Saturday, January 02, 2010

'On the floor like dying fish' - and NRPS w/o Jerry (5/29/71)

May 29, 1971 is infamous for the fact that lots of people had an adverse reaction to the liquid refreshments, which were apparently distributed from a 35-gallon trash container set onto the concert floor during an intermission. 35 people were sent to the hospital "with all of the symptoms of bad trips" ("Winterland on Probation")) The mayhem is described by an eyewitness ("Winterland--on the floor like dying fish"):
A girl in front of us ... fell down on the floor and started to put things in her mouth. She would pick up tin cans, papers, socks, garbage and anything else that was on the floor. She threw up all over and then tried to take her clothes off. People were freaking out all over the place. It was like people were being shot down. People would fall down and struggle to get to their feet again. One guy fell on about five people and they all fell like dominoes. ... Time actually halted as if we were dead. Jane and I were the only ones standing in a five foot radius while the people around us were squirming on the floor like dying fish.

For JGMF purposes, I just want to note that the New Riders came out sans Jerry and only played one song, "Honky Tonk Women."  So take 5/29/71 w/ NRPS off your Jerry lists if you keep it there.

! ref: "Winterland--'on the floor like dying fish'," Berkeley Barb, June 11-17, 1971, p. ?4;
! JGMF: JGMF. 2010. "NRPS: May 29, 1971, Winterland, SF," Jerry Garcia's Middle Finger, January 2, 2010, URL, consulted 2/3/2012.
! expost: UPI, "1,000 At Concert Drink LSD-Spiked Cider," Los Angeles Times, June 1, 1971, p. C7;
! mention: "Bay Sounds," Oakland Tribune, May 26, 1971, p. 25;
! expost: Smith 197 1 ("Bad Trips at Rock Hall");
! expost: Wasserman 1971 ("Winterland Trip");
! expost: "Winterland on Probation," San Francisco Chronicle, August 11, 1971, p. 2.


  1. The Dead were originally scheduled for May 28-29 at Winterland. Jerry was sick so May 28 was rescheduled for May 30. What's not widely known is that the NRPS had a gig at Peninsula School in Menlo Park in the afternoon. Michael Parrish attended the gig, only to find the NRPS playing as a quartet and the evening's Dead show canceled.

    Some facts about Peninsula school:
    920 Peninsula Way, Menlo Park, CA

    a K-8 private school founded in 1925 by Bay Area "free thinkers", which after WW2 were generally "peaceniks" and ban-the-bomb types.

    Timeline of key events
    1950 my Mom teaches there for several years
    1961 Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter have their first paying gig there
    1961 (approx) John Dawson graduates 8th grade
    1965 I graduate 1st grade at Peninsula School, and go to Public School
    1969 approximately June 3 the NRPS play an informal gig with Jerry there, not under that name. McNally comments on this, plus I have an eyewitness. This was probably just Dawson, Nelson, Jerry
    1971 May 28 NRPS play as a quartet

    jeez, this is like a post, isn't it?

  2. Wow!

    Someone on the WELL mentioned NRPS @ the Peninsula School once, but I never was able to get any details.

    Was just making some notes about early Dawson. From 8th grade I guess he went out to prep school in Milbrook, NY.

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  4. Another peculiar footnote to these shows was that James And The Good Brothers opened. When that group opened up for NRPS in February at Fillmore West, Jack Casady (bass) and Jerry Garcia (banjo) backed the trio. I can't believe that Jerry didn't at least contemplate a guest appearance during these shows.

    Of course, given Jerry's illness, it wasn't in the cards.

  5. Smith, Julie. 1971. Bad Trips at Rock Hall—Reports of Spiked Drinks. San Francisco Chronicle, May 31, 1971, pp. 1, 20.

    "About 1,000 people, most of them between 12 and 18, got inadvertently stoned after drinking 'liquid refreshment' passed around" at the show, according to police (p. 1).

    "Six men and one woman were arrested after police began an investigation when they saw a naked and bleeding young man running down a street" (p. 20).

    Bill Graham: "The overuse of heavy drugs and the need to escape by young people is one of the reasons I'm backing away from this business" (p. 20).

  6. Wasserman, John L. 1971. Winterland Trip—Who's to Blame? San Francisco Chronicle, June 4, 1971, p. 40.

    JLW, who didn't always seem to be a big fan of Bill Graham, defends him here against call by SF Chief of Police Alfred J. Nelder to rescind his licenses, noting that he has "produced more than a thousand concerts in San Francisco in the last six years, attended by more than two million people, virtually all of them without incident". JLW is at his best here, blasting up a very slippery slope from Graham to Mayor Joe Alioto (and his police, and its Chief).

  7. Wasserman, John L. 1971. The Way It Came Down. San Francisco Chronicle, June 14, 1971, p. 41.

    Here Wasserman writes about the closing of the Fillmore West. He doesn't exactly make the causal claim that the Winterland 5/29/71 LSD incident drove the decision, but I do find the timing interesting, in a straw-that-broke-the-camel's-back kind of way.

    Corry has just blogged about the FM broadcasts around the Closing of the FW at

  8. Gleason, Ralph J. 19710613. The Law and Winterland's LSD. San Francisco Examiner and Chronicle, The World, June 13, p. 27.

    "It's easier to buy sex in this town than it is to find a parking space."

  9. It happened on May 28. And the New Riders, without Jerry played a lot more than just one song.
    It was the show for the 29th that was cancelled and put off to the 30th. I was there, it was my first show, and I have been fighting this disinformation about that Friday Night at Winterland all my life. By the way I don't know about all those other people but I knew it was gonna be acid, & it was very good acid indeed.

  10. Thanks for weighing in, Mark!

    The evidence does not support your claim.

    The cancellation of 5/28/71 GD set was written by Gary Jackson, who worked Winterland for Bill Graham, in his contemporary datebook.

    All of the reports on the LSD incident, including the one from the front page of the Examiner on 5/31, say it happened Saturday, i.e., 5/29. As a methodological matter, I have to trust the multiple, credible, contemporary sources over a memory, even one that feels clear and certain.


!Thank you for joining the conversation!