Thursday, July 26, 2012

Tour Itinerary Navigation

A substantially upgraded Navigation post is available here

Lost Live Dead Navigation by Show Date

I began my Tour Itinerary series on Lost Live Dead in order to analyze segments of the Grateful Dead and Jerry Garcia's performance history. I focused on periods where I had new information, or where there was something to be learned from considering the concerts for the time period collectively. These have been very popular posts and generated many interesting Comments. Ironically, it has become more and more difficult to find the appropriate posts to link to, even for me, so I have created this Tour Itinerary Navigation post. I will link it on the side of both this blog and Lost Live Dead. This is mostly for me, to be honest, but everyone else may as well have access.

To repeat my traditional introduction, I have been constructing tour itineraries for the Grateful Dead for brief periods of their history. There is so much information circulating on websites and blogs (including my own) that go beyond published lists on Deadlists and that these posts make useful forums for discussing what is known and missing during each period.

Rather than go in strictly chronological order, I am focusing on periods where recent research has been done by myself or others. Over time I hope to have the entire 1965-70 period, as well as interesting months from other periods. My principal focus has been  on identifying which dates have Grateful Dead shows, which dates might have Grateful Dead shows, and which dates are in dispute or may be of interest. Where relevant, I am focusing on live appearances by other members--mostly Jerry Garcia, as a practical matter--in order to get an accurate timeline.

I am focused on which performances occurred when, rather than the performances themselves. For known performances, I have assumed that they are easy to assess on Deadlists, The Archive and elsewhere, and have made little comment. As a point of comparison, I am comparing my list to Deadlists, but I realize that different databases may include or exclude different dates (I am not considering recording dates, interviews or Television and radio broadcast dates in this context).

My working assumption is that the Grateful Dead, while already a legendary rock band by 1966, were living hand to mouth and scrambling to find paying gigs until 1971. Most paying performances were on Friday and Saturday nights, so I am particularly interested  in Friday and Saturday nights where no Grateful Dead or Jerry Garcia performances were scheduled or known.

Tour Itinerary Links List
I am listing all my current Tour Itinerary posts here. In general, I have done a good job of updating them with new dates when I learn something new, but I can't guarantee that in all cases. Any readers who have updates to any specific post are better advised to put them on the Comment threads of the appropriate posts, rather than here. I am listing the various posts without any meaningful comments from me, unless of course I feel like it. In general I will try and keep this list current.

The Warlocks, May-December 1965

Grateful Dead, December 1966

Grateful Dead, January-April 1967

Grateful Dead, May-June 1967

Grateful Dead, December 1967 [Atwood Hall, Clark U, Worcester, MA]

Grateful Dead, January 1968

Grateful Dead, March-April 1968

Grateful Dead European Tour, October 1968 (canceled)

Grateful Dead/Jerry Garcia, February 1969

Grateful Dead, March-April 1969

Grateful Dead, March 1969
I had learned a lot more about March, 1969, so I did another post updating the previous one for March and April of that year.

Grateful Dead/Jerry Garcia, May 1969

Grateful Dead, July-August 1969

Grateful Dead/New Riders, September 1969

Grateful Dead/New Riders, October 1969

Grateful Dead/New Riders, November 1969

Grateful Dead, December 1969

New Riders, June 69-March '70 [New Riders Bassist]

Grateful Dead, January 1970

Grateful Dead, February 1970

Grateful Dead Equipment Truck, January-February 1970
This itinerary attempted to analyze how much the Grateful Dead equipment truck had to drive during this period. I don't think it was that accurate, but it was still an intriguing exercise.

Grateful Dead/Jerry Garcia, March 1970
For a fuller picture of the initial meetings of Garcia and John Kahn at The Matrix this month, see the John Kahn Performance History 1970 post.

Grateful Dead, November 1970

Grateful Dead/Old And In The Way/Garcia-Saunders, September 1973 [The Horn Tour]

Grateful Dead, January 1978 [Selland Arena, Fresno, January 15, 1978]

Grateful Dead/Jerry Garcia Band/Bob Weir Band/Comfort, February 1978

Performance Histories
I have made efforts to create complete Performance Histories for certain bands who were connected to the Grateful Dead, and also for John Kahn.

The Good News Performance History, 1966
The Good News, from Redwood City, featured Dave Torbert and Chris Herold, both future members of The New Delhi River Band and Kingfish.

New Delhi River Band Performance History, Summer 1966
David Nelson and Dave Torbert were in the New Delhi River Band, a Palo Alto-based psychedelic blues band.

New Delhi River Band Performance History, Fall 1966

New Delhi River Band Performance History, January-June 1967

New Delhi River Band Performance History, July 1967-February 1968

David Nelson Musical Activities February 1968-May 1969
After the demise of the New Delhi River Band, Nelson lays fairly low.

The Smokey Grass Boys, 1966-67
Even by the standards of this blog, the Smokey Grass Boys were obscure. David Grisman, Rick Shubb and Herb Pedersen had a bluegrass band after Jerry Garcia and almost every other young bluegrass musician had "gone electric."

John Kahn Performance History, 1967-68

John Kahn Performance History 1967-68 II

John Kahn Performance History 1969

John Kahn Performance History 1970
This post includes a detailed analysis of the Monday night jams at the Matrix, with Howard Wales, Bill Vitt, Jerry Garcia and John Kahn, which ultimately led to Garcia/Saunders and then the Jerry Garcia Band.

John Kahn Performance History 1971

John Kahn Performance History 1972

Kingfish Performance History, Fall 1974

Kingfish Performance History, January-June 1975

Kingfish Performance History, July-December 1975

Keith And Donna Performance History, April-December 1975

Robert Hunter and Roadhog Performance History, May-October 1976

Robert Hunter and Comfort Performance History, May 1977-May '78

High Noon Performance History, May-December 1981

Bob Weir Band and Bobby And The Midnites, 1977-84
This isn't really a performance history, but rather an overview of the personnel of the various configurations of Weir's bands. However, for my research it is part of the same project, so I am including it here.

Bill Kreutzmann's All-Stars 1984
I am nothing if not thorough.This obscure group played 4 shows in 1984. David Nelson played guitar for the band.

Kingfish with Bob Weir, 1984-87
This post lists every performance of Kingfish that featured Grateful Dead members during this period, though it is not an attempt to make a complete list for either Kingfish or Bob Weir.

Kokomo Performance History, 1985
Kokomo featured Bill Kreutzmann and Brent Mydland.

Go Ahead Performance History 1986
Go Ahead featured Brent Mydland, Bill Kreutzmann and others.

Friday, July 13, 2012

February 19, 1969, Fillmore West: Grateful Dead/Golden Toad (Bob Thomas)

An early photo of The Golden Toad, circa 1968-69: (L-R) Don Brown, Rob Patterson, Lisa Phillips, Bob Thomas, Will Spires. The original source of the photo is unknown to me,
Throughout the Grateful Dead's career, they had associations  with many famous 60s artists: Mouse and Kelly, Rick Griffin, Victor Moscoso, Bob Fried and Bill Walker are among the most prominent. However, the artist Bob Thomas stands out in a variety of ways, and one way he is different than other famous sixties artists was that his band, the Golden Toad, opened for the Grateful Dead on a number of occasions.  The fact the first time that the Golden Toad seem to have opened for the Dead was at the mysterious "Celestial Synapse" show at the Fillmore West turns out to be hardly surprising, given the many intersections Bob Thomas had with the Dead.

The saga of Bob Thomas (1938-1993) seems to be quite an interesting one, and I suspect large portions of it remain untold. However, I have been working on an intermittent series of posts about bands who opened for the Grateful Dead, and the largely ephemeral band The Golden Toad stand completely apart from pretty much any band that ever opened for the Dead. From that point of view, I am going to focus this post more on what is known about the Golden Toad rather than dwell too directly on Bob Thomas. I will link to some interesting tributes, and I assure you it's worth the time to read about him. For the purposes of this blog, I am going to mainly focus on The Golden Toad, and consider them in relation to the Grateful Dead.

The Grateful Dead logo, designed by Bob Thomas in 1969, in order to make it easy for the crew to identify the band's equipment backstage at rock festivals full of similar gear
Who Was Bob Thomas?
Of course, while having said that the post would focus on Golden Toad, I nonetheless have to first sketch out why Bob Thomas stood out in the murky history of the Grateful Dead. Let's review some highlights:
  • Bob Thomas was an accomplished artist, and he is usually known to Deadheads for having created the art for the covers of Live/Dead and Bear's Choice 
  • Most memorably, Thomas created the 'Skull and Lightning Bolt' Grateful Dead logo, based on a idea of Owsley's. Owsley told the whole story. The essence of it was that the Grateful Dead were playing a lot of rock festivals in 1969, and when it came time to pack up all the equipment, it was hard to tell the Dead's amps and cases apart from other bands. This was a particular issue at rock festivals, where there might have been 10 or more bands playing each day, with a good likelihood that many were using similar gear to the Dead's. The logo made it easy for crew to identify road cases and other equipment as belonging to the Dead, without trying to read a faded stencil of the words 'Grateful Dead."
  • Back on November 21, 1967, one Robert Thomas was arrested in Orinda with the notorious Owsley Stanley and others, accused of conspiring to manufacture LSD. I assume that the arrested Bob Thomas was the very same one who founded the Golden Toad, so his connections to Owsley ran pretty deep. I believe he was relatively permanent resident at Owsley's house on Ascot Drive in Oakland in the late 1960s.
Bob Thomas playing one of his pipes, circa 1968-69. The original source of the photo is unknown to me.
The Renaissance Pleasure Faire, Marin County
One artifact of the 60s that remains with us was the institution of the 'Renaissance Fair" (usually spelled in some quaint way, like "Fayre"). I will admit right up front that I was never a fan of these things. Flagons of mead, fair maidens and jousting are alright for some people, I guess, but I can't romanticize a time where indoor plumbing and power-not-generated-by-mammals were hardly known. Nonetheless, in the Bay Area there was a robust series of Renaissance Fairs in Marin starting in the mid-1960s. While I think similar events were held in other forward-thinking places during the same period, the Marin Renaissance Pleasure Faire seems to have been particularly influential in establishing standard operating procedure for the future of such events (are there "Best Practices" for pseudo-jousting?).

Nonetheless, what made the 60s memorable was that it was a time where people looked at things differently, and tried to take something that was 'different' on its own terms. Thus the romanticization of past or foreign cultures, like Native Americans, then called 'Indians', and of course Indian religioua men (usually referred to as 'gurus'), represented a sincere if naive effort to break out of a narrow post World War 2 view of the hegemony of American culture and achievement. In that respect, the Renaissance Fairs were a genuine effort to appreciate the past for what it had to offer, even if historical accuracy was hardly absolute.

Bob Thomas was an accomplished piper, playing a variety of traditional and largely obscure pipes from Europe.  As a result, Thomas put together a small band of players who performed at the Renaissance Fairs in Marin the 1960s. They apparently played 15th to 18th century Mediteranean tunes on replicas of older instruments, including pipes and various stringed instruments. It couldn't be called authentic--it's not like there were tapes--but it represented a sincere effort to provide a whiff to fairgoers as to what European music from a few hundred years earlier might have sounded like. Thomas's 'Fair Band' varied in size and instrumentation, depending on who was available, but they were apparently the house band of the original Marin County Renaissance Pleasure Faires.

The Golden Toad
The original Golden Toad was an outgrowth of the Faire band. Originally a quartet, the group played a few local dates in mostly atypical venues. The Faire was only open at certain times, such as several weekends in the Summer, so the Golden Toad provided Thomas and his bandmates a chance to continue playing their music outside of the confines of the Faire. The earliest record I can find of a public performance by The Golden Toad outside of the Renaissance Fair was the 35th Annual Berkeley Old-Time Fiddlers Convention on June 8, 1968, in Provo Park (really the first time it was held, but its a long story). The Toad also played a few times at The Freight And Salvage, Berkeley's traditional folk club.

The Golden Toad had begun as a quartet, but they added and subtracted members as time went on. Reputedly, they were known to have performed with up to 23 members, although how often they did that remains unknown. They also had some association with Berkeley's Floating Lotus Opera, whose story (I assure you) makes the Golden Toad seem positively conventional.  Some of the better known members of the Golden Toad included fiddler Will Spires and Deborah and Ernie Fischbach. Those with too many albums will recall that the Fischbachs had recorded a legendarily obscure album in 1967 called A Cid Symphony. Most or all of the members of The Golden Toad played other kinds of music in various ensembles, so the band was inherently part time, but perhaps by virtue of being a labor of love the Golden Toad seemed to have no need to make concessions to anything resembling  conventional business practices.

The Celestial Synapse, Fillmore West, February 19, 1969
This Wednesday night event at the Fillmore West was promoted as the Frontiers Of Science Celestial Synapse. According to a Michael Lydon article in Rolling Stone (April 5, 1969), the concert was a keynote event at a five day 'Frontiers Of Science' conference at Harbinger Hot Springs. There was apparently a mostly invited audience, although perhaps some regular civilians got in as well. In any case, Lydon describes the Golden Toad and mentions Bob Thomas playing the pipes, so there is no doubt about the Golden Toad's presence. Lydon alludes to the Toad when the the founder of Frontiers Of Science is introduced: "after a stirring oboe and bagpipe introduction by the Golden Toad, [founder] Don Hamrick is introduced."

A blog post by an esteemed scholar about the very mysterious "June 19, 1968" Grateful Dead tape makes a pretty convincing case that the so-labeled tape is really the February 19, 1969 show from Fillmore West. The reviews plus the likely recording suggest a truly memorable evening, and the fact that the Golden Toad were present makes them accessories to the crime, even if they weren't the perpetrators themselves. The mysterious Celestial Synapse event has the whiff of well-to-do hippies having a private party, and paying the Grateful Dead to provide the entertainment. In that scenario, the Dead could have invited anyone they wanted to, and they seem to have chosen to invite the Golden Toad. If nothing else, the presence of Bob Thomas and his band insures that his connection to the Grateful Dead was close indeed. Thomas was quoted by Lydon: "I haven't seen anything like this in years -- it's like one of the old Ken Kesey Acid Tests," said Bob Thomas, piper of the Toad and, like the Dead, veteran of many an Acid Test, "-- only it's less hectic and confused. It's f***ing amazing."

The Golden Toad: What Did They Sound Like?
I am aware of no official or unofficial recordings of The Golden Toad. Bob Thomas has vaguely alluded to "Mediterranean Airs" from the 15th through the 18th century played on a variety of period instruments. Of course, those period instruments were probably built in the 20th century, and the tunes were received through the folk tradition. Thus The Golden Toad probably captured the flavor of European and Mediterranean folk sounds, without actually being precisely period-specific.

In effect, it appear that the Golden Toad were forerunners of what would now be called "World Music." They took traditional sounds and appropriate instruments, and mixed and matched to find a sound that was both new and accessible to Western ears. The only group doing anything comparable at the time in a public forum would have been the legendary rock group Kaleidoscope, a Southern California band featuring David Lindley, Solomon Feldthouse, Chester Crill and various others. Kaleidoscope, however, were playing world music in an electric context, very consciously part of the rock music universe of the 1960s. Kaleidoscope made four fascinating abums, and while none of them were really successful, the band captured the imagination of many contemporary musicians, most famously Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page.

Golden Toad seems to have attempted to invent acoustic 'World Music,' making it into a lively enterprise for dancing, drinking and fun, not an antiseptic academic exercise. In that way, they can be seen as an acoustic parallel to Kaleidoscope, but the 'Scope at least had albums and played on the rock circuit, so their legend at least leaked out over the years. Golden Toad was a peculiar mystery, known only in the Bay Area, and then only to people who attended the Renaissance Fairs or saw them in their relatively rare performances at places like The Freight And Salvage and a few special events.

From one point of view, there is a very profound parallel between The Golden Toad and the Grateful Dead. Both of them played their own music, in defiance of any existing music industry norms. Both of them found performance channels and venues that had not existed prior to them, and in some ways they both helped invent the very platforms that they performed on. Having achieved a modicum of underground success against all odds, both the Dead and the Toad chose to head farther into uncharted territory rather than tack toward the main trade winds. When the Golden Toad had a modest buzz about them from being the house band at the Renaissance Fairs, expanding their aggregation to a 23-piece ensemble would be Exhibit A for insuring financial failure, unless exhibit A would have been spending over $100,000 recording Aoxomoxoa.

I don't think that the Golden Toad had a serious musical influence on the Grateful Dead in a musical sense. The bands were too far apart musically and rhythmically. However, I think the Golden Toad were seen by the Dead as a band who shared their musical ideals. The Golden Toad were attempting a difficult musical endeavor for no good reason except that they wanted to do it, and they did it despite the considerable odds against success. The Golden Toad made their living, such as it was, playing at the Renaissance Fairs, and they created that opportunity themselves, and in so doing implicitly created a blueprint for period music at Renaissance Fair for subsequent decades. Not the same, exactly, as headlining baseball stadiums every summer, but given how quixotic the entire Golden Toad enterprise actually was, it was an achievement on par with the Grateful Dead actually making a living as musicians.

Handbill for the November 1-2, 1969 shows at The Family Dog On The Great Highway, featuring The Grateful Dead, Danny Cox and The Golden Toad
I think that the Dead saw The Golden Toad as kindred spirits, so they helped them when they could. Their first opportunity was at The Celestial Synapse, and so they brought them along. I'm only aware of one other time that the Toad opened for the Dead was November 1-2, 1969 at the Family Dog On The Great Highway. I think that the November Dog show was practically self-promoted by the Dead, so while they would have needed an opening act who was cheap, they also would have been in a position to help their friends, so the Golden Toad seem to have gotten the call.

The Golden Toad: Legacy
The Golden Toad had no albums, and there are no tapes, and at their best received performances at Marin Renaissance Fairs, most of their listeners would have had no idea who was performing. Thus it would seem that the Golden Toad should have disappeared into the mists of time, and yet that is not the case. The Golden Toad seem to have been very influential on other musicians, so like all such bands their legacy after their demise is greater than when they existed. Certainly the Kaleidoscope, a great band if there ever was one, barely eked out an existence from 1966-70, and now they are universally acclaimed as a foundational band for World Music. The Golden Toad had no such pull with record collectors--they had no records--nor journalists and bloggers, but they did have an impact on musicians.

In 2010, a workshop was held in Northern California for people interested in worldwide music and dance. The mission statement describes it best:
The Golden Toad Music and Dance Camp is a gathering of musicians and dancers who wish to learn and share traditional music and dance styles from around the world.  The camp is based upon a firm belief in learning from our “community elders,” and those who have excelled in their specialty.  Enriched in a relaxed, family atmosphere, The Golden Toad Music and Dance Camp welcomes new students of young and old, along with skilled life-long learners in ancestral style music and dance.

“The Golden Toad” name is from a traditional music style band that originated in the 1960’s in Northern California.  There were four members at first who began sharing their music as “The Golden Toad” with the launch of the Renaissance Pleasure Faire in Northern California (first in China Camp State Park in San Rafael then Black Point Forest in Novato).  The Golden Toad band grew as they shared their songs with, and learned songs from other musicians who joined their group.  The band began to play other venues around Northern California, and for awhile could fill an entire stage with musicians joining them in performing Old World music.

Appropriately, various members of The Golden Toad, including Will Spires and Deborah and Ernie Fischbach, were instructors at the camp. Also on board was Solomon Feldthouse, one of the members of Kaleidoscope, a legend in his own right, and serving to bring some of the threads of 60s World Music together. The Golden Toad Music And Dance Camp is scheduled to have its own renaissance appearance in 2013, just as Furthur and other Grateful Dead progeny have continued to make music based on the principles by which they were founded.