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Saturday, April 5, 2008

1970 June 24 - Capitol Theatre

Grateful Dead May 24, 1970

GRATEFUL DEAD
NEW RIDERS OF THE PURPLE SAGE
Wednesday, June 24, 1970
Capitol Theatre – Port Chester, NY

“Oh my GOD.”

There are holy places along the 30 year journey that is the collection of Grateful Dead live recordings; shrines self-manifested by the music created on a particular night. I’ve referenced some of these moments as Grateful Dead satori – passages where you can’t help but “feel it” happening and become lost within the musical “now.” There are a number of these places tucked away here and there across the three decades of Dead music. They are, in large part, a driving factor in what makes the Grateful Dead something so special.

It’s funny; you’d think in a blog like this one, the first task would be to list those moments out – just get down to it, maybe five or ten posts and we’re done. For whatever reason, the shows I’ve written about have assembled in a more organic, and unforced fashion. I stroll down memory lane, and get drawn this way or that; bounce from one idea or year to another. I’d say each show I’ve featured has that certain special something laced into the recording somewhere. Sometimes it is fleeting, sometimes it goes on for ten minutes. I knew I ought to spread things around a bit. You’d all think I was crazy if I just posted about half a dozen 1973 shows out of the gate. I had really been away from the music for a number of years, so I’ve been revisiting it as I have been encouraging you to do, whether for the first time, or the first time in years. That the best of the best of the best have not turned out to be in the first group of posts is just how it has gone. Or maybe all the shows carry satori in some way, regardless of whether I hear it or not. Regardless, if I ever create a filter label called “Must-Hear Satori,” this show will go in it.

Phil Lesh April 26, 1970I’ve had 06/24/70 sitting on a shelf staring at me from day one of this blog. I’ve seen it most every day. I hadn’t listened to the show in easily five years, maybe more. But I well know what’s in there. And it occurs to me that it represents one of the great blessings of this modern age of Dead tape trading: the master cassette transfer, in all its glory, is right there ready for any and everyone. You don’t have to hunt it down. You don’t have to score a crappy sounding cassette copy and curse the hiss. You don’t have to live through the years where we all wondered if we’d ever hear the actual master. The story of the usher tapes could fill a book. You can walk into this cathedral preserved perfectly for you. All the candles lit. The sun causing the stained glass to shine beautifully. You can be alone if you want. This is a holy place.

At the same time, if you’ve been digging the Dead online for a while and didn’t know about this show, it points to the daunting nature of traversing this jungle of music without a map. It is that exact reason that I write this blog. It’s a crime not to have a Deadhead taper living down your block, as I mused over in post number one. Interestingly, I would have never sent you home on day one with this tape. Not only do you need to have at least a slightly AUD-tuned ear to fully grok this tape (you don’t want to be bitching and moaning about this not being a soundboard while listening), you might also do well to have built up a tolerance/appreciation for great Dead moments before launching yourself into this one. Too large a dose of something could have adverse affects if taken too early. 6/24/70 peaks the meter above the red zone. You need to have some semblance of that upper range to best appreciate this gold medal show.

This Dark Star suite is something quite above and beyond your standard wonderful Dark Star. And this tape allows you to hear every pin drop, every flash pot go off (you’ll lose count), every ripple of deeply psychedelic energy fill the entire Cap Theatre to the rafters, washing the entire audience away into other dimensions.

Grateful Dead May 24, 1970After the first verse, as the Space expands, there’s a guy in the audience sitting directly behind the right side microphone (they were spread 25-30 feet across the front of the balcony) who quietly mutters “Oh my GOD.” It’s a convergence of the gripping magic of the music, and the fact that it is being caught on tape, and that it survived for us to hear it. It becomes an instant preservation of what is was to be a guy at a psychedelic rock show in 1970. That guy’s comment drills home that certain something that we all ponder over when we think about what it was like to see the band back then, head fully fed, and locked in the embrace of the Grateful Dead. At this moment it is no wonder that people would travel the country, following this band for years. It’s also with the comments of this guy, who seems to be struggling to keep a grip on his connection to the physical world, that the holy satori moment has fully locked in. It will remain this way through to the end of I know You Rider.

There is a subtle Attics tease early in the Space followed by growling, star exploding caverns of warped time, which all turns to liquid gold light coursing around you, gently shimmering into Attics of My Life. So sublime. So majestic. So haunting. The audience, which has been extremely vocal and excited all evening, has fallen away. It’s just you sitting on the center of the balcony rail with the Dead spread out before you. Mickey and Billy draw the edges of Space into the beginning of Attics, prolonging the pleasure of the transition even more. Attics, which had only been debuted a month earlier, and wouldn’t even be officially released on American Beauty until November of 1970, had to be a new experience for virtually everyone in the theater. It brings the entire audience to its collective knees.

Jerry Garcia May 6, 1970Dark Star comes back instantly and we are assuredly at the mercy of a masterful six headed story teller, weaving in and out of themes. Dark Star heads into a Tighten Up Jam, and there are audience members exploding out of their skin on the main floor. Screams and wailings can be heard way down below the loud, loud music. Each one drives that airborne energy deep into your heart, sucking you into the moment more and more – the core of what good audience tapes bring to the experience. It’s not the screams themselves, it’s the energy jumping off the tape.

The jam finds its way briefly into a Feelin’ Groovy Jam, and then Jerry drives the group into Sugar Magnolia. Now, considering the train wreck that was the debut of this song on June 7th, it is a miracle that the song was ever played again this second time. But the tempo is much faster now, and while the song is still in its infancy (part of verse one and the refrain repeated), this version captures so much of the Grateful Dead “thing” from 1970, it’s wonderful. The unintentionally, or otherwise, syncopated “Knew she’d have to come up soon for air” line is breath taking perfection. The song segues into the triumphant Dark Star crescendo. More flash pots go off, and the second verse arrives.

Coming out of the second verse, the song takes its well documented (Live Dead, 1969) transition into St. Stephen. The crowd feels it coming (our guy behind the right side mic *really* feels it coming), and the band delivers what is clearly the biggest hit tune for the East Coast fans at the time. Everyone knows this song, and loves that they are getting to hear it. The band manages to match, or outdo the LP version, and the powerful post “One man gathers what another man spills” section explodes, much like Pigpen’s gunshot that leads it off. This section of the song goes beyond description. It all about the unstoppable energy here. There are no solos. It’s this onslaught of musical intensity. It sends shivers up and down my spine every time I hear it; a smile involuntarily paints itself on my face.

Grateful Dead May 24, 1970Jerry takes the band directly into China Cat Sunflower after St. Stephen, and again the power boils off the tape. Jerry soars. Bobby soars. Phil roars. You get the sense of the music playing the band here, much like you would in the best of some deep deep jamming. Here, within the structure of another Dead classic, the song reaches archetypical proportions and somehow transcends the individual band members themselves. A glorious country twang filled exit jam flows into I Know You Rider, Bobby’s solo spot on all the way through.

The crowd is in rapture. Gleeful shouts and screams continue. While we aren’t deep within a Caution or Lovelight now, the satisfaction of the musical journey is not diminished in the least. This is the Dead writing the book on the mystical Americana folklore-rock experience. That the show doesn’t exist in the Dead’s soundboard vault makes it somehow even more folklore-ish - a part of the undercurrent and sub-culture. Jerry’s own wail that traditionally accompanied the segue into the song’s power chord ending in 1969-70 sounds as if he’s as overtaken by the music as is the crowd. We’re right there with him.

No doubt, you may build a mental shrine for this recording yourself after it’s over. Sharing it with you points to an age old adage of Grateful Dead tape trading: It is most certainly as gratifying to share the music as it is to hear the music. I hope you find as much in this recording as I do.

06/24/70 AUD etree source info
06/24/70 AUD download

~~~


Jerry Garcia on Pedal Steel Guitar in the studio 1970-71
I have not veered into any of the Dead's side projects on this blog. But it stands to reason that some of Jerry solo work will eventually find a place here. For now, because we are talking about 6/24/70, it is as good a time as any to make sure you get yourself into some of Jerry’s *other* work with the New Riders of the Purple Sage - the psychedelic country outfit in which Jerry played pedal steel guitar from 1969 to late 1971. They opened for the Dead from May 1970 through the end of 1971, and when the 6/24/70 master made its way into circulation, the Riders sets did as well. The Riders sets are included in the links above.

One of the nicest things about a 1970 Dead show was how long it was, and how much musical ground was covered. The acoustic set, followed by the Riders, then the electric Dead made for a massive spectrum of musical exploration. The Riders were never seen as some side act. They were a solid part of the Dead’s fabric. This evening’s recordings are ultra fine, and the musicianship is top shelf. It’s great to listen to Jerry playing through all the incarnations of music, first on acoustic, then steel, then electric. I didn’t want to let my featuring this night’s show go by without making sure you got the Rider’s sets too. I love this stuff, have pretty much everything that circulates, and revisit this date often.

For whatever reason, only the flac files are loaded on archive.org for the Dead/NRPS material at the above links. A while back, I loaded the NRPS sets themselves under the Riders section of the archive, and they are available there in MP3 and zipped files if you'd rather get them that way:

06/24/70 NRPS AUD etree source info
06/24/70 NRPS AUD download

17 comments:

  1. Having grown up practically down the street from the Capitol, I have a similar relationship with these tapes as yours with the Uptown in Chicago. I love these usher tapes, especially for those perfect aud flourishes: the woman singing along to "Swing Low Sweet Chariot" on this one, or the guy on the 11/5/70 Dark Star who intones "WHOOOOA" as the gongs roar and the boys set sail into the abyss.

    I've also got to give some shine to the NFA>Easy Wind that opens the late show. In a year of ballistic NFA's, this one's a personal favorite, and the segue is a one-time-only miracle.

    And besides, did Jerry ever announce from the stage, "Mickey has to get his gongs set up, we're gonna do Dark Star"? No, he didn't.

    Do you know if the other half of the show has ever made it into circulation, or even really exists?

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  2. I can totally relate to that guy muttering "Oh my GOD" during the Dark Star. Sometimes you hear these comments on Dead tapes from long ago and it just brings you back to that sacred moment in time. Love that picture of Jerry on the Steel Pedal! darkstarjamblog

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  3. Nick, thanks for mentioning the NFA>Easy Wind. Amazing stuff there.

    In answer to your questions, to my knowledge, no the rest is not in circulation, and yes, all indications are that it exists, despite numerous mis-labeling adventures with some July dates.

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  4. What an all-time highlight set. This set probably explains why 1970 is my favorite Dead year overall, even though a few other shows/sets could claim that as well. Pure, unadulterated magic and bliss.

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  5. thanks for turning me on to this rarity-took me a week to DL it, and I'm just now listening to this wooly mammoth...The NFA>Easy Wind left me speechless. Can't wait to share this! I haven't even gotten to the meat yet...I'm scared.

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  6. Be very afraid. Speechless after the NFA>Easy Wind?? You have NO IDEA what you are in for next.

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  7. What an amazing show, and I find the sound quite listenable. I have waited several decades to hear a Dark Star that excites me as much as the "original" Live/Dead version....I don't care much for the later ones, and the other 68/69's sound a bit too much like L/D, but not as good. This performance is outstanding, and unique, and I personally love the transition to Attics.

    Noah, your blog site has reawakened me to the Grateful Dead experience. Thank you, than you, and please, send more podcasts!

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  8. True story: I was 17 years old and come home from a GD Frost show tripping balls. It was like my 4th show and I had just gotten into tapes. Not eager to talk to my mom I came through the front door and headed straight for my room upstairs. "Really tired mom, gonna lay down!" Mom: "A couple packages came from you, they are one your bed..."

    One was my first Deadbase (ed. 2). The other was a pack of two tapes from a friend. One was labeled 1976-6-14, the other unlabeled. I listened to the 76 one first, which basically blew my mind, I had really not heard that year before, it is now my favorite. I put on the second and listened, scanning the deadbase to figure out which show it was. DS > Attics > DS > SM > DS !! I scoured pages, they just did that one time, 6-24-70, which just happens to be the day I was born.

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  9. As a first-time commenter, I'd like to start by saying this is a great blog. Second, I'd like to recommend a show for consideration - July 31, 1982 - Manor Downs (Austin, Texas). Was there for the show back in the day and just returned from a weekend reunion. On the flight, I listened to newly downloaded SDB from the archive. There's a great Scarlet-Fire-Estimate-Eyes to start the second set.

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  10. Based on the set list I always wanted to get a copy of this show, thinking it must be amazing. Once I finally came across one I realized that great set lists don't always correspond with great performances. Maybe my expectations were too high, but I find this to be an just average performance with an interesting set list.

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  11. Let me first put my comments into the context of my experience with the Dead. I went to two shows- Louisville 7/6/1990 and Atlanta 3/29/1995. Before my first show I had gathered a few AUD tapes and was in love with the band. I have never been the same person since the '90 show. Over the years I have vascilated with my love of this music. Early on I spent a good amount of time with Workingman's Dead in my ears. Owned a few other live recorded, but retail sold albums. Mostly, my listening has been with later recordings. I still have a tough time digesting the 60's, but my foray into 1970 with this set has been nothing but pleasurable.

    The acoustic set is cool and I haven't spent much time listening to NRPS, so I will refer to the third set-the electric Dead set.

    What really blows me away is the intensity in this set. China Cat is the prime example. Jerry's fingers seem to be feather-light. Pay close attention to the Jerry's second opening phrase in China Cat and you'll hear some extra notes roll off that are not customary. Jerry also attacks this song relentlessly in the breaks. He is playing with vigor that I cannot find in China Cats from 4 different shows ranging from '74 to '90. Bobby's rhythm is off the charts with improv...

    Dark Star >Attics >Dark Star> Sugar Mag> Dark Star >St. Stephens is sparktacular, indescribable. Not Fade is great. Listen to this tune at about 7min 30sec and Jerry is riffing on some major pentatonic scales that must inspired Duane Allman. Another thing I love about this show is the LACK of electronica. Jerry doesn't have the massive pedal board laid out. He settles on articulation and the blues. The percussion is simple shakers at times. Just a nice sound for the whole band.

    Ultimately what we find here is music enjoyed by the band and the audience. It is communion. There is little pretense. It is a foreshadowing. A conversation for those who will openly listen.

    If "Anonymous" who posted 10/29/10 could lead us to a show that is more blessed-one that meets his expectations-we would indeed be Grateful. We are waiting for the show that makes this one sound average...

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  12. D. Moore. Right on about the China Cat... the "automation" the riffs is spot on. Check the one from 12-29-77 (DP 10) for another great one. '74 China Cats are in a class of their own in my opinion.

    This show is unreal. First AUD I finally listened the entire way through and understand the benefit. What a crowd! They are on it!

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  13. I've been searching for a show I like as much as this one for a couple of weeks. Still stuck here in Dark Star...We hear the dude say "oh my god" during the gongs, then I think the same guy says "unknown," as if in a dumbfounded state of rapture, at the beginning of St. Stephen. The crowd's appreciation here is unbelievable. Everybody was playing in the heart of gold band! Alas, I was in the womb. Just grateful to those who took the time to catch the moment for us to hear...

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  14. Zach, thanks for turning me on to the 77 show. Great China>Rider, but nice Terrapin as well. Gotta love the Terrapin Suite!

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  15. If you have to ask, then yes, you probably were. ;-)

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  16. I WAS there. Still have my stub in fact. Had been going to Dead shows in NYC area starting with my first show 2/12/69. So by 6/24/70 I was pretty seasoned Dead Head and knew what I was hearing. I saw most of my dead shows in the 69-71 timeframe but faded from the scene after Roosevelt Stadium on 8/1/73 when for the first time the band could be eclipsed behind my out-stretched hand from my crappy seat. That was it for me for quite a few years, though that show was INSANE too.

    Back to 6/24/70. We knew almost instantly that we were in the presence of an absolutely amazing night of music. There was just simply no doubt about it. Opening the late show (which I attended) with NFA blew our minds out of the gate. Folks more knowledgeable than I will know better than I how rare an opening number NFA is. But more importantly, if you listen to NFA, you see the harbinger of the rest of the show – it is over-the-top with a unique power all its own and one of the tracks I especially love along with the second DS – which is just GORGEOUS.

    The music and the tape and this fine blog speak to the amazing night of music. But I have to say something about the Sugar Magnolia. To be sure I cannot speak for the entire house. But as high as the band took us that night for me, the Sugar Magnolia was the opposite for me - a low point that I actually became obsessed with. Having come to know and love the Dead on their Aoxomoxoa tour in 69 this early version of SM was proof-positive of the fact that the band was expanding into new material that began to alienate me for one. Being young and knowing nothing about the creative lives of musicians I expected them to not change and to essentially play only the songs I wanted them to play. So every new rollout of a song was for me a sense of loss. Why play this crappy early version of SM when they could play anything from the first 3 albums? I feel stupid about that now, very stupid because with that SM I started backing away from the dead and with the big venues that they were increasingly forced into playing, the combination of new materials and not being able to see the band put me into hiatus that I kind of regret now. On the good side, it forced me to explore other music and what an awesome time to be a music lover! Anyway, I have always said and always will assert that 6/24/70 was far and away the most awesome night of the Dead I have ever had the fortune of enjoying.

    And this is no lie - when we walked out of the Cap theater into the chill air of that early summer morning the sky in the east was already aglow with the coming of 6/25/70.

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