Nov 25, 2020

December 9-10, 1971: Fox Theatre, St. Louis, MO


Going to a rock concert with a narcotics-drug abuse officer is like going to Purgatory with the Pope. Even now, I'm not sure why I went. Curiosity, I guess. Maybe I just wanted to see 5,000 kids high on marijuana or perhaps I hoped to chance upon someone dropping acid. Whatever, I went. The group was the Grateful Dead, six musicians who, I should report, are very much alive and playing as a unit. Loudly. The noise made it difficult to determine whether one would prefer to be dead or grateful. Or both. 
When the officer and I arrived at the St. Louis theater where the concert was being held, it didn't take long to realize this was sure-enough pandemonium. Kids were running in every direction, police were frantically trying to keep order, and debris was everywhere. 
And that was just the outside of the theater. Inside, things were much worse. 
The first thing I noticed was that I was the only person in the entire theater wearing a tie. Toward the end of the evening I did spot another man wearing one - he was an 80-year-old janitor wearing a leather bow tie. The second thing I noticed was that I was about 25 years older than anyone else, that I wasn't wearing levis, that I didn't need a shave or a haircut, that my shoes were shined, and I wasn't wearing either beads or a knapsack. Outside of those few minor details, I felt very much at ease. 
As we made our way to our seats, which were positioned so that we could watch almost everything in the theater, I said to my friend, "Gee, this place smells like a tent out of Arabian nights." 
"Dope," the officer said tersely. I started to take exception when I realized he meant the odor was marijuana. Fearing I might get high myself, I tried not to breathe. With my sinuses I was soon gasping for breath and decided it was better to die of pot than become the first case in medical history of self-asphyxiation. 
Turning my attention to the stage, where the Grateful Dead were holding forth, I was soon tapping my feet along with the rest of the audience. I wasn't sure what they were playing (in fact, I didn't catch two successive words in any song during the entire evening) but the music was something like they play at the Grand Ol' Opry, only faster and without Minnie Pearl Bailey. It was pretty good. I even caught myself starting to clap my hands with the kids. 
Turning to a young girl sitting next to me, I ventured, "Say they're pretty good!" I figured I ought to establish some contact with the natives before they charged me with being over-aged and took me to their chief. "Far out," she replied. "Yeah, man," I replied, trying to get into the vernacular. "Say, what is this, a bust?" she said belligerently. "Far out," I said, thereby effectively ending my efforts to establish contact with the natives. 
As the concert wore on, I found myself becoming enamored with the music, rather taken with the cheering, appreciative audience. My friend left me at one point to confer with another narcotics officer and I suddenly felt very much alone among 5,000 cheering, clapping, smoking young boys and girls who were jumping around to music that was just on the other side of ear-splitting. I felt relieved when my friend returned, uncomfortable when he tapped on the shoulder a young man getting ready to light a joint, relieved when the youngster put the joint away, uncomfortable when the group he was with turned around to stare intently, relieved when they only smiled instead of beating us to death with chains. 
By now the concert had been going on for five hours. The Grateful Dead were still very much alive, the audience was as enthusiastic as ever, and only the narcotics officers, the police and myself appeared to be very dead. "When can we go?" I asked desperately about 12:30. "Had enough?" my friend asked, smiling. I nodded. 
Outside, the air was cool, damp and smelled of industrial waste. But it was still good. "Bet you've never seen anything like that before," my friend said. 
"Yes, I have, but not all in one place. I'd have to combine a state Legion convention, halftime at a Missouri football game, and dollar-day at a discount store to get one rock concert." 
"Far out," my friend answered. 
"Right on," I said as we laughed. 
Just then an establishment-type couple (the man was even wearing a tie) looked at us suspiciously, then belligerently. As they passed, I heard the man say to his wife, "Dope." 

(by Jack Stapleton, from the "Missouriana" column, the Stanberry Headlight (MO), 30 December 1971)

Fall 1970: Garcia Interview at the Matrix

The Grateful Dead is the complete integration of music and musician. The one is of the other, just as it works the other way around. 
"You know how the music sounds now?" Jerry Garcia, lead guitarist of the Dead is speaking. "You know how it sounds now? That's the way we're living now. That's a little holograph of our life. That's what we're saying, if we're saying anything." 
The new music Garcia refers to is represented by the semi-acoustic work on their last album, "Workingman's Dead." A distinct departure from previous offerings, it features some fine vocal harmonies with the emphasis on songs and away from the long electronic improvisations that were their trademark. 
The Dead's legendary loose structure has grown more complex, if no less loose. Garcia is playing pedal steel guitar regularly with the New Riders of the Purple Sage, a rollicking country band (as is Dead drummer Mickey Hart). Further, he is about to record an album with local organist Howard Wales in a small combo. This particular night at The Matrix he was to join Merl Saunders, a black keyboard man who has played with Miles Davis among others, in what Garcia calls "the Monday night band." 
What this, along with the musical meanderings of other Dead, has done is to broaden the musical perspective of the band immeasurably. Give it more universality, as Garcia tells it. 
To him, the music is developed from or by the strong interpersonal relationships within the group. "It's all ideas we've evolved through contact with each other all this time. We've been a little independent structure growing in some direction completely sideways to everybody else." 
It is this bond and the music that comes from it that leads to what Garcia terms the "Dead mystique." "The world I live in doesn't have any Grateful Dead. I'm not into the mystique in terms of it coming to me and my being impressed by it. Because it's about me and us." 
Though the album has sold moderately well, it is by no means a smash. "Our success is highly over-touted," says Garcia. The Dead are steadily coming out of debt, but are still far more in than out. "Those realities (of money) were never particularly hard to us, that's why we were $80,000 in debt." 
The Grateful Dead won their wings, so to speak, at Ken Kesey's Acid Tests (made famous by Tom Wolfe's Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test), where they were the band. Today, when the psychedelic revolution seems to have taken a more violent turn, both Weir and Garcia disavow any relationship to the violence. "Violent people are all on the same side," was Garcia's comment. 
Violence, he feels, gets all the attention of the media and so it becomes what people believe in. "All the things that were going on in Acid Test days are still going on. Only much farther out and much more subtle. It's for damn sure that no one's going to be talking about it, because that's what happened last time." 
Free concerts, something very close and dear to that Dead mystique, have taken on a different perspective for them too. The Grateful Dead may have invented the free concert in the park ideal that eventually led up to Woodstock, but now the situation has gotten out of hand. "That whole free music scene is a completely faulty viewpoint of what's going on in music or what music really is." Garcia is especially articulate about this. "Free, to us, was always a reciprocal trip. We were free to do it or not. When we were free to do it or not, we sometimes chose to do it. 
"Now the thing about free music as defined by the Woodstock Nation trip is let's make it free. But music isn't free. Everyone of those musicians who plays music has paid for that fucking music with his life. 
"The word free is sadly overworked. Nothing is really free. Money is a symbol of a certain kind of energy exchange that most people are too lame to ever be able to come to in their own terms in some groovy way." 
Somewhere about this point the manager of the club called out to Jerry and made a strumming motion with his hand. It was time to go on. 
A bit later, the combo was cooking. Bob Weir was leaning back near the wall enjoying the music. Garcia was playing out of every imaginable bag. First sounding like Steve Cropper, playing tight rhythmic chords, and then, almost out of nowhere, a little belch of feedback and some freaky, spaced out run. He was just picking anything and articulating. 

(by Joel Selvin, from the Music section, Earth magazine, January 1971) 

Nov 19, 2020

April 7, 1971: Music Hall, Boston MA

The Grateful Dead rose again before a packed and ecstatic audience last night at the Music Hall. Tonight they will perform part two of their Boston engagement. 
Diminutive Marmaduke, of the "Riders of the Purple Sage," kicked off the evening with an hour-long set of fine Country flavored music. As usual Jerry Garcia, the Dead's lead guitarist, joined Sage on an abbreviated, pedal-steel guitar. 
Some of the Dead fans claimed to be from as far away as Baltimore and San Francisco, proclaiming that they have never missed a Dead concert. Craig Robert said, "I only go back to Johns Hopkins for exams, and then only if they don't conflict with a Dead concert..." 
At nine, the Dead walked on, opening with "Truckin." Drummer Mickey Hart was noticeably absent, and the rhythm was maintained by second drummer, Bill Kreutzman. 
The lead vocals were equally shared by Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir, throughout the incredible 2 1/2 hour set. Pigpen occasionally came from behind his organ to offer a blues or soul standard. Phil Lesh played bass and backed Garcia and Weir on vocals. 
Since emerging as one of the original San Francisco, acid-rock bands, the Dead have evolved to a refined country sound which stresses vocals and two part harmony. They have that country twang but combined with a surging rock strength. 
The sound was impeccable, and the Dead brought along their own tie-died bank of amplifiers. Even down front, there was not a shred of distortion, and the vocals were absolutely clear. 
The long evening of music presented dozens of Dead tunes stressing their latest country sound, although they did turn back the clock to answer a request for "Saint Stephen." 
Most interesting was their rendering of the Kristofferson hit "Me and Bobby McGhee." Garcia beautifully twisted the melody into a new form which had a distinctly different flavor than Janis Joplin's rendering. 
At the end of the set, the entire house was dancing to a medley of old rockers that brought it all back home with Chuck Berry's "Johnnie B Good." 
The group will be back tonight with more incredible rock and roll at the Music Hall.
(by Charles Giuliano, from the Boston Herald, 8 April 1971) 
Thanks to Dave Davis. 

Nov 18, 2020

November 20, 1971: Pauley Pavilion, UCLA, Los Angeles

Grateful Dead at UCLA 
On stage nearly four hours. The Grateful Dead dispensed a soaring, roaring set of powerful rock jams, countryfield funk and rip-snortin' rock-n-roll to a near-capacity crowd at UCLA's Pauley Pavilion November 20, while delivering the most enjoyable concert since Procol Harum's recent tremender at the Santa Monica Civic. 
And that wasn't even half the story. 
Of far greater significance was the daring promotion presented by the UCLA Committee on Fine Arts Productions and produced by Merlin/Aura. It represented a bold innovation; it was the grand noble experiment - as well as the initial significant one to take place locally in concert promotions for the year 1971. 
For the first time in a large arena (13,000), designated floor-level seats were removed and the floor area was converted into a sit-down concert, just like the Palladium, while regular arena-level seating was conducted at the same time, and conducted in the same manner. 
This idea was considered with great trepidation among veteran observers of the concert scene. Chief among many feared possibilities was that wholesale masses of the arena-seated audience would try to drop down to the floor level. It would be met by security forces attempting to stop them, and the result would be a big mess - if not a riot. 
Well, as it turned out, no one need have worried - it couldn't have gone better. Blue-uniformed UCLA ushers were strategically placed on the arena level and effectively, but with an acceptable minimum of force, prevented wholesale movement to the floor level. Isolated audience members did occasionally drop down, but there were not enough of them to be significant. 
Another past problem of sit-down concerts was that without designated seating, there was no way to establish an accurate capacity. Consequently, unscrupulous promoters sold as many tickets as they could print, which resulted in blatant over-selling and subsequent hard feelings which in turn caused several concert halls to close down.The UCLA promoters easily solved this problem by simply doing the obvious ethical thing: estimating a capacity and selling only that many tickets. Thus, even though the floor level was sold out, the promoters acted honorably in refusing to sell more tickets to the floor level anyway, something no other promoter has had the principles to do. 
The floor level capacity estimation was as perfect as it needed to be...the floor was crowded, of course, but there was still room to boogie and play towards the back for those who wanted to, while those who just have to be as near as possible to the stage packed themselves in to do so. Because of the enlightened promotion, the concert as such was the most fun since the old Pinnacle-Shrine Exposition Hall days - even outstripping the recent Palladium shows. 
So smoothly run was the UCLA promotion that even a mistake in ticket printing caused no problems. Many arena tickets were mis-labeled for floor seating. Those who erroneously wound up on the floor were efficiently and courteously transported by elevator to the arena level. Except for the ticket misprint I'm at pains to discover a single mistake made by the UCLA promoters. They deserve all due praise. 
Well, Merlin/Aura has shown us the light as far as concert promotions are concerned. It is now up to the rest of the promoters to pick up the ball. 
As for the show itself, the Dead were consistently pleasurable and often nearly unbearably exciting. For me, the Dead's recent albums (starting with Workingman's Dead) have been extreme disappointments, and the time spent recreating them by the Dead November 20 was not thrilling, although this material sounded much better in person than it does on the records. 
I greatly prefer, however, the earlier Dead of Turn On Your Lovelight days. I have seen them many times, and have been enthralled just as many times by their long trademark jams and improvisations - featuring the uncanny way rhythm guitarist Bob Weir and lead guitarist Jerry Garcia work together. Weir feeds Garcia ideas and Garcia expounds on them beautifully. As they say, it is a match made in heaven. 
Garcia is one among a handful of the most distinctive and unpredictable guitarists to emerge in rock music. He is never trite and his solos righteously move-move-move and boogie - and never fail to excite. He seems the most consistent and maybe even the best pure rock guitarist - ever. Garcia did enough of his famous solo work November 20 to make the show a thing of awesome power and overwhelming beauty. 
Lead-off group New Riders of the Purple Sage were far less boring than they were during their recent Palladium gig and would have been acceptable if they hadn't played for an hour and fifteen minutes. Forty-five minutes is just about tops for this band, and even at that, they seem clumsy when compared with the gliding suppleness of the Dead. New Riders weren't that bad, though, and given a set of reasonable length they could be mildly enjoyable.
(by R.E. Maxson, from the Los Angeles Free Press, 26 November 1971) 

* * * 


This review could do one of two things. It could tell you what kind of music the Grateful Dead play and how they play it (with a blurb on the Riders), or it could tell you about Saturday night at Pauley Pavilion. I prefer the latter, so I'll tell you about the concert. Honestly. 
Normally a critic is given all the benefits of contemporary elitism (i.e. free tickets, great seats) to insure a positive frame of mind before viewing the evening's entertainment. Accordingly, an apparently objective and sincere review may well represent the feelings of those with muscles or connections up front, while convincing those in the back that they somehow missed out. (Shit, man. This dude says they were great. I thought they sucked... Well he oughta know; he's the critic.) 
Ideally a meaningful story on an evening of rock and roll would include the man on the street. The unspoiled, uncorrupted music freak who pays to come and comes to enjoy. But follow through on that concept and you get results like these: What did you think of the concert? Far out. What did you like about it? They played good, man. Could you be more specific? Yeah, they played real good. It was far out. 
So the task is left to Normal Human Beings who somehow decided to become A Critic. Self-righteousness is a must, but don't ever take yourself too seriously.. 
Back to the Dead. There you are, Critic, stuck in the rear. Nothing special this time, just settin' ona flo' and struggling for comfort like everybody else. 
What was it like? A drag. Long and monotonous; a muddled continuum of twangy reverberations; a Sominex commercial; a never-ending jam from eight o'clock til one in the morning. It was all the same. 
From the front? They say it was great. Some people never sat down; others never stopped dancing. With partners? Nah, that's old fashioned. To the music. 
There were gypsies and gnomes and thirteen year-old drunks. And jeepers, those sleepers, and leapers were weepers (On the Floor, Out the Door... Don't forget the motto, Men. Remember, you're bigger than them. Now get out there and Patrol!). And balloons and frisbees. And skyrockets too. 
It was a zoo. What can you say? They did "Truckin", "The Other One", "Bertha", all the biggies except "Uncle John's Band". It was a long concert. The New Riders of the Purple Sage played too. 

(by Bill Pique, from the UCLA Daily Bruin, 23 November 1971) 

And a letter to the editor in the Daily Bruin, December 1, 1971: 


About the Dead concert at Pauley... 
The tickets had "no smoking" printed on them, but no one seemed to care. The air (ha!) was filled with a grey haze that made spotlight beams look solid. The crud was mostly cigarette smoke, although a really with-it expert might have been able to detect the sickly sweet odors of burning Space Food Stiks, chamomille tea and other well-known combustible psychedelics. 
It was pretty hard to breathe in there, but apparently, I was the only one having trouble. Is it possible that city-dwelling Dead freaks are so addicted to smog that they must take it with them wherever they go? Or, is it possible that most rock ravers smoke, since the same sort of cloud was in the air at last month's Traffic concert? Or... 
Anyway, the stoned Dormice who were sitting in Section 13-C, Row 12, are hereby collectively awarded the Future Solid Citizen and Innocent Bystander Trophy. Seems they were so busy lighting matches and giggling over the no smoking edict that they failed to notice people on the dance flooor who were getting crushed against the stage and whacked on the head with frisbees. 
Those of you who survived this latest encounter with the spectre of commercial mass freakiness might care to lay a plastic flower on the grave of the Unknown Rock Fan - a sort of thanksgiving offering. 
Remi Treveri

See also: 

Nov 13, 2020

November 11, 1971: Municipal Auditorium, Atlanta GA

Mania, the most ephemeral of emotions, was captured in the Municipal Auditorium Thursday night as Grateful Dead performed its wizardry for a flock of rock music fans. 
People absolutely throw themselves into the quintet's music. Your viscera addle in the frenzied aura of a live show. "Dead" music is a percolating, blowsy sound of titillating rhythms that establish carefree rapport with an audience. Dormant cerebrums are ignited by drifting melodies. For fans to react so visibly to a group is a rare sight. 
A New York promoter recently revived dance marathons and imported Grateful Dead to provide some funky tunes for the opening. 
Said one exhausted girl as she was carted away: "It's their music. Honestly, I mean I couldn't stop moving to that beat." 
They were moving in the aisles Thursday night. The engaging impulse was evident from the initial lyric of Bob Weir, whose lilting harmonies with Phil Lesh form vocal "Dead." 
The group is an irrepressible force easing a crowd into an elevated sense of "getting off" on the songs. 
Weir and Lesh sing easily about "Truckin," "Ripple Wine," "Big Boss Man" - get-away numbers eliciting warm feedback. And eardrum fanciers delight in their lenient vocals on "Bertha" and "Mama Tried." 
Weir conveys a song's feel and nuance well. 
Lead guitarist Jerry Garcia has mellowed his guitar style into a countrified honk of beguiling discipline that solidly buffers the Dead against opus jellification. 
"Feel good" is Garcia's simple description of "Dead" arrangements. It was a good feeling indeed to hear a concert of lifting ballads; a sort of musical massage after a hard day at the job. 
The Dead have given birth to "New Riders of the Purple Sage," a country-folk foursome that is the brainchild of Garcia and "Dead" drummer Mickey Hart. The group showcases vocalist John Dawson. They whet the air with what must be honestly termed "ditties," casual and forgettable. The Riders seem ill at ease in front of a crowd foaming at the mouth for Grateful Dead. 
The crowd was blustered a sellout by advance hawkers, but it seemed some 500 seats were empty when the Dead appeared. This is really not very significant, because very few fans occupy seats during Dead time, and a premature upheaval may have accounted for the deserted rows. 
(by Karl Schnittke, from the Atlanta Constitution, 12 November 1971) 

See also: 

Nov 12, 2020

November 15, 1971: Municipal Auditorium, Austin TX

The Grateful Dead and their back-up group, the Riders of the Purple, are what you'd call "serious musicians." 
They played mainly to themselves and almost totally ignored their catcalling audience of 3,000 Monday night in Municipal Auditorium. 
The Dead and the Riders provided the least eventful but certainly the most pleasant rock program this season for the listening audience. The performing audience was even kept to a minimum by a surprisingly insistent group of ushers and security guards. 
The Riders, studiously bent over guitars, steadily dealt out music mostly from the country bag, a couple of Chuck Berry tunes and two rather plastic "golden oldies." 
With deadpan faces and less than the usual theatrics, the Riders rocked the country songs with a lot of steel guitar from a performer who resembled Leon Russell. 
The Dead, who date back to Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters, played a livelier fare and created a crowd-stopping show - that is, stopping the show to clear the aisles and stage of audience performers who flew at them after the second tune.

(by Marjorie Hoffman, from the Austin American, 16 November 1971) 

Thanks to Dave Davis

Released on Road Trips 3:2.