Saturday, December 19, 2009

February 5, 1967 Fillmore Auditorium Grateful Dead (possible)


I don't think its that likely that the Grateful Dead played the Fillmore on Sunday,  February 5, 1967, but its possible, and I am posting this in particular to show that there is no explicit reason to insist they didn't play the Fillmore on Sunday night. The paragraph above is from the Ad Libs section of Ralph Gleason's column from the Friday, February 3, 1967 edition of the San Francisco Chronicle. Gleason is referring to the Sunday night show of a three-day stand at the Fillmore featuring Jefferson Airplane, Quicksilver Messenger Service and Dino Valenti. Most Sunday Fillmore shows in this era were afternoon shows or benefits, and this one seems to have been both. The very connected Gleason says
Sunday the Fillmore runs from 2pm until 10pm with the regular weekend cast of Dino Valente, the Jefferson Airplane and the Quicksilver Messenger Service. In addition (as this is a benefit for the U.S. Strike Committee), there'll be special lights by Head Lights and Dan Burns, costumes and appearances by the New Delhi River Band, the Loading Zone, Country Joe and The Fish, the Grateful Dead if they're back from their recording in L.A. and others.
The implicit reaction to this information--it was mine, certainly--was "the Dead didn't play, because they probably weren't done recording." But we have absolutely no evidence one way or the other. Maybe the Dead did play--as you'll see, its hardly beyond the realm of possibility.

The February 3-4-5 Fillmore shows are known from their posters. It is my understanding that there was a separate poster (or flyer) for the February 5 benefit, which has led to confusion about the February 5 gig as a whole. Gleason's comment seems to confirm that the regular bill (Airplane/Quicksilver/Valenti) had merged with the benefit. Perhaps there had been an idea that the main bands would play in the afternoon and the benefit would be at night, but for whatever reasons they seem to have become one show.

The Quicksilver and Airplane performances are known from tapes at Wolfgang's Vault, which are remarkable documents in their own right. However, since Wolfgang's Vault has the dates wrong (they list the shows as February 4-5-6 when they are February 3-4-5) it is safe to assume that their staff has little more information than what was written on tape boxes, so no conclusions can be drawn from those tapes (other than that Quicksilver was a hell of a band even back then). It does appear that the show listed as February 6, 1967 must actually be February 5.

The truth is, I don't know of any review of the February 5, 1967 show at the Fillmore, or any web account of the show, or any other record not based on reading the poster and listening to poorly dated tapes. It was a benefit, and since no one was getting paid, anyone could have shown up or not, with little consequence. What if the Dead turned up at 9:00pm and plugged in and played a set? What if Jerry Garcia sat in with Country Joe and The Fish? All of our information is assumed, and Gleason was a lot more connected than we are. The Dead were at least planning to show up--did they?

Its a well known story that the Dead were given a certain budget to record their first album in five days, and told that if they finished early, they would get cash, so its unlikely their recording in Los Angeles ran overtime. If nothing else, since their last known show was January 29, 1967 at the Avalon, it pretty firmly locks in the recording date for the Dead's first album (deaddisc.com take note). But if the Dead got it done in 5 days, as the legend goes, with cash on the barrelhead to boot, why couldn't they be back at the Fillmore by Sunday night? Is there a review that proves otherwise?

The one person who might recall the answer to this question would be David Nelson. His New Delhi River Band were Palo Alto's finest, and they were a big deal in the South Bay (at The Barn and elsewhere), but they never made many waves in San Francisco despite their efforts. To my knowledge, this was New Delhi River Band's only Fillmore appearance, and I'll bet Nelson remembers if his old pal Garcia and his band showed up.

What do we know?
  • The Grateful Dead hoped to perform at the Fillmore on Sunday, February 5, 1967 if they were finished recording in Los Angeles
  • The Dead have repeated many times the story that they rushed the recording of their first album because it was in their financial interests to do so
  • No unmediated review or eyewitness account of the February 5 Fillmore show has surfaced, and anyone might have played
Of course, the fact that the Grateful Dead wanted to play and weren't booked doesn't mean they played--someone could have been sick, there could have been transit issues or any other number of problems. But all the evidence "against" the Grateful Dead performing has so far been based on pre-conceived notions that stem from posters and tapes, not any concrete evidence in the face of their stated intentions. While I'm hardly ready to put February 5, 1967 on the list of confirmed Dead shows, I'm now interested in at least considering the possibility.

No comments:

Post a Comment