Channeling the Dead at Frontier Field

Channeling the Dead at Frontier Field

[Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, Nov 6, 1977. The War Memorial show in 1977 is considered to be one of the Dead’s best performances.]

by George Cassidy Payne

For the 4th consecutive year, Dark Star Orchestra recreated an authentic Grateful Dead experience at Frontier Field on Aug. 3. I was there and it was awesome. There is nothing quite like the energy of a Dead show, and no band in the world is keeping that energy alive better than DSO.

After the show, I was curious to learn more about the history of the Grateful Dead in Rochester.

Democrat and Chronicle, Oct 23 1977

A fan makes his way closer to the stage. Dark Star Orchestra is a Grateful Dead cover band formed in Chicago, Illinois. Through adherence to historical details, down to the drum-kit set up and where its seven members stand on stage, Dark Star Orchestra presents a different Grateful Dead concert each night.
At the time, many employees with the War Memorial were angered by the lack of crowd control, trash, broken windows and doors, and more. The overflowing lines stretched as far as Broad Street.
“Truckin’ got my chips cashed in. Keep truckin’, like the do-dah man Together, more or less in line, just keep truckin’ on.”
Hawking Dead gear outside the stadium. Some things never change.
Bob Weir playing at Silver Stadium in 1988 (Photo by Thomas G. Smith)
“Wake up to find out that you are the eyes of the world, the heart has it’s beaches, it’s homeland and thoughts of it’s own. Wake now, discover that you are the song that the mornin’ brings, But the heart has it’s seasons, it’s evenin’s and songs of it’s own.”
When it comes down to it, the Dead were about having fun. They brought a sense of adventure to people’s lives that they could not attain any other way. To go to a Dead show was not just a concert experience, it was to be transported to another way of being in the world.


Just like the ball games played at Frontier, there’s not a bad seat in the stadium to watch a show.

Dick’s Picks Volume 34 is the 34th installment of the Dick’s Pick’s series. This CD captures the 11/5/77 show at the War Memorial in Rochester, as well as the November 2, 1977 gig at Seneca College Field House in Toronto. Dick’s Picks Volume 34 was mastered directly from the original two-track analog reel-to-reel tapes running at 7.5 IPS. Some minor sonic anomalies remain, due to the unavoidable effects of the ravages of time and the fragile nature of 1/4″ analog tape. Additionally, due to a missing reel from November 5, 1977, we have used the PA cassette master tapes from that show to fix the problem.


November 5, 1977


The Stylus. Brockport N.Y. 1914 current November 09 1977 Page 49 Image 49 NYS Historic Newspapers

AllMusic Review by Lindsay Planer

The centerpiece of this three-disc edition is the November 5 gig at the Community War Memorial Auditorium in Rochester, New York with practically an hour of filler from Toronto, Canada at Seneca College’s Field House (November 2). While the entire band’s energy level is uniformly high, it is Phil Lesh (bass) who consistently provides more than just his customary rock-solid rhythmic anchoring. For a combo known for mixing up their lists from night to night, remarkably half-a-dozen songs that had been done the previous evening are repeated here and four others would turn up the next night. However, repetition is a good thing when the calibre of playing is as inspired as it was in the final week of their late fall of ’77 tour. Not a second is wasted as they burst from the gate with a boisterous rendition of “New Minglewood Blues,” an update of “New, New Minglewood Blues” from the Dead’s self-titled debut album. Equally robust is the no-holds-barred exertion given to “Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo.” Jerry Garcia (guitar/vocal) makes up for the occasional lyrical flub with spirited fretwork, setting the tenor for the remainder of the show. Especially with the insightful lines he corrals in “Jack Straw,” which muscles into one of the hottest “Deal”‘s to have gone down during this era. Lesh is atypically assertive as he noodles around while the rest of the musicians gear up for the beginning of the second set, which commences with the first of several full-blown solos from the bassist. Bob Weir (guitar/vocals) interrupts with a plea for the audience to “Take a Step Back” to prevent attendees at the foot of the stage from getting continually crushed by their fellow concert-goers. This was obviously a problem as Garcia had previously addressed the situation. Once things settled down, they embark upon a sublime and nearly quarter-hour long “Eyes of the World,” soaring with a strength that hearkens back to the improvisation-heavy renderings that were common some four years prior to the Grateful Dead’s 19-month-long touring sabbatical. Lesh once again steps up, rounding out the tune with a melodic jam that lands into a heady overhaul of “Samson & Delilah.” After above-average readings of the emotive ballad “It Must Have Been the Roses,” and the deliciously noir pairing of “Estimated Prophet” with “He’s Gone,” Lesh stays front and center, adding his proverbial two-cents in the abbreviated “Rhythm Devils” section before steering the good ship Grateful Dead into a scintillating “Other One,” whose direct ancestry can be traced to seminal late-’60s outings. Keen-eared participants will definitely note the shift in audio quality from “Black Peter” on, as missing open-reel tapes were substituted with a slight, yet discernibly inferior quality master recording — with an emphasis on the word slight as the contents are both completely listenable and no less enjoyable. The bonus material was a good call, specifically the version of “Estimated Prophet” that features Garcia extracting eerily bellowing laments and wailing sonic exorcisms. Although not as far out, Weir’s “Lazy Lightning” and “Supplication” are similarly aggressive as Garcia’s leads are nothing short of blistering.

About The Author

Welcome to Talker of the Town! My name is David Kramer. I have a Ph.D in English and teach at Keuka College. I am a former and still active Fellow at the Nazareth College Center for Public History and a Storyteller in Residence at the SmallMatters Institute. Over the years, I have taught at Monroe Community College, the Rochester Institute of Technology and St. John Fisher College. I have published numerous Guest Essays, Letters, Book Reviews and Opinion pieces in The New York Times, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, the Buffalo News, the Rochester Patriot, the Providence Journal, the Providence Business News, the Brown Alumni Magazine, the New London Day, the Boston Herald, the Messenger Post Newspapers, the Wedge, the Empty Closet, the CITY, Lake Affect Magazine and Brighton Connections. My poetry appears in The Criterion: An International Journal in English and Rundenalia and my academic writing in War, Literature and the Arts and Twentieth Century Literary Criticism. Starting in February 2013, I wrote for three Democratic and Chronicle  blogs, "Make City Schools Better," "Unite Rochester," and the "Editorial Board." When my tenure at the D & C  ended, I wanted to continue conversations first begun there. And start new ones.  So we created this new space, Talker of the Town, where all are invited to join. I don’t like to say these posts are “mine.” Very few of them are the sole product of my sometimes overheated imagination. Instead, I call them partnerships and collaborations. Or as they say in education, “peer group work.” Talker of the Town might better be Talkers of the Town. The blog won’t thrive without your leads, text, pictures, ideas, facebook shares, tweets, comments and criticisms.


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