Seriously, was Pigpen gassy? Why is he set up in Mendocino Country?
This is October of ’67 at the Greek Theatre, which is on the campus of UC Berkeley (Go Banana Slugs!) and opened in 1903; the venue got the name because, well, just look at the fucker. Couldn’t be more Greek if Germany was bailing out its economy.
Not only did rockyroll bands not know what they were doing in ’67, neither did rockyroll audiences. What’s with the sitting-there-politely bullshit? Rush the stage, teens! Show the musicians you appreciate them by tackling them viciously and ripping them to shreds. Or at least ask for some banjo lessons. Put your backs into it, for fuck’s sake.
Those columns are Doric. Were they Ionian, they would be slimmer and have fancy scrollwork at the top. I’d describe Corinthian columns for you, but you’re not ready for that jelly.
Psychedelia was not kind to Charlie Watts, at least not sartorially. Don’t make Charlie Watts wear a caftan with magical sigils all over it. Let Charlie wear his hand-tailored suits.
This was ’67. My high school band, A Bunch Of Guys From France, had more equipment than this; it’s downright adorable. Plus, those are pussy-ass Vox amps and they’re underpowered. No one in that auditorium heard a damned thing.
Let’s see what a real band’s backline looked like in ’67:
Hey, it’s the Baby Dead in Montreal! This was at what was called the Montreal Expo (which was really a World’s Fair, but you know Quebecois can’t call anything by its Anglo name) in 1967, and it marked the Dead’s first gig outside the United States*. They played at the Youth Pavilion along with the Jefferson Airplane (seen at the end of the clip), Thelonious Monk, the Supremes (Diana Ross-led version), and Tiny Tim. Sadly, Mr. Tim did not sit in for Dark Star. There’s no recording, but they did play Viola Lee Blues and Alligator; they repeated the two songs at the Monterey Pop Festival a week or so later, so why don’t you just listen to this and pretend that it’s Montreal?
And hey! Here’s another shot of Garcia and Bobby getting waaaaaaay too close to the Airplane’s gear:
Check out Dorkenheimer in the shorts back there.
And here’s one of The Boys playing:
FUN FACT: The set is a direct result of one 50-year-old Montrealer asking another, “Wot do ze children like zese days when zey take ze drugs?”
*The Expo gig was actually the last show in a Canadian mini-tour, but I still stand by the tenets of Without Research.
His name was Pigpen–it wasn’t, really; but that’s what the all the groovies and chickies called him–and he was first to be noticed. All eyes! no matter how doopy and drippy: there he was, not corpulent but solid behind a Vox organ, which is what all the garage bands–they’re called “garage bands” now in homage to their place of birth, even if it’s not true–are playing because it is far less dear than a Hammond or (God forbid) a piano. (“Can you imagine Pigpen playing a piano?” a barefoot girl asked me. “That’s what Shakespeare played!”) And then Jerry Garcia and his hair like a frozen storm cloud: black and tumultuous; he was not thin like the other members of the group, but nor was he as fat as Pigpen and he was so in a different way: a lazy weight, a seated weight, a joint-borne weight:::::::and then they began to make a sound like THRONGTHRONGDAKKA over and over::::::the drummer (who was introduced by a number of appellations: Bill, Billy, the Original White Negro) had several facial tics, and they competed and jousted: cheeks against eyelids in a holding pattern, gritted jaw coming around the flank.
The electric bass player is reportedly the smart one–almost five semesters at San Mateo Community College under the belt his old lady shoplifted from the Army surplus store–and he does not play like the black musicians who prefer an ostinato, instead wandering around the fretboard; sometimes like a cougar searching for prey, and sometimes like a senile pensioner searching for the house she lived in 40 years prior. The “cute” one is called Bob by men, or Bobby by girls, or WEIR! by the rest of the group: he is younger by a few years, and the Grateful Dead are all at an age when a few years matters.
And the rest! My God the hangers-on! Attendants, if you will. Burly brutes for lifting the delicate amplifiers and old ladies for fetching Cokes and skinny dudes in winklepicker shoes rolling numbers (no one calls them “joints” anymore; keep up, keep up) and engorged bikers in denim and leather–the only ones present drinking beer–and “with-it” negros and at least one nastily conspicuous newspaper reporter in a suit and tie.
Don’t forget the chickies! They are everywhere and eternally sixteen (if that); several have removed their blouses to reveal apple-dumpling breasts that remain static with the chickies’ torsos (gravity is a rumor to the chickies!) and they congregate–that is the word, congregate–beneath the “cute” one Bobby; they dance like deboned chickens in an earthquake and Bobby–WEIR!–smiles to himself and throws back his hair which is just as long if not longer than the chickies and 30 minutes, or maybe two, the band stops playing but the crowd keeps going.