January 1, 2011

The Mystery of 6/19/68

6/19/68 has long been a wild, tantalizing glimpse of what the Dead were up to in mid-’68, when the tapes weren’t rolling, setlists could be thrown to the wind, and free jams could go in any direction…

Except that our tape isn’t from 6/19/68 at all. It’s from the famous ‘lost’ 2/19/69 show…just a week before the Live/Dead run.

An article in Rolling Stone describes the 2/19/69 Celestial Synapse event – it’s helpfully reprinted in the “Fillmore West 1969” booklet, and is also on this page:

“Fifteen hundred invitations were sent out for the February 19 event, and though there was no other announcement, probably double that number attended. Everyone was treated to the best vibrations and some of the best music the Fillmore West had seen in some time.
After a stirring oboe and bagpipe introduction by the Golden Toad, Don Hamrick of Frontiers of Science spoke for a few minutes in a gentle rural accent, addressing the crowd as "the Goodly Company." "It is our hope," he said, "that this evening there will be an opening and a free interchange, so that something new may emerge. Let the barriers fall, let there be a merging."
"I haven't seen anything like this in years -- it's like one of the old Ken Kesey Acid Tests," said Bob Thomas, piper of the Toad and, like the Dead, veteran of many an Acid Test, "-- only it's less hectic and confused. It's fucking amazing." People were handing each other flowers, joints, funny incomprehensible little picket signs four inches high.
Invitations had gone out to people in music and a broad range of psychedelic tribes -- from Rancho Olompali and other communes to the Hells Angels. Many Frontiers of Science people and other communards could be seen embracing each other, greeting strangers, dancing and celebrating.”

There’s a review from one audience member on dead.net, possibly genuine:
“I heard about this show from my Hells Angels friends and got in with them for free. It was one of the shows were everyone was just smiling, dancing, feeling, and I must have passed out 100 hits of Bear's acid. People were sharing joints, passing out flowers, burning incense, just flowing together. There were bag pipes, naked dancers, and the Dead played for hours.”

The Dead were the main musical event this night. After the show’s introduction, the article continues, “Then the Grateful Dead began a set that ran for four hours or so with scarcely an interruption. The Dead played continuously, a flowing improvisatory set of new material… Three light shows were playing, at no charge to the sponsors. The Grateful Dead and Bill Graham donated their services for free.”

This certainly sounds like our set – “a flowing improvisatory set of new material.” Unfortunately, our tape is only two hours! So apparently half the show is still missing – presumably they played at least a Dark Star.

Our tape cuts in near the start of Lovelight. (No way to tell how long they’d been playing already.) The recording is grungy, with a troubled mix – the notes for the show indicate “a ragged condition at first. The sound system has technical difficulties, with an intermittent buzz during portions of Lovelight from a bad electrical connection. The vocals are very low in the mix, and difficulties with the sound system might explain a lack of singing during the second set.” (My guess is it’s just the poor tapemix, and the audience could hear the vocals in the house okay.)
The Rolling Stone article mentions recording difficulties: “Originally the concert was to be recorded for inclusion on the next Dead album, but last-minute difficulties in setting up the recording equipment scotched that.” (This would have referred to the 16-track machine, but it helps explain why our cassette recording gets off to a poor, and possibly much-delayed start.) Usually Bear’s recordings are better, but it’s likely he was in a celestial condition that night…

Stylistically alone, we could place this Lovelight in early ’69 – if you compare, say, the 6/14/68 and 2/21/69 Lovelights, this night’s Lovelight is clearly from ’69 in style.
This is a long, loose Lovelight - there’s a long drum interlude that winds up with the “yakety yakety ya” chant, which excites the audience no end. As the band returns, one of them shouts, “Hey Pigpen, where are you? Get the fuck over here!”
Lovelight continues into yet another drums interlude, with the audience screaming in ecstasy, and the band falls loosely into a rough Not Fade Away. Weir raucously belts out the song by himself (he’d do it the same way when they resurrected the song in December ’69). It’s not quite the first performance (they’d done it back in ’66, more Rolling Stones-style), but it still sounds spontaneous and exciting. Then they segue back into Lovelight - mostly more Pig rapping over drumtaps.
Interestingly, someone else (not in the band) is singing along gospel-style with Pigpen as they finish the song. The crowd cheers madly, the extra singer applauds, “Bring ‘em on down!” and Weir responds, “Hooray for you guys!”
Then someone says, “Hey, let’s turn it off for a while,” and there are some conversations onstage as the band takes a little break.

The article explains what happens next: “Toward two in the morning there were a number of stoned occurrences. People began taking off their clothes. Don McCoy of Olompali got up on the stage stark naked, against a tableau of Bill Graham restraining the rent-a-cops from pulling him down.”
And indeed, he appears on our tape with a little speech. “Thank you baby – that was a beautiful introduction – my name is Don McCoy… What are you doing with all those clothes on, baby? I thought we were going to be naked up here! Now wait, this looks like the long arm of the law – black power – excuse me, sir, but I’m just doing my thing.” (Here the crowd cheers, as security retreats in bafflement.)
I don’t hear any instructions, but the crowd suddenly starts a long chant, a mass sustained “omm.” (Don McCoy keeps on talking through the chant, “Welcome brothers and sisters – this is heaven – meet my sister Eve – he’s after her already…” and so on.)

The Celestial Synapse was organized by a group called the Frontiers of Science, a rather mystical organization of the type that blossomed in the sixties. According to Rolling Stone, their philosophy “has to do with the crystal at the center of the living Earth, which is affected by human vibrations and which may either change shape (a creative change) or change size (a destructive change, since it would cause earthquakes). The idea is to send down good vibrations to change the shape of that crystal, and the Celestial Synapse may very well have done just that. ‘Synapse’ is the term used…for a mass meeting of minds, parallel to the linking-up of brain cells that makes thought possible.”
Now this kind of ‘science’ was catnip for the Dead, especially Garcia and Lesh, so it’s no wonder they donated their services for free to this event! It seems the goal of the audience chant was to meld minds and send good vibrations into the earth (though its success was unreported…)
In a more immediate sense, though, Don Hamrick’s plan for the evening was very close to the concept of an ideal Dead show: “It is our hope that this evening there will be an opening and a free interchange, so that something new may emerge. Let the barriers fall, let there be a merging.” And that spirit of the Acid Test does come across on tape.

As the omm continues, someone gets on the drums and takes up a beat. More of the audience gathers onstage – one particularly blasted soul “sings” into a mike. In fact, two people sing the “scooby dooby da” ditty near the end, the second one probably a young kid. (At this point, with the steady humming, the drumbeat, and the intermittent ‘Revolution 9’-style child’s chant, it is probably the most authentically psychedelic moment ever captured on a Dead tape.)
Someone else gets on the drums too and tries to sing Lovelight again – “I’m a drummer – let your lovelight shine on me now, brother, dig it!” The audience cheers him on, and the long trance ends. Someone tries to get him offstage, as he protests – “Are you my brother or what?” “You’re high, man, that’s all.”
The people on stage start spontaneously clapping in time and cheering as they keep the beat going. After a while, one of the bandmembers speaks up: “Hey, we can’t get on if you can’t get off!”
Then Bill Graham can be heard saying, “Jonathan, can we get the band, then we’ll get the people off. Just get them up here now, it’ll be fine.”
(When the band comes back, someone says, “Thank you Jesus!”)

The Dead, having calmed down, return with an unknown third guitar player. (He’s speculated to be Gary Duncan or John Cipollina of Quicksilver. Some have said Jorma Kaukonen & Jack Casady play here – but they were scheduled to play at the Matrix on Feb 19. So their presence at the Celestial Synapse is doubtful – unless they canceled their own show, or left early to be there!)
Fifty minutes of non-stop, flowing improvisations follow, very much like one of the Hartbeats shows. A heavy, morose jam starts between Weir and the mystery guitarist. The rest of the band joins one by one - the organ comes in, finally audible (the mix has improved from the start of the tape). I’m not sure, though, whether Constanten, Pigpen, or another guest is on organ – it doesn’t sound very TC-ish to me.
Lesh takes the jam into the Main Ten – a dark, bluesy version. This flows into a series of Garcia-led jams, which sputter out and then start up again, Garcia gradually taking over. (After a while, the third guitarist seems to retreat to the background.) Though deadlists calls this a ‘Dark Star jam’, it’s definitely not.
As the band heats up, Garcia starts an Other One jam, which they perform without words, exploring a series of different rhythms, almost like a musical juggling act between Garcia and Lesh. This is probably the musical highlight of the show – despite being instrumental, stylistically it’s much closer to a thunderous early-’69 Other One than what we might hear in mid-’68. The jam keeps getting more intense until finally they pound out the titanic Other One chords, then quietly trickle to a stop. (It sounds like they might be thinking of a segue into Death Don’t, but decide to just stop instead.) As the tape cuts off in the applause, it’s not clear whether the show ended there.

The suggestion that this show was 2/19/69 was first made in 2006, as far as I know; yet the new date still seems to be little-known…perhaps suggesting the conservatism of show collectors, or how slowly Dead information gets around! For myself, I was sad to see a tape removed from the already nearly-empty recording gap of mid-’68; but the evidence seems undeniable. It’s some consolation to find that it’s actually the tape of a unique Dead event I thought was lost. (Funnily enough, the misdate echoes the lack of solid dates for the early ‘66 Acid Test recordings.)
Musically, the redate doesn’t really change our knowledge of the Dead. The free-flowing improvs are closer to the style of a Hartbeats show with guests than the experimentation of early ’68. (And there would be a couple more Hartbeats shows later that week.) Now we know, when the Dead almost went into Not Fade Away for the 4/23/69 encore, they had played it just a couple months earlier. The biggest surprise is that the Main Ten is now completely removed from 1968 – its absence from the ’68 Hartbeats shows may indicate that it was composed later than we thought. (It turns up next in a couple Dark Stars of April ’69.)

As for the real 6/19/68? It was the Grateful Dead’s last show at the original pre-Bill Graham Carousel, a benefit for the Black Man’s Free Store. No recording is known to survive. (Though it would be ironic if one of the 1968 ‘mystery reels’ was from this date, which is possible…)


  1. This is fantastic research, just an amazing job. I had always found the June 19 '68 date for that setlist kind of questionable, but your ability to pin the tape down to a specific date is tremendous.

    Now, to work on who the guests might have been...

  2. I have been one of those very conservative collectors on this. Garcia's sit-in with High Country at the Matrix, which is characteristically dated 2/19/69, is an important piece of the puzzle I am working with. So I was conservative on re-listing "6/19/68" as 2/19/69 ... just reluctant to tinker with something I know so well!

    There is one other thing that seems to have pointed toward 6/19/68 for me. It's that the timing seems so suitable for this kind of a blowout at this venue. I always imagined this as the last thing before the bands moved out of the Carousel, their brief, financially disastrous (if musically amazing) partnership effort at running a venue coming to an end.

    But you have me 100% convinced. Everything you say, comparing what's on the tape and what's in the RS article especially, is totally persuasive. What's more, Corry and Yellow Shark have educated me about the unreliability of the Matrix tape datings (e.g., the High Country "2/19/69" dating), so that's another factor.

    More importantly, I love your analysis of the event as one of the very last echoes of the true acid test vibe. (One gets the sense that the 6/8/69 show might have had some of that, but nothing like this.)

    BTW, in terms of the second guitarist, I used to maintain that it was Cipollina. But listening to d2t01 now, it sounds like Gary Duncan to me. His guitar part is very similar to what he did on "Babe, I'm Gonna Leave You". For some more jamming along these lines, check out the circulating November 7, 1968 QMS fragment, which, running Jam [8:52] -> Babe I'm Gonna Leave You [5:52], which has some of the same melodic ideas as d2t01 here.

    BTW, listening to d2t01-2 here, are we sure this is Phil Lesh playing bass? I am just not sure.

  3. wonderful commentary and insight. love that you share this breathe of knowledge in untangling the past.

  4. Collector Mike Dolgushkin was the first guy I know of to suggest the re-dating. (His notes are on setlists.net for 2/19/69.) I simply followed his lead.
    Actually it's kind of embarrassing for me not to have caught on for so long that this couldn't be a mid-'68 show (just musically, even disregarding the RS article)...but then, I haven't listened to it in a long time!

    Another (slight) piece of evidence for '69 is that, sonically, this is obviously from a Bear cassette (there's a flip during the chant, where the tapenoise becomes extreme) - deadlists says it was a 90-min cassette, but I'm wondering if it wasn't a 120-min like we know he used for other shows around that time...I didn't catch a tapeflip during set II.

    Some say the guitarist is Cipollina, some say Duncan...I'll go with your ears for now and side with Duncan. Part of the trouble is that the mix on set II changes, so that the 3rd guitar and the organ recede over time (sounds like they're barely playing by the end).
    I still wonder about the organ player, as that's more 'anonymous'...and someone's definitely on congas by the end. (Usually that was Pigpen's duty, but could be one of the drummers?)

    I am positive it's Lesh on bass throughout. To me at least, on the Main Ten and the Other One, he's unmistakable. (Some archive reviewers say there are two bass players, but I don't hear it.)
    I do recall, though, the difficulty in some Hartbeats shows of telling whether it's Lesh or Casady on bass! And it is plausible, I guess, that if this jam was after 2 am (as the RS article indicates), Casady could have gone there after his Matrix show. But I'd need strong proof to believe that he played.

    One interesting sidenote the RS article makes about the Celestial Synapse invitations is that they were "classy": "What's the Grateful Dead's name doing among the lines of medieval Irish script, the kind preferred for church bulletins?"
    Reading that, I immediately thought of the medieval-script-style lettering in Live/Dead (on the picture with the intertwined creatures)....could they have used the same artist? That's kind of a tentative dead-end, though...

  5. Fabulous post. How nice to have a date for one of these shows pinned down definitively by correlation between the tape and a detailed press review. Your research prompted me to dig out this show for a fresh listen, and it is indeed a wild ride. Even during the Dead's experimental period, it seems rare for them to abandon the safety nets of songs and vocals as thoroughly as they did for "Set two" here. It sounds to me like the additional guitarist is in place by the post-drums portion of Lovelight, and I would also say the playing is much closer to Duncan's style than Cipollinas. I would also posit that the second vocalist on Lovelight could be Duncan.

  6. Hi LiA. I haven't had a chance to say Happy New Year.to you. Here's to peace and prosperity in '11 for you. I would like to thank-you for sharing the work that you do with us. I have learned a lot. The VU thread got me the most excited last year, but many others also informed and enlightened.
    And Garcia picking off the recalcitrant dheads was priceless. Thanks again, Sean (micah6vs8)

  7. LiA, I have a favor, which is a question. What was the exact song order for GD& NRPS on 6-24-70?
    Here is a thread at DHook,

    Any chance of the full LiA treatment of this show here @ GDG? Thank-you, Sean

  8. I believe deadlists.com has the correct setlists for 6-24-70.

    There is a very good chance of "the full LiA treatment" of this show here at some point, considering I'm going through 1970 month-by-month. Sharp-eyed readers will notice I haven't gone past April '70 yet, and that was many months ago... There's a giant hurdle in the form of May '70, with multiple giant & classic shows, that I need a lot of time to tackle!

  9. I really enjoy reading this stuff. Thanks for all you do.

  10. not sure if you saw /read this comment?

    > Your HTML cannot be accepted: Must be at
    > most 4,096 characters

    okay, okay, so i send it in two parts...

    I-) ihor




    Hi, thank you so much, Eric and Roio.

    We so appreciate being able to download and to listen to this album. Up until last night, we had no idea that it even existed.

    Here’s a little story surrounding this event, its founder and The Grateful Dead

    My husband was the founder of a commune research facility called Harbinger, at Harbin Hot Springs, from 1967 to 1969. This facility was the site for an organization which he also founded called Frontiers of Science Fellowship (FOSF). Frontiers of Science Fellowship hosted this CELESTIAL SYNAPSE event, on Feb. 19th, 1969.

    My husband became good friends with Jerry Garcia. Bill Graham, the owner of the Filmore Auditorium, actually even made a financial contribution to this event.

    The Grateful Dead also played a benefit for Harbinger Frontiers of Science Fellowship, at the request of Bert Kanegson (sp.), former manager for the Grateful Dead, who became a participant at Harbinger.

    Bert’s wife ended up storing the library, from Harbinger, after the group broke up, shortly after the CELESTIAL SYNAPSE. Bert came to the new, east coast Harbinger site, in Sheffield, Massacheussets (in late 1969), which never fully unfolded. (There was a dispute between the owner of the 27-room facility and some who arrived, from Harbinger, who insisted on using drugs on the premises, next door to the owner’s home (as if their sentiments hadn’t already destroyed the undertakings at the original facility!).

    The property owner in Sheffield, was Dr. Eleanor Hamilton, Ph.D. (’Ranger’) who had, in her possession, all of the unpublished manuscripts of Dr. Wilhelm Reich, M.D., which my husband had the opportunity to read and digest. Eleanor had hosted my husband’s stay at her home, at the end of a Pleasant Valley Conference, in NY state, which she attended, which conference was paid for, by Richard Hockey.

    My hubby participated at Woodstock; he personally knew Richie Havens, Arlo Guthrie and others. Barbara Dubee, Richie Havens’ mate, and a former girlfriend of Arlo Guthrie, had been a participant in Harbinger. Hubby actually lived with Arlo, at his home, in Washington County, for some months, in 1970.

    In 1971, hubby was one of the THREE producers of the first Glastonbury Festival, in the U.K. with Andrew Carr and Arabella Churchill. He was also the Media Director. He appeared on British television, in Plymouth, England, on behalf of the Producers. David Bowie, Fairport Convention, Traffic, Mellanie, Brinsley Schwartz, Gentle Fire, and others were involved with that production. A movie, by the name of Glastonbury Fayre, was filmed by Nicholas Roeg, and is available online. All of this took place on Worthy Farm, in the Vale of Avalon, in the middle of the Glastonbury Zodiac (south of the Glastonbury Tor).

    My husband was actually originally invited to the U.K. at the request of John Lennon, and ended up staying there for 11 years. The words to ‘Imagine’ and the words to ‘Instant Karma’, came out of some of their conversations together. John Lennon recorded some lyrics, written by my husband, titled “Aquarius Coming”, left behind, in a box, in Vevey, Switzerland, in 1979. ANOTHER MYSTERY TO BE SOLVED BY SOMEONE!! We have never been able to find anyone to return there, to find this, what would now be considered, a valuable recording.

  11. here is the ending of that...

    I-) ihor



    My husband is 74 years young now, (I’m almost 50). He’s still the loving and loveable hip hippie he ever was. He took people off of drugs and turned them on to meditation. He gave them back the control over their own nervous systems. As Jack Nicholson, the actor, reported to me, while we were visiting he and Rachel, in 1990 “It’s cheap and it’s legal”.

    He continues to be very keen minded and a beautiful, contented spirit. He has written 4 books and thousands of pages of inspired writings. All FREE online. We have over 1,000 hours of audio recordings, which our webmaster, thankfully, transferred from old reel to reels and audio cassettes (just in the nick of time!).

    httpecophysics.org ECOphysics The Structure and The Dynamics of Oneness

    httpwww.blogtalkradio.com ANACLYSM Radio Program

    facebook group Harbinger Revisited 1967 - 1969
    contact Jennifer harbingerrevisited@rogers.com

    Thank you for sharing the music, thank you for letting me share a little history.


    By Jennifer on May 1, 2010

  12. Thanks for posting - I had seen that, but decided not to use it since there's only the briefest mention of the Dead (and, personally, I'm not too interested in these people or their Harbinger organization!)...

    It's a shame comments can only be so long - that's been a stumbling-block for me at times!

    And, as an aside to everyone - I'm sorry it's been so long since my last post; but I am almost done working on a HUGE post which will be the longest I've done.

  13. Curious. Where is the info that "hubby" had worked with the CIA and mind control, that HARBINGER COMMUNE was an experiment conceived by the CIA under "OPERATION CHAOS" using a prolific amount of drugs provided by them to the commune and HAMRICK was at the center of their OPERATION? Hubby abandoned his 4 children to be raised by his ex with NO support ever from him (HAMRICK) in a seedy section of OAKLAND where both his very young daughters were vulnerable to various sickos, one of which worked at a military institution and repeatedly beat up the youngest daughter and used her as his sex object from age 11. This was, of course, while "hubby" the "loving and loveable hip hippy" was screwing every young girl he could "charismatically" get in bed. What a sanitized version Jennifer presents. HAMRICH was often heard to tout the 3rd REICH and HITLER as a great leader and whose political program (read: world conquest and death program) only needed greater world-wide support. What do you wanna bet that Lennon, the DEAD, Guthrie, Ritchie Havens, Bowie and all the rest knew NOTHING of any of this?

    1. I'd like to talk about this with you. How do I get in touch?

  14. Don McCoy, who appears on this tape, had a commune at Olompali. His daughter wrote me about a project she's working on:

    I wanted to make you aware of a new documentary we're producing about Rancho Olompali, where the Dead lived for a short time during 1966. The film is about the history of Olompali and will focus primarily on my late father, Don McCoy, who started a commune at there in 1967. I was there the day the Dead came to the ranch to have their photo taken by Tom Weir for the back cover of Aoxomoxoa, and appear in the photo next to Jerry along with my sister and friends, some of whom went to live with Mickey at his ranch when the mansion at Olompali burned down. My mother, Paula McCoy, lived across the street from the Dead at 715 Ashbury and was good friends with Bill Graham and Peter Coyote, among many others.

    You can check out a trailer for the film and get more information by going to our KickStarter page, which we're using to raise funds to finish the film:


    We would really appreciate your help in spreading the word! KickStarter is an "all or nothing" proposition, so every little bit helps, and any help we can get to increase awareness of the project would be fantastic.

    Thanks very much,
    Maura McCoy

  15. Garcia briefly recalls this show in the new interview book Jerry on Jerry - he calls it a "disaster" similar to the June '69 Fillmore West dosing:
    "The one they called the Celestial Synapse, the one that Don [Hamrick] guy put together where everybody got a card with an STP tablet in it...the invitations included an STP tab. [Mountain Girl: "Oh God. Ugh!"] That was the one where naked people festooned the stage...that was in the big OD period... Oh man, it was incredible. That's partly where we got our reputation for dosing people. Although we never dosed anybody, at least not on purpose...at least not very often." (p.196)

    As a sidenote, Garcia also remembers that at one of the last Fillmore Auditorium shows the Dead played (Nov or Dec '69), he was overdosed on acid by a backstage cake. "I was way too stoned to function - I just played for my life." (p.198) I wonder which show that was...

  16. Just discovered this show last night.. it's still mislabeled (according to your research) as 68 on archive. For some strange reason I find myself disappointed that it isn't from 68.. anyway I can mostly do without the brain-fry hippie weirdness of the "chanting" section but the 2nd half is absolutely wonderful. Thanks for all the new knowledge!

  17. An illuminating first hand account from Sat Santokh Singh Khalsa, then known as Bert Kanegson that I hadn't come across previously:


    Supposedly there's images in the archive of Bob Fitch's photographs on Stanfords site, but I couldn't find them easily.

  18. Thanks for the link, wonderful stuff. The Synapse photos are images 22 to 27 on the bottom link


    Image 2 is of a band with horns which might be the same event. Golden Toad are in image 23.

  19. Very nice account and photos! It's said the show ended with We Bid You Goodnight. Too bad the first part of the show is missing on tape...

    It's funny that this photographer decided not to capture any of the "naked people festooning the stage" (who featured prominently in the press coverage of this event).

  20. My first Dead show was the actual 6-19-68 event, the Black Man's Free Store benefit. The best music of the evening was in the last entry in the talent show for kids from the Black community. Little Andre (only 13 years old!), about four feet tall and wearing what looked like a Nudie suit, covered James Brown's "Cold Sweat". Which meant that after the first verse he grunted about once every 30 seconds. In between grunts the band just roared. The backup band were Jerry, Bob, Billy on congas, and a trap drummer and bassist I didn't recognize.

    1. Little Andre was named on the poster too, headlining the "Soul Scene."
      This was the Dead's last show at the Carousel. It's too bad any tapes have gone astray!

  21. I was at the Synapse Dance and I don't remember any nudes on stage at all. Maybe I left before this went down. I was invited to take a bus ride to Harbinger Hot Springs with a bunch of very high people.

  22. The Celestial Synapse happened much as described in Rolling Stone magazine. I was there. I dropped acid in '66, dropped out of Hastings Law School in '67 and, in '69, was living on Haight Street That night, almost everyone was on acid. One person (not on acid) used the word, pagan, to describe it, an understandable description upon seeing thousands of hippies, many naked, body against body, swaying, chanting 'we are all ONE' already high, going higher, higher, higher together. It was holy. It still is. - Namaste