The Baystate Objectivist

The Baystate Objectivist

Friday, June 19, 2009

Pioneer Valley Dead

From My Vaults

The pictures below are of the Grateful Dead at the Hartford and Springfield Civic Center with ticket stubs providing additional information. The Dead had a storied history in Springfield. They were the first rock band to play the Civic Center when it opened in 1972 and caused a riot when the band refused to come on stage until the seats on the floor were removed (can't cramp the dancers ya know). This took some time and the crowd waiting outside got restless until the next thing you know some windows got broken and a few people got hurt. Despite this bad omen the Dead continued to play the Springfield Civic Center yearly until 1985, when a person alleged to be freaking out on acid hurled himself or fell (it was never determined which) off the old Forbes & Wallace parking garage and landed with a bloody splat on Boland Way. The Dead were then permanantly banned from Springfield, the only band I believe to have earned that distinction.

Be Sure To Enter Portal 12!

The flyer below is a promotion for a UMass concert I attended, one of the unidentified back-up bands mentioned on the flyer was the Patti Smith Group. The other one was something called Roy Ayers Ubiquity. Bob Weir sang the song "Looks Like Rain" and sure enough it did rain, but not enough to ruin the show. (click to enlarge)

Straying a little out of our Valley towards Boston way, here is a ticket from a show I went to ten years later:

The next stub is from one of the earliest Dead related shows I ever saw. Jerry Garcia had a lot of little solo bands he threw together for short tours when the Grateful Dead were off the road. A self-proclaimed "playing junkie" (in more ways than one) Garcia simply couldn't take a vacation and so was always out touring with whatever musical friends were available. Generally he performed under the name Jerry Garcia Band, whose members were always changing, but one of his most obscure projects was something called The Legion of Mary. The band's name has no special significance beyond that Garcia, as Ken Kesey once described him, was "a Christian acidhead." In my wonderfully misspent youth I went to see The Legion of Mary at The Orpheum Theater in Boston. Here is my ticket stub, miraculously preserved all these years.

Here is a picture of me, brazen teen-aged brat that I was, openly huffing a joint on the Boston Common before the show. Wow, was my hair ever really that thick?

Unfortunately I don't remember much about the show, except that the ushers at the Orpheum were really uptight. The theater at that time was a highbrow concert venue, and considered itself somewhat slumming it to have the scruffy Dead folk in for the night. They were terrified that people would burn holes in their newly upholstered seats and fancy rugs. Their fears were not irrational, since the level of smoke in the place was thick enough to cut with a knife, which was typical at Dead events. People were freer in those days and not so intimidated by the health nazis. Here is a picture I took at that show.

Returning to our Valley, the traveling art show of the paintings of Jerry Garcia passed through Springfield in 2001, appearing in a swanky suite of the Sheraton Hotel in downtown's Monarch Place. It was free, and drew a good crowd, no doubt in part because of the rainy weather which made it a great day to take part in an inside activity. Of course it also didn’t hurt that Garcia has an almost fanatical following among fans of the artistic role in which he is best known – the late lead guitarist for the acid-rock blues/jazz fusion-improvisational music experiment called The Grateful Dead.

My friends and I arrived downtown at mid-Sunday afternoon and parked by City Hall. You could tell that something Deadish was up because of the people wandering around with tie-dye t-shirts. I spotted at least two drug dealers operating discreetly on the sidewalk outside the hotel lobby entrance for those wishing to enhance their viewing experience by obtaining an altered state. I don’t know what they were selling; I guess I’m getting too old looking to be regarded by streetdealers as a safe risk for a sales pitch. Once inside, the audience hardly resembled your typical art show crowd, with most people dressed in attire more appropriate for a rock concert than an event of high culture. Predictably, loud Grateful Dead music played as the patrons examined the paintings.

The artwork itself was colorful, whimsical and fun, but the truth is Garcia was not really a serious painter. He apparently liked to use his art to recreate his own visions of altered states, indulging through painting the spacey sensibilities of the psychedelic experience. Not to put too fine a point on it, this is essentially Dope Art, primarily intended to be appreciated by fellow stoners. Some of Garica's work was clever and funny, like the piece, “Big Bird Crashing Through the Wall From an Alternate Reality” or the somewhat more ominous “Grandma’s House,” in which a pleasantly smiling matron sits knitting, oblivious to the menacing face from another dimension emerging beside her. The best pieces however were the abstractions, which were beautiful and otherworldly. It was in the tripped-out psychedelia that Garcia’s talent in painting seemed to best mirror his music.

All in all, for a celebrity art show this was really first rate, and despite the steep prices, from what I could observe and overhear sales were pretty good. They even had Garcia’s universally popular ties for sale, which are loosely based on his abstract art and which have attracted customers ranging from Bill Clinton to Rush Limbaugh. Yet ultimately the bottom line is that Garcia was really just a musician who liked to dabble in painting, and while he produced a few truly beautiful psychedelic pieces, Jerry Garcia will still always be remembered primarily as a guitar player.


Today on the bus I ran into a celebrity - performance artist Norman Bie of "Deviations from the Norm."

Jerry Garcia saw Norman perform in the documentary The Deadheads and had Dennis McNally get in touch with him. However, Garcia died shortly thereafter so nothing came of it. Here is Norman doing a poem from his act by the grave of the poet Emily Dickinson in Amherst.

Chalk Art

Seen yesterday drawn on a blackboard in Herter Hall at the University.

Today's Video

Planet Earth Rock and Roll Orchestra recorded at Wally Heider Studios, San Francisco 1971.

Otherwise known as The PERRO Sessions or EVERYBODY HERE CAN BE IN THE BAND!

PERRO included, but was not limited to:

David Crosby
Jerry Garcia
Neil Young
Phil Lesh
Paul Kantner
Jorma Kaukonen
Gregg Rolie
Jack Casady
Mike Shrieve
Mickey Hart
David Frieburg
Grace Slick
Joni Mitchell
Graham Nash
Laura Allen
Bill Krueztman


sodafixer said...

Tommy, I was at the 79 Dead concert at the Umass spring fling, and what a concert it was. I remember people sneaking kegs in to the show, and one person (Hells Angel) rode his Harley to the front of the packed, and just sat on his bike for the concert. Funny thing, nobody told him to move!

Mary Serreze said...

That picture of you on the Boston Common is very cute.