Wednesday, August 09, 2006

GD reflection redux 4.25.71

Another one on a 1st GD Show from Phil Matera

(thanks to Phil)

Grateful Dead at The Fillmore East April 25th 1971

Yep! That was my first show. And a great one, too!

All I knew of the Dead was Workingman's Dead, American Beauty and a "bootleg" of sorts called Vintage Dead, that contained the only version of "I Know You Rider" that I had ever heard.

I also knew Good Lovin' from the Rascals and Morning Dew from Jeff Beck and Rod Stewart (of all people!).

After kinda *getting it*, with Box of Rain and Ripple, I was truly drawn like a moth before a flame, and to something that I felt was going to be great, but I never knew how great it could be, or was going to be for the next 35 years! And I know now, that IT's with me forever!

A little history first:

First, like any myth, there were rumours preceding the event. Rumors of shows that started in the early evening and didn't end till early morning.

10 AM one morning, a Dead Freak (that's what Dead Heads were called back then, Bunkies :) came into Bio class, turned to me with a big smile and said: "I just got back from seeing the Dead at the Fillmore.". Then he proceeded to tell me about the Dead and The Scene. That's when I learned about Dead Freaks, too.

I picked up American Beauty, just because I saw some other freak perusing it at school. I thought, "He looks hip. I'll pick it up.". Before I picked up the album, I ran down the list of songs. I made fun of every title I could. I was tired of the same old BS in recorded and live music, so when I saw titles like: "Candyman", I thought "Crap. Another drug song", "Ripple": "Great...another song about that crappy wine."

But then, I got the album home, and that was The Beginning!

I fell in love with Ripple instantly. I could listen to those words:

"If I knew the way
I would take you home"

over and over again.

And I did. I wore out about three copies. Thank God for CDs! :)

But for "Box of Rain", I sat straight up in my bed while listening to it one night, and I thought "My God! That's what he's singing about!" And as in the song, I felt as if the windows and the doors to the Universe opened up and just for me!

I knew then, that I had to see this band. "This band has got heart!"

So off to the Fillmore I went, one more time, but with a helluva lot more enthusiasm then I had in some time. But I had an unusual experience when I tried to pick up tickets at the Box Office. All nights for the Dead were sold out!

So, many years prior to the decree: "If you don't have a ticket, stay home", I went out to get scalped to get into my first Dead show! I'm glad I did!

So the night of April 25, 1971, this soon-to-be-Dead-Head went down to the Fillmore East, on a New York evening, to join the throngs of other folks, yelling out that famous yell: "Anyone got a ticket?!". This was a new experience for me, too. Not that getting tix at the door was
different. It's just that so many people were out looking!

As my good luck would have it, I chanced upon some semi-seamy characters in a car who wanted to rake me over the coals for the ticket. Yep, they got me for a whopping $2 over the cost of the ticket. If memory serves me right, I think that floor seats in The Fillmore ran ya about $5.50. I'm pretty sure that one of the most fantastic experiences of my life cost me $7.50!

Into the Fillmore I ran, and I sat down next to a well heeled Dead Freak, who also got scalped from the same characters, and who gave me some background on The Grateful Dead. That was the first time I heard about Dark Star. Just the image of that name was enough to captivate my
imagination. Some folks in back of us, told us that the tickets that we had were stolen off of someone's desk at school. (Yeck!) But there really was nothing we could do... (thank, God! :)

First, the New Riders came out, with Jer on pedal steel. I knew nothing of Jerry Garcia or anyone else in the Dead, for that matter, except for what I read off of the back of the album covers I had, and from the Fillmore East playbill that I got as I walked in. I still have the page about the Dead, BTW!) So all I really remember of Jerry with the NRPS is his furry head bent over the pedal steel.

I had seen a lot of bands in the two years or so that I really caught shows. I loved the Festival of Peace, with Janis Joplin, Johnny Winter, Steppenwolf and Creedence Clearwater Revival, among about 20 other acts. But I never saw a singular band up till that time, that really did
anything for me.

I sat in my seat waiting for the band to take the stage. I thought to myself, "How is this band going to be any different than any other band I've seen live?"

The resounding answer:


comin' at us like a comet!

The place went absolutely wild. Freaks (mostly guy freaks, BTW, women were a rare commodity at a Dead Concert in the early days. But it got better. :) were dancing freaky dances all around me. And the band was working like a well oiled machine. From that first song, on till the end of the show, they snapped together like nothing I'd ever heard or seen! (I know, I know. I'm preaching to the choir right now. :)

Friend of the Devil was early on the set list, I think. The only thing that Jerry said all night was: "This song is usually done acoustic". I remembered thinking: "Am I supposed to use my imagination on this one?". Well, FOTD just clocked. I think at that point, I realized I was smilingfrom the start of the show. From there on in, I was smiling or wide eyed in amazement.

A lot of the recollection is fuzzy, especially from the first set. I remember I Know You Rider, so I guess China Cat was first. They closed the first set with Casey Jones. The place was in a roar till the end of the set!

Well, I bopped around the lobby during intermission, sharing all sorts of good stuff with a lot of good folks, who were absolutely *crammed* in the bathrooms! It was always a fun scene! :)

Second Set: I remember Good Lovin', with Pig strutting his stuff, and then The Jam! It was fantastic! The Boys were cookin' it up and then, as the Disco Ball started spinning points of light around the darkened Fillmore Auditoreum, Jerry and Weir started with their trademark guitar
twinkling, with Phil adding some wonderful tones to make the image complete. My new found friend turned to me and exclaimed: "They're going into Dark Star!" Chills went through me as they are right now as I am writing this! And there I was, completely engulfed in my first
out-of-body-jam, and off into the Furthur :) reaches of Space!

Nope. No Dark Star, but a real nice taste for me, and then back into Good Lovin'!


Well, *I* was primed, and as only the Dead know how to do. Then during Morning Dew, I Got It! Morning Dew was gorgeous. Jerry was immersed in the song. With eyes closed, and facing toward the back of the stage, with an on-rush of emotion, Jerry swung himself around, and waves of grace, power and beauty, swept across the Fillmore. It was a moment that filled my heart forever! (I could swear that Good Lovin' preceded Moring Dew, but set lists say

The show went on with an NFA->GDTR, but I think I was still getting over that Morning Dew. The encore was Uncle John's Band.

And that's the way it was, 35 years ago today!

And 35 years later, I *still* don't have a decent copy of that show! But I see that things are looking up. The Good Lovin' I experienced is now on "Ladies and Gentlemen, The Grateful Dead", as are some other selections from 4/25/71. I have a sneaking suspicion that 4/25/71 is
finally making the rounds.

As kind of a postscript, it really bugged me back then that I got into the Dead so late! :) Who knew??? But, I still feel no differently today, then I did back then, when I thought: "Damn! I missed so many shows!!!" :) :) :)

So, that's it for me for now! So please, everyone, turn on your copies of Fillmore East April 1971 Dead, in memory of a truly wonderful week! :)

Later, Alligators!!!

Phil Matera


At 1:51 AM, Blogger Mark said...

Damn, man, you need some exposure! How about I add you to The Eagle Wing Palace??? I've got everyone else that's a Dead blogger there, I'd like you too!


At 3:13 AM, Anonymous Joe_the_Troll said...

I never wore out a copy of American Beauty, but I had a cat that wore one out for me!

And I LOVE Jeff Beck's version of Morning Dew, but then, if you look at my site, you'll see that I love everything Beck!!

At 2:50 PM, Blogger O' Tim said...

As Mark swung the KOTGD spotlight over here I figured I give a looksee.

Love that Keb Mo!


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