February 02, 1969
Grand opening of Minneapolis Labor Temple
Attendees of this show
Geohuntr - Went to several shows at the Labor Temple - It was only $5 to get in, but we were friends of the Community News Light Show and they were the promoters, so we'd get in free. The Dead were tremendous! Jethro Tull played songs from their first album "This Was" - the Labor Temple was the first stop in the U.S. for Jethro Tull.
Ground Hog's Day 1969.
First rock show at the Labor Temple (or first I knew of) - scene of many a Polish wedding.
A girl friend was ready for her first dose and first show, so we went. I'd seen the Dead in Life Magazine, heard the first album (and didn't "get it"), and had no idea what to expect.
The opening act was kind of a Cream clone - very well-crafted music. When they finished and tore down their gear, the Dead crew started setting up. It seemed to take a long time.
We were packed asshole to elbow sitting cross-legged on the floor as we'd seen the hippies on TV do. As the purple things were starting to take effect, it seemed even more cramped - time dilated, and the natives started getting restless. Penny Lane was blaring from the speakers.
Most of us had never seen a real industrial-strength rock and roll band set up - didn't realize it takes longer than our garage bands - and the notion crossed some minds that someone might be fucking with us.
The crew was carrying mike and cymbal stands around, doing sort of a Frankenstein-robot stagger that may have gone back to the Acid Tests. Someone was pounding in nails, which I was sure was a joke - not knowing that drum kits have to be anchored.
To top it off, loud shrieks and wails of feedback were emanating, and the bass player - later identified as Mr. Lesh - was identifying the frequency of each one. Showing off his perfect pitch, huh?
Years later, when my garage bands played in bars, and we could afford a graphic equalizer, I figured out what Phil was doing. You crank up the system until it feeds back, identify the frequency of the feedback, and lower that frequency on the graphic, so you can turn the system up louder, and repeat.
The impatience and paranoia - as well as the drugs - were reaching a peak as Bob and Phil were tuning up, and wisecracking with the crowd. What are these Life Magazine west coast hippies doing - trying to out-hip us Grain Belt pastorals with their mind games?!!! Teaching us hicks how to be Cool?!!! I'll have you know this is the home of Pillsbury - the birthplace of Flour Power!
Just then, someone in the crowd yelled, "Why don't you hang your dick out? Then you'll really be cool!"
Bob and Phil immediately came to the foot of the stage, peering into the crowd, and saying things like, "Who said that? Come up here and say that!," etc.
There was more ribbing back and forth, and the promoter came out and introduced the band, saying we had to be out by midnught, which was drowned out by the opening riffs of Good Morning Little School.
It seemed like the intense vibes that had built up had triggered something of a grudge fuck (the best kind!) between the band and the crowd. The GD seemed determined to blow our shit away - which they did!
The main thing for me - a first-timer - was the guitar tones. At the time, the prevailing paradigm was British Blues - lots of distortion, with Marshalls and Fuzz-Tone. The Dead's guitars were both fat and clean - through Fender amps.
The bass guitar tone was really different than the distorted mush we were used to. Big and fat with the entire spectrum - at least 100 - 3000 Hz - powerful but clean. You could feel the lows through your feet and hitting your breast bone, but you could also hear the overtones with your ears.
He played a huge Guild bass with an umbilicus of four guitar cords spliced together at the guitar end, and feeding four Fender Bassmen (Dual Showmen?). Like all good bass players, he's the de facto leader of the band. The beat is wherever he says it is!
The lead guitar player reminded me of Allen Ginsburg visually (beard and glasses), and seemed to be that kind of sage - a San Francisco City Lights swami. He played a cherry red SG through Fender Twins - no artificial distortion - just the 6L6 power tubes heating up until the high notes would dance and shimmer like a mirage.
The guy in the Russian hat (Mr. Hart), looking like Lenin, came out front playing a guiro. Sounds kind of Latin? The polyrhythmic twists, of course, but the dynamic range - soft passages and then suddenly - BLAM! Lots of drama. This wasn't your average rock and roll band. Later found out this was Dark Star.
We were floating through space, spinning like pinwheels. The tie-dyed grill cloths on the speakers, and the oil and water light show provided a visual trigger for thoughts of space migration, western migration in conestogas, once or twice in a caravanserai on the silk road, and of course - photsynthesis!
Back in elementary school, we used to watch the Bell Telephone Hour, where Dr. Frank Baxter would explain science to dummies (us). The episode on photosynthesis had an animated cartoon of water and minerals zinging and flowing up the xylem and floem, out to the leaf, and into the cell. As we look into the nucleus, we see the chloroplasts being bombarded by photons from the sun, as the mad alchemist turns minerals and CO2 into sugar.
Just then, Dr. Baxter says. "...but we still don't know much about how photosynthesis works," and the mad alchemist pulls down the shade.
That was Dark Star.
(On Live Dead, after the first verse, as the tension builds, you can hear the rigging in the topmast creak and strain as the wind picks up - or maybe as we near the event horizon of the black hole, the gravity waves are pulling the rivets out of the Enterprise. Just then, we achieve escape velocity, Phil engages the warp drive, slingshotting Jerry out into the cosmos.)
"Wherever he goes, the people all complain." Well, let 'em! Yee-hah!
In the years since, I've wondered how much of this - the weird vibes at the beginning, as well as the show itself - was actual memory, and how much was hallucination. Then, a friend turned me onto a download of the show.
After "Schoolgirl," on "Tuning," you can hear Jerry, Bob and Phil castigating the audience for being so uncool, "after we come all the way across the country ... and come out here to cold, miserable Minnesota, and what do we get? What do we get? People who can't dig it! Too weird! People who forgot how!"
Someone requested Louie Louie, and Phil teased it, but they went directly into Dark Star. Second tune of the night. They just wheeled out the big gun - the photon torpedo - and blew our heads clean off.
Turn On Your Lovelight? Wow! They play rock and roll too? I thought I remembered Johnny B. Goode as the encore, but it's not on the download at http://www.archive.org/details/gd69-02-02.sbd.cotsman.9758.sbeok.shnf.
Nobody was mad at the Dead anymore. Minneapolis was their bitch. As we were picking up pieces of our brains and getting our heads together, someone asked me if I thought the Dead were making fun of us. I said, "Who cares? We probably deserved it. Anybody that plays like that can say anything they want about me OR my Mama!"
At my first show, I learned the secret of the Grateful Dead: If you want them to play good, do something to piss them off - not enough so they'll leave - just enough so they'll want to Teach You A Lesson.
Oh yeah - I ran into Phil outside West High, June 19, 1980, and asked him if he remembered this show (69-02-02), and he said, "Man, I don't remember nothin, man."
Thank you for your fabulous wayback machine, hard2handle. I was there as well, a budding musician and frequent Labor Temple participant. I can still hear the big fat, clear and round sound of rows of tie-dyed fender bottoms and stacks of Showman? heads. God, they were cool!
During soundcheck, I vividly remember Phil saying "1k" into the mic. "What's a 1k"?" I wondered. I eventually found out and have used this information almost daily ever since.
Every musician I know has that personal handful of shows that matter and paved the way for what we do. This has ALWAYS been one of mine.
cleveland, ohio usa
Thanks, Dave -
Yeah, that was me. My Delphi XM broke - saving up for a new one.
Hey, Tommy -
Do they still manufacture the 6L6? Probably $100 a pop!
Had picked up the first album (in mono) a year or two previous because I thought the cover was cool, but knew nothing of the band. But I loved the music and wanted to know more. At the time I swept floors at the print shop that made the tickets and that's how I discovered they were coming to town. So I picked a couple of reject tickets out of the trash and we were in. I guess times were a little different then. And it helped that the ticket takers were probably as stoned as I was. It was all I hoped it would be and more and cemented an enduring relationship with the Grateful Dead.
The Labor Temple was my favorite place ever to experience rock 'n' roll. There was some gargantuan talent that stood on it's stage for those 2 or 3 seasons it was alive. I'm still mourning the loss.
Not sure if the list is complete although seems to be
Grateful Dead Live at Labor Temple on 1969-02-02 - Grateful Dead
Good Morning Little Schoolgirl Dark Star > St. Stephen > The Eleven Death Don't Have No Mercy Cryptical Envelopment > Drums > The Other One > Cryptical Envelopment > Turn On Your Love Light