This stunning poster was done by one of the Boston Tea Party’s most prolific artists, Eric Engstrom. The identical number of letters in each band’s name lends itself to this art nouveau-inspired very very rare poster advertising the Dead back in 1969. Very few of these posters were printed – likely 500 – and far fewer survive today.
The Boston Tea Party was Boston's version of The Fillmore. A legendary venue in its own right, it too was too small to compete in the booming rock concert market. Because of a fire at the original site (at 53 Berkeley Street), the Tea Party had moved into the site of its competitor The Ark, at 15 Landsdowne Street. Thus, the Dead had played the venue before, on April 21-23, 1969, when it was called The Ark. The Dead played Thursday thru Saturday, a common booking at Boston Tea Party.
The Bonzo Dog Band were a very English, very hard to explain, comic theatrical rock band with a uniquely skewed view of the world. Americans, as yet untutored by Monty Python (with whom the Bonzos were friends) were not ready for their strange performances and humor, as they pondered the question "Can Blue Men Sing The Whites?"
Here are excerpts of a review of the shows by Lenny Kaye, from Fusion, November 14, 1969:
“The Grateful Dead are on the way up. But whether it be from a growing musical acumen on the part of their audience, a starring role in Tom Wolfe's Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, or simply that they are one of the only living reminders of the Summer of Love, nobody can really say for sure. The only thing that does seem sure is that suddenly (?) great gobs of people have turned on to the group, giving them a series of packed houses, screaming audiences and fans whose devotion borders on the mystical.
Whatever it is, it certainly didn't take much to prove the point to the overflow crowds that jammed The Tea Party during October's first weekend. By the third number, the audience was invariably on its feet, if not dancing, then at least rhythmically swaying throughout the set.
Dead music is unlike any other, and thus brooks no comparisons. They have a magnificent texture, layers upon layers of lead riffs coagulating over each other, coiled, nearly a form without a form. On stage, they are loose almost to the point of nonchalance, switching off instruments, resting while the song runs through its changes. They encompass all varieties of music, from Jerry Garcia country to Pigpen blues to somewhat 5/4 jazz.
If you need a word try Flow. There is nothing calculated about a Dead performance. There is lots of searching, lots of trying this or that, lots of times when the song lays down and waits for someone to tell it where to go. On Saturday, they meandered around for close to half an hour, finding something, losing it again, finally coming around ever so slowly to catch a piece of Anthem of the Sun. You can feel the group relax when they hit the mainline, watch them settle in, know that it's now just a matter of time until the energy beams connect and things rise just another level.
They attract a mixed bunch — cycle gangs, hard core freaks, spaced and very strange people that seem to stay underground until their arrival. Together, they certainly do not make for the usual Tea Party crowd. And The Dead seldom let them down. In a strange way, the group brings the spirit of California with them wherever they go. It's a good feeling, and though its reality out west may be as mythic as one of Pizarro's cities of gold, it still feels nice when it happens here.”
In June 2013.
Artist Eric Engstrom was born July 9, 1942 in Plymouth, Massachusetts, and passed away at 70. After receiving his BFA in illustration from Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), Eric pursued graduate studies in art and design at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth. He worked as a museum guide, line cook, and as a graphic designer for museums, rock promoters, and architects in the Boston area, and many of his iconic Boston Tea Party rock posters for bands like The Who are now highly collectible. Eric relocated to Honolulu in 1972 where he developed a passion for interior design with graphic flair. He then moved to San Francisco in 1978 to work with several architects, until 1987 when he founded Engstrom Design Group (now EDG) in Marin County, California.