Van Morrison, Jefferson Airplane & The Grateful Dead: Watch Classic Concerts from Wolfgang’s Vault

In Wolf­gang’s Vault, you’ll find Van Mor­ri­son singing “Cyprus Avenue.” But it won’t be the orig­i­nal track from his 1968 album Astral Weeks; it’ll be a dif­fer­ent, near­ly eight-and-a-half-minute ren­di­tion, which you’ll watch Mor­ri­son per­form onstage at New York’s Fill­more East on Sep­tem­ber 23, 1970. Those who have seen Mor­ri­son per­form live in any era tend to describe it as an expe­ri­ence high­ly dis­tinct from hear­ing him sing on record, and ulti­mate­ly a nec­es­sary one for those seek­ing to ful­ly appre­ci­ate his work. Unlike so many musi­cians who rose to great pop­u­lar­i­ty in the late six­ties and ear­ly sev­en­ties, Mor­ri­son con­tin­ues to tour, and so these oppor­tu­ni­ties remain avail­able. But how many of Mor­rison’s fans could pos­si­bly have made it to his shows at the Fill­more East back then? How many, for that mat­ter, were alive back then? Those of us who weren’t have Wolf­gang to thank, I sup­pose, for mak­ing avail­able these his­toric con­cert clips that deep­en our under­stand­ing of artists like Mor­ri­son.

Yet Wolf­gang him­self, it turns out, is no longer among us. Known in full as Wolo­dia “Wolf­gang” Gra­jon­ca, he rose to promi­nence when, after a name change and a try­ing relo­ca­tion from Berlin to San Fran­cis­co, he became the west coast con­cert pro­mot­er and icon­ic coun­ter­cul­ture rock impre­sario Bill Gra­ham. Small won­der, then, that the inter­net archive which bears his name con­tains so much com­pelling vin­tage con­cert footage. Browse it by per­former, and you’ll spot many of the names you’d expect to: Jef­fer­son Air­plane, The Band, The Grate­ful Dead. But dig even deep­er and you’ll find real sur­pris­es, like Yoko Ono play­ing Giants Sta­di­um in 1986 and a vast cache of songs, cap­tured on thrilling­ly lo-fi video, per­formed by visu­al­ly pio­neer­ing and media-sat­i­riz­ing new wave band The Tubes. An after­noon spent in Wolf­gang’s Vault makes a fine primer on the most endur­ing rock played in Gra­ham’s hey­day, but also yields some delight­ful­ly odd per­for­mances you’d nev­er expect to see today.

Relat­ed con­tent:

Free Grate­ful Dead Con­cert Archive

Mar­tin Scors­ese Cap­tures Lev­on Helm and The Band Per­form­ing “The Weight” in The Last Waltz

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall.

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