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Thursday, May 22, 2014

Cabaret Economics

I have been dinging Garcia during his hard times for playing really short sets. Check the tag for 1985 for a sample.

I knew I had heard him talking about what a burn short sets were. And I have found at least one instance, at (Jerry Garcia interview, broadcast on WHMR, November 27, 1978). I don't know the date of the actual interview, but anyway.

Here, from about 6:30-7:30, is Garcia talking about the phenomenon of the short show:

The way showbiz works, you know, the Judy Garland tradition, is 45 minutes, bam, get off. Do an encore, that's it. And I think that ... that's a burn, as far as I'm concerned. I know everytime ... I've been a fan, I am a fan of music, and if I go to hear somebody play, I really want to hear 'em do it. And it's artificial - I really don't think it's called for. Economics, more than anything else ... they stem from cabaret economics, bar economics. Traditionally, bars do a turnover business. Like cafe shows do a turnover business, so that if they can squeeze in 4 shows a night, great; 5 shows, wonderful. Like in Vegas ... turn over the house each time, and make a lot of money in a small room. It's that idea that has created the form of the short show.

There are still numerous interviews at GDAO that I want to transcribe.

Here's another quote from this interview that I really like, on live vs. studio: "Making a record is like building a ship in a bottle. Playing music live is like being in a rowboat in the ocean" (@ 8:34).


  1. "Like in Vegas ... turn over the house each time, and make a lot of money in a small room. It's that idea that has created the form of the short show."

    Fernand Braudel as applied to American popular music.

    1. !

      5/31/85 is an example of cabaret economics.

      6/3/85's really short set is just an example of a guy burning his audience, by his own standards.

  2. "The band in general, and Jerry in particular, were always very conscious of giving the kids their money's worth. That's why they put huge opening acts on the bill with them - Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, Crosby, Stills and Nash, Sting, Traffic, Steve Miller" - John Scher, quoted in Barnes 2011, 53.

  3. From the infamous Paul Morley 1981 interview: "Even if I did a 45-minute show so packed with emotion and intensity and everything it needed to have I would still feel like, God it ain't fucking worth it. I don't want to burn anybody. People have to work to get their little money ..."

  4. Garcia, June 1980: “Show business at the high levels is frightening because it’s relentless and it steamrolls personalities. There’s always that thing of show business waiting to eat you alive like it did Judy Garland and the other vulnerable types. I’ve never wanted to get that close to those jaws” (Hunt 1980, G10).


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