A very slightly edited version of a feature concert review of The Grateful Dead and Jefferson Starship that was first published in Cash Box magazine Oct. 11, 1975.
By Stephen K. Peeples
All photographs: Matthew Cupp
SAN FRANCISCO – It’s an interesting sight to see upwards of 25,000 people smiling furiously on a cold and overcast day in San Francisco, as they did for a free concert by The Grateful Dead and Jefferson Starship on Sunday, Sept. 28, 1975.
History may not repeat itself very often, but in Golden Gate Park’s Lindley Meadows that day, the energy that emanated from the Bay Area circa 1965-67 proved itself to be alive and well, albeit a little more underground today.
The people filling out the small valley and overflowing on to the surrounding bluffs and into trees were still very hairy, a little older, maybe a lot wiser, but still in tune with a spirit that has manifested itself in many ways.
Children born to the young people of the ‘60s are now old enough to run free with each other, basking in the love and protection of thousands of parents who realize that the future will not be easy for them.
Overall, it was a blend of past and present that stopped time for an entire Sunday afternoon in the park.
Jefferson Starship Rides the Tiger
A dozen long-stemmed red roses rested on the stage as the members of Jefferson Starship members took their respective places on a makeshift stage set up on a flatbed trailer; a once-again thin and vibrant Grace Slick plucked one from the bunch and stuck it between her cleavage.
Slick, fellow golden-voiced lead singer Marty Balin, singer/rhythm guitarist ace Paul Kantner, quicksilver lead guitarist Craig Chaquico, and barefoot drummer Johnny Barbata, with David Freiberg and Pete Sears trading off on keyboards and bass, produced sounds that were distinctively Airplane/Starship – an evolved blend of original members and latter-day members who showed their Great Society/Bay Area musical roots through each note of their exemplary set.
An aged family dog sat contently at left center stage as Starship broke into “Play on Love” (from Starship’s latest RCA album, “Red Octopus”); the feeling of gathering with old friends brought incredible energy to “White Rabbit” (from Airplane’s second RCA album “Surrealistic Pillow”); and to a 10-minute “Have You Seen The Saucers?” (“Thirty Seconds Over Winterland” live LP, on Grunt), on which Chaquico piloted the band into thin atmosphere with his screaming leads.
Balin and Slick’s vocals were sterling all the way through the set, which also included “Fast Buck Freddie” and “Sweeter Than Honey” (“Red Octopus”) and closed with 20 minutes of “Volunteers” (from the RCA album of the same name) for the encore.
On the latter, Kantner and Chaquico threw some beautiful riffs back and forth during the extended bridges, and Balin got thousands of volunteers in the crowd to put their hands together.
The warm interaction between the Starship members and their audience as they played their best for the people of San Francisco proved that they are still one of the two (the other being the Dead) premier high-energy Bay Area rock ‘n’ roll bands, and will continue to be for a long time.
As equipment was changed, there were a few lost offspring announcements made from the stage, a call for donations to cover about $4,000 in costs incurred by Oakland’s high-quality Swanson Sound, and a call for a gentleman named Sonny Place to make his way through the crowd to meet his other half; seemed Sonny’s lady was having a baby. Cheers erupted from the crowd; reminiscences of Woodstock increased the event’s filial energy level further still.
Grateful Dead Return from Break with ‘Music Never Stopped’
A luminescent Jerry Garcia emerged from his tuning room – a Dodge van parked next to the Grateful Dead’s equipment truck – and joined the stage with bassist Phil Lesh (who has only 13 control knobs on his golden-keyed instrument), the perpetually smiling rhythm guitarist Bob “Ace” Weir, a crystally clear keyboardist Keith Godchaux and his vocalist wife Donna, and team drummers Billy Kreutzman and Mickey Hart.
Kreutzman and Hart played together from the Dead’s very early days, providing percussion interweave most notably evidenced album-wise on the Warner Bros. “Anthem Of The Sun” LP circa early-to-mid- 1968; Hart left the group a few years later.
The Dead took a break from touring last year and Hart re-joined the band in October 1974 after working with Kreutzman on tracks for the most recent Dead LP, “Blues for Allah” (on Grateful Dead Records, distributed by United Artists). Quite obviously both of them enjoy the hell out of playing together again.
“Long time no see, folks!” The audience answered Weir’s greeting with thundering cheers as the Dead kicked off their set with “The Music Never Stopped” and “Franklin’s Tower” from “Allah.”
Weir, usually the most communicative verbally with the audience, told them, “We’re gonna do all the old ones we can remember!” and the band broke into “Beat it on Down the Line” from their initial Warner Bros. LP, a tune they don’t often do these days.
Garcia’s incredibly fluid fingering on his stock Travis Bean electric (aluminum alloy neck, wooden fretboard) did not seem to be inhibited much by the biting cold; his signature triplet runs flowed forth like the rushing spinal shivers we felt as he played.
“It Must Have Been the Roses” exuded the same beauty and taste at a slower pace, and was followed by a beautifully extended “Truckin’”/”Not Fade Away”/”Goin’ Down the Road Feelin’ Bad,” one of the Dead’s all-time best sets-within-a-set.
Kreutzman and Hart soloed for a few minutes at the end of “Truckin’” before the band faded into “Not Fade Away,” and “Goin’ Down the Road” had a slightly more bluesy cast to it this time around, compared to previous performances this reviewer has heard.
As the 6 p.m. park permit deadline approached, Weir sang the lead on his “Playin’ in the Band,” a tune which reaches into totally esoteric expanses of freeform taste by Bob, Jerry and Keith on top of the solid yet freeform bottom created by Phil, Mickey and Bill. The version that comes closest to capturing the live essence on vinyl appears on Weir’s “Ace” solo LP on Warner Bros.
The Lindley Meadows concert was recorded in two-track sound and on videotape for posterity; the tapes will join tapes of other events in the Dead’s colorful career that are stored in a vault somewhere in Marin County north of San Francisco.
The historic event was coordinated by the People’s Ballroom (an apolitical coalition of some 70 San Francisco community groups and the only such group to have a permit to produce free Golden Gate Park events) and the performer’s respective managers and record companies.
The People’s Ballroom organization had obtained its first Golden Gate Park permit a year and a half ago, and during that period has been successfully obtaining permits for progressively larger meadows.
Due to the relatively small size of Lindley Meadows (in terms of the potential draw any Grateful Dead/Jefferson Starship concert could realize), the concert was not publicly announced until the day before.
Crowd estimates ranged from 25,000 to 40,000; as one San Francisco policeman at the site said, “It’s a little hard to tell – there are so many people in the trees and bushes surrounding the meadow.”
Article: Grateful Dead-Jefferson Starship at Lindley Meadows, 9/28/75
Author: Stephen K. Peeples
Article Source: StephenKPeeples.com