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Wednesday, November 09, 2011

An Echo at Reconstruction's Ending

JG19790929: Reconstruction: Saturday, September 29, 1979, Keystone Palo Alto (UNCERTAIN)

Listing for Reconstruction at Keystone Palo Alto, 9/29/79, from BAM no. 63 (September 1, 1979), p. 14.

Like lots of us, I have been really busy. I'll resist temptation to say a whole lot about this, but will try hard to just put it out there.

I have said before that BAM would be a treasure trove of information for Bay Area music prosopographers whose interests run to the late 1970s and beyond. I just got a stack of many dozen copies from late '78 into the mid-1980s (thanks, friend!) and have been pawing through them a little bit. Sure enough, there's really just a treasure trove of information. Anyone writing about New Wave or lots of other things definitely needs to soak some of this in.

So, just flipping through these, making some notes, and find a listing for Reconstruction at Keystone Palo Alto, 260 South California Avenue, Palo Alto, CA, 94306 for Saturday, September 29, 1979. See the scan above. A few points about this.

First, the current last-known Reconstruction date is 9/22/79 from the Keystone Berkeley. This would extend the band's known (too short!) history another week.

Second, a week is just a week, but it would also truncate the time between the end of Reconstruction and the start of the next iteration of the Jerry Garcia Band, featuring Ozzie Ahlers on keyboards and John D'Fonseca on drums, which is conventionally dated to October 7, 1979 (Keystone, Berkeley).

Third, I'll just say none of us has ever really dug into the end of Reconstruction. WTF happened? Obviously I could do a long post on that, and will unless someone scoops me, but for now I'll just raise the question (and happily invite the scoopage).

Fourth, of course Garcia might not have been present at all. It is said that some Reconstruction shows featured ex-Moby Grape Jerry Miller, but very little is known about this. I can say I didn't find many listings going through these BAMs. update 20150509 - I have added some more dates from various sources, and I now list the following non-Garcia, or Garcia-questionable, Reconstruction shows.
  • Friday, August 3, 1979, Keystone Berkeley [Gar could have been there, though I'd bet his GD bandmates would not have been thrilled at the thought]
  • Saturday, August 4, 1979, Keystone Palo Alto [GD play Oakland Auditorium] 
  • Sunday, August 5, 1979, Keystone Palo Alto [GD play Oakland Auditorium]  
  • Monday, September 3, 1979, Frenchy's, 29097 Mission Blvd., Hayward, CA, 94544 [GD play Madison Square Garden]
    • NB: subtitled "Merle [sic] Saunders and Friends" ... I thought this was John's band?
    • NB: venue contrast with and without Garcia.
  • Tuesday, September 4, 1979, Sleeping Lady Cafe, 58 Bolinas Road, Fairfax, CA, 94930 [GD play Madison Square Garden]
    • NB: off-night, tiny room
  • Saturday, September 29, 1979, Keystone Palo Alto [this post]
  • Thursday, November 29, 1979, Rancho Nicasio [GD play Cleveland Public Hall]

Fifth, and in connection with my fetish for formal institutions, we know very little about Garcia's "true" status in Reconstruction. Was he a band member (insofar as that concept applies), or just a “special guest” (as he was sometimes billed)?


  1. I have been waiting a long time for this information to surface. So far, I had only known about the Keystone Palo Alto gigs. The announced guitarist was a guy named Carl Lockett. It always seemed foolish to have a Reconstruction gig sans Jerry on a night when the Dead were playing. Kahn had alluded to at least one gig where Jerry Miller was playing, but I didn't have any idea when or where those gigs might have been.

    I had always gotten the impression that Kahn was the organizer of the band, but not the front man. It doesn't surprise me that Merl's name might have been out front when Jerry wasn't there. I think the long-term plan all along was that Reconstruction was going to be free-standing. Jerry could then be a part-timer in that band when he was available. At the same time, there could be a profitable JGB as well. Since the 79-80 JGB was a quartet, that seems to fit.

    None of these things worked out, of course, and only one member of Reconstruction is still alive (trombonist Ed Neumeister), so we may never know.

  2. What if the Sep 29 show at Keystone Palo Alto didn't feature Jerry either? He's not mentioned, and usually these listings say things like "Reconstruction, w/Jerry Garcia."

  3. It's totally possible. I am not prepared to call this a Garcia date. In fact, just today in going through more stuff I found another Reconstruction listing from late November, pretty clearly post-Garcia (as far as we know).

  4. Found listing for another non-JG Reconstruction gig, 9/5/79 at Rancho Nicasio, while Garcia, quite by contrast, was playing Madison Square Garden with the Dead. (listing: Petaluma Argus-Courier, August 31, 1979, p. 5C).

  5. And another at Cotati Cabaret, 10/12/79. (listing: Petaluma Argus-Courier, October 12, 1979, p. 5B.)

  6. 8/11/79 finds a "Benefit dance with Reconstruction Band, sponsored by Cotati-Rohnert Park Realtor Associates for Spirit of Christmas, 8 PM, Rohnert Park Community Center, Rohnert Park Expressway & Snyder Ln., $8." (Santa Rosa Press-Democrat, August 5, 1979, p. 4B.) JG and Reconstruction had played Temple Beautiful the night before, and JG and the Dead would play Red Rocks on 8/12, so this one is a possible Garciavent, if unlikely.


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