This is an attempt to compile all the different reviews of this lost show into one single account...
The concert (called the Philharmonic Rock Marathon) started at 7, in Kleinhans Music Hall. Seats cost $4.50. Newspaper reviews cited attendance at 2,200 or 2,300, "a good house." (It was noted, "People came to hear the Grateful Dead," and that they were "highly responsive.")
"Confirmation of the Dead followed an earlier cancellation of the Byrds. The Dead are accepting expenses but waiving their usual huge fee to help the Philharmonic benefit and for the 'privilege and delight of working with Lukas Foss.'"
They were joined by the Road, a local Buffalo group.
"The program began with Foss at the piano, playing Bach in the Non-Improvisation with three groups - the Road, members of the orchestra, and the Dead." They were to "surround him with a rhythmic and electronic counterpoint."
"As conductor Foss played his Bach non-improvisation, the Road came in around him with their wall of sound, providing a bit too much rhythm & shout and not enough freeform experimentation. The Dead worked their wave of music more adeptly around this freeform style."
[Foss's "Non-Improvisation" was a 1967 composition for four players (clarinet, violincello, piano & percussion), and was based on the first movement of Bach's concerto for harpsichord in D minor.]
"Road played a set, and then there was a piece by John Cage, which included a lecture by Cage from loudspeakers, and live performers strolling through the concert hall."
"The Road started and they were terrible. A teenybopper band with no soul or interesting music..."
"Lead singer Nick DiStephano has a good voice with the rest of the group harmonizing closely."
"The Road was playing away...and the crowd started to chant "Hit the road, Road!" After a few moments, you couldn't even hear the Road - the MC came up on the stage and shouted at us all to quiet down, the Dead were not ready to play yet and the Road was not done anyway. So we got quiet."
"After a pause, the Philharmonic came on. Silence, then a single gong. Down the aisles came tuxedoed men, each carrying a small triangle, hitting them in unison. Scary & funereal... We waited through the piece, trying to like it or at least escape from it, but then it was over."
[The Cage pieces were Variations II and III.]
One newspaper review mentions, "the Dead offered some of their best material in their set's limited time." [Probably about an hour.]
"They had to play an abbreviated set...I am only positive about Lovelight... Accompanying the show were laser lights."
"The set wasn't all that long because they were sharing the stage with the Philharmonic and the Road."
"The Dead played on top of a lift platform, which rose when they played and dropped when the symphony played."
"The stage was a hydraulic platform that was down and all you could see was a few red lights from the amps... They started with "Feedback" before the stage slowly rose out of the ground with the band on it running right into the next song. I also remember a laser light show of some type..."
Two other reviewers provide more detail, saying there were four colors - "red, green, blue, and yellow, that swelled and changed with the music. They were trying to tie the different colors to different instruments." "The idea behind the laser-beams is that they are realizations in color & design of the music sounds... A design blossoms in nervous lines that squiggle and dart over walls and ceiling... Soon the agitated patterns were not very interesting. (Circular forms, used during the final part of the program, were quite beautiful to see.)"
"The soundscape of the Grateful Dead is an interesting blend of organ, percussion (drums and resonant gongs) and guitars."
"From the first chord, the room changed completely. Loud, bright electric guitars, two drummers, and soaring, happy music."
"The exact moment the Dead got their sound together physically sent a sublime shock through the hall... It was a happy realization by both the audience and the Dead that the first few amorphous moments of sound-searching had suddenly found a vehicle to ride to inventive heights."
"The Dead uses two drummers to form a 'figure 8' of sound around the guitars and organ. This duo broke from the set rhythm of 'Dark Star' into a drumming contest... Lynn Harbold, Philharmonic percussionist, joined in this number on Hart's drums, doing a fine job."
"I remember clearly a Philharmonic drummer sitting in with Billy, while Mickey played various percussion instruments around the stage."
"Two firecrackers were set off on stage, increasing the excitement."
"They also played St. Stephen... I remember TC throwing a couple of timed firecrackers into the air during the pause in St. Stephen. [It couldn't have been TC.] During Lovelight, Pigpen was singin' "take your hands out of yer pockets... and stop actin' like a fool"."
"Jerry Garcia's lead guitar had some really sharp and sweet phrases. He is very contented looking [with] his bushy beard and smile... Like a scholar reading his notes, Lesh in wire-rimmed glasses sets down perspicacious bass lines. Weir is constantly moving, with flourishes interweaving around the bass and lead guitars. Pigpen, the Dead's organist, brought the clapping crowd to its feet with Lovelight. He is the individualistic loner in denim jacket & cowboy hat."
"When the Dead got warmed up, it seemed the audience would not be content with anything less than having the Dead finish the concert by themselves. Speaker fuzziness spoiled the first number, but after the sound system was improved the group went through several numbers with good effect, including a long performance in which the beat had most of the audience clapping and dancing."
"Soon there was a sea of heads and patrons, all clapping and dancing... It was a night where I felt my consciousness lifted above the audience. The Dead were the conduit, but they and the audience were being pulled by the music which came from elsewhere. (Port Chester 1971 was another evening where we would hear it, they would play it, and we would hear something new which they would then play.) Lovelight ended with a bang and we all looked around, amazed at what had just happened.... The lights came on for intermission, and the room had the loud buzz of a good party."
"Following intermission Foss led a performance of his "Geod" for orchestra. This entailed the use of four additional conductors, and laser-beam light projections created by Sonovision... The music of "Geod" requires five conductors to give cues... Most of the music is very quiet, familiar tunes played against a soft curtain of sustained tones, with snippets of wind phrases for gentle agitation... Sounds included gentle singing from the orchestra, organ, harmonica, percussion & mandolin. The audience joined in clapping at once point, and by the end of the performance was making knocking, popping mouth sounds that seemed to fit quite well."
"Two conductors stood back to back, dividing the orchestra - on one half stood Jan Williams with the Road, and on the other Lukas Foss and the Dead... The Dead showed more experience... As the groups & orchestras jammed, the atmosphere was intensified with a laser-beam light show. Rapid patterns and curves of pure light chased along the walls in time with the music...."
"The orchestra was split in two sections - the Road was in the front left and the Dead were in the front right. Lukas Foss led them on some orchestral space music, pointing to different sections of musicians to have the music rise & fall. Very experimental and not beatific."
"The program ended with an attempt to merge symphony orchestra & rock bands in an improvised jam. It didn't work very well. Jan Williams & Foss issued spoken directions ("Attention: attack... Gliss downward... Vibrato") which made the performance rather unspontaneous. Only when a rock band came alive did the jam work."
(McNally) "The Dead, a local rock band, and members of the orchestra played an improvisational piece that involved having the orchestra members stand up, flap their arms, and make strange noises."
"The audience suddenly took the initiative and began making music themselves by imitating the instruments & calls of the musicians."
[This is an interesting detail - possibly it's the same audience participation the other reviewer mentioned in "Geod".]
The deadbase reviewer concludes: "After a while, it was over and the Dead did another set... They sent word that they were too tired for an encore, and everybody got up to go." [Neither newspaper reviewer mentions a second set from the Dead; but they might have left early! The deadlists contributor also suggests there were two Dead sets.]