Saturday, July 17, 1976
Orpheum Theatre - San Francisco, CA
The natural gravitation to 1977 as the year of choice for many deadheads often leaves 1976 looking like the younger brother of the high school quarterback/homecoming king. For me, 1976 might be the best kept secret of the Dead taping world.
1976 had a few things working against it that may have lead to its bad rap. The opening run of the year in June, was paired with FM-Broadcasts of nearly every night, and thus, a lot of June 1976 has always circulated in pretty good quality. However, when you look at the year overall, the band really seemed to use June as a warm up (they'd been on hiatus since 10/20/74). June has lots of fabulous moments, but taken in context the best of the year lurked in the much more hard to come by tapes from the rest of the year. This is not to say that June is bad - oddly the shows that didn't widely circulate from June are a good deal better than those that did. But, when you were a young taper, the easiest shows to score from '76 were from June, and they would tend to sound sort of the same. That would often cause one to back off from looking for more from that year. Because of all this, many people think 1976 is very sleepy and underwhelming. It might not be 1972, but it is by no means something to overlook.
So, where to start? Beyond 07/18/76(FM), the July Orpheum run was always hard to track down in the days before everything was simply "here." These were the kind of shows you might see on the list of a guy who wouldn't give you the time of day until you had gathered some serious off the beaten track shows to offer in return. I can't help but start with 07/17/76 because of the set two jam. It's the sort of stuff that when you hear it the first time, you can't believe you've gone without it, and afterwards, you can't wait to hear it again.
The first set is a bit of a warm up. There's not much to write home about there. But to quote another great taper, Rob Bertrando, in his archive.org comments, "I rate the second set jam 5 stars, as good as anything the Dead ever did." It is hard to disagree. From the Dark Star like hush that casually blows into Comes A Time, through jam after inspired jam, you'll find this second set wastes no time grabbing the golden ring.
Taped by another Grateful Dead Taper Hall of Fame member, Bob Menke, from the front of the balcony, I recommend using the set two opening Samson to set your listening levels to as loud as you can bear. When it ends, turn the volume up some more (trust me), and unplug the phone. This is what it's all about.
07/17/76 etree source info
07/17/76 AUD download