GOOD TIMES BAD TIMES
There were two big surprises at Pirate's World this past weekend involving rock concerts.
The first was the super show Country Joe and the Fish put on Friday and Saturday night before average-sized crowds. Most expected little, got a big high, and left happy.
The second surprise was the down feeling left by the Grateful Dead after performances on Sunday and Monday night. Most went expecting the best show ever. They left disappointed.
Country Joe and his group fooled around for many years before hitting it in a big way. In fact, the spring of 1969 was the turning point. Only Joe McDonald and Barry Melton were still around from the original group. The decision was made to try the hard rock scene, and the other three making up the group were not hard to find.
Now McDonald is the lead vocal and Melton the lead guitar, doing some vocal as well. Mark Kapner, who grooves to the organ, piano and uke, has been with the Fish since the spring. Drummer Greg Dewey left Mad River to join the Fish, while Doug Metzler left New York's top underground band, the Group Image, to join this group.
The original Fish got together in 1965, specializing in light rock, blues, even a little country. It soon was obvious that this combination wasn't going to work, so the hard rock style was adopted.
Since the group's rebirth in '69, gigs have been easy to come by. The Woodstock Festival was one of the early stops. Soon followed the New Orleans Pop Festivals and the Thunderbird Peach Festival in Canada. A world tour ended back in New York at the Fillmore.
This year the group has been going better than ever. The release of a fifth LP helped, but the concert this past weekend set off the group for good in South Florida.
The start of the music was greeted with little attention and less applause. The people were rapping with each other, with the Fish playing in the background. Then a feeling swept through all assembled. Soon the attention was focused on the stage.
Country Joe swung into "Summer Dress" and "Sun A Rocket" with the kids starting to get into it. It wasn't until the last 20 minutes of the hour and 40 minute concert that the people were set off.
When McDonald invoked a trick used often by B.B. King the people got hep. He invited the crowd to sing along as the group rocked into the top single "The Love Machine." The 15 minute version of the cut was the final wonder of a pile of wonders.
Mick Jagger said it best for this group when he was quoted: "It's the singer, not the song."
Country Joe proved this cliche this past week.
There was a different type of crowd at Pirate's World Sunday and Monday night for the Grateful Dead. More hair and less teeny-boppers showed. It was obvious something heavy was going to happen.
The Dead, who have shown in the past their dislike of the payed-for concert, put on a lackadaisical show that lasted for little over an hour. Few listened to the group. Less got into the sound.
"The man in the streets isn't ready for our sound," said group leader Jerry Garcia several months ago in ROLLING STONE. "Rendering to Caesar what is Caesar's is groovy," says second man Phil Lesh. "As long as you render to God's what is God's. But now Caesar demands it all, and we gotta be straight with God first."
One of the many problems the Grateful Dead have encountered is their inability to cope with the straight world. The original group that became the Dead, the Warlocks, "were already on the crazy-eyed fanatic trip," according to Garcia.
Seldom does the group go on stage without every member being in some state of drug-induced euphoria. They say they do better while stoned.
Jerry said: "Okay, so you take LSD and suddenly you are aware of another plane, or several other planes, and the quest is to extend that limit, to go as far as you can go. In the Acid Tests, that meant to do away with the old forms, with old ideas, try something new!"
He felt this was one of the keys to the sound.
For some reason or other, the Grateful Dead did not put on a heavy show last weekend. Maybe this area doesn't dig the sound or the members of the group. Maybe the trip the Dead are on is coming to an abrupt end.
(by Angelo Rescinti, from the Hollywood Sun-Tattler, March 27, 1970)