Today In Grateful Dead History: March 8, 1970 – Travelodge Theatre in the Round (Star Theater), Phoenix, AZ

skeleton&rosesThis is one of the stranger Dead shows that’s come across my computer, starting with the venue, a theater in the round that apparently rotated while the band was playing on this crazy night in Phoenix.  (Bob Weir complains about not being able to connect with the audience because the stage keeps turning, but as you’ll see in a minute, audience connection isn’t much of a problem tonight).

The show starts off electric and features a really high voltage version of China Cat Sunflower>I Know You RiderHard to Handle is also firey tonight.

After Hard to Handle, the band switches to acoustic instruments for a few songs before switching back to electric for an impromptu “blues jam”.  This is where things get even weirder, as some member of the audience jumps on stage and sings along with the band.  For a long time.  And the Dead don’t throw him off.

One of the knocks on Pigpen (I don’t agree) is that almost any average white dude could sound like him.  Well, this “guest” vocal performance proves that while anyone can duplicate the shtick, it’s a lot harder to do it effectively.  If you sit through this entire performance, you’ll understand exactly why Pigpen is irreplaceable.  But it’s hard to sit through this whole thing, as you’ll hear almost immediately. After the blues, we get Not Fade Away and Turn on Your Lovelight, both infected with this same guest, now also on harmonica.  (Or maybe there’s a second person on harmonica – it’s hard to tell.  Apparently, all was chaos on the revolving stage by this point).

So, performance wise, the Dead are fine, but a large part of the show is almost untenable due to the vocals.  And, just to make things even weirder, this show was apparently Vince Welnick’s first time experiencing the Grateful Dead, as an audience member.  An auspicious beginning . . .

Listen here, for historical value:  https://archive.org/details/gd1970-03-08.sbd.miller.113359.flac16

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