Wednesday, November 18, 2009
December 8-9, 1967: Psychedelic Supermarket, Boston, MA The Grateful Dead
Fortunately for rock prosopographers, the Massachussets Institute of Technology has had almost its entire press run accessible on the web, befitting a school of top-flight engineers. Perusing the 60s editions provides a gold mine of rewards for the diligent historian. One such reward is Steve Grant's review of The Dead at the Pscyhedelic Supermarket in the Tuesday, December 12, 1967 edition of The Tech (Volume 87, issue 52, page 6). Grant says the band "made their Boston debut Friday night," so I have reasonably assumed that the band played there Saturday night as well, as that was typical for bookings at the Supermarket at the time.
Grateful Dead chronologies have included a December 29-30, 1967 show at the Supermarket, but not this show. It is my belief that the Dead played the December 8-9 gig and were re-booked for the end of the month. The Supermarket had very few, if any, posters advertising their shows so it is hard to find out the performance history of the venue except in The Tech. The interesting aspect of the December 8-9 Boston show is that the Dead would have had to have flown East to play Boston, flown back West for the show in Los Angeles at The Shrine on Wednesday, December 13, and then returned East for shows from December 22 through December 30. Leaving aside the question of whether they flew back home at all in December, at the very least it suggests that there may be additional undiscovered Grateful Dead performance dates on the East Coast from Mid-November onwards.
It is an apocryphal Dead story (told to me by Dennis McNally among others) that the Dead played Boston on December 30 and flew home to San Francisco the next day, expecting to jam with Quicksilver at Winterland on New Year's Eve. However, a potent batch of brownies--no doubt filled with chocolatey goodness--caused many of the exhausted band members to fall asleep and miss the jam. Regardless of whether you believe the brownie story, it does confirm that the Dead were on the East Coast so I am inclined to believe they played Psychedelic Supermarket two weekends of December 1967.
The Psychedelic Supermarket 590 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, MA
The Psychedelic Supermarket was actually in an alley behind Commonwealth Avenue, near Kenmore Square and backing onto Boston University, but the street address made it easier to find. It was a converted parking garage, with acoustic qualities to match, and it was not remembered fondly by bands or patrons. Supermarket Promoter George Popadopolis had run a Cambridge coffee house called The Unicorn since the 1950s, and by the mid-60s he was booking electric blues bands as well as folk music. Boston's first and most famous psychedelic venue was the Boston Tea Party (at 53 Berkeley Street) and the second was The Crosstown Bus at 337 Washington Street in suburban Brighton. The Crosstown Bus ran afoul of its creditors, however (the J. Geils Blues Band managed to get their equipment out just before the place was padlocked), just as the hottest band in the country had a booking there.
The Psychedelic Supermarket appears to have debuted with Cream from September 8-16, 1967. The Supermarket does not appear to have had much in the way of collectable or interesting handbills or posters, so the shows are somewhat lost to history. Nonetheless, it appears that George Popadopolis seems to have hastily created this venue to facilitate Cream, in order (apparently) to cash in on the dates dropped by the hastily closed Crosstown Bus. The band’s memory of the club is that it was not ready. It seems possible that a plan by Popadopolis to create a club was abruptly accelerated to cash in on the availability of Cream.
The complete story of The Psychedelic Supermarket (and Boston Tea Party, The Ark and the rest of the venues) is too extensive to go into here, but suffice to say the Supermarket remained open throughout 1968. Many fine bands played there, although none of them seem to remember it fondly. After their return booking in 1967, the Dead played other venues in Boston, which should tell us something. By 1969, the venue was renamed The Unicorn, although that too did not last. Ultimately it became a movie theater, initially called The Nickelodeon, and finally the building was torn down to provide a new science building for Boston University.