|The Grateful Dead's historic run at Fillmore West, as it was listed in the February 27, 1969 SF Chronicle|
What follows is a list of known Grateful Dead performance dates for February, 1969, including performances by individual band members. 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. 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 an infamous rock band by the end of 1966, were living hand to mouth and scrambling to find paying gigs.
January 31-February 1, 1969: Kinetic Playground, Chicago, IL: Grateful Dead/The Grass Roots
The Grateful Dead had been in great financial distress at the end of 1968. Bill Graham had loaned them $12,000 to bail them out. According to McNally, a brief effort by Graham to actually manage the band lasted one meeting. However, Graham had gotten the Grateful Dead to agree to be booked by his new agency, the Millard Agency, and Graham would earn back his money that way. While the Dead were not dishonest, paying back Graham was not the first priority on their list. Thus Graham sent along a 'minder,' the experienced road manager Bill Belmont.
Belmont had worked with The Wildflower, which was how he had met the Dead in 1967. Since then, he had also worked with the Youngbloods and Country Joe And The Fish. Belmont was a friend and ally, but he was also representing "The Man," and according to Belmont the tour was somewhat of a trial. In Chicago, for example, Owsley had rented a car and was stopped for weaving while driving. At the police station, the Telex spit out an amazing list of accomplishments, and Owsley was in serious trouble. Fortunately, Kinetic Playground promoter Aaron Russo was well-schooled in Windy City justice, and $2000 to a mysterious gentleman who arrived in a limousine returned Owsley to the Dead.
The Kinetic Playground, at 4812 N. Clark St,. had opened in April, 1968 as the Electric Theater. After a lawsuit, the venue had changed its name to the Kinetic Playground. The building dated back to at least the 1920s, when it was known as the Rainbo Gardens. Russo was just 24, but he had put on rock shows as a Brooklyn high school student, so he had gotten an earlier education in the music business. The Kinetic Playground quickly became a mandatory stop on the newly developing 'Fillmore Circuit.' The Dead had played there a few months earlier, on a November 27-28, 1968 bill with Procol Harum and Terry Reid. At the January show, although we think of the Grass Roots as sort of a pop band today, at the time they were still straddling the ballroom scene and more mainstream success. The Grass Roots history is too convoluted to describe here, but at this time their lead guitarist was Creed Bratton, better known today as an actor on The Office.
February 2, 1969: Labor Temple, Minneapolis, MN: Grateful Dead
The Labor Temple was at 117 South 4th Street (at Central Avenue). From what I can tell, the hall had some pretty hip bookings in 1969 and 1970, with different promoters. Some peripheral evidence suggests a booking connection to Chicago and the Kinetic Playground, since most shows seem to have been on Sunday nights. After a big weekend gig in Chicago, an added Sunday night in Minneapolis made financial sense. I assume the Labor Temple was an old Union Hall, and it wasn't too large. The Dead would repeat the Kinetic weekend followed by a Labor Temple Sunday a few months later, on April 25-27, 1969.
Commenter 'Magic Castles' on the Archive ads some detail:
the 'Labor Temple' is on the 4th floor of (what is now) the Aveda beauty school on 4th & Central in Minneapolis, not to far from the U of M. Apparently, this was one REALLY HIP place to see a show back in the 60's... I think the Dead may have been the first band to play there (I may be wrong), But anyway, that would probably explain the WONDERFUL vibe of this show! I wonder if Aveda would let us up there, I'm sure the big room/theatre is still there....The geography may be slightly different now. Google maps puts 117 S. 4th St on the corner of 4th and 2nd Avenue, and I think Central (SR 65) was actually 3rd Avenue, but urban addresses do change. [update: blog reader and Minneapolis resident checks in with the real scoop, which can be seen in the Comments. The current Aveda Institute was formerly a department store that was next door to the Labor Temple, not the Labor Temple itself. Check out Tim's fascinating links in the Comment).
February 4, 1969: The Music Box, Omaha, NB: The Grateful Dead/Liberation Blues Band
The Music Box was at 118 N. 19th Street, at the edge of Omaha's Old Market district. The Old Market had been the business center of town in the early 20th century, but by mid-century it had become a sort of arty warehouse district. According to various commenters on the Archive, the Music Box was a tiny place, with a capacity of 500 at most.
The Grateful Dead actually played the Music Box twice, once in February and again on April 15, a few months later. Both the February 4 and April 15 shows were on a Tuesday night, and that was not at all a coincidence. It's important to understand why the Dead would play such tiny places, far from major cities. The Dead had had a big weekend booking in Chicago, and then a Sunday night in Minneapolis. They had shows coming up in Kansas City, St. Louis and Pittsburgh on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday (Feb 5-6-7). Yet they had to stay somewhere on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday nights. By playing a club in Omaha and earning a few bucks, the band could cover their traveling and road expenses for those few days. If they didn't play the show, the band would still have had pretty much the same expenses.
Omaha was about 2/3 of the way from Minneapolis to Kansas City. Whether the band flew or drove, it was easy traveling (I-35 to Des Moines, W on I-80 to Omaha, then I-29 to KC). Places like Omaha, Minneapolis, Kansas City or Salt Lake City got a lot of good shows because they were conveniently located between major stops on the growing rock circuit. Today, everywhere is on the rock circuit, but when it was just getting started in the 1960s, only the major cities had really attractive bookings. However, the cities in between them had an opportunity to get some shows, and in return hard touring bands like the Dead (and The Byrds, Savoy Brown, Ten Years After and dozens of others) had a chance to build a loyal audience.
A local band called the Liberation Blues Band opened one of the Dead shows at the Music Box, though I am not sure whether it was the February or April one.
February 5, 1969: Soldiers And Sailors Memorial Hall, Kansas City, KS: Iron Butterfly/Grateful Dead
Soldiers And Sailors Memorial Hall was built in 1925, and seats 3500. For bands touring on I-70 as opposed to the more popular I-80, Soldiers And Sailors was a regular stop. On this occasion, Kansas City got a show on a Wednesday night. Iron Butterfly were a big attraction, and so the Grateful Dead opened for them. Kansas City, KS is just across the Missouri river and smaller than Kansas City, MO.
It's typical to make fun of Iron Butterfly today, as their music hasn't aged all that gracefully. They were a San Diego band who moved to Los Angeles in 1967. Their second album, In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida, released in June 1968, was huge. The single of the same name was a pretty big hit, too. Although the album only reached #4, it kept selling, seemingly forever. In fact, in 1976, the Platinum Album (for 1 million units sold) was invented so that Atlantic Records could award it to Iron Butterfly.
Whatever you think of "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" and its fuzztone organ riff, Iron Butterfly were very important in rock history. The Iron Butterfly unequivocally showed record companies that 'heavy' rock music could ship massive numbers of albums, even if they didn't fit the conventional constraints of pop music. Companies like Warner Brothers were willing to bet on groups like The Grateful Dead in the hopes that they might have the next Iron Butterfly on their hands. Supposedly, In-A Gadda-Da-Vida was the all-time best selling album on Atlantic, until it was finally passed by Led Zeppelin IV. The album has sold 30 million copies.
Atlantic Records had released Iron Butterfly's successor album to In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida in late January of 1969. The album, Ball, actually peaked at #3, but sales died off afterwards. At this time, the Iron Butterfly were Erik Brann (lead guitar), Doug Ingle (organ, vocals), Lee Dorman (bass) and Ron Bushy (drums).
According to Tom Constanten, in my old copy of The Tapers Compendium, TC had to use Iron Butterfly's organ this night. It was a stand-up organ, and Constanten found it pretty unfamiliar. No explanation was given for this. Perhaps this may have been one of those nights where the Hammond organ was repossessed. The organ arrangement would explain Owsley's snippy remark that he had to help the Butterfly's marginally competent roadies. Maybe the Dead traded some technical help for a chance to use the organ?
February 6, 1969: Kiel Auditorium, St. Louis, MO: Iron Butterfly/Grateful Dead
The Grateful Dead opened for Iron Butterfly the following night as well, playing on a Thursday night at the Kiel Auditorium in St. Louis, a few hundred miles to the East on I-70. The Kiel Auditorium was built in 1934, and seated up to 9,300. It was located at 1401 Clark Avenue, an address that also included the much smaller Kiel Opera House, where the Dead would headline 18 months later. 9,300 capacity was pretty large for the 1960s, so a popular band like the Butterfly was needed to make sure that the concert made financial sense.
I don't know whether Constanten had to use Iron Butterfly's organ again. Perhaps after getting paid the night before, the Dead were able to reclaim their Hammond. In the ways of touring rock bands in the 60s, the groups went in opposite directions after this night. Iron Butterfly returned to the West and home, stopping off on Friday night (February 7) to play Denver with Steve Miller and Alice Cooper. The Dead continued eastward, and headed to their show the next night in Pittsburgh. The 600 mile drive would be pretty daunting, and ill-advised in the Winter, so I have to assume that the Dead and their equipment mostly traveled by plane for this tour.
February 7, 1969: Stanley Theater, Pittsburgh, PA: Grateful Dead/Velvet Underground/The Fugs (early and late shows)
Pittsburgh had always been a major American city due to the steel industry, and U.S. Steel was based there. However, as industry evolved, Pittsburgh started to recede in importance. Nonetheless, Pittsburgh was still a big, important American city in the 1960s, but it was definitely second-tier on the rock circuit. Despite its size, Pittsburgh was not a guaranteed tour stop, and there was no Fillmore-type venue for every band to play. I don't think it was coincidental that since Pittsburgh was not on I-95 or I-80, the principal highways in the Northeast for the Fillmore circuit, it was not a prime stop on 60s rock tours.
On this Friday night, the Grateful Dead did headline an early and late show at the Stanley Theater, on top of an interesting triple bill. The Fugs were led by three New York poets and activists, who started writing folk songs in the mid-60s. Songs like "Kill For Peace" were memorable satires, if hardly pop classics. When The Fugs toured, various Greenwich Village musicians acted as the supporting band. Reputedly, The Fugs were pretty entertaining performers, if not exactly great musicians. In complete contrast, The Velvet Underground were a unique and fascinating sixties group who had few parallels. They weren't that popular, but just about everyone who liked them formed a band, so they were hugely influential. The biting songs of Lou Reed and the Velvets unique sonic approach made them memorable, albeit not widely appealing.
I did talk to someone from Pittsburgh who attended one of these shows. He was an aspiring jazz drummer (he later settled for being an English professor), but he was very impressed with the Dead, and particularly Pigpen. Up until that time, he hadn't thought rock musicians could really play.
Normally, when the Dead were on tour and I cannot find a date for a Friday or Saturday night, I assume that one is missing and I only have to find it. However, in this case I suspect that the band did not work on Saturday night, February 8. The Dead had played four nights in a row in different cities (February 4-7, Tuesday through Friday), a rarity for the band. I always wonder about nights off, though--what did the Dead do on that Saturday night? Stay in Pittsburgh an extra night? Go to Baltimore early? Pittsburgh to Baltimore is only about 250 miles, but it was Winter and I don't believe the Interstate system was anywhere near built up like today, so I'm sure they flew to Baltimore.
February 9, 1969: Lyric Theater, Baltimore, MD: Grateful Dead (early and late shows)
The Lyric Theater is at 124 W. Mt Royal Ave, Baltimore, MD, near the University of Baltimore. Built in 1894 as the Lyric Opera House, and modeled on the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, it was re-named the Lyric Theater in 1909. It was the home of the Baltimore Opera Company from 1950-2009, and many other Symphony and Opera companies as well. Enrico Caruso played the Lyric in the early 20th Century. It is now the Patricia and Arthur Modell Performing Arts Center At The Lyric.
Although February 1969 was a period where the Dead were in their psychedelic prime, yet just known enough for people to retain their memories, nothing is known of the Baltimore shows. Never mind the absence of a tape--I don't know of a poster, a newspaper ad, a review, a setlist or even any kind of eyewitness account, however fuzzy. Similar to Pittsburgh, Baltimore was not an automatic stop on the rock circuit, because it had no regular venue. Unlike Pittsburgh, however, Baltimore was on I-95, so more shows ended up there, even if they were in different venues.
In the late 60s and early 70s, a lot of cities allowed rock concerts to be put on in the local opera house. Many opera house dated back over 50 years, and the revenue from rock concerts might have seemed like a welcome infusion. It wasn't always a good idea. A friend of mine saw Iggy And The Stooges at the Chicago Opera House (some years later, he told me "If I was born the day I saw Iggy, I'd be old enough to drink now," a line I have adopted to the Grateful Dead on many occasions). The Stooges were the first rock band to play the Opera House, and his Chicago fans tore the place to pieces. No rock bands played the Chicago Opera House for decades afterward. I have no idea what happened when the Dead played the Lyric, but I note it wasn't a common rock venue afterwards.
February 11-12, 1969: Fillmore East, New York, NY: Janis Joplin and Her Group/Grateful Dead (early and late shows)
Although the Grateful Dead were underground legends already, they were not particularly popular outside of San Francisco. At the Fillmore East, they opened for Janis Joplin. After the massive hit album Cheap Thrills, Janis had left Big Brother and The Holding Company, and was now a big star. However, her new band, modeled on a Stax/Volt style "soul revue," was sloppy and underrehearsed, and they did not play well.
Although the shows were booked for a Tuesday and a Wednesday, Wednesday (February 12) was Lincoln's Birthday, then a National Holiday, so the shows were like a weekend booking. Although the Dead only played hour long sets for both the early and late Friday and Saturday night shows, they apparently played very well. Both sets from the first night (February 11) were released as an historic Vault cd in 1997.
February 14-15, 1969: Electric Factory, Philadelphia, Pa: Grateful Dead/Paul Pena
The Electric Factory, at 2201 Arch Street, was not the first psychedelic ballroom in Philadelphia, but it was the first important one. The Grateful Dead had played there the previous year (April 26-28, 1968), relatively soon after the Electric Factory opened. The Electric Factory was a converted tire warehouse that held about 2000. The promoters of the Electric Factory went on to promote shows at the Philadelphia Spectrum, under the name Electric Factory Productions, and the Grateful Dead played for Electric Factory as much as almost any promoter save Bill Graham.
Paul Pena, a blind singer, guitarist and songwriter, led a blues band at this time. He would later move to the Bay Area in about 1971, and he regularly opened shows for Jerry Garcia and Merl Saunders at the Keystone Berkeley. The Steve Miller Band had a big 1977 hit with Pena's song "Jet Airliner."According to McNally, one of these Electric Factory shows ended at 5:38am. I did hear an apocryphal story about this once, and it was quite amazing thirty years later to find out that it was largely true.
|Ralph Gleason's Ad-Lib column in the SF Chronicle from February 19, 1969, only lists the San Jose band Weird Herald at The Matrix|
One of the most curious and fascinating Jerry Garcia tapes is from the Matrix dated February 19, 1969. On that tape, Garcia plays banjo in a bluegrass quartet, the only known instance of Garcia playing live banjo between 1965 and 1973. There isn't any doubt about it: in between songs, Garcia is plainly audible, discussing the next number with the other musicians.
High Country was a Berkeley bluegrass group that had been formed in 1968. Initially it was a duo, featuring guitarist Mylos Sonka and mandolinist Butch Waller. Waller had been in a group back in '62 called The Westport Singers, and he and bandmate Herb Pedersen were friends with Garcia, David Nelson and others, as the number of bluegrass pickers in the Bay Area was small indeed. Waller and Pedersen had gone on to form the Pine Valley Boys by 1963, and Nelson joined them in 1964. The Pine Valley Boys faded away by the end of 1966.
However, by early 1969, High Country had started to expand its membership, and a number of old Palo Altans joined in, including Nelson, Rick Shubb and Peter Grant.At the time, High Country had a sort of rotating membership, not uncommon for a bluegrass group. Waller (mandolin) and Rich Wilbur (guitar and bass) were the core members. Nelson was a sort of adjunct member, as was Richard Greene. Shubb and Grant alternated as banjo players, depending on availability. It seems, however, that on this specific date neither Shubb nor Grant could play, so the only other available Palo Altan banjo player filled in. The set is a fine one, with Waller on mandolin and lead vocals, Nelson on guitar and vocals, Wilbur on bass and vocals, and Garcia on banjo but not singing. All the songs are bluegrass standards.
Matrix tapes are hard to date for a variety of reasons, and some of the dates that circulate from Matrix sources can be doubted. One of the confusing things about assuming that High Country played the Matrix with Garcia on February 19 is that the Grateful Dead played the Fillmore West that very same night (see below). On the other hand, when questioned about it by David Gans, Nelson specifically recalled playing the Matrix with High Country. Equally confusingly, however, was that other groups were booked at the Matrix on that night: Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady (ie Hot Tuna) and a San Jose group, Weird Herald were both advertised, and its possible that both played, as the bands were friends.
I have speculated about the date of this tape a number of times, but my current thinking is that High Country played what amounted to a "dinner show" at The Matrix, and then Garcia went over to the Fillmore. It's possible that High Country effectively replaced Weird Herald as the opener for Jorma and Jack, and it's equally plausible that they played about 7:00 in the evening, and the regular bands went on as scheduled. The audience on the Matrix tape sounds tiny, about right for a bluegrass show in 1969, so it's as good a proposition as any.
February 19, 1969: Fillmore West, San Francisco, CA: Grateful Dead/Golden Toad "Celestial Synapse"
On Wednesday, February 19, the Grateful Dead were the headline performers at a private event held at the Fillmore West, "The Frontiers Of Science Celestial Synapse." The event was not advertised, and 1500 guests simply received invitations. However, the fact of the event is not in doubt, as the night was described in detail in the April 5, 1969 edition of Rolling Stone. The Celestial Synapse was the beginning of a 5-day conference on various weighty matters. According to the description, the Dead played for four hours. Opening the show was the Berkeley band The Golden Toad, a unique aggregation headed by Owsley's old friend Bob Thomas. Thomas is best known in Grateful Dead circles as an artist, and he was responsible for the 'Lightning Bolt' Grateful Dead logo.
Interestingly, the Rolling Stone article says that "Originally the concert was to be recorded for inclusion on the next Dead album, but last-minute difficulties in setting up the recording equipment scotched that." Nonetheless, some determined scholarly analysis has determined that a fine tape nonetheless survived, if not one recorded on a 16-track.
The confirmed February 19 Celestial Synapse date, of course, throws the Matrix date into question. After going around and around with various scenarios, none of which quite work out, I am currently favoring the idea that Garcia simply played an early bluegrass set at the Matrix and then hopped over to the Fillmore West for four hours of psychedelic madness.
|The poster for the week of Feb 21-March 1, 1969, for the Dream Bowl in Vallejo, CA|
Vallejo, California is the largest city in Solano County, which is just East of Napa County. Vallejo provided access to San Francisco Bay for farmers from Solano, Napa and Sonoma. The area had become prosperous at the turn of the 20th Century when the San Francisco, Napa and Calistoga Railroad provided electric rail and a ferry connection to San Francisco. The Dream Bowl was a quonset-style building, near Vallejo but actually in Napa County, near the junction of Napa Highway (CA 29) and Jameson Canyon Road.
Although the run of "psychedelic" rock shows at the Dream Bowl is quite brief, it had been a music venue since the 1930s--possibly earlier--and had hosted big bands, Texas Swing music, rhythm and blues, country stars and teen rock and roll dances prior to its hippie incarnation. I have discussed the whole story of how psychedelic music invaded Napa, along with the brief flowering of The Dream Bowl in its hippie incarnation, so I won't recap it all here. Suffice to say, the Dream Bowl only put on hippie shows from February to April 1969. Eyewitnesses report that the little building held about six or seven hundred people. At the time, the area was fairly agricultural, and the Dream Bowl was at an isolated junction.
However, since two fine tapes of the Grateful Dead at the Dream Bowl, recorded on February 21 and 22, 1969, have endured, the Dream Bowl did not quite pass into the aether. For its two month ballroom incarnation, it mostly featured bands booked by the Millard Agency, who included the Dead. Dancing Food & Entertainment was also a Millard band, featuring violinist Naomi Ruth Eisenberg, later in Dan Hicks And The Hot Licks, and bassist Tom Glass (ex Jazz Mice and Redwood Canyon Ramblers, and aka the artist 'Ned Lamont'). Amber Wine seems to have been a local band.
|The SF Chronicle of Monday, February 24, 1969 listed the "Hearbeats" with Jerry Garia, Phil Lesch and Bill Sommers.|
|Ralph Gleason's Wednesday, February 26 column also listed Sommers and The Heartbeats|
As if a Winter tour of the East Coast, mixing Aoxomoxoa and trying to record Live/Dead weren't enough, Garcia, Hart, Lesh and Kreutzmann went to the Matrix to jam on a few nights. I have speculated that the High Country bluegrass tape was recorded as an opener for one of these nights, and I suppose its possible.
I assume that the Matrix generally phoned in their copy to the Chronicle, so the mistaken spellings of 'Heartbeats' and 'Lesch' aren't meaningful, but why would Kreutzmann have used the name "Bill Sommers?" Kreutzmann had a fake ID with that name, which he needed until about 1968, accounting for occasional early references to him as 'Bill Sommers' or 'Bill The Drummer.' But why carry on the facade into 1969? I have speculated at length about these shows elsewhere, although any new information or speculation is always welcome.
|Ralph Gleason wrote about seeing the Grateful Dead at Fillmore West in his Monday, March 3 column in the SF Chronicle|
February 28, 1969: Fillmore West, San Francisco, CA: Grateful Dead/Pentangle/Sir Douglas Quintet/Shades Of Joy
March 1-2, 1969: Fillmore West, San Francisco, CA: Grateful Dead/Pentangle/Frumious Bandersnatch
After a furious month of touring, in which the Grateful Dead had already played 14 dates, including many lengthy or double shows, not to mention three extra Garcia dates and working on Aoxomoxoa, they ended the month with perhaps their most famous engagement. A four-night stand at Fillmore West formed the core of Live/Dead, with the iconic "Dark Star" recorded the very first night, on Thursday, February 27. Every note of the Grateful Dead performances from that weekend has been released, and they are truly memorable. For once, with everything on the line and the state-of-the-art 16-track Ampex recorder rolling, the Grateful Dead got around on the fastball and hit it hard, driving it deep into the left field seats. Live/Dead stands as the grand slam of rock live albums, holding up as well today as the first time we all heard it.
As if that weren't enough, the main opening act for the weekend was the fine English group Pentangle. Pentangle's then-unique lineup of two acoustic guitars and a rhythm section was a huge influential on Jerry Garcia, and it laid the groundwork for the Grateful Dead's intermittent acoustic sets over ensuing decades. One night, probably Friday (February 28), there was an opening set by the group Shades Of Joy, featuring Martin Fierro. While its doubtful Garcia heard him, it's still a nice confluence. Fierro probably played with Doug Sahm as well. Sahm opened the first two nights, and was probably pushed off the bill after a dispute with Bill Graham, and replaced by the local group Frumious Bandersnatch, another Millard client.
I have discussed the importance of Pentangle at length, and also ruminated about The Shades Of Joy as well. For a great eyewitness account of Saturday, March 1, complete with photos, take a look at this great post on the Cryptical Developments blog.