COUNTRY JOE & THE FISH / GRATEFUL DEAD / SHA NA NA
FILLMORE EAST, N.Y. - It was Avalon Ballroom revisited time last weekend as Country Joe And The Fish appeared along with Grateful Dead at the Fillmore. But what should have been a joyous occasion and a musical treat wound up being only a fairly good evening, with moments of brilliance and genuine excitement coming far too infrequently.
Country Joe brought three new Fish to the Fillmore stage. They are Greg Dewey on drums, formerly of Mad River; Doug Metzner (bass) from Group Image, and Mark Kapner on the keyboard from the Peace Corps, a Washington based group which has been around for about eight years.
With Joe and guitarist Barry Melton leading the charge, they soon were into a rocking set and it wasn't long before Barry had launched into "The Love Machine," a number which was accompanied by his frenzied thrashing about on the edge of the stage - activity which, while not always wholly convincing, was consistently pretty funny. More mirth was provided by Mark Kapner's bit wherein a Tiny Tim type ukulele received the full Jimi Hendrix treatment. This has to be some sort of first - going down on a uke!
But such moments of madness and first rate satire were scattered and one couldn't help but wonder whether Country Joe And The Fish were, in general, departing from this type of entertainment in favor of just playing good rock music. Let's hope not. They do both so well.
As for Joe McDonald himself, he completely charmed and cracked up the audience with his hilarious and outrageous "Quiet Days" song, delivered deadpan, with only his own guitar accompaniment, and from the score which he did for a Danish movie which, he confided, "will never be released in the States." In this number, as in no other (and certainly not in his James Brown imitation, which came later) Joe displayed what a really marvelous head he has and how he can reach an audience in a straightforward, good humored way - something which was always a hallmark of the Fish and one of the chief reasons for their impact on the music scene.
Now a word about Grateful Dead. It seems kind of ridiculous at this point to say that Jerry Garcia plays a very fine lead guitar and has a unique ability to capture the essence of a song and render it with remarkable vocal quality. We know this. Suffice to say then that Jerry did not disappoint anyone, particularly with his version of "Don't Murder Me," surely one of the finer blues renditions to be heard around these parts in some time.
We wish we could give equal praise to the amplifiers at the first show Saturday night; however, unless you are really into humming as a necessary part of a good group, then the less said on this subject, the better. Nonetheless, the Dead played their usual brand of uncompromising rock and did it well enough to make it look easy, which of course is far from easy.
Rounding out the bill was Sha Na Na, which recently received an extensive review in these pages. Upon witnessing their act, we weren't sure where they were coming from. We're still not, but someone says it was El Morocco. Okay.
(from Cash Box, October 11 1969)
http://www.archive.org/details/gd69-09-27.aud.hanno.14857.sbeok.shnf (the Saturday early show)
See also the Billboard review: