June 15, 2015

Free Shows & Benefits 1965-1975

Once upon a time, you could see the Dead for free… In San Francisco, they became notorious for frequently showing up in Golden Gate Park and playing for anyone who passed by. They also often played in parks when they visited other cities, as a kind of promotion for their regular concerts. But once their reputation spread and people across the country started clamoring for free shows, the Dead had actually largely stopped playing for free; and the carefree park shows of the sixties passed into myth.
But how many free shows did the Dead actually play? I don’t think anyone has ever tried listing them before. It turns out there are less than fifty confirmed free shows on record – some famous, some forgotten. Some of the Dead’s appearances are so obscure, it’s quite likely there are more free shows hidden in the fog of the sixties, barely remembered even by those who were there. But this list should cover what’s currently known.

I also decided to list the benefits the Dead played in their first ten years. While the Dead are remembered as a band that was always playing lots of benefits in their early years, there hasn’t been a list available of what benefits they actually played for. I thought this might be useful. (As it turns out, they only played about forty benefits up to ’75.)

This is an incomplete list, meant to be a starting point – I’m sure I’ve missed some shows and made some mistakes. Additions & corrections are welcome!


All shows in San Francisco unless noted.

5/22/66 Rancho Olompali, Novato CA (Grateful Dead dance - while the Dead held continuous parties at Olompali, there was an invitation on this date.)
Deadlists suggests that there were “numerous unscheduled performances” in Golden Gate Park in the summer of ’66; however this is unlikely, since the Dead did not live in San Francisco until late September.
8/5/66 Stanley Park, Vancouver, British Columbia
9/5/66 Rancho Olompali, Novato, CA (Unconfirmed – I am not certain of this date, since the Dead were no longer living at Olompali, but it's possible.)
10/6/66 Panhandle, Golden Gate Park (Love Pageant Rally, with Big Brother)
10/16/66 Panhandle, Golden Gate Park (Artist’s Liberation Front free festival)
11/23/66 Fillmore Auditorium (private Thanksgiving party; admission by invitation; with Quicksilver Messenger Service & Wildflower) 
1/1/67 Panhandle, Golden Gate Park (Hell’s Angels party, with Big Brother)
1/14/67 Polo Fields, Golden Gate Park (Human Be-In)
1/22/67 Elysian Park, Los Angeles (with Jefferson Airplane) - This was a misdate for the 9/16/67 show.
3/20/67 Club Fugazi (album release party, sponsored by Warner Brothers - Ralph Gleason wrote that "the power failed and the Dead's set was chopped short." I'm not certain if this show was free.)
3/26/67 Elysian Park, Los Angeles (Love-In) - The Dead played at the Avalon this evening, and were not at the Elysian Park Love-In.
4/9/67 Panhandle, Golden Gate Park  
4/11/67 San Quentin Prison, Marin County (members of the Dead jam with Country Joe & the Fish)
5/28/67 Panhandle, Golden Gate Park (unconfirmed, but possible – dated in Peter Vincent's "Sixties Diary" & listed on Lost Live Dead)
Deadlists suggests that Golden Gate Park saw “numerous unscheduled performances spring & summer” of ’67, but it’s uncertain how many more there might have been. According to Lost Live Dead, “Free concerts in the Panhandle have been mythologized all out of proportion… There were actually very few Grateful Dead concerts in the Panhandle, and we know about almost all of them… Most assertions for regular Grateful Dead concerts at the Panhandle are simply wishful thinking.” However, there were certainly more Golden Gate Park shows played than we know about.
6/1/67 Tompkins Square Park, New York City (with Group Image)
6/8/67 Central Park, New York City (with Group Image)
6/17-18/67 Monterey Peninsula College, Monterey CA (free stage jams by various musicians - members of the Dead participated, but not the full band)
6/21/67 Polo Fields, Golden Gate Park (Summer Solstice Festival)
Late June/early July '67 Golden Gate Park (unknown event seen in photos)
7/2/67 El Camino Park, Palo Alto (Be-In)
7/16/67 Golden Gardens Park, Seattle (Electric Be-In)
8/6/67 Place Ville Marie, Montreal, Quebec (with Jefferson Airplane)
8/6/67 Youth Pavilion, Expo ’67, Montreal, Quebec (with Jefferson Airplane)
(Two free shows in one day, in a city they never played again. One attendee wrote an account of the Place Villa Marie show in Deadbase (XI, p.242). Phil Lesh described the Expo '67 show in his book, p.110, relating how Bill Graham stopped the music when the crowd got too excited.) 
8/13/67 West Park, Ann Arbor MI
(From the Ann Arbor Sun: “A huge crowd gathered in the park. It had rained earlier in the day and the Dead asked the people in the audience for some blankets to stand on so the musicians wouldn’t get electrocuted standing barefoot on the wet cement playing electric guitars. Someone handed them a huge Amerikan Flag which they put down and stood on while they played for their cheering fans. This was too much for some old Ann Arbor patriots who had been watching this freeky procedure from the sidelines. During the winter of 1967/68 these people got the City Council to pass a new city ordinance banning amplified music from West Park.”)
8/28/67 Lindley Meadows, Golden Gate Park (Hell’s Angels “Party for Chocolate George,” with Big Brother)
9/9/67 Volunteer Park, Seattle WA
9/16/67 Elysian Park, Los Angeles (with Jefferson Airplane)
2/15/68 San Quentin Prison, Marin County (members of the Dead jammed with other groups)
3/3/68 Haight Street
3/18/68 Green Street – KMPX strike – the Dead were stopped by the police before they could play a set. Garcia would play with Traffic in another street fair supporting the strike on 3/24/68.
4/14/68 Greynolds Park, North Miami Beach FL (Love-In, with Blues Image)
5/3/68 Columbia University, New York City (the Dead played for a student strike)
5/5/68 Central Park, New York City (with Jefferson Airplane & Butterfield Blues Band)
6/1/68 Panhandle, Golden Gate Park (with Charlie Musselwhite & Petrus)
6/9/68 Golden Gate Park – cancelled by the police
11/25/68 Memorial Auditorium, Ohio University, Athens OH
(Deadlists: Phil Lesh said that “so many students from Ohio University in Athens came to the show in Columbus on 11/22/68 (a long drive - about 1 1/2 hours or so) that the band decided to go to Athens and put on a free show for them.”)
2/19/69 Fillmore West – Frontiers of Science “Celestial Synapse”
(Rolling Stone: “The Grateful Dead and Bill Graham donated their services for free.” Admission was by invitation, and I think Frontiers of Science sponsored the event, so it seems it was free.)
5/7/69 Polo Fields, Golden Gate Park (with Jefferson Airplane)
6/22/69 Central Park, New York City
7/7/69 Piedmont Park, Atlanta GA (post-Atlanta Pop Festival free show with various bands)
8/20/69 El Roach, Seattle WA (with NRPS & Sanpaku)  
5/3/70 Wesleyan University, Middletown CT (with NRPS)
5/6/70 Kresge Plaza, MIT, Cambridge MA (student strike)
6/27-28/70 Coronation Park, Toronto, Ontario (with various bands)
6/21/71 Chateau d’Herouville, Herouville, France
8/4/71 Terminal Island Correctional Facility, San Pedro CA (show for Owsley)  
5/13/72 Lille Fairgrounds, Lille, France (makeup for cancelled May 5 show)
10/21/72 Vanderbilt University, Nashville TN
9/28/75 Lindley Meadows, Golden Gate Park (with Jefferson Starship) 

Jerry Garcia, 1971: “Our first free things were done sort of in conjunction with the Diggers, who were now working on giving free food to people down in the Panhandle. It seemed like a good idea to go down there and play for them one weekend. We got a truck and a generator with the help of the Diggers…and we just went down there and played. It was just great. It was easy. It was simple, and it was free in the sense that nobody had to do it, it was truly free. We were able to do that pretty comfortably for almost a year…
[But now,] we haven’t had the opportunity to do one that would be a good trip… ‘Free’ means free for us too, so that we’re free to do it or not… The thing that was groovy about the Haight-Ashbury was that we could get up on a Sunday morning and say, ‘Let’s play today down in the park,’ and we’d call a few people and the Diggers would have a truck and someone else would have gotten a generator and we’d be down there playing in an hour. That was free because we were free to decide to do that. The kind of free that people are talking about now is, ‘Will you set up a free concert in Central Park on October 14th’ or something like that. It’s just the same as a gig for us – it’s no different. Where is the free in that? That’s another form that we haven’t been able to get back to really comfortably, although we’re always on the lookout to do something free.” (Signpost to New Space p.41-42)


All shows in San Francisco unless noted. Other bands not listed. It’s not confirmed whether the Dead actually played some of these shows.

12/10/65 Fillmore Auditorium – SF Mime Troupe benefit
1/14/66 Fillmore Auditorium – SF Mime Troupe benefit
5/19/66 Avalon Ballroom – Straight Theater benefit
5/29/66 California Hall – LEMAR Benefit Ball (Legalize Marijuana - “Aid the end of marijuana prohibition”)
8/7/66 Fillmore Auditorium – Children’s Adventure Day Camp benefit (According to deadbase, the Dead did not perform.)
9/11/66 Fillmore Auditorium – Both/And Jazz Club benefit
10/8/66 Mt Tamalpais Outdoor Theater, Marin County – Peace Benefit (“1st Congressional District Write In Committee for Phil Drath”)
11/13/66 Avalon Ballroom – “Zenefit” Zen Mountain Center benefit
11/20/66 Fillmore Auditorium – SNCC benefit (Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee)
1/29/67 Avalon Ballroom – SF Krishna Temple benefit  
2/5/67 Fillmore Auditorium – US Strike Committee benefit (possible – unconfirmed)
2/12/67 Fillmore Auditorium – Council for Civic Unity benefit
3/5/67 Avalon Ballroom – New Stage & Straight Theater benefit (possible – unconfirmed)
4/9/67 Longshoreman’s Hall – Spring Mobilization to End the War in Vietnam benefit
4/12/67 Fillmore Auditorium- “Busted” SF Mime Troupe benefit
5/30/67 Winterland Arena – HALO benefit (Haight-Ashbury Legal Organization) – unconfirmed
6/12/67 Cheetah, New York City - Inter-Tribal Community Benefit
(A benefit with the Group Image for "the Lower East Side community" - proceeds went to the Jade Companions bail fund and the Communications Company.) 
8/10/67 Chelsea Hotel Roof, New York City – Diggers benefit
(McNally p.211: “They played on the roof of the Chelsea Hotel for the Diggers’ Trip Without a Ticket, a party Emmett Grogan had arranged in an effort to hustle some funds from avant-garde New Yorkers.” Also described in Lesh’s book. Per Sherrill Tippins’ book Inside the Dream Palace p.229, “The Dead shut down the performance shortly after the arrival of Andy Warhol, ‘an ambulatory black hole,’ they claimed, whose New York vibe sucked the energy out of the experience and made it impossible for them to play.” More accounts are here.)
9/2/67 Cabrillo College, Santa Cruz CA – benefit for “LMN, SPAR, others” (unknown organizations) - This event was cancelled.
Unknown ’67 – Canyon School, Canyon CA
(Per WJ Rorabaugh’s book Berkeley at War p.145: “In 1967 Canyon's hippies held a benefit concert to raise money to rebuild their general store. Country Joe McDonald, the Grateful Dead and others came to play.” Country Joe recalls the show taking place in the schoolyard; the school principal also remembers the Dead playing there. However, a Rock Prosopography post suggests that they’re mistakenly remembering a 7/16/67 Canyon benefit at which Country Joe, the Youngbloods and others played – the Dead never played Canyon.)
10/1/67 Greek Theater, U of C, Berkeley – Economic Opportunity Program benefit
10/22/67 Winterland Arena – Marijuana Defense benefit
11/12/67 Winterland Arena – “Benefit for the Bands” – Though listed in deadbase,  there doesn’t appear to be any confirmation that this show happened.
3/20/68 Avalon Ballroom – KMPX Strike benefit
4/3/68 Winterland Arena – KMPX First Birthday benefit (unconfirmed)
6/16/68 Daytop Village, Staten Island NY - Daytop Village benefit (a drug rehab center) - the Dead didn't play.
6/19/68 Carousel Ballroom – Black Man’s Free Store benefit
7/14/68 Marina Green, St. Francis Yacht Club, San Francisco - Jazz Action Movement benefit - the Dead apparently canceled.
"The concert is free, but donations will be accepted to finance JAM programs." 
9/1/68 Palace of Fine Arts Theater – Haight-Ashbury Medical Clinic benefit (unconfirmed, possibly not played)
9/2/68 Sky River Rock Festival, Sultan WA - benefit for various American Indian & Black American organizations 
9/20/68 Berkeley Community Theater, Berkeley - Ali Akbar College of Music benefit
11/17/68 Eagle’s Auditorium, Seattle WA – Indian Rights benefit (Survival of American Indians Association) 
3/12/69 Fillmore West – San Francisco State Legal Defense Committee benefit (unconfirmed)
3/15/69 Hilton Hotel, San Francisco – “Black & White Ball” San Francisco Symphony benefit
3/17/69 Winterland Arena – Olompali Chosen Family benefit (unconfirmed)
5/28/69 Winterland Arena – People’s Park Bail Ball benefit
6/11/69 California Hall, San Francisco - possibly a Church of Scientology benefit; McNally describes it as a "quasi-benefit," the poster doesn't specify. 
11/15/69 Lanai Theater, Crockett CA – Moratorium Day Gathering (Despite the deadbase listing, this was probably not a benefit.)
12/22/69 Napa Valley Sports Camp, Napa CA - possibly a benefit for St Mary's College High School in Berkeley, though it hasn't been confirmed.

2/1/70 Warehouse, New Orleans LA – bust fund benefit
(2/23/70 Winterland Arena – Jefferson Airplane, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Santana, It’s A Beautiful Day, and Dan Hicks & His Hot Licks played a benefit for the Grateful Dead. Ralph Gleason, SF Chronicle: “After expenses (the bands all played free), there was approximately $15,000 for the Grateful Dead defense fund on their New Orleans drug bust.”)
3/17/70 Kleinhans Music Hall, Buffalo NY – Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra benefit
(Buffalo Evening News: “The Dead are accepting expenses but waiving their usual huge fee to help the Philharmonic benefit and for the ‘privilege and delight,’ as they put it, ‘of working with Lukas Foss.’”)
6/21/70 Pauley Ballroom, U of C, Berkeley – Pit River Indian Legal Defense Fund benefit
11/23/70 Anderson Theater, New York City – Hell’s Angels benefit
12/23/70 Winterland Arena – Montessori School & Bear benefit
1/22/71 Lane Community College, Eugene OR - partial benefit
(LCC Torch: "Approximately 20% of the profits (after expenses) from this dance-concert will go to LCC's student financial aids program, while a larger percentage will go to the Eugene White Bird Clinic.")
3/3/71 Fillmore West – Airwaves/People's Radio benefit
3/5/71 Oakland Auditorium Arena, Oakland – Black Panther benefit
3/24/71 Winterland Arena – Sufi Choir benefit
3/5/72 Winterland Arena – American Indian benefit
3/25/72 Academy of Music, NYC – Hell’s Angels benefit
8/27/72 Old Renaissance Faire Grounds, Veneta OR – Springfield Creamery benefit
10/9/72 Winterland Arena – road crew benefit
(SF Chronicle: “The evening raised in the neighborhood of $10,000 for the band’s roadies so that they might buy a house, and what other band jumps to mind for giving benefits so that their roadies might buy a house?”)
3/23/75 Kezar Stadium – SNACK benefit (Students Need Athletics Culture & Kicks)
6/17/75 Winterland Arena - "Bob Fried Memorial Boogie" benefit (as "Jerry Garcia and Friends")  

A more complete listing of Dead/Garcia benefits can be found here:

Jerry Garcia, 1972: "I don't do a lot of [benefits], but I do more than the group Grateful Dead do. With the Dead our policy is that if we started doing benefits, how are we going to be able to stop? That is one thing, and the other is that most of the benefits we have done haven't led to much good. When we do do them it's usually for our friends or somebody that we know personally. The benefit for us is to be able to give people music...that's the real benefit that we can provide. Money is just money. The amount of hassle in setting up a Grateful Dead concert is just too enormous and intimidating... We arrive at decisions by the lowest common denominator. If any one person does not want to do a concert, whether it's a benefit or what, we don't do it. We put our energy into our own scenes." (Hayward Daily Review 10/12/72)