Have you seen that thing going around about a $500 reward for the lost recording of 3/17/70, Grateful Dead with the Buffalo Philharmonic?
Here’s a bit of info about that event, deleted from our final manuscript due to space issues:
Peter Case (musician): They were playing in Buffalo [March 17, 1970], at the Kleinhans Music Hall. It was a very strange gig, because the billing was the Grateful Dead, the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Lukas Foss. The opening act was a top-40 band that was starting to kind of freak out. They were called the Mellow Brick Road at one point, but I think they just changed their name at the gig to The Road.
The Grateful Dead was fantastic, and they were full-on into that “Dark Star” period. They were great. Then the orchestra came out. I guess they said it was going to be a battle of the bands. The Dead was playing their music, but the leader of the orchestra would yell “Attack!” They’re not improvisers, particularly, the guys in the orchestra, but they were coached to attack the Grateful Dead musically. And they did, with their tympanis, their blasts of drums and horns and cacophony. The Grateful Dead were playing, doing one of their improvs, that loping boogie beat that Lesh and the drummers would be playing, the thing was just rolling along, and Jerry would be soloing. Then for a second there, the orchestra would sort of drown it out, and then the orchestra would stop and [the Dead] would sort of emerge out of the clouds of the attack, still doing their thing. It was pretty funny. The Grateful Dead never blinked. They just kept playing. [Laughs] It was really really funny and great.
Another strange thing about the show: The very opening act was a John Cage piece. You’re in whatever state you’re in when you go see the Grateful Dead in 1970… The way this piece went was, there were violinists and they walked out into the theater and they played their part as they walked through your aisle. You would have to stand up and let them pass. They went right through every aisle in the place, playing their violins. It was incredible, but the best part, of course was the Dead.
It was a great-sounding place, so the Dead sounded great in there. Everybody walked out saying that that was just completely insane, that the orchestra had topped themselves by acting completely nuts.
Bob Weir: I remember we brought our smallest amplifiers and we were still three or four times too loud. We had to turn them down to the point where we couldn’t really get tone out of them in order to not drown out the orchestra. A rock’n’roll trap drum kit acoustically is at least twice as loud as a symphony orchestra.