Thursday, August 6, 2015

October 9-10, 1976 Oakland Coliseum Stadium: The Who/The Grateful Dead

The promotional poster for two shows at the Oakland Coliseum Stadium on October 9-10, 1976. The art was used for some newspaper ads, but no actual posters were circulated except as commemorations. 
The history of the Grateful Dead generally tracks rock concert history, since the band were pioneers in developing the industry. It is not necessarily that the Dead were always the "first" to do something, or even that they often were, but that so often they were on the leading edge. The Dead helped build the concert industry with their willingness to play anywhere, often for young and untried promoters. Thus the Dead played Acid Tests, The Fillmore and free concerts in San Francisco, and set out upon the road. In the rest of America, the Dead were often the first major band to play the nascent psychedelic ballrooms in every city, and they helped establish the college circuit as well, in the late 60s and early 70s.

Of course the Grateful Dead were in the vanguard of playing rock festivals, and were always willing to take a chance with such dodgy events. Legendary and fun as so many early rock festivals were, whether world famous like Woodstock or just legendary local events, like in Poynette, WI, the Dead's presence gave rock festivals that certified 60s feel. By the early 70s, however, fans, cities and promoters were tired of huge events in a muddy field, and Bill Graham was amongst the vanguard in staging rock concerts in football stadiums. The stadium shows were usually all-day affairs with several bands, giving everyone a taste of a rock festival, but with adequate parking, food and facilities.

However, the rock concert industry that the Dead had helped to create was ever growing, and the Dead participated in one of the formative events of its growth. On October 9 and 10, 1976, the Grateful Dead shared a bill with The Who for two days at the Oakland Coliseum Stadium. This was actually a heavily hyped event that did not at all entirely turn out the way the participants expected. Nonetheless, everybody made money, a good time was generally had by all, and in fact the weekend of stadium shows was yet another signpost to new space, even if it was a planet no one really wanted to be on. This post will examine the October 9-10, 1976 shows with The Who and The Grateful Dead in their original context, and examine how the events presaged the huge football stadium events that would follow for succeeding decades.

A picture of a packed Oakland Stadium at an unknown DOG event, sometime prior to 1996 (and the building of Mt. Davis)
The Economics of Early 70s Stadium Concerts
In the late 60s, it became clear that rock concerts were a booming business. Thanks to FM radio, there was an ever growing population of young people ready to spend money on seeing the hot new acts coming to their town. Unlike their parents, who seemingly required their own seat and some semblance of decent treatment, rock concerts could be put on in any rundown theater or auditorium, with the young patrons stuffed in like cattle, and a good time would still be had by all. However, the dramatic volatility of the rock concert market itself put both bands and promoters in an unexpectedly tenuous situation.

The nature of touring rock bands, with Hammond organs and amplifiers, meant that touring schedules had to be worked out in advance. This meant that promoters had to book halls some months beforehand, and gamble that the act would sell tickets when they finally came to town. For rising new acts at the time, 90 days was a lifetime--teenagers could easily have discovered a new favorite group and then discarded them within those three months, and thus have no interest in seeing them play by the time the actually got to their city. A promoter who booked the concert would still be on the hook for renting the hall and paying the band, and if he went bust and didn't pay the act, the band might find themselves stuck in Des Moines or Dallas with no money to travel on.

In the entertainment business, big wins are supposed to pay for the losses, but the concert business made that hard. A new band might book a string of one nighters across the United States months in advance, only to find out that they were hugely popular by the time they got there. But if the hall was sold out, what could the promoter do? Neither band nor promoter could make more money than they had originally envisioned. This wasn't a hypothetical problem. Led Zeppelin's first two American tours in early 1969 saw them opening for all sorts of bands, which seems ludicrous at this remove (Zep second billed to Jose Feliciano at the Ohio University Junior Prom is particularly infamous). The promoters could have sold more tickets, but the band could not add nights and larger halls were previously booked, so money was left on the table.

Huge rock festivals seemed to offer a solution to this problem. With numerous acts playing for days on end in a giant field, the number of tickets that could be sold was seemingly limitless. With numerous acts, all tastes could be accounted for, and concerns about whether an act's new album was any good or whether it was getting FM airplay were reduced. Someone on a Festival bill had a hot album, and someone was getting airplay. From the promoter's point of view, this was reducing risk while still providing significant upside. In Wall Street terms, a 60s rock festival, strange as it may seem, was a lot like a Mutual Fund that emphasized growth: low expenses and a wide portfolio designed to insure that some stocks would rise significantly.

In practice, very few 60s rock festivals lived up to their goals. Woodstock was an economic catastrophe, of course, with its backers only rescued by a very profitable movie, but that only worked one time. Most festivals fell prey to various kinds of mismanagement and bad luck. For one thing, the festivals often got so large that they effectively became free events anyway, defeating the purpose of being able to charge large numbers of people for admission. A few big rock festivals made money, like the Atlanta Pop Festivals (1969 and '70), but most didn't. On top of that, communities were uncomfortable with 100,000 or more young people coming to town--they were afraid something was going to go wrong, with Altamont as the case in point.

Starting in the early 70s, promoters began looking around to find a way to capture the festival profit margin without the downside. Not only were communities sour on giant rock festivals, the truth was that most people who had been to a giant rock festival didn't plan on going to another one. Word was passed down to younger siblings--Hendrix was great and all, but one ham sandwich in two days wasn't any way to enjoy it. The rock industry was still young, like its audience, so various things were tried--concerts at race tracks, concerts at football stadiums and so on. No one seemed to find a successful formula for building in the possibility that you could sell way more tickets than you had hoped for, without taking a huge risk.

An ad for the two DOGs at Oakland Stadium on June 5 and 6, 1975, featuring numerous touring acts.
Day On The Green (Stadium Concert Template, Early 70s)
Bill Graham Presents, as usual, was pretty shrewd about figuring out how to commoditize the growing rock concert market. Starting in 1973, BGP had put on a series of big stadium shows called Day On The Green (aka DOG), first at Kezar Stadium in Golden Gate Park, and then at the much larger Oakland Coliseum Stadium, where the Raiders and A's played. It wasn't that these were the first stadium concerts, by any means, but they were run in a way that made sense for the promoter, bands and fans. Every DOG was a simplified one-day rock festival, with the risks mitigated for the promoter, and the discomforts marginalized for the fans. The bills were designed to attract the maximum number of fans, usually of high school age.

Here were the parameters:

  • The concerts were in the daytime, which minimized parental concerns about sending their kids off for the day
  • The Coliseum was easy to get to, with ample parking. Indeed, many fans (and their parents) had already been there for sports events, so it wasn't some hard-to-find muddy field
  • Tickets were less than twice as expensive as Winterland tickets, so if you saw four or five bands, it was a good deal
  • More than one of the acts was a Winterland headliner, sometimes all of them
  • The acts tried to cover a cross section of music, so if a carload of high school friends came, everybody might have a band they looked forward to seeing
  • Unlike earlier events, like the Beatles at Candlestick Park (Aug 29 '66), top-of-the-line sound meant that everyone could hear the show now, even if they couldn't always see the stage.
  • At a football stadium, there was always going to be food and bathrooms, and of course the food made for a tidy profit 
  • Most importantly, the shows weren't really expected to sell out. This meant that either there was plenty of room to hang out, which was important for the proverbial carloads of friends, and also that if a band was really hot, there were plenty more tickets that could be sold. Presumably the headline act had a deal with BGP where they got a piece of increased ticket sales (a guarantee vs a percentage of the total gate, for example). 
The formula worked, and was copied all over the country. Regular touring bands could play together at stadium events, sell a boatload of tickets and get heard by a wider audience, but everyone was home soon after nightfall.

A newspaper ad for the first two DOG events in San Francisco, at Kezar Stadium on May 26 and June 2, 1973.
BGP Days On The Green 1973-76
May 26, 1973 Kezar Stadium, San Francisco Grateful Dead/Waylon Jennings/New Riders Of The Purple Sage
BGP tried out the DOG model with the Dead at Kezar, a far smaller stadium than the Coliseum (the SF 49ers had played there until they moved to Candlestick in 1971). The mellow crowd had a great time at the crumbling old stadium in Golden Gate Park, even though parking was a serious problem.

June 2, 1973 Kezar Stadium, San Francisco Led Zeppelin/Lee Michaels/Roy Harper/The Tubes
The next weekend at Kezar was a disaster. This show was less of a mini-festival, and more of just a big rock concert. First of all, Led Zeppelin's amp stack was pointed in a different direction than the Dead's, and the noise was heard for miles. Secondly, the stadium was jammed with liquored up high school students, and they did not go over as well with the neighborhood as the Deadheads. After this, save for one interesting exception, there were no longer rock concerts at Kezar Stadium (p.s. yes, Vince Welnick was in The Tubes).

August 5, 1973 Oakland Stadium, Oakland Leon Russell/Loggins & Messina/Elvin Bishop/Mary McReary
BGP figured out the DOG model at this show. Leon Russell was still a big deal, Loggins and Messina were rising stars, and Elvin Bishop was locally popular. About 20,000 showed up to have a good time, and the formula was born.

A year later, BGP gets it right, with the Dead and The Beach Boys at the spacious Oakland Stadium on June 8, 1974. (TYA and King Crimson in their prime later that week at the Cow Palace, by the way). 
June 8, 1974 Oakland Stadium, Oakland Grateful Dead/Beach Boys/New Riders Of The Purple Sage/Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen
I have written about this show at some length. By adding The Beach Boys, all sorts of high school students who might not have wanted to see the Grateful Dead were willing to come to the show. About 30.000 were at the show, far more than had paid to see either band in San Francisco at any previous show, but still only about half capacity. I was there, and it was a very pleasant day indeed.

July 13-14, 1974 Oakland Stadium, Oakland Crosby, Stills Nash and Young/The Band/Joe Walsh/Jesse Colin Young
These two shows were a very big deal, the reformation of CSNY, in anticipation of an album that never came. The concerts probably sold out, although I don't think they did so immediately. The Band performed very rarely, and made the event special even to (relatively) older fans who weren't certain they wanted to go a stadium. Joe Walsh provided some rock and roll energy, and Jesse Colin Young was mellow and sensitive. This weekend was a case where playing a bigger venue allowed the band and promoter to maximize the number of people who attended.

March 23, 1975 Kezar Stadium, San Francisco: Doobie Brothers/Graham Central Station/Mimi Farina/Jefferson Starship/Jerry Garcia And Friends/ The Miracles/Joan Baez/Santana/Tower of Power/Neil Young SNACK Benefit
I have written about this event at length. At one point, it appeared that the San Francisco schools would have no money for Sports or Arts, and Bill Graham stepped in to organize a giant benefit. In the end, the money was found (it was an accounting error), but the city had agreed to allow one last Kezar concert. Jerry Garcia And Friends turned out to be the unretired Grateful Dead, of course, and performed "Blues For Allah" live over FM radio. Neil Young brought some friends also.

May 24, 1975 Oakland Stadium, Oakland Chicago/Beach Boys/Bob Seger/Richard Torrance/Eureka
June 29 1975 Oakland Stadium, Oakland Doobie Brothers/The Eagles/Commander Cody/Kingfish
These two were more conventional DOG shows. Many of these bands were headliners, but pooled together, entire high schools must have attended. Note Bob Weir and Kingfish fourth on the bill on the June Eagles show. They probably came on at about 11:00am.

August 3, 1975 Oakand Stadium, Oakland Robin Trower/Dave Mason/Peter Frampton/Fleetwood Mac/Gary Wright
This show was the perfect example of the economic concept of 1970s BGP Days On The Green. It would have been scheduled months in advance. Robin Trower and Dave Mason were reliable Winterland headliners, with popular albums that you would be hard pressed to name today (For Earth Below and the self-titled Dave Mason). The other three acts had just released albums, and in the case of Fleetwood Mac, they had an untried lineup. Gary Wright was totally obscure (unless you liked Spooky Tooth, which no one but me did), and had an odd three-keyboard/no-guitar lineup.

A few weeks after the show, every high school and freshman dorm could only talk about how Peter Frampton rocked the house and how Fleetwood Mac's new lineup was the bomb. Almost none of these people knew about the lengthy pedigrees of Humble Pie and Peter Green, and the numerous albums that came before. The Coliseum was packed because BGP caught Frampton and Mac on the way up.

August 23-24, 1975, Oakland Stadium, Oakland Led Zeppelin/Joe Walsh/Pretty Thngs (canceled)
This much-anticipated event was canceled due to Robert Plant's auto accident. Had it happened, the era of the mega-act might have come to San Francisco a bit earlier than it did. Zep had headlined Kezar, but that held about 60% of what the Coliseum could hold.

September 20, 1975 Oakland Coliseum, Oakland Lynyrd Skynyrd/Johnny Winter/Edgar Winter/Earthquake/Climax Blues Band
i don't actually know anyone who went to this. Still, it fits the model, three bands with similar appeal whose combined appeal was greater than any of them individually, supported by a rising touring act and a local band (Berkeley's Earthquake).

April 25, 1976 Oakland Coliseum, Oakland Peter Frampton/Fleetwood Mac/Gary Wright/Status Quo
May 1, 1976 Oakland Coliseum, Oakland Peter Frampton/Fleetwood Mac/Gary Wright/UFO
In the Spring, Frampton, Mac and Gary Wright returned. Once again, this would have booked some months earlier, and BGP absolutely bet right. The legendary Frampton Comes Alive had come out in January 1976, and was on its way to being the best selling album of all time (at the time). As for Fleetwood Mac, after the popular "Over My Head" (#20 on Billboard) in Fall '75, the followup of Stevie Nicks' "Rhiannon (#11) was even bigger, with "Say You Love Me" still to come (which also reached #11). As for Gary Wright, "Dream Weaver" was already imprinted on every radio listeners DNA. Both of these shows were packed with what turned out to be the hottest acts on the radio at the time.

June 5, 1976 Oakland Stadium, Oakland Boz Scaggs/Tower Of Power/Santana/Jeff Beck and Jan Hammer/Journey/Nils Lofgren
June 6, 1976 Oakland Stadium, Oakland J Geils Band/Jeff Beck and Jan Hammer/Blue Oyster Cult/Mahogany Rush/Sammy Hagar
This weekend featured a mellower sound on Saturday, with Boz Scaggs and Santana, and a harder rocking one on Sunday. Peter Frampton apparently joined J Geils for a few numbers. Both of these shows were popular and well-attended, but not the must-see events of the Frampton/Mac shows the month before. 

June 11, 1976 Oakland Stadium, Oakland Marvin Gaye/The Temptations/Nancy Wilson/Harold Melvin and The Bluenotes/Donald Byrd 
June 12, 1976 Oakland Stadium, Oakland Natalie Cole/Smokey Robinson/Staple Singers/BB King/Archie Bell and The Drells/Teddy Pendergrass SF Kool Jazz Festival
On a side note, there were two outdoor Coliseum shows produced by BGP for the "Jazz Festival" that mainly featured R&B acts. Awesome as these lineups seem today, these shows were not exceptionally well attended, to my knowledge, and big outdoor shows never caught on with soul acts. There were a couple of reasons for this. One was that African-American music fans didn't think they were recapturing a lost 60s experience by standing in a big field with 60,000 people. Another was that while white fans bought soul albums in large numbers, they generally tended not to attend concerts by those acts, and you can't say race wasn't a factor. 

Finally, and most interestingly, the one really successful outdoor African-American music event, called WattStax, which brought 100,000 people--mostly black--to the LA Coliseum, was not exactly greeted by the city with benevolence. There is an interesting book in production that dissects the peculiarly white nature of rock festival culture, but we will have to wait for it to come out (U of Wisconsin press, by the way). 

July 2, 1976 Oakland Stadium, Oakland Beach Boys/America/Elvin Bishop/John Sebastian
This was another typical mellow DOG. John Sebastian was back on the charts with "Welcome Back Kotter," and Bay Area perennial Elvin Bishop had struck gold with "Fooled Around And Fell In Love" (which had peaked at #3 in May).

August 3, 1976 Oakland Stadium, Oakland The Eagles/Loggins & Messina/Linda Ronstadt/Renaissance
The first three bands were all big at the time, but not the mega-acts they would become when the rock industry got really huge. It was events like these that showed the drawing power of a combined rock bill [for complete details of every DOG in Oakland, see here].

The Who's album The Who By Numbers, released in October 1975 on MCA Records.
Jerry Garcia and Pete Townshend--The Secret History
Jerry Garcia and Pete Townshend were good friends, as rock stars go, but in the early days they didn't meet that much. Apparently they met and hung out at Monterey Pop and hit it off, but they had had relatively few opportunities to meet after that. Woodstock was one such, and perhaps there were one or two other times. But in the era before email and cell phones, two road warriors like Jerry and Pete were never going to connect much.

In the Summer of 1975, to the knowledge of almost no one in the Bay Area, Pete Townshend moved his family to suburban Walnut Creek, CA. Walnut Creek, at the time a fairly sleepy suburb just over the hill from Berkeley, was the unlikely location of a Meher Baba study center. Ironically, the address of the center was at a building (at 1300 Boulevard Way) where the Dead had scheduled an apparently canceled weekend of shows in March 1968. Although Townshend hasn't talked about it much, the autobiography of Townshend's daughter indicates that she spent her summer being an "American suburb child" with the likes of Justin Kreutzmann (he was about 7 at the time), so Townshend must have spent some good time with Jerry.

Walnut Creek is pretty well-to-do these days (the median home price is now $681K), but back in 1975 it was just another bedroom community. I'm pretty sure there will still Walnut farms back then, too,w hich would now be replaced with expensive subdivisions. Also, at the time, Contra Costa was decidedly and intentionally unhip, as anyone with pretensions to culture moved to Berkeley (16 miles away) or Marin (32 miles), if not San Francisco (25 miles). If you were a teenager aspiring to leave, 1975 Walnut Creek must have seemed pretty bland. I have often wondered--some teenagers must have made Doritos runs to the 7-11 in the Summer of '75, and come back and told their friends "Pete Townshend of The Who was in line in front of me buying cigarettes." No one would have believed them. I wouldn't have let them drive home. I would have been doubtful that they had met an actual Englishman, much less the guitarist for The Who. Yet apparently Townshend was there all summer, and Pete and Jerry must have had their only chance in their busy professional lives to just hang together.

The Grateful Dead album Blues For Allah, released in September 1975 on Grateful Dead Records.
The Who And The Grateful Dead, Summer 1976
The Grateful Dead had stopped touring after October, 1974, seemingly yet another in a long line of 60s bands giving it up. Yet to the surprise of most, the band stuck together and kept recording, and by the Summer of 1976 they had returned to touring. Sure, their "new" live album, Steal Your Face, was miserable, but the Dead had plenty of fine live albums under their belt by this time. In July of 1976, the Dead had played six shows at the Orpheum Theater in San Francisco that were rapturously received. But six nights at The Orpheum was just about 17,000 seats or so. And if you include all the people who went multiple nights--a lot--far less than 17,000 Bay Area fans had gotten to see the Grateful Dead in 1976.

As for The Who, with their usual drama, they had released a fairly successful album in October 1975, The Who By Numbers. They had had a popular but trivial hit, "Squeezebox." After a successful American tour in the Fall of 1975, they were bigger than ever. They had played in America in the Spring of 1976, and then a few huge shows in France and the UK in May, followed by even bigger shows in the US in August. The Who played a final leg of their tour in North American arenas in October 1976. In the Bay Area, however, The Who played not one but two shows, because they were doubled billed with the Grateful Dead. The Dead were not nearly so large an attraction as The Who, but they were a largely intact 60s band just the same, giants from an era where most of their peers seemed gone forever.

Up until the Dead/Who show, there was a distinct difference in the Bay Area between a show by a big act at a big indoor arena versus the Oakland Coliseum Stadium. If an act like Bob Dylan, George Harrison or The Rolling Stones were booked at either the Oakland Coliseum Arena or the Cow Palace, the two big basketball arenas, the day that tickets went on sale was kept a secret and the tickets were expected to sell out in a day (the '74 Dylan shows were actually mail order). Conversely, even DOG shows with popular headliners like Peter Frampton or The Eagles were hyped for weeks, implicitly encouraging entire dormitories or high school football teams to carpool together. That was why even the biggest DOG shows had opening acts starting at 11:00am, because it was an all-day party that many were attending just because they were hanging out with their pals, unlike a Rolling Stones show at the Cow Palace.

However, the co-billing of The Who and the Dead was presented as a certified event, with the exact date of ticket sales kept a secret, just like a Rolling Stones show. The implication was that all the 100,000+ tickets would sell out quickly, because seeing a full show by two legendary titans would be a never-to-be-seen-again-event. It turned out to be true that a Who/Grateful Dead bill was not to be repeated; but it also turned out that the shows weren't going to sell out. Not even close. After the first day that tickets went on sale, there were tons of tickets still for sale, and that was after everyone discovered they had bought tickets for their friends, who had in turn done the same. The Who and The Dead had sold a lot of tickets, but nowhere near as many as Bill Graham and everyone else had thought.

Rock Fan Allegiances, 1976
Now, with every old-timer nostalgic for all the long-gone bands, we forget how sectarian fandom was. The truth was that back in '76, the Grateful Dead and The Who had fairly distinct fanbases. Sure, there were a lot of people like me who loved both groups, but those kind of rock fans had a ton of albums and liked all sorts of groups. More importantly, the truth was that there were a lot of people who liked The Who that didn't want to see the Grateful Dead in concert.  Deadheads were pretty mellow, on the whole, and whether or not they were aware of The Who beyond a few hit singles didn't interfere with their desire to see the Grateful Dead.

All the cool rock bands had played the Fillmore in the 60s, but less than ten years later the fans of those groups had split into various factions. These weren't absolute divisions, but they were big enough to be meaningful. One big thread was that a lot of people who liked English bands like The Rolling Stones and The Who didn't like American hippie blues bands like the Dead and the Allman Brothers. A lot of fans of shit-kickin' American music were good with the Dead, but poofily dressed Englishmen like Roger Daltrey or Rod Stewart were somewhat suspect. All the fans still had long hair, of course, and all the bands were rooted in American music, but somehow the sectarian divide was strong.

The rock audience was still largely under 30 in the mid-70s. Thus the antipathy of Stones and Who fans to the Dead or the Allman Brothers had nothing to do with "Casey Jones" or "Whipping Post." It was about your high school parking lot, or what the pretty girls in your college thought of those bands. Now, of course, every serious Who fan was going to the Coliseum, no question. And plenty of Who fans were probably at least interested in seeing the Grateful Dead, if only to check off that box. However, for a stadium show, serious fans weren't enough--those serious fans had to bring their girlfriend and their roommate, and meet their brother and his girlfriend at the show. That was the business model for a Day On The Green.

The DOG with the The Who and The Grateful Dead was the first time that I distinctly recognized that there was a lot of negativity about the Grateful Dead. In High School, the Dead had been popular in a culty sort of way, like Pink Floyd. Not everyone liked the Dead, of course, but those that didn't like the Dead just ignored them. Sure, I had heard plenty of sneering about the Dead, but I had always figured that at least some of that was just individual animosity, directed at me or at life. The DOG was cultural--all sorts of people who were willing to pack the house for two weekend afternoons of Peter Frampton and Fleetwood Mac were not willing to see the Dead and The Who, mainly because they didn't want to sit through the Dead. The implicit part was that they didn't want to spend the afternoon in a packed stadium with all the people in their school who liked the Dead. The Dead were thus officially outdated, and the sell-by date on their package was Oct 9 '76.
Dick's Picks Vol 33, featuring both complete Dead shows from the 1976 Coliseum shows, released in 2004

October 9-10, 1976, Oakland Coliseum Stadium, Oakland, CA: The Who/Grateful Dead
The Who and The Dead played both Saturday and Sunday at the Coliseum. The story was put out that 86,000 tickets were sold. BGP must have leaked this oddly specific number, as the Coliseum likely held at least 50,000 for a big outdoor show. I have always assumed that the real sales were 90% of this number, with a lot of free tickets being given away and the like, in the tradition of "papering the house." To be clear, although Bill Graham was clearly surprised that the show did not sell out instantly, he would have made money anyway and surely the Dead and The Who got paid bigtime. Still, Graham didn't get fooled twice; he misread the effect of the Dead on the show, but he didn't do it again. From then on, he recognized that the Dead were a unique attraction, not easily combined with other regular acts on tour.

I went on Sunday, October 10. I had an extra ticket that I planned to give away, for good karma. I nearly couldn't find anyone to give it to, because there were so many tickets being given away. When the Dead came on stage in the early afternoon, there was a nice crowd, but it was clear that many fans had not yet shown up. The Dead played a standard two-set show (later released along with the prior day's show as Dick's Picks Vol 33). As the second set wore on, more and more people were starting to work their way to the front of the stage. Whether they had been in the seats, or not in the park at all was unclear, but it was plain that these people were there for The Who, and they had no interest in the Dead in any way.

By the end of the Dead's second set, the audience was filled with serious Who fans, and the crowd had a distinctly non-Dead vibe. Now, The Who weren't Lynyrd Skynyrd or anything. Their fans seemed friendly enough and they behaved politely. But they weren't there for the Dead, and they weren't going to sit through them. Some of them may have heard the Dead the day before, but presumably they weren't impressed. It was an odd experience, with the Dead's second set music rising to its peak while the audience on the field was progressively less interested, on a per capita basis, with anything they were playing.

The stage was in center field, and so of course the outfield bleachers were restricted to those people backstage who wanted to see the performances. The story goes that Garcia was out there late in the afternoon, dancing to The Who without his shirt on. No photographic evidence survives, to my knowledge.

Days On The Green remained a staple of the Bay Area for the next few decades. However, there was a distinct BGP dichotomy. A stadium show either had carefully selected acts with a shared audience base, or a titanically huge touring act that could sell out the stadium on their own. By the late 1980s, multi-act DOG events were usually just Monsters Of Rock Heavy Metal day (Motley Crue/Whitesnake/Poison--I think I actually saw that one) or a mega act with some filler opening the show. On August 30, 1989, I even saw The Who at a packed Oakland Stadium, with everyone sitting in folding chairs, and no opener. The Who dedicated their encore to the Dead, and played--of all things--"Born On The Bayou."

The Grateful Dead played the stadium again, too. They shared the bill with Bob Dylan in 1987, and headlined an AIDS benefit on May 27, 1989--where, it is worth noting, Jerry and John Fogerty played "Born On The Bayou." But other than that, the Dead's big outdoor home in the Bay Area Shoreline Amphitheater, a custom-built rock palace, not a converted multi-use stadium. The Dead and The Who even played together one more time, for a German TV special in Essen on March 28, 1981, and Townshend finally got to jam with Garcia on stage, 14 years after they became friends. Reputedly, the Dead had bailed out The Who by taking the dates that they had guaranteed for promoters when The Who were unable to play for some reason.

Eventually, of course, the Dead became one of those acts that could pack stadiums anywhere, a seemingly infinite number of times. But the days when they were just another popular rock band, sharing the bill with other bands were definitively over in October 1976.


  1. Would like more information on the source of the information regarding Pete Townshend in Walnut Creek in the summer of 1975. Did not know that his daughter had an autobiography. Really enjoy your blog. Great work.

    1. Here's one link (I think there are others):

    2. There is DEFINITELY photographic evidence of Garcia dancing shirtless directly behind Keith Moon. I remember seeing the photo of Jerry in the gBAM MAGAZINE review of the show

    3. I was back stage for The Who and sat almost directly behind Keith Moon. I didn't have a camera, but if I did, I would of captured that moment. I can't recall seeing and shirtless Garcia, I think I would remember that..Hope a picture would show up🙏

  2. I also didn't know that Townshend lived in Walnut Creek in '75!
    Checking further, it looks like he brought his family to the US, first spending ten days at the Meher Baba Center in Myrtle Creek, South Carolina, then one month studying at the Sufism Re-oriented Center in Walnut Creek in Aug '75, before heading back to England.
    He recalled, "In California, we were well looked after, taken into the bosom of the Sufi family there, provided with a furnished house, picnics, swimming pools, outings to state parks, camping trips to the Sierras, and all kinds of straight-laced relaxation."

    Of course he doesn't mention hanging out with Garcia during that month, but I think it's a reasonable speculation that this is when they connected. I'd always assumed that it was at these '76 shows that they became friendly.

    Justin Kreutzmann wrote a little piece about the interaction between the Dead & the Who:

    The Day on the Green was the first time he encountered the Who. He doesn't mention meeting Townshend's family the year before - but considering he was only 6 years old in 1975, he might not remember much of it!

    It's also interesting to read about the growing teen antipathy towards the Dead as the '70s progressed and they became more of a "dated" band. And it's fascinating to hear that the Dead played to an audience of uninterested Who fans...presumably the same was true on Saturday, when the Dead also opened. (Many of the show reviews I read were by Dead fans who were equally uninterested in the Who, some leaving during the Who's show.)

    Not sure if it was Graham's decision or the Dead's to have them open for the Who on both days, but I think after Monterey nobody in the Dead was eager to follow the Who onstage again!

    1. Man, I can't believe that's the same address that formerly hosted Clifford's Catering.

  3. Last time I listened to DP 33, I noticed that at the end of the "Dancing in the Street" reprise (after "Wharf Rat"--and is that a bizarre, but delicious sandwich, or what?), when they're all riding on the last chord, Jerry, instead of doing his usual "fanning", does some curiously Townshend-esque (and un-Garcia-esque) power chording. Of course it's not with Townshend's ear-splitting overdrive so it sounds a bit less meaty (or big or bouncy), but I'd like to think it was Jerry's little wink and nod to Pete's style. Give it a listen and tell me if I'm just projecting.

  4. Corry,

    Not a comment on this post but perhaps something you are interested in.

    The athens news in athens ohio just did a story on the Grateful Dead show here in 1968.

    Nov 22, 1968 was the show. Free show in a college town after playing in Columbus.

    Local writer Dennis Powell may have interviewed someone who was there who had yet to come out of the woodwork.

    Looks like some more setlist info than was previously available, if it is reliable?


    1. That is certainly a cool story about the 11/23/68 Ohio University show, which has been very obscure up til now. And it even has a contemporary newspaper article too (though that doesn't say much about the show).
      The author Jeff Simons didn't interview anyone, but he was at the show himself.

      I wouldn't trust the setlist. The songs listed are exactly the same as on the 11/22 recording - it's possible the Dead simply played them again, but more likely the writer just used the previous day's setlist.
      And I'm skeptical that Good Lovin' was the last song (they're not known to have played it at all that year), but it's possible.
      Otherwise, lots of great new details about the show.

    2. Many folks on my Appalachian Lighthouse Facebook group were there. Some of them did the lights. Ken Babbs gave Barry StVitus a ride. I regrettably was at a sitin that night at the campus police station in our attempt to disarm campus police after students at Jackson State were murdered.

    3. A link to our current conversation about this night. My researching for a playlist led me here.

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  7. A correspondent writes:
    So I saw your blog on these shows and I see you were there. I was too, although based on the fact that they didn’t play Scarlett Begonias on Sunday according to the sugarmegs set list, I was definitely there on Saturday. I think the Dead actually started playing before noon and I’ve stood in longer lines at the Half Moon Bay pancake breakfast than we did at that show. I’d guess less than 20000 people were there when the Dead started and the fog lay heavy over the stadium. My main recollection of the show was the superb sound of Phils base coming out of what were the precursors of the giant stacks of JBL’s of the Blues For Allah era The Dead were loud enough to fill the stadium, but the sound had a warmth to it and none of the shrieky trebly kind of loudness that characterized the Yes show I’d seen at the Cow Palace the year before. The Coliseum gave the sound a pleasant echo so that you could move around the stands and the sound would change. Songs like Scarlett Begonias had a breadth and presence to them that I never heard again (you can’t tell at all from the sound on the Sugarmegs version) the sound was alive and full bouncing off the mostly empty seats and drifting back around. The sound of the Sunday recording on Sugarmegs is better, but still lacks the depth of the show as I heard it. I saw the Dead a bunch of times at the Oakland Auditorium in the early 80’s and I recall a lot of good concerts but the sound never had that kind of depth to it. Around the time the sun started to clear the fog, the Dead ended and the Who fans were already there.

    About half of my friends left presumably because they had better things to do that listen to the Who, and we went down to the infield. Its worth mentioning that my Dead head friends who left the show had great respect for a lot of rock bands from the 60’s, but would not have been caught dead listening to a Zepplin album for example. And while they certainly grooved to Pinball Wizard, they had so bought into the supremacy of the Dead above all other sounds that they couldn’t be bothered to stick around to see what the Who really sounded like. Whereas I have been a Who nut since I first got my 78 of Behind Blue Eyes in 1968. One of the first 7 or 8 lps’s I actually owned was Live at Leeds and I used to sit around Dora’s room (cause she had the good Stereo) and stack it up with Fragile, After the Gold Rush, Everybody Knows this is Nowhere, Déjà vu, and Zep 1 and 4) In fact I will ask them what they were thinking… when I get time.. I think the manic energy of the Who wasn’t quite the ethos they preferred at that point in their lives. They wanted a more contemplative moment of the spirit. Oddly, I’d guess they would have loved to see Cream, but the Who were progenitors of glam rock and that wasn’t something they wanted to have any association with. One of the things I loved about Live at Leeds was the way the echo comes across in the recording so it was pretty cool to hear them play Substitute and Young Man Blues in a stadium. The big moment of the Who show was when the sun came out and Roger stripped off his shirt and all the girls went nuts. I had heard a lot about how the Who were erratic live, so I was focused on the quality of their musicianship, but I wasn’t disappointed. I also heard that in smaller venues they were simple ear shattering, but again in the open space of the coliseum the sound blew over our heads like a 747 taking off, and at a certain distance away the echo’s came back almost as loud as the oncoming sound. But again it didn’t have a lot of distortion in it so it was really great and powerful.

  8. Great post, as usual! Love your work! Any chance of Boston getting similar treatment?

    1. Boston is a pretty big story, has to be told in little pieces. I do have something on the Psychedelic Supermarket, but the whole Don Law>Boston Tea Party story is quite a tale.

      I do have the information but it takes a while to put it together. Thanks for the kind words, much appreciated.

  9. I was there too. I liked both bands a lot, but the pairing was odd for sure.

    The Dead were much changed since the time I saw them take the Fillmore stage around 2 or 3 AM at a benefit show. They rocked the place with Johnny B. Goode. It was great. But this day in Oakland, they seemed a little to mellowed out. The addition of Keith Godchaux and hit wife really didn't seem to add anything. They had dropped the psychedelic bit for some sort of folky type thing. It really didn't do much for me.

    As for the Who, they were kinda sloppy and the Who by Numbers wasn't much of an album to showcase. Compared to their show at the Berkeley Community theatre, which I still regard as one of the best concerts I ever attended, it was lackluster. M

    Maybe if I hadn't seen both bands do amazing work, it would have been alright. But this DOG does not stir fond memories.

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  11. Hi everybody,
    I live in Bordeaux in France and i was at these concerts. I wrote in french a small review on my blog:

    1. Frederic, thanks for this. For locals like me, it's interesting to read about perceptions of the Bay Area from someone who came from far away. I recommend the blogpost to everybody (Google Translate takes care of it, don't worry)

  12. 4 of us from Boise, 7:30 am arrival That wall of sound was incredible at ten rows from the stage I thought they are wearing Levi's and t shirts .. after 3 hours I went to the very top center seat in the collosium, A high note from the piano flew up and slapped my face .. The Who used a Reel to Reel (Revox?) On the intro to Teenage Wasteland for the keyboard part I was 21 and a guitar wanna be playerthen. I now listen to all that we heard that day everyday and play it on piano & b3 (Kb3) of course BLUES & HIBILLY. LOVE THAT ORGAN
    As I drove them back, they could not buy me a cup of coffee .

  13. Thanks for the bay area stadium show history lesson.

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  15. Does anyone remember the Who coming off stage to play some songs on the grass to the side of the stage?

  16. I,along with seven of my friends camped out behind 2nd base on the grass in short centerfield for the Saturday concert of the greatful dead and the who. I'm sorry, not a deadhead. They played for over two hours?!? It was super hot and security was going around spraying people down with waterbottles. The Who were great. Besides sitting in a frying pan all day, it was a good time. Even after so many years.

    1. I was there too and your description is spot on. Not a dead fan either and they did play for FOREVER. It was blazing hot, I got a terrible sunburn, but the Who were amazing. Fun reading this and remembering that day so long ago.