies in its ability to flow from song to song, from improvisation to improvisation, from shieking loud ensembles to controlled soft solos. Most importantly (and perhaps this is why they're so good) the guys in the band listen to one another, so that the total sound of the band is what grabs the listener. 

(from the Independent Eye, April 9-23, 1970) 

Thanks to Mark Neeley. 

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May 9, 1970: Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Worcester, MA


The Greatful Dead performed at WPI on Saturday, May 9 and Sunday, May 10. Their concert lasted from 9 p.m. Saturday until 2:20 a.m. Sunday morning. Led by guitarist Jerry Garcia, the Dead performed everything from acoustic country music to distortic rock music.
Beginning a little late at 9 p.m., the group did a bit of acoustic country music. The crowd didn't quite get into this part of the show, except those who really liked the Dead. As the night went on, and the group moved into more electric music, the crowd began to wake up. By 12 the crowd on the floor had thinned out and some of those left were dancing and tripping. By 2:20 a.m. when the concert ended, those left had either fallen asleep on the floor, or were still standing up front jumping and dancing.
The Grateful Dead were one of the first groups to come out with what is now sometimes known as the "San Francisco" sound. A mixture of country and rock with a little blues thrown in, the "sound" has been carried on by such groups as the Moby Grape, Sea Train, Quicksilver Messenger Service, and Jefferson Airplane; the latter of which had more of a hard rock tint. The Grateful Dead are actually a group of about ten musicians, including two drummers, three guitarists, one bass player, and one organist-harp player.
All in all, the concert was very good, all five and one half hours of it.

(by Al Gradet, from the Tech News, 12 May 1970)

Alas, no tape! 

Thanks to Volkmar.

May 20, 2020

March 11, 1968: Memorial Auditorium, Sacramento, CA


Cream, a relatively new British rock music trio which has been, you should excuse the expression, rising to the top very swiftly in America by way of two record albums, made an impressive debut last night in the Memorial Auditorium before a near capacity crowd of around 3,500.
The trio takes its name from the claim that its members are the cream of the crop in England. Guitarist and singer Eric Clapton; Jack Bruce, who plays bass guitar, harmonica, and also sings; and Ginger Baker, the drummer, are all said to be stars in their own individual right at home. After hearing them ride through an hour and five minutes of hard driving and often brilliantly played arrangements, one is willing to believe it.
Their music is, with few exceptions, primarily and very strongly rooted in the blues. Last night's pieces were almost all blues, and included, from their more popular recorded numbers, "Tales of Brave Ulysses," a slow, driving and very verbal piece, and "The Sunshine of Your Love." The very slow and supremely gutty blues which followed the latter, a lament for a gone woman, was even better.
The trio's set closed with three pieces which gave each man a chance to shine. Clapton's moment, a long, insistent solo, came in a duet with Baker. Bruce then teamed up with the tireless drummer for a fast "train blues" on the harmonica, spiced with husky singing that eventually mixed so swiftly with the harmonica one could hardly tell them apart. It was a brilliant, exciting performance. Finally, the two guitarists gave Baker a sendoff and then left him alone onstage for a tremendous 10 minute drum solo that stood the crowd on its feet for a final ovation.

The San Francisco group known as the Grateful Dead opened the program with a 60 minute performance that was uninterrupted from start to finish. The first half of it seemed either to be divided into sections or was actually three or four numbers strung together with some random guitar tuning in between. The second half was a long, long blues that ended in several minutes of roaring, howling, screaming cataclysmic electronic sound, punctuated by several firecrackers set off by one of the two drummers and eventually fading away into a hillbilly-style hymn bidding the audience good night. It was quite a contrast. Some of the earlier parts of the performance worked up some musical momentum, but nothing of what was sung could be understood. Loudness, it would appear, is the overriding quality the Dead are after.
The local group known as the Light Brigade projected from the rear of the stage a light show behind the performers.
The show was an inexcusable 47 minutes late in starting.
Adults who think all young people are rebellious should have seen the incredible patience this crowd displayed during this period of waiting for those outside to buy tickets.
With the Cream's performance, however, it became apparent they knew what they were waiting for.

(by William Glackin, from the Sacramento Bee, 12 March 1968)

Alas, no tape! 

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May 12, 2020

February 21, 1967: The Maze TV Broadcast


Were those picturesque persons who drifted lazily across the KPIX screen Tuesday night the beatific beneficiaries of a beautiful new society? Were they the harbinger saints of a revolutionary philosophy of love and anti-hassle? Or were they just a bunch of kids in beards, playing out the perennial delusion that 20-year-olds know more about life, truth and beauty than their confused elders, who commute, wear ties, and send a check once a month?
As a typically rat-raced commuter in the over-30 age group (who, as you know, are not to be trusted) I took the latter view of "The Maze," a well-made half-hour excursion into the scented-beaded-folk-rocking picnicland of Haight-Ashbury, home of the hip, the turned-on and the freaked-out. It was, as they say, a trip.
As the KPIX camera traveled through the centers of dropout culture, the Psychedelic Book Shop with its walls covered with poster photos of camp heroes like Bogart and W. C, Fields, [and] the Straight Theater where the Grateful Dead blast out a stupefying roar of nihilistic sound, the hippie community presented themselves with great profusion of facial hair and odd raiment, and expressions of vacancy that no doubt denote inner peace.
They are a weird clientele, all right, but are they really the sinister threats to society that local newscasters paint them to be? After the first initial shock, one soon perceives that underneath those beards are the smooth faces of somebody's kids, caught in the still hiatus between school and the draft, having a happy, slothful time for themselves and avoiding adult life as long as possible. Who can blame them? I mean, like, who really wants to commute?
As is good policy when venturing into foreign territory, KPIX hired a competent guide. Michael McClure, a handsome young poet with a medium-length mane, conducted a knowledgeable, articulate tour and defended the hippie way of life with reasonable plausibility.
"The straight people really need what's happening here," said McClure, explaining that Haight-Ashbury is a free, uncritical place where "the phony rituals are stripped away," where "I can grow my hair to my shoulders and see what it is to feel like Greta Garbo. There's no society to tell me 'You must be this.'"
McClure conceded, with an air of serene indifference, that sexual restraints and taboos are passe in Haight-Ashbury. "But they're also passe on Madison Avenue, and up on Montgomery Street. The difference is in the lack of hypocrisy here."
The camera visited several communal apartments in the district, where apartments are getting so scarce that incoming hippies must move into nearby areas. The pads, if they are still called pads (we grow old!) looked clean and colorful, intriguingly bedecked with hanging jewels, posters, Indian cloth, polished wooden & glass articles in aesthetic shapes. The squalor and calculated crumminess that delighted the beatnik generation are out of style now.
"This isn't North Beach all over again," said McClure. "North Beach was in revolt against society. But this new thing is not in revolt. It has just divorced itself."
Haight-Ashbury folk are not interested in protests, marches, or other tension-inducing behavior. They are also, it was clear, not interested in work, although the district maintains a "HIP Job Corps" to provide part-time employment for hungry hippies. McClure's young friends were seen in various postures of serenity (or was it just sluggishness?), carrying on all-night conversations in incense-shrouded circles, the girls gazing dully (or is it tranquilly?)  through the long, ironed hair that hangs in their very-young faces, the boys speaking solemnly through the bushy beards that look strangely incongruous against shiny cheeks and unlined foreheads.
Other hippies were seen making bread, or singing Krishna hymns in a Hindu ceremony, or simply congratulating themselves on their citizenship among the enlightened. "I think we are revolutionaries of living," said one unshaven and placid soul, squatting on a cushion.
After allowing McClure 30 minutes of affectionate propagandizing for Dropoutsville, KPIX felt the need to establish itself on the side of righteousness and squaredom by reminding that Haight-Ashbury also contains "weak, selfish and criminal people," and hinting with delicious vagueness at "sexual excesses." No doubt there are. . .  But the scene that KPIX revealed looked harmless enough, and pretty, and silly, and awfully young.
Personally, I haven't the slightest desire to know what it is to feel like Greta Garbo. Even if I had, with 13 car payments to go, this is no time to start getting disdainful of the good old straight world.

(by Bob MacKenzie, from the "On Television" column, Oakland Tribune, 23 February 1967)

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