TIAAD “outtake” re 3/17/70 with the Buffalo Philharmonic

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.


4 Responses to “TIAAD “outtake” re 3/17/70 with the Buffalo Philharmonic”

  1. David Leopold says:

    Here’s a good compilation of reviews and eyewitness accounts of the show:

    According to the Philharmonic archivist, union rules made taping impossible “Recordings of live symphonic concerts without recording fees were forbidden – so
    regretfully there are no recordings available (from time to time a rumor claims that
    a pirated tape was made – but nothing has ever emerged) (it was very difficult at
    that time to pirate a concert – the needed equipment was then too large to hide)”

  2. david says:

    That is a REALLY good point, Dave! Of course recording would have been prohibited. We’ve seen that with other gigs that involved orchestras (e.g. Bobby’s First Fusion gig a few years back).

  3. Christopher Foss says:

    Hi, I’m Christopher Foss – son of the Buffalo Philharmonic music director/ conductor, Lukas Foss, who brought The Dead on stage that March 17, 1970 evening. I have since notified the Buffalo News that I’m doubling that $500 reward (I thought: What? Only $500?)…. So at this point, the reward has jumped to $1200. Maybe recording was prohibited at Kleinhans Music Hall that evening – but that never stopped the Dead Heads before! I and so many others believe a recording is out there. I would also be “grateful” for any pics of the concert – or, who knows?! – film too. I’m working on a documentary about my father and his wild musical world. My father loved experimenting with all forms of music. I love Peter Case’s providing the added detail of my father calling for his orchestra to “attack” The Dead “musically”… a very accurate and to my mind “fantastic” element my father’s improvisational improvisational style and musically experimental tactic. I really hope everyone digs into their cache of old Dead tapes – I have to believe this missing audio is findable!!! – Happy Hunting, Christopher Foss (

  4. Rick Schindler says:

    I was there. I was 17. It was very strange and amazing. Christopher Foss is correct; I distinctly remember his father telling the orchestra to “attack.” Also, it was a 3-way battle of the bands, the Dead, the Philharmonic, and the local band The Road (once known as the Mello Brick Road). During the cage piece, members of the Philharmonic played in the aisles, slowly advancing a few steps at a time in between playing passages.

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