Original Swell Dance - Nassau Coliseum

David Byrd Swell Dance poster Grateful Dead 1973 Nassau Coliseum poster

David Byrd


Original Swell Dance - Nassau Coliseum, 1973


First printing lithograph, Very Good, backed with linen


Framed: 43 1/2" tall x 31 3/4" wide






Close-up of frame

Frame, inside angle

Frame at angle


This is the rare first printing of the “A Swell Dance” concert poster by David Byrd. The concerts at the 18,000 seat Nassau Coliseum was sandwiched between the Dead's successful tour of Europe in early 1972 and their release of Wake of the Flood in November, 1973. The March 15th show was Phil’s 33rd birthday. By now, the Dead had established themselves as one the premier live acts in rock, and they were headlining arenas with regularity. On this date, they delivered the first of the 42 shows they would play at Nassau Coliseum.



Bill Graham wanted to do an open floor dance concert with the Dead on the East Coast, something he did every night in San Francisco, but could never do at the Fillmore East as it was a traditional sit-down auditorium. So, he removed all the seats from the huge Nassau Coliseum on Long Island so New Yorkers would be free to boogie! To his shock and dismay he discovered that NY audience (at that point in time) wanted to sit and listen, maybe stand in their seats, but never dance. “Hey, where'd all the seats go?” It was a swell time anyway!



The band was moving into a new area of their career now that they had completed their recording contract with Warner Brothers and had decided to start their own label, an unprecedented move by a major band at the time. However, all was not well inside the walls of the camp. Just one week earlier on March 8th, they’d lost their first frontman for good when Pigpen passed away at the age of just 27 from a gastrointestinal hemorrhage brought on by years of heavy drinking and illness that forced him off the road for five months in 1971.



After a riotous wake at Weir’s house with hundreds of people and a more subdued funeral afterward, the band stoically loaded out for the trip east and the next tour, and it was neither the first or the last time the band would compartmentalize devastating circumstances and make a quick return to the road. These shows were the first on a quick 11-show run through the northeast ending at the Boston Garden on April 2.



Warning:  These posters were reprinted a number of times and eBay is littered with fakes. The first printings are not blue, they are much closer to aqua or sea-green - and they were 25 x 38” NOT 24” by 36” and printed on very thin flimsy paper. Buyer Beware. 

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