Tuesday, June 26, 1973
Seattle Center Arena – Seattle, WA
Along with 06/22/73, the other Don Amick recording I had the pleasure of bringing into digital circulation some years ago was 06/26/73 Seattle. After going years with a cassette copy of the show that was in the “B” range of quality due to generational hiss and tape speed issues, coming into contact with a true reel-2 copy of Don’s recording was a dream come true. The tape was not without its share of challenging tape cuts that needed editing, but the overall sound experience is near that of Don’s 6/22, and certainly outdoes the SBD for overall enjoyment. The soundboard of this show falls short for a number of reasons: hiss, bad mix, technical woes, etc.. The way to really connect here is through the AUD.
I will say that enjoying this AUD will be aided by some ear acclimation time. Similar to an AUD from 1970, you would do better to take the show in as a whole as much as you can. Dropping in on a particular highlight will come without your ear having had time to get used to things. I experienced this myself when getting ready to review the tape after not hearing it for years. I dropped in right on the Playin’ and I was struck by some of the harder aspects of the recording. Afterward, I went back and started from the top of the show, and after a song or two I was able to appreciate the distinct highpoints of the AUD – nice separation, clear high hat and vocals, sweet bass. It then allowed me to be completely in a place to fully enjoy the bigger jams of the show without distraction. I’d say you need a good 15 minutes with any AUD to fully acclimate. If you’re dying to check out the Other One, start with the Truckin’ and let the AUD grow on you from there.
06/26/73 has an ideal set list for me. A show opening Casey Jones (a rare treat to open a 1973 show) is delivered in a rather subdued fashion. But it has such an inviting characteristic to it in the way it bounces around. Its carefree and understated delivery make for a special level of enjoyment – different than the hard driving versions that more typically close a set. It makes me wonder what a Sugar Magnolia might have sounded like placed somewhere other than the end of set two (always). Casey Jones segues into Greatest Story Ever Told, and with that the energy skyrockets. It’s one lovely song after another here, Brown Eyed Women, Jack Straw, Box Of Rain. Yes yes yes. All of them give off a really relaxed pleasure. While it is often a tendency to look at 1973 first sets as less than interesting and lacking energy, this show is a fantastic listen – not because the songs have more amazing energy than you would expect, not even because Jerry is doing things with his leads that are beyond the norm. This show just has a perfect balance of mellow 1973-ness and focused song delivery. The band is engaged in a way they would sometimes not be in other shows from the year.
The first set goes on forever, tucking a great Cumberland Blues (only 7 of them in all of 1973) and China>Rider still two songs ahead of the eventual set closing Playin’ In The Band. After all of this fantastically Dead-flavored first set music, Playin’ In The Band brings with it a nice jam that allows the band to flex its psychedelic muscle a bit. Early on it finds Jerry opening up to lots of empty passages. He lets non-playing fill between his leads, where the band grooves along. It’s a nice punctuation. Slowly the energy mounts. Jerry rolls all around his pallet of sound colors. You can hear him going from pick up to pick up, changing volume and tone, turning on and off the wha-wha pedal, searching for the right voice. This provides a lot of wonderful intricacy to his solo. However, it is more likely that he is somewhat frustrated with his sound, searching for a place he can settle in and just play. After a bit more of this he seems to strike a good combination and flows back into more lead lines that fire off, then go silent, allowing the emptiness to punctuate the phrases he leaves in the air. He’s like a painter stabbing brush to canvas, then stepping back, then stabbing again. The song wraps up and ends shorter than most Playin’s of the year. It’s just a hint of what the second set will bring.
The second set opens with a Bertha>Promised Land that feels great. The show settles right back into the pre-Playin’ groove of set one – great songs delivered within a focused mellow energy. Then there’s the tape flip shortened Drums that explodes into one of the best Other Ones of the year. Words seem ill equipped to define just what made the Summer of 1973 so unique from the other parts of the year. This Other One does not suffer from that same challenge. It is the pure embodiment of what makes this period so wonderful. The band is a cauldron of power through this opening section of the song. Yet it all feels very lyrical and warm at the same time, another characteristic of the Summer shows.
The audience recording quality here is hypnotic. Phil’s bass is exuding its tone in ways no soundboard tape could ever hope to portray. Bobby is very upfront in the entire recording, while not overbearing, and it allows us to completely appreciate his full spectrum of tone as well, let alone his deft playing style. Billy’s cymbals and snare glimmer. Keith’s keyboard work is right in your face. And Jerry glows over everything happening around him. You are able to sit back and let 1973 wash all over you. After more than six minutes the band’s every circling flower petals of multi-colors seem to close up for the approach of night, and they slip into Me & Bobby McGee.
You know, I’m a big fan of the “Jam>Cowboy Tune>Jam” song structure that the Dead exploited. And, here we find a lovely Bobby McGee tucked inside this Other One. But, maybe it’s because this Other One is so completely what I love about the June ’73 shows, I feel somewhat wrenched away from the Other One with this transition. I just never want that Other One to end. Interestingly, Phil drops out almost entirely, and when he does play, he has stopped playing anything below about the 5th fret. This lends the proceedings to be even more distinct from the Other One that came before. Somehow the entire sound spectrum has been sucked down to two or three colors, where moments ago it was topping three hundred. All in all it ends up being an expert move, because when the band exist back into the Other One, it’s like we’ve just passed through the eye of a hurricane. We’re whisked back into the frenzy, and it leaves a deliciously psychedelic aftertaste to the Bobby McGee (did that just happen?).
For the next seven to eight minutes things are even better than they were before the Bobby McGee. The multi-colored flower is opened wide again and there are as many colors as there are petals on a chrysanthemum. It’s one more fantastic twist and turn after another. Phil is back to reaching low on the fret board. Keith pulls off a solo section that shows that there really was an extremely talented keyboard player in the band. The band displays an impeccable ability to listen to each other and build off of the phrases that each is playing. Jerry’s playing again is fuelled by the expression of licks and phrases that are punctuated by pauses. He ties them together so artfully, holding off on a note that you can anticipate after a phrase until a perfectly syncopated moment a few beats later. As his lead runs move higher up the neck of the guitar, it gives off a feeling of running up a flight of stairs, leaping at times over two or three steps as he goes. The cauldron of power is starting to boil over the sides, and gone are the relaxed jazzy leanings. This is something pure Grateful Dead now. The first verse forms. It comes and goes. From here we drop off into a simply sensational feedback driven space that could be one of the most overlooked of the year.
Amick’s tape has a bunch of trouble over this passage, and it took some daunting effort at the sonic workbench to clean it up. I don’t generally mention my own digitizing efforts, but I recall this one as particularly draining. Plus because of the numerous cuts, I spent the hours getting through it anticipating my own finally being able to hear this Space in as un-mutilated a fashion as possible. Before this editing, the cuts came at you like a hammer to the head, over and over. Seven incidents of apparent pause button tapping later (09:58, 10:12, 11:43, 11:46, 11:50, 11:55, 12:38), and the Space was allowed to flow in almost complete non-distraction. I used to be able to count these edits as the final product passed my ear. Now, years later, that ability is blissfully gone, and I just melt into the multidimensional sound explosion that refuses to allow one to find footing at any angle. It’s a brain crippling ride, itself several minutes long. The band is relentless, while not utterly cacophonous, layering tone, noise, and feedback that strip away you ability to experience anything else. And when it finally ebbs away and places you at the start of Sugar Magnolia, you can’t help but shake your head to reset your balance. The set closer grounds us nicely, necessary after such a deep and twisted exploration, and we can feel our physical bodies again, bopping around and clapping to the music.
Summer 1973. Worth every moment.
06/26/73 AUD etree source info
06/26/73 AUD download
Audience Devotional Tree Round 14 – January, 2003