I have been constructing tour itineraries for the Grateful Dead for brief periods of their history. There is so much information circulating on websites and blogs (including my own) that go beyond published lists on Deadlists and Dead.net that these posts make useful forums for discussing what is known and missing during each period. So far I have reviewed
- The Warlocks May-December 1965
- The Grateful Dead January-April 1967
- The Grateful Dead May-June 1967
- Grateful Dead/Jerry Garcia July-August 1969
- Grateful Dead/Jerry Garcia September-October 1969
What follows is a list of known Grateful Dead dates from March and April 1969. I am focused on which performances occurred when, rather than the performances themselves. For known performances, I have assumed that they are easy to assess on Deadlists, The Archive and elsewhere, and have made little comment. As a point of comparison, I am comparing my list to Deadlists, but I realize that different databases may include or exclude different dates (I am not considering recording dates, interviews or Television and radio broadcast dates in this context).
My working assumption is that the Grateful Dead, while already a legendary rock band in 1969, were living hand to mouth and scrambling to find paying gigs. Even by 1969, most paying performances were on Friday and Saturday nights, so I am particularly interested in Friday and Saturday nights where no Grateful Dead performances were scheduled or known.
I have linked to existing posters where available. Anyone with additional information, corrections or memories about performances during this period is encouraged to Comment or email me.
February 27-March 2, 1969 Fillmore West Grateful Dead/Pentangle/Sir Douglas Quintet
The month of March began with an epic 4-night stand at The Fillmore West. The band recorded the shows on state-of-the-art 16-track equipment, creating part of Live/Dead. The entire run was released in 2005 as a 10cd set called Fillmore West 69: The Complete Recordings.
I have written elsewhere about how Garcia in particular was influenced by the unique twin acoustic guitar sound of Pentangle.
I know of no Grateful Dead concerts for Friday and Saturday March 7-8, as well as Friday March 14, but since I believe they were working on both Aoxomoxoa and Live/Dead it seems reasonable to think they played fewer gigs.
March 12, 1969 Fillmore West San Francisco State Strike Committee Benefit
This event is known from Deadbase. The SF State Strike was an important event in local politics, and its not surprising that there was a benefit at Fillmore West. However, I would want to wait for confirmation that the Dead actually played, not because I find it unlikely but because the Dead were inevitably rumored to play every free concert or benefit, and that didn't always turn out to be the case.
Dennis McNally wrote about this event at length (p. 304). The Black And White Ball was a fundraiser for the San Francisco Symphony, and the social event of the "High Society" Season. The chair of the entertainment committee was Bob Weir's mother, so the Dead played, probably in an effort to make the event more attractive to the younger members of the wealthy set.
The Dead arrived on time but Bear caused a delay in setting up, so the band started late. They played for about an hour, and were not apparently well received. Apparently all the band members wore costumes (Pigpen and Jerry were pirates). The event was not a success and the local society columnist did not speak kindly of the band, calling them "The Ungrateful Dead." The Black And White Ball was not held again for almost twenty years (although when the Ball returned on May 1, 1987, Bob Weir was one of the featured stars [h/t Brad for the poster scan]).
March 17, 1969 Winterland, San Francisco, CA Jefferson Airplane/Grateful Dead/Sons of Champlin/Red Mountain Monster Jam Benefit for Olompali
This recently discovered event was a Monday night benefit for residents of the Chosen Family commune at Rancho Olompali, homeless and broke after a fire and a drug bust. A Berkeley Barb article suggested that the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane were expected to show up, and the Winterland venue suggests that this was not idle speculation. Since we have no other information, its possible that it featured some sort of "Mickey And The Hartbeats" configuration rather than the full Grateful Dead, but its definitely on the calendar.
Grateful Dead/Jethro Tull
The Rose Palace, at 835 S. Raymond Avenue, was built in 1964 to accomodate construction of floats for the New Year's Day Tournament Of Roses Parade. Since construction took place in the barn-like structure from October through December, the building was empty the rest of the year. In the late 1960s and early it was used for weekend rock concerts. I do not know what the capacity was. The building is still intact, but owned by a private firm that constructs Rose Parade floats.
This must have been some show. The Dead were playing monstrously good music at the time, and Jethro Tull, then on their first American tour, still a stripped down quartet with Martin Barre on guitar, could definitely rock the house. While the 1969 Paul Butterfield Blues Band did not equal up to the 1966 version--few bands ever have--guitarist Buzzy Feiten and a fine horn section always sounded great (this was the lineup that played Woodstock, more or less). According to Deadlists, Butterfield (the biggest name on the bill) closed the show.
March 27, 1969 Merced, CA
This date only persists because of a mislabeled tape. I am leaving it in here, however, on the remote chance that the Grateful Dead really did play Merced on a Thursday night, and the mislabeled tape (from the next night) still had a grain of truth to it. Merced only had fairly small venues, but a Thursday night gig would have made sense for the band, as Merced is relatively near Modesto.
March 28, 1969 Student Center, Modesto Junior College, Modesto, CA
Modesto, about 90 miles East of San Francisco, made a good Friday night gig for the Dead. While Modesto is not in itself large, it is the center of a large and lucrative agricultural area, so a fair number of people lived in driving range of the concert. It was also more or less on the way to Las Vegas.
Modesto Junior College was opened in 1921, very early for a California Junior College (most were opened in the late 1950s and early 60s). The College is located at 435 College Avenue in Modesto. The Student Center, on the East Campus, still seems to be intact, and I assume there was (and may still be) a ballroom type facility.
March 29, 1969 Ice Palace, Las Vegas, NV Grateful Dead/Santana/Free Circus (two shows 8:00-11:30)
The Dead had only played Las Vegas (or Nevada), once before, on a date I have determined to be September 16, 1967.
Apparently, Bear dosed the promoter for the show, so for his first acid trip he had to introduce the Grateful Dead on stage (judge for yourself on the tape).
Around this time (per McNally p.305) the Dead had a band meeting in which Mickey Hart introduced his father Lenny as a possible business manager who could address the group's perpetual financial distress. The Dead would come to regret this association.
April 4-6, 1969 Avalon Ballroom, San Francisco Grateful Dead/Flying Burrito Brothers/AUM
These were the last rock shows at the Avalon for about 35 years. The Sunday night show (April 6) was broadcast on KPFA-fm, one of the earliest examples of such a broadcast that I know of. I have written at length about these gigs elsewhere.
April 11, 1969 University Auditorium, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ
By early 1969, outside of California the Grateful Head had mostly only played psychedelic hippie ballrooms. They now started to show some signs of trying to expand their audience. Although neither of their first two albums sold well, FM radio was starting to happen around the country, and plenty of young people had heard of the Grateful Dead, even if they had hardly actually heard them. This show at the University of Arizona initiates a series of college shows, where the band played university venues. These mostly appear to be smaller places, but Universities still had "entertainment" budgets that supplemented ticket sales (directly or indirectly). I assume the same booking agent arranged all the college shows the band played in the next ten days.
Dennis McNally observes that simply playing college campuses in 1969 was inherently political, as protests against the Vietnam War had spread far beyond Berkeley, but the Dead were used to playing in turmoil. Rob Eaton's vault notes apparently say "Student Union Building, University of Arizona." The University of Arizona Student Union was reconstructed in 2000, replacing a building that had been built in 1951. I have to assume that the University Auditorium was a ballroom type facility that no longer exists. The Dead had only played Arizona once before (June 22, 1968 in Phoenix). According to McNally (p. 309), the hosting organization was The University of Arizona Student Peace Association.
April 12, 1969 Student Union Ballroom, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT Grateful Dead/Spirit of Creation (two shows 8pm-10pm)
Salt Lake City was hardly a hotbed of the blues or rebellion, but its convenient geography made Salt Lake City a popular stop in the 1960s. SLC was part way to everywhere--San Francisco, Chicago, Los Angeles, Denver among them. The University of Utah Ballroom was apparently quite small. This was the Dead's first appearance in Utah, although I have written elsewhere about the surprisingly large number of interesting concerts in Salt Lake City and Utah in the lat 1960s.
April 13, 1969 Ballroom, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO
If the Dead played a still extant facility, it would be what is now called Glenn Miller Ballroom, capacity 1200 (probably more for "festival seating"). In any case, even if it was a previous building, it probably would have been on a similar scale.
The Grateful Dead had not played Colorado since September 1967, when they played the Denver Family Dog as well as a free concert in the park. The Denver cops had cracked down hard on the Denver Dog (Canned Heat in particular suffered a notoriously destructive drug bust), so many bands stayed out of Colorado for a while. The Dead in particular would have been a high profile target, so Colorado residents had to wait until 1969. Fortunately they would return many times thereafter.
In Denver or Boulder, Jerry Garcia went to a music store and bought a Zane Beck pedal steel guitar. His first public performance would be about a month later, with John Dawson at the Underground in Menlo Park on May 14.
April 15, 1969 The Music Box, Omaha, NE Grateful Dead/Liberation Blues Band
The Dead took a time out from their College Tour to play a Tuesday night in Omaha's Music Box, a club that held only about 500 people. The Dead had played Omaha before, opening for Iron Butterfly on February 4, 1969 (whatever you think of "Inna-Gadda-Da-Vida", the Butterfly were way bigger than the Dead). Given the timing of this show, the promoters must have booked the Dead for a return visit before Iron Butterfly even finished their set.
Omaha is on I-80, in between the Rockies and the Midwest. Similar to Salt Lake City, it made a convenient stopover for bands on tour. Certainly since the Dead had come into Omaha in February, not exactly a trip to Hawaii, they must have made a long winter a little more interesting for whatever hippies there were there. Since the band's equipment was traveling by truck, a Tuesday night stop in Omaha, between Denver and St. Louis, made sound geographical and financial sense.
April 17, 1969 The Quadrangle, Washington University, St. Louis, MO Grateful Dead/Alvin Pine
This was a Thursday afternoon show, outdoors in St. Louis. According to McNally (p. 309), there were noise complaints from blocks away.
April 18, 1969 Memorial Union Ballroom, Purdue University, Lafayette, IN Grateful Dead/George Stavis
McNally (p. 309) says that the Purdue campus paper reported that the students were riled up over raises in the student fees, but "[student] leaders prevented any disturbances which might have ensued by keeping the band playing."
April 20, 1969 Atwood Hall, Clark University, Worcester, MA Grateful Dead/Roland Kirk
The Dead had played 4 shows at Boston's Psychedelic Supermarket in December 1967, but they had not returned to Massachusetts since that time. Worcester is about 45 miles West of Boston on I-90, and the band had apparently played there before as well, in late 1967.
The Internet Archive Reviews section for the surviving tape has some pretty detailed memories by eyewitnesses who attended the shows. They are well worth reading in their entirety, but among the interesting comments:
- The Dead flew from Indiana, but their equipment came by truck. One writer says that the show was probably scheduled for Saturday night--as the poster says, and would be logical--but if the Dead's travel plans changed they would have simply re-scheduled the show for Sunday.
- The drive from Purdue (Lafayette, IN) to Worcester was about 950 miles, and I don't think I-76 was complete so its unlikely the crew could have done it in a day. The band, meanwhile flew into Logan airport in Boston. Bear has a good reputation (confirmed by David Lemieux) for accurately dating his tape boxes, so I am going with the idea that the show was originally scheduled for Saturday April 19 and re-scheduled for Sunday April 20.
- Atwood Hall was a typical University theater, with a capacity of only 658.
- Roland Kirk was unhappy with the billing and waved a gun around at the Dead before the show. Good times.
The Grateful Dead had not played Boston since December 1967, but they returned for a Monday-to-Wednesday stand at the city's newest rock venue, The Ark. The Psychedelic Supermarket, by now called The Unicorn, was on its last legs, but the Boston Tea Party (at 53 Berkeley Street) was still going strong, even though it was somewhat small for the exploding rock business. However, after July 11, 1969 and a fire at the Tea Party, the Boston Tea Party moved to the site of The Ark, which was just around the corner. Thus the Grateful Dead New Year's Eve shows in Boston (December 29-31, 1969) at the Boston Tea Party were actually at 15 Landsdowne.
Recently there has been some question as to how big The Ark/Tea Party actually was. If anyone is visiting Boston, they could drop into the House Of Blues at 15 Landsdowne (across from Fenway Park) and check it out. Its possible that the venue has been remodeled (even likely), but there may be old photos there that give a good perspective. For some time between the 70s and the 90s, 15 Landsdowne was known as The Avalon, and there may be photos around from that era as well.
April 25-26, 1969 Kinetic Playground, Chicago, IL Grateful Dead/Velvet Underground/SRC
The Kinetic Playground was Chicago's own psychedelic ballroom (I review its history here). The Dead had played the venue earlier, on January 31-February 1, 1969.
This memorable pairing of two sixties opposites was covered in depth in Richie Unterburger's fine Velvet Underground chronology (White Light White Heat). The first night, the Velvet Underground played an extended set, and as a result the Grateful Dead were limited (by their standards) to one set. The next night, of course, the Dead came on before the Velvets and played an extended set, thus limiting the Velvets. Whether this was a result of some imaginary "feud" or just poor scheduling (I suspect the latter), it makes for a great sixties story.
As if the New York/SF pairing of the Velvets and the Dead wasn't enough, SRC was a famous powerhouse Detroit band, if lesser known, so three great bands from three great scenes were represented. It must have been some evening.
April 27, 1969 Labor Temple, Minneapolis, MN Grateful Dead
As was true of many cities on this tour, the Dead had played there earlier. The band had played Minneapolis's Labor Temple on February 2, 1969, and they returned just 10 weeks later. Although they were still psychedelic rangers, the band was starting to show signs of behaving like a professional bands, playing a city and then returning a few months later to capitalize on the buzz.
Some of the music from the Labor Temple and The Kinetic (April 26) was released on Dick's Picks 26. The Grateful Dead returned home to Winterland on the weekend of May 2 and 3.