Thoughts On The Dead

Musings on the Most Ridiculous Band I Can't Stop Listening To

From A Certain Point Of View #8

band way backstage

Winterland from the rafters. (I think.)


  1. [You knew I wouldn’t be able to resist commenting on this, didn’t you?]

    This isn’t really the rafters, but the balcony, which wrapped all the way around the building. This picture gives you a good idea of how tiny Winterland was by today’s standards. It held only about 5400 people (that was the legal capacity, anyway). The main floor was “festival seating,” meaning no seats at all. You mainly stood during the set and if you were lucky you’d manage to sit down for the break, if people didn’t beat you to that square foot of floor right next to your feet.

    There were seats on the main level under the balcony, but the view from them wasn’t so great since you had to see over all the people standing on the floor.

    Since there were no reserved seats, everything was first come, first serve. The balcony seats directly opposite the stage were prized by people who would rather sit than dance and by tapers, since the view and the sound were superb from there.

    The balcony behind the stage was sometimes a nice refuge from the crowd where you could enjoy a little breathing room, since most people wanted to be in front.

    I’m trying to figure out when this picture was taken. After the hiatus, there was always a banner hung on the balcony opposite the stage that said “xxxx days since last SF Dark Star.” By 12/31/78, that number was up to 1535. Since there are two drummers, a packed house and no banner, I’m guessing this is the last show before the hiatus, or 10/20/74. Mickey rejoined the band for the second set of that show and was with them thereafter.

    Despite its small size, Winterland was the site of shows by almost everyone who mattered in rock and roll between 1965 and 1978. There is a great “Winterland Stories” site ( that gives you an idea of both how incredible the shows were, and what a dump the building was.

    There’s a list on that site of everyone who played at Winterland. I’ve been able to come up with only 3 bands of any significance during that era who didn’t play there: the Beatles (although Ringo Starr did), Led Zeppelin and Jethro Tull.

    In fact, I even played there once: New Year’s Eve 1975, as part of a horn section backing the Tubes on “White Punks on Dope.”


      From the Stanford Marching Band to White Punks on Dope?! Steveb, you are like the Bay Area Zelig!

      I think we might need to have a Story Time starring Steve rather soon…

      • The Tubes gig was actually with the Stanford Band. They contacted us about being the horn section (where else could you find people who would be happy to play just for beer?), and a bunch of us who were around for the holiday break said “sure, we’ll do that!”

        At midnight, we came onstage to play “Living in the USA,” and then came back later for WPoD (which, incidentally, is still one of the Stanford Band’s staples).

        That concert is on Wolfgang’s Vault (login required) but, unfortunately, apparently not on

  2. On second thought, they were still using the Wall of Sound during that 1974 Winterland run, so this couldn’t have been the 10/20/74 show.

    • says it’s from New Year’s Eve 1978… maybe the banner you mentioned isn’t there because they had already played Dark Star at that point in the show?

      • I think the banner you’re referring to is the “XXX Days since a SF Dark Star” which was on the outside of the building.

        And I think the banner Steveb is referring to is the Dead’s half of the great diptych of rock iconography that hung in Winterland, comprising the Stealie and the Rolling Stone lips.

        So you might be both right.

        (However, I agree that it’s ’78, because I saw it in a cool and very technical aritcle about the DVD release of Closing of Winterland that I’ll post later today.)

        EDIT: Just re-read Steveb’s initial comment noting that the DS banner was inside the building. As usual, I stand corrected. I have the smartest and bestest commenters.

      • That makes sense. I think the banner got torn down once they played “Dark Star.” Or so I’ve heard; much to my later regret, I opted not to go to the 12/31/78 show and instead listened to it on KSAN in the comfort of my home.

  3. Led Zeppelin played Winterland 1969, twice I think

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