GRATEFUL DEAD TURN ON ONE TURNED-ON CROWD
Marijuana in the air. Find your seat before the start. Are the Dead next? Look at the ceiling, will you? Dozens of different mosaics. Has Irvine ever looked so freaky? Shh. Here they come.
The Grateful Dead, your original San Francisco acid-rock band, formerly mad LSD freaks on the Merry Pranksters dayglo bus, famous for hour-long psychedelic versions of half-hour album cuts, the first band with two drummers, partial inventors of the rock and roll light show, participants in the Haight-Ashbury summer of love, featured in a Life magazine article on hippies.
Here they are, folks, the fire marshal has asked me to remind you that there is no smoking in Irvine Auditorium.
A living legend.
Three thousand cheering fans stand in the aisles, fill up the orchestra pit, crowd the stage, hang from the speakers, dance in the balcony, cavort in the lobby, mob the dressing room, hug their neighbors, pass the joint, gawk at the mosaics, and get ready for two hours of fine rock and roll.
It took a handful of albums and a half a dozen years for the Dead to become big, national stars. Two weeks ago, it took only one song for the Dead to convince the audience that they were as good as everyone said.
Irvine Auditorium, on the Penn campus, was the location, and the excuse for the celebration was Drexel University's Homecoming. The theme of the weekend, according to the Drexel Homecoming Committee, was "Times Are Changing," and the evening proved they certainly were.
It is very difficult to describe the music. Jerry Garcia's slinky guitar lines changed one song into another. Pigpen sang a funky version of "Turn on Your Love Light" and exploded occasional red smoke bombs for percussive emphasis. Adonis-like Bob Weir played second guitar with outstanding virtuosity, taciturn bassist Phil Lesh laid down a heavy, driving bottom, and dual drummers Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzman beat counter-rhythms on the skins.
Songs would begin with a familiar hard-rocker ("Not Fade Away" or "Good Lovin'"), dissolve into a spacey break, come back with another song, another break, and, whew! 20 minutes later, the original song.
Big hits were performed - "Love Light," "St. Stephen," "Dark Star," "Uncle John's Band," "Casey Jones," all the tunes calculated to get the audience screaming, clapping and dancing.
The Dead played for a little over two hours, a very short set by their standards. They played no acoustics set, and their band-within-a-band, the country New Riders of the Purple Sage, never appeared. Yet everybody left satisfied and emotionally exhausted - even the 2000 fans who payed $5 each to get in.
The next day, a Penn BMOC told me that the concert "will long be considered the cultural high-water mark of the fall semester."
He's right, of course.
It's not every day you get to see a legend and the reality turns out to be better than the fiction.
(by Dennis Wilen, from the Philadelphia Daily News, 29 October 1970)
Alas, no tape!