Grace Slick - vocals, organ; Marty Balin - vocals, percussion; Paul Kantner - vocals, guitar; Jorma Kaukonen - lead guitar; Jack Casady - bass; Spencer Dryden - drums
In his early days of promoting events at the Fillmore Auditorium, Bill Graham often took the unique approach of having the featured act perform a first set to open the night. A support act would often play during the break, followed by a second set by the headliner. In addition, many of these Fillmore Auditorium shows were billed as dance events rather than concerts, with no assigned seating on the floor, and were also some of the earliest productions to feature light shows and screen projections along with the live music. Attendees were encouraged to dance and interact with each other, making these events quite different than a traditional concert experience.
These Jefferson Airplane sets are fascinating for a number of reasons. Grace Slick had replaced Signe Anderson as the female voice of the band just a few weeks prior to this show, and these recordings give a clear picture of that transition as it was taking place. This concert also falls right in the middle of the initial studio sessions for the band's breakthrough second album, Surrealistic Pillow, which they were recording at RCA's studio A in Los Angeles the week before and the week after these performances. That album, more than any other, would soon gain Jefferson Airplane (along with the San Francisco cultural scene in general) its first significant form of national attention.
As with many 1966 Jefferson Airplane shows, the first set of this night begins with a recording of a jet taking off that transitions into a cover of Fred Neil's "Other Side Of This Life," the band's opening number at the time. The next five numbers all were featured on the band's debut LP, Jefferson Airplane Takes Off. Other than "Get Together," which would soon become one of the theme songs of the Summer of Love, the vocal focus is on Balin and Kantner, with Slick gradually feeling her way in. The classic three part harmonies are still tentative, as Slick's strong persona, later to play such a critical role in the band's sound, had still yet to emerge completely.
This begins to change with "White Rabbit," a song Grace had brought to the band and they had just recorded the week prior. This song is Grace's first showcase of the evening. They end the set with another new song destined for their second album, "3/5ths Of A Mile In 10 Seconds." Here one begins to hear the classic Jefferson Airplane sound. Though still somewhat primitive, their captivating three-way vocal blend is beginning to solidify, and the unique instrumental approaches of Kaukonen, Casady and Dryden is becoming more and more distinctive.
The band then takes a break for a middle set by Demon Lover, before returning for a lengthier second set (also available here at Wolfgang's).
Written by Alan Bershaw