Thursday, December 6, 2012

Grateful Dead/Jerry Garcia Tour Itinerary February 1969

The Grateful Dead's historic run at Fillmore West, as it was listed in the February 27, 1969 SF Chronicle
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. Rather than go in strictly chronological order, I am focusing on periods where recent research has been done by myself or others.  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 (other entries in my Grateful Dead tour itinerary series can be seen here).

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.

Update: per a question in the Comments, thanks to Correspondent and Scholar Volkmar, we have some evidence about how often Pigpen and TC played a Vox Continental, as opposed to a Hammond B3 organ. Volkmar reviewed all extant photos with a visible organist, and sent in the following chart (is the internet great or what?):

Pigpen VOX B3
always up to 67-05-xx
67-05-29 Napa
67-06-01 Tompkins Park
67-06-08 Central Park 
67-06-08 Cafe Au Go Go
67-06-18 Monterey
67-06-21 Golden Gate Park
67-07-02 El Camino Park
67-07-16 Golden Gardens Seattle
67-08-01to05 Toronto
67-08-06b Montreal
67-08-13 Ann Arbor
67-08-28 Golden Gate Park
67-09-15 Hollywood Bowl
67-09-16 Elysian Park (diff. model?)
67-09-24 Denver (diff. model?)
67-09-29 Straight Theater
67-10-01 Greek Theatre
68-01-26or27 Seattle
68-01or02 studio
68-03-03 Haight Street
68-05-03 Columbia University
68-05-05 Central Park
68-05-18a Santa Clara
68-05-18b Shrine Hall
68-06-01 Golden Gate Park
68-06-22 Phoenix
68-08-04 Newport Festival
68-09-02 Sky River Festival
68-10-20 Greek Theatre
68-11-07to10 Fillmore West

T.C. VOX Super Continental (2 manuals) B3
68-11-24 Cincinnati  it is said both Pigpen and TC played keyboards
68-12-07 Louisville
68-12-31 Winterland
69-01-18 Playboy / plus harpsichord
69-02-06 St. Louis
69-02-11/12 Fillmore East
69-02-14 Philadelphia
69-04-21to23 Boston
69-05-07 Golden Gate Park
69-06-22 Central Park
69-08-16 Woodstock
69-09-27 Fillmore East
70-01-02 Fillmore East

Pigpen VOX B3
70-02-02 St. Louis
70-02-04 Family Dog
70-02-11to14 Fillmore East

up to 72

remember, this is a series of data points (photographs) rather than a continuous marker.

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.

Philadelphia's Electric Factory promoted the Chambers Brothers and the Grateful Dead for two shows at the Lytic Theater in Baltimore on February 9, 1969
February 9, 1969: Lyric Theater, Baltimore, MD: Chambers Brothers/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
February 19, 1969: The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: High Country
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
February 21-22, 1969: Dream Bowl, Vallejo, CA: Grateful Dead/Dancing Food & Entertainment/Amber Wine
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
February 24 and 26, 1969: The Matrix, San Francisco, CA: Mickey Hart and The Hartbeats/Frumious Bandersnatch (24th only)
 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 27, 1969: Fillmore West, San Francisco, CA: Grateful Dead/Pentangle/Sir Douglas Quintet
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.


  1. Great job as usual!

    Iron Butterfly were also on the bill on February 4.

    Frumious Bandersnatch were also on the bill on February 24.

  2. Bruno, thanks for the kind words. Good catch on Frumious, I updated the post.

    As to Feb 4, for some years the Kansas City date with Iron Butterfly was thought to be Feb 4, not Feb 5. So references to IB playing with the Dead are actually references to the Kansas City show. I don't think there's any evidence that Iron Butterfly actually played Omaha with the Dead. The place was so small, the club could have barely afforded the Dead, even on a Tuesday.

  3. A few comments -

    It's unknown how much time the Dead spent in the studio this month, after returning from tour. Until we get some kind of studio sessions list, we're kind of in the dark as to how the Aoxomoxoa recordings went. (The Deadbase studio entries for early '69 are very incomplete.)
    For the live album, they probably would not have lingered long over the January Avalon 16-track tapes, since they rejected all but one slice from the 26th, and taped over the rest at the end of February!
    At some point, they had a quarrel with the owner of Pacific Recording studio in San Mateo, and moved to Pacific High Recording in SF, which must have been around this time.

    Constanten remarked that he borrowed Iron Butterfly's Vox in both St Louis and Kansas City. One wonders whether the Dead got their organ back by the following shows?
    TC seems to remember this as a whirlwind tour - "hustling from performance to hotel to airport to another airport...not much time for sightseeing."
    Considering the band were preparing their live album, he also makes the pertinent comment, "After every gig there'd be a gathering in one of our hotel rooms to check out a recording of that night's performance."
    Given the rarity of late-1968 tapes, it's hard to say whether the band had done this in 1968 as well, or whether it was a new habit.

    The band had not done many cross-country tours before - in '67, they had mainly flown straight to New York, with occasional stops in hopefully-friendly places in Detroit, Denver, Boston...
    April/May '68 saw a bit of an expansion of their east-coast schedule, with shows in Miami, Philadelphia & Virginia Beach - and even a midwest excursion to St Louis.
    Nov/Dec '68 saw a more ambitious midwest tour through five states, and the year ended with a trip to Texas & Florida.
    So this 2-week tour sees the band revisiting some familiar cities & establishing outposts in new ones, in their continuing effort to break out of California. But it's worth remembering that at this point, the whole process of a cross-country tour was still a new one to them.
    McNally's account of the tour makes clear how chaotic touring was for the band circa late '68/early '69 - and from many accounts (including Lydon's from that spring), it sounds like it must have been hell to fly on airlines with the Dead, as they did their best to get themselves kicked off flights!
    McNally quotes a letter from United Airlines, banning the band from the airline because they "caused so much confusion arriving at the airport with all their equipment just a few minutes before flight departure, shouting obscenities at employees and passengers, drawn and fired a revolver (fortunately loaded only with blanks) at the check-in area..."
    But the band's managers always seemed to patch things up, somehow.

    Bill Belmont (Graham's man) was struck by how inefficient the band was, always being stoned, disagreeing & unable to make any decision. Now being near $100,000 in debt, "they had decided that if they were in enough debt, no one could really mess with them - they would have to let them work, or the creditors would never be paid."

    Belmont remembered some of the shows being tough going, too - as McNally says, "Audiences would frequently be bored by 45-minute jams, and promoters would futilely request 'songs.' At every show there would be arguments with the promoter over the guest list."
    The Dead make a few snippy on-stage remarks, too -
    Garcia: "This is the lamest trip we've been taken on in our entire career." (Omaha)
    Lesh: "Since there's so few of you, why don't you come down here and cluster at the front." (St Louis)

    And lastly - considering how small & remote the Music Box in Omaha was, it's ironic that one of the few Dead audience tapes from 1969 was made there, on their next visit in April!

  4. There's another sharp-tongued comment from Lesh, I think it's on 2/15/69, when he ends "Doin' That Rag" with the exclamation "you motherfuckers!".

  5. 2/21/69!
    At least their reception on the tour was better than, say, 7/29/66 in Vancouver, where the Dead are introduced to not a single clap, and Phil says, "Our reputation has preceded us."

    I think 2/15/69 must've been the show that ended at 5:38 am. It's by far the longest tape of the eastern tour - the Dead apparently had the luxury to stretch out at the Electric Factory. (The tape's still less than 3 hours, so there must've been quite a few setbreak festivities, on the last night of the tour...)

  6. I have a question. There has been some talk recently about a cache of late 69, early 70 reels being discovered, many of them from shows that had no previously known set lists. Can you shed any light on this reported discovery?

    Thanks for your help.

  7. On the subject of witty Philism's, I was at a show on the 78 tour in either Stockton or Fresno, don't remember, when he intoned to a near empty building that the band had made a real mistake booking the show the same night as the big high school basketball game.

  8. Blue Heron, it sounds like you were at the same Fresno show Corry was at:

    As for the rediscovered reels, this has links to what we know so far:
    At the moment we're waiting for Lemieux to reveal more.

  9. Thanks Light, it was Fresno. Although I concur with the writer about the paucity of the crowd and the high number of locals just "wanting to party," I hit every California show that year and that one was nothing special for me.

    But you never really know? While many of us felt like we had witnessed the resurrection or the birth of a new planet after the Swing show of 77, many hardcore deadhead friends of mine felt that the next night at Robertson was even better.

    Maybe it depended where you were on the "little plastic bottle" cycle. Fresno seemed tired.

  10. Thanks for the interesting perspective, Blue Heron. Although I think there is an objective analysis of any show, by the same token your own feelings and perceptions color the event. Many times I went to shows that seemed great, and I listened to tapes later and thought "what was I hearing?"

    I didn't go to the Swing show, but I did see the Rob Gym show at UCSB the next night (Feb 27 '77), and while I had a sensationally good time, the tapes don't live up to that. My principal recollection of Rob Gym, actually, was how great Keith was, but that may have partially been because he was high in the mix at the place I was sitting.

  11. I started going to shows in 1972 and went to a bunch of them, have listened to a lot of recordings over the years as well. I think that we also make a mistake when we make the assumption that any tape can provide an accurate accounting of the gestalt of the "night."

    Even my aforementioned Swing "holy grail," the tape pales next to the molten experience of the event itself. It just doesn't capture the magic that we experienced and many of my fellow attendees of this show will second that. I wasn't at Cornell but imagine that it is similar. Sometimes a bomb goes off and there's just no way to bottle up and transmit the experience.

    I vote for your personal experience while at the show. And there are shows that sound magical on paper and good on tape that felt flat to me at the time. Wall of sound Cow Palace for instance. Very mercurial thing, especially when psychedelics enter the mix.

  12. Intrepid reader Tim checks in with some amazing details about the Minneapolis Labor Temple. Click through his links, they are just great:

    Some of the information in the recent post about the touring itineraries of February 1969 regarding the Minneapolis Labor Temple is incomplete, though not as uncertain as you thought, or completely incorrect. Trust me, this stuff seems to be rather obscure and not widely documented, so I wasn't surprised. I've lived around the neighborhood where it was for about twenty five years, and had tried in vain to find the building, it's location, or even a picture, ever since the release of Dick's Picks 26 (featuring the amazing April 27, 1969 show) knowing it was located somewhere nearby. This past spring I did some more extensive research hoping to find a picture, and while none were found by searching for the Minneapolis Labor Temple online, I discovered that there is an out-of-print book titled "Silver anniversary: Floyd B. Olson Memorial Labor Temple: 117 S.E. Fourth Street, Minneapolis, Minnesota" at the Minnesota Historical Society Library, which includes photographs, but I haven't seen it, so I do not know if there are actually any of the building. After searching based on the address alone, however, I did find something, and have actually posted it on (July 23, 2012 Dick's Picks 37 #87867) because somebody mistakenly thought that they had located the building elsewhere.

    The following is what I found. Most important is this 1954 picture of a streetcar at the intersection of 4th Street SE and Central Avenue, The description even notes the Minneapolis Labor Temple, and if you zoom in, you can clearly read the sign. The department store next door is what is now the Aveda Institute, who note the building's previous use as such in their history. You can easily recognize the building's architectural features, such as the window arches, and permanent canopy over the main entrance. These are some more recent pictures from the same intersection -, and It's also easy to use Google street view at the same intersection to recreate the streetcar picture, featuring everything (including the now vacant, but still standing weird, white Kr.. Kleeners building) except for the since torn down Labor Temple. If you then go down 4th Street, you can see the sign on the side of the Aveda Institute identifying the site as their parking lot. I've also discovered a comprehensive article about life story of the promoter, David Anthony Wachter, which details the brief use of the Labor Temple as a concert venue in paragraphs 12 and 13 here -

  13. I found more snippy comments from Garcia & the band - this time from the Labor Temple show, 2/2/69!
    After the Schoolgirl opener, Garcia heatedly says, "Come on man, we come all the way across the country & leave the comfort and beauty of California and come all the way out here in the cold miserable [midwest] and what do we get? What do we get? People who can't dig it! Too weird!" (Weir adds, "It was sheer hell.")
    Over the top of this, Lesh exclaims, "This is the first dance concert in your city in eleven years! Why don't you all take advantage of it?"

  14. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  15. Here's an email from a guy in Omaha who say there was a show in Lincoln, Nebraska on 2/3/69 sponsored by KOWH. Ross has the band listed as playing the Tyrone Guthrie Theater on this date as per Tom Constanten's list and Deadlists has nothing about it. I've emailed Omaha to see if they can find any info like a poster, news ad or review.

    Glad to see you're interested in the Dead's Music Box performances
    --they were mind-opening experiences for me (then age 18) and Omaha's "hip" community.

    Also glad to forward any photos that I can lay my hands on.
    -- Don't have any personal photos but will relay what I've found on the internet.
    -- Also asked Nils Erickson, a friend who owns Rainbow Recording Studio & local music historian) to scour his archives.
    -- will let you know if anything else surfaces.

    Historical Info
    The music box was a 2 story brick building built into a hill at 19th & Capitol Ave. The 19th St. entrance (east) lead in to a large wood floor ballroom that was home to swing dance bands in the 1930's and 40's. The 20th St entrance (west) led directly into the Music Box Bowling Alley. An interior stairs connected the two so that a person could go from the ballroom up to 2nd floor to either bowl or order drinks at the Zebra Lounge.

    The Grateful Dead played their 1st performance here on Feb 4th or 5th, 1969 (Mon or Tues) night-- it was the kick-off concert event for local "progressive" radio station KOWH to showcase then non-mainstream music acts. The Fillmore-style seating and aroma of certain smoke set the atmosphere. (This was actually the 2nd of two back-to-back Nebraska Grateful Dead concerts promoted by KOWH -- the 1st was held the night before in Lincoln, NE . . . although this fact is not documented in any GD websites or published show lists). To say the least it was AWESOME! I have a tape recording of this gig which is currently unavailable for transcription.
    The next Music Box Dead concert was only 3 months later on April 15, 1969. My tape of this concert is the one that was digitized and uploaded to the web just a few years ago.

    The KOWH and other locally sponsored concerts continued at the Music Box for many years. However, the building has since been razed in the name of progress for an Interstate 480 off-ramp.

    Personal note:
    After the 4/15 concert, I hung out with a few friends in the MB lobby and played portions of my bootleg tape (at that time didn't know the Dead didn't care). A guy from the Dead's road crew (or manager) saw us & asked what we thought of the concert. Naturally we were ecstatic! He said that for some reason Jerry was bummed out that night & would appreciate hearing that. We thought he'd just relay our comments, but a few minutes later, Garcia stepped into the lobby . . .we briefly expressed our WOW and shook JG's hand.
    (Michael Leonard and Leon Komar)

  16. Constanten's list has the band playing at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis on 2/3, but I think that's a mistake for the 2/2 Labor Temple show. (The only known time they played the Guthrie was in October 1970.)

    It's cool to hear there might have been a 2/3 Lincoln NE show. (The only known Lincoln show was in 1973.) Would be good if the commenter remembered the venue.
    One reviewer of the 4/15/69 Omaha show wrote, "Some guy from a local radio station that apparently was sponsoring them for a second gig went to the mike and said "K??? brings you the return of the Dead." This must have been KOWH.

    Leon Komar did indeed tape the February Omaha show; someone recently surfaced on deadlists with the tape, and hopefully it will be transferred to digital soon.

    1. I've checked the Daily Nebraskan, the student newspaper for the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, and there's nothing about a February '69 show in Lincoln. In fact, a reviewer went to Omaha to see the Music Box show on Feb 4, and in his review mentioned that there had been nothing like it in Lincoln! I'm pretty sure that if the Dead had just played in Lincoln, he would have known.

    2. So, what are we to make of the present 2/3/69 listing? I guess I am asking, what's your estimate on whether it happened?

    3. It think it was a mistaken memory - the old "Guthrie Theater, Minneapolis" listing was certainly bogus, and the supposed Feb. 3 Lincoln date was disproven by its absence from the Daily Nebraskan.

      That said, it's not impossible that the Dead played that Monday in some OTHER city no one's found, but it seems unlikely.

    4. Nice recording for the era, I think. Did Leon Komar record any other shows back then in Omaha? Has anyone been in touch with him in recent times? I'd be keen to hear whoever else he might have taped in this era. I doubt I'm alone..!

  17. Concerning 69-02-06 St.Louis: Now that we have seen pics from that gig, TC is playing a "VOX Super Continental", sitting down. In fact he plays the exact same one at the February Fillmore East gigs. First time a Hammond B3 is seen onstage is June in New York.

    1. TC usually had to make do with a Vox, which he wasn't too happy with. (The sound is rather grating, compared with a B3.) It's interesting that he had to wait that many months for a B3 - he may only have been able to use one off and on in the later part of '69 (I think one was repossessed in the fall).
      Pigpen used a B3 in the winter '68 shows recorded for Anthem, but was back to a Vox by August '68 - Jackson notes it was more difficult to take a B3 on tour. I don't think anyone's tried to trace how many shows the Dead had a B3 for in '69.

    2. Seems to be an interesting story, the Vox versus the B3. Pigpen plays a B3 as early as 67-09-15 Hollywood (maybe even before, at Monterey?), next day 67-09-16 Elysian Park he has a Vox.
      This strange switch continues: 68-05-03 Columbia a Vox, 68-05-05 Central Park B3. All thru 68 Pigpen mostly has a B3, but when TC joins he plays a Vox all the time up until June 69, with Pigpen regaled to congas.
      But there's that one story of a gig late 68 when there was a double keyboard attack ... when was that?

    3. That's Cincinnati 11/24/68, per Constanten. I wonder how the Dead rustled up a second keyboard...

      I didn't realize Pigpen switched keyboards so often - I know he preferred the B3 as well. Perhaps in '67/68 he used the Vox when transporting the B3 would be a problem. (I thought the late August '68 shows sounded like a Vox, but could be mistaken.)
      I think by 1970 the Dead were using a B3 regularly. Someone should compile a list of the known times each organ was used...

    4. Is the internet great or what? Scholarly researchers provided just such a chart, now part of the main text (thank you Volkmar!).

    5. This comment has been removed by the author.

    6. Well that is cool, thanks for the addition!

      Pigpen switched around more than I thought - possibly the lighter Vox was preferred for park/outdoor shows that needed a quick setup (though not always).
      And the change from B3 to Vox after TC joins is quite sudden. I can only think they lost their B3 in Nov '68.
      The available photos seem to drop out in late '69, so hopefully more evidence will turn up for that period.

      And I hope there's some way to incorporate the chart in two columns, but perhaps in a separate post it can be expanded....

    7. There's a formatting issue in Blogger, haven't figured out how to make it readable in two columns.

    8. True, that is an issue....I tried to do two columns in blogger once and it was impossible. But there are different one-column ways to display it.

      Anyway, I found a couple pertinent quotes from Tom Constanten:
      "There was one exquisite gig in Cincinnati where both Pigpen and I played keyboard. He had the B-3 and I had the Continental. [But not long afterwards,] the B-3 got repossessed because they didn't pay the guitar bill or something, so I had to play a Vox Continental. Our credit was not the very best back then. But I really felt the unfairness of it all, because the B-3 sounded so good and the Continental was so limited... I wasn't too pleased about having to play the Continental night after night, because it really had a hard time cutting through all those guitars and drums."
      (Grateful Dead Gear, p.77)

      "I didn't like the sound [the Continental] put out at all. There was something about the Continental in that particular band that grated. The Dead's guitars were these strands of gold and filaments of light, but the Vox was like a hunk of chrome. I had terribly mixed emotions about everything I was playing because the sound didn't please me. After a bit of moving, shaking, and agitating, I convinced them to let me play a Hammond B-3, which I was able to enjoy a bit more." (Garcia, p.157)

      One good place to hear what Constanten sounded like in this winter '69 period is the 1/25/69 Avalon show, in which TC is up very high in the mix. The "hunk of chrome" comment is fitting - his sound is so tonally jarring with Garcia's beautiful guitar tone, it's no wonder he was unhappy.

  18. This article says the Dead "....indicated they will give a free concert inside the [Univ. of Chicago Administration] building" in support of protesters:

    1. I've pondered that article before. Personally I don't think it happened, for a couple reasons:
      - Student papers in the '60s frequently had rumors that the Dead would show up and play some protest event; but the Dead almost never actually did.
      - There's no followup notice that the Dead appeared, and as far as I know no reference anywhere that the Dead played at the University of Chicago. If they had, wouldn't some students have mentioned it by now?
      I checked the Maroon (the U of Chicago student paper) for the following week and there was not a word about the Dead, although there was an "blues band dance" in the admin building the night of Friday Jan. 31. The students also showed a film of the Columbia U demonstration the year before - which might have been the very film of the Dead playing at Columbia!

  19. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  20. The opener for the Dead on 2/4/69 was a group called "The Unknown" also known as "Spur". There is a picture of a ticket stub on one of the liner notes from an album called Spur of the Moment.

  21. I found the ads for the Baltimore Rock Festival 2/9/1969

    1st without the Dead
    Dead added
    Final ad