You Need to Know about the Grateful Dead’s Brooklyn Run in 1970

Posted on Tuesday November 14th in

It was 47 years ago today that the Grateful Dead we’re preparing for the final night of their 4-night run at the 46th St. Rock Palace in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. Between 1970 and 1973, the 46th St. Rock Palace acted as a direct competitor to Bill Graham’s consistently sold out Fillmore East and West. Among the acts that landed shows during this time was the Byrds, the Youngbloods, Jefferson Airplane, and many others. Grateful Dead played 143 shows in 1970, and 4 of them happened to be in our very own Brooklyn on November 11, 12, 13 and 14.


To recap this momentous event in Brooklyn history, we give you this blurb from the very beginning of the run:

“This was possibly one of the weirdest shows I ever saw (but enjoyable nevertheless). It took place on a Weds about 2:30 [PM] ..the theater was basically deserted. We sat in the third row…we were literally half of the audience until a few songs in when a whole group of senior citizens (at least 20) filed in and sat a few rows behind us (not your usual dead crowd!). The 10+ of us noticed them, but didn’t know what to make of their presence, so we just carried on as usual (if you know what I mean). Bur for years I wondered what drew them to see the Dead? A few years ago, still wondering, I told this story to a Deadhead who grew up in Brooklyn and he knew the answer. They were from a local senior citizen home and they were on an outing. They had no idea what they were walking into, but the theater had a package deal with the home to get them out and about, and that must have been one of the days they were scheduled to go to that theater to see a movie. They didn’t come to see the Dead, (but I wonder what they made of them). By the way, the show was pretty good. It must have been because the old folks stayed for the whole thing (or else, weird as it must have been to them, it was better than going back to the home).
-Reg the Veg, setlists.net

Photo of deserted 46th Street Rock Palace

The only set list and archive that lives on from this unforgettable moment in Brooklyn history is from the first night of the run. If you know more details from this spectacular event in Brooklyn, visit Fans.com and share your memories from each show!

Wednesday, November 11, 1970:

Grateful Dead Setlist 46th St. Rock Palace, Brooklyn, NY, USA 1970

Archive:

Review from Johnny Lightning via Archive.org:
“I attended all four shows as the gigs were just blocks away from my home. The venue was the Loews 46th Street Theatre, a classic old movie house that was converted to retail space many years ago. Too bad because it was a great hall, Fillmore sized, I’d guess it held about 2,500 people or so max.

The hall, renamed Banana Fish Garden for the rock concerts put on by a local promoter, was also used for a few tapings of the ABC Rock Concert show. I can recall seeing Jerry Lee Lewis there, putting a pair of panties tossed at him by one of his fans on his face and inhaling deeply (needless to say, it did not make the air cut of the concert). Also saw Hot Tuna there, their show delayed for some time while they haggled with ABC to leave a faux marijuana plant on the stage (it got the axe). Oddly enough, members of Hot Tuna came by to jam with the Dead one of the four nights in Brooklyn…it was quite a good night too.

The shows were held four consecutive nights Wednesday through Saturday. As this was Brooklyn, and the Dead were not THAT big yet, the weekday shows were barely half sold out. The hall was packed to capacity however, for the Fri & Sat night gigs.

Each night opened with the NRPS, featuring Garcia on Steel. The shows were wonderful, lots of intensity and fun. (I swear I recall Pigpen frying up a skillet of Bacon during one nights version of ‘Good Lovin’…strange stuff, complete with some ‘spiked’ goodies backstage (making my recollection of one show rather vague). But the music was top notch, two electric sets and encores were the rule of the day.

Yes, the tape sound quality is fairly dismal, but the quality of the playing really comes across, confirming my memories of solid shows, and it makes this tape worth a listen. Of course I am partial to Dead from this era, and have fond memories of arriving at the Theatre many hours before the shows just to hang out with the band and their extended family, and take in the vibe.

I can also recall Garcia in particular, hanging out on the stage with us remaining faithful a half hour or so after one of the shows, fielding questions, signing autographs and getting wasted with the locals. Yes, this was back in the days when the Dead was not big business, and they drove their own or rented cars to the gigs (I recall Bobby leaving, with his guitar in hand, along with some of us through the lobby after one show, and climbing into a rather ratty vehicle…running into Phil at the Local I-Hop…not quite the rock stars they were destined to become).

I recall on one or two occasions prior to the shows, a reel to reel machine playing live Dead tapes in the hall, and I wonder if they were used to record any of these shows, and if those tapes will ever materialize. Too bad I was too young and shy to drag down my Revox and ask to plug in, but I am glad at least this one audience tape has surfaced…my thanks to the taper & poster. Now I eagerly await more from this run…hope springs eternal indeed!”

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