Taking Constanten's memory as a given, I have been looking into the exact day in September when the Grateful Dead's show at the Las Vegas Convention Center may have taken place. The Las Vegas Convention Center, at 3150 Paradise Road, was opened in 1959. Its main hall was a giant rotunda that had seats for 6,300. By the standards of the 1960s, a 6,300 seat auditorium was a very substantial venue. It thus follows that the Dead would have been playing Las Vegas on a Friday or Saturday night, as back in 1967 there were few weeknight gigs out of town. Most bands tried to fill up their gig sheet on weekends, using the weekdays for rehearsal and the occasional local gig or benefit. A brief review of their September 1967 weekend evening gigs on Deadlists reveals the following
Friday, Sep 2: Cabrillo College, Aptos, CA
Saturday, Sep 3: Dance Hall, Rio Nido, CA
Friday, Sep 8: Eagles Auditorium, Seattle, WA
Saturday, Sep 9: Eagles Auditorium, Seattle, WA
Friday, Sep 15: Hollywood Bowl, Los Angeles, CA
Saturday, Sep 16: none
Friday, Sep 22: Family Dog, Denver, CO
Saturday, Sep 23: Family Dog, Denver, CO
Friday, Sep 29: Straight Theater, San Francisco, CA
Saturday, Sep 30: Straight Theater, San Francisco, CA
It seems pretty clear that the most likely date for a Vegas show was Saturday, September 16. With that in mind, let's consider the rest of the weekend. Friday, September 15 was a show at the outdoor Hollywood Bowl (2301 North Highland), a huge venue with a capacity of 17, 376. This Bill Graham promoted event had the title "Bill Graham Presents The San Francisco Scene." The triple bill was headlined by Jefferson Airplane, far and away San Francisco's biggest band, with two smash hit singles, with the Dead and then Big Brother opening the show, and the Airplane's Glen McKay providing the light show.
Given that the Dead and the Airplane were playing a big show on Friday night, and the fact that Las Vegas is just 4 hours from Los Angeles by car (traffic permitting of course), a Saturday night encore in Vegas for the San Francisco scene seems pretty plausible. Certainly in Fall 1967 the Dead, with just one poorly selling album, would not be able to headline a 6300-seat arena in Las Vegas, where they had never played, but with the Airplane heading the show, it suddenly seems very plausible. Most shows from the 60s are known through their posters, and if there was no poster for this show, or no attractive, collectible poster, its not at all surprising it dropped off the radar.
Dead.net does indicate a show on September 16, 1967, but it lists a free concert at Griffith Park in Los Angeles with Jefferson Airplane. This seems as likely to strengthen my argument as not. If the Dead and the Airplane were on their way to Vegas, why not play a free concert in Los Angeles? Free concerts in Griffith Park were comparatively common, and since (as we know) it never rains in Southern California, a free concert would have been a good way to attract some attention and have some fun. I find it highly unlikely that the Airplane and the Dead had an early curtain in Las Vegas, so that left plenty of time to play Griffith Park and head Northwest on I-15 towards the Convention Center. A look at the best available Jefferson Airplane concert chronology at least reveals no conflicting Airplane performance on September 16.
As for Big Brother, a look at the definitive Big Brother performance history shows that on the afternoon of Saturday, September 16, 1967, they were playing on the afternoon blues program of the Monterey Jazz Festival. Since Big Brother had to hurry back to Monterey, that explains why they did not play the free concert in Griffith Park. Although I have not checked the jazz festival schedule for that year, the blues session was usually confined to the afternoon, so it does not absolutely rule out Big Brother joining the Dead and the Airplane for the repeat performance in Vegas.
What are we left with:
- Tom Constanten clearly recalls the venue and month he first played with the Dead
- The venue was a big one, and it was likely to be used only for a weekend gig
- The only weekend night in September 67 where the Dead are "free" was September 16
- The Dead, Airplane and Big Brother played Hollywood Bowl on September 15
- The Dead and Airplane played Griffith Park on the afternoon of September 16
- The Dead would need the Airplane to headline at Las Vegas Convention Center