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Dead of the Day: March 3, 1968

Haight Street
San Francisco, California
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Our Dead of the Day here on March 3rd could be none other than the famous Haight Street free concert of 1968. The music is, in its own right, absolutely out-of-sight. The band heads right into a steamy Viola Lee Blues that keeps managing to find new gears over its twenty-one plus minutes. The Dead then eviscerate a Smokestack Lightning and Lovelight with Pig killing it on vocals and organ, Lesh throwing down some bombs, and Jerry jamming hard. But there is so much more to this historical moment that makes this show magnificent.

A couple weeks before March 3rd, a confrontation between the police and hippies in the Haight had heightened tensions. A street festival on the date of this show was planned, in part, to smooth things over. The Dead got wind of the happening and decided to put on a free concert in the street, right at the corner of Haight and Ashbury. Presumably with the help of some of Pig’s Hell’s Angels friends, the band rolled up a flatbed, plugged into the Straight Theater (the Straight on the Haight), and started wailing.

A photo from the show, to the right, has become an iconic image of the 1960s. And the show itself is much the same. Over 100,000 young people from across the country had descended on the Haight the previous year during the Summer of Love, and much of the hippie magic that had been in the neighborhood disappeared in the face of the onslaught. The Dead’s spontaneous free show proved that something special could still happen in the Haight at the same time the concert served as a swan song for the Sixties in the Bay Area. It also became known as the Dead’s farewell to the Haight, though the band had more or less moved out of the neighborhood two years before.

The audience recording starts to slow – because of a low battery - during the It Hurts Me Too and eventually stops completely during the Cryptical. A few people who were there report that a Dancin’ in the Streets, rightfully so, closed the show. We can also surmise that there was probably a full Other One suite out of the Cryptical, making for, at least, a Cryptical> Drums> Other One> Cryptical, Dancin’ to close out the show.

 

 

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