Thursday, April 19, 2012

November 29-30, 1968: Hyde Park Teen Center, Cincinatti, OH Grateful Dead/The Lemon Pipers

A flyer for the November 30, 1968 show at the Teen Center in Cincinnati, OH
Grateful Dead scholarship has become a charming, labyrinthine structure where the worm sometimes eats its own tail. A fellow scholar recently had a fascinating post about a largely forgotten guest appearance by members of the Grateful Dead at a Jefferson Airplane concert at Detroit's legendary Grande Ballroom, on November 24, 1968. The date seemed to conflict with Deadlists' assertion of a Grateful Dead show in Cincinnati, OH at a place called The Hyde Park Teen Center. A lengthy discussion on the Comment thread not only unraveled the Cincinnati date, it brought forth a surprising burst of information and analysis about the hitherto forgotten appearance by the Dead in Cincinnati. I was just one among several participants in the conversation, but the accumulated knowledge seems too interesting to leave buried in a Comment thread. This post will accumulate all that we have learned from that thread, so in advance I am shouting out to my fellow scholars, some of them anonymous, who made this post possible (JGMF, Yellow Shark, Light Into Ashes most prominently).

On November 29 and 30, 1968, the Friday and Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend, the Grateful Dead played two shows at the relatively tiny Hyde Park Teen Center in Cincinnati, OH. They were in between high profile shows in Detroit and Chicago, and since the holiday weekend probably upended some normal booking opportunities, two nights in comparatively conservative Cincinnati were the best option available. Details are, of course, murky, but a few reliable sources suggest that the Dead rocked the house and let the sleepy town know what they were missing out west.

Grateful Dead Touring Schedule, November 1968
The Grateful Dead had booked some college shows in Ohio on the weekend before Thanksgiving. They played Friday, November 22, 1968 at the Veterans Memorial Auditorium in Columbus, and a free concert on Saturday, November 23 at Ohio University, in Athens, OH. Commenter Light Into Ashes found some eyewitness comments on dead.net:
A comment for 11/22:
"Crummy weather driving to Columbus to see these guys, didn't know much about them at all. Promoter did poor job of advertising and ticketing--only about 250 ppl in a 3,000 seat auditorium! Should have put this show on somewhere closer to the college campus, maybe? But where? Columbus was not a rock n roll city at the time... Sufficiently weird show (mostly stuff from "Anthem") that I decided to follow them to Athens, Ohio the following night."

And for 11/23:
"Mem Aud.... 1929 theater style auditorium with balcony, max occupancy 2500, that night a room full of kinetic heads, the local freak scene, maybe a couple hundred folks max, lights up, people milling about, equipment set up on oriental rug on stage, folks walking up and down the steps to the stage where a number of people stood talking to each other, chatter, laughter, excitement, patchouli, and then amid it all an undersound of music emerging from the seeming randomness and the show was on! ... I know Pig was wailing out front and learned since that it was Tom's first night on keys, which freed Pig for vocal theatrics. Oh did the boys play...long into the evening!"
Another witness confirms the small crowd: "Sort of catch-as-catch-can atmosphere, big venue, but small audience (heck Thanksgiving was here!), as in Columbus the night before. Small turnout for two nights in a row made me wonder if this band had a future! Again, general weirdness and jamming prevailed."
The Hyde Park Teen Center show has been listed for many years on Deadlists and elsewhere as Sunday, November 24, but in fact no evidence supports that. It does seem logical, admittedly, but the handbill (above) directly contradicts that.

JGMF's determined research showed that on Sunday, November 24, Jerry Garcia, Phil Lesh and Bob Weir showed up to jam with the Jefferson Airplane at the Grande Ballroom in Detroit. According to a former Grande employee
worked at the grande for 3 yrs......the dead the airplane and procol harum were the best of all.........i remember an airplane show on a sunday nite/2 show nite/ i hid all my friends in the attic so they would'nt have to pay for the second show......well, we got high w/grace, paul and jorma.........jerry and phil and bob sowed up about 12:30 and jammed with the airplane til about 4:00 in the morning.........no shit ........terry reid also played two sets.
In 1968, rock and roll orthodoxy had not yet been fully established. As a result, the Grateful Dead had a two night stand at the Kinetic Playground in Chicago on November 27-28, the Wednesday and Thursday of Thanksgiving. There are hardly major rock shows on those nights anymore, and experimental bookings such as these were probably how promoters discovered that people don't go to rock concerts on Thanksgiving. Nonetheless, Chicago was a big gig, so headlining over Procol Harum and Terry Reid for two nights would have made the Dead's Midwestern sojourn worth their time. The Dead also had a Sunday night (December 1) show in Detroit, another  headlining performance at a high profile 60s venue. That left open dates on the Friday and Saturday after Thanksgiving, and that seems to have led to some gigs at a small venue in Cincinnati. As I have emphasized often, if the Dead were going to spend nights away from home while they were on tour, any paying booking was worthwhile, because it would at least cover expenses.

Jim Tarbell And The Cincinnati Rock Scene
Ohio had a very exciting 60s rock scene, and there is some interesting history to be written, but the interesting parts didn't take place in Cincinnati. This is ironic, since Cincinnati is a large city that is apparently a pleasant place to live--hey, Peter Frampton lives there--but back in the 60s, the hip towns in Ohio were Cleveland and Kent. Cleveland has a great rock history, and Kent has a long history of being the cool college town in Ohio, but Cincinnati seems never to have had that underground vibe.

However, Cincinnati was still a city, and cities had teenagers. Jim Tarbell was a youth counselor working for the city, and he figured that one way to keep kids off the streets was to book a concert. He put on a show at an abandoned church near Hyde Park on Erie Avenue. Jim Tarbell became the first to start booking underground Fillmore-type bands in the city. In 1998, he recalled:
[Vanilla Fudge in 1967] was the first show at the Hyde Park Teen Center [his first promotion], and the opening of the center was quite a deal. It was on Erie Avenue, next door to the library on Hyde Park Square. Vanilla Fudge was really hot at the time. They had emerged as one of the major rock acts about the time of them coming to Cincinnati. 
Later in 1967, Tarbell went to San Francisco and went to the Fillmore, and saw the Grateful Dead. Thus he was primed to book the band when they came through the Midwest for the first time. Tarbell recalled:
You can still see people wandering up and down Erie Avenue with smiles on there faces wondering what happened. It was the Grateful Dead and all they embody, which was a little extreme for Cincinnati at the time. They were two hours late, and they played for three hours. They were running around chasing teenage girls. People were literally hanging from the rafters
So there's not any doubt about the Dead having played Cincinnati. A handbill survives, the promoter recalls it, and despite a little historiographical confusion, the date fits nicely with the Dead's touring schedule. This information was hiding in plain sight, but if JGMF had not posted his lengthy analysis of whether members of the Grateful Dead had jammed with the Jefferson Airplane on Detroit on November 24, 1968, none of this would have come to light. The usual crew of Commenters--of whom I am proud to be one--managed to piece together with certainty that the Dead played the Hyde Park Teen Center on Saturday, November 30.

Elsewhere, it has been noted that an Ohio group called The Lemon Pipers opened for the Dead in Cincinnati. They were a local band, who had a big national later with a song called "Green Tambourine."

The internet is a unique research tool, however, as an anonymous Commenter added this tantalizing detail:
I was at the dead show on 11 30 68 cincy hyde park teen center. I passed out posters for Jim Tarbell around town{ I even have a couple of these rare buggers left,if any body is interested} The poster says two shows one at 7:30 the other at 10.But I also remember that there was a show for hyde park community center members only on the day before or after, cant remember.
So not only did the Dead play Cincinnati on November 30, they may have played a sort of underground show the night before. Keep in mind, the Dead would have had to get from Chicago to Cincinnati with all their equipment, and with the weather always a threat on the East Coast, heading out on Friday (after the Chicago Thanksgiving show) rather than Saturday would have been prudent. Still, they would have been in Cincinnati with nothing to do on a Friday night--why not play? The 1968 Grateful Dead were always up for a public display of their talents. To the extent the Dead had a promotional 'approach,' that was it: let the people hear them and music would do the rest.

Let's review what we can take from the JGMF Comment Thread
  • Members of the Grateful Dead (Garcia, Weir and Lesh, apparently) played with the Jefferson Airplane during the second show at Detroit's Grande Ballroom on Sunday, November 24, 1968
  • The dating of a Grateful Dead show at Hyde Park Teen Center in Cincinnati on November 24, 1968 is spurious
  • However, the Grateful Dead very definitely played the Hyde Park Teen Center in Cincinnati on Saturday, November 30, 1968. 
  • Promoter Jim Tarbell recalls that the Dead arrived late, but played for three hours and left a huge impact on everyone who attended
  • The handbill suggests an early and late show, and there's no recollection of that. Most bands in those days played 50 minute sets, and perhaps the Dead, with or without permission, simply asserted that they would play their usual extended show
  • A Commenter recalls the show, and recalls some sort of 'members only' Grateful Dead show at "Hyde Park Community Center." If this show happened, it would have been the night before, namely Friday, October 29 (the band was playing Detroit on Sunday, December 1). 
  • The hitherto unknown show the night before the advertised show is very plausible, if unconfirmed. The Dead would have been in town, and at the time they were well inclined towards playing stealth shows for their intended audience. If it happened, I assume it was at the same venue with no publicity. However, that scenario is mediated by Tarbell's memory that the Dead were "two hours late," which implies they were arriving from out of town
The takeaway: a newly discovered Dead/Airplane jam, a confirmed Dead show, and a plausible indication about yet another lost Dead show. Is blogging great or what?

[update] Two Nights And Three Shows At The Teen Center
The Comment thread for this post has been remarkably illuminating, confirming some of the foggier details only alluded to before. Daniel Stevenson, who ran the lightshow for the gigs, weighs in with an excellent summary of what actually went down:
Everything that Paul has recounted is right on the mark. I was one of the members of the lightshow for that event, and extraordinary it was. It was a two night series, one show on Friday night and two on Saturday. The Lemon Pipers did not open--ether was no opening act. Just the Dead. The Teen Center was a decommissioned church that Tarbell converted into the Hyde Park Teen Center.

The Dead did show up late on Friday night, with Owsley on sound, as Paul states. They did not set up in the basement, but on the raised altar stage. Tom Constaten was also there, and has some interesting recollections of the performance. On Friday night, they started with a rather sloppy version of Good Morning Little School Girl, but in short order got into the groove and blew the roof off the place, at least to my recollection.

This was our first gig as Flavorscope Lightshow. We were pretty green at the time. We literally set up in the rafters of the church and projected through a window carved into the domed ceiling. I remember, at one point, sticking my head out--figuratively and literally--and hearing music that changed my life. (That's It for the Other One and New Potato Caboose, etc.)

On Saturday, we gathered mid-morning at the Center to tweak equipment. The Dead showed up and proceeded to practice and jam until late afternoon. I remember Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzman working out dual drum solos, as other members came and wen. Bob Weir, at one point, did a rendition of Silver Threads and Golden Needles. There are other details which I will not recount. Pigpen was a damned nice guy, as were all.

Jim Tarbell opened Ludlow Garage in late summer or early fall of 1969 (can't recall the dates, but they are on record). It began with a Friday festival at the Cincinnati Zoo: Paul Butterfield (with full horn section), Vanilla Fudge, and others. The Garage opened, if I recall correctly, the next night with Grand Funk. Flavorscope did the Zoo gig (rear projection, which with westerly winds, functioned more as a sail than a lightshow), and the next night moved to the Garage. We were the house lightshow at the Garage from fall 1969 through summer of 1970. Also did the Dead show at the University of Cincinnati field house in April 1970, the night before the Ludlow Garage performance of the Allman Brothers that is now available on disk.

If you are interested in checking out the list of groups that played the garage during this period, it is available on line (Ludlow Garage set list). Though it may not be to your liking--or merely the unhip Midwest--shows by groups from the Michigan scene, such as the MC5 and Stooges, were also powerful, and no less prescient when it comes to trends a decade or so later.

Saturday night was as musically explosive as Friday.  
This all makes perfect sense. The Grateful Dead rolled into Cincinnati on Friday night, because they had nowhere else to be. On Saturday, hanging out waiting for that night's show, they took the time to work with their equipment, jam and hang out. With full time to set up, they were able to do two shows on Saturday. That means there were three shows in Cincinnati on the weekend. The asymetrical booking also explains some conflicting memories --some people saw Friday night, and some saw Saturday, which explains why different people remembered single or double shows.

Cincinnati Aftermath
The Grateful Dead played Ohio plenty of times in the ensuing decades, and Cincinnati got its share of the action. Once again, the Dead's willingness to play whatever small, underground shows were available seems to have paid off. Bands that took the more traditional route and played third on the bill at the local civic auditorium rarely got a chance to show what they were capable of. The Dead filled in an empty night on their itinerary with an apparently wild, tiny show for some teenagers, and I'll bet everyone who went told dozens of friends on Monday morning.

Jim Tarbell went on to become a major rock promoter in the Cincinnati area in the 60s and 70s. The Teen Center went on until about 1969, and then Tarbell moved the action to Ludlow's Garage, at 346 Ludlow Avenue in the Clifton neighborhood in Cincinnati. Although the Grateful Dead never played Ludlow's, as they were already too large for the tiny old warehouse with a capacity of about 1200, many cool bands came through there. Grand Funk Railroad opened the Garage on September 19, 1969, Santana played October 21 and 22, and the Allman Brothers played their first show North of the Mason Dixon line on December 19 and 20 (opening for The Frost). The Allmans came back a few times in April and May 1970, and one of the April shows was recorded and released some decades later (an old employee says almost every Garage show was taped...hmm).

Ludlow's Garage held its last show on January 20, 1971 (Captain Beefheart, Ry Cooder and Pure Prairie League), sized out of the market like so many would-be regional Fillmores. 346 Ludlow now appears to be a Yoga studio. Tarbell went on to become a successful restaurant owner, and then a City Councilman and Vice Mayor of Cincinnati. Not a bad run for a former youth counselor.

Thanskgiving weekend, 1968, in a big, sleepy conservative city. Some legendary crazy band with records that never got played on the radio are playing the youth club at the old church on Saturday night. Check it out? Why not? Maybe it will give you something to talk about at school on Monday morning...

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Old And In The Way FM Broadcasts, 1973 (FM VI)

The cover to the March, 1975 Old And In The Way album on Rounder Records, recorded in October 1973
The bluegrass band Old And In The Way only existed for about 9 months in 1973, and they only released an album in February 1975, a full 15 months after they stopped performing. Because Jerry Garcia was the banjo player, Old And In The Way received an inordinate amount of attention for a bluegrass group. Yet, as a result, the album was hugely influential in the worlds of bluegrass and modern acoustic music in general. Garcia's presence caused a wide spectrum of fans and writers to pay attention to the unique synthesis of traditional bluegrass, contemporary songwriting and flashes of jazzy improvisation that Old And In The Way were performing. Other progressive young bluegrass musicians were exploring the same territory at the time, but only Old And In The Way had a bona fide rock star in the group. Garcia may have brought attention to the band, but it was Old And In The Way's music that has made them a touchstone of bluegrass and acoustic music from Spring of 1975 up through today.

However, there is another fascinating component to Old And In The Way that has been hiding in plain sight the entire time. Relatively few people think about the fact that while Old And In The Way was actually performing in 1973, the audiences they were playing for knew almost nothing about bluegrass music. Given Jerry Garcia's status, he of all people would not have wanted fans to see a show with him on the bill when they expected jammed out electric guitar solos instead of high lonesome picking and singing. Old And In The Way's solution to this problem seems to have been to play a number of relatively high profile FM broadcasts, to make sure that local rock fans knew what Old And In The Way with Jerry Garcia would sound like, and at the same time publicizing the group. The remarkable part about a strategy of promoting Old And In The Way via radio broadcasts was that it was how bluegrass music had originally been promulgated in the 1940s and 50s, a fact that Jerry Garcia and the other members of Old And In The Way would surely have been aware of.

Bluegrass And The Radio
Bluegrass music, unlike most genres, had a single and very self-conscious inventor. Bill Monroe had been a popular country singer in the late 1930s and early 40s, often along with his brother Charlie Monroe. Many rural people from Appalachia and other parts of the South had moved to industrial cities like Detroit to work in factories during the war. Their employment choices were few, and the factory money was good, but those transplanted Southerners still missed their old homes. Bill Monroe designed bluegrass music to appeal to rural people in a period of transition, and bluegrass music looked backwards and forwards at the same time.

On one hand, at a time when country music was becoming more orchestrated, electric and modern, bluegrass music was played on acoustic instruments, like the kind that had been played for decades in the mountains. The harmonies and sounds were resonant of old-time string band music, yet the instrumental breaks were sophisticated forays that were at times not far from be-bop jazz, a contemporary development on both coasts. Many of the lyrics longed for the good old days, yet the song topics were often about current subjects.

Like all new music, bluegrass had to get heard before anyone would pay to see it. The solution to this was radio. Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys would play Saturday nights on the Grand Ole Opry radio program on WSM-am in Nashville, and the rest of the week they would tour around in Bill Monroe's bus, playing local auditoriums and theaters. People had heard Monroe on the radio, so they knew what to expect in concert. Bill Monroe had been performing on the Grand Ole Opry since 1940, but when Earl Scruggs joined the group on banjo in December 1945, Bill Monroe And The Bluegrass Boys fully evolved into what we now recognize as bluegrass music. Since Monroe was on the radio every Saturday night, audiences knew all about it and the band was an instant concert sensation.

The pattern of using the radio to become a popular concert attraction was a common theme in the history of bluegrass music. Since bluegrass bands were acoustic and self-contained, they could easily perform live on the radio when larger, more electric bands could not consider it. The Stanley Brothers, for example, among the first bands to follow the trail blazed by Monroe, started performing at radio station WCYB in Bristol, TN on December 26, 1946. Typically, groups like the Stanley Brothers would 'host' a 15 or 30 minute spot under the aegis of a sponsor. The sponsor was usually a local business, such as a feed and seed company that wanted to appeal to farmers. In between performing bluegrass songs, a group like The Stanley Brothers would perform ads and make announcements. Typically, the groups were not paid for their performances, but they would become regionally famous and could make money performing around the radio station's listening area.

Bluegrass was popular country music in the 1950s, but it waned in the 60s. Nonetheless, the musical sophistication of bluegrass generated a continuing cult of adherents, who often lived far from Appalachia. Teenagers like Jerry Garcia, David Grisman, Peter Rowan and David Nelson discovered the likes of Bill Monroe, Flatt And Scruggs and The Stanley Brothers from records. Hoping to learn the music, they started to search for live performance tapes that were passed from hand to hand by bluegrass aficionados. The best of those tapes were radio airchecks, often from obscure radio stations in the South, including not only unadulterated performances, but flour commercials, farm and weather reports and corny jokes. Thus the core members of Old And In The Way--Peter Rowan, David Grisman and Jerry Garcia--were fully aware of the foundational tradition of bluegrass bands playing on local radio to introduce themselves and generate interest for performances.

March 2, 1973: Old And In The Way, Record Plant, Sausalito, CA
San Francisco's KSAN-fm, 94.9 on my fm dial (The Jive 95), was the successor to KMPX-fm, which had been the first 'free form' FM rock radio station. KSAN was among the most popular stations in the Bay Area, in all formats, but it still made a point of staying ahead of the curve. While KSAN was not the first commercial station to broadcast rock concerts live on the radio (KMPX probably holds that distinction), they made a point of making live rock performances a regular part of their broadcasting week. In the early 1970s, KSAN regularly broadcast live performances from The Record Plant in Sausalito. The Record Plant was the most prestigious studio in the Bay Area at the time, and had top-of-the-line facilities. There was usually an invited audience of a few dozen, and the studio setting allowed KSAN to insure that the broadcast had top-notch sound quality, not at all always a sure thing, given the technology limitations of the time.

Old And In The Way made their performance debut on KSAN-fm on the afternoon of March 2, 1973, from the Record Plant. Their public debut would be that night at the tiny Lion's Share at San Anselmo, but they previewed it with a performance that had the potential to reach every rock fan in the Bay Area. Given that Jerry Garcia was already a major rock star by that time, debuting his new band on the radio was completely opposed to rock music orthodoxy at the time. However, Old And In The Way was a bluegrass group, not a rock group, and debuting a new bluegrass band on the radio hearkened back to the birth of bluegrass music itself. Of course, recorded bluegrass was hardly played on the radio anymore, and bluegrass bands other than Bill Monroe had not had regular spots on the radio for at least 15 years. Still, using unpaid radio shows to promote local performances was essential to bluegrass history, and old tape collectors like Grisman and Garcia were perfectly aware of it. As for Rowan, he had actually played on the Grand Ole Opry with Bill Monroe, so he needed no lessons on the power of radio.

At the Record Plant, Old And In The Way appeared as a quartet: Peter Rowan on guitar, David Grisman on mandolin, Jerry Garcia on banjo and John Kahn on bass. Rowan handled the lead vocals with help from Grisman and Garcia on the harmonies. They played about 40 minutes, playing 9 songs. 8 of them were traditional, and the one original was an instrumental which would not have sounded out of place. There were no contemporary songs about dope, Indians or moonlight.

Hippie Bluegrass: 1973
By early 1973, Jerry Garcia was an established attraction in Bay Area clubs. He wasn't a huge draw, particularly, but Garcia and Merl Saunders could draw a few hundred people to a nightclub, even on a weeknight, and given the number of beers that could be sold, that was no small thing. Unless you had actually seen the Garcia/Saunders aggregation, you might not have a good idea of what a show was like, but there were plenty of clues. Merl Saunders had released two albums (Heavy Turbulence and Fire Up) where Garcia played an important role, even singing a few songs. Also, the Garcia/Saunders group had played on KSAN at Pacific High Recorders (actually Alembic Studios by that time), and KSAN regularly replayed tracks from the show on the air, so regular KSAN listeners had probably heard bits and pieces of the February 6, 1972 Garcia/Saunders performance. Thus, if you had a chance to see Garcia and Saunders, you had some idea of what you might be getting into.

The Bay Area rock community barely knew anything about country music, much less bluegrass. There was a vague idea that country music was unhip and popular with people who didn't like long haired hippies, but that was about it. A few open-minded listeners may have liked Johnny Cash or some other artists, but that was as far as it extended. As to bluegrass music, it meant nothing to Bay Area rock fans, and probably precious little to most country fans as well. I myself was aware that bluegrass was some sort of sub-genre of country music, but I had literally no idea of what it actually sounded like.

Jerry Garcia, to his credit, was actually doing something quite radical and unexpected with Old And In The Way. Garcia had defied music business orthodoxy by working in the New Riders Of The Purple Sage as a sideman, on the pedal steel guitar. His penchant for playing local bars with Merl Saunders was equally unprecedented. For the most part, Dead fans had learned about the New Riders by seeing them open for the Dead, and the Riders sound was in line with the then-current Workingman's Dead. The Garcia/Saunders group, while a stand-alone entity, still featured substantial doses of extended electric guitar playing by Jerry, so it was still only one standard deviation away from the Dead. Old And In The Way? Garcia played banjo, a decidedly unhip instrument in rock circles, and the band had a traditional bluegrass sound, and almost no rock fans in the Bay Area knew a thing about bluegrass. If they did, they probably dismissed it as 'hick music.'

By debuting Old And In The Way on KSAN, Garcia and the boys could both promote their new endeavor while making it clear what kind of music they were playing. Anyone who expected 13 minute versions of "Expressway To Your Heart" would be disabused of that notion quickly. KSAN promoted themselves by playing tracks from their recent live shows in the following week, so Old And In The Way probably got some airplay throughout the week. Thus when Old And In The Way started showing up in club listings in the San Francisco Chronicle Datebook (the 'Pink Section'), rock fans would have had some hint as to what to expect.

I don't think that Old And In The Way had a strategy meeting to discuss how to "brand themselves." However, I think Garcia had a standing offer from Tom Donahue, the founder of KSAN (and KMPX before it), to appear on the radio, and the band realized they could capitalize on it. Old And In The Way's debut broadcast was probably a convenient accident, but once it was scheduled, there was no way that Garcia, Grisman and Rowan didn't know they were following in the footsteps of The Bluegrass Boys, The Stanley Brothers and dozens, if not hundreds, of other bluegrass bands.

Old And In The Way Radio Broadcasts
March 2, 1973: The Record Plant, Sausalito, CA
Old And In The Way debuted on the radio, playing 9 nine songs in the afternoon at the Record Plant to an invited audience of a few dozen. The quartet was playing the Lion's Share in San Anselmo that night, so the broadcast was implicit advertising for the event. The band played eight bluegrass standards and an original instrumental, which would have sounded like a traditional number. There were people in the Bay Area who were knowledgeable about bluegrass, but they weren't necessarily listening to KSAN in the afternoon. Most KSAN listeners were oblivious to country music, much less the specialized acoustic tangent that bluegrass represented. Fans who may have expected some laid back, funky guitar jams in the mode of Garcia/Saunders must have been pretty surprised.

April 21, 1973: The Record Plant, Sausalito, CA
Any doubts about Old And In The Way's strategy to popularize themselves like the Stanley Brothers are erased by this broadcast. In an approximately hour long show, the band plays 15 numbers. Fiddler Richard Greene is along for the broadcast, filling out the band's sound the way the members intended. Included in the set along with traditional material are four contemporary numbers: "Panama Red, " Wild Horses, " Lonesome LA Cowboy" and "Land Of The Navajo." To any bluegrass fans, this signaled that the group was not bound by convention; to the larger audience of regular KSAN fans, it signaled that Old And In The Way weren't some kind of museum piece. In fact, contemporary bluegrass bands were doing Bob Dylan songs and the like, so doing a Rolling Stones song ("Wild Horses") fit right into that, but it seemed pretty contrarian to the typical Bay Area rock fan at the time.

Once again, the band was playing The Lion's Share that night (it was even announced by the dj). In that respect, this performance was like some old Stanley Brothers tape, announcing their night's performance at the local Grange Hall. Only the lack of commercials for a flour company set them apart from old time bluegrass radio broadcasts. Well, and songs about dope.

A handbill from Homer's Warehouse in Palo Alto, from May 1973. Homer's Warehouse was located at 79 Homer Avenue, across the train tracks, as the inset map accurately depicts
July 24, 1973: Homer's Warehouse, Palo Alto, CA
Old And In The Way did not play that many shows. One of their regular gigs, however, was a quonset hut in Palo Alto called Homer's Warehouse, at 79 Homer Avenue. It's my belief that Homer's Warehouse was the site of a mystical venue called The Outfit, but in any case it would have been near it. Old And In The Way had played Homer's Warehouse right after their dual debut at The Record Plant and The Lion's Share (Lion's Share had been March 2-3, and Homer's was March 4). After a May 18 show, and a number of Garcia/Saunders shows, Old And In The Way returned to Homer's Warehouse on July 24.

The July 24, 1973 Old And In The Way was broadcast on the Stanford University radio staion, KZSU-fm (90.7). Stanford had plenty of financial resources, so their little student-run facility had the technology to broadcast live, albeit probably in mono. KZSU was only a 10-watt station, so the broadcast area was only Palo Alto and parts of some neighboring towns.

10 watts was enough for me, however. My personal introduction to bluegrass music was listening to Old And In The Way broadcasting their first set from Homer's Warehouse on a warm July night. I believe I anticipated the broadcast, since I used to listen to KZSU all the time, being just a few miles from the station itself. Thus I would have known that Jerry Garcia was performing on the radio, but I had no idea what the music sounded like until I heard it. I recall tuning in to hear "Panama Red" and "Lonesome LA Cowboy"--both songs mentioned dope, and that was cool to my 10th grade self--and it was fascinating to hear those songs turn up on a New Riders album later in the year.

In one sense, the Homer's Warehouse broadcast succeeded as intended with me. Before I heard it, I only had a foggy, unheard notion that bluegrass existed. Afterwards, I thought bluegrass was hip and cool, albeit mainly because Jerry played it and there were songs about weed. However, after the album came out in early 1975, it turned out that many people had the same experience, and like me, with more listening they came to appreciate the depth and complexity of bluegrass music.

Old And In The Way only broadcast their first set from Homer's Warehouse. All listeners were within driving distance, and they were all invited to come on down for the second set, to hear not only Old And In The Way but opening act Asleep At The Wheel, another fine band. Knowing what I know today, since it was about 11:00, I could have told my parents I had to walk the dog, and walked him over to Homer's Warehouse and hung out outside. I am reliably informed that Jerry and the gang hung out in the parking lot with some visitors, and me and my dog (RIP Xerox, wherever you are) could have been there. Since I didn't have a driver's license yet, however, I didn't realize how near Homer's Warehouse actually was.  No matter--I had become an Old And In The Way fan, even though I would not hear the group again until the album came out 18 months later.

October 5, 1973: Civic Auditorium, Santa Cruz, CA
This Friday night show has a weird manuscript history which I won't belabor here. The essence of it is that it was on Dennis McNally's original list, and I rejected it for various reasons which I no longer recall, which seemed logical at the time, so it did not make the list in Deadbase IX. I have since changed my mind, and decided that the show must have happene

As confirmation, I have since been in touch with a fellow blogger who actually attended the show. More importantly, he recalls that Old And In The Way's performance was broadcast on the radio station KUSP, and it was announced from the stage [update: and now said blogger has his own amazing post about the show, complete with poster].

It's my contention that Grisman, Garcia and Rowan put together Old And In The Way for a single project, an album to be released on Round Records. That doesn't mean, incidentally, that they wouldn't have all been happy to get together again, but most bluegrass bands are more like film projects, a group of like minded souls who get together for a fixed period of time in order to produce something. In many cases, like the American Pie movies or Old And In The Gray, they may get together many times over a period of years, but each project is a separate iteration. Thus the band must have known that the Santa Cruz Civic show would be their last in a while--I'm leaving aside the Sonoma reschedule--and yet they still broadcast the show. I think Old And In The Way was committed to using the only free medium available to them, FM radio, to get themselves heard in anticipation of their album, even if the record itself turned out to be further away than anyone thought.

Aftermath
Old And In The Way finally released an album on Round Records in February, 1975, recorded by Owsley at the Boarding House in October 1973. Although the band was gone, the presence of Jerry Garcia caused a wide variety of fans to listen to the album with open ears, and Garcia rather unexpectedly had the sort of influence on bluegrass that he may have originally hoped for. All sorts of unexpected musicians found inspiration from the album. To name just one example, singer Mary Chapin Carpenter, not a performer one typically associates with bluegrass or Jerry Garcia, said that she heard Old And In The Way in college and it changed her mind about traditional music. For awhile, the album was reputed to be the best-selling bluegrass album of all time, although no doubt it has long since been eclipsed by the likes of Alison Krauss and Ricky Skaggs.

Why didn't any other bluegrass bands try this? The answer is simple: in order--no Jerry, and no KSAN. Many bands would love to play on the radio, but without a bona fide rock star in the lineup, that wasn't going to happen. Major rock stars did not play in bar bands in the 1970s, save for Jerry, Jorma and Jack, and Jorma and Jack only had Hot Tuna. On top of that, while many FM rock stations broadcast live shows in the early 1970s, few of them were as committed to the format as KSAN. I can only think of one other station (WLIR-fm in Hempstead, NY) who were so willing to give up air time to live broadcasts to hip but not necessarily commercial music, much less bluegrass on a rock station.

Old And In The Way was put together in late 1972 so three hippie pickers could play real bluegrass with a few twists that made it interesting for them. With no chance of playing for the all-but-nonexistent California bluegrass audience, and an uninformed rock audience, the band chose to follow the lead of their bluegrass forefathers and use the radio to promote their music. We're fortunate they did, since it left us a bit more of a legacy than we might have had otherwise, but it is yet another remarkable way in which Old And In The Way managed to change bluegrass and acoustic music by looking forward and backwards at the same time.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

January 15, 1978: Selland Arena, Fresno, CA (January 1978 Tour Itinerary)

My ticket stub from Selland Arena, Fresno, CA January 15, 1978
Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, the Grateful Dead's Winter touring pattern was pretty well established. They would have an extended stand in Oakland leading up to New Year's Eve, and then take about six weeks off. There would be a couple of shows in February, and then they would hitch up the wagon and start touring the East Coast some time in March. Most of January and February were vacation time for the extended Grateful Dead touring operation, except of course for Jerry Garcia who generally tried to jam in as many of his own shows as he could during the winter break.

However convenient and sensible this touring pattern was, the Dead did not fall into it lightly. At least once they tried a completely different approach to the winter. In January of 1978, instead of going on break, the Grateful Dead toured the West and upper Midwest. It made for a very different year, and they played some great music. Of course, all the evidence suggests that the little tour was not a financial success, so nothing like it was ever done again. This post will focus on perhaps the finest of those January '78 shows, and certainly the strangest Dead show I ever attended, the concert at Selland Arena in Fresno on Sunday, January 15, 1978. As an appendix, I will include a brief itinerary of the tour to put the show in context.

The handbill from the Grateful Dead/Country Joe And The Fish concert at Selland Arena from February 17, 1968
The Selland Arena, Fresno, CA
California's San Joaquin Valley is one of the great agricultural centers of the world. Highway 99 runs up and down the center of the state, and it did so long before Interstate 5, and all the towns along 99 are important centers of agricultural commerce. Although Fresno was not always a particularly large town, it was always an important center for dairy and farm products. By virtue of being roughly between Los Angeles, Sacramento and San Francisco, the city of Fresno became the biggest of the Valley cities. While its population was only 133, 929 in the 1960 census, by 1980 it had nearly doubled to 217, 129 (in 2010 it had doubled again, reaching 494, 665). By 1961, Fresno State College had joined the California State College system, and Fresno was starting to become a real city. Real cities, of course, build convention centers with an arena for sports, concerts and entertainment.

The Selland Arena, at 700 M Street in Fresno, was built in 1966, as part of the Fresno Convention and Entertainment Center. The arena had a capacity of about 6, 500, somewhat larger than Winterland, and quite large for the 1960s. Even though the city of Fresno was not large in the 60s and 70s, there were a lot of towns surrounding it, so there was a built-in audience for rock concerts. Also, touring rock bands discovered that they could play Fresno on an off-night between weekends in San Francisco and Los Angeles, so a lot of good bands played Fresno on school nights, particularly in the 1970s. In any case, once the Selland Arena was built, Fresno got its share of concerts.

The Grateful Dead played Selland Arena four times. The Dead had played the tiny Marigold Ballroom on May 12, 1967 (at 1833 E. Hedges, for you geocoders), but the first time the band played the Selland was February 17, 1968. They shared the bill with Country Joe and The Fish and a local band, Valley Fever. This was part of the tour that was mostly recorded for Anthem Of The Sun, but for whatever reasons, the Fresno event was not itself recorded. Back in 1968, the touring circuit wasn't fully built up yet, and San Francisco and Los Angeles bands would play shows in Fresno because it was an easy drive (for the roadies, anyway), and it filled up a night on the gig sheet. One of the many Valley teenagers who attended the show was Bob Weir's half-brother Jim Parber, then living in Merced, although neither Weir nor Parber knew of their relationship at the time.

The Grateful Dead came back on Friday, June 13, 1969. Deadlists shows the venue as "Fresno Convention Center," but its just another name for the Selland Arena. The Dead were supported by Aum and Sanpaku, both of whom were booked by the Millard Agency, as were the Dead. Members of both bands joined the group on stage at various times (Aum guitarist Wayne Ceballos and Sanpaku flautist Gary Larkey for certain), which suggests a rather loose evening.

The Grateful Dead returned again to the Selland Arena on Friday, July 19, 1974. The band was headlining at the enormous Hollywood Bowl on Sunday, July 21, so a Fresno booking made touring sense.  A friend of mine went to the show and said that the event was relatively thinly attended, for a Dead show, and the band was spacey and the vibe was very weird. At one point, Phil Lesh even left the stage during "U.S. Blues." Because of the enormity of The Wall Of Sound, the Dead had to have two days between venues, so they could not have played anywhere between Fresno (Friday) and Hollywood Bowl (Sunday).

The California Tour, January 1978
In December, 1977, the Grateful Dead played the first of their extended New Year's runs. They headlined Winterland for three nights on December 29, 30 and 31, and when those shows sold out--it took a couple of days--they added an additional show on December 27. At the time, there was no particular precedent or expectation for this. It was the third time in the year that there had been a three night run in Winterland, but there was nothing special yet about the December run-up to New Year's.

Soon after the New Year's shows sold out, Bill Graham Presents announced a string of dates in California throughout January. The band avoided many major Southern California venues and played some more out of the way places. The Grateful Dead had been able to successfully play some out of the way places in New York, like Hamilton, Rochester and Binghamton and perhaps Graham felt that there was pent-up Grateful Dead interest in the California hinterlands. In any case, the Dead played  San Bernardino, San Diego, Los Angleles, Santa Barbara, Bakersfield, Frenso, Sacramento and Stockton (see below for details).

Touring California in the winter made good business sense, because unlike other parts of the country, there wasn't a serious threat of snow, so audiences would be willing to drive longer distances. This was important in the valley, where there were a fair number of rock fans, but spread out over a wide area. Now,  I believe that the San Diego, San Bernardino and Los Angeles shows were successful, and the Santa Barbara show was a benefit in a relatively small theater. However, the San Diego, Sacramento and Stockton shows, while sold out, were in relatively small 3000-capacity venues, much smaller than anywhere the Dead could play on the East Coast, and not necessarily worth their time. Finally, the  Fresno and the Bakersfield show were financial debacles. The band never played either city again (if Bakersfield had decent attendance, the venue would still have fallen into the "tiny" category of Stockton or Sacramento). It's hard to say how much the financial bath the band took at the two valley shows discouraged Bill Graham or other promoters from booking another January California tour,  compared to other perhaps more prosaic reasons for not touring, but the fact is there was never any touring between New Year's and February after 1978, except to make up for canceled dates.

I was fortunate enough to attend the Grateful Dead show at Selland Arena on Sunday, January 15, 1978. It was one of, if not the, strangest Dead show I ever attended, and if I was forced to pick a show that was 'my favorite Dead show,' I would go with that Selland Arena show.

The back of my ticket stub from Selland Arena, Fresno, CA, January 15, 1978
The Grateful Dead, Selland Arena. Fresno, CA January 15, 1978
The Grateful Dead were still a popular group in early 1978, but they seemed a little old hat. Winterland was a mid-sized hall, and they had shown they could sell out four nights, but the implication seemed to be that it was the same people coming over and over. The biggest acts, like Eric Clapton, played the Oakland Coliseum or the Cow Palace, and the Dead didn't seem to have that kind of heft. One dynamic that I was only dimly aware of at the time but am acutely aware of now was the willingness of East Coast Deadheads to get on the road to see the Dead. The Dead could draw in places like Binghamton or Hamilton because Eastern Deadheads were willing to get in the cars and go up and down I-90 and I-95 in order to see as many shows as possible.

Its my belief that Bill Graham promoted Grateful Dead shows in Bakersfield and Fresno because he thought that West Coast Deadheads would travel like East Coast ones, and that turned out not to be the case. Eastern Deadheads bought the traveling ethos into the Deadhead universe--Westerners didn't do it. In my case, although I was a poor college student at the time, the Grateful Dead had played ten shows at Winterland in 1977, and I had seen seven of them. What was the urgency to travel? I had gone to Santa Barbara to visit a friend and see the Dead (February 27, 1977), but it hadn't even occurred to me that I should go to the San Bernardino show the night before.

Starting about 1980, I met more and more people at Dead shows who had moved to San Francisco for better access to the Dead, and those were the people who thought nothing of driving to Los Angeles or Portland, or both, just to catch a show or two. That's what they had been doing in New Jersey or Chicago, so it was no change for them. Locals like me got sniffy about attending Dead shows outside my own county, but the Easterners made the Deadhead traveling circus a reality. Yet no one had figured that out at the time, and Bill Graham's promotion was a bit ahead of the curve.

The big rock event in San Francisco on that weekend was the Sex Pistols show at Winterland on Saturday, January 14. It turned out to  be the last show of the Sid Vicious-era Pistols, and a legendary San Francisco rock moment. However, since I was going to see the Dead in Fresno on Sunday night, I had a paper to write, so I stayed home from the Sex Pistols even though my sister had an extra ticket, and thus missed one of the all-time rock events. Fortunately, my choice turned out to be worth it. However, my friend Jeff, who attended the Fresno show with us may have been the only person in history to have seen the Sex Pistols and the Grateful Dead on consecutive nights.

Fresno was about 3 hours from San Francisco, mostly on easy-to-drive Interstate 5. Even though we had all seen the Dead for three or four nights in December, it seemed exciting to actually adventure out into the valley to see the Dead. Of course, had we been Easterners, we would have gone to Santa Barbara (Friday Jan 13), Bakersfield (Saturday Jan 14) and then Fresno, but we didn't have that mindset yet. We also had tickets to the Wednesday night show in Stockton (Jan 18), about 90 minutes from Berkeley, but we were skipping the Sacramento show the night before (Tuesday Jan 17). Anyone from New Jersey or Boston or Utica would have thought we were nuts, but we were used to the Dead playing constantly, and missing a show didn't seem catastrophic.

One of the things that made the Fresno trip viable was my friend Jeff, whom I knew from the dorms. My other friends were from Los Angeles, and neither they nor I had ever set foot in Fresno. However, Jeff was from Fresno and had been to Selland Arena many times, so by bringing him with us we had a native guide. In the era before google maps and GPS, this was no small consideration. In any case, we grooved on down the road and made it to Fresno well before the start of the show, thanks to Jeff's expert directions. Although Jeff was from Fresno, he didn't express any pleasure at being back in his hometown, which he dismissed as hicksville.

When we got to the Selland Arena, we were in for a surprise. The place was your typical multi-purpose sports-enterntainment arena, used for basketball at Fresno State College and rock concerts for the city. Even if the Grateful Dead were only popular in an enclosed little universe, in San Francisco that universe was pretty intense. In 1977, Bill Graham Presents would open the doors at Winterland at 5:00pm because so many people were waiting in line, and there were volleyball games and movies to keep people entertained until the putative 7:00 pm start (which was often closer to 8:00). Thus it was a shock to get to Selland Arena a half-hour before show time and to find the arena largely deserted.

Now, if you've ever been in a large arena with a small crowd, it seems more barren than it really was. We were convinced that there were only a few hundred people there, but that is probably our minds exaggerating the emptiness. Still, even accounting for people who arrived late, people who were nestled in the dark seats far from the stage and people dancing around the lobby, there couldn't have been more than 2000 people there, tops. Most of the people didn't really seem like Deadheads, just people who lived in Fresno who liked rock music, and would go to see Johnny Winter or Kenny Loggins or whoever was playing (which my friend Jeff assured me was typical of Fresno at the time).

The Selland show was strange indeed: an arena the size of Oakland Auditorium, bigger than Winterland, with a very modest crowd that mostly sat bored in the seats, leaving the floor near the stage utterly deserted. You know those t-shirts that they used to sell at Dead shows that had a logo and words to the effect of "Grateful Dead 1966-1980: Sold Out!"? They didn't go to Fresno.

I have always been one who felt that the much-discussed symbiotic relationship between the Grateful Dead and their audience has received far too much attention, and that the Dead were more about music than their audiences self-declared insistence that there would be no Grateful Dead without their own presence. I still think that Deadheads overrate themselves, but the first set at Fresno gave me a major dose of what the Dead were like to an indifferent audience. They must have played a lot of gigs like Fresno in the 60s, out in the hinterlands. There were a few devoted Heads up front, and a bunch of bored locals, going "why are these guys so popular?"

Set One, Selland Arena, Fresno, CA January 15, 1978
Bertha>;
04:47




Good Lovin' ;
05:55




Dire Wolf ;
03:39




Mexicali Blues >
03:28




Big River ;
05:59




It Must Have Been The Roses ;
06:09




Passenger ;
04:37




Brown Eyed Women ;
05:17




The Music Never Stopped ;
07:53




set music:
0:47:44


 The first set at Fresno was the most lifeless, boring Grateful Dead set I have ever seen. There were a few people dancing up front, but just as an experiment my friend Mike and I walked up and leaned on the front of the stage barrier without touching another human being. I'm glad we did it, because we never got to do it again. The lack of enthusiasm in the crowd was palpable, and I got a unique glimpse of how the strange clunky energy of the Dead's improvisational style depended on an attentive audience, as every note seemed wrong. The fact that Garcia's voice was still very weak from a lingering illness added to the lethargy and strain of the performance. I swear that Garcia's solo on "Mexicali Blues" was so lifeless that he dropped his hands for the last several bars, since it was such a failure. The band made a little effort for 'The Music Never Stopped," but we wondered why we had made the effort to drive three hours through the Valley just to hear the worst Dead set in our lives.

Set Two, Selland Arena, Fresno, CA January 15, 1978
Samson And Delilah ;
07:45




Friend Of The Devil ;
08:21




Sunrise %
03:14


End
Terrapin Station>;
09:57




Playing In The Band>;
27:05


Middle
Wharf Rat>;
10:53




Sugar Magnolia ;
09:29




set music:
1:16:44







show music:
2:04:28

Having driven so far, however, we stuck around for the second set. "Samson And Delilah" wasn't terrible, and "Friend Of The Devil" was OK, although I never cared for the slow version anyway. The first sign that something was afoot was "Sunrise," a song I largely paid no attention to. It had some life to it, and when the little solo came, Jerry played with surprising intensity, and the dripping notes rang around the echoey, empty arena. The band marched straight into "Terrapin," and despite the lifeless crowd and strange, boomy sound, no doubt caused by unexpected emptiness, they were killing it. My friends and I looked at each other with surprise and relief--the three hour drive may have turned out to be worth it after all.

After "Terrapin," the Dead launched into "Playing In The Band," and when the singing ended, Jerry, Bob and Phil huddled in front of the drummers and played the jam for themselves. There was practically no crowd there, and the band was getting nothing from them, so they just played weird, spacey music for their own pleasure. The lengthy jam that followed was the wildest, weirdest, spaciest jam I have ever heard at a Dead concert, and I went to a few. The surviving audience tape, while enjoyable, cannot capture the intense, self-absorbed weirdness of that jam.

The net effect of going from "worst Dead set ever" to "most far out jam I have ever seen" had a dramatic effect. Physics tells us that dramatic acceleration leads to escape velocity, and we definitely burst through the ionosphere, swirling in orbit far above the earth. The lengthy "Playing" was followed by an intense "Wharf Rat." Garcia's nearly broken voice was used to great effect, and his emotional solo was the capstone to the intense "Playin" jam that had preceded it. When it ended, a relatively brief "Sugar Magnolia" ended the show, and the band left the stage. The crowd was too small to cheer for an encore, as many of the locals had left, but in any case those of us who had been listening were too stunned to care. This was a clutch performance by the Grateful Dead: a mostly-empty venue in the middle of nowhere, no excitement from the crowd, and still delivering a show for the ages.

It goes without saying that I never saw another Dead show like Fresno. For one thing, I occasionally went to a Dead show that wasn't sold out, but I never went to one again that was deserted. In subsequent years even casual audiences had heard about expected behavior at Dead concerts, but in 1978 Fresno the Grateful Dead were like Marshall Tucker or Wishbone Ash, just another Winterland headliner trying to win over fans outside of their regular market. They couldn't do it, either, so they just made music. Maybe it was more about the Grateful Dead than the Deadheads after all.

All my friends were exhausted, but I was elated. One of my friends had seen the Dead in Selland Arena in 1974, and he opined that perhaps it was the same that time, with a small crowd and weird self-absorbed music, but that he didn't understand it. He promptly fell asleep, as did everyone else but me, as I happily drove my friend's car back to Berkeley up Interstate 5, knowing that I had seen something that would not pass my way again.

Appendix: January 1978 Grateful Dead Tour Itinerary
January 6, 1978: Swing Auditorium, San Bernardino, CA Grateful Dead
The Swing Auditorium in San Bernardino was at the edge of greater Los Angeles, because it had been the terminus of the Pacific Electric Railway. The Swing had a capacity of 10,00, and was actually one of the biggest places that the Dead headlined in California. Garcia had a fever and laryngitis, and his voice gave out after the first set, leaving all the second set songs to Weir.

January 7-8, 1978: Golden Hall, Community Concourse, San Diego, CA Grateful Dead
The Grateful Dead had played the Community Concourse at 202 C Street a number of times over the years, but the complex was part of a maze of buildings, and I do not believe they actually played the same rooms each time. Garcia's voice was shot for these shows, and Weir and Donna Godchaux handled all the vocals.  I believe that Golden Hall was a Warfield-sized theater, with a capacity of 2500 or so.

January 10-11, 1978: Shrine Auditorium, Los Angeles, CA Grateful Dead
There are actually two venues at the same address at the Shrine, the Shrine Auditorium and the Shrine Exposition Hall. I do not know which one the Dead actually played this time out. If it had seats, it was the Auditorium (where the Oscars are sometimes held) and if it didn't it was the Expo. Since the shows were on a Tuesday and a Wednesday, it seems more possible it was the actual Shrine Auditorium. The show opened with "Bertha," assuring the crowd that Jerry was back singing, even if his voice was shaky.

A number of commenters on the Archive describe shows similar to Fresno, with far out meltdown jams in the second set.

January 13, 1978: Arlington Theater, Santa Barbara, CA Grateful Dead
I believe the Arlington was a fairly small, Warfield-sized theater. This show was some sort of anti-nuclear benefit. The jamming in the second set is quite amazing; Fresno was no fluke.

January 14, 1978: Civic Auditorium, Bakersfield, CA Grateful Dead
By all accounts, Bakersfield was as weird as Fresno. We heard a rumor that Bakersfield was so empty, people were told that anyone with a Bakersfield stub could get into Fresno for free. I doubt that story was true, but I take the rumor as an indicator that it was not a typical Dead show. Bakersfield Civic had been used for many rock shows over the years, but I believe it was smaller than Selland Arena, so a modest crowd might not be so notable.

According to numerous commenters on the Archive, the Dead's soundman was arrested during the show by the Bakersfield police. The Dead apparently wrapped up the show quickly and declared their unhappiness with it from the stage.

January 15, 1978: Selland Arena, Fresno, CA Grateful Dead

January 17, 1978: Civic Auditorium, Sacramento, CA Grateful Dead
Even though this was a Tuesday night, Sacramento was only 90 minutes from the Bay Area and the Civic had a capacity of about 3,000, so it was like a regular show for the locals. 

My ticket stub from Stockton Civic Auditorium, January 18, 1978
January 18, 1978; Civic Auditorium, Stockton, CA Grateful Dead
My friends and I also attended the Wednesday evening Stockton show (well, except for the guy from Fresno). We had heard nothing about the other shows, of course, and were half-expecting a deserted auditorium and weird jamming, so we hauled ass to get there after class. We made the show minutes before it started, and naturally the place was packed to the rafters. Stockton, too, was just 90 minutes from the Bay Area, and while I'm sure there were many people from the local area it felt like a regular Winterland Dead crowd.

The Dead started out on a very high note with "Mississippi Half-Step," and despite Jerry's ragged voice, by the time he was taking us across the Rio Grande-io the place was going crazy. So much for a replay of Fresno. Still, it was a very lively show, even though Garcia's energy level gave out with his voice, as he was clearly not well. Garcia left the stage during "Playing In The Band," I believe for the drum solo, and when the band returned and started "Passenger," Garcia did not immediately come on stage. The band played the first verse without him, although he slowly made his way out there and managed to take his big solo, but it was plain that he was struggling.

January 22, 1978: McArthur Court, Eugene, OR Grateful Dead
Whatever weakness the Grateful Dead may have had drawing an audience in Central California in the Winter meant nothing in Oregon. On a population-to-attendance basis, the Dead's biggest market was Oregon. McArthur Court was the U. of O's basketball arena (where the Ducks would quack under pressure), and the Dead had been packing the joint for nearly a decade. As far as I know, the January '78 show was a huge financial success, too, and fans were rewarded with a great show that included the unique "Close Encounters" jam. 

January 30-February 1, 1978: Uptown Theater, Chicago, IL Grateful Dead
Why would the Grateful Dead play Saturday night in Eugene, and then take an eight day break in order to play Monday-thru-Wednesday in a 2000+-capacity movie theater in Chicago in the depths of winter? If a band is going to play Chicago in the winter, why not play a bigger place on the weekend? This strange itinerary only makes sense if there was a canceled weekend show.

I have to think that the Grateful Dead were scheduled to play the weekend of January 28-29 in either Seattle or Vancouver or both, and the shows must have fallen through. There may have been mid-week shows planned in the Northwest as well. Three dates in Chicago on a weeknight, followed by three dates in the frozen north (Madison, Milwaukee and Cedar Falls, IA) only make sense as part of a continuous tour. I have no idea how or why other Northwest dates fell through, and it's even possible they were supposed to play Denver or Salt Lake or Omaha, not Seattle, but in any case it doesn't seem to have worked out. Combined with the debacles in Bakersfield and Fresno, the Grateful Dead did not try a winter West Coast tour again.