Thoughts On The Dead

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

Tag: 11/27/70

I’m Gonna Sing A Song For You

This is the past. This is the era we are no longer in, the Post-War era; that’s all over with. The men are dead, and the women are dead, and so are their tools. Ink and telephones and typewriters. Those things are for fetishists now. Guitars, too, maybe. Guitars speak in Base-6, but the culture only recognizes Base-2 lately.

This is the past. Cars required regular maintenance and could not drive themselves, not one little bit. Seatbelts were an option, and you had to pay extra for them. You could buy airplane tickets in cash without identification. There was one phone company in all of America. It was called Ma Bell. I’m sure some realized how creepy that was, but not most. Big cities had six or seven newspapers, and some would publish in the afternoons so the men leaving their offices had something to read on the train back to Levittown. If you wanted to deposit a check or take out money, you went to the bank. The bank was closed. The bank was open for an hour a day in the past.

This is the past. Little boys wore shorts and sported crewcuts. Girls wore pigtails and learned to make goulash; the Hungarian ones did, at least. Bees were everywhere. At night, the villages would dance and burn creosote and then the mass lickings began. The sun was left-handed. The national pastime was sissyfighting. Erosion had not yet scrubbed the presidents’ dicks from Mount Rushmore. Shampoo was free.

Excuse me.

Oklahoma was where Belgium should have been, but not vice-versa.

Stop this immediately.

What did I do?

It got weird.

It did. The past was very weird.

You started making things up.

No. I am a journalist.

Tell the nice people about the website.

Sure. The Smithsonian (la-dee-dah) has thrown up a new crowd-sourced rock photo site. Go check it out.

That was it? 

Eh. It’s kind of shitty to navigate and they make it a pain-in-the-ass to steal the pictures.

You’re mad at an organization for attempting to protect its intellectual property?


As long as we’re clear.

Gong, Show

Hey, PIg. Whatcha doing?

“Waiting t’ play. Boys are doin’ their bippy-bop shit.”

This is 1970, though. They didn’t do it as much as they used to.

“Old age is gettin’ to ’em, I guess.”

Happens to us all.

“Didn’t happen to the ol’ Pig!”

No. How’s the venue?

“Atrocious! It’s like ruins, but without the charm. Know what it smells like? Imagine if piss could take a piss!”


“Helps t’ keep a cigarette lit. You should see some o’ the places we gotta play! Last month, we was in some sort o’ factory where they process horse assholes. during the day.”

What does “process” mean?

“I didn’t ask! If they gonna do that to a horse, imagine what they’d do to the ol’ Pig!”


“All we played was dumps. Even the nice joints! Fillmore East had rats the size o’ cats! An’ cats the size o’ dogs! An’ dogs the size o’ rats! It was circular an’ confusin’!”

I would imagine.

“Played a place in LA they did some sort ‘ Satanic nonsense in when the bands weren’t there! Walls was full o’ voodoo doodlin’!”

That sounds bad.

“Weirdo books layin’ around. Lesh starts readin’ from one and that mangy mutt summons himself up a taterdemalion. You ever met M’b the Soggy?”


“Avoid it if possible!”

Good advice.

“Nothin’ like those places you guys got. All nice an’ clean. Stuff t’ eat besides funky hot dogs and popcorn. I got no idea what gluten is, but I enjoy being able to not eat it if I don’t wanna.”

Pig, are you using the Time Sheath to go to concerts in the future?


Stop that.


Who’d you see?


Again? How many times is that?

“28. The ol’ PIg’s in the Beyhive. Even stole me a tee-shirt.”

Pig, please don’t wear a Beyoncé shirt in 1970.

“How ’bout I do, but just make sure there ain’t no pictures?’


Down In Front

The past looked like shit. The present is a hyper-designed nightmare of weaponized professionalism, but the past looked like shit. It was slapped together; “good enough” was good enough for the past. You could see all the seams, several of which were fraying before your eyes. See how there’s no chairs or aisles or sub-divisions within the crowd? That’s called general admission. It kills people. Not always, and not often, but it kills people. The past was more flammable.


This is 11/27/70, which was the day after Thanksgiving that year. The Dead played on the 23rd in New York City, and then this show on the 27th. Did they fly back to the Bay, or did they eat their turdrugken in Manhattan? (Turdrugken is a chicken stuffed into drugs stuffed into a turkey.) The venue was called The Syndrome, because in 1970, you could name a venue “The Syndrome” and people would respond to that by saying “Groovy” and “Far out,” instead of “That’s a terrible fucking name. Are we in a hack novel about the Sixties? Don’t name it that.”

The Syndrome used to be called the Chicago Coliseum when the Blackhawks played there in the 20’s. In 1904, Teddy Roosevelt accepted the Republican Party’s nomination when they held their convention here; TR accepted the Bull Moose Party’s nod here, too, in 1912. Didn’t work out as well. There was roller derby during the Depression, and then the Chicago Packers laid in a hardwood floor and put up some hoops. They would change their name to the Chicago Zephyrs shortly before moving to Baltimore and becoming the Bullets, then heading a few miles south to D.C. where they are today the Washington Wizards. (Fun philosophy question: is it still the same team? Discuss.)

Out of date and lacking any sports teams to support it, the Coliseum turned to a life of crime; worse, it started presenting long-hair bands. The owners renamed the dump The Syndrome and booked acts throughout the 60’s. (Did they think the kids would be fooled by the dopey hippie name? That they would overlook the fact that the joint was less a building and more a building-shaped pile of material? I can smell the urine through the photo.)

Anyway, the Dead played there only once, on the Friday after Thanksgiving in 1970. They brought the New Riders with them, as was their wont in 1970. There’s no tape.

Three months later, 6,000 fans crammed into the arena to watch the simulcast of the Ali/Frazier fight. The projector broke. Riots broke out, and the fight fans damn near tore that old building down. The ensuing insurance inspection turned up so many fire code violations that even a bribe couldn’t fix it, and may I remind you that this was Chicago. Takes quite a bit to be beyond a bribe in that city, but the Coliseum was not longer financially feasible as a performance space. Japanese Buddhists own it now, and they do Japanese Buddhist things there. There is most likely no roller derby at all.


Check out JT Leroy looking back at the camera.

That Confounded Bridge

For fuck’s sake. Precarious?


Precarious Lee, everyone.



What the hell is that?

“That’s the Dead. Choogly-type band.”

Yes, thank you. I recognized them.

“They’re easy to spot.”

But mostly I recognized your handiwork. Are those speakers?


On the right.


Are those two columns of speakers separated by a couple feet with another speaker bridging across the top?


Why, man?

“Why not?”

So, so, so many reasons.

“If someone dies, we’ll do it different next show.”

That’s your motto, isn’t it?

“Mottos are for assholes.”


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