Winter was slowly exiting the Southern Tier; snow had turned to ice had turned to mud. Binghamton was a dreary area; clouds came down the Susquehanna Valley from the Great Lakes just about every day - only Seattle has fewer days of sunshine each year.
But we welcomed every Spring with a weekend of concerts. This spring brought The Butterfield Blues Band, Pentangle, and The Grateful Dead.
The Dead show was going to be held in the new gym; I watched the sound check that afternoon, they were having trouble with the power supply, which was playing havoc with the monitors. At this time the band was on the "Pigpen signed a contract years ago with somebody else, we got sued, Mickey's dad embezzled from us and we got a mountain of bills and a ribbon of asphalt in front of us college circuit tour". Mickey wasn't on this tour, it was just the original 5 Warlocks. plus the New Riders, who seemed to keep everything mellow. Monitors were fucking up, they didn't care, unplug the whole thing and just play.
No master electrician in sight, no power schematics to be found. Patch and pray.
The recording engineer was more bugged than the band.
8 p.m. rolled around, a high level of energy, frantic energy engulfed the gym. Pigpen took the microphone and asked "How comes everyone's so weird around here" He'd never experienced a a Binghamton winter - snow, ice, wind and acid. tons of acid. The crowd remained on edge, Jerry sensed it, leaned into the mic and said "Relax, we've go you all night long". And the gym erupted in cheers as though a karmic dam had burst.
The monitors were still not right, and now the mic's were shorting too. "More monitors, Bob" Garcia ask Healy. "Fat monitors" Pigpen chimed in. The acoustic set lasted about 75 minutes, then NRPS came out with Weir and Garcia - you don't get that part on the vault recordings - about that time the screen behind the band began to flash "It's in the water" every 60 seconds or so. I looked around and found someone with a goat skin. It was in the water. NRPS was at their best, loose, easy, full of life. It was a mix of stuff, including a few things that made their way on to Workingman's Dead in a more polished style.
there was about a 15 minute break before the electric set began, long enough for the edge to return to the crowd. I remember thinking "When's it gonna happen?" It was stage, open floor, and bleachers pulled out on the side. Really primitive lighting, maybe 20 lights in all. I could see the engineers, they weren't happy, they had just lost a power supply and were recording in mono. But they had the speakers right, and the gym was filled note after perfect note. By now the band was into The Other One, the edge was building, and then it happened - Lesh hit the bass notes I'll never forget. And the music exploded.
All told the show lasted about 4 hours.
I didn't see a lot of Dead shows, maybe a couple at the Fillmore East, one in Miami, the last show they did in Tampa. I had my Dead Moment at Harpur. There were maybe a thousand of us, open floor, no security, 4 foot high stage. And goat skins. I caught Garcia when he played The Bottom Line, but I was never one for big venues. Harpur spoiled me rotten, what can I say.
.....my first show---older brother took me "upstate" he & his friends from colleges converged to Binghamton--they got electric--I smoked some weed--still a greenhorn at this time.....just remembered how cool it was for these bands to play soooooooo long--I took to Pigpen right away--I had just started to play harp!!! My brother & friends partied till morn..I fell asleep-greenhorn. Next morning drive back to L.I.--major snowstorm--don't know how my brother did it--then--then I got in the groove---" when the goin gets weird---the weird turn pro!"------I became a pro!