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The intro posts are always a good start, followed logically by
my thoughts on Music & Being, which guide my writing.
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Listening Trail.

Monday, March 31, 2008

1984 July 13 - Greek Theatre

Grateful Dead - July 1984 Greek Theatre Berkeley, CA
Friday, July 13, 1984
Greek Theatre – Univ. Of California, Berkeley, CA
Audience Recording

The Dead and the Greek Theatre. These two got along very well for many years. There are countless classic Dead shows from this venue (29 total dates at this spot, spanning the entire 80’s plus one show each in ’67 and ’68). One look, and you can tell it has more than just charm. An outdoor stage, done in the traditional Greek bowl style. Tree-lined, and cradled in Berkeley, California.

I pondered many a show to be the first to recommend from 1984. There are so many excellent choices. But my mind kept coming back to 7/13/84. Not just because it features the Dark Star encore (the only time this song was played between 12/31/81 and 10/9/89), but because the entire recording is filled with treats, and a good recording from the Greek in ’84 is a critical sonic experience in any Deadhead’s book. This show/tape has it all.

Phil Lesh November 1984The first set is playful. The band isn’t forcing anything, and they seem in good spirits. Jerry is engaged and playing well. There’s nothing earth shattering going on, but none-the-less, the set gives off a wonderful “Dead vibe” throughout. It’s a really nice slice of how warm and inviting a first set from the mid 80’s could be. The sound sparkles and shimmers just enough to let you know that there’s more at play here brewing its way into the second set.

Set two sets off with a Scarlet Begonias > Touch Of Grey > Fire On The Mountain. Touch wouldn’t make it to the Billboard Top 10 (number 9) until 1987, but the song had been in the Dead’s rotation since 1982. Jerry’s discovery of the tune deep in the Scarlet jam is very nice. The crowd loves it. The outro into Fire is well done, and later, when the crowd beings to clap along, you can’t help but be completely swept up into the moment. Band and crowd, once again, locked in a lover’s embrace.

Space is something that could occasionally meander from time to time in the 80’s. Jerry could sometimes find himself endlessly swirling in a brooding, minor key vortex. This is not the case on 7/13. This Space is really nice, and transforms the entire venue into spinning planets and stars. Everyone is playing at it with attention to detail. A beautiful Wheel comes out of Space, and later, Jerry’s delivery of Stella Blue hushes the entire crowd. His exit solo gently builds upon itself, winding its way slowly into the evening air, building energy all the way. Sugar Magnolia rocks down the house, blazing the set to a close.

Jerry Garcia 1984 Ventura, CAThere’s a note in Deadbase that references a shooting star before the encore. Not sure if this was the inspiration, but Phil asks the crowd for a little patience because they want to try a little something special tonight – one night only. And then it begins...

It’s hard not to heap a lot of hype onto this Dark Star since there isn’t another one for nearly four years in one direction and over five years in the other. It makes judging it conclusively nearly impossible. But if you strip away the inclination to hold it up against Dark Stars of the 70’s, what you’ll find is about 16 minutes of sweetly performed 1984-style psychedelic interplay that blurs the tree tops into the starlight. There are nice moments where Jerry hones in on some wonderful riffs and rides them into the night air. Late in the jam, when the song’s theme reappears and you think the last verse is about to begin, they drift away from it, gently floating into deeper pools of refracting light. The crowd seems to have collectively closed its eyes, breathing slowly and deeply. At the end, they let the music unravel like a wave slowly slipping along the sand back into the sea. They seem to be delicately placing a jewel back on its shelf in a glass cabinet, being ever so careful not to disturb even the air around it. With a hush, it’s over.

07/13/84 AUD etree source info
07/13/84 AUD Download

Monday, March 24, 2008

1973 March 26 - Baltimore Civic Center

1973 Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir
Monday, March 26, 1973
Baltimore Civic Center - Baltimore, MD
Soundboard Recording

Every portion of 1973 has its own special flair or flavor. The band’s improvisational groove was evolving on a tour by tour basis, and there were strong themes to each stage of the year. If I wasn’t such a diehard fan of the jazzy/spacey jamming nature of the Summer ’73 shows in particular, I would absolutely hold March 1973 above all else from the year.

The March shows have a special trademark. Over and over again the band finds its way into a jamming passages that defy naming. Set lists almost don’t do it justice. There are more times where you can only call something a “jam” in March ’73 than most any other stretch of the year. The band was pushing its own envelop to extreme in March. Also, there is hardly a weak moment in the entire tour. Every show, with the possible exception of 3/30/73, is top shelf. This makes it all the more difficult to know where to get started with March ’73.

Bob Weir Oct 19, 1973For me, when I mentally look at my wall of shows to pick a place to start with March 1973, I land on 3/26/73. So tough is this decision, that just typing the date out into this post fills me with regret and indecision. I’ll take that as a reminder that the entire month is filled with must-listen-to moments, more so than the possibility that it’s the wrong choice. Take this as an opening door. You can safely step back into the hall of March ’73 and open most any other.

The entire month is blessed with A quality soundboard recordings in circulation. This was not always the case, mind you, and 3/26 was one of the late comers to the SBD circulating pile. This never stopped it from going down in tape collectors' minds as an amazing show worth checking out.

In a perfect example of how March ’73 found the band going down completely uncharted paths, the 3/26 Truckin’ slowly dissolves into a shimmering pool of light ripples and waves, drawing to a near stop, then meandering again like soft footprints in delicate sands. While the logical transition from this song would be into Other One, here they have gone in a completely different direction, luxuriously sliding into a Weather Report Suite Prelude. This is one of the early handful of times they played it (it wouldn’t get into regular rotation until September ’73 after they recorded the Wake Of The Flood album), and it fits perfectly. This then opens up into some of the prettiest free form jamming of the entire year. It is Dark Star-esque in the way it simply seems to expand in all directions. Billy picks things up with a light jazz tempo, and the band follows him on a beautiful stroll for a time. Jerry starts hinting at slightly darker themes, but the lovely nature of this “out of bounds” jam can’t be turned off track. We eventually emerge into Wharf Rat. It fits so well, it’s as if it was planned all along.

Grateful Dead February 24, 1973Wharf Rat masterfully spirals out into Me & Bobby McGee. Jerry solos over the entire song beautifully; his lines full of grace and subtlety. The song draws to a natural end. The band and crowd take a breath, and before exhaling, Jerry opens them up into a lovely early Eyes Of The World. The tempo is perfect, and a joyous dance ensues. This is one of those close your eyes and rock your head back and forth versions. In less than two months (Eyes debuted in the first show of the year on 2/9/73) this song if fully matured. Jerry’s solos form wide arcs in the sky as he rolls around the guitar neck, and the deep 7/8 jam in the song takes each hairpin turn very nicely. The jam settles itself into Morning Dew, and there’s no place you’d rather be. There are 15 Morning Dew’s in 1973, and they are all worth finding. The band’s slow and silent bloom into the final crescendo after Jerry’s last “Guess it doesn’t matter anyway” will stop your breath and draw all your attention.

In the end we get no Other One, and no Dark Star, but it’ no matter. Perhaps even because of this, the show offers other unique and special gifts, going to unexpected places and bringing back treasures all the same. Another treasure worth mentioning in closing from this show is Candyman. There are only 4 versions in all of 1973 and they are stuck in such odd shows that a person might think the song was never even played that year at all. Dig Jerry’s wha-wha infused solo. It’s very nice.


03/26/73 SBD etree source info
03/26/73 SBD Stream

Thursday, March 20, 2008

1971 November 7 - Harding Theater

Grateful Dead - March 25, 1971

Sunday, November 7, 1971
Harding Theater - San Francisco, CA
Soundboard Recording

Winter 1971 Grateful Dead. Keith Godchaux joined the band in mid October, and the band was energized with this new addition of talent. 11/7/71 smokes from bell to bell. The band is in great spirits, chatting it up to the crowd (both in the hall and on the radio), despite technical difficulties a-plenty. Set one opens with a blistering Truckin’ and it never looks back. Everything is just a little better than usual, and everywhere you look (listen) there is something wonderful going on.

Jerry Garcia 1971Take a close listen to Jerry’s background vocals, of all things, on Beat It On Down The Line. He is just loving the song. “Coal mine, coal mine, coal mine.” It’s just awesome. Jerry gives each “coal mine” its own special color, and something so minor elevates the song to the “you don’t want to miss this” level. This is the sort of thing that makes me love Jerry all the more. More of the same for the “happy home’s” at the end of the song, after which Jerry then gives off a “Wooo!” and you can’t help but be drawn into the great energy of the first set.

Jerry’s leads throughout the show are great, and Billy Kreutzmann’s drumming makes you realize that he is without a doubt one of the most unsung rock drummers of all time. He is the glue that holds the whole thing together, and the core force that creates all this great energy within the band.

There are many tunes that would still qualify as “new.” “Brown-Eyed Women,” “Jack Straw,” “Tennessee Jed,” “Comes A Time” (with an extra verse), “Ramble On Rose,” “Mexicali Blues,” “One More Saturday Night” – most of these debuted less than three weeks earlier, and every one of them is delivered as an absolute gem on 11/7/71. The late second set “Playin’ In The Band” is already starting to stretch out with a nice jam-interlude section on its way to its ultimate form in 1972. And, we even get one of only two versions of “Hideaway.” The other would come in 1989.

Grateful Dead Berkeley Community Theater 1971Then there’s that Dark Star> Drums> Other One> Me & My Uncle> Other One in the second set. Whew! The Dark Star is very spacey, in a gentle, “leave me here to wander around blissfully for a few years” sort of way. So nice. After a nice tight drum solo, the Other One explodes. This version is noteworthy for the way it quickly transitions from thunderstorm-like power to glistening dew-like quiet again and again. The quiet passages feel a lot like the Dark Star, and thus manage to swirl the brain all the more. Adding to this is the perfect slip into Me & My Uncle. You want a monstrously psychedelic explosive Me & My Uncle? This is it. It would be even more noteworthy if it wasn’t for the fact that late 1971 was the season of the Other One/Cowboy Song/Other One sandwiches. This one finds the intense interplay of the second set infusing the simple nature of the song – the Other One plays the Me & My Uncle here. It tears through as if it never saw what was coming. Fantastic.

The second set goes on and on with great music. The NFA>GDTRFB>NFA is one for the ages. The combination of great huge jams and equally great single songs makes this show worth listening to from start to finish many times over.

A historically hard show to find in excellent quality, this pre-FM master made it into circulation some years ago. Truly a treasure.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

1969 May 3 - Winterland Arena

Saturday, May 3, 1969
Winterland Arena, San Francisco, CA
Audience Recording

1969 was an altogether epic year for the Grateful Dead. Baring just a few, virtually all shows will deliver smiles.
While there aren’t necessarily piles of fantastic audience recordings from this year, there are a few nice ones. And deciding to stick with my AUD tape theme makes it a whole lot easier to pick a first stop in ’69.

5/3/69 might not go down as the greatest 1969 show in history. A lot of the show wasn’t even recorded. But it could go down as one of the best AUD tapes ever. Most would agree that you have GOT to hear this tape. It was recorded from the lip of the stage, and while the vocals are distant since the mics were outside of the PA speaker field, what you end up with is a frighteningly clean AUD recording of the band. Ever wonder what it might have been like to be sitting on the stage during a Dead show? Here you go.

The quality of this tape eclipses the performance. But even so, the He Was A Friend Of Mine is absolutely gorgeous, and the Other One suite contains a good number of power packed peaks with Jerry’s solos leaping into the air, careening on angles not found in our simple three dimensional world.

There’s nothing to regret here aside from the fact that the tape runs out way too early in the show. Please avoid the use of heavy machinery while listening, and you might want to turn out the lights. This tape will suck you in pretty quickly.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

1974 August 6 - Roosevelt Stadium

Grateful Dead 1974 GRATEFUL DEAD
Tuesday, August 6, 1974
Roosevelt Stadium - Jersey City, NJ
Audience Recording

Yes, this show is featured on a Dick’s Picks that you should own. But going back, once again, to my strong contention that the Wall of Sound wasn’t something possible to capture on a soundboard tape, I feel it more than worthwhile to share the recording that firmly created my contention in the first place. I can promise you that adding this audience recording experience to your listening log is essential if you’re looking for some of the best that 1974 can offer.

While this was the second seed round on the Audience Devotional Tree, it was actually the recording that inspired the tree in the first place. It was the first show for which I ever performed digital editing, as well. The tree always had a subtle, quite chip on its shoulder to prove that AUD tapes can often out perform a SBD, and this recording was tattooed on that chip.

A couple of key takeaways, and then you just need to listen to this thing (my colorful ramblings might simply get in the way of this one. The music speaks volumes):

Grateful Dead 08/02/74 Ticket - Cancelled due to rainFirst, this show might never have happened if it wern't for the rain out on 08/02/74. This is another outdoor AUD, and the taper, Neil Merin, is firmly in the sweet spot. Sitting in the midst of Roosevelt Stadium, the tape captures a great deal of the fun being had by the crowd. But it also captures the intense volume level of the Wall itself. This is hard to pin down, really. But it is clearly one of the ethereal properties of AUD tapes. The music is LOUD. It feels loud. It feels good. You don’t wish that you (the microphone) could be sitting just a little closer. And as you find yourself being absorbed by the transcendent music of the show, you might find yourself sweetly reminded that this is just some dude sitting in the midfield, somehow clutching the mic, deck, extra batteries, et al, and coming away with a spot on excellent recording. This thought hits me over and over while listening to this tape, and it elevates the enjoyment all the more. Merin’s batteries began a slow death in Truckin’. Luckily Ihor Slabicky provides another stellar tape to finish off the show.

Second, the transcendent music. There is little understatement when you hear people talk about the first set Eyes of the World and Playin’>Scarlet>Playin’ from this show. There are things happening in each that go way beyond the norm. Both are colossal, and could be seen as the distillation of everything that was 1974. They are that good. Really, the year 1974 peaked during the week of shows from 7/31/74 to 8/6/74. And this end cap of music from 8/6 is the summit. You might already feel that way from hearing the Dick’s Pick. You’ll likely appreciate it all the more after hearing the AUD. Also not to be missed here is the Uncle John’s Band, Jack Straw, and the Other One ain’t no slouch either.

Grateful Dead 1974Interestingly, the 8/6/74 Eyes and Playin’ are so infamous, and have been circulating in one form or another for so long, they sometimes fall out of conversations when folks are talking about the best this and the best that. It’s as if these versions sit on a pedestal, and the fact that they are up there is reduced to an unspoken absolute. Much the same is true about the big ’73 Watkins jam. We often forget to even talk about it, like, there’s the Watkins jam, and then everything else from 1973. We’ll get more into that one later.

Jerry’s guitar bristles with electricity on 8/6/74. As clumsy as the description is, that’s the best way that I’ve ever been able to describe this recording. And Phil may as well be sitting in your lap. The music conveys its sheer power on this tape. I feel this is a necessary sound experience in the makeup of anyone’s multi-ingredient mix of things that form your appreciation of the Dead’s music. It gives you a top shelf AUD, along with a top shelf show.

After listening to this one, you might find it hard to hear a ’74 SBD and not wonder what a really good AUD of the show might provide. If that’s my fault, I fully own up to the fact that you’re on to my plan.

08/06/74 AUD etree source info
08/06/74 AUD Download

Audience Devotional Tree Round 2 - January 2001

Saturday, March 8, 2008

1977 June 4 - The Forum, Inglewood, CA

Jerry & Donna 1977

Saturday, June 4, 1977
The Forum – Inglewood, CA
Audience Recording

I feel like featuring one of these “no SBD in circulation” shows as my next stop in 1977. In a year that overflows with great music, it can often be daunting to know which flavor of candy to pick when all of it is so delicious. 6/4/77 doesn’t often find a spot on folk’s top 10 lists for 1977, perhaps specifically because it doesn’t circulate in SBD (which typically exposes a show to many more ears). But, this is a worthy listen, and I feel it is ideal for recommendation on the pages of the Listening Guide. Whether new to the Dead, or looking for a little inspiration as to what you might put on today, 6/4/77 is going to make you glad you listened.

There was a lot of new stuff unveiled in 1977, not the least of which being Terrapin Station, Estimated Prophet, and Fire On The Mountain. The band was also continuing to capitalize on their now enormous repertoire of songs, mixing things up all over the place. Set lists tended to be more daring and exciting on paper starting in late 1976. This show, in the summer of ’77, is no exception. In fact, when you look at just part of set two on paper, it feels like more than one show packed into one set.

Jerry Garcia April 22, 1977Tape collectors usually speak praise by saying things like, “You gotta hear this tape! They do a Terrapin into Playin’ into Franklin’s!!! I KNOW!! It looks so good on paper, you gotta hear this.” Here, there’s far more than one mouthful to cover when it comes to an amazing string of songs:

Terrapin Station> Playin’> Franklin's Tower> Space>China Doll> Not Fade Away> Playin’ Reprise

Bring it on! This is no standard set list by a long shot.

Something that 1977 has going for it that not all years can claim is that the band made exceptional use of the transitions between songs. Breathtaking segues were common in 1977, and this show has them in spades. When you couple this with the fact that even the seasoned listener would never expect to hear Playin’ go into Franklin’s, let alone China Doll go into Not Fade Away (What!?!?!), you have yourself a listening journey packed with excitement and uniqueness. 6/4/77 delivers all of this and more.

The first set cooks, and is capped by a Music Never Stopped that roars. It is only an inkling of what’s to come in set two.

Estimated Prophet, new in ’77, gets the full attention of the band and it’s an awesome ride. Jerry flying on his new auto-filter effect, he’s like a dancer pulling of graceful step after step. We slip nicely into Eyes of the World, and the up-tempo brings with it a rise in energy. The band has made it into the zone. In the intro jam, Jerry erupts with lyrical solo after solo, now sounding more like a bird in love with the morning sun. It’s blissful. The Drums after Eyes is short and not to be missed. Don’t skip the track. It is followed by a raucous Good Lovin’ brimming with energy. Then you can take a breath. Make it a deep one. From here we head down a long and twisted ride into all that is good about the good ol’ Grateful Dead.

Grateful Dead Terrapin turtlesTerrapin Station's from 1977 were extremely focused. Jerry’s ability to take Hunter’s lyrics to song are almost never more aptly done, and in its early stages, the song had a certain extra special something not found in later years. This is no exception. This turns nicely into Playin’ In The Band. The Playin’ jam itself is deep and spacious - a quiet and introspective passage in the second set that is almost more about the emptiness around what’s played, then the actual music itself. It is spread out and wafting, like a warm breeze in the evening. Reaching almost a complete pause in everything, it’s like a snowflake coming inches from settling on the ground, but in its near weightlessness, getting swept up into a darker wind, never quite reaching a full stop. The tempo of the song has been left long ago for a more abstract gurgling of subdued chaos. Then like an army of troops cresting over a hill in the distance, the triumphant march of Franklin’s appears out of the mist. The effortlessness with which the band makes its way between these songs makes it all the more amazing when it happens. Incredible.

Then, out of Franklin’s, the band settles back into the near silent space-jamming that came before it. Besides a minor tape flip into the jam, we are once again treated to an exceptional passage out of one song into another. In this three and a half minute transition, you can hear the band thinking on its feet. There’s a lot of stuff going on. Many wide swells of volume, and dissonance pervade. And then, amidst a dark veil, China Doll. The crowd loves it.

The decent out of China Doll brings on yet another unexpected segue. The beautiful nature of the song slips into a more up-tempo cadence, and we hear the unmistakable rhythm of Not Fade Away. It’s toyed with for a bit, the crowd left to ponder exactly where this thousand mile journey is taking them next. Then we get the song proper and the roof explodes. I’m not always a fan of late era NFA’s, but this is worth every note. Jerry’s leads are heroic. He gets way more out of this song than is humanly possible. It’s gold, and it seems to go on forever. It’s late in the show, and the band shows no signs of slowing down.

Grateful Dead November 6, 1977Where can we go now besides another lovely transition? Sure enough, out of NFA we are dropped back into the gentle rain of the Playin’ jam. Its light fingers caressing your hair, fanning the winds inside your body. Then with the force of a hurricane, Playin’ crashed upon you. Up and up and up it swirls. Then a bit more. And more still. It ends. We can breathe.

In likely the only time you will see me devote space to the song “One More Saturday Night,” you must not leave the party early tonight my friend. For if you do, your friends will shame you for having missed one of the most perfectly delivered, overly exuberant renditions of this song on tape. A normal near throw away after you’ve heard a few hundred of them, tonight’s encore is a must listen. You will gain nothing by being the first out of the parking lot tonight. This is what the song always wanted to be. A cooler tempo, and a ferocious energy, I never would have thought to talk to you about versions of this song you need to hear. Well, here ya go.

Another Rob Bertrando master, the sound quality is good, and gets better with the second set where things become near as perfect as we could want. We don't have this one available in SBD, so enjoy this luckily persevered glimpse.

When All You Have Is All You Need

View from the crowd - Grateful Dead 01/20/79

Long ago, before we ever got to this stage of Grateful Dead musical archiving, things were very different. One of the “*not too* long ago’s" came at the end of the last centurry with the explosion of soundboard recordings that flooded the scene after Dick Latvala’s passing.

Dick LatvalaThe last months of 1999, and even into 2000, saw such an explosion of SBD tapes make it on the scene, that the Deadhead’s Taping Compendium Series had to release a fourth volume just to address this flood of shows. This leaves certain shows that to this day ONLY circulate in AUD form a bit more rare, and all the more special.

There’s something to the fact that if it weren’t for the efforts of some young fans of the Dead who felt compelled to go through the pains of bringing in mics, tapes, decks, batteries, and often cunning skill, we would never know the musical magic of what happened on certain nights. These folks could have easily just been among the crowds that got lost in the music, swept up in the cyclone of energy, and had their minds blown open by Jerry and the boys. Instead, they navigated all this, AND did everything they had to do in order to get the show on tape, from smuggling equipment into the arena to flipping tapes and checking levels throughout the show. Many of these people did this over and over and over again.

Now, years after what seems like the final wave of SBDs exploding on the scene, we are left with certain shows that only enter our ears due to the efforts of the few. For me, these shows hold a certain special aura. Keep an eye out for them, as they really represent a special segment of this “off the grid” musical folklore we hold so dear.

Sometimes, when you’re left with only an audience source as a window into a show, it becomes all the more special and approachable. Once you're in, you can only look back and wish that others saw what you saw, welcomed what you welcomed, and allowed themselves to be touched by what touches you.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

1981 September 26 - War Memorial Auditorium

Jerry Garcia 1981GRATEFUL DEAD
Saturday, September 26, 1981
War Memorial Auditorium - Buffalo, NY
Audience Recording

All of the early 80’s years can be difficult to wade through if you’re trying to get a first taste or two from this period of the Dead’s live concert history. Not only are there many low points to match the many high points, but nearly everything is out there on tape in one form or another, let alone multiple versions of more shows than not. There are plenty of hidden treasures lurking from this era, and also many “classics” in their own right.

When it comes to 1981, it might have been one of the more consistently hot years from this period. There is a lot of really great stuff packed into ’81. As a first suggestion, I can’t help but point to one of the classics, 9/26/81. The overall feeling of this show is one of having a really really good time. The band and audience seem locked in together from the first notes. There’s an intimacy to this night caught on tape. You can’t help but feel the bond.

The first set crackles with nice energy, but it’s the second set that flies off the charts. Dan Healy (the Dead’s soundman) recorded the second set himself from the soundboard, and this is the recording featured here.

Phil Lesh - Greek Theatre 1981Playin’ In The Band stretches out in lovely wide arcs. Jerry’s solo seems to gain momentum as it goes along, lending a sense of increasing speed to the jam fueled by an ever growing level of intensity. There's a lot of great stuff to find listening to this jam. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, it turns into Bertha. This is a wonderful surprise, especially to anyone not familiar with this era. It’s a great version, and the crowd is loving it. Mind the Phil bombs!

From Bertha, we land in Estimated Prophet. The post jam out of the song is just about perfect. You can easily lose yourself in the psychedelically loping nature of this song's backbone. And, when Jerry’s lead lines begin to swing in and out of view like a planet orbiting around your head, it just couldn’t feel more perfect. The Goin’ Down The Road Feelin’ Bad that follows bursts with energy much like the earlier Bertha. Things are going very well.

Morning Dew. The song is timeless. It almost doesn’t matter which one you hear, you are always nestled close to the heart of the band when they play this song. This evening's version is no exception. The song seems to speak the heart –felt language of the Grateful Dead every time it's played. It slips effortlessly back into Playin’, which bookends the second set masterfully.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

1975 June 17 - Winterland Arena

Grateful Dead - June 17, 1975 Winterland Arena
Tuesday, June 17, 1975
Winterland Arena - San Francisco, CA
Audience Recording

The Grateful Dead stopped touring in October 1974. The spectacular "retirement" was captured every so nicely on film in The Grateful Dead Movie. There then came a period of about 18 months where the band was not on the road at all. Garcia did continue to perform live with his solo projects throughout this time, but the world of Grateful Dead fans collectively bit their nails wondering if the band would ever come back to town. The Dead recorded Blues For Allah during this hiatus, and from time to time popped up and did a performance wherein new material was allowed to test its legs. If you don’t have it already, you owe it to yourself to buy One From The Vault. That release, featuring the performance from 08/13/75, is perfect from end to end.

Another must have from 1975 would be this audience tape, recorded by Rob Bertrando, on 06/17/75. Just knowing that it was recorded by Betrando (already famous for his 8/6/71 effort), about 30 feet from the Winterland stage is enough to make your ears prickle with anticipation. The tape does not disappoint.

The hypnotic debut of Crazy Fingers opens the set. It silences the crowd as they absorb the new song. Liltingly lovely, it may not be the barn burner that the crowd seemed amped for during Bill Graham’s introductions, but it fills the room with a delicious warmth that cradles everyone into waiting arms.

Jerry Garcia 1975After a few rust-shedding set one standards, we get the debut of Help On The Way > Slipknot! > Franklin’s Tower. The Help is completely instrumental, and allows for very dedicated listening. It flows into Slipknot, which churns like a witch’s cauldron of mysterious ingredients. Then Franklin’s Tower appears and is delivered at a slightly slower tempo than it would use historically moving forward. The tempo is absolutely perfect. This version will put a smile on the face of a dead man. The entire song comes together so nicely, it caps the first set off perfectly.

Set two is a masterpiece. It will leave you slack jawed and wide-eyed. During King Solomon’s Marbles (Stronger Than Dirt, Milking The Turkey – whatever you want to call it) it gets to the point where it’s like the band is showing off the fact that they haven’t lost one single step while being on a break. It’s a carnival kaleidoscope of interweaving whirlpools, whitecap waves of light flashing along with the heavy syncopated rhythms. For a tune that was played only a handful of times live, this version packs the energy of several years worth of performances never played down to one amazing rendition. Repeated listening of this set are unavoidable.

As if getting an amazing show recorded so well that it typically gets the nod over the SBD wasn't enough, this tape also contains many wonderful passages of taper talk, from folks arguing about seats, to checking batteries and tape time remaining. This is an archive document of the highest order.

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