Friday, March 19, 2010

Grateful Dead Tour Itinerary March-April 1969

A poster for the Grateful Dead's performance in Las Vegas on March 29, 1969 (h/t Brad for the scan)

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 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 dates from March and April 1969. I am focused on which performances occurred when, rather than the performances themselves. For known performances, I have assumed that they are easy to assess on Deadlists, The Archive and elsewhere, and have made little comment. As a point of comparison, I am comparing my list to Deadlists, but I realize that different databases may include or exclude different dates (I am not considering recording dates, interviews or Television and radio broadcast dates in this context).

My working assumption is that the Grateful Dead, while already a legendary rock band in 1969, were living hand to mouth and scrambling to find paying gigs. Even by 1969, most paying performances were on Friday and Saturday nights, so I am particularly interested  in Friday and Saturday nights where no Grateful Dead performances were scheduled or known.

I have linked to existing posters where available. Anyone with additional information, corrections or memories about performances during this period is encouraged to Comment or email me.

February 27-March 2, 1969 Fillmore West Grateful Dead/Pentangle/Sir Douglas Quintet
The month of March began with an epic 4-night stand at The Fillmore West. The band recorded the shows on state-of-the-art 16-track equipment, creating part of Live/Dead. The entire run was released in 2005 as a 10cd set called Fillmore West 69: The Complete Recordings.

I have written elsewhere about how Garcia in particular was influenced by the unique twin acoustic guitar sound of Pentangle.

I know of no Grateful Dead concerts for Friday and Saturday March 7-8, as well as Friday March 14, but since I believe they were working on both Aoxomoxoa and Live/Dead it seems reasonable to think they played fewer gigs.  

March 12, 1969 Fillmore West San Francisco State Strike Committee Benefit
This event is known from Deadbase. The SF State Strike was an important event in local politics, and its not surprising that there was a benefit at Fillmore West. However, I would want to wait for confirmation that the Dead actually played, not because I find it unlikely but because the Dead were inevitably rumored to play every free concert or benefit, and that didn't always turn out to be the case.

March 15, 1969 Black and White Ball, Hilton Hotel, San Francisco
Dennis McNally wrote about this event at length (p. 304). The Black And White Ball was a fundraiser for the San Francisco Symphony, and the social event of the "High Society" Season. The chair of the entertainment committee was Bob Weir's mother, so the Dead played, probably in an effort to make the event more attractive to the younger members of the wealthy set.

The Dead arrived on time but Bear caused a delay in setting up, so the band started late. They played for about an hour, and were not apparently well received. Apparently all the band members wore costumes (Pigpen and Jerry were pirates). The event was not a success and the local society columnist did not speak kindly of the band, calling them "The Ungrateful Dead." The Black And White Ball was not held again for almost twenty years (although when the Ball returned on May 1, 1987, Bob Weir was one of the featured stars [h/t Brad for the poster scan]).

March 17, 1969 Winterland, San Francisco, CA Jefferson Airplane/Grateful Dead/Sons of Champlin/Red Mountain Monster Jam Benefit for Olompali
This recently discovered event was a Monday night benefit for residents of the Chosen Family commune at Rancho Olompali, homeless and broke after a fire and a drug bust. A Berkeley Barb article suggested that the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane were expected to show up, and the Winterland venue suggests that this was not idle speculation. Since we have no other information, its possible that it featured some sort of "Mickey And The Hartbeats" configuration rather than the full Grateful Dead, but its definitely on the calendar.

March 21-22, 1969 Rose Palace, Pasadena, CA Butterfield Blues Band/Grateful Dead/Jethro Tull
The Rose Palace, at 835 S. Raymond Avenue, was built in 1964 to accomodate construction of floats for the New Year's Day Tournament Of Roses Parade. Since construction took place in the barn-like structure from October through December, the building was empty the rest of the year. In the late 1960s and early it was used for weekend rock concerts. I do not know what the capacity was. The building is still intact, but owned by a private firm that constructs Rose Parade floats.

This must have been some show. The Dead were playing monstrously good music at the time, and Jethro Tull, then on their first American tour, still a stripped down quartet with Martin Barre on guitar, could definitely rock the house. While the 1969 Paul Butterfield Blues Band did not equal up to the 1966 version--few bands ever have--guitarist Buzzy Feiten and a fine horn section always sounded great (this was the lineup that played Woodstock, more or less). According to Deadlists, Butterfield (the biggest name on the bill) closed the show.

March 27, 1969 Merced, CA
This date only persists because of a mislabeled tape. I am leaving it in here, however, on the remote chance that the Grateful Dead really did play Merced on a Thursday night, and the mislabeled tape (from the next night) still had a grain of truth to it. Merced only had fairly small venues, but a Thursday night gig would have made sense for the band, as Merced is relatively near Modesto.

March 28, 1969 Student Center, Modesto Junior College, Modesto, CA
Modesto, about 90 miles East of San Francisco, made a good Friday night gig for the Dead. While Modesto is not in itself large, it is the center of a large and lucrative agricultural area, so a fair number of people lived in driving range of the concert. It was also more or less on the way to Las Vegas.

Modesto Junior College was opened in 1921, very early for a California Junior College (most were opened in the late 1950s and early 60s). The College is located at 435 College Avenue in Modesto. The Student Center, on the East Campus, still seems to be intact, and I assume there was (and may still be) a ballroom type facility.

March 29, 1969 Ice Palace, Las Vegas, NV Grateful Dead/Santana/Free Circus (two shows 8:00-11:30)
The Dead had only played Las Vegas (or Nevada), once before, on a date I have determined to be September 16, 1967.

Apparently, Bear dosed the promoter for the show, so for his first acid trip he had to introduce the Grateful Dead on stage (judge for yourself on the tape).

Around this time (per McNally p.305) the Dead had a band meeting in which Mickey Hart introduced his father Lenny as a possible business manager who could address the group's perpetual financial distress. The Dead would come to regret this association.

April 4-6, 1969 Avalon Ballroom, San Francisco Grateful Dead/Flying Burrito Brothers/AUM
These were the last rock shows at the Avalon for about 35 years. The Sunday night show (April 6) was broadcast on KPFA-fm, one of the earliest examples of such a broadcast that I know of.  I have written at length about these gigs elsewhere.

April 11, 1969 University Auditorium, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ
By early 1969, outside of California the Grateful Head had mostly only played psychedelic hippie ballrooms. They now started to show some signs of trying to expand their audience. Although neither of their first two albums sold well, FM radio was starting to happen around the country, and plenty of young people had heard of the Grateful Dead, even if they had hardly actually heard them. This show at the University of Arizona initiates a series of college shows, where the band played university venues. These mostly appear to be smaller places, but Universities still had "entertainment" budgets that supplemented ticket sales (directly or indirectly). I assume the same booking agent arranged all the college shows the band played in the next ten days.

Dennis McNally observes that simply playing college campuses in 1969 was inherently political, as protests against the Vietnam War had spread far beyond Berkeley, but the Dead were used to playing in turmoil. Rob Eaton's vault notes apparently say "Student Union Building, University of Arizona." The University of Arizona Student Union was reconstructed in 2000, replacing a building that had been built in 1951. I have to assume that the University Auditorium was a ballroom type facility that no longer exists. The Dead had only played Arizona once before (June 22, 1968 in Phoenix). According to McNally (p. 309), the hosting organization was The University of Arizona Student Peace Association.

April 12, 1969 Student Union Ballroom, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT Grateful Dead/Spirit of Creation (two shows 8pm-10pm)
Salt Lake City was hardly a hotbed of the blues or rebellion, but its convenient geography made Salt Lake City a popular stop in the 1960s. SLC was part way to everywhere--San Francisco, Chicago, Los Angeles, Denver among them. The University of Utah Ballroom was apparently quite small. This was the Dead's first appearance in Utah, although I have written elsewhere about the surprisingly large number of interesting concerts in Salt Lake City and Utah in the lat 1960s. 

April 13, 1969 Ballroom, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO
If the Dead played a still extant facility, it would be what is now called Glenn Miller Ballroom, capacity 1200 (probably more for "festival seating"). In any case, even if it was a previous building, it probably would have been on a similar scale.

The Grateful Dead had not played Colorado since September 1967, when they played the Denver Family Dog as well as a free concert in the park. The Denver cops had cracked down hard on the Denver Dog (Canned Heat in particular suffered a notoriously destructive drug bust), so many bands stayed out of Colorado for a while. The Dead in particular would have been a high profile target, so Colorado residents had to wait until 1969. Fortunately they would return many times thereafter.

In Denver or Boulder, Jerry Garcia went to a music store and bought a Zane Beck pedal steel guitar. His first public performance would be about a month later, with John Dawson at the Underground in Menlo Park on May 14.

April 15, 1969 The Music Box, Omaha, NE Grateful Dead/Liberation Blues Band
The Dead took a time out from their College Tour to play a Tuesday night in Omaha's Music Box, a club that held only about 500 people. The Dead had played Omaha before, opening for Iron Butterfly on February 4, 1969 (whatever you think of "Inna-Gadda-Da-Vida", the Butterfly were way bigger than the Dead). Given the timing of this show, the promoters must have booked the Dead for a return visit before Iron Butterfly even finished their set.

Omaha is on  I-80, in between the Rockies and the Midwest. Similar to Salt Lake City, it made a convenient stopover for bands on tour. Certainly since the Dead had come into Omaha in February, not exactly a trip to Hawaii, they must have made a long winter a little more interesting for whatever hippies there were there. Since the band's equipment was traveling by truck, a Tuesday night stop in Omaha, between Denver and St. Louis, made sound geographical and financial sense.

April 17, 1969 The Quadrangle, Washington University, St. Louis, MO Grateful Dead/Alvin Pine
This was a Thursday afternoon show, outdoors in St. Louis. According to McNally (p. 309), there were noise complaints from blocks away.

April 18, 1969 Memorial Union Ballroom, Purdue University, Lafayette, IN Grateful Dead/George Stavis
McNally (p. 309) says that the Purdue campus paper reported that the students were riled up over raises in the student fees, but "[student] leaders prevented any disturbances which might have ensued by keeping the band playing."

April 20, 1969 Atwood Hall, Clark University, Worcester, MA Grateful Dead/Roland Kirk
The Dead had played 4 shows at Boston's Psychedelic Supermarket in December 1967, but they had not returned to Massachusetts since that time. Worcester is about 45 miles West of Boston on I-90, and the band had apparently played there before as well, in late 1967.

The Internet Archive Reviews section for the surviving tape has some pretty detailed memories by eyewitnesses who attended the shows. They are well worth reading in their entirety, but among the interesting comments:
  • The Dead flew from Indiana, but their equipment came by truck. One writer says that the show was probably scheduled for Saturday night--as the poster says, and would be logical--but if the Dead's travel plans changed they would have simply re-scheduled the show for Sunday.
  • The drive from Purdue (Lafayette, IN) to Worcester was about 950 miles, and I don't think I-76 was complete so its unlikely the crew could have done it in a day. The band, meanwhile flew into Logan airport in Boston. Bear has a good reputation (confirmed by David Lemieux) for accurately dating his tape boxes, so I am going with the idea that the show was originally scheduled for Saturday April 19 and re-scheduled for Sunday April 20. 
  • Atwood Hall was a typical University theater, with a capacity of only 658.
  • Roland Kirk was unhappy with the billing and waved a gun around at the Dead before the show. Good times.
April 21-23, 1969 The Ark, Boston, MA Grateful Dead
The Grateful Dead had not played Boston since December 1967, but they returned for a Monday-to-Wednesday stand at the city's newest rock venue, The Ark. The Psychedelic Supermarket, by now called The Unicorn, was on its last legs, but the Boston Tea Party (at 53 Berkeley Street) was still going strong, even though it was somewhat small for the exploding rock business. However, after July 11, 1969 and a fire at the Tea Party, the Boston Tea Party moved to the site of The Ark, which was just around the corner. Thus the Grateful Dead New Year's Eve shows in Boston (December 29-31, 1969) at the Boston Tea Party were actually at 15 Landsdowne.

Recently there has been some question as to how big The Ark/Tea Party actually was. If anyone is visiting Boston, they could drop into the House Of Blues at 15 Landsdowne (across from Fenway Park) and check it out. Its possible that the venue has been remodeled (even likely), but there may be old photos there that give a good perspective. For some time between the 70s and the 90s, 15 Landsdowne was known as The Avalon, and there may be photos around from that era as well.

April 25-26, 1969 Kinetic Playground, Chicago, IL Grateful Dead/Velvet Underground/SRC
The Kinetic Playground was Chicago's own psychedelic ballroom (I review its history here). The Dead had played the venue earlier, on January 31-February 1, 1969.

This memorable pairing of two sixties opposites was covered in depth in Richie Unterburger's fine Velvet Underground chronology (White Light White Heat). The first night, the Velvet Underground played an extended set, and as a result the Grateful Dead were limited (by their standards) to one set. The next night, of course, the Dead came on before the Velvets and played an extended set, thus limiting the Velvets. Whether this was a result of some imaginary "feud" or just poor scheduling (I suspect the latter), it makes for a great sixties story.

As if the New York/SF pairing of the Velvets and the Dead wasn't enough, SRC was a famous powerhouse Detroit band, if lesser known, so three great bands from three great scenes were represented. It must have been some evening.

April 27, 1969 Labor Temple, Minneapolis, MN Grateful Dead
As was true of many cities on this tour, the Dead had played there earlier. The band had played Minneapolis's Labor Temple on February 2, 1969, and they returned just 10 weeks later. Although they were still psychedelic rangers, the band was starting to show signs of behaving like a professional bands, playing  a city and then returning a few months later to capitalize on the buzz. 

Some of the music from the Labor Temple and The Kinetic (April 26) was released on Dick's Picks 26. The Grateful Dead returned home to Winterland on the weekend of May 2 and 3.


  1. A couple random notes -
    You didn't make much of it, but the Dead's Ark stand from April 21-23 stands out as being unusual. Three nights in a row, as the only band, with apparently no time limit...plainly someone in Boston had a clue. (It's funny to hear the announcer become steadily more impressed with the Dead each night.)
    Garcia seems on especially good terms with the audience, thanking them after the last show ("You've been good people"), and his comment on the 22nd is great. "We're the only ones here, we can do anything we like - anything, absolutely anything, so if you can think of anything weird enough for us to do, we'd be more than delighted to do it..."

    Also, the 25th wasn't the first time the Dead had played with the Velvet Underground - at the Pittsburgh show on Feb 7, it was the Dead, the Velvets, and the Fugs. Now THAT must have been a show! - the Dead seem especially intense that night.

  2. I added the March 17 Winterland date.

  3. I saw the Rose Palace show in Pasadena in March '69. The Rose Palace was (and still is) essentially a giant cement bunker, and seating was festival style on the floor. The reason I went to the show was to see Jethro Tull, who were touring in support of their debut "This Was", although their ace guitarist Mick Abrahams had already left, replaced by Martin Barre; their sophomore release "Stand Up" came out half a year later. Paul Butterfield featuring Charlie Musselwhite were the headliners, and as a budding little prog-rock kid I had zero interest in them. The Dead, at that point, were past their first peak of success and momentarily a bit out of fashion, a throw-back to an earlier era amidst a quickly changing music scene, as evidenced by their non-headlining status; they were the middle band. Pigpen laid down on his side and rolled out on stage! All told, a great and eclectic night.

  4. That is a very interesting comment about the Dead circa March '69 being "past their first peak of success and momentarily a bit out of fashion, a throw-back to an earlier era..."
    One wonders what their first 'peak of success' might have been; but at that point they had just two albums, and Anthem had been out for some eight months. They were hardly burning up the charts, and through most of '69 perhaps attracted people more by reputation than by sales or familiarity with their music. (Which in any case, would be mostly unfamiliar by the end of the year, as the Dead caught up to the current country-rock "fashion" again.)
    At any rate, it's also illustrative of the sixties that by '69, the music of '67 already sounded like "an earlier era."

    I also found a comment by Tom Constanten on the 3-15-69 Black & White Ball:
    "The original idea was to dress up in those black & white striped prisoner outfits, but that proved impracticable. The ones we settled on weren't too shabby, though - Jerry was a pirate, Mickey was Zorro, and I had an 18th-century costume complete with 3-cornered hat... It would have been a smashing success, if only the PA could have been ready by curtain time... Phil and I suggested the possibility of a musical collaboration between the band and the orchestra... They all but laughed in our faces."

  5. YES- DEAD concert at atwood hall- Clark university- we were waiting outside on saturday to get in- people that looked official told us the deads equip/ was on the road somewhere- and to come back the next night- which was a sunday
    i am sure of that- i do have a decent recording of the show- morning dew, and a great garcia version of the acoustic- Rosemary - kennybee

    1. Kennybee, I think you're the person who mentioned on the Archive that you had a cassette tape of the 5/9/70 Worcester show....would you still have that tape?

    2. didn't you yourself ´post this :
      Light Into AshesFebruary 11, 2013 at 1:41 AM

      A couple updates -

      The 5/9/70 "SBD" has been revealed to actually come from the 5/3/70 acoustic set; so 5/9/70 is now completely missing.
      i doubt kennybee has the real one ... it will be the long circulating ( since the 90s)fake one

    3. One of these days, someone will have the real one.

    4. True, our "5/9/70" fragment turned out to come from 5/3/70.
      And Kennybee is mistaken about Rosemary being on the 4/20/69 recording.

      Nonetheless, he did write in an Archive review that he attended 5/9/70 (same city as the 4/20/69 Clark U show), took photographs, and made a poor cassette tape of at least part of the NRPS & electric sets. Sounded accurate to me.

      However, since he hasn't replied to any attempts to contact him, who knows whether he was being truthful.

  6. Apologies - as i am not on this site that often- hardly ever really - and the worcester mass show 5/9/70 was at a college- Worc. polytechic inst. - basically on the gymnasium floor of Harrington Auditorium - and a night that went on forever- Acoustic Weir/Garcia - and phil came out as well- as i recall- black peter- monkey and engineer, el paso- weir always likes the country songs
    after that set- new riders came out- with Jerry- and mickey hart was there too- david nelson- and after a break that seemed like an hour- our eardrums were split
    with an electric set- that pretty much set my friend's ALC on his cassette- into permanent overload- we should have thought to turn it away from the stage and the monitors- it may have eased the overload a bit-
    i do have some of it on reel to reel- made from the original cassette - but the oxide was flaking pretty badly- last time it was out of the box- not too bad for a spool- maybe 42 years old- i will search it out- and have quite a few shots on the old 126 format- 3.5 square prints- some pics have the gymnasium wall logo in the back- garcia and weir- both in tie-died shirts- both were purplish in color- phil in a yellow dress shirt almost?
    and dave nelson- Marmaduke clearly visible as well in a few shots- i think the concert went over 5 hours total-
    got home at 3am- pretty close to it- and i lived 3 miles away- kenneth

  7. now pertaining to the Atwood hall set- at Clark university- i also caught procol harum there once- and i know hendrix played there- missed that one! - dam, i am listening to the atwood hall set now - it is on c.d. - and as far as i know- i have the entire show - and pretty much the way i remembered it- with one correction- the reader above called me on it- and rosemary was not part of the set- as i kinda remembered- christ- it was 42 years ago- but I recall Garcia coming out- solo- and doing some of the quieter
    songs from Aoxomoxoa- sure seemed like a weird way to end the show- he did solo- " duprees diamond blues"- and "Mountains of the moon- " - mountains has some weird
    organ - sounding baroque- cannot be pigpen- must have been Constanten- but too long ago to be sure- has to be though- so entire clark univ. setlist as i have it-
    disc one- morning dew, good morning lil schoolgirl, doin' that rag, dark star, st stephen/eleven death don't have no mercy.
    disc two- Turn on your lovelight, then 2 songs solo garcia- closing the show- Dupree's diamond blues and lastly- Mountains of the moon- and he gets off the chair-
    and leaves us that as an encore- pretty cool/weird at the same time- but hey- it was the dead at their weirdest- Source: i had a friend that did a dead show
    on a local station- and i visited a few times- we talked dead live on air for awhile- i brought in all my ticket stubs- from my shows - and supposedly the source of the c.d.- (by special request) - and i was told- directly from dick ( of dick's picks) fame- Latvala- or however you spell it- but who can know for sure- it sounds really clean- just some tape hiss- cos even reel to reel- was not using dolby back then- total time 73:45 and 31:33 for the 2 discs- i am a fussy listener- critic and these sound very believable- too nice to be copies of copies
    - and as a sidenote- my first dead show- Wesleyan univ. in middleton connecticut- freebie- outdoors- seemed like a public park- mickey- weir all the guys- i just walked up to garcia- during a smoke break- and asked about his pedal steel- i bet i looked- 15- jerry way cool- never talked down to anyone- the true GURU of the group- cannot recall- much else- other than waiting all day for the group- but they did FINALLY - show- with those guys back in the day- you never really could bank on anything- a very long day- for mom who drove me- and waited- catered me a pizza too- k.b.

  8. Thanks for the extra details!
    Glad to hear the 5/9/70 reel survives in some sort of shape. Often the flaking oxide problem can be temporarily fixed by baking the tape so a copy can be made. (For instance, see )
    The source of the complete 4/20/69 Atwood Hall tape was most likely Latvala, he leaked a lot of shows out of the Vault that way.

    This post on the 5/3/70 Wesleyan show might bring back a few memories!

  9. This comment has been removed by the author.