Tuesday, May 31, 2011

June 8, 1974 Oakland Coliseum Stadium, Oakland, CA: Grateful Dead/Beach Boys/New Riders of The Purple Sage/Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen

The SF Chronicle newspaper ad for the June 8, 1974 Coliseum show
The June 8, 1974 show at Oakland Coliseum Stadium headlined by the Grateful Dead was both a harbinger of things to come, and completely different than almost all the stadium shows that would follow it. An analysis of the show makes an interesting object lesson on the Dead's status in the industry in mid-1974, and an assessment of what was and would never be. Of course, such analysis is made easier by the fact that I was there. I was still in High School, and while I made every effort to be as cool as possible, I was still completely unconnected to the greater network of Deadheads, and in that respect my observations would have been more like those of a typical rock fan. This post will attempt to put the June 8, 1974 show in the context of the time, rather than consider it from the vantage point of today.

"Day On The Green" Concerts
Thanks to Bill Graham, the Bay Area was generally ahead of the curve when it came to rock concerts. The modern rock concert was an outgrowth of the Trips Festival at Longshoreman's Hall (January 21-23, 1966), and it was Bill Graham and Chet Helms who presented it at the Fillmore on February 4, 1966. Various other trends had ebbed and flowed, but Bill Graham had either been on the forefront of innovation or quick to capitalize on growing trends. Outdoor rock concerts had evolved from the carefully organized Monterey Pop Festival, itself based on jazz and folk festivals, and on to the rock festival that featured music 24/7 in a muddy field out in the middle of nowhere. Woodstock was the most famous of these festivals, but there were a lot of other ones: Sky River (the first), Isle Of Wight, Atlanta Pop and numerous others, the Bay Area's own Altamont concert the most notorious of this breed.

Rock Festivals were tried with varying success throughout the early 1970s, culminating with the Bill Graham organized Watkins Glen Festival in New York on July 28, 1973, featuring the Grateful Dead, the Allman Brothers and The Band. Although it was the most successful and best-run event of its kind, as 600,000 people attended the show at the New York racetrack with nary a hitch, the outdoor rock festival was already a dinosaur by the time of  Watkins Glen. Communities were tired of the traffic problems, fans were tired of the privations, and most importantly such events inevitably turned into free concerts, undermining the promoter's goal of maximizing the dollars involved.

In 1973, Bill Graham Presents had been among the first promoters in the country to figure out how to translate the appeal of the Rock Festival into a convenient one-day event at a stadium. Numerous shows had been held at Football and Baseball stadiums up until this point, but BGP capitalized on both fans desire to go to an all-day outdoor event while still having access to food, water and bathrooms. The fact that stadiums had parking lots and turnstiles made the events easy to control and monetize. In contrast to the stadium shows that were to follow from the mid-70s onwards, featuring mega bands that were huge draws, the early Bay Area stadium shows were more like mini-rock festivals. They featured a couple of popular acts, but there was no pretense that the show would sell out. Rather, patrons were encouraged to spend the day catching some rays, dancing and hanging out to a variety of different bands. Tagging the concerts as a "Day On The Green" was a conscious effort to give the event a pastoral feel that was actually at odds with the pedestrian architecture of a modern "multi-use" stadium like the Oakland Coliseum.

Even for BGP, defining the 'Day On The Green' concept was not without its hiccups. The first Bay Area stadium concerts in 1973 were at Kezar Stadium, in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. Kezar, located in the Southeast corner of Golden Gate Park (at Frederick and Stanyan), had been the home of the San Francisco 49ers, but they had moved to Candlestick Park after 1971. The largely unused Kezar would have made a perfect concert venue for BGP, but a number of factors got in the way. BGP put on two legendary shows in the early Summer of 1973: May 26 headlined by the Grateful Dead (supported by Waylon Jennings and the New Riders of The Purple Sage) and June 2 headlined by Led Zeppelin (supported by Joe Walsh and a then-unknown club band called The Tubes, among others).

The first show, with the Grateful Dead, was a smashing success. The event was not (to my knowledge) sold out, but a healthy crowd had plenty of room to dance and relax and a great time was had by all. The New Riders were their sparkling 1973 selves, Waylon Jennings showed that there was a closer link to the Dead and "Outlaw Country" than had previously been suspected, and of course the Dead played three massive sets. While it must have been a strain on parking and the neighborhoods in general, back in '73 Golden Gate Park was still Home Court for the Dead, so everything generally went swimmingly.

The next weekend's Led Zeppelin show was a different matter. The biggest issue was that because of the way the stage was constructed, the PA was pointed in a certain direction that made the sound echo all over the district, and this did not go over well with the non-rockin' residents of the area. The show was also a sellout, or close to it. I do recall that it was an easy ticket in my High School, but as a result of being an easy ticket, lots of people went (I was a lowly tenth grader without transport, so there was no chance of me attending daytime shows in San Francisco regardless of who was playing). In addition, the significant increase in attendance for Zep over the Dead must have put a much bigger strain on the neighborhoods. Finally (if I may so), based on an analysis of parking lot behavior in my High School (I am eminently qualified in this field, but I won't digress), Deadheads with a buzz on were a lot easier on a neighborhood than liquored up Zep fans, and that can't have gone unnoticed, even if the noise factor was the stated issue. In any case, the noise complaint prevented BGP from holding any further commercial rock concerts in Kezar Stadium.

BGP's solution to the lockout on Kezar was to move the next stadium concert to the Oakland Coliseum. Although the prosaic Oakland Coliseum Stadium, next door to the Arena (both opened in 1966), generally lacked charm, it was easy to get to, easy to park and had few neighbors to be bothered. The move to Oakland Coliseum was a winning decision, not surprising given the fact that the Oakland Coliseum complex inevitably housed winners in the early 1970s (the mighty Oakland A's won three World Series in a row from 1972-74, the Oakland Raiders won the Super Bowl in 1977 and the Golden State Warriors changed basketball by winning the NBA title in 1975).

Hayward Daily Review, July 27, 1973
The first Bay Area "Day On The Green" was on August 5, 1973, at the Oakland Coliseum Stadium. The headliners were Leon Russell and Loggins & Messina. Leon Russell was an established star at the time, and Loggins & Messina were rising, but neither were mega at the time. Also on the bill was local favorite Elvin Bishop. The "Day On The Green" title was to make it clear that the show was general admission, and that everyone would be able to sit out in centerfield rather than be forced to watch from a distance. My impression (from reviews) was that about 20,000 showed up for that concert, in a venue that could have handled above 60,000, but that made for a very relaxed afternoon and a much bigger crowd than would have likely seen any of the acts by themselves. The formula was set: the convenient Oakland Coliseum was the venue, and a relaxed multi-act show was on offer, with the idea that the facility would be spacious enough to accommodate everyone without standing in line and struggling all day. For teenagers who had missed the rock festivals of the 60s, or older people who had actually suffered through them, it sounded pretty good.

June 8, 1974: Day On The Green #1
BGP kicked off the 1974 outdoor concert season the same way they had in 1973, with a stadium concert featuring the Grateful Dead. As the ad shows, however, they shared top billing with The Beach Boys, and the New Riders of The Purple Sage and Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen filled out the day's entertainment. Tickets were just $8.50, and the bands would start at the unrock and roll hour of 10am. Even in the 1970s, $2.00 per band was a very low number, so it was a great deal if you were looking to see a bunch of bands for very little money.

The Oakland Coliseum was also considerably more accessible than Kezar Stadium, and in particular it was much nearer to the East Bay suburbs. Because the show was on a Saturday, patrons could come to the stadium by BART, the new Rapid Transit train that had only opened in 1972 (BART did not run on Sundays in those days). The mechanics of the show made it particularly accessible to High School and College Students, since it was cheap, all ages and BART-eligible. Also, parents (like mine) were perfectly casual about sending their kids off to a baseball stadium--my Dad and I had been to the Oakland Coliseum Stadium many times, and they didn't think twice about letting me and my friend (and his girlfriend) spend the day there. It might have been different if this was some muddy field in Northern California (or a quarter mile oval racetrack in Altamont), but this was an established venue.

As a prospective fan, I found going to the stadium very appealing. I had read about Woodstock and heard about Watkins Glen in detail from my cousin, and while I envied the music, I was too urbanized to tolerate all the various privations. The Coliseum on the other hand--I knew where to park, there were bathrooms, food and drink and anyway I was a huge A's fan. All good.

The Beach Boys' Endless Summer
The Beach Boys co-billing with the Dead was a very odd but in the end very shrewd booking. At the time, the Beach Boys had spent a few years in the wilderness, derided as an oldies band who weren't capable of making "serious" music. The group had struggled desperately to be hip, but their efforts had largely failed. Nonetheless, at the same time AM radio had lost a lot of ground to FM, and were countering it by playing more and more oldies, so 60s Beach Boys hits were well known to most local radio listeners. The co-sponsor of the show was KFRC (610), the biggest AM music station in the Bay Area. The Beach Boys were a regular part of their playlist, and the Dead gave a cachet of hipness to KFRC that it didn't deserve, but probably served them well.

BGP's goal in booking cool local favorites with an over-the-hill LA hit machine was to draw from two different fan bases. I now realize that BGP recognized that people were going to come by the carload, and the Beach Boys essentially appealed to a lot of people who wanted to go with their friends, but didn't like or know about the Grateful Dead. The Beach Boys, on the other hand, were known to everyone who was under 30 and not deaf, because even if you didn't know the names of their songs, even someone who only listened to classical music knew the opening strains to "Good Vibrations" or "Fun Fun Fun." In those days, the Grateful Dead were a "cool" band, but not to everyone's taste, and their popularity was definitely finite. The whole idea of Deadheads as a weird cult had not developed yet. Of course, Dead fans had a reputation as long-haired stoners, but Bay Area High Schools in the 1970s were full of long haired stoners (or would-be ones, anyway), so the Dead weren't out of step with the times.

In 1975, the Beach Boys would release a double album of their greatest hits, called Endless Summer, which would establish them as America's premier oldies band, a title I believe they hold to this day. In 1974, however, this wasn't fully established. Nonetheless, stations like KFRC were playing their old songs, and music fans (myself included) were starting to notice that amidst the catchy hooks and dopey lyrics, the Beach Boys had made some pretty well sculpted music. Thus in 1974, the Beach Boys were on the verge of a comeback. BGP would book the Beach Boys with more current groups at a number of stadium shows in the next few years, and they went over very well, but this June booking with the Grateful Dead was the first test of the concept.

Commander Cody And His Lost Planet Airmen
We arrived at the show well before the 10am kickoff. The stage was in Center Field, extending from Left Center to Right Center. The infield was blocked off, but the outfield grass was open for sitting or dancing. Almost all the seats in the stands were available, too, but there were no reserved seats. As it happened, there were "only" about 30,000 people there, so there was plenty of room to hang out and run around. Those who wanted to get close to the stage had a relatively easy time doing so, but we hung out in mid-centerfield, near enough to see the action, but still with plenty of room to relax.

The most dramatic sight upon entry was the Dead's legendary "Wall Of Sound" looming behind the stage. This was my fourth Dead show (Dec 12 '72, then Feb 9 '73, then Feb 22 '74), so I had seen portions of the system, but it was somehow more dramatic to see it blocking out the back of the stadium (for Oaklanders: this was way before Mt. Davis ruined the view). I realize some or perhaps many people had seen the Dead at the Cow Palace (March 23 '74), but for me personally it was a dramatic tableaux. Even more remarkably, in retrospect, there was an entirely different sound system rising up from both sides of the stage. This system was for the other three acts, who would not be using the Dead's system, and this made for an entire mountain range of equipment, with the Wall as the towering peak.

Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen kicked off soon after 10am with (I think) "Armadillo Stomp." I was a huge fan of the group, and they were suitably great and did many of their best known songs from their four albums. I now realize this was on purpose--they were trying to make new fans, and thus played their best known or most convincing material, but I couldn't have been happier. There had been some minor changes in the band lineup (Ernie Hagar was on pedal steel instead of Bobby Black) but it was a great way to start the day as far as I was concerned.

About half-way through their set, the band brought out Commander Cody from behind his piano by playing a little intro music and saying, "Ladies and Gentlemen, the 29-year old Perfect Master himself, Commander Cody!" (extra points if you recognize the contemporary Guru Maharaj Ji reference). Cody stalked out front and stared at the crowd. Then, quite hilariously, he said "how come I don't see more of you hippies at baseball games?" In 1974, the "jock" and "stoner" crowds in most High Schools and Colleges were still pretty separate, but Cody and his band had bridged that gap long ago (by virtue of being from Ann Arbor, MI). I was a huge A's fan, and this was at odds with most of the rock fans I knew, particularly older ones. Cody and the Airmen were ahead of the curve here, but Cody's remark was the only reference all day to the fact that the event took place in a sports venue. Of course, Cody launched into "Smoke That Cigarette" and the inevitable "Hot Rod Lincoln" and brought down the house. People were still coming into the Coliseum in great numbers throughout Cody's set.

The New Riders Of The Purple Sage

Cody and the Airmen probably played about an hour. The New Riders of The Purple Sage must have come on about 11:30 am. I was a huge New Riders fan, and had all their albums. I was a lot less knowledgeable about country and country rock than I am today, so I saw the Riders as more unique than they actually were, but that hardly mattered. Under normal circumstances it would have been difficult or impossible for me to see them live in the Bay Area, and here I was seeing another band I really liked for the first time. Dave Torbert had left the New Riders several months before, much to my dismay, and the band had not yet recorded with new bassist Skip Battin, but I was still thrilled to see them.

I no longer recall precisely which songs the New Riders played, but since I had all their records and knew every song by heart it hardly mattered. The only song I didn't like was a new one by Battin, but I had only just heard it. Buddy Cage was awesome, just as I had hoped. Given that it was in a baseball stadium, albeit an only half-filled one, the most interesting thing was that mid-set the Riders invited out mandolinist Frank Wakefield to sing and play his song "Teardrops In My Eyes." Now, the Riders had recorded it on Panama Red, with Nelson singing lead, so I knew the song, and I recognized Wakefield's name from the songwriting credits [update: an astute correspondent points out that "Teardrops" was written by Red Allen and Tommy Sutton, and Wakefield didn't play on the record, so I'm imposing something on my own memory--I didn't actually know who Wakefield was]. I don't recall whether Nelson or Wakefield sang lead at the stadium, but to me this was what concerts were supposed to be like: if a band had a friend in town, they invited him up on stage to sing a song.

Of course this wasn't some gig at the Keystone Berkeley, but rather a showcase event at a baseball stadium, and the Riders had probably carefully rehearsed the performance. Knowing what I know now, I realize that David Nelson, Frank Wakefield and The Good Old Boys were going to open for the Great American String Band at Keystone Berkeley a few days later (June 13-14, discussed at length by JGMF), so there was nothing casual about it at all. But what did I know? It was only later, when I became more knowledgeable about bluegrass, that I realized that Wakefield was not just (or only) a pal of Nelson's, but the man who, in David Grisman's phrase, "split the bluegrass mandolin atom." About 23 years later, I saw Wakefield at the Freight And Salvage, and I knew what I was hearing, but in 1974 he was just a guy who came on stage.

However, as if to cement my ideas that musicians were just happy-go-lucky guys who liked to hang out, Commander Cody joined the New Riders for the last two numbers, which were "Dim Lights, Thick Smoke (And Loud, Loud Music)" and "Glendale Train." Cody had played on the first NRPS album, so it all made sense to me, even if it gave me an inaccurate picture of reality. In the mid-70s, the Airmen and the Riders had the same manager (Joe Kerr) and played many bills together, so Cody had probably played these two songs many times with the band. While I'm sure it was fun, it was a safe and popular thing to do. Nonetheless, it sure sounded good to me.

The Beach Boys
The New Riders must have left the stage by or before 1:00pm. There was the usual rapid set change, and after a little while people were getting restless in the hot sun, looking forward to seeing the Beach Boys. I was less interested in the Boys than the other groups, but there was nothing to do and I wanted to see them or anyone rather than just bake. After more than half an hour, people were starting to get restless. Eventually, someone--maybe Bill Graham--came on stage and announced that the Beach Boys were having travel problems and were going to be late, but that the Dead had given up some of their time to let them do their set.

Well, even if this was just musician's courtesy, it didn't sit well with me, baking in the sun so a band I didn't really want to see could play their entire set, but there wasn't anything I could do about it. It did leave ample time to socialize with the people in the crowd. The most surprising and telling thing was the discovery nearby of two girls from my high school, neither of whom liked the Grateful Dead, and thus rather less likely to be found at such a concert. In the interests of not embarrassing their no-doubt-by-now-adult children, I will redact their names, but while they sort of liked rock music, they were both violinists in the Youth Symphony and knew nothing about rock beyond The Beatles. One of them claimed to have never heard of or heard the Beach Boys.

The two of them had come to the show with two older guys from San Jose (shocking to a Palo Altan). In fact the boys were probably about 19 and must have been San Jose State students, but it was an interesting marker of how the show appealed to different sorts of people. Here were two girls from my High School who would never have attended a Dead show, but because it was an easy ticket at a convenient venue, and two (presumably) college guys invite them on a double date, so here they were. Now, to give the violinists their Palo Alto cred, they had arrived during the New Riders and slept through them, because they were too stoned--at 11:30am. It was another mark of the half-filled Coliseum that patrons could cheerily take a nap in right field (Reggie Jackson territory in those days) whenever they felt the need. At about 2:00, when we bumped into them, they were still three sheets to the wind.

The Beach Boys came on at about 2:30 or even 3:00pm. Lead singer Mike Love irritated many people by saying, "sorry about being late, man, but we're all on Universal Time," a sentiment not shared by me. However, that aside, the Beach Boys played and sang very well, and ended up winning over the Deadhead crowd along with entertaining violinists and other more casual fans. While Brian Wilson had stopped touring many years before, obviously, the other two brothers (guitarist Carl and drummer/singer Dennis) and cousin Al Jardine (guitar) were still in the band. Bruce Johnston took Brian's parts, so the band's five part vocals (Love, Johnston, Jardine, the Wilsons) were still intact. The rest of the band was pretty solid too, including Blondie Chaplin (lead guitar) Ricky Fataar (guitar and drums) and Billy Hinsche (on piano--from Dino, Desi and Billy; don't tell me you've forgotten them?). I no longer recall if producer Jim Guercio played bass on that tour.

The Beach Boys were real professionals, cranking out all their 60s hits (and "Sail On Sailor") with enthusiasm, hitting all the high notes, and putting in just enough genuine guitar solos to seem like they belonged in the 1970s to pull off playing in a baseball stadium. Whatever reservations Deadheads like me may have had about the group were forgotten while we all sang along to "Help Me Rhonda" and "Wouldn't It Be Nice." I looked over and saw my violinist friends singing along too--it turned out they knew a bunch of Beach Boys songs, even if they hadn't known that beforehand.

The Main Attraction
As I recall, the changeover to the Grateful Dead was relatively quick. This must have been because the Beach Boys were using one sound system and the Grateful Dead were using another, but in any case the wait wasn't too long. By this time we had all been baking in the sun for many hours, and we knew that the show would not go on into the dark (I don't know how we knew this but we did). Now, of course, we would pay the price for the Beach Boys lateness by losing out on the Dead. Again, considering what I now know, the Dead had played three sets at Kezar the year before, and they only played two at the Coliseum, so thanks to the Beach Boys transit issues, I personally lost a set of primo 1974 Dead.

Since the tapes circulate widely, I won't bother to analyze them, as there are better people than me for that, and I will just confine myself to a few observations. First of all, the Wall Of Sound was absolutely amazing. Concert sound has improved tremendously in the last few decades, and I assume that the qualities of the Wall Of Sound can be duplicated by modern technology. For 1974, however, it was light years ahead of its time. Most rock sound systems in the day were loud enough, but had all sorts of holes in them--you couldn't hear the piano, or the highs were fuzzy, or the bass sounded different all over the house, or whatever. Standing in Center Field at the Coliseum that day, however, I really felt I was peering into the Future Of Sound. The band played loud enough that I could hear every note, yet at the same time I could carry on a conversation in a normal tone of voice with my friend. I recall watching Kreutzmann at one point, and seeing him break a stick. Now, breaking a drumstick is a common enough thing, but I could hear the audible 'click' on the mic as it broke, and I was absolutely amazed.

Mars Hotel would not be released until the end of June. In 1974, there was little access to the secret world of tapes or even word-of-mouth. I know now when various songs were debuted, but "Scarlet Begonias," "US Blues," "Ship Of Fools" and "It Must Have Been The Roses" were all new to me. I realize that many people would have heard these songs at the Cow Palace or elsewhere, but even for those people they mostly would have heard them once. Indeed, I had heard "Wave That Flag" at Maples the year before, but of course I had no idea.  I was locked in enough by this time that I recalled all the songs and recognized them on Mars Hotel (and Tales Of The Great Rum Runners, in the case of "Roses"). It was exciting to get a foretaste of the next Dead album, and to be excited about the songs on it.

The highlight of the show, in person and on tape, was the lengthy "Playing In The Band>Wharf Rat>Playing In The Band." My recollection was that it was quite hot, and that the stadium blocked the usual bay breeze, so we were all pretty melted, so the laid back jamming was right in tune with the day. I do recall a Hammond organ on stage, covered over but seemingly ready to go, and wondering if Keith or anyone else was ever going to play it. I have often wondered if they bought the organ to every show or just a few of them, or if they ever asked Keith if he was going to play it. The few times that Keith played organ he seemed quite good (Oct 27 '73 comes to mind), but I guess it was one of those weird non-confrontational Dead things. Still, it was only much later when I thought about the fact that it was sitting on stage unplayed.

Who knows what we missed by the Beach Boys lateness. Was there supposed to be a Phil and Ned "Seastones" set? Would I have gotten a third set "Dark Star"? In any case, the June 8, 1974 Oakland Coliseum Stadium show laid out the blueprint for the next several years of Day On The Greens (or DOGs, as they were affectionately known): a couple of headliners with distinct audiences, some fun opening acts, and a relaxed atmosphere, with some occasional great moments mixed in. Having established the structure of the Bay Area "Day On The Green," however, the Grateful Dead would not play another one on home turf until they played with Bob Dylan in 1987. By that time, stadium concerts were just really big concerts with a single headline act, sold out to the gills and no different than any other concert  

[Update: An alert Commenter pointed out that I completely forgot about the October 9-10, 1976 Oakland Stadium concerts with The Who and The Grateful Dead. Whoops--particularly galling, since I attended the second one. However, The Who/Dead extravaganza, although still presented in the all-day format of other DOGs, was yet another harbinger of Things To Come. There were two mega-headliners and no opening acts. The shows were expected to be totally sold out, although in fact for a variety of reasons that was not the case. Nonetheless, despite my brain fade, the Who/Dead shows were more like 80s stadium concerts than 70s rock festivals in a stadium. The big event of the Summer of '76 had been Peter Frampton/Fleetwood Mac/Gary Wright shows on April 26 and May 1, and although Frampton had "come alive" by then, Fleetwood Mac and Gary Wright were just breaking out. High School attendance was probably better at the Coliseum that day than it had been the previous Friday at Bay Area schools.]

Aftermath
The multi-act Day On The Green concept was very popular in the Bay Area for the balance of the 70s, and spread to other cities. The next DOG was CSNY/The Band/Joe Walsh/Jesse Colin Young, at Oakland Stadium on July 13-14, 1974. All of the 70s Day On The Greens in the Bay Area were held at Oakland Coliseum (SNACK was at Kezar, but that was a Benefit held under a different aegis). The Dead were supposed to play a DOG in early Summer '78 with the Steve Miller Band, but the booking fell through for unknown reasons. The Beach Boys were regulars at many DOGs, even headlining one on July 2, 1976.

In 1974, the size and expense of the Wall Of Sound required the Dead to play huge venues with certain kind of technical accommodations (indoor arenas had to have concrete floors, and so on).While the June DOG was a big success, and the Dead were surely well compensated, in order for the show to happen they had to be double billed with another act who ended up cutting into their time. As professionals, I don't think the Grateful Dead dwelt on it per se, but it was another way in which the Grateful Dead were going to have to act like a "normal" band, and on some level it must have given them pause. This and many other factors combined to force the band to go on a performance hiatus after the five night stand at Winterland on October 16-20, 1974.

Had I been really cool and not just a high schooler, I would have known that Jerry Garcia was playing at the Great American Music Hall on the night of June 8. Imagine--four hours in the sun, and then killing the evening by funking out with Merl Saunders and John Kahn late into the night. According to legend, anyway, Jack Casady and Stephen Stills showed up to jam. Wow--maybe musicians did just like to jam and hang out.

At least one of the two violinists saw the Grateful Dead again, during the Dead's "last five nights" (as they were known) back in October 1974. I recall quizzing her relentlessly about it at school--I'm sure she has forgotten it--but it was just a date to her, and she had no useful information. Still, I took some measure of satisfaction that she had liked the Dead enough to be willing to go again. Within a few years, I took to hoping that people wouldn't like the Dead, because I didn't want competition for tickets. From what I know (fifth hand), she has managed to live a happy and productive life, so at the very least it didn't harm her.

Update: Backstage Report
I am fortunate to be in touch with keyboardist Ned Lagin, who had a unique perspective on the Grateful Dead's music in the first half of the 1970s. I asked him
do you recall if Seastones (or "Phil and Ned") was supposed to play in Oakland Stadium on June 8, 1974? The Beach Boys were also on the bill, and they were late, so the Dead agreed to shorten their show to help out. The band still played two full sets and an encore, so I wondered what was missing. I know that you started appearing between sets later in June.
While it turns out that Lagin was not scheduled to play, he was indeed present, and had a remarkable story to tell
My girl friend and I rode to the gig with Phil and his girl friend, all four of us happy and excited, flying (in Phil's car) over the Bay (on the Richmond Bridge) and down the east shore of the bay to Oakland. Everything (the PA) was set up when we arrived and the NRPS were playing, but after walking in through the performer's entrance area, and seeing the NRPS finish, the real story of that day for us became quickly apparent - that the Beach Boys were seriously afraid of the GD and possible psychic or liquid or other physical "infection" or contact, or the appearance of contact or association. It seemed that an underlying reason they as co-headliners were booked to go on first (meaning before the GD played and things got loose, but after CC and NRPS) was for them to play and get away unharmed, untainted (and, the thinking was, the Beach Boys' audience as well if they wanted). The Beach Boys did not allow any one from the GD on stage or backstage with minor exceptions. They put yellow police crime tape all around the sides of the stage and the back stage area to keep the GD out while they were present. I remember them being very late in starting (but not so late arriving as Bill Graham said at the gig) - only that they were there but didn't come out on stage for a very long time, for whatever reasons. I had great respect for the singing abilities of the Beach Boys, and their becoming a part of mainstream Americana, but really otherwise didn't care much about them one way or the other - seeing them in some full GD phobia mode was hysterical to say the least (even knowing their personal history). They did put on a good show that was them, the Beach Boys. But I'm not sure why no one ever reported one of the more bizarre and funny occurences in Rock and Roll, especially since it was the first (Oakland) Day on the Green and an important bell-weather for Bill Graham's future stadium summer gigs. I guess out of respect for the Beach Boys. The GD played as long really as they wanted (or felt the need to, given the constraints on Graham to have a reasonably well controlled and contained, and hence reproducible, stadium event). 

Phil and I had no plans to play (it wasn't considered) because no one thought it would be a good start (for us) at a large outdoor party show. Particularly one with such an eclectic mix of mainstream outdoor summer pop audience attendees. (Soon on tour though we would play outdoors at Hollywood Bowl (much smaller, but with CC and Maria Muldour on the bill), and Roosevelt Stadium, and do well....). We also skipped the first cities on the tour because we (prejudicially) thought it unlikely to get a reasonable response from Southern audiences. As it turned out the least favorable response we ever got was later in (northern liberal) New Haven.
So, it turns out that the "story" about the Beach Boys being late was concocted for the crowd, and much more mysterious behavior was happening backstage. On the positive side, it seems that the Grateful Dead played more or less what they wanted to. 

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Grateful Dead/Jerry Garcia Tour Itinerary March 1970

An ad for a Howard Wales led jam session: SF Chronicle, March 16, 1970
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

Rather than go in strictly chronological order, I am focusing on periods where recent research has been done by myself or others. Over time I hope to have the entire 1965-70 period. My principal focus here is on identifying which dates have Grateful Dead shows, which dates might have Grateful Dead shows, and which dates are in dispute or may be of interest. Where relevant, I am focusing on live appearances by other members--mostly Jerry Garcia, as a practical matter--in order to get an accurate timeline.

What follows is a list of known Grateful Dead performance dates for March, 1970. 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 by 1968, were living hand to mouth and scrambling to find paying gigs. 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.

March, 1970
February 1970 had been a particularly momentous month for the Grateful Dead, notwithstanding the string of fantastic live performances. Sometime in the late January-early February period they began recording Workingman's Dead. The exact date has never been determined, to my knowledge, but it appears they completed recording it during March. While the band had been touring madly throughout the beginning of 1970, riding high on their new album Live/Dead, they realized that manager Lenny Hart was stealing from them. In late January 1970 Hart had proposed merging Grateful Dead operations with Chet Helms's struggling Family Dog on The Great Highway. This was actually a brilliant and intriguing idea, but while Helms may have kept somewhat casual accounts, he was no crook--when Lenny Hart refused to show him the Grateful Dead books, Hart had to scurry back to Novato.

Lenny Hart had stolen $155,000, bankrupting the band for all intents and purposes. Throughout this, the Dead played absolutely remarkable music, and Hart's perfidy ironically condemned the Dead to endless touring, and their 1970 and '71 peregrinations produced legions of Deadheads.Yet somehow, in the midst of an irrational and ill-advised touring schedule--one of Lenny Hart's many failings as a manager--the Grateful Dead played epic performances throughout Winter 1970, while still finding time to fire their manager and record one of their classic albums.

At the same time, remarkably, while Jerry Garcia's first formal "side" band, the New Riders Of The Purple Sage, were on hiatus in March because they appear to have had no bass player, Garcia found time to start jamming at the Matrix with Howard Wales. The jams with Wales led ultimately to the partnership with Merl Saunders and eventually to the Jerry Garcia Band, so the month of March 1970 was fruitful indeed for the future of the Grateful Dead.

I have linked to existing posters where available.

Grateful Dead/Jerry Garcia Tour Itinerary March 1970
February 27-March 1, 1970: Family Dog On The Great Highway, San Francisco, CA: Grateful Dead/Commander Cody And His Lost Planet Airmen
Although the exact timing of the firing of Lenny Hart remains uncertain, the deed had been done by the end of February. It must have been odd to play a weekend at the venue that their crooked manager had proposed merging with. The band was friendly with Chet Helms, so the situation was probably manageable socially, but it still must have been weird.

Commander Cody and The Lost Planet Airmen opened the shows all weekend. Cody had opened for the Dead at the Family Dog the previous August, and they would go on to play many shows with the Dead over the years.

March 2, 1970: The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: Jam Session with Howard Wales
As I have discussed at length in my history of John Kahn's performing history, the Matrix had generally hosted a Monday night jam for local musicians from 1968 onwards (the listing above is actually from the March 16, 1970 San Francisco Chronicle). Usually there was a "host" musician or band, but anyone might show up. Jerry Garcia had dropped by regularly if rather intermittently over the years. Around February 16, 1970, the jam session started to be hosted by organist Howard Wales. His regular partner was drummer Bill Vitt.

Garcia knew Wales and had jammed with him on occasion. At least one tape endures from The Family Dog on August 28, 1969. It's impossible to be certain when Garcia first started showing up at Wales's Matrix jam sessions (I discuss the subject at length in the John Kahn 1970 entry), but the likeliest dates seem to be March 2 or March 9,1970.

March 7, 1970: Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, Santa Monica, CA: Grateful Dead/Cold Blood
The Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, at 1855 Main Street, was a multipurpose venue built in 1958. It seats about 3000 for rock concerts. Still in use, it remains the home of the Santa Monica Symphony Orchestra. It has only been used intermittently for rock shows (it may be viewed in the famous TAMI Show movie), despite its central location. March 7 was a Saturday night, which makes me wonder if there wasn't a canceled Friday show (on March 6). On the other hand, the band were busy recording Workingman's Dead, so they may have had different imperatives for their schedule. Its still uncertain the exact days that the album was recorded, but the band would still have been overdubbing and mixing in March, even if they had finished recording the basic tracks.

March 8, 1970: Travelodge Theater In The Round, Phoenix, AZ: Grateful Dead
This Phoenix Theater went under a variety of names over the years. Phoenix was not yet the booming metropolitan area it would become in later decades. The timing of this weekend's shows suggests that the band was playing some quick shows for cash on the weekend, and then returning to San Francisco to work on the album.

One interesting detail about this show was that area resident Vince Welnick attended the show as a fan--little could he have expected....

March 9, 1970: The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: Jam Session with Howard Wales
I assume that the band members flew back from Phoenix (the crew may have driven a truck with the equipment), so Garcia could have been in town in time to drop by the Matrix for some late night jamming with Howard Wales and Bill Vitt.  

SF Chronicle: March 11, 1970
March 12, 1970: Inn Of The Beginning, Cotati, CA: New Riders Of The Purple Sage (likely canceled)
After extensive gigging around the Bay Area in late 1969, the New Riders of The Purple Sage ground to a halt at the beginning of the New Year. We know that Nelson and Dawson were still working on music, because they worked up "Friend Of The Devil" with Robert Hunter (only to have Jerry Garcia add a bridge and co-opt the song), but we can find little evidence of any shows. JGMF found one January show (Jan 19 '70), but we can't determine for certain if that show was actually played.

The Inn Of The Beginning was a tiny out of the way place where San Francisco and Marin musicians could play a show and have a little fun. The New Riders had played there a few times in 1969, and this show was booked for March. After an extensive discussion, this corner of the blogospheric community determined that the IOTB show was never played. It appears that the New Riders did not have a bass player in March, 1970 (itself another topic I have discussed), as Phil Lesh had simply opted out, so the few scheduled gigs were never played.

Berkeley Barb: March 13, 1970
March 13-14, 1970: New Orleans House, Berkeley, CA: New Riders Of The Purple Sage/Canyon (NRPS canceled--replaced by Big Brother)
Part of our argument for assuming that the Cotati show was canceled was the fact that while the Riders were scheduled for a weekend of shows at Berkeley's New Orleans House, they were actually replaced by Big Brother and The Holding Company.

March 17, 1970: Kleinhans Music Hall, Buffalo, NY: Grateful Dead/Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra
In one of the Grateful Dead's most unexpected pairings, they played a show with the respected Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra. Apparently, this was a true collaboration, with members of the symphony improvising along with the Dead. Quite an odd show for a Tuesday night in Buffalo.

Because of the practical matter of getting to upstate New York in the Winter, I have assumed that Garcia would have flown to Buffalo the day before, and thus would not have been in town for the March 16 Monday night jam at the Matrix.  

March 20-21, 1970: Capitol Theater, Port Chester, NY: Grateful Dead/Catfish (early and late shows)
The Grateful Dead played four shows in two nights at the Capitol Theater in Port Chester, near the Connecticut border on Long Island Sound. This converted movie theater had only recently re-opened as a rock venue. While Port Chester was impossibly far from Manhattan, the population of the Tri-State area insured that the Capitol largely drew from a different pool of potential audiences than city venues like the Fillmore East.

Catfish was a blues/rock band that featured lead singer Bob "Catfish" Hodge.

March 22-23, 1970: Pirate's World, Dania, FL: Grateful Dead/New Society Band
Deadlists shows the Pirate's World show as Tuesday, March 24, but an alert Commenter has pointed out that the extant ticket stub (above) lists shows on March 22 (Sunday) and March 23 (Monday) and none for Tuesday March 24.

Pirate's World was an amusement park in Dania, FL, just North of Miami. There had been a variety of efforts to find suitable rock venues in the Miami area in the 1960s, and the Dead had played a critical role, if to little avail. Early in 1968, the Dead had played Thee Image, Miami's own Fillmore, and the band had also kicked off a series of free concerts at Graynolds Park. Later in 1968, the band had played a rock festival in nearby Hallandale (Dec 28 '68) and then, after Thee Image had closed, at a rock festival on the Seminole Indian Reservation in West Hollywood (May 23-24 '69),and at a speedway in Hollywood (Dec 28 '69). By 1970, police and civic pressure had forced touring rock bands to play outdoors in the Pirates World amusement park in Dania, just North of Hallandale (and just South of Fort Lauderdale). Note that the ticket stub suggests that when purchasing a ticket "all rides free." I wonder how "The Eleven" would sound on a roller coaster?

A Commenter elsewhere recalled
The concert area at Pirates World was inside the large amusement park. Maybe 2,000 people? 100 feet of floor space between the stage and a row of wooden bleacher seats that faced the stage. Totally open air, don't even think there was a roof over the stage.
The odd sequence of shows suggests that the Dead were flying to shows and then flying back home to work on the album. I doubt they bought that much equipment with them.

March 27, 28 or 29, 1970: Winter's End Festival, Orlando, FL (canceled)
JGMF discovered an ad for a rock festival in Orlando, FL on the weekend of March 27-29. As a Commenter has observed, it may be that the Dead scheduled in the Festival date and then added the Pirate's World shows as filler. The canceled show would explain the otherwise empty weekend.


March 30, 1970: The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: Jam Session with Howard Wales
There was a nine day gap between the Pirate's World show and the next Grateful Dead show, which was in Cincinatti, OH on April 3. That show, too, was a sort of one-off, leading me to think the band was flying to shows with comparatively minimal equipment. However, the length of that gap suggests that it was very likely that Jerry Garcia went over to the Matrix on Monday, March 30 to jam with Howard Wales and Bill Vitt. If Garcia had been cloistered in the studio mixing Workingman's, I'm sure he would have been in the mood to let off steam by going over to the Matrix and play some weird space music with Wales and Vitt.

The interesting thing about the March 30 is not whether Garcia showed up, since I'm pretty sure he did, but whether it was the night that John Kahn first showed up as well. The long partnership of Garcia and Kahn began around this period at the Matrix, but as I discussed elsewhere, I can't tell for certain whether Kahn first showed up on March 30, April 6 or April 13. A symphonically trained bassist named Richard Favis actually played one night (invited by Vitt), who did not work out, so Vitt invited Kahn. My own guess is that April 6 was Kahn's first night jamming with Garcia, but it's impossible for me to be certain at this time.

March 1970 was an intriguing month for the Grateful Dead and Jerry Garcia: they played some interesting shows, they finished working on an important album, and Garcia used a New Riders hiatus to set himself on a critical path in his own career. Until some intrepid researcher can come close to determining Garcia and the band's precise studio timeline for Workingman's Dead, the chronology of the month and thus Garcia's live activity will remain a bit murky.