May 22, 2020

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.


  1. Unfortunately, this is a really poor review of this lost show; one wishes someone other than Mr. Gradet had covered the show for the Tech News. But at least a few details are useful.

    The Dead played at Harrington Auditorium as part of the so-called "Freek Weekend" at WPI. They were scheduled at 8:30 but started at 9. The New Riders played with them (this reviewer had no idea the New Riders were a separate group, and had trouble counting the total number of musicians).
    Note that the audience was not too thrilled with the acoustic set, and many left early - a attendee confirms that "3/4 of the audience left before the second set." Another Archive reviewer recalls, "At the long break most of the audience left. It was my first Dead concert, and a friend insisted they would come back, which they did with an electric vengeance. Maybe 100-200 people stayed for the long second set, if I recall." (Much the same had happened at the May 1 show, and probably at others as well, as audiences came expecting psychedelic rock and got a long dose of country.)

    Just from the length of the show, it's evident it was one of the Dead's giant May '70 blowouts as they played various colleges in the midst of antiwar protests and strikes. I'm not sure whether to believe that people had fallen asleep on the floor by the end! Another attendee recalls, "I remember furious jamming and chain dances on the floor. Jerry broke a string and continued playing while another string was placed. Furious drumming in that old gym hall... The band was crazed that night." The roadies & audience members set off firecrackers at the end of the show.

    A partial acoustic set used to circulate as 5/9/70, until it was discovered to actually be part of 5/3/70. So no setlist is known.
    Another Archive attendee remembers:
    "A friend recorded onto a portable cassette recorder - but would not want to brag about the sound quality. Concert was essentially in a gymnasium - Harrington Auditorium it was called - we sat on the floor on canvas tarps and Jerry and Bob opened up doing acoustic songs - Monkey and Engineer and I do remember Pigpen being there. Electric New Riders came out after that - Jerry on steel - did Cold Jordan and others - have a lousy recording of some of these songs too - after a break that seemed like an hour to us - Electric Dead came out and were loud - cassette audio was overloaded and really awful... At 2 am we hit the streets to walk home."
    The same person commented on Lost Live Dead:
    "A night that went on forever -
    Acoustic Weir/Garcia - and Phil came out as well as I recall - Black Peter, Monkey and Engineer, El Paso... After that set - New Riders came out - with Jerry - and Mickey Hart was there too - David Nelson -
    And after a break that seemed like an hour - our eardrums were split with an electric set - that pretty much set my friend's ALC on his cassette into permanent overload - we should have thought to turn it away from the stage and the monitors - it may have eased the overload a bit - I do have some of it on reel to reel - made from the original cassette - but the oxide was flaking pretty badly last time it was out of the box...
    I think the concert went over 5 hours total - got home at 3am."

  2. First electric set - partial set list
    1. Cold Rain and Snow
    2. Sitting On Top Of The World
    3. tuning
    4. New Minglewood Blues
    5. Morning Dew
    6. Good Lovin' >
    7. Drums >
    8. New Orleans >
    9. Good Lovin'
    10. High Time//

    1. !!!

      This is from...?? I'm not aware of any tape, even a partial one.

  3. I lived a block from campus at the time. Alas, I was 11…. 😉