Sunday, May 24, 2020

The Grateful Dead in Upstate and Central New York 1969-79 ('Til Your Night Job Pays)


The New York Central and Hudson River Railroad predicts the Grateful Dead's touring schedule half a century afterwards. Coincidence? No. 
The Grateful Dead were a San Francisco band who managed to stake their first claim in Manhattan, followed shortly by Brooklyn. In ensuing decades, the band went on to sweep the East and West Coasts, as well as New England, the Southeast, the Mountain West and even London. What ultimately became a vast edifice of Grateful Dead fan strongholds, however, was built slowly and haphazardly, and tends to get lost in more glamorous strains of Dead history. One overlooked region in Grateful Dead history is the early and perpetual popularity of the band in Upstate and Central New York, in cities like Albany, Rochester, Syracuse and Buffalo.

Manhattan shines a bright light on anything it finds popular, so bright that it darkens whatever is nearby. People from outside New York City do not think much about the geography and importance of the other cities in New York State, and those in Manhattan and the other boroughs think about the other cities even less. People who have never lived or worked in Manhattan vaguely refer to those other cities as "upstate New York" without thought (a Brooklynite recently told me "anything above Columbus Circle is upstate"), but in fact the cities both North and West of Manhattan have their own dynamics. Without all those cities in New York State, the Grateful Dead would have a far more difficult time touring successfully in places like Boston, Manhattan, New Jersey and Philadelphia. This post will look at the importance of Upstate and Central New York in the touring history of the Grateful Dead.

Summary: Making It Pay
In early 1970, at the dawn of the Sam Cutler era, the only logical way forward for the Grateful Dead was to make a living from touring. Thanks to huge studio costs from Aoxomoxoa, they were hugely in debt to their record company. So even if they had some kind of hit album, they wouldn't be seeing royalties for quite a while. Thanks to Lenny Hart's management practices and general perfidy, once he stole something like $155,000 from them--$155K in 1970 dollars--they had no cash, either. So although the Grateful Dead were genuine 60s rock stars, by any accounting, and true underground legends, financially they were in the same place as some bar band with a Friday night residency. If they couldn't make enough coin from live performances, they weren't going to make it.

Things weren't entirely bleak, however. While the Dead had been able to play paying gigs in San Francisco from their earliest days, their underground cred and word-of-mouth had made the band popular elsewhere. Manhattan fell first, then Boston. They were popular in colleges, since 60s and 70s teenagers away from home for the first time wanted to see a band that played the Fillmores. As the 70s wore on, New Jersey and Pennsylvania were another source of paying gigs.

But if a band is going to make money on the road, any band, it has to stay on the road. So Sam Cutler and the Dead had to find gigs to play that fit in with the good ones in the big Northeastern cities. Central and Upstate New York provided the perfect solution. There were cities upstate, not as big as Boston or New York, but cities nonetheless, and they had young people who wanted to rock. Initially, the Dead played New York State because they could. Syracuse or Rochester were near enough to New York, Boston or Pennsylvania that some paying nights could be added to keep the wheels turning.

Two things happened. One partially expected, or at least hoped for, and another quite out of the ordinary. First of all, the Dead played cities in Upstate and Central New York often enough that they started to build a fan base around those cities. That's how rock music was supposed to work.

The unexpected factor was this: the very fact of geography that made Central and Upstate New York an easy transit for the band made for easy traveling by their fans. Once Deadheads in Brooklyn, Cambridge and New Jersey realized that they could just drive a few hours and catch more Dead shows in Syracuse or some college gym, the viability of Dead shows in New York state rose considerably. Deadheads traveled to see the band--if it was easy for the band to get there, so it was for the fans. When the Grateful Dead enterprise morphed into its own self-supporting ecosystem in the early 1980s, Central and Upstate New York were absolutely central to the organism.

Herein lies the tale.

What Is "Upstate" New York?
New York state residents, even ones who never get above 110th Street, know that there is a big difference between "Upstate" and "Central" New York. New York was founded because Manhattan was an excellent port of entry, allowing goods to flow down the Hudson River to Europe and points South. The cities and towns that are directly North of Manhattan are all linked to the Hudson River or related tributaries. These include important cities like Albany, the State Capital, and also resort cities like Woodstock and Saratoga. They are all "up the Hudson" from Manhattan, and thus "Upstate New York."

Central New York is West and mostly North of the Hudson, running from Lake Ontario all the way down to the Pennsylvania border. The major cities are all tied to different bodies of water, which is how they were founded back in the 18th century. Buffalo is on Lake Erie, Syracuse is near Lake Ontario and Rochester is near Lake Oneida, all in the Northern part of the Empire State. Binghamton is on the Susquehanna River, in the Southern part of the New York, near the Pennsylvania border. As to "Western New York," New Yorkers, in my experience, only refer vaguely to it, usually as an uncivilized area West of where you happen to be at any time. There remains a distinct difference between Upstate and Central New York, however, with Upstate retaining a connection to Manhattan, while the Central area stands on its own. For simplicity, for this post I will just refer to the totality of Upstate, Central and Western New York state as "Upstate," with the recognition that it is a complicated misnomer for people who have lived and worked there.

"Low Bridge, Everybody Down:" Central New York Economic History
The economic history of New York State is simple: the Erie Canal made Manhattan the dominant focus of American commerce, and New York City has never relinquished that position. In the early 19th century, the hardest problem to solve in the vastness of America was moving goods to market. There was land, there were resources, and there were people to work the land and extract those resources. But who would buy them? Canal technology went back to the Ancient Romans, of course, but it had been exploited by the Industrial Revolution in the latter 18th century (the James River Canal in Richmond, for example, had been started in 1785). The most important canal in American history, however, was the Erie Canal, which was completed in 1825.

Originally, the Erie Canal ran about 363 miles from Albany, on the Hudson River, to Buffalo, at Lake Erie. It was built to create a navigable water route from New York City and the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes. The effect of the Erie Canal on transportation, and hence New York's economy, was nothing short of revolutionary.
It was faster than carts pulled by draft animals, and cut transport costs by about 95%.[8] The canal fostered a population surge in western New York and opened regions farther west to settlement. It was enlarged between 1834 and 1862. The canal's peak year was 1855, when 33,000 commercial shipments took place.
There was an additional network of lesser canals, built throughout the 19th century, that linked to the Eric Canal and the Hudson River. Thus farmers and manufacturers in much of New York State could reach Europe and the American South through the Hudson River and Manhattan. At the same time, Toronto and the Great Lakes were accessible via Rochester and Lake Ontario, while Buffalo could reach Cleveland via Lake Erie, and by extension (and the Detroit River), Detroit and Chicago. Chicago itself was only founded in 1833. The goods and resources of the entire Upper Midwest flowed through the main Erie Canal cities on their way to Manhattan. Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse all became important centers of manufacturing in Commerce by the middle of the 19th century.

The age of canals was rapidly superseded by the age of railroads. In New York, however, the railroads simply built on the landscape defined by the canals. The most powerful Eastern railroad of the late 19th and early 20th century was the New York Central Railroad. The New York Central went from Chicago to Manhattan, terminating at Grand Central Station, a place so well known that Americans say "it's as busy as Grand Central Station" without actually ever having set foot at 42nd Street and Park Avenue. The New York Central (mapped up top) touched all the major stops in Central New York, expanding the links defined by the Erie Canal back in 1825. Central New York was a fully integrated part of the American economy until the mid-1950s. For various reasons outside the scope of this blog, Central New York began to decline in economic importance in the 1960s, so the cities stopped growing. Nonetheless, places like Syracuse, Rochester and Buffalo still had young people, and those young people wanted to part of the rock explosion that they had read about in Rolling Stone magazine. Enter the Grateful Dead.




August 16, 1969 Woodstock Music And Arts Fair, Max Yasgur's Farm, Bethel, NY (Saturday)
It is paradigmatic that the Grateful Dead began their assault on Upstate New York at the Woodstock Festival in 1969. This was probably true of many, if not most of the bands at the festival. The hippie rock explosion was still a big city thing, extending to a few college campuses, but even those were the kind of places that prided themselves on being ahead of the curve. College students in the 1960s really, really wanted to see the bands that played the Fillmores, but they didn't always get that chance. One of many reasons that Woodstock was so well attended was that there were many young people in Central and Upstate New York who just wanted to see the bands they had been reading about. One of those bands was the Grateful Dead.

In 1969 the Grateful Dead were underground legends, with their name far better known than any of their music. There were few, if any, FM rock stations outside of New York City at the time, so radio play of any of the Dead's albums would have been all but nonexistent. Nonetheless, the Dead kept turning up, playing for free when something was happening, whether in San Francisco or Columbia University, or finding themselves in the midst of controversy or trouble. Anyway, back in the day "Grateful Dead" was spooky in its own right, just as "Sex Pistols" would be a decade later. Indeed, the Sex Pistols are a good comparison to the Dead, unlikely as it may seem, as that band's infamy far exceeded airplay for "God Save The Queen."

The Grateful Dead were at Woodstock, along with most of the other active touring rock bands. The Dead actually came onstage at Woodstock at about two in the morning, in between Mountain and Creedence Clearwater Revival. Of course, it was a big one, and the Dead blew it. How bad did the Brown Acid have to be for the band to need a guest--Country Joe McDonald--to speak coherently to the crowd on their behalf? In general, the Dead's Upstate New York debut was a debacle  (John Fogerty tells the story of coming on after the Dead in the middle of the night).



A listing from the March 17, 1970 Buffalo News, showing that night's Philarmonic Rock Marathon with the Grateful Dead at Buffalo's Kleinhans Music Hall. Also an imported laser beam light show.
March 17, 1970 Kleinhans Music Hall, Buffalo, NY: Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra/Grateful Dead/The Road (Tuesday)
The Grateful Dead's second show in Upstate New York was as odd as Woodstock, in its own way. It was in Buffalo, which is either in Central or Western New York, depending on who you ask, and where you are when you are asking. The Dead had a little tour booked, with shows at the Capitol Theater in Port Chester, in metro NYC, and then a couple in Florida, at an amusement park and then a rock festival. Then they went to Cincinnati. So to start the tour off, the band played a Tuesday night show in Buffalo, three full days before the first show in Port Chester (Mar 20). The strange scheduling was the last legacy of Lenny Hart's peculiar management practices.

Even stranger, the show featured not only the Dead and a local band, but the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra. The Orchestra "jammed" with the Grateful Dead. The story sounds quite weird, just right for 1970 Grateful Dead. How did it happen? Who knows? Someone invited the Grateful Dead, and they showed up. I don't think it was the kind of show that turned symphony fans, or hippies for that matter, into Deadheads for life.

West Gym at Harpur College, SUNY Binghamton, where the Grateful Dead played on May 2, 1970
Early 1970s: Filling Up The Itinerary
Sam Cutler stripped down the Grateful Dead operation and put the boys on the road, and they toured hard. The goal was to get paid, as many nights as possible. Whenever the band had a few good dates, Cutler's goal was to find some places in between to get a payday. If a band is on the road, they are staying in a hotel somewhere, so even a smaller show that makes a little money is worthwhile, because it's better than getting nothing. So the Dead played various random shows in Upstate New York in the early 70s, because it fit their schedule.

SUNY Alfred Homecoming, May 1, 1970. The Dead started at 8:00, and another band kicked off a dance in another building at 10:00 pm.
May 1, 1970 SUNY Alfred, Alfred, NY: Grateful Dead/New Riders Of The Purple Sage
Debut of  "An Evening With The Grateful Dead." (Friday)
In May 1970, the Grateful Dead debuted their new format, "An Evening With The Grateful Dead." Rock concerts at the time typically had three (or more) acts. For the Spring '70 tour, however, the Dead would play an acoustic set, then the completely unknown New Riders of The Purple Sage would play a set, and then the electric Grateful Dead would do a full performance. The business concept was that the Dead could get the money the promoter would spend for three bands, provide a full evening's show and do it with fewer band members and road crew than was required for three actual bands.

The first concert of the tour was at SUNY Alfred, in Alfred, NY. Alfred, NY is about 90 miles Southeast of Buffalo, approximately between Buffalo and Binghamton. The show was the "homecoming" (alumni reunion) for both SUNY Alfred and nearby Alfred University. As such, it was a guaranteed payday, not dependent on attendance or promotion. That was a good thing, since only a few hundred people actually saw the show (JGMF has uncovered the entire remarkable story of the show). The Dead got paid, but the Alfred show didn't have much of an impact on their history.

May 2, 1970 West Gym, Harpur College, SUNY Binghamton, Binghamton, NY: Grateful Dead/New Riders Of The Purple Sage (Saturday)
The Grateful Dead had another paying college gig on Saturday, May 2, and this one was another legendary show. The band was playing at the State University of New York at Binghamton, in Binghamton, NY. Up until 1965, the school had been known as Harpur College, until it was absorbed by the SUNY system. The school currently has 17,000+ students. While it surely had fewer students in 1970, it wasn't tiny.

Binghamton, NY doesn't resonate with most people, but IBM got started nearby, and General Electric and Alcoa had big operations there. Binghamton is near the Pennsylvania border, at the confluence of the Susquehanna and Chenango Rivers. Binghamton had been a main stop on the Chenango Canal (now NY Highway 12). The Chenango Canal connected the Susquehanna River to the Erie Canal, which made the city into a manufacturing hub. The canal was replaced by the Erie Railroad (later the Erie Lackawanna, which was the parent of NJ Transit's Morristown Line), but the town retained its importance. GE, IBM and others continued to make the area economically prosperous from the 1950s through the 80s.

As we all know, what was remarkable about the Binghamton show was that the entire 7-hour extravaganza was recorded and broadcast on the Pacifica Radio network (including KPFA in Berkeley and WBAI in New York). Although the show was not simulcast, to my knowledge, but rather broadcast sometime in June (probably June 21), nonetheless much of the country got several hours of the real, live 1970 Grateful Dead. No wonder the show was bootlegged and taped so widely. From a Grateful Dead touring point of view, however, it was just another gig that paid, if a good one.

May 8, 1970 Farrell Hall, SUNY Delhi, Delhi, NY: Grateful Dead/New Riders Of The Purple Sage (Friday)
After Binghamton, the Dead had some college shows in New England: Sunday, May 3 at Middletown, CT (Wesleyan),  Thursday May 7 at Cambridge (MIT) and Saturday May 9 at Worcester, MA (Polytech). There were two free concerts as well during this time, but they don't pay, and working bands gotta work. So the Dead were able to book another college gig on Friday, at SUNY Delhi in Delhi, NY.

Delhi is a tiny village between Binghamton and Albany, population around 5,000. SUNY Delhi was founded in 1913, but had only started to expand in the 1960s. Even now it only has 3,000+ students. Back in the day, however, even small schools had entertainment budgets. Delhi was near enough to New England that the band could make a quick trip back and forth and get paid. We have an eyewitness account, from the archive. It sounds like a lot of fun:
This was my first dead concert (can't count expo 67) you lose site of the fact that the Kent state shootings were on everyone's mind. talk of starting to shut down campuses etc. the concert started with NRPS but they blew out the electric circuits one at a time so that the first 2 hours was just a big sound check ( which was ok because you had to step outside to smoke, there were a lot less than 200 people there ) We came down from Oneonta for the show and once they guit blowing fuses & started to play the music was a lot better than these tapes sound, they played until 2-3 and apologized that they had to travel the next day. worth the trip.
After an inexplicable trip to Kirkwood, MO (May 14), likely a Lenny Hart legacy, the Dead finished up at Fillmore East (May 15) and Philadelphia (May 16--Fairfield on May 17 was canceled). Tiny Upstate New York college gigs had helped keep the band on the road, even if two of those were thinly attended.

An AP wire service report from November 16, 1970 describes how the Grateful Dead did not perform at the Albany Armory after the building was cleared due to a bomb threat (published in the Edwardsville, IL Intelligencer)
November 15, 1970 The Armory, Albany, NY Grateful Dead/Buddy Miles Express/Pacific Gas and Electric (Sunday)
On the next Eastern swing, in October and November 1970, the Dead had a different schedule. There were a few jaunts to the Midwest, but mostly the band stuck to the Eastern Seaboard, with gigs in Long Island, Port Chester, Philadelphia, Brooklyn and New Jersey. Still, as the tour wound down, there were nights to fill, and they got filled Upstate.

On Thursday, November 15, between 4 nights in Brooklyn (Nov 11-14) and Monday at Fillmore East (Nov 16), the Dead were booked to headline a Sunday night show at the relatively small Armory in Albany. Albany, approximately 150 miles due North from Manhattan, was and is the Capital of New York State. Albany is straight up the Hudson, and the epitome of "Upstate." Although the city only has a population of about 100,000, the suburbs have become much larger. By virtue of being the state Capital, the importance of the city far outstrips its size.

The Dead had replaced Delaney And Bonnie And Friends as headliners, over the Buddy Miles Express and the SF band P, G &E. The gig was a debacle. There was a bomb threat, the theater was emptied, and the Dead did not return, so they didn't play. Read the news article above (Rock Group Skips Concert After Bomb Threat Sunday) and the Comment Thread for some intriguing suggestions of who phoned in the threat. Whatever the reason, the Grateful Dead would not return to Albany for nearly twenty years.

A recent photo of The Palestra at the University of Rochester. Palestra (correctly translated Palaestra) means "Wrestling Ground" in Ancient Greek.
November 20, 1970 The Palestra, Rochester, NY: Grateful Dead/New Riders Of The Purple Sage (Friday)
With a big show at Boston on Saturday night (Nov 21), plus another one Sunday (Nov 22) at a New Jersey Junior College, the Dead needed a Friday night payday. They got one at The Palestra,  the gym at the University of Rochester.  "Palestra" (properly transliterated as "Palaestra") means "Wrestling Ground" in Ancient Greek, which is why it has been used as an Arena name by various schools.

Rochester is on the southern shore of Lake Ontario, East of Buffalo. It was a boom city going back to the 19th century--the Erie Canal came to Rochester in 1823-- and well into the 20th. The city was the birthplace of giant companies like Kodak, Xerox and Western Union. The city's population peaked in 1930 at 328,000. By 1970, it still had 296,000. Keep in mind, however, that the US population boomed after WW2, so while Rochester was a thriving city in 1970, its footprint was shrinking (in the 2010 census Rochester's population was just 210,000). In 1970, though, there were still plenty of young people there, and they wanted rock and roll, too.

Jorma Kaukonen, in town because the Airplane were playing across town at the War Memorial Auditoium, showed up to jam. A fan recalls
My first Dead show. And what a doozy and scene it was (for pre-med, egghead, army brat, 21 yo me), considering it was upstate NY university. Hopped on that bus! Lots and lots of good stories from that concert! My recollection is that it was a (Lesh-Jerry-Mickey) NRPS set, then an acoustic Dead, then 3 electric Dead sets, at least the last one of which had Jorma. I sooo wish I also had that Jerry NRPS set-- psychedelic pedal steel ("get off the wah-wah pedal, son" is the punchline to one of the stories). I remember Lesh trying to coax Jack on stage, e.g. playing the "White Rabbit" riff at him, but I don't recall Jack actually getting on stage. Whew, Jorma stinging guitar is my memory. 
The Grateful Dead began a long and fruitful relationship with the city of Rochester on this Friday night, in a modest college gym. They returned to the Palestra the next year, and then moved up to the War Memorial and even larger venues in subsequent years. Rochester's footprint would get smaller, but the city would become a critical stop on the Grateful Dead's touring schedule.

April 18, 1971 Lusk Field House, SUNY Cortland, Cortland, NY: Grateful Dead/New Riders Of The Purple Sage (Sunday)
By early 1971, the Dead actually had two kinda-hit-albums, getting regularl airplay on newly founded FM radio stations throughout the country. The band's legendary East Coast tour that Spring made Deadheads for life at every stop. College students and young hippies up and down the East Coast heard the band and jumped on the bus with both feet. They're still on board.

Even so, the Dead still had to fill a date or two on the gig sheet. The Dead were in between the infamous Saturday night show in Princeton (Apr 17) and an ultimately canceled show at Hofstra in Long Island (Apr 19). Cortland is an 18,000ish town midway between Syracuse and Binghamton. Like many places in Central New York, it was prosperous in the 19th century, but steadily declined in the 20th (although it did produce singer Ronnie James Dio, incidentally). Nonetheless, there was a SUNY outpost in Cortland, and an entertainment budget. SUNY Cortland had been established in 1868 as the Cortland Normal (Teachers) School, and in 1948 it joined the SUNY system. It now has 7100 students, but I don't know how many it had in 1971. Whatever--the Grateful Dead apparently remain the biggest thing ever to hit Cortland. From the Archive:
 Hi...I was the person behind the appearance of the Grateful Dead at SUNY Cortland. This show was indeed fantastic. It lasted approximately 7 hours in total (someone thought it was a short show, it was not...I completed the clean up around 6 a.m. when the sun was rising!). It was an epic performance and still holds the record at 7,200 people for the largest indoor assembly ever held in the City of Cortland. There is an epic story behind how the whole production took place which I can't possibly go into here! My voice can be heard in some of the "tuning" segments! (JACKLEISUREPRO)
However much the band got paid at Cortland, it was worth it to keep the wheels turning. And I bet those SUNY Cortland students, and any locals, are still on board with us.
A poster for Grateful Dead concerts in Rochester (Oct 26 '71) and Syracuse (Oct 27)

Fall 1971: All Aboard
The Fall 71 tour behind "Skull And Roses," which Warner Brothers supported with a $100K worth of FM broadcasts in almost every city, was the tour that locked in the Grateful Dead's future success. It may not have entirely seemed that way at the time. True, the Dead had released two albums that had gotten good airplay on FM radio. But FM radio was going nationwide by Fall '71, and more and more kids were listening in stereo. So the 14 broadcasts touched a huge portion of the country. No other band was playing 4 hours for free on the radio, and it set the Dead apart. The broadcasts also laid in a future store of FM dubs for the taper community, although no one knew it at the time.

October 26, 1971 The Palestra, Rochester, NY: Grateful Dead/New Riders Of The Purple Sage (Tuesday) WCMF-FM broadcast
October 27, 1971 Onondaga County War Memorial Auditorium, Syracuse, NY: Grateful Dead/New Riders Of The Purple Sage (Wednesday) WAER-FM broadcast
The Dead started their Fall 71 tour in the Midwest. The debuted in Minnesota (Oct 19), then a weekend in Chicago (Thurs/Fri Oct 21/22) and Detroit (Sat/Sun 23/24). The next weekend was Cleveland (Fri Oct 29) and Cincinnati (Sat/Sun Oct 30/31). There were FM broadcasts in each of the cities. In between, the Dead played Rochester on Tuesday (Oct 26) and Syracuse on Wednesday (Oct 27).

The band had played Rochester the previous year, but the October 27 show was the band's first time in Syracuse.The Syracuse show was at the Onondaga County War Memorial Auditorium, the first of 5 shows the band would play there.  Syracuse was only 90 miles from Rochester, and only 165 from Buffalo, but traveling long distance to Dead shows was an unknown phenomenon outside of Brooklyn. To make it work, the Dead were going to have to draw from the Syracuse area itself. The Onondaga War Memorial Auditorium held about 8,000 in concert configuration, and had been opened in 1949.

Both the Rochester and Syracuse shows were booked by Pacific Presentations. Pacific Presentations was actually based in Los Angeles, and partner Sepp Donahower had been part of the Pinnacle Dance Concerts company that had put on shows by the Grateful Dead and others back in 1967 and '68 at the Shrine Auditorium. Pacific went national in the early 70s, and they promoted many Grateful Dead shows in disparate places like Texas and New York State. It appears that for the Dead--and no doubt many of their Fillmore peers--they would much rather work with a familiar face rather than unknown locals. Big cities like New York and Chicago had major promoters, but touring FM rock bands were a new thing out in the territories.

I assume the Palestra was packed, even on a Tuesday, because it was so small. I am curious how many tickets the band sold for a Wednesday night in an 8000-capacity hall in a new town. In the end, however, it didn't matter. Both shows were broadcast live on the local FM stations. I'm not sure of the call sign of the Rochester station, but The band played on WCMF-fm in Rochester, and WAER-fm in Syracuse. The Dead were broadcast live for four hours in Rochester and Syracuse on consecutive nights, and they have owned that part of the state ever since. I have to think however many tickets were or were not sold, a lot of suburban teenagers listened to those broadcasts in their bedrooms and thought "if that bus comes by again, I am getting on it."

An aerail shot of the crowd of the concert at Watkins Glen Grand Prix Racecourse on July 28, 1973. It was the largest rock concert ever held, up unitl this time
Feed That Jones
A parallel story to the rise of the Grateful Dead in Upstate New York was the part the region played in facilitating East Coast tours by Jerry Garcia and other band members over the years. By the time the Dead had become a guaranteed draw, Garcia was just starting to tour around on his own. Once the Dead took their "break" in 1974, the other band members toured around as well. Upstate New York cities would play the same role they had done for the Dead a few years earlier, filling in the gig sheet with paydays, however modest. The regular reappearance of Garcia and others had to have helped keep the Skull and Roses flag flying high when the Dead wasn't in town.

The first, and most obscure, Jerry Garcia tour outside of Northern California, was in support of Howard Wales' Hooteroll? album. Garcia sat in with Wales' quartet for seven dates. They hadn't rehearsed, but Howard and Jerry had never rehearsed anyway.

The Howard Wales mini-tour was seven shows in nine days, opening with a Friday night in Manhattan (Jan 21/Academy of Music), with a show in Boston on Wednesday (Jan 26/Symphony Hall). Among the other five dates was a Saturday night (Jan 22) at a tiny school in Syracuse and a Saturday night return to Buffalo (Jan 29). Since Hooteroll? had been on a Columbia label (Douglas Records), they were supported by a Columbia act for the last four dates. So, incredibly, John McLaughlin and the Mahavishnu Orchestra (with Jan Hammer, Jerry Goodman, Rick Laird and Billy Cobham) supported Garcia and Wales for four dates, including Buffalo.

The two shows in Syracuse and Buffalo probably did not generate a huge outbreak of Deadheads. The music (which we know from tapes of other nights) was pretty out there, and I don't even know of any eyewitnesses. Still, the two bookings helped keep Garcia on the road, which was the initial attraction of the bookings. Syracuse and Buffalo were easy traveling for the band, and that was the crucial geographical advantage of Upstate and Central New York.

A poster for the Howard Wales/Jerry Garcia Hooteroll: tour show at Setnor Auditorium in Syracuse, NY on Saturday, January 22, 1972
January 22, 1972 Setnor Auditorium, Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY: Hooteroll? Howard Wales with Jerry Garcia (Saturday)
JGMF uncovered this long lost show, complete with a poster, which says "Hooteroll?" The show is billed at "Crouse Auditorium", but there isn't actually a Crouse Auditorium.  JerrysBrokendownPalaces was on the case, however, and determined that the venue was Setnor Auditorium, at Crouse College, part of Syracuse University, capacity 700. The show appears to be presented by Syracuse University, so no doubt a college entertainment insured that a possibly small gate did not affect the band getting paid.

An ad for Jerry Garcia, Howard Wales and Mahavishnu Orchestra in Buffalo, NY on Jan 29, 1972 (h/t GDSets)
January 29, 1972 Century Theater, Buffalo, NY: Howard Wales with Jerry Garcia/Mahavishnu Orchestra presented by University of Buffalo (Saturday)
This show was at the Century Theater at 511 Main Street, later the New Century Theater, capacity 3,076. It had been the Shea's Theater, but  not the same Shea's Theater that the Dead would play later in the decade. That Shea's Theater was across the street (at 646 Main Street). The show was promoted by a University of Buffalo Student Association, so once again a college entertainment budget insured a Garcia payday.

In the later 1970s, the New Century Theater was a regular venue for local promoter Harvey Weinstein (see Mar 31 '73 below), now better known as a famous film producer and convicted rapist. Weinstein was a student at SUNY Buffalo, so there's good reason to think he has some involvement in booking this show. Given the penchant of Garcia and the Dead to work with promoters for whom they had already worked, it would make sense that Weinstein met Garcia on this tour, and was able to leverage that into booking the Dead 15 months later, when the full band returned to Buffalo.


March 21-22, 1973 Memorial Auditorium, Utica, NY: Grateful Dead (Wednesday-Thursday)
Utica, New York is 240 miles Northwest of Manhattan. At the foot of the Adirondack Mountains, the village was first settled in 1734, and incorporated in 1798. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, Utica and the nearby city of Rome were important layover cities for the Erie and Chenango Canals, and later the New York Central Railroad. Utica and Rome became important manufacturing centers, particularly of textiles. The population of Utica peaked at around 100,000 in 1960.

For the Grateful Dead's big Spring 1973 tour,  the band had three dates at Nassau Coliseum in Long Island (Thurs/Fri/Monday Mar 15/16/19) and one at the Spectrum (Saturday Mar 24), all major league arenas. To get through the week, they had to at least cover expenses, and that meant playing a minor league facility, although it had to be one with a concrete floor. The Utica Memorial Auditorium was a typical multi-purpose Civic Auditorium of the era, completed in 1960. For floor events, it had a capacity of 5,700. Mostly it was used for minor league ice hockey, and the AHL Utica Comets (affiliated with Vancouver) still call it home.

The increasing size of the Grateful Dead's sound system in 1973 made one-nighters harder to justify. So the citizens of Utica were lucky enough to get two nights of 1973 Grateful Dead. Thanks to the tapes, we know that the Dead absolutely killed it in Utica--as they did most nights in 1973--and anyone from Oneida County who got to see them there was lucky indeed.

By 1973, Utica was already in decline, whether or not the locals realized it yet. The population was down to about 90,000 in the 1970 Census, at a time when the US population was increasing. From the Dead's point of view, a couple of modest paydays in a place with easy transit from Long Island and to Philadelphia made good sense. A few fond memories on the Archive and on Dead.net suggest that a very good time was had, and it wasn't that crowded.

To put this in context, can you imagine Dead and Company playing two nights in a 5,700-capacity hockey arena 200+ miles from a big city? In order to make the big paydays in the Northeast, however, the Dead needed places to keep the fires burning, and Upstate New York fit that schedule.

March 30, 1973 Community War Memorial Auditorium, Rochester, NY: Grateful Dead (Friday)
The Grateful Dead had one more big show left on their Spring '73 Eastern swing, a show at the Boston Garden. The Garden was big-league in a big city, home of the NBA Boston Celtics and NHL Boston Bruins. Oddly, the Boston Garden date was on a Monday (April 2). So the band still had to fill the weekend.

By now, however, the Dead's Upstate history was starting to pay off for them. Up until now, the Dead had only played the tiny Palestra at Rochester University. But they had toured steadily, and had even broadcast the last Palestra show on local FM radio. Now, with a Friday night open, the band could move up the ladder in Rochester.

The Community War Memorial Auditorium in Rochester had opened in 1955, and had a capacity of over 11,000 for concert (now the Blue Cross Arena). It's not at all clear how many tickets the Dead sold this night, but since they kept coming back to Rochester, I have a feeling it must have been a lot. Another revealing detail is that there is only one very poor-quality audience tape circulating for this show, to my knowledge. What this tells me is that the Brooklyn types who were fairly sophisticated about about taping Dead shows were not making the journey yet to distant Rochester. I'm sure a few people made the trip, but road tripping to see the Dead was still a niche activity, not a culture yet.

The Grateful Dead and The New Riders played the Buffalo Memorial Auditorium on March 31, 1973, promoted by Harvey N Corky Productions. "Harvey" was future film producer and convicted rapist Harvery Weintstein
March 31, 1973  Buffalo Memorial Auditorium, Buffalo, NY: Grateful Dead/New Riders of The Purple Sage (Saturday)
To fill the Saturday night on their open calendar, the Dead finally made true landfall in Buffalo. Sure, they had played that symphony gig in 1970--so Buffalo got immortalized into "Truckin'"--and Garcia had played there with Howard Wales, but since the band had become a hit act they hadn't played the city. They did now. The Buffalo Memorial Auditorium (not War Memorial) was a big old concrete block, built in 1940 with a concert capacity of around 18,000.

It's doubtful that the Dead sold out an 18,000 seater in Buffalo in 1973, even on a Saturday night. But they probably didn't have to. The economics of the show were probably that the promoter could break even on a half-filled arena, and the band and promoter split the overage. Why was there such a big venue in Buffalo? Buffalo, in its way, is a symbol of the history of the Erie Canal and New York State. When the Erie Canal took hold in the 1830s, Buffalo was the gateway to Lake Erie and thus the city was a critical transportation hub linking Canada, the Atlantic Ocean (via the St. Lawrence Seaway) and Manhattan, all via canals and later railways, feeding the Central and Upstate manufacturers. In 1940, Buffalo had a population of 575,901.

By 1970, however, the world had changed and Buffalo was declining significantly, with a population of only 462,768. It was shrinking during the Baby Boom. Still, there were still a lot of people in Buffalo, many of them young, and they wanted to rock and roll like everyone else. The biggest local promoters were "Harvey 'N' Corky." The independent production company was run by Corky Burger and two brothers, Harvey and Bob Weinstein. After some years as successful concert promoters, the Weinstein brothers moved into the movie business. Miramax pictures was extremely successful in ensuing decades. Harvey Weinstein is also widely known as a convicted rapist.

It's pretty likely that Harvey Weinstein, a former SUNY Buffalo student, had had some engagement with the Howard Wales/Jerry Garcia concert in Buffalo in 1972, so that probably provided a level of confidence for the band to book with an untried promotion company. Things must have gone well, since the Dead played for Harvey 'N' Corky Productions again later in the year, and in 1977.

July 27-28, 1973 Watkins Glen Grand Prix Racecourse, Watkins Glen, NY: Allman Brothers Band/The Band/Grateful Dead (Friday-Saturday)
So much has been written about Watkins Glen that I don't have much to add. Suffice to say:
With respect to this story, however, young people from New York City, New England, New Jersey, Pennyslvania and all of New York State came to this show. Any high school or college students who didn't already know about the Grateful Dead did by the time school started, since all their classmates would have told their tales of Watkins Glen.

September 17, 1973: Onondaga War Memorial Auditorium, Syracuse, NY Grateful Dead/Doug Sahm Band (Tuesday-Wednesday)
The Grateful Dead came back for a fall '73 tour, this time with a horn section in tow, amazingly enough. The tour was anchored by a weekend at Nassau Colisuem (Fri/Sat Sep 7/8), a weekend in New England (Providence Sep 14/15) and a Friday night at the Spectrum in Philadelphia (Sep 21). In between, two gigs got squeezed in at William And Mary College in Virginia (Sep 11/12, where a young Bruce Hornsby saw the second show), and there were also two shows in Syracuse the next week.

The Dead's sound system required them to play two nights in one place rather than multiple one-nighters. It's notable that the two shows in Syracuse were played, while the two shows in Providence were reduced to a single show. Now, granted, Providence Civic Center (now Dunkin Donuts Center) had a capacity of 14,000 and War Memorial in Syracuse was just 8,000, but this tells us that Syracuse was a better market than Providence. [update: a Commenter pointed out that I was incorrect, and the second night in Syracuse was canceled, just as in Providence, so the markets would have been parallel.] It also tells us Deadheads weren't really traveling far in big numbers yet, since Boston fans weren't packing Providence. In any case, whether it had been by accident or design--probably mostly the former--the Dead had managed to build a good fan base in Upstate New York, and they could fill in the nights on the tour there.


The Dead's fall 1973 tour ended on a Wednesday nght in Buffalo, on September 26, 1973, when they played the Buffalo Memorial Auditorium. The opening act ("& Friends") was the Doug Sahm Band.
September 26, 1973 Buffalo Memorial Auditorium, Buffalo, NY: Grateful Dead/Doug Sahm Band (Wednesday)
The last date of the Dead's Fall '73 tour was a Wednesday night in Buffalo, playing again for Harvey N Corky. The significant thing about this show was that the band did not have another show the next weekend, so the Wednesday booking wasn't just a routing gig. The show in Buffalo had to have been profitable enough for the band to extend the tour a few days, and they had to have enough confidence in the promoters to feel they were actually going to get paid. Once again, the efforts that the Dead had made to play Upstate New York had really paid off, since they now had real audiences in not only Syracuse and Rochester but Buffalo as well.
The Palace Theater, at 19 Clinton Avenue in Albany, NY, was built in 1928 and seats about 2,800. Jerry Garcia and other Grateful Dead members played this hall many times

Fall 1974: The Interregnum
The Grateful Dead's cultivation of an audience in Upstate New York paid an unexpected dividend after the Fall of 1974. After the October 1974 Winterland shows, the Grateful Dead went on "hiatus," and stopped touring. Pretty much all of their fans assumed that the Dead were done for. Many, maybe most, of the great 60s bands had broken up by this time, and it seemed like the Dead were just following the path carved by the likes of The Beatles or Jefferson Airplane.

The demise of the Dead, however, meant that Jerry Garcia had to tour, and without benefit of any realistic record company support. Since the Dead were self-financing their own record company, there wasn't the flood of publicity and tour support for the ensuing solo albums. Any touring had to be cash-and-carry, profitable on its own axis. New Jersey promoter John Scher took on the role of tour director for Jerry Garcia, calculating how to maximize his presence in a region where he was a legend, but had rarely played under his own name, and had no record company buttressing him.

November 10, 1974: The Palace Theater, Albany, NY Jerry Garcia and Merl Saunders (Sunday)
Jerry Garcia and Merl Saunders had played a few shows in the NYC Metro area prior to this, but now they were touring for real. Upstate New York served the same purpose it had for the Garcia/Saunders ensemble as it had for the Dead. Jerry and Merl had a big four days of bookings in the NYC Metro area from Wednesday through Saturday (Nov 5-9), and used Albany to fill in the leftover date.

The Palace Theater, at 19 Clinton Avenue in Albany, opened in 1931 as an RKO movie palace. It seats about 2,800. It had closed in 1969, but it was purchased by the city of Albany and re-opened soon after. The 1970 Grateful Dead show in Albany had been a debacle, of course (see Nov 15 '70 above), but time had passed. Albany was not a large city, but it was the state Capitol, with extensive suburbs, so there was a nascent Grateful Dead audience in the region, which would be cultivated later. The 1974 Garcia show was just a sort of opening salvo.

November 17, 1974: Auditorium Theater, Rochester, NY: Jerry Garcia and Merl Saunders (Sunday)
For the next leg, Garcia/Saunders had four shows in Boston Metro (Nov 12-15), and a big double show at the Tower Theater in Philadelphia (Nov 16), long established as prime Grateful Dead territory. For the final night, the band played at the Auditorium Theater in Rochester on Sunday night. Now, strictly speaking, as it was the end of the tour, they could have just flown home, but they were in town, it was near and it paid, so they played. Upstate New York was near to both New England and NYC Metro, so that made it uniquely useful. Although places like Rochester were far (ish) from New England, since the trucks didn't have to fight through New York or Boston Metro traffic, the actual transit was easy.

The Auditorium Theater in Rochester, at 855 E. Main Street, was opened in 1930 as a Masonic Temple. It seats about 3,000. Though smaller than the War Memorial, the Auditorium Theater was larger than the Palaesta. The time the Dead had spent building a Deadhead audience in Rochster had paid off.

The Auditorium Theater currently mostly hosts touring Broadway shows. One interesting fact from the History Tab:
One of the most puzzling secrets of the building centers on a fascination with squirrels. During construction of the building, the ornamental plasterer apparently felt the need to add a bit of whimsy by including several images of squirrels and acorns throughout. Squirrels appear above the building’s front door, while bird, grapevine and acorn motifs can be found in the plaster work on the walls in some meeting rooms. But look closely — the most striking example is on the ceiling of the Auditorium. The plasterer has skillfully incorporated 64 squirrels into the symmetry of the massive ceiling.
If squirrels are your area, Go To...

October 25, 1975: Auditorium Theater, Rochester, NY Jerry Garcia Band with Nicky Hopkins (Sunday)
By late 1975, the Grateful Dead organization was hemorrhaging cash for The Movie, with no touring income and lackluster returns on record sales. When Jerry Garcia toured in the Fall, he needed to make sure it was lucrative. It is easy to forget now that Nicky Hopkins, first-call piano man for the Rolling Stones and all the Beatles, was a genuine rock star himself. He had toured with the Stones, and now he was touring with Garcia. The Jerry Garcia Band was actually an incorporated group with four equal partners (JG, John Kahn, Hopkins, Ron Tutt), but the name Jerry Garcia Band was chosen for commercial appeal. Garcia even included a few of his own songs in the set ("Deal", "Sugaree" and "Friend Of The Devil"). The new Jerry Garcia Band was a commercial proposition indeed.

John Scher had the band touring hard. In most cities, the Jerry Garcia Band played early and late shows, so the paydays were good. And make no mistake, Hopkins was a tremendous pianist, and his ability to flow in and out of Garcia's guitar lines was beautiful indeed. This was no busman's holiday, but a real band on the road.

Upstate New York dates kept the band working hard. The JGB started out in New England (Oct 22 and 23), with Boston on Saturday night (Oct 24). The next week, they played New York Metro area from Wednesday and Friday (Oct 28&30), Halloween Saturday night at the Tower in Philly and then two more shows(Capitol in Passaic Nov 1 and DC Nov 2). By inserting three nights into Upstate New York on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, John Scher made sure that the Fall JGB tour was solidly in the black.

Scher and the Jerry Garcia Band returned to the Auditorium Theater in Rochester. 3000 seats was about right for Jerry on a Sunday night upstate. Since they couldn't really sell two shows, Garcia and Hopkins played two sets anyway for the lucky crowd. Regardless of how well this show sold, it was worth it for the band.

Thanks to GDSets.comhttps://gdsets.com/garcia.htm#1975, a ticket stub from the Oct 26 '75 JGB show in Buffalo

October 26, 1975: New Century Theater, SUNY Buffalo, Buffalo, NY Jerry Garcia Band with Nicky Hopkins (Monday)
The Jerry Garcia Band returned to the Century Theater in Buffalo, where Garcia and Howard Wales had played in January 29, 1972 (above). The promoters were Harvey And Corky, showing how Garcia and the Dead remained loyal to promoters they had worked with successfully in the past. New Century had a capacity of 3,076, so for a Monday night it was just booked for a single show.

October 27, 1975: Bailey Hall, Cornell U, Ithaca, NY Jerry Garcia Band with Nicky Hopkins (Tuesday)
There is a vast literature about the Grateful Dead at Cornell University, most of which I have not read. I do not know if anyone has noticed that Garcia first made landfall in Cornell in 1975 with the Garcia Band. They played Bailey Hall, constructed in 1912 and seating just 1324.

Cornell University is in tiny Ithaca, NY in the scenic "Finger Lakes" region. It is about 220 miles Northwest of Manhattan, truly in the center of New York State. Buffalo is Northwest of Ithaca, Syracuse and Rochester to the North, and Binghamton to the South. Cornell, founded 1865, is an esteemed Ivy League school, but there isn't much else in Ithaca. Cornell is a wealthy school, however, so they could pay out-of-town acts good money (guaranteed) to make the journey to the shores of Cayuga Lake.

A Fall Tuesday night in the middle of New York State, a tiny auditorium built in 1912, two sets of primo Jerry Garcia, his bass player, the Stones' pianoman and Elvis' drummer. Two sets. If you weren't on the bus after that, Barton Hall wasn't going to matter.

November 6, 1975: Elting Gym, SUNY New Paltz, New Paltz, NY: Kingfish/Keith And Donna (Thursday)
Kingfish and Keith and Donna toured the East Coast in November. In the Bay Area, with Jerry Garcia a regular in nightclubs since 1970, Deadheads were very casual about the opportunity to see Grateful Dead spinoffs. In the East, however, the chance to see 4 members of The Dead (Weir, Kreutzmann, Keith and Donna) plus an ex-New Rider (Dave Torbert) in the same night was somewhat of a big deal. The Kingfish/Keith and Donna bill played medium sized theaters that neither band could have played at home. I have to presume that the bands also only used one crew and one set of gear, another efficiency.

While I don't think shows by Kingfish and Keith And Donna created legions of Deadheads, I can attest that they were both great live bands, and seeing them made for a fun night out. Long before the internet or anything else, tours like this helped keep the Grateful Dead fires burning in far away places.

New Paltz was about 80 miles north of Manhattan, in between Manhattan and Albany. In the 1970s, a lot of good bands played Elting Gym at SUNY New Paltz. There must have been a sharp booking agent and a good entertainment budget at the University. For whatever reasons, a lot of board tapes seemed to have leaked out of there. The Kingfish/K&D tour opened in New Paltz on a Thursday, before higher profile shows at the Beacon (Friday Nov 7) and SUNY Stony Brook (Saturday Nov 8).

November 12, 1975 New Century Theater, Buffalo, NY Kingfish/Keith and Donna
The Keith and Donna tour followed the Garcia Band into Buffalo on a Wednesday night. Thanks to commenter David for tracking this down. Also, he found excellent photos of the show.

November 21, 1975: Loews Theater, Syracuse, NY Kingfish/Keith And Donna (Friday)
The tour played Friday night in Syracuse, setting up a Saturday (Nov 22) show in Scranton (Nov 23) and then Sunday in Boston (Nov 23). I know a former Scranton teenager who went to the Scranton show, by the way, and he said it was a very big deal in Scranton. While he's no Deadhead, he's been fond of the band ever since.

The bands played Loews Theater (now the Landmark), at 362 S. Salina St . The theater had opened in 1928 and had a capacity of 2,908

November 24, 1975: Palace Theater, Albany, NY: Kingfish/Keith And Donna (Monday)
While Monday is an odd night for a rock show, this was Thanksgiving week, so a lot of students would have been home from college. Following their pattern, the bands played the same theater in Albany where Garcia/Saunders had played the year before (Nov 17 '74 above).

September 18, 1976: Ben Light Gymnasium, Ithaca College, Ithaca, NY Jerry Garcia Band (Saturday)
On Saturday, September 18, 1976, the Jerry Garcia Band played a gig at Ithaca College. Ithica College was founded in 1892 as a Music Conservatory, and has a sterling reputation as a school for the performing arts. Rod Serling, who created "The Twilight Zone" was a famous alumni.  The school has about 6,000 students, and is just 2 miles from Cornell. The Ben Light Gymnasium was built in 1964, and has a capacity of 2,600. While places like Ithaca have rather mobile college students, and its hard to build up an audience (compared to regular cities like Syracuse or Rochester), there isn't much to do out in the countryside, so it's easy to draw an audience. A Saturday night in Ithica was probably a good payday for the Garcia Band.

In fact, this little tour was fairly odd, and possibly worth a post in itself. Rock band touring in the 70s and 80s was basically iterative, in that the expense of going on the road only paid off if the band stayed out there and sold tickets for a couple of weeks in a row. When there were exceptions to this premise, it usually had to do with record company promotions.

None of that applies with this September '76 JGB one week mini-tour. For now, my conclusion is that the first date, a Hells Angels "Boat Party" on the SS Duchess, was so lucrative that the entire trip was worth it. After the Wednesday night boat trip on the Hudson River (you can see the video here),  the JGB played three out-of-the-way college shows and one oddball booking. The band played CW Post college in Greenvale (Long Island) on Thursday (Oct 16), then Seton Hall in New Jersey on Friday (South Oragne, Oct 17), and then Ithaca College. All three of these dates were probably modest but relatively guaranteed paydays, given that college entertainment budgets were providing a subvention to ticket sales. The last show was in Reading, PA on a Sunday night (Sep 20). John Scher would not have booked these gigs if the numbers didn't make sense, but it's hard not to think that the Hells Angels show was the big payday.

Fall 1976-When Your Night Job Pays
September 27, 1976 Community War Memorial Auditorium, Rochester, NY: Grateful Dead (Monday)
September 28, 1976 Onondaga County War Memorial Auditorium, Syracuse, NY: Grateful Dead (Tuesday)
The Grateful Dead returned to touring in the Summer of 1976. As always, they needed money. When they hit the road in the fall, Rochester and Syracuse shows made nice paydays on what would otherwise have been empty weeknights. The band had a Saturday night show at the Capitol Center in DC (Sep 25), and then Columbus, OH (Thurs Sep 30), Market Sq Arena, Indianapolis (Friday Oct 1), Cincinnati (Sat Oct 2) and then Cobo Hall in Detroit (Sun Oct 3). Rochester and Syracuse took care of Monday and Tuesday on the way from DC to Ohio. Easy travel, good money.

May 8, 1977 Barton Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY: Grateful Dead (Sunday)
Much has been written about the Barton Hall show in Cornell on May 8, 1977, so I have little to say. The Dead had laid the groundwork, in that Garcia had played Cornell (Oct 27 75) and nearby Ithaca College (Sep 18 76), and the New Riders had played Cornell in 1974 and Halloween '76 (see below). Still, tiny Northeastern college towns are a little different than some communities, since college students come and go. Barton Hall, opened in 1915, held 4,800 so it was a smaller Dead show for the era.

The key point for my perspective was that Cornell was in between a big Saturday payday at Boston Garden (May 7) and weekend shows in Chicago (May 12-13). Cornell was sort of new territory for the Grateful Dead, up to a point, but the geography favored touring. Big Northeastern cities like Washington, DC, Philadelphia, New York and Boston are near to each other in terms of road miles, but the driving is always difficult. No matter the time of year or the route, all those cities have crowded highways between them. But going from any of those cities to places like Ithica or Rochester was a breeze. Empty roads by the standards of I-95, pretty scenery and an easy drive benefited the crew. Later, it would benefit Deadheads when they started to travel in big numbers.

As we all know, the '77 Cornell show was one of the first truly high-quality Grateful Dead tapes not sourced from FM radio to circulate widely. I recall getting mine around 1979, although perhaps I am imagining that. In any case, one factor of the wide circulation of the Cornell tape was an implicit promise to the rest of the Northeast--it would be worth driving a few hours to catch a show like that. I can't help but think a lot of Deadheads looked at a map, whether they were in Boston, New York or Philadelphia, and said "hey, that's not too hard a drive, and it would be fun." And so it began.

May 9, 1977 Buffalo Memorial Auditorium, Buffalo, NY: Grateful Dead (Monday)
Right after Cornell, the Dead returned to Buffalo Memorial Auditorium, once again promoted by Harvey 'N'  Corky. Buffalo Memorial was huge (18,000), and it was a Monday night, so the place was probably only half full. No doubt Harvey Weintstein, a shrewd promoter (and convicted rapist), had calculated that well in advance. The Dead made some money and played a show that was absolutely epic.

A ticket to see the Grateful Dead in the Reid Athletic Center at Colgate U. on Friday, November 2, 1977. The gym is now named Cottterell Court, but I believe that to be a later name.
November 4, 1977 Reid Athletic Center, Colgate University, Hamilton, NY: Grateful Dead (Friday)
The Dead had a show in Toronto on a Wednesday (Nov 2), and a good booking in Rochester on Saturday night (Nov 5). To fill in the Friday, they played the gym at tiny Colgate University, in tiny Hamilton, NY. Hamilton is nearly in the exact center of New York State. It's not near anything. Many years ago, I visited Hamilton College, which (paradoxically) is in Clinton, NY. Pretty as it was, I though Clinton was way out in the country. Yet the Hamilton students assured me that Colgate, 20 miles to the South, made Clinton seem like Greenwich Village.

Colgate is a well-regarded, well-funded University. It was founded in 1819, and has about 3000 students. Places like Colgate have entertainment budgets to bring in touring acts. This Friday night, they bought the Dead. Reid Athletic Center, built in 1959, seats 1,750 for basketball, and probably a bit more for a concert. Most Colgate students were probably there. We know the show burned. No, it don't happen like that no more.

Some pictures from the next day's newspaper show us that a Dead show was a Very Big Deal in Rochester by 1977 (h/t @GratefulSeconds)
November 5, 1977 Community War Memorial Auditorium, Rochester, NY: Grateful Dead (Saturday)
By 1977, Rochester was a good gig for the Grateful Dead. All those odd weeknights had paid off. On this tour, they played the War Memorial and it was a big event. Where once Rochester had just been a geographical convenience,  hard touring had turned it into a great gig for the band.

November 6, 1977 Broome County Arena, Binghamton, NY: Grateful Dead (Sunday)
The Grateful Dead returned to Binghamton in 1977.The Broome County Arena, built in 1973, had a capacity of 5,000. It's important to remember that all those Harpur College students who had seen the band in 1970 were long gone. Generally speaking, the Upstate SUNYs are often excellent schools, but the students don't plan to stay in the area when they graduate. The fact that the Dead could play a 5,000 seater in Binghamton, however, meant that there were enough Deadheads in the Southern part of the state to make it worthwhile.

November 20, 1977 Broome County Forum Theatre, Binghamton, NY: Jerry Garcia Band (Sunday)
Two weeks after the Dead's return to Binghamton, the Jerry Garcia Band played the city again. The Broome County Forum Theatre had 1,500 seats. It was originally built as movie and vaudeville house, and opened 1919 as The Binghamton Theatre, closing in 1931. It opened and closed various times under various names throughout the 1970s. Finally, it was refurbished and reopened in 1975 as The Forum Theatre.

November 29, 1977 Elting Gym, SUNY New Paltz, New Paltz, NY: Jerry Garcia Band (Tuesday)
The Jerry Garcia Band did some hard touring in the Northeast in November and December, and Upstate New York filled in the missing days, just as it had for the Grateful Dead over the years. The Garcia Band played New Paltz on a Tuesday because they had a lucrative weekend (Philly Friday, Passaic Saturday, Manhattan Sunday, Long Island Monday).

November 30, 1977 New Gym, Buffalo Stage College, Buffalo, NY: Jerry Garcia Band (Wednesday)
The JGB train rolled on to Buffalo the night after New Paltz. Note that Harvey 'N' Corky were not the promoters. I don't know the exact chronology, but I think Harvey Weinstein had exited the concert business.

December 3, 1977 Binder Gymnasium, Hartwick College, Oneonta, NY: Jerry Garcia Band (Saturday)
Oneonta was mid-state, in between Binghamton and Albany, in the foothills of the Catskill Mountains. Binder Gym was the old facility, which seems to no longer exist. It would not have been a large arena. John Scher was handling the Jerry Garcia Band touring arrangements East of the Mississippi River, as he did for the Dead. One of Scher's strategies was to fill in a lot of nights with shows at colleges. The money was not huge but reliable, and there was always a guaranteed core of restless undergraduates who would see any touring band. By the same token, since undergraduates moved on, the JGB rarely played the same colleges year after year.

December 8, 1977 Palace Theater, Albany, NY: Jerry Garcia Band (Wednesday)
The JGB returned again to the Palace in Albany for a mid-week show.This was a routing gig for shows in Long Island (Stony Brook Dec 9), DC (Friday Dec 10) and Penn State (Saturday Dec 11).

March 10, 1978 Auditorium Theater, Rochester, NY: Jerry Garcia Band (Friday)
The Spring '78 JGB tour only included one show in Upstate New York. By 1978, however, Garcia was playing the 3,000 seat Auditorium Theater in Rochester on a Saturday night. Now, Garcia/Saunders had played there before (see Nov 17 '74 above), so in a way it wasn't an upward move. Compared to his contemporaries from the 60s, however, Garcia was holding on to his audience, and that was more than most of them were doing.

May 4, 1978 Bailey Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY: Robert Palmer/Robert Hunter and Comfort (Thursday)
Robert Hunter toured the Northeast a few times with his band Comfort. On the second and last go-round, a Commenter reported that Comfort opened for Robert Palmer ("Sneaking Sally Through The Alley" etc) at Cornell ( Confirmed by an interesting link to Cornell rock events). There is a chance that this show replaced New Paltz (below), and may have been May 8.

May 7, 1978  [outdoors], SUNY Albany, Albany, NY Bonnie Raitt/ Robert Hunter and Comfort (Sunday afternoon show)
A Commenter (the former Comfort soundman) recalls that this was an outdoor show at SUNY Albany. 

May 7, 1978 Field House, Renssalaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY: Grateful Dead (Sunday)
The Renssalaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy was founded in 1824. Troy is in the same county as Albany, just up the Hudson from Manhatta. The RPI Field House (now the Houston Field House)was built in 1949, and held about 5,000. Troy filled the gap between a Saturday night show in Burlington, VT (May 6) and Tuesday (May 9) in Syracuse.

May 8, 1978 [venue], SUNY New Paltz, New Paltz, NY: Robert Hunter and Comfort (Monday)
Robert Hunter's periodic appearances certainly helped make the Grateful Dead an ongoing presence in Central New York, although in this case he was probably overshadowed by an actual Dead tour. This show may have been replaced by Cornell (listed as May 4 '78 above).

May 9, 1978 Onondaga County War Memorial Auditorium, Syracuse, NY: Grateful Dead (Tuesday)
A show at Syracuse's War Memorial filled a traditional slot, a weeknight. This time, the Dead were both coming from and returning to New England. Easy driving from New England to Central New York made it an easy choice.

July 15, 1978 TG's East, Greenwood Lake, NY: Robert Hunter (Saturday)
After Comfort broke up, Hunter toured with just bassist Larry Klein. This was possibly Hunter's best configuration, benefiting from his ability to play anything he could remember while still being anchored by Klein.

September 22, 1978 Fillmore Room, SUNY Buffalo, Buffalo, NY: Robert Hunter (Friday)
What was the "Fillmore Room?" Buffalonians, please fill us in.

September 25, 1978 The Jabberwocky, Syracuse, NY: Robert Hunter (Monday)
The Jabberwocky was a long-standing folk and rock club in Syracuse.

November 21, 1978 Community War Memorial Auditorium, Rochester, NY: Grateful Dead (Tuesday)
For this tour, a Tuesday night in Rochester helped bridge the gap from Chicago (Friday/Saturday Nov 17-18) and Capitol Center (Thursday Nov 23).

January 14, 1979 Memorial Coliseum, Utica, NY: Grateful Dead (Sunday)
The Dead had to cancel some November and December 1978 shows due to Garcia's illness. They returned to Utica, which was not really a garden spot in the Winter.

January 20, 1979 Sheas Buffalo Theater, Buffalo, NY: Grateful Dead (Saturday)
The Grateful Dead began to wind up the Keith and Donna era with a Saturday night show at Shea's Buffalo Theater, at 646 Main Street. The 3,000 lucky patrons who saw the band were treated to the last "Dark Star" of the Keith years.

May 5, 1979 JB Scott's, Albany, NY: Robert Hunter (Saturday)

May 9, 1979 Broome County Arena, Binghamton, NY: Grateful Dead (Wednesday)
Brent Mydland's debut in Upstate New York was a Wednesday night in Binghamton, between Penn State (Tuesday May 8) and a weekend in New England.

August 31, 1979 Glens Falls Civic Center, Glenns Falls, NY: Grateful Dead (Friday)
Glens Falls is above Saratoga, the town farthest north on the Hudson River, straight up I-87. The Grateful Dead had a big Saturday night show in Rochester, followed by Madison Square Garden. Glens Falls filled in the Friday date. My suspicion, unproven, is that Deadheads were starting to travel to shows in New York State in some number from Manhattan and New England.

Unlike many aging arenas that the band had played, the Glens Falls Civic Center, capacity 4774, was a new building that had just opened in 1979.

September 1, 1979 Holleder Stadium, Rochester, NY: Grateful Dead/Greg Kihn Band/Good Rats (Saturday)
The Grateful Dead had used Rochester as a tour fill-in for nearly a decade, but by 1979 they had a genuine audience in the region. Holleder Memorial Stadium was an aging football stadium. Built in 1949, it seated 20,000 for football, so it's concert capacity was probably somewhat higher. The opening acts were minor (although Long Island's Good Rats could be counted on to play tasty), so this was just an all-day Grateful Dead show. Rochester was in the rotation now for the Dead, not just a weeknight stop-off.

November 9, 1979 Buffalo Memorial Auditorium, Buffalo, NY: Grateful Dead (Friday)
Buffalo had upgraded, too. Instead of a Monday night booking, here was the Dead playing a Friday night. A lot more people probably filled out the 18,000-capacity arena than would have on a weeknight. 

An ad for the Grateful Dead and Bob Dylan with Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers at Rich Stadium in Buffalo on July 4, 1986
Reaping The Harvest: Upstate and Central New York Touring 1980-95
The Grateful Dead and the Jerry Garcia Band toured hard from 1980 through 1995. New York State played a big economic role in the Dead's extraordinarily successful touring venture. While cities like Syracuse and Rochester still filed in nights between huge bookings in places like Manhattan and Bosotn, the region became a substantial market in its own right. The rise of the Upstate and Central New York markets was all the more remarkable for the fact the 80s and 90s were essentially a period of decline after the 1980. The economy improved in the 90s, but that improvement was focused on the Sun Belt. No matter--the Dead sold out some very big houses in New York State.

I have written out all of the Dead, Garcia and related performances (known to me) below, and you can track the history and reflect upon it for yourself. Two interlocking trends are important to understanding how the market evolved in New York State:
  • Deadheads started to travel in bigger numbers in the late 1970s. There had always been a few Heads who traveled, many from Brooklyn. By the late 70s, the numbers of people who had driven outside their own area for a Dead show had increased enormously. I know of only one effort to capture this phenomenon, but it is just one person's story (Grateful Seconds map of his own touring history). There's a lot of great demography yet to be done on this. Once Deadheads started to travel, however, it mattered less whether the band was in,  say, Syracuse or Rochester, since people from both cities would go to either.
  • Starting in mid-1983 (I don't recall exactly when), the Dead started offering tickets to just about all shows on a mail order basis. Suddently, you didn't need to have a friend in another city to stand in line, or hope you could snag one in the lot. Everyone knew weeks in advance what tickets they had, and could now plan accordingly. If you decided you liked the Grateful Dead, you could go full Traveler at your own discretion. This greatly magnified regional audiences. Someone in Boston, for example, might have gone to Hartford without a ticket, but not Rochester. Now, it was wheels up, and it was way more relaxing to road trip to New York state than Manhattan.
As a result of these two factors, the shows in the Grateful Dead's main outposts got larger and larger, and ultimately shrank down to two venues in Buffalo and Albany. In the early 80s, there were still weeknight shows in places Niagara Falls or Lake Placid, but there were fewer of those as the band got bigger.

The Carrier Dome at Syracuse University, built in 1980. It had a capacity of up to 49,000 for football, and almost as much for basketball.
Syracuse
The Grateful Dead played three shows at Onondaga War Memorial in Syracuse in 1981 and 1982. In the fall of 1982, the band upgraded to the huge Carrier Dome at Syracuse University. The Carrier Dome (Carrier Air Conditioning was a major regional manufacturer) was domed stadium used for both football and basketball. The Carrier had opened in 1980, and the football capacity was 49,000. Whatever the exact attendance was for each of these shows, it was way beyond Onandage War Memorial. This booking only makes sense if you realize that people were coming to see the Dead from all over the region.

September 24, 1982 Carrier Dome, Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY: Grateful Dead (Friday)

October 22, 1983 Carrier Dome, Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY: Grateful Dead (Saturday)

October 20, 1984 Carrier Dome, Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY: Grateful Dead (Saturday)
The Carrier Dome was huge, centrally located, had plenty of parking and had climate protection. Why didn't the Dead keep playing there? One unique factor to consider was that the Carrier Dome was on a college campus, and was home to both the football and basketball teams at Syracuse. The multi-sport home dates blocked out a lot of weekend dates, and colleges generally do not like to have big outside events on weeknights during much of the school year. Also, I don't know if the Carrier Dome was really designed to be used in the Summer.

After 1984, the Dead didn't play Syracuse anymore. They did still play Rochester, and they played Buffalo up until the end, so all the Syracuse fans still got to see the band plenty--just not in Syracuse. Syracuse helped the Dead survive the 70s, and helped build the audience, but it lacked the venue to fit how huge the group became.

November 14, 1993 Onondaga War Memorial Auditorium, Syracuse, NY: Jerry Garcia Band (Sunday)
As a fitting coda, however, the Jerry Garcia Band had played all around Syracuse throughout the 1980s, keeping his band on the road between the big gigs. By 1993, the Jerry Garcia Band was so big that they played the Onandoga War Memorial Auditorium themselves on a Sunday.

An old postcard featuring Silver Stadium, home of AAA Rochester Red Wings. The stadium was built in 1929, and torn down in 1996. The Grateful Dead played there twice, in 1987 and '88. In 1988, the band drew 31,000 fans, the largest ever attendance at Silver Stadium (baseball capacity 15,0000>
Rochester
Rochester is a smaller city than Syracuse, so paradoxically it played a longer role in the  Grateful Dead's touring history. From 1980 through 1985, the Dead played Rochester War Memorial Auditorium six times. Four of those six dates were on school nights. The Dead had made themselves a big deal in Rochester after all these years, and unlike a college campus the audience didn't move away. When the Dead had first played War Memorial, the 11,000 capacity might have seemed like a heavy lift, but once Deadheads started to travel, I figure a lot of tickets got sold to Deadheads on the move.

July 2, 1987 Silver Stadium, Rochester, NY: Grateful Dead (Thursday)

June 30, 1988 Silver Stadium, Rochester, NY: Grateful Dead (Thursday)
By 1987, once the Dead hit their first peak, even 11,000 wasn't going to be enough. As we all recall,  in 1987 the Dead did a stadium tour with Bob Dylan, just as "Touch Of Grey" was starting to hit. So the Dead needed bookings for their huge rig between a weekend at Alpine Valley (June 26-28) and a July 4 show with Bob Dylan in Foxboro Stadium. Silver Stadium was an old minor league baseball stadium built in 1929, with a baseball capacity of 15,000. The Dead played there on a Thursday night in 1987 and had 30,100.

The band came back in 1988, bigger than ever. On June 28 the Dead had a huge show at SPAC (see below), and they had a doubleheader coming up at Oxford Plains Speedway in Maine (July 2-3). Silver Stadium got another Thursday night, and this time the band broke every Silver Stadium record with 31,000 attendance. But that was it for Rochester. There wasn't a big enough venue, and Deadheads all roamed about anyway.

November 20, 1991 Community War Memorial Auditorium, Rochester, NY: Jerry Garcia Band (Wednesday)
November 4, 1993 Community War Memorial Auditorium, Rochester, NY: Jerry Garcia Band (Thursday)
Just as with Syracuse, Rochester had helped keep the Jerry Garcia Band on the road all those years, but by the 90s the Garcia Band was big enough to play the Community War Memorial.


A symphony performance at Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC), in Saratoga Springs, NY. Note that almost none of the audience on the lawn can see the stage. The venue was built for symphony picnics, not rock band shows.
Up The Hudson: Saratoga Springs and Albany
Up until the Spring of '83, the Dead's home in the Southern part of New York State had been Binghamton. Certainly they had played some epic shows there. But there weren't really any big venues there, and the region wasn't thriving in the 1980s anyway. Starting in the Summer of 1983, the Grateful Dead had some huge shows at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, known by everyone as "SPAC." SPAC is located upstate in Saratoga Springs. Saratoga Springs is due North of Manhattan, and just 34 miles above Albany. The facility opened in 1966, and it is the Summer home of both the New York City Ballet and the Philadelphia Symphony. The amphitheater has 5000 seats and room on the lawn for 20,000, and in that sense it is the forerunner of "sheds" like Shoreline Amphitheater. SPAC, however, has the flat, grassy lawn above the bowl, with no sightline to the stage.

By 1983, the Grateful Dead were a big draw in upstate New York. So just as they had chosen to play the larger Carrier Dome in Syracuse the previous fall, to cover the Central part of the state, for Upstate the band was booked at SPAC to accommodate the greater number of Dead fans in the region. Whatever the expectations might have been, the show was a roaring success. The Dead returned to SPAC in 1984, '85 and '88. Even more remarkably, the Dead packed out SPAC on weeknights. I believe the band set some sort of attendance record for the venue in 1988, but did not return. The oddity at SPAC was that most of the audience could not see the stage. From 1990 onwards, the Dead played The Knickerbocker Arena in Albany, and that roughly covered the same region.

A lawn ticket for SPAC on June 24, 1983. The Dead weren't visible on stage from the lawn (I was in seats in the bowl)
June 18, 1983 Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Saratoga Springs, NY: Grateful Dead (Saturday)

June 24, 1984 Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Saratoga Springs, NY: Grateful Dead  (Sunday)

June 27, 1985 Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Saratoga Springs, NY: Grateful Dead (Thursday)

June 28, 1988 Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Saratoga Springs, NY: Grateful Dead (Tuesday)
A unique detail about the 1983 SPAC show was that it was the only East Coast Grateful Dead show that I attended. I was visiting Manhattan and drove up with some friends. At the time, my only real experience with outdoor Dead shows was Berkeley's Greek Theater, where I had seen all of the 1980s shows up to that time (9 shows). I had a general idea that Grateful Dead audiences had a lot in common, and as we waited for the band to start, while SPAC was far larger than the Greek, the cheerful fans seemed pretty similar to those in Berkeley.

Once the Dead came on stage and opened up with "Bertha, " however, the crowd absolutely lost their mind and went completely crazy, cheering at the top of their lungs. I turned to my Manhattan friend and said "everybody is completely nuts!" He waved his hand at me, and said calmly, "oh, this is nothing, you should see Philadelphia." The East Coast and the West Coast Dead crowds were very different animals at this time.

The Knickerbocker Arena in Albany, NY, opened in 1990. The Grateful Dead played the venue thirteen times.
Albany
Albany is the capital of New York State, just over two hours (135 miles) due North up the Hudson from Manhattan. The Knickerbocker Arena opened in early 1990, and the Dead moved in almost immediately to take it over. The band played 13 concerts there in six years, and the Jerry Garcia Band played there in 1991 and '93. The Knick had a capacity of 15,000, but it was a good venue for a multi-night run. From the point of view of the venue, the Dead were often booked on weeknights, so they hardly interfered with other events. It did mean, ironically, that Albany was taking over the role held by Rochester and Syracuse in the past, profitable routing gigs to keep the wheels turning.

Given Deadheads propensity to road trip by the 1990s, Albany was a reasonable drive from Brooklyn, Syracuse, New England or Philadelphia, particularly if you were planning to stay three nights. Albany became the headquarters for Upstate Grateful Dead shows, just as Buffalo became the locus for Central New York.

March 24-26, 1990 Knickerbocker Arena, Albany, NY: Grateful Dead (Sat>Sun>Mon)

March 23-25, 1991 Knickerbocker Arena, Albany, NY: Grateful Dead (Sat>Sun>Mon)

November 16, 1991 Knickerbocker Arena, Albany, NY: Jerry Garcia Band  (Sat)

June 11-12, 1992 Knickerbocker Arena, Albany, NY: Grateful Dead (Thurs>Fri)

March 27-29, 1993 Knickerbocker Arena, Albany, NY: Grateful Dead (Sat>Sun>Mon)

November 3, 1993 Knickerbocker Arena, Albany, NY: Jerry Garcia Band  (Wed)

June 21-22, 1995 Knickerbocker Arena, Albany, NY: Grateful Dead (Wed>Thur)

Truckin' Up To Buffalo
Rochester, Syracuse and Buffalo were the most important cities in Central New York for building the Grateful Dead audience. In the 70s, gigs in those cities kept the Dead on the road, so they get those big paydays in New York, Boston, Philly and DC. Come the early 80s, however, Syracuse and Rochester became much more important than Buffalo. Much of that was just demography. In 1970, Buffalo had had a population of 462,768, but by 1990 it was just 328, 123. For contrast, Las Vegas, Phoenix and Raleigh--all in the Sun Belt--all doubled in population during the same period. Yet the biggest gis in the history of the Grateful Dead in Central New York were in Buffalo, long after the band had sized out of Syracuse and Rochester.

The Carrier Dome seemed to offer a good Central State home for the Dead, but conflicts with the sports schedule and the college calendar caused problems. By the late 1980s, however, Deadheads traveled in large numbers, and none more that Northeasterners who had started the road tripping tradition decades earlier. Deadheads were going to go to the show. All that mattered were available tickets and parking.

Rich Stadium, home of the Buffalo Bills, opened in 1973 in Orchard Park, a nearby suburb of Buffalo. It had a football capacity of 80,000, and more importantly, as an NFL stadium it was empty during the Summer. As a result, from 1974 to 2001, the era of stadium shows, a lot of big shows played Rich Stadium. For the Dead, it worked great. It was in easy striking distance of Syracuse and Rochester, for one thing. I also think, without any direct evidence, that Canadian fans from Toronto and Ontario came to Buffalo in great numbers. There would have been plenty of parking.

The Grateful Dead's first show in Buffalo was in 1970, in a concert hall, booked with the Buffalo Symphony. Their last show in Buffalo was 23 years later, playing a packed football stadium, headlining over a popular singer with numerous hits. Pretty much, that's the story of the Grateful Dead in Upstate and Central New York.

July 4, 1986 Rich Stadium, Orchard Park, NY: Bob Dylan with Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers/Grateful Dead (Friday) 
July 4, 1989 Rich Stadium, Orchard Park, NY: Grateful Dead/10,000 Maniacs (Tuesday) 
July 16, 1990 Rich Stadium, Orchard Park, NY: Grateful Dead/Crosby, Stills and Nash (Monday) 
June 6, 1992 Rich Stadium, Orchard Park, NY: Grateful Dead/Steve Miller Band (Saturday) 
June 13, 1993 Rich Stadium, Orchard Park, NY: Grateful Dead/Sting (Sunday) 
November 5, 1993 Buffalo Memorial Auditorium, Buffalo, NY: Jerry Garcia Band (Friday)

Glens Falls Civic Center, in Glens Falls, NY, opened in 1979 (capacity 4,774)
Roll Call: Grateful Dead Appearances in Upstate and Central New York, 1980-1995
In this post, I have attempted to list every performance by the Grateful Dead and its members that was North or West of New York City (Westchester, Suffolk and Long Island are worthy of posts on their own, of course). Since I took an overview above, the balance of the post is a llist of the rest of the shows. I have put a few comments on certain events or venues, but I didn't want to repeat the same comment over and over.

If you have additions, corrections, insights or uninformed speculation about any of these shows, please add them in the Comments. I'm not only interested in missing dates, but accurate venue names (of college gyms for example) and openng acts. 



February 13, 1980 Palace Theater, Albany, NY: Jerry Garcia Band/Rachel Sweet (Wednesday)

February 17, 1980 Laker Hall, SUNY Oswego, Oswego, NY: Jerry Garcia Band (Sunday)
Oswego is on Lake Ontario, roughly between Rochester and Syracuse, and not far from Utica. Although the show would have been primarily aimed at students at SUNY Oswego, dedicated Garcia fans from those surrounding cities would have insured that the show was well attended. As the Grateful Dead became a larger attraction in Central New York, Garcia and Weir tended to be booked in smaller cities or college towns around the major cities.

February 19, 1980 Landmark Theater, Syracuse, NY: Jerry Garcia Band/Robert Hunter (Tuesday)
By this time, bassist Larry Klein was no longer touring with Hunter. From this point onward, Hunter's East Coast appearances were all solo.

May 7, 1980 Barton Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY: Grateful Dead (Wednesday)

May 8, 1980 Glens Falls Civic Center, Glens Falls, NY: Grateful Dead (Thursday)

July  27, 1980 Palace Theater, Albany, NY: Jerry Garcia Band (Friday)

September 2, 1980 Community War Memorial Auditorium, Rochester, NY: Grateful Dead (Tuesday)

March 13, 1981 Utica Memorial Auditorium, Utica, NY: Grateful Dead (Friday)

May 5, 1981 Glens Falls Civic Center, Glens Falls, NY: Grateful Dead (Tuesday)

May 16, 1981 Barton Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY: Grateful Dead (Saturday)
The Grateful Dead made their third and final appearance at Barton Hall. Remember, even if you were a freshman in May 1977, if you were making normative time you would have graduated by Spring semester '81.

May 17, 1981 Onondaga War Memorial Auditorium, Syracuse, NY: Grateful Dead (Sunday)

September 26, 1981 Buffalo Auditorium, Buffalo, NY: Grateful Dead (Saturday)

November 1, 1981 Tuttle North Gym, SUNY Brockport, Brockport, NY: Jerry Garcia Band (Sunday)
Brockport is just East of Rochester, and near Lake Ontario. When the Garcia Band played colleges in these areas, they were both encouraging new young converts while still providing a fix for the fans in the region. The Grateful Dead were no longer hip in 1981, by any accounting, but even established Deadheads were still not that old, so playing colleges was still a viable commercial strategy.

November 4, 1981 Palace Theater, Albany, NY: Jerry Garcia Band (Wednesday)

February 11, 1982 Auditorium Theater, Rochester, NY: Bobby And The Midnites/Joan Jett and The Blackhearts (Thursday)
It's fashionable these days to make fun of Bobby And The Midnites. The fact is, they were a great live band. Also, to the extent that there was a "Deadhead community," it was pretty undeveloped outside of places like Brooklyn and Berkeley. So seeing an actual member of the Dead at your local auditorium was a chance to connect with other like-minded souls.

April 8, 1982  Onondaga War Memorial Auditorium, Syracuse, NY: Grateful Dead (Thursday)

April 9, 1982 Community War Memorial Auditorium, Syracuse, NY: Grateful Dead (Friday)

April 14, 1982 Glens Falls Civic Center, Glens Falls, NY: Grateful Dead (Wednesday)

June 16, 1982 Music Mountain, South Fallsburg, NY: Jerry Garcia Band/Bobby And The Midnites (Wednesday)
The Garcia Band took one stab pairing themselves on tour with Bobby And The Midnites. It's my impression that this was a fairly substantial show. South Fallsburg is genuinely "upstate," pretty far up NY-17 (NW off I-87), and not near any big cities. Garcia opened the show and let Weir close, his common practice in the Bay Area. As it happened, it poured with rain during the Bobby And The Midnites set.

June 30, 1982 Auditorium Theater, Rochester, NY: Jerry Garcia and John Kahn (Wednesday)

September 24, 1982 Carrier Dome, Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY: Grateful Dead (Friday)

October 12, 1982 Red Creek Inn, Rochester, NY: Robert Hunter (Tuesday)
Throughout the mid-80s, Hunter played some clubs in the bigger cities in Central New York. Despite, or perhaps because, the gatherings were so intimate, I think Hunter's periodic presence did a lot to keep the flag flying. Hunter would periodically play songs that had been completely unheard live by almost all Deadheads, like "Easy Wind" or "Mason's Children," and it set him apart from the other Dead spinoff groups.

October 24, 1982 Clark Gym, SUNY Buffalo, Buffalo, NY: Robert Hunter (Sunday)
Was Hunter billed with another act for this show?

October 26, 1982 The Landmark, Kingston, NY: Robert Hunter (Tuesday)
Kingston is upstate on I-87, on the Hudson River, between Poughkeepsie and the Catskills.

March 10, 1983 The Chance, Poughkeepsie, NY: Robert Hunter (Thursday)
Poughkeepsie is about 85 miles due North of Manhattan, straight up the Hudson River.

April 12, 1983 Broome County Arena, Binghamton, NY: Grateful Dead (Tuesday)
The Grateful Dead make their last appearance in Binghamton.

April 15, 1983 Community War Memorial Auditorium, Rochester, NY: Grateful Dead (Friday)

May 25, 1983 Shea's Auditorium, Buffalo, NY: Jerry Garcia Band (Wednesday)

May 26, 1983 Auditorium Theater, Rochester, NY: Jerry Garcia and John Kahn (Thursday)
Some pretty good bands played The Chance in Poughkeepsie in June 1983. Still, it was a pretty small place fot the JGB to play, even with double shows on a Saturday night.
June 4, 1983 Chance Theater, Poughkeepsie, NY: Jerry Garcia Band/Rick Danko (Saturday early and late shows)

June 8, 1983 Chance Theater, Poughkeepsie, NY: Bobby And The Midnites (Wednesday)

June 18, 1983 Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Saratoga Springs, NY: Grateful Dead (Saturday)

August 20, 1983 J. Bee's Rock III, Middletown, NY: Robert Hunter (Saturday)
Middletown is on I-84, near the New Jersey border.

October 17, 1983 Olympic Arena, Lake Placid, NY: Grateful Dead (Monday)
Lake Placid had been the site of the 1980 Winter Olympics. It was pretty far North and East, near to both Montreal and Vermont. The venue would have been within easy driving distance of Rochester, Syracuse, Albany and New England. The Olympic Arena was a 7,700-capacity multi-use arena, built for the Olympics. The Monday night show was in between a weekend in Hartford (Oct 14-15) and a two-night booking in Worcester (Oct 20-21). In between, the band played Monday (Oct 17) at Lake Placid and Tuesday (Oct 18) in Portland, ME. Since October 17 was a Monday, the show was aimed at getting fans from the surrounding area, rather than locally, since relatively speaking, not many people lived in Lake Placid. Since the Grateful Dead had just initiated obtaining tickets by mail, it was finally easy for East Coast fans to get tickets without special connections.

October 22, 1983 Carrier Dome, Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY: Grateful Dead (Saturday)

October 23, 1983 Ben Light Gymnasium, Ithaca College, Ithaca, NY: Bobby And The Midnites (Sunday)

October 25, 1983 Shea's Theater, Buffalo, NY: Bobby And The Midnites (Tuesday)
Hot Tuna was booked as well, but canceled because Jorma was ill.

November 26, 1983 Broome County Forum Theatre, Binghamton, NY: Jerry Garcia Band (Saturday)

December 11, 1983 Laker Hall, SUNY Oswego, Oswego, NY: Jerry Garcia Band (Sunday)

March 31, 1984 Coleman's, Rome, NY: Robert Hunter (Saturday)

April 1, 1984 Paradise Saloon, Syracuse, NY: Robert Hunter (Sunday)

April 16, 1984 Community War Memorial Auditorium, Rochester, NY: Grateful Dead (Tuesday)

April 17, 1984 Niagara Falls Convention Center, Niagara Falls, NY: Grateful Dead (Wednesday)
Niagara Falls was West of Rochester and North of Buffalo. It was also in relatively easy range of Toronto and Ontario. Once again, the Dead served local fans while remaining in easy driving distance of any established fans. The band had played two nights in Hampton (Apr 13-14) and were heading to The Spectrum in Philadelphia for three shows (April 19-21). In between, the Dead played and Rochester on Monday (Apr 16) and Niagara Falls on Tuesday (Apr 17).

June 24, 1984 Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Saratoga Springs, NY: Grateful Dead (Sunday)

July 22, 1984 Red Creek Inn, Rochester, NY: Robert Hunter (Sunday)

August 15, 1984 Orange County Community College, Middletown, NY: Jerry Garcia Band (Wednesday)
Middletown is a city in Orange County, New York, United States. It lies in New York's Hudson Valley region, near the Wallkill River and the foothills of the Shawangunk Mountains. Middletown is situated between Port Jervis and Newburgh, New York, near the Hudson River. Middletown is on the Port Jervis Line to Hoboken, so at least hypothetically commutable to Manhattan, if you took PATH. Realistically, however, it's upstate.

August 24,1984 Festival Tent, Monroe County Fairgrounds, Henrietta, NY: Bobby And The Midnites (Friday)
Henrietta is just 20 minutes South of Rochester, so while in a way this was a new city, it drew from the same pool of Rochester Deadheads who had probably seen the band on multiple occasions.

October 20, 1984 Carrier Dome, Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY: Grateful Dead (Saturday)

November 27, 1984 Auditorium Theater, Rochester, NY: Jerry Garcia and John Kahn/Robert Hunter (Tuesday)

June 27, 1985 Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Saratoga Springs, NY: Grateful Dead (Thursday)

August 6, 1985 The Casablanca, Rochester, NY: Kokomo (Tuesday)
Kokomo featured Brent Mydland and Bill Kreutzmann. I am the only person to try and tell the Kokomo story, such as it is. By the next year, the band had evolved into Go Ahead.

November 7-8, 1985 Community War Memorial Auditorium, Rochester, NY: Grateful Dead (Thursday-Friday)

July 4, 1986 Rich Stadium, Orchard Park, NY: Bob Dylan with Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers/Grateful Dead (Friday)

October 8, 1986 USA Sam's, North Syracuse, NY: Go Ahead (Wednesday)
Go Ahead featured Brent Mydland and Bill Kreutzmann. They toured pretty steadily in late Summer and Fall '86, when everyone was worried about Garcia's recovery from his coma. Go Ahead was a pretty good band, and they are extremely fondly remembered, as the Comment Thread on my history will tell you.

October 10, 1986 Trafalmadore Cafe, Buffalo, NY: Go Ahead (Friday)

October 11, 1986 The Warehouse, Rochester, NY: Go Ahead (Saturday)

October 26, 1986 Trafalmadore Cafe, Buffalo, NY: Robert Hunter (Sunday)

July 2, 1987 Silver Stadium, Rochester, NY: Grateful Dead (Thursday)

June 28, 1988 Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Saratoga Springs, NY: Grateful Dead (Tuesday)

June 30, 1988 Silver Stadium, Rochester, NY: Grateful Dead (Thursday)

July 4, 1989 Rich Stadium, Orchard Park, NY: Grateful Dead/10,000 Maniacs (Tuesday)

March 24-26, 1990 Knickerbocker Arena, Albany, NY: Grateful Dead (Saturday/Sunday/Monday)

July 16, 1990 Rich Stadium, Orchard Park, NY: Grateful Dead/Crosby, Stills and Nash (Monday)

March 23-25, 1991 Knickerbocker Arena, Albany, NY: Grateful Dead (Saturday/Sunday/Monday)

Jul 13, 1991 Darien Lake Performing Arts Center, Darien Lake, NY: Hot Tuna/Bob Weir And Rob Wasserman (Saturday)
The Darien Lakes Performing Arts Center is part of an amusement park. Darien Lake is 40 mi East of Buffalo, and stands as farthest west any member of the Grateful Dead has played in New York State save for Buffalo proper.

September 29, 1991 Palace Theater, Albany, NY: Bob Weir and Rob Wasserman (Sunday)

November 16, 1991 Knickerbocker Arena, Albany, NY: Jerry Garcia Band (Saturday)

November 20, 1991 Community War Memorial Auditorium, Rochester, NY: Jerry Garcia Band (Wednesday)

June 6, 1992 Rich Stadium, Orchard Park, NY: Grateful Dead/Steve Miller Band (Saturday)

June 11-12, 1992 Knickerbocker Arena, Albany, NY: Grateful Dead (Thursday/Friday)

July 22, 1992 Empire Court, Syracuse, NY: Bob Weir and Rob Wasserman (Wednesday)

March 27-29, 1993 Knickerbocker Arena, Albany, NY: Grateful Dead (Saturday/Sunday/Monday)

June 13, 1993 Rich Stadium, Orchard Park, NY: Grateful Dead/Sting (Sunday)

November 3, 1993 Knickerbocker Arena, Albany, NY: Jerry Garcia Band (Wednesday)

November 4, 1993 Community War Memorial Auditorium, Rochester, NY: Jerry Garcia Band (Thursday)

November 5, 1993 Buffalo Memorial Auditorium, Buffalo, NY: Jerry Garcia Band (Friday)

November 14, 1993 Onondaga War Memorial Auditorium, Syracuse, NY: Jerry Garcia Band (Sunday)

June 21-22, 1995 Knickerbocker Arena, Albany, NY: Grateful Dead (Wednesday/Thursday)

The New Riders played SUNY Brockport on April 5, 1974 (thanks to Grateful Seconds for the ad from The Stylus)
Appendix: New Riders Of The Purple Sage Upstate New York Performances, 1972-74
I know no one thinks I try and keep these posts from getting out of hand, but really I do. The New Riders of The Purple Sage were managed by Jon McIntire up through 1973, and booked by Sam Cutler's Out Of Town Tours until early 1974. So the New Riders were both beneficiaries and participants in the Dead's booking strategy in Upstate New York. The symbiotic connection between the Dead and the Riders meant that NRPS appearances also represented a gathering of the tribe, if a somewhat smaller one. Without writing another 4000 more words, here are the known NRPS dates from 1972-74. If anyone has additions or corrections, please add them in the Comments.

April 13, 1972 Field House, LeMoyne College, Syracuse, NY: New Riders of The Purple Sage
April 14, 1972 Proctor's Theater, Schenectady, NY: New Riders of The Purple Sage
November 29, 1972 Palace Theater, Albany, NY: New Riders of The Purple Sage/Eric Andersen
December 2, 1972 [venue], SUNY Binghamton, Binghamton, NY: New Riders of The Purple Sage
December 12, 1972, [Elting Gym], SUNY New Paltz, New Paltz, NY: New Riders of The Purple Sage
September 6, 1973 Palace Theater, Albany, NY: New Riders of The Purple Sage
October 12, 1973 The Palestra, U. of Rochester, Rochester, NY: New Riders of The Purple Sage
November 17, 1973 Reid Athletic Center, Colgate University, Hamilton, NY: New Riders of The Purple Sage
Note that the New Riders had tried out playing at Colgate, under the aegis of Sam Cutler, four years before the November 4, 1977 show (above). So the Dead weren't entirely leaping into the unknown when they booked that date.

November 26, 1973 Onondaga War Memorial Auditorium, Syracuse, NY: New Riders of The Purple Sage/Eric Andersen
April 5, 1974 Gym, SUNY Brockport, Brockport, NY: New Riders of The Purple Sage
April 6, 1974 Bailey Hall, Cornell U, Ithaca, NY: New Riders of The Purple Sage
The NRPS Archive site lists Barton Hall, but I find it more likely that the Riders played the much smaller Bailey Hall (built 1912, capacity 1328).
April 19, 1974 [venue], Buffalo, NY: New Riders of The Purple Sage
April 21, 1974 [venue], SUNY Fredonia, Fredonia, NY: New Riders of The Purple Sage/Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen
September 14, 1974 [venue], SUNY Morrisville, Morrisville, NY: New Riders of The Purlpe Sage
November 23, 1974 Fieldhouse, Rockland Community College, Ramapo, NY: New Riders of The Purple Sage/Waylon Jennings


21 comments:

  1. I thought the 9/18/73 show was cancelled. No recordings and not even a setlist.

    There's no I-64 in NYS. The highway to get there from the NYC area is NY 17.

    Saratoga Springs is only 34 miles north of Albany.

    They played three nights at Alpine Valley in 1987, 6/26-28.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. unknown, thanks for the careful reading. You are absolutely correct on the Sep 18 '73 show, it was planned but didn't happen (just like Providence a few days before)

      Thanks too for the geographical corrections. All fixed now.

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    2. Even the short two-week Sept '73 tour still had some canceled nights - Sep 9 in Nassau, Sep 14 in Providence & Sep 18 in Syracuse. There might have been other reasons to cancel - Phil may have been sick in Providence - but it seems the Dead thought there would be more demand for them in these areas than there was. (Meanwhile Williamsburg VA, off the Dead's usual touring track, still got two nights.)

      But it's useful to remember that on any tour, the Dead generally could have played more cities than they did play. The fall '73 tour schedule, for instance, would have looked different if it had included Fort Collins, Fort Worth, Dayton, Landover, and Houston (all canceled).
      Possibly ticket demand was too low in some cities, but my impression is that already by the early '70s, the Dead were no longer playing anyplace they could just to make every paydate possible. I suspect that after playing 150 shows a year in 1969-70, they shuddered and said "never again," and limited their touring to more comfortable schedules thereafter.

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    3. Jul 13, 1991 Darien Lake Performing Arts Center, Darien Lake, NY: Hot Tuna/Bob Weir And Rob Wasserman (Saturday)
      The Darien Lakes Performing Arts Center is part of an amusement park. Darien Lake is 40 mi East of Buffalo, and stands as farthest west any member of the Grateful Dead has played in New York State.

      Go ahead played Buffalo

      This was a lot of fun to read. I had forgotten how many shows i saw in the 80s and 90s.

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    4. Hot Tuna/Bob Weir And Rob Wasserman also played the nys fair grounds that year. But not during the fair.

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  3. 'albany' encompasses the albany - troy - schenectady metro area, which includes schools like RPI, SUNY, etc. so there would be a big audience for music in that area.

    new york state is riddled with highways that readily connect the cities where the GD played in central new york. there is the Thruway (and the taconic) connecting NYC with albany. binghamton is well connected by road to everywhere else. utica, syracuse, rochester all are easy on/offs from the NYS Thruway, which itself connects albany with buffalo; those two are about 300 miles apart. the Mass Pike connects to the NYS Thruway, giving ready access for western massachusetts fans to albany shows (boston to albany being about 170 miles apart). the Northway brings in fans from north of albany.

    coincidentally, quite a bit of the NYS Thruway parallels the original canal system; much of that canal system is still visible from the highway as one zips by.

    I-) ihor

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  4. it would be really insightful to do a breakdown of the finances and costs of a GD concert of that time - who got how much, down to the road crew level, and what cost what and who covered what.

    even without that, one can get a rough idea by guessing that the band would, for a venue, get $1 or $2 or more from each ticket sold, depending on ticket price. out of that, they would cover salaries, trucks, equipment, meals, lodging, travel, etc.

    a lot of people think it was just 'jerry, jerry, jerry!'; your post shows the reality and the business side of touring. the music was important; having good tour managers was also key to the band's success.

    I-) ihor

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  5. Outstanding read (so far at least...haven’t even reached Nixon’s second term yet). Minor correction to this sentence:

    “ Buffalo is on Lake Erie, Syracuse is near Lake Ontario and Rochester is near Lake Oneida, all in the Northern part of the Empire State.”

    You swapped Rochester’s Lake O. with Syracuse’s. Not the easiest task to keep track of all those New York State Os, what between Ontario, Oneida, Oneonta, Onondaga, Oswego, Owego, etc.

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  8. A small correction in the Roll Call:
    April 9, 1982 Onondaga War Memorial Auditorium, Syracuse, NY: Grateful Dead (Friday)
    should be
    April 9, 1982 Community War Memorial Auditorium, Rochester, NY: Grateful Dead (Friday)

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  9. Hi Corry342,


    I just opened my new copy of the 50th anniversary edition of Workingman's Dead, and within two minutes of listening to the languid opening "Cold Rain and Snow" from Port Chester, NY in 1971, I thought of you. The sound is excellent. I hope all is well. Like you, I am still plugging along with my music stuff.

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    1. John, thanks for the kind words. Plugging along, it's all we can do

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    2. A bit of backstory:

      In high school (late 80s) my friends were all into the Dead and I thought I'd never heard such boring, out-of-tune singing and playing in my life. I could NOT get. For me, the world began and ended with Kraftwerk.

      However, a few years ago something clicked. Now, I'm near fanatic in my pursuit of everything GD.

      And this blog - which I just discovered - is HUGE resource for me. (Especially the post and useful links on The Dead and Jazz).

      So, as a GD novice, THANK YOU for sharing your time, knowledge and extensive research.

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  10. I just want to say as someone who grew up in Rochester and now lives in Orange County, NY I really enjoyed your blog post. I went to most of the Dead’s upstate NY Dead shows from ‘81 on. I’ve always regretted not being born a few years earlier so I could have caught some of the amazing shows in the ‘70’s. As far as traveling to shows, this was occurring up and down the East Coast my whole GD career from ‘81 on. I would have to think there were a lot of Heads road tripping to the college shows. Shit we flew from DC to Syracuse Carrier Dome in ‘83 chasing St Stephen. Peoples Express would get you to a show for $19. The Knickerbocker Arena was being built in Albany while I was going to law school there from ‘86-‘89. During that time there was no local GD shows except Saratoga ‘88 which I missed because I was working as a law clerk in NYC. Once they opened the Knick I went back to Albany for every Dead show they played. Some of the best ‘90’s shows were at the Knick. They loved playing there and it sounded great. SPAC in ‘84 and ‘85 were massive shows for the time and my understanding is they were not allowed back again until ‘88 and then banned completely. They were also not allowed to play multiple nights at SPAC. We had to head to Merriwether for a double dose of summer Dead and virtually everyone who went to Saratoga in the early ‘80’s wound up hitting either Harrisburg or Hershey and then the 2 night run at Merriwether.

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    1. Jon, thanks for the kind words and the eyewitness accounts. The upstate NY GD fan base was an entity unto itself, often somewhat overshadowed by NYC Metro.

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  11. "Binghamton, NY doesn't resonate with most people, but IBM got started nearby, and General Electric and Alcoa had big operations there." Let's not forget that McIntosh Amplifiers that powered the Wall of Sound are was founded in Binghamton and are still headquartered there today

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  12. This Rochester head really enjoyed this write up. I wish i was a teen in the 70s to catch all the legendary shows.

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  13. A couple notes about Buffalo:
    You write "As to "Western New York," New Yorkers, in my experience, only refer vaguely to it, usually as an uncivilized area West of where you happen to be at any time. "

    Perhaps true if by New Yorkers you mean those from NYC. But Western New York (WNY) is the term used by anyone from Buffalo for their region. Not "Upstate" and definitely not "Central" (which is Syracuse and Utica, not Buffalo or Rochester). Think "Bay Area" vs. "Norcal."

    A venue the size of the Aud was more for sports than for music in Buffalo. Although built in the 1940s, by 1973 the NHL Sabres and the NBA Braves (the franchise that is now the LA Clippers) were both playing there.

    Finally, about Harvey & Corky: Stories say the first gig they promoted was a Stephen Stills concert in 1972 (I can't find a date), which grew out of their work on a UB student activities committee. So you may well be right that they would have been involved in the Garcia show in January of that year in that capacity.
    There is a picture of them with Keith and Donna in front of a Sabres logo at the Aud from the September 1973 gig.
    Harvey & Corky remained the big local concert promoter well into the 1980s. I would guess the only reason they weren't involved with the Buff State JGB gig in late 1977 was that a student group promoted it instead.

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