Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Her name is Susan, she's 19, she's a devoted fan of rock music and she didn't like at all what she just read in The Bee. Your reviewer is simply wrong. He is biased, she told me. June 1984 Cal Expo




In 1984 in Sacramento, Susan got tired of reading a negative review of the Grateful Dead, and gosh darn she did something about it.  The Sacramento Bee provideds a fascinating look inside the world of the Ombudsman and what happens when a single individual, 19, takes action.

SACRAMENTO BEE

June 17, 1984
Edition: FINAL
Section: METRO
Page: B




GRATEFUL DEAD

Author: BY ART NAUMAN
Her name is Susan, she's 19, she's a devoted fan of rock music and she didn't like at all what she just read in The Bee.
Your reviewer is simply wrong. He is biased, she told me.
What Susan was talking about was an assessment in last Monday's Bee of a concert in Sacramento by the Grateful Dead, one of the country's longest-lived rock groups.
The Bee's reviewer, David Barton, had panned the Grateful Dead. They were, he wrote, far from their best, and musically disappointing.
He called guitarist Jerry Garcia the chief musical vandal in the six-member group whose solos were numbingly dull wanderings that went nowhere, not even around in circles, which then at least would have had their own inner logic.
That last part probably irked Susan the most: Garcia knows exactly what he's doing. I wonder if your reviewer knows what he's doing.
The Dead had given two concerts last weekend at Cal Expo. Barton had attended Saturday's; Susan had gone to Sunday's.
There was dancing to their music and everybody was enjoying it, she said. Obviously, if the Dead was doing something musically wrong, the audience cared not a fig, was her message.
Well, as I told Susan, reviewers are paid to give us their opinion about the quality of the cultural event, whether it is a movie, a symphonic performance, the ballet, or, as in this case, a rock concert.
The reviewer is chosen because he knows the subject and can write clearly and insightfully about it.
Most definitely, the reviewer isn't a cheerleader, and if you're the dedicated fan of something or somebody the reviewer has put down, you feel especially stung.
At the same time, a reviewer's work isn't to be taken as gospel. It's still all a matter of opinion.
But what about Susan's allegation of bias? Certainly if the reviewer walked into the concert with an anti-Dead tilt, his assessment could be tainted.
David Barton is a 28-year-old native of Sacramento who's been providing rock music reviews to The Bee on a free-lance basis for about a year. His interest in the musical genre dates to preteen days and started with the Beatles.
I tried to be fair to the Dead, Barton told me. I have much respect for them, and I went to the concert expecting to have a good time. If I had a bias at all, it was to like the band, not to dislike it.
He also mentioned that people I've talked to since the weekend, who went to both concerts, said the Sunday show was better musically than Saturday's.
Reviewing a rock concert has its own peculiar challenges, I gather from talking wiih Barton.
These concerts are often a sort of orgiastic release for the audience, he said, meaning that the technical virtuosity of the artists isn't always of paramount importance to the listeners.
There is an emotional involvement at these rock concerts, a connection between the performers and their audiences that sometimes is enhanced by drugs, Barton said.
But the reviewer must remain detached from that involvement, he said.
Thus, the reviewer's assessment, unblurred by the euphoria, can indeed read harshly in the cold light of the next day.
If that is the case, so be it. Last Tuesday's edition of The Bee literally sickened one Sacramento reader. But she really wasn't complaining about it
she just needed to talk about it.
It was in that edition, on page B1, that the paper published a near-lifesize color photograph of a large, hairy spider that an apartment maintenance man had found. It probably was a tarantula.
I saw that and I screamed and threw the paper off my lap, the woman told me. Then I ordered my daughter to throw the paper into the garbage.
The rest of the day I felt fear and occasional nausea.
What she suffers from, of course, is a phobia about spiders, a longstanding and illogical fear she can't explain.
So deep is this phobia - call it arachniphobia, I guess, because it doesn't extend to insects - that when I asked her if she'd ever sought help, she answered that she actually fears not having that fear.
I mentioned her comments to Harlin Smith, The Bee's chief photographer, and he said, Say, that's not so funny. I remember years ago I took a picture out at the Junior Museum of a woman who had entwined around her a harmless bull snake.
We published the photo, but then we got a memo from upstairs saying we'd no longer run pictures of people holding snakes because some readers had phobias about them, and also we didn't want to encourage children to pick up the creatures.
Later we learned that one of the high front office people here had a snake phobia. 100014987

Memo:
THE OMBUDSMAN
Record Number: 094

Blair Agrees with Susan in an Early Issue of the Golden Road 1984




The original review is here:

SACRAMENTO BEE

June 11, 1984
Edition: FINAL
Section: SCENE
Page: B

IT'S TIME TO BURY OUR DEAD
Author: David Barton

A FAVORITE PHRASE of the cult of Grateful Dead fans known as the Dead Heads is direct and forceful: There is nothing like a Grateful Dead concert. If Saturday afternoon's show is any indication, we should all be grateful for that.
The Dead are a unique ensemble. Along with the Beach Boys, they are the longest-lived American rock group of the '60s, and their relaxed approach to a song stands in sharp contrast to today's often slick show-biz attack. Their music, at its best, has the same loose charm that made the Band and Little Feat great.
Unfortunately, the Dead were far from their best Saturday. Although they provided the proper party atmosphere for the 8,000 fans, some of whom had come from as far away as Seattle for the shows (the second was Sunday), they were musically disappointing.
Chief musical vandal was guitarist Jerry Captain Trips Garcia, who played remarkably sloppy guitar, missing notes and repeatedly playing out of key. Worst of all, his solos were numbingly dull wanderings that went nowhere, not even around in circles, which then at least would have had their own inner logic.
Garcia also seemed disinclined to put much work into his singing on numbers such as Bertha and Ace. Weak and wobbly at best, his voice needs all the effort he can muster, and his casual approach resulted in some mighty ugly sounds.
Rhythm guitarist Bob Weir tried considerably harder. His voice on numbers such as Playin' in the Band and the closer, One More Saturday Night beat Garcia's by a mile, but when they teamed up, their harmony vocals were anything but harmonious.
The rhythm section of bassist Phil Lesh and drummers Bill Kreutzman and Mickey Hart carried the band with the loose interplay that gives the group it's unique, swirling rhythmic feel. The drummers followed each other's beats and offered effective rhythmic counterpoints that, aided by Lesh's ambling bass, created a shuffling, bopping groove.
Dancing was the main response to this flowing music, from a gentle, general swaying to the group's bluesy reading of C.C. Rider to the full-on rocking and spinning encouraged by Deal and Sugar Magnolia. By show's end, the audience, a show in itself, was dancing and reeling all over the amphitheater grounds in a display of reborn hippiedom that is rarely seen these days.
Things slowed down considerably during the two-and-a-quarter hour show's middle section, when the band embarked on several 10-minute jams, interrupted by occasional songs such as China Doll and Wharf Rat. Those jams were dull, atonal experiments, much more of which would have turned anyone into a literal dead head. Nevertheless, the dropped jaws and nodding heads in the crowd were indications that they were indeed getting through to some Dead Heads.
The Grateful Dead are less a pop group than the house band to the lingering '60s drug culture, and as a launching pad to inner space, they are apparently unequalled. But as a musical ensemble, at least Saturday, they were a dead loss. 100014096
Caption:
PHOTO


The day-of piece

SACRAMENTO BEE


June 10, 1984
Edition: FINAL
Section: METRO
Page: A



AGING 'DEAD HEADS' FOLLOW GRATEFUL DEAD TO CAL EXPO
Author: Jim Morris

Article Text:
Like apparitions from the '60s, long-haired, aging disciples of The Grateful Dead filled the Cal Expo parking lot Saturday, preparing themselves for yet another Dead concert - or primal experience, as one steadfast flower child put it.
For the uninitiated, The Grateful Dead is a San Francisco country-rock band that has been touring for 19 years and has attracted a devoted lot of followers, who affectionately call themselves Dead Heads. Other bands might draw larger audiences, but few can claim a core group of fans who literally will traverse the country to hear a few hours of music.
Dead Heads, however, say it is more than the music that brings them in. For me, it's more like going to a family affair, said Rosell Campos Jr., 32, of Sacramento. No two shows are ever alike, and they have a good rapport with the people. The band plays for the people, not for themselves.
Campos was selling rubber stamps bearing Dead insignias. He has been a fan for 14 years and has a large Grateful Dead tattoo on his right arm to prove it. I've seen 11 shows already this year, he said proudly.
By scanning the parking lot before the afternoon concert, one could detect a clear hierarchy among Dead fans. There were the newer con verts, those in their teens and 20s, who sported fashionably short haircuts and had the audacity to play taped music other than the Dead's.
The more seasoned fans had settled in the overnight camping area next to the Cal Expo Amphitheater. A walk through the area was like a trip back in time - say, 15 years.
Dilapidated, brightly painted school buses. The pungent smell of marijuana. Men with shoulder-length hair and ponytails. Women in madras dresses and wraps. And hundreds of people in tie-dyed shirts.
A group in and around one of the larger buses epitomized the Dead Head way of life. A bearded man wearing a psychedelic smock, shorts and tennis shoes stood next to the bus, selling T-shirts. He identified himself only as Buffalo, and said he was from the People's Republic of Berkeley.
Buffalo is 38 and has been a Dead devotee for 18 years. People really enjoy themselves at the concerts, he said. It's much better than most of the New Wave shows.
At that point, a gravelly voiced bear of a man wearing a cowboy hat leaned out of a bus window. He called himself Cassidy, and said he is a 16-year veteran of Dead shows.
His occupation? Hog farmer. And why does he like the Dead? Basically, I find that they resemble human beings more than rock stars.
Inside the bus, 39-year-old Dr. Spaghetti offered a more cerebral explanation of the Dead's appeal. I think the music is fractured time, on the threshold of enchantment, he said. There's a certain amount of timelessness, as well as what we need today.
One could easily imagine Dr. Spaghetti sitting in an incense-filled apartment in Haight-Ashbury in 1967, quoting philosophy as he draws anti-war posters. He said he has followed the Dead all over the country and through Europe.
The music - a mixture of country, rock and jazz - is never played the same way twice, he said. If you pay attention to it, it's like making love to now.
Dead songs blared from huge speakers on the bus, which is equipped with two stoves and a collection of mattresses that form a communal bed. As Buffalo peddled his T-shirts, a young woman danced euphorically nearby, oblivious to the people around her.
Not far from the bus was an old, black Cadillac hearse, laden with bumper stickers: Caution: I Stop for Hallucinations. University of Space. One Nuclear Bomb Can Ruin Your Whole Day. And, of course, a profusion of Dead stickers.
On the other side of the camping area, self-professed Dead Head Bill Collins, 33, of Sonoma, sat contentedly in a folding chair, taking in sights and sounds that all but disappeared more than a decade ago.
The band, he said, draws one of the more laid-back crowds. You don't get the rowdiness of heavy metal. A lot of it goes back to the Haight days, keeping that going in a nucleus of people.
Dead Heads remember with uncanny accuracy the time and place they first became entranced with the group. They speak of getting turned on in Houston in 1968 or New York in 1969, much as others describe their first encounter with marijuana.
The Dead, said fan Gordon Kraft of San Francisco, have positive, creative energy as opposed to the negative, violent energy of New Wave. This is Old Wave - good Old Wave.