Matera's Festival of Magic 2
Felt Forum, NYC 12-7-71 Another Festival of Magic
Getting to my third Grateful Dead show was inspired
by the radio show broadcast in the New York area on
12-5-71. After getting properly primed that night,
my brain was pleasantly mixed, stirred and pureed by
many new songs: Tennessee Jed, Comes a Time, Sugaree,
and One More Saturday Night, just to name a few - and
some of the ones that I had become familiar with by
that time: an incredibly trippy Dark Star and
Not Fade Away>China Cat Freakout (as I've come to call it) >
Going Down the Road > Not Fade Away, just to name the
major mind blowers. To say the least, I could not believe
what had happened to me that night, so I *had* to make
my way to NYC for the last show at the Felt Forum on 12-7-71.
No ticket in hand, and long before the "I Need a Miracle" cry
became part of the Grateful Dead culture, I took the LIRR to
Manhattan, stepped out of Penn Station and made my way to
The Forum. At the Forum entrance, I looked up at the marquee
"The Grateful Dead
A Festival of Magic"
Remembering the radio show from 12/5, I smiled and thought to
myself: "Yow!" (It wasn't until after the show that I
realized that there really *was* a magic show being billed
for the following week)
After some interesting negotiations involving a couple trying to
get rid of two tickets, and two gals trying to get seats together,
for $20 for a $12.50 ticket (from what I remember) I ended up
with a *real* nice seat, about 20 rows back and at, um, well,
To say the least, I was ecstatic to be there. Dead shows,
before the shows, were relatively layed back affairs in 1971.
I kicked back and took in the plain vanilla, arena-like quality
of this 2500 (more or less) seat venue. I shook my head as
some guy told his girlfriend that "snow" is the abstraction
of "rain". (Like - I know what he was *saying*, but *what* the
heck was he *saying*?
The New Riders came on and did their thing. I always liked the
first few songs of NRPS sets, but I get antsy with them pretty
quickly. No Jerry on pedal anymore, so I had to be patient.
After being "primed" for the 12-5-71 show, and being totally
blown away, I was determined to see if the Dead could do the
same thing to me without any auditory aids. Well, at least for
the first few songs.
The Dead took the stage. I remember that Jerry was wearing
a black turtle neck that he pushed up to just below his elbows.
Phil, I think, had a white tee shirt. I seem to remember Bob
wearing that tight, brownish-red , long-sleeved shirt that he
seemed to wear a lot, his hair in a pony tail, as was usual back
The music started on unfamiliar notes and quieter than I was
used to. With Jerry smiling and taking command of the band, he
stepped up to the microphone and started singing: "I married me a
wife, she's been trouble all my life...", which caused me to jump
to my feet for the first of several times that night (after a while
I was too busy dancing to bother to sit down) to the strains of
"Cold Rain and Snow". It was a very quiet kinda country tune that
night, and very unlike the psychedelia that I had listened to two
nights before, but it quickly warmed my heart.
That same excitement was surpassed, further into the set, when the
Dead broke into Brokedown Palace. Again, I jumped to my feet!
It was around this time, I think, that I decided that it was time to
get "more in touch with the music", and I did. It was kinda fun doing
so with a security guard standing just below and to my right. As
the smoke hit the air, his eyes darted around my area. I did what I
could to hold back my laughter. I just *had* to look at him, though,
and when I did, he just stared right into my eyes. I feigned that
"I just happened to be looking at you" look, and then we both went
on with our business at hand. He had to scan the crowds for fiends
like me; I had to get back to getting blown away by Jerry and the
One of my fondest memories of the first set, was of Tennessee Jed,
which I had just gotten to know from two nights before (I had no
recordings of 12-5-71 until several months later. Now I have the
original reels that were recorded from the radio that night, so after
35 years, I have gotten a lot of enjoyment out of that show :-).
Tennessee was a potent little party tune. Everyone seemed to be up
and dancing, and Jerry, that son of a gun, was doing all sorts of
pluckin' and plinkin' on his guitar, all the while smiling his wonderful
smile, bobbing his head, as he scanned the crowd. I was groovin'
and shakin' my body and my head, eyes closed and thoroughly in love.
I looked up and Jerry seemed to be looking me right in the eyes,
and beaming even more at my apparent ecstasy. I beamed right back
A rousing Casey Jones ended the set.
Intermission. Whew! I needed it.
The second set clocked-along. (Skipping ahead for a moment) The Dead
continued to blow me to atoms and scattered them to the four corners of
the Felt Forum with a powerful, powerful Truckin' - the song's end
strumming seemed to last forever, with all of us frozen in time.
It was this same power and timelessness that captivated me with the
"Not Fade Away". Each time Bob yelled, "Yoooowwww! Not Fade Away!" he
threw his head backwards, as he arched his back. That certainly drained
the last drop out of me, but the jam that set me up for the kill that
night was something that I have come to call "The Vortex Jam".
This song began nicely with some rockin' Pigpen tune. Pig was in
wonderful form, yelping and beltin' out the song, head way back and
microphone gripped in his hand and close to his face. As the jam
progressed, I watched as a smiling Jerry ran back and forth to his
amps and back, tweaking and turning knobs, and doing some *real*
strange stuff on slide.
I must say, that I went into that show, thinking, "They aren't going
to get *me* tonight!" As you guys now know, they got me *all* night,
so who the heck was I kiddin'? As I listened to Jerry doing the
strange slide thing, I was thinking the same thing: "You ain't gonna
Most of us, think that somehow we mind-meld with The Grateful Dead
when we see them. Sometimes, I think that Jerry knew what I was
thinking, and he figured: "We're gonna get him - but good!"
To set the scene:
The band was working like a machine. Jerry and Bob were close to the
front of the stage, close to each other and facing each other, faces
wrenched with determination as they broke into that ferocious and
potent "Viola Lee Blues"-like end jam, with guitars strumming at a
fierce rate, and Phil clockin' right along.
Quickly and without warning, Jerry and Bob stepped dramatically
towards each other, hands moving further down on their guitar necks,
striking the strings even faster and harder,
before we could steady ourselves, Wham! They took another step
closer to each other, hands down close to the bottom of the necks, and
brought the jam to an even more intense level,
At that moment of intensity, all hell broke loose. The music
seemed to spin the auditorium around in an uncontrollable *vortex*,
taking all of us with it.
If you can imagine playing that end part of Viola on your old record
player, and then pulling the plug out at the most intense moment - that
swirling, slurring, slowing wail of sound, is what the Dead did that
night. It leaves me spinning just to remember it. I couldn't *believe*
what had just *happened*! I just kept thinking "hummina, hummina,
I was *gone*...
The music took a quiet turn. Jerry and Bob gently strumming and Bill
looking cool, his hi-hat gently tapping and Pig moving slowly up to the
microphone, as he started back into the song.
The mind blower to end the show, was that brand new, freaky rocker,
"One More Saturday Night". Two nights before, at the bridge, the song
ripped my brains like jet engines screamimg at 30 feet away. The damage
was much worse this night. At 20 rows away, my entire body was dragged
screaming along with those engines. It was *wonderful*.
And *that's* the way it was: The Grateful Dead at the Felt Forum,
NYC on 12-7-71. I was drained, and kept thinking: "This *was* a
Festival of Magic". When I got outside and looked once again at the
marquee, I had to smile at my mistake, but to this day, I still label my
dubs of 12-5-71, "A Festival of Magic" - the same with 12-7-71.
Thank *you*, Grateful Dead, for a real good time!
"Making a record is like building a ship in a bottle.
Playing a concert is like being in a rowboat on
- Jerry Garcia