Thursday, May 7, 1970
Dupont Gymnasium, M.I.T., Cambridge, MA
I’ve mentioned once or twice one of my earliest trades with a guy who had the whole enchilada: 3000+ hours of music, page after page of a tape list, all hand written. He mailed a photocopy to me so we could arrange a trade. As I've recollected in a previous post, I probably baited him with my 25th anniversary Watkins Glen tapes. In that trade I scored 05/12/74, 06/09/76, and 05/07/70. In retrospect, I know I will never forget this trade, though the name of the trader has completely drifted away. I kept good notes, but not good enough.
The 1970 MIT tape was mind boggling to me. It wasn’t a good quality recording, but it was complete, and I mean really complete. It was the entire show, end to end, New Riders set included. It was so early in my on line tape collecting journey that going through the show from start to finish was riveting for me. Probably the first time I did such a thing with a 1970 show - there just aren't that many complete documents out there of these three set 1970 shows. The acoustic set has much the same feeling as the famous Harpur College show on May 2nd, five days earlier – it exudes a certain undeniable comfortable swagger from the band. Their interplay with the crowd smacks of confidence. The hitherto almost unheard event of an “acoustic set” manages to stop the entire audience in its tracks. Don’t Ease Me In opens the show and is delivered perfectly. The I Know You Rider come off like a church service, the energy so thick you can’t help but recognize the magic going on. Friend Of The Devil is Jerry story telling at its finest. Before I go on praising the actual show, I want to tell more of the story around the copy I put into digital circulation.
A year or so after scoring this show, someone reached out to me with a request. This person had this grad school professor (East Coast, as I recall) who had been sitting on a large collection of Reel to Reel tapes – not his own, many of which were Dead related, many unlabelled. Since this person didn’t have access to a R2R deck, but knew I had one, he asked if I would be willing to sort through the tapes and look for any potential gold hidden in dem dar hills. As it would come to pass, this was a significant day in my Dead tape trading life.
Judging solely on what *was* labeled in the precious boxes I received in the mail, I knew we must be dealing with a very old-school taper. Just the fact that there was a reel with the FM broadcast of 08/13/75 ("One From The Vault") among the tapes was clue enough. That show had passed quite far out of trading circles at the start of the 90’s. In fact, in my own short history of tape trading, I had no clue that such a tape was every out there. Thus the fun began. Probably the most staggering discoveries in this collection came from the single reel that contained an upgrade to 07/18/72 running both sides on the left channel, and 05/07/70 on the right.
So burned into my memory is my first pass at testing the blank side of this tape (the reel was labeled only as holding the 07/18/72 Roosevelt show), that whenever I hear the first strains of the Don’t Ease Me In I am transported back to standing in my basement, staring at the reel turning in front of me as shivers rolled up my back. Not only had I stumbled upon a fantastic show that I knew was in very low circulation, but this was such a profound upgrade in sound quality, I could hardly let myself believe it was 05/07/70 at all. At first I just stood smiling at the fact that I was hearing *some* acoustic Dead set in really fine quality. The 05/07 revelation came later, as I wouldn’t allow myself to quickly scan the tape by fast forwarding to check the song list – the tapes were old, and I didn’t want to take the chance of damaging them. No longer able to just feel lucky, I was clearly living a charmed life in Dead tape land with this kind of stuff make its way into my hands.
Months, perhaps more than a year, followed with the process of my trying to validate that I might really be holding onto the best copy around. This is a similar dark, dusty, and sometimes lonely process that any historian might pour through when trying to date a particular literary find. I began reaching out to people I knew, and people I didn’t know, trying to hunt down the truth. Mostly, I wanted to find a better cassette version of what I had gotten in trade a few years prior because a fair portion of the end of Lovelight was going to have to come from an alternate source, since the upgrade reel ran out early. In the end there was no better sounding copy for patching the end of the show other than my original tape. But, I did happen across a completely different master tape, circulating in unknown lineage, that would help bridge some of the in between song passages, and first handful of seconds on songs where the better tape was pausing and missing the first notes. 05/07/70 was my first foray into digital cross fading. As rough as this seed was to assemble, it was a pleasure compared to the pains of assembling edits on analog cassette, trust me.
Musically, this show has quite literally everything. In much the same way as Harpur College 05/02/70 provides an incredible document of a complete evening with the Dead in Spring 1970, 05/07/70 does as well. Many might agree that if only we had a soundboard of 05/07 that could stand up next to Harpur, the battle for which show bests the other would be very tight. The multiple tape sources, all with multiple gens, that represent this best possible version *could* someday be upgraded to the AUD master itself. Heck, if it could happen for 06/24/70, it could happen here to. Everything is possible at this point. Doubtful that there is a soundboard out there, though.
Perhaps the highest recording quality portion of this show occurs for the acoustic set. For a 1970 AUD, it doesn’t disappoint. The set is driven by Jerry’s amazingly emotive vocals. He is so expressive, there are times where his voice sings like a bird. Things are so intimate, at times it’s like you’re sitting around a campfire with just Jerry and Bobby. The Friend Of The Devil and Candyman are flawless in this regard. As the show announcer says, “wood, organic, Grateful Dead.” The crowd is suspiciously silent throughout the set while the band plays, very different (more respectful?) than the 06/24/70 acoustic set. It lends to the church-like, hypnotic proceedings. This set gives and gives. Repeated listening over the years have never failed to satisfy.
The New Riders set elevates the energy up as a perfect segue headed toward to the Electric Grateful Dead. This set finds the Riders (including Mickey on drums and Garcia on pedal steel) in top form. They had really honed their craft in the prior 6 to 8 months, and this was their first actually tour out on the road with the Dead. They perfectly lift the crowd into a more energized state while continuing to draw on the acoustic country leanings of the first set. The Riders managed to condense psychedelia down into 4 minute songs in such a way that they draw you in without knowing why. Great stuff, always.
The Electric set comes out guns blazing, and turns in great song after song. But this show goes down in history for its Cyptical>Other One>Cryptical suite and its Lovelight. This face melting Other One explodes with such force it’s as if mountains are exploding all around you, oceans are boiling over in earthquake-driven frenzy, and stars are smashing together only inches from your eyes. There is no place to hide. It overwhelms the strongest of wills to stand in the face of its power. It will win. There are breaths taken before the second verse, but this seems only to set us up for the band out doing itself on the explosive ramp up to the last verse itself. The fans around the taper scream out of control at this, and you can’t help but feel that it is a most appropriate reaction. Towering, over the top energy. Then the Cryptical Reprise places us in one of those absolutely perfect places of quiet comfort. It is seductively psychedelic, reminding me of times cocooned at the bottom of an empty ocean bowling up around me for miles – the music lightly drifting around like dust in sunlight. When the Cryptical explodes into the “You know he had to die” section, you’re a goner. Massive explosions again rush into the distance leaving us in a drippy Cosmic Charlie. Awesome.
Ready for the challenge of living up to the Other One, Lovelight is like a self contained set unto itself. Lovelight>St. Stephen Jam>Jam>Darkness Jam>Jam>China Cat Sunflower Jam>Lovelight. There’s nothing like a Lovelight that forgets itself in direction after direction. It’s the fastest 34-odd minutes ever. It rounds corners, pokes its head up, spins, flips, and dances with fantastic creativity. The jamming cooks and rocks. This is inspirational music, the kind of stuff that would turn you into a Deadhead for life. The monstrous front end Lovelight quivers, rumbles, shakes and grooves like a fountain of multi-colored music. They hit St. Stephen at 80 miles an hour and tear the house down. Jerry is everywhere. A tripped out mini jam follows on the way to Darkness Darkness. The Jam out of the Darkness Jam burns hot and eventually finds its way into pure 1970 heaven – that lilting Feeling Groovy groovy-ness that is often found in 1970 Dancin’ In The Streets. Another spot you could leave me forever. Then we whip around into the China Cat Jam from there, and it is just wild. If you didn’t know that this band let things come from an improvisational creative flow, you’d think that this was an orchestrated medley of hit tunes. When they coolly slip back into Lovelight, and Pigpen returns to the mic, they head into a built up ending that will leave you exhausted. An explosive groaning and extended final note serves to scorch the earth in its wake. And then it’s done. The tape runs for a while after, and some guy’s exclamation of “Holy shit” seems to capture the moment perfectly. The tape runs down to the very last clap, and it’s time to come back to earth again.
Audience Devotional Tree Round 4 - September, 2001