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Saturday, May 21, 2011

JGMS: February 16, 1974, Capitol Theatre, Passaic, NJ (CANCELED)

Billboard 1/10/74, via It's All The Streets You Crossed Not So Long Ago, h/t Corry.
An ad for a show by Jerry Garcia, Merle [sic] Saunders, John Kahn and Bill Kreutzmann (call 'em Garcia/Saunders, or JGMS), with Sons of Champlin opening, Saturday, February 16, 1974 at the Capitol Theatre, 326 Monroe Street, Passaic, NJ, 07055.

This is positively stunning, I have to say. If this were to have happened, it would have been only the third Garcia/Saunders show off the west coast, after September 5, 1973 (the "Hells Angels Forever" show on the S.S. Bay Belle in New York City harbor) and September 6, 1973 at this same Capitol Theatre Passaic. (Aside: I have been spelling it "Theater", but the ad and the current website both say 'Theatre'.) Those were just in front of a GD tour starting in Nassau, NY on Friday, September 7. This 2/16/74 date doesn't look like that - no GD gigs out east, and hard to imagine that the February 22-24 Winterland shows were booked at the last minute. Even the next east coast shows, July 1-3, 1974 at the Bottom Line in New York City [ed: Corry says July 2-4, but that's not right], had some anticipated (or at least hoped-for) shows around them in Canada and Wisconsin.

But the one under consideration looks like a pure one-off. Bearing in mind that John Scher would promote Garcia out east for the next 21 years, it would be especially interesting to learn what they had in mind, what was planned. I suspect that this was intended to promote Live at Keystone. Matt Scofield has that released in 1973 (of necessity late in the year, since the album was recorded in July), though the context of a show review discussed below suggests that they may have been publicizing the album in early '74. Insofar as Round Records is kicking off and Garcia has a big personal financial stake in it, he has an incentive to get serious about solidifying an east coast fan base (as the GD had done 3-4 years previously). So a one-night scouting trip, perhaps an investment in more record sales, would make sense.

Why was the show canceled? No idea. Instead, on Saturday, February 16, 1974 and Sunday the 17th Jerry Garcia and Merl Saunders played the good ol' Keystone in Berkeley, CA. The Saturday show has a few features worth mentioning. It's maybe the only show from this time period represented by an audience recording (made by Louis Falanga, shnid 8063), a soundboard recording (shnid 91471), and an ex post review. The audience recording will destroy you as a capture of a moment in time. These Louis Falanga, later Falanga and Bob Menke, tapes are stunning aural documents. The soundboard tape serves history not only by giving us a different and very clean representation of the show, but also by supplying the last two songs of the show. The jewel here is a take on the little-known Saunders composition "Little Bit Of Righteousness" [Allan -- NB I think his information around this contains errors], which would appear (uncertain tense) on Merl's eponymous 1974 Fantasy LP and re-released as part of the 1997 mashup CD Keepers.

The review of the Saturday show is wonderful to see and, while it seems to coincide with record company promotion (the reviewer mentions the new Fantasy album Live at Keystone), it makes one wonder what treasures lie within the still unscanned (AFAIK) pages of the Daily Californian. The opening graf paints a nice picture:

With so much free music around on every street corner and spot of grass, why would anyone want to get packed into a crowded, smoke-filled room for three dollars a head and listen to store-bought music at the Keystone? There aren't many answers to this question, but the Jerry Garcia / Merle [sic] Saunders act is one of them, and it jammed us in last Saturday like cattle in a packing house.

[Garcia] hides unobtrusively against the wall and leaves the stage to his band: bass, a single horn, Saunders' organ, normal percussion and, inexplicably, a bongo drum player.

The standard notes mention a conga player, and I have historically and too-casually assumed it was Armando Peraza; it could have been anybody. It's good playing. I can only assume this is Kreutzmann drumming on his presence during this time period (including in the ad for the canceled 2/16/74 show in Passaic).

Anyway, thanks to Corry for sending along the scan and to the It's All The Streets You Crossed Not So Long Ago for bringing this fascinating, unknown cancellation to my attention.


REFERENCE:
Beard, Micahel. 1974. Rock Notes: Garcia at Keystone. Daily Californian Arts Magazine no. 16 (February 22, 1974), p. 7.

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