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Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Grateful Dead at New Monk, Berkeley, ca. June-July 1971


One night I went to hear Jerry play a gig with Merle [sic] Saunders at a small place in Berkeley and one by one, for 'no reason', the rest of the Dead showed up too, and eventually they got on the stage and started playing -- Charles Reich, Spring 1972 (Reich 2003 [1972], xv).
Assuming that it wasn't all a dream that Charles Reich dreamed, is this --Grateful Dead at New Monk, Berkeley-- a thing that we might locate more precisely in time? We have the socio and the geo, how about the chrono?

Below, I'll speculate, with a bit more justification (but properly still a romanticized view) that it was

I have dated, as best as I can, the Rolling Stone Interview (SSI) and the Stoned Sunday Rap (SSR), which puts us in the June-October timeframe for the former and either March 5, 12 or 19, 1972 for the latter. We are looking for a JGMS gig in a "small place in Berkeley" during each. It doesn't have to be one of the interview dates, per se. Reich was living at the Co-Op in Berkeley at this time, so he might have moseyed down to see Jerry and Merl on any random night.

Let me start by saying that if the Jerry-Merl gig was not billed, I can only guess at when it might have happened. This would have left no trace for me to find. I identify my favorite possibilities below.

If this substituted for a billed gig, I might have more to say. Let's go to the data.

RSI: June-October 1971


I provide below a list of Garcia playing small Berkeley places from June to October, 1971 - the first window. I have included New Riders gigs on the off-chance that Reich, writing in spring 1972 and probably still high from the Stoned Sunday Rap (SSR), crossed some wires. The Longbranch Saloon was a small place in Berkeley, but it was New Riders territory, and while Reich could have confused two of Jerry's very active side-gigs (NRPS and JGMS still working hard), I doubt it.
Figure xxx. Jerry Garcia at "a small place in Berkeley", late June - October 1971

That leaves  2119 University. Recall that Freddie Herrera first booked Garcia on Thanksgiving Eve, 1970 at the Keystone Korner in San Francisco, with the New Riders. They'd work together there another forty times into the summer of 1972. I don't know when Herrera took over 2119 University –there are booking patterns that would be detectable, I think, but I haven't quite parsed them—but in mid-1971 he was ramping the club up as the New Monk, which Garcia played eight times in two months (all pictured above). In early 1972 Freddie would rename it, simply, Keystone, transitioning it to his main club, and for the next dozen years (March 8, 1972 - March 22, 1984) Garcia could play the room, on current count, 216 times, his home away from home and the lifeblood of the Keystone business model.

JGMS at New Monk during this period runs June 4-5, June 26-27, or July 3-4. June 26 is known to have happened as Jerry and Merl, from an expost in the illustrious Hayward Daily Review (see here). July 3-4 would be right on the closing weekend of the Fillmore West - were members of the GD at these shows? If not, maybe a nice little gig in Berkeley would be fun, no spotlight on that side of the Bay, all eyes turned to the West.

Accordingly, assuming we are talking about the Dead playing what was billed as JGMS gig at the New Monk during the time that Charles Reich was around for the RSI, I can conclude "ca. June-July, 1971".

SSR: March 1972

If it was during the time of the SSR, things are a little easier: Sunday in March 1972 with Jerry in town could only be March 5, 12 or 19. Assuming Reich was in town for more than just a Stoned Sunday, the following JGMS Keystone gigs are all live candidates:

Wed March 8
Thurs March 9
Wed March 15
Thurs March 16

Like the New Monk dates, there is no tape of any of this, alas. All other things being equal, I'd say I favor a Wednesday night over a Thursday.

In Sum

Well, this is about the end of the line for this little mystery. When did the Dead play at "a small place" in Berkeley, in lieu of Garcia - Saunders, for Charlies Reich to witness, either during the RSI or the SSR periods?

If JGMS unbillbed:
  • anytime ca. June-October 1971 or March 1-20, 1972.
If JGMS billed:

  • June 3-4, 1971. This feels least likely to me.
  • June 27, 1971. Possible, but it's a Saturday and no-one remembers?
  • July 3-4, 1971. If they weren't at Fillmore West, totally possible.
  • March 8-9, 1972.
  • March 15-16, 1972.
Narrative Favorites:

Of all of these possibilities, here are my favorites, for narrative reasons:
  • Sunday, 7/4/71: This would be fitting for our young Americans, who seemed to like playing on Independence Day, celebrate Jerry's independence as he heads to Heider's (with Bill Kreutzmann) to lay down Garcia.
  • Sunday, 8/1/71: I like the idea of Sunday, August 1, 1971, four weeks after the 4th of July, a birthday party for the boy who just got his solo record in the can, followup to the prior year's party at the Lion's Share, at which the New Riders appear to have "headlined" over the acoustic Dead.
  • Wednesday, 3/8/72: an otherwise quiet Wednesday, so few eyewitnesses, plus first time for Garcia at Keystone (per se).
  • Wednesday, 3/15/72: Wednesday, plus celebrate Phil's birthday.
 Thoughts? Rare for something so big and out in the open to stay so penumbral.

1 comment:

  1. I've written my thoughts on this:
    http://deadessays.blogspot.com/2013/08/the-grateful-dead-merl-saunders-at-new.html

    I couldn't come up with any specific date except for June 1971 and/or March 1972. (The July 3-4 New Monk dates hadn't been found yet.)
    I believe the show Reich saw was in 1971, since that's the way he sets it up: "They were already friends... And in 1971, that fact was still paramount. One night I went to hear Jerry play...the rest of the Dead showed up too... As Jerry says, they just liked to hang out together." He's not being specific at all, it just sounds like an event in the past.
    Also, at the end of the introduction, Reich mentions that the Stoned Sunday Rap occurred when he brought the introduction to Jerry to read, which implies that the rest of it had already been written in March '72.
    But the Dead may well have showed up at the New Monk for shows when Reich wasn't there, too. The evidence from other witnesses, vague as it is, points as much to March '72 as to June-July '71; in fact there seem to have been multiple sit-ins at the New Monk. (Merl Saunders remembered Pigpen sitting in more than once there.)
    Why the Dead would have turned up at the New Monk, rather than the far more frequently played Keystone Korner in SF, I don't know; but every witness agrees it happened only at the New Monk.

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