Irvine Auditorium, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA

If you would not be forgotten
As soon as you are dead and rotten,
Either write things worthy reading,
Or do things worth the writing.

                                             -Ben Franklin

Irvine Auditorium is located on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA.  The University was founded by Ben Franklin in 1740.  The auditorium was designed by the architectural firm of Horace Trumbauer in 1929 and completed in 1932.  The firm designed buildings for Duke and Harvard Universities, the Philadelphia Art Museum, and a number of mansions and residential buildings for the wealthy.  It is used as a multi-purpose building for the University, with various performance and gathering spaces.  The Main Hall seats 1,260 and houses one of the world’s largest pipe organs.   Unlike former neighbor Convention Hall (now demolished), the Grateful Dead played this venue only once on October 16, 1970.  The New Riders of the Purple Sage is said to have been the opening act, but there is not a clear record on this, anyone know for sure?   This show was a part of a short East Coast college tour that ran the length of October of 1970.  It began with a show at Queen’s College in Queens, NY and ending with a four show, two night run at SUNY-Stony Brook in Upstate NY, October 30-31.  Although this show was on the UPenn campus, it was actually held as part of nearby Drexel University’s homecoming events and was meant to be primarily for Drexel students.  As always, the ever persistent Deadheads found their way in that night!  Irvine Auditorium is situated at the edge of the UPenn campus, the first picture showing the main entrance of the auditorium on 34th Street.  The second picture shows the opposite side of the building facing the interior of the campus.  It is rumored that the auditorium was the result of a failed student project that UPenn was forced to build, only because the student later required them to build it as part of a bequest to the University.  The discombobulated design does look like the architect paid a visit to Owsley one too many times, but I find that the odd design makes it a charming structure, a building much suited to host a Grateful Dead concert!

    

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6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Corry
    Oct 30, 2011 @ 18:18:38

    This is a very interesting post. I had no idea that the Irvine Auditorium was so small. The published story (in a tapers Compendium) about this show was that every other row was reserved for Drexel students and their dates, so the crowd was an odd mixture. Pretty rapidly, the Drexel students either got converted or left, and by the end, everybody still there was a Deadhead, if in some cases rather new ones.

    The New Riders question is murkier. They did not play the beginning of the tour (Oct 10), but they definitely played Cleveland on Oct 17 (I have an eyewitness). Whether Cleveland was the first day or the NRPS played Irvine Auditorium remains uncertain.

    Reply

  2. grosvenorsquare
    Oct 30, 2011 @ 19:01:30

    Thanks! I didn’t think that Irvine would be that small either, I was surprised when I saw it there on the corner. It reminded me of Atwood Hall at Clark University in Worcester MA, which is a much much smaller campus than UPenn. A great and interesting little venue though!

    The crowd was mixed, I read accounts of Penn and other people being there and the rows being mixed. I could picture people going in and out, the more Drexel people left, the more others would come in. Love the thought of people wondering around in their homecoming attire!

    It would be great if the New Riders question could be solved. It might be no, as the homecoming committee would have probably had to have paid more money for two bands instead of one, but both Universities have money, so it might have happened!

    Reply

  3. Corry
    Oct 30, 2011 @ 19:28:22

    One of the difficult problems about tracking 1970 New Riders dates, particularly outside of California, was that no one knew who they were. They didn’t have an album, and they often weren’t advertised on the poster even when they were booked. I have been in contact with many people who saw Dead/New Riders shows in 1970, and they simply don’t recall the New Riders. Either they arrived late at the show anyway, or when they didn’t realize that the opening act featured two members of the Grateful Dead. Even though the show announcer may have said “Ladies and Gentlemen, the New Riders Of The Purple Sage,” if the name meant nothing then a lot of people just ignored them, as they would any opening act.

    Reply

  4. grosvenorsquare
    Oct 30, 2011 @ 21:53:43

    This is true, as many arrived late and might not be interested enough to take note. Although it is a bit surprising to know that someone out there did not document each show down to every detail. I would guess that sort of thing might not happening yet in such an organized way among tapers/other Deadheads at this point in GD history. And the crowd at Irvine was probably made up of more non-Deadheads than usual to take note!

    Reply

  5. Gary Oswald
    Jan 19, 2015 @ 16:40:03

    This was my first of many Dead shows. NRPS definitely opened for the Dead. I was in high school at the time and remember having orders to be home by midnight. I looked at my watch at 1 AM and the boys were still going strong. I’ve never been able to come up with a tape of that show. Any exist??

    Reply

    • grosvenorsquare
      Jan 20, 2015 @ 05:04:41

      Hi Gary,

      Thanks for the post and for the info on NRPS! I have also not been able to find a recording of this show, there probably is a lost copy out there somewhere. If you ever find one, please post!

      Reply

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