Mississippi River Festival
Out of all the concerts I saw in my youth this was by far the best. It rained in the middle of the show and I remember Weir saying, "We'll keep playing until one of us gets welded to the stage" Once the rain came in buckets in the August heat everybody got real relaxed and happy. People were sliding down the mud slopped lawn. It was wild! I was one of the first to park in a level grass field so I had to push almost everyone out before I could go. Covered head to toe in mud I finally looked around I saw there were only three cars left, including mine, so I quickly jumped in my car with my girl and had the last two remaining push me out. My last look in the rear view mirror saw the two remaining Dead Heads turn and look at each other motionless. What an afternoon! I remember more of that concert than all the scores I saw back then put together.
What I remember is this strange bearded guy who pulled out a doobie as big as a table leg. It was rolled with tissue paper and had about a quarter lb. of bud. He said he was a grower. He passed it away after smoking for a few minutes, the end flamed for a while, then settled down to a half dollar sized cherry. Watching the surprise at the size as it passed along the crowd was hilarious, but nobody Bogarted that number, too big and too cool to do anything but pass it along.
Of course the hit of the evening was the thunderstorm that hit just before the break. the call and response between the thunder and the drums, for those with acid in their systems must have been a bit of a tweak.
My very first Dead show. Not my first rock & roll concert as I had been in the Bay area the prior summer and saw Carlos Santana ans his band at the Concord National Guard Armory for one dollar. Carlos was looking to score a lid after the show from the crowd. Funny. This was just prior to their great performance at Woodstock. Very cool to catch them in such a small venue where a small string separated us from the band. A great memory.
But the M.R.F. was quite something. Southern Illinois University had booked many musical groups for the summer so a small amount of middle aged folks had the best seats under what looked like to me a circus tent at the bottom of a natural amphitheater. The Dead played all acoustic tunes-American Beauty & Working Man's Dead selections with a very bluegrass feel in the first set. About half way through the first set Pig Pen says to the larger part of the crowd to come on down and fill in the many vacant seats under the tent, which of course we did. Some of the older crowd then decided to leave. The acoustic tunes were great but most of the crowd was looking to kick out the jams consequently when Jerry mentioned that they were taking a break and coming back with the electric GD there was a big cheer to which Jerry said somewhat sarcastically, Yea, Yea. I guess he was disappointed the first set had not been better received. The second set was very upbeat with a very extended New Speedway Boogie where, if my memory serves, it seemed that Jerry & Bob were trading lead licks some what like a call and answer sort of thing. Of course, I have no memory of the storm that other folks speak of but then I was under the tent so what did I care. Anyway this show hooked me in all the way till today and beyond.