Reverberations from the Grateful Dead concert are likely to be felt around Iowa City for a long time to come. Whether the threat of no more concerts holds or not, what happened Saturday night in the Field House will not be soon forgotten.
The arguments over whether the concert was a good one or not must have begun mid-way through the set done by "The New Riders of the Purple Sage." And the discussions are likely to continue unabated for some time; some liked the performance, some didn't. And so it goes.
But there are reasons for thinking the Dead's concert may have been one of the more important happenings in Iowa City in a good many months; reasons which transcend any question about the quality of the performance.
What happened is that several thousand people found out that they can have things like they want them if they act collectively, if they act in a very together way.
C.U.E. had been asked for a sit-on-the-floor concert. They refused with a lot of hokum about fire regulations, etc. And so the people took things in their own hands. They simply folded up their chairs and passed them off to the sides.
For the people who were there, this should be a good lesson in collective behavior. Individuals are virtually powerless; it is only by working together that change can be accomplished. But change brought about in this manner requires a high degree of responsibility. And Saturday night's action left quite a lot to be desired in this respect.
Unaccustomed to freedom, people didn't seem to understand that it takes more room to sit down than to stand up and, as a consequence, only a few were able to sit at any one time; many had to stand throughout the concert in spite of the fact that it was long and a chance to sit down would have been welcome.
The shouting between numbers was a drag.
And, of course, fire regulations aren't really a joke. It is perfectly reasonable to suggest that it is fairly important that there be fire lanes; the ad hoc action of the crowd successfully thwarted any attempts to establish and maintain such lanes.
But, all things considered, the crowd handled their new-found freedom fairly well. Shoving was kept to an absolute minimum, people who didn't want to give up their chairs weren't hassled, and for all inconvenience most people remained good-natured. There were no reports of vandalism before or after the concert.
For the future, provided more concerts are scheduled despite threats to the contrary, C.U.E. should permit sitting on the floor. Fire lanes could be handled by student ushers (we have little need of the "professionals" that C.U.E. brought in). One-price tickets should be sold.
We could all have a good time. And the bands would no doubt benefit from a little more order.
(by Leona Durham, from the Daily Iowan, 23 March 1971)
Thanks to jgmf.blogspot.com
The Daily Iowan also had a couple later mentions of this show. In July 1971, they ran an interview with Don Pugsley, a member of CUE (the Committee for University Entertainment).
Helland: What was the administration’s reaction to the Dead concert with the Ripple bottles and the roaches and the chairs being moved out?
Pugsley: They were disturbed by that whole thing. They were worried about flying bottles. I don’t know what to say. I’ve never been to a concert where someone was hurt in a Ripple bottle fight. I don’t think that it is legitimate to call off a concert for 8,000 when a couple of people, if anyone, is tossing bottles. The administration has been officially quiet; they feel that ... CUE can handle problems.
Helland: How safe are concerts, safer than driving a car?Pugsley: A lot safer than talking to a county sheriff on a spring night. . . .
Helland: Do most Dead audiences react the way we did?Pugsley: I saw the Dead at Madison. You have to realize that you just don’t have chairs at a Dead concert. You’ll have a better concert without them and you’ll please the type of crowd that is attracted by the Dead. There were no chairs at Madison on the ground floor. The Madison ground crowd was the same as the crowd here and it didn’t seem to get out of hand. I heard that the best Dead concert was held in a posh opera house in St. Louis and there wasn’t any dancing there. It depends on the group, the hall and the crowd. . . .
Helland: [The Regents] don't dig no carrying on at their University... Do you believe in the Outside Agitator Theory or the Domino Theory with regard to carryings on at the Dead Concert?
Pugsley: Well, this thing at a concert in Omaha was due to outside agitators, there was a disturbance last month in Tucson due to outside agitators, the disturbances this spring in Iowa City were due to outside agitators. I'd like to know where these people live, that they migrate to Tucson, Omaha, and Iowa City to carry out their misdeeds. I'm sure where they live is a nice town. Now I've been in on some of these things and have been erroneously labeled as an outside agitator. I don't believe in the Outside Agitator Theory. I believe in the Inside Agitator Theory.
(from Dave Helland, “Pugsley: Groups Cost Heavy Bread,” the Daily Iowan 7/22/71, and “CUE: Audience Troubles,” the Daily Iowan 7/23/71)
... During the next CUE concert featuring the Grateful Dead, the crowd removed chairs from the floor and passed them to the back of the Fieldhouse. This raised the ire of a representative from the state fire marshall’s office who was present at the concert. The damage that resulted to the Fieldhouse from this concert led eventually to the rock concert ban in the fall of 1971. ...
(from Chuck Hawkins/George Shirk, “CUE fights earlier debts,” the Daily Iowan 10/29/73)