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The intro posts are always a good start, followed logically by
my thoughts on Music & Being, which guide my writing.
You could also try my current favorite show on the blog,
plus there's good reading under the trading community label.
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Listening Trail.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

1968 January 22 - Eagle's Auditorium

Jerry Garcia Central Park, NY - May 5, 1968

Monday, January 22, 1968
Eagle's Auditorium – Seattle, WA
Soundboard Recording

The Grateful Dead were evolving at light speed. Or at least it seems that way. We have so little of the music from 1967 that the little glimpses we get are like spending an hour trying to tune in a radio dial to our favorite station and only hearing it for fractions of a second, a mere handful of times. While those glimpses are all on the same frequency, they actually end up sounding like very different radio stations altogether. In an interesting analogy, it could be said that history has formed 1967 into a mystery not unlike a caterpillar’s metamorphosis into a butterfly. Maybe we aren’t meant to see exactly how it happened?

1968 comes along and the band has clearly evolved into a psychedelic rock band like no other. In this early example of 1968 from Eagle’s Auditorium on January 22nd, we find the band fully defined (and Mickey had only joined the band as drummer number two a scant few months earlier). There could be entire books devoted to the ways in which the Dead differed from the other bands of the same era and genre. I’ll mention only that rather than playing in and on the style of the day, the Dead sounded like they were channeling psychedelic rock from the depths of creation; they were the voice through which the music’s soul chose to express itself – one of the obvious nods to labeling early years as “primal.”

Wasting no time what-so-ever, Alligator flies out of the gate stoking the psychedelic fires. Considering what follows, the song is actually a tad tame. It’s great to listen to the extremely slow dissolve into more and more freaked out music as the song moves along, going from recognizable rock instrumentation into fields of more and more slightly bizarre noises and vibrations . The edges of the song and the music continually fray away from a center of normalcy. Here, with the band taking its time, it seems somehow orchestrated and organic at the same time - improvised music with design. That said, by the end of Alligator, we are barely prepared for the rest of the set.

Mickey Hart Central Park, NY - May 5, 1968The live recordings used for the Anthem Of The Sun LP come from shows in November ’67 and January ’68. The 01/22/68 Cryptical > Other One > Cryptical suite is very much indicative of the album version with the added pleasure of an extra (first) verse on Other One. As it blossoms into New Potato Caboose it bears mentioning that the crowd was hearing side A of the record before it was released. Having imprinted myself so heavily on this record in the early years of my Dead discovery process, I can barely imagine what experiencing this musical journey might have been like live and fully unprepared.

As New Potato expands out into its post song jam section I can’t help but marvel at the small section of music before Jerry starts truly soloing. It’s the window of music that features nothing more than the sound of psychedelic winds blowing lazily around. This portion of the song where it seems almost nothing is happening (Jerry’s volume knob work layered over the band’s primal rhythm section churn) is magic for me. The sense of levitation is addictive. Short lived, it moves into the pure embodiment of the New Potato Caboose Groove. Here, there is a pervasive sensation of a glorious army march cresting over hilltops bathed in rainbow-hued sunshine. As they move into the melodically designed end portion of the song you can’t help but be completely locked in step with the band. It’s a song your heart already knows how to sing.

Instantly we drop on queue into Born Cross-Eyed, which comes off as some sort of twisted AM radio top 40 hit. This song seems to break as many rules as you’ll let it. And then the song ends and takes us beyond its spot as the last song on side A of the record, past the center groove of the LP, into a drippingly dark Feedback segment peppered with teases of the Spanish Jam lurking some four minutes in the future. Before getting there, we’re left with no place to hide from a restrained freefall into chaos. The Feedback is brooding and black, like wet rocks underground prevented from seeing sunlight. Darkness without fear, it’s more haunting than scary. Spanish Jam appears and provides a twisted pathway out of the formless void in which it found us.

Jerry Garcia Central Park, NY - May 5, 1968Then Dark Star. Not the epic it would become one year later – this song would need quite some time to breath – this is a none-the-less lovely version. Jerry’s solo lines are delivered with a familiar lilting. Still played faster than could allow the song’s phenomenal power to full take effect, there is nothing not to like about this early version. The band is clearly letting the song come to life and take form. They feed it whatever feels right. There’s a sense that an artist is taking another few minute pass at carving a statue out of rock. And then at the spot that would eventually head into the yet to be introduced St. Stephen, we go perfectly into China Cat Sunflower.

These early early China Cats are sensational. You can easily hear how the song places the band directly back into the Alligator jam style, and they are completely comfortable here. To listen to them fly through the song, all playing their finely crafted counterpoints with such energy, is primal Dead joy. When Jerry blasts into the last solo which heads toward The Eleven, it’s like fireworks exploding overhead. When they hit The Eleven proper it is clear that they have spent the last couple of months with Mickey in the band practicing this 11/8 time signature a lot (as the story certainly goes). After a slight passage where Jerry seems to regroup, the nectar begins to flow and flow.

That there are actually vocals in the midst of this music never fails to amaze me. Regardless of it still being a somewhat early version (one of the very first we know of on tape) there is nothing timid going on here. Interestingly, they don’t linger. Things cool down, and with one of Jerry’s magician-like casting of a rainbow full of notes, we are in Caution.

There wasn’t much in the Dead’s repertoire that contained more raw power. What the band had been doing with Viola Lee Blues, they continued to develop in Caution, and you could completely see how it provided the same outlet, only slightly more fierce. There was the same amazing juxtaposition of bluegrass to psychedelia. If there’s anything to really mourn on this tape, it’s that the entire vocal portion of this Caution is absent. When the SBD>DAT version made it into circulation, I noticed that it ended early in Caution itself. But I had a cassette version which, after the same cut, picked back up after one second of dead air after the vocals (reel flip?), to play out the rest of the show. I stitched up the version in circulation linked below.

The slide into Feedback is breathtaking. The portion of the tape that comes after the cut begins with Caution reaching its highest peaks while a pure frenzy of soul smashing noise and energy tears itself apart in a slow motion megaton explosion until nothing is left but a white-hot onslaught of noise. It slowly passes into quiet, leaving the audience completely stunned. There’s nothing left. Then from the emptiness rises the familiar album ending feedback portion from Anthem of the Sun, running a good time longer than the B side of the record could contain.

This is wholly mind crippling music culled from the pool in which all mind enlightening satori energy forms. The potency this close to the pool is more than the senses can bear - in a way preventing our ability to feel the gentle expanding release into the moment. Our attention is locked, to be sure, but things are moving and changing so fast and in so many directions, the power becomes overwhelming – as I said, crippling.

A living example of what the older generation surely saw as unbearably wrong with the youth, and yet for those who had made room in their head for it, a nirvana-petal flower calling from the deep soul lifeblood of music. This is what lives at the heart of it all. The rushing, looping, exploding, twisting inferno whose fingers reach their way all the way into every fiber of the Grateful Dead body. Tinged with this magic, it is no wonder so many of us find so much drawing us all the way in time and time again.

01/22/68 SBD etree source info
01/22/68 SBD Stream

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Music & Being

Just recently, I was unexpectedly shaken by a passage of Grateful Dead music that helped to expand some of my thoughts around the satori moments laced throughout all of the Dead’s music – moments that strike a deep chord within; moments where you fuse to the music, and lose the ability to distinguish anything but the experience itself.

In so doing, these moments give way to a greater knowing – a heightened vibration of being. You glimpse that you and the music, and everything, are really one. It’s something that I find myself trying to touch upon in my reviews, but often find it eluding the grasp of my pen. I can’t say that I’ve found the full voice to express this soul-level experience going on in the Dead’s music, but I got a nice full dose of it while preparing the review of 06/08/80 (somewhere, honestly, I wasn’t expecting, or looking for it). I’ll be the first to admit that I make clumsy work of communicating this level of the musical experience. But I know that it is precisely this level of experience that inspires me to write.

Beyond my hoping to help you find some great Dead shows to add to your listening pile, I’m always trying to find ways to share this deeper level of musical/spiritual experience with potentially like-minded folks. Regardless of whether you call this spiritual, cultural, communal, or rock-n-roll goo, we can call ourselves like-minded in the joy we take in this aspect of the Dead’s music, and our pursuit of more and more of it. I’m always looking for ways to paint a somewhat more articulate picture of this experience for myself. Sharing it with others is another level of the pleasure I take as a member of the Grateful Dead trading community.

Oddly, I don’t think my simply pointing out the musical moments I find transcendent can possibly be enough to tap you into the exact same experience. I know I’ve mentioned before how these moments are almost assuredly different for everyone, and likely going on at almost every moment everywhere. But more than that, timing is everything. We sometime have to have our personal stars line up just right to key into this stuff. Hopefully, these moments I call out can get part of the job done – a potentially right passage of music; a recording that aids in the communication of the moment. Add to that your ability to get yourself in the right place to listen, and we have a chance to get tuned in.

If you are positioned in such a way as to eliminate all distraction (for me it happened during my morning commuter train ride into work of all places – again! Just like it did with 10/18/72 ), you might take a moment to tune into your internal radar while listening to the Playin’ jam from the afore mentioned 06/08/80. I only mention this particular passage now since it hit me so hard, and inspired this post. The moments are everywhere, and virtually all the shows I share in this forum make it here because they contain some measure of this element. I doubt that this one is any more transcendent than another. But while listening to this one, I reached a deeper level of understanding how these musical/spiritual moments fit into the grand scheme. For me. My consciousness felt a gentle tug. My eyes were drawn closed, and a timeless peace took hold – the familiar posture within these special moments.

While I painted a picture of this musical passage in the review proper, here, I want to point out how it is another clear demonstration of music’s ability to draw us toward the focused attention of Being. More than anything this feels like conscious awakening coming to your senses in the same way you can smell or hear an ocean from a distance. No, the music isn’t going to go so far as to enlighten you. The band certainly had no agenda in this regard. But consciousness does.

Consciousness calls through many mediums, and music can be as potent as any. The sensation is similar to other life experiences that lead to spiritual growth. Like a path before your feet that calls you to follow. It’s a beacon, an opening door. The musical bliss that overtakes you is the light behind the door. I recognize this sensation as being similar to that which I feel when struck by reading certain passages in spiritually-minded books and teachings, in contemplating different aspects of quantum physics and string theory, and while doing little more than noticing early evening sunlight’s play through grass.

Music has a communication advantage in that it removes the symbols of language. It’s more primal than language. It’s closer to the truth than words can ever be. When the satori moments hit, the walls come down. The delight that expands, expands directly from the source of the delight itself. The warm, pervasive smile that unavoidably forms is Knowing. It takes nothing more than being attentively present in the moment. Great minds and sages have been driving this point home throughout the ages, and it's what music fosters at its highest level. Being expresses the same thing time and time again via that medium we affectionately call The Good Old Grateful Dead.

As I have said, these spiritually minded moments are everywhere in the music, not simply where I happen to see them. That said, I reviewed my writings here and have introduced a new label called “musical satori”. At this point, under that label are the reviews where I have addressed satori moments directly, yet most every post sees me talking around the subject proper. Just looking at the list, I feel like mentioning that these shows are not necessarily better at stoking the magic fire than others here. They’re just ones where this theme is directly mentioned and explored (I guess that’s what a label is for after all).

Thanks for reading.

Friday, July 25, 2008

1980 June 8 - Folsom Field

Jerry Garcia detail Feb 22, 1980

Sunday, June 8, 1980
Folsom Field, University of Colorado - Boulder, CO
Audience Recording

This is another Joani Walker recording, and you should be getting pretty used to the fact by now that this is a harbinger of quality goods. Joani was the wo-MAN! There’s no question about it. Heap whatever pristine AUD accolades you’d like here, they all apply. Again, one of her tapes captures not only the music, but the entire feel of an early 80’s outdoor show. Recorded eight rows behind the soundboard, you really couldn’t ask for anything better.

Opening up with a hauntingly accurate prophetic introduction, this 15th Anniversary show gets started with a totally unprecedented Uncle John’s Band > Playin’ In The Band > Uncle John’s Band. Clearly a nod to the proceedings (though understandably, as Bob Weir indicates in a post show interview, the band could hardly care about the recognition of the date), this “Uncle John’s sandwich” casts a guaranteed special sparkle to the event. You can be sure that news spread far and wide after this show about the unexpected opener.

The band pushes through some early sound system adjustments and reach the 7/8 time signature jam in full gear. Jerry is popping out notes like a string of pearls cast into the air. All the band members are coming through on tape beautifully, and while the jam is short, and perhaps only a 7 out of 10, it doesn’t matter. They’re opening with Uncle John’s Band! In the holographic memory machine of the future that allows us to be transported right back to this event, we will be exchanging glances at this point, shaking our heads in wonder and smiles that we could be getting an Uncle John’s in the opening slot. Lucky us!

Jerry Garcia Feb 28, 1980Playin’ segues in nicely, and with Jerry’s very first note of the solo section, everything elevates. His tone has swollen to fill the sky, and drips with an electric intensity that spawns a psychedelic kaleidoscope of visions. For the first 30 seconds or more , he rolls out a string of notes that are channeled from deeply within and beyond thinking. It’s as if he’s completely lost - the music entirely taking over to play the band. Each note drops in perfectly, as if this is the Playin' In The Band jam that wrote them all, similar to how I found the Bird Song from 08/01/73 to appear archetypical. It gives the music a sense of divinely delivered perfection. The rest of the band is quickly absorbed into this energy, and you can feel the satori moment blossom around you. The note selection and the instrumental accompaniment could not be improved upon. There are many things going on in this jam as it progresses. Little things like passing visions in a dream. The recording being so good, complete surrender to the music is near unavoidable. The wonderfully recorded balance of instruments places everything directly within your field of aural vision. It’s juicy and succulent. They don’t spend too long in this zone, and eventually weave back into Uncle John’s to wrap things up.

At this point the desired affect has been reached. The crowd is completely done-in by the special twist given to the start of the show. The band follows with some straight ahead cowboy Dead and you can absolutely feel the joy and comfort of the crowd come through on tape. In different ways than the opening jam, the following songs burst forth with equal passion and pleasure. You get the feeling of being in a perfect spot, needing nothing else. There may not be anything insanely over the top, but the rest of the set just feels like a wonderful Grateful Dead show.

The second set opens with a nice Feel Like A Stranger. There are occasional and slight mis-queues here and there, and it seems to make Jerry want to make up for things through the solo section. A wonderful passage follows with the entire band playing off of one another, and Jerry’s tone takes on burning intensity which channels directly off the tape into your head. He takes acrobatic twists and turns everywhere, elevating the song above the norm. The beat pushes, punctuates, and slightly syncopates beautifully throughout.

Ship Of Fools is a very sweet with Jerry lending some extra expressive energy to his vocals which translate into a wonderful solo. The song always carried the sense of being a classic throughout the 80’s. It also provides a pleasant breather before the meat of set two.

Bob Weir 1980In Estimated Prophet, Jerry spends only a short time in the jam noodling around before diving all the way into a rapidly picked string of arpeggios which swirl and unswirl into liquid color eddies. Eventually one of his eddies breaks us out of the song and begins to stretch out to infinity. That luxurious loss of footing takes over and we seem poised to be happily lost forever. But it really serves to inform the band that Eyes Of The World is on the way. A truncated Estimated jam slips sweetly into Eyes.

This Eyes Of The World is a firecracker. It blasts along at a stiff tempo reaching the solo section after verse one in under two minutes. The solo is full of razor sharp edges, like a fire formed of metal - crackling and glowing. The next solo section finds the same fire bathed in a somewhat ethereal energy. The flames seem to be smiling and relaxing, despite the fury of energy that sends them into the sky. The third and final solo section casts the fire out to the horizons. Jerry calls back the infinity stretching repetitions of notes again and again, and this is mimicked beautifully by the drummers. Slowly then, a vastly wide open space appears, and within it, ocean-sized pinwheels begin to slowly turn under foot. It’s a gooey jam, not too unlike some passages from 1976. The dissolve into Drums is slow coming, with Brent and Phil taking some time to stir the fire lazily along.

A little over half way through Drums, Mickey and Billy call up wonderful African/Egyptian rhythms, caught perfectly in the glorious recording quality that Joani is getting on tape. The Space that forms out of Drums is very nice, though short. Its goal is to bridge the way into Saint Of Circumstance, which exude from Space early on before hitting the song itself. The highlights for the duration of the set are more of the quiet nature. Black Peter, and the Brokedown Palace second encore give off more of that delicious energy of just being in the presence of the band on a good night.

You can add this one to your list of sensational recordings and often deeply rich and soul provoking evenings with the Grateful Dead.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

1978 July 1 - Arrowhead Stadium

Grateful Dead stage - June 4, 1978 Santa Barbara

Saturday, July 1, 1978
Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, MO
Audience Recording

1978. Arrowhead Stadium. Kansas City, Missouri. The Dead featured as part of the opening bill for Willie Nelson’s annual 4th of July Picnic. A single set show.

And here comes Bob Wagner from the East Coast bound and determined to tape this event, and the run that follows it, mostly inspired by little more than the fact that he (and potentially all of us) may never get the chance to hear these shows on tape otherwise. On summer break from medical school, we can only thank the wheels of time and circumstance for placing Bob and the Grateful Dead in the Midwest in the Summer of 1978. And once again, he pulled out a very nice recording for the record books. To this day it remains the only circulating copy of the show altogether.

For whatever reason (I’m sure we could come up with a few), this show is often overlooked. But whether it be a short show (they were one of three opening acts that day), or not circulating at all in SBD form, the Dead came to play, and the set of music they pumped out on this day is full of magic. We are very lucky that Bob Wagner managed to get this one down on tape – a true crime and loss if not for his efforts.

Jerry Garcia - April 11, 1978The set opening Bertha>Good Lovin’ sets a nice mood for a midday set. And a pretty blazing Jack Straw hides in the middle of this show, complete with its explosive lead section build up. It seems to take the crowd by storm, and is not the last time in the show that the power of the music will seem to over match the more mundane circumstances of the show on paper. That the band was tapping into the heart and soul of its transformative magic, not to mention so often, and so deeply, adds a special quality to an already unique show. They seem to be playing their hearts out, like it’s the closing of Winterland or something. Probably more true was that they hadn’t a care in the world and were just having a ton of relaxed fun.

After hardly more than a handful of songs (and a sweet Friend Of The Devil among them), we reach what can be considered the second set portion of the single set show. What follows is a passage of music firmly locked into the moment, with multiple facets of sparkling light like a diamond turning in sunshine.

In ways that are difficult to explain in words, Terrapin Station oozes with energy like a call to worship. Somehow, in its coming directly on the heels of two cowboy tunes, its natural juxtaposition seems to beckon you from across the stadium to settle in close to hear a story. As if the countless leaves of a tree are all hands drawing you to its roots, there is a silent mystery about the song. We are no longer just sitting in the sunshine digging a rock and roll show. Something more is taking form.

Terrapin’s small solo section before the “Since the end is never told” section catches more psychedelic energy than most other Terrapins I can bring to mind. Bobby and Jerry work some really fine interplay as they bounce the song's thematic melody off of each other. Eventually Bobby pulls himself one beat behind Jerry, echoing him, and the effect is gorgeous. It becomes more difficult to judge to true start of the measure. And with that, subtle lights and colors begin to take form in the otherwise normal air around you as the wheels of rhythm patterns begin to mesh and disconnect at the same time – like a dance of miniature star systems floating like dust in daylight. This is very brief, but equally gratifying.

Arrowhead StadiumPlayin’ In The Band stretches out into the July sky, opening the stadium up beyond the parking lots, the city, state, and even the shores of the oceans in either direction. A higher than normal energy ride (perhaps the band was trying to pack in as much as they could into their timeslot), they swirl slow twisting winds into gusts and electronic stampeding somewhat quickly. Before it’s over, things slip almost completely and wonderfully out of bounds with only the drummers holding down anything remotely related to music moving forward in time. Spacey vibrations blur vision and eventually give way to Drums.

This leads into Space - the band now taking the crowd in attendance down twisted damp and dusty caverns of caves that are still forming before our eyes. Passages appear and disappear as soon as you to step forward. Eventually, Jerry leads us to some light at the end of a tunnel into Estimated Prophet. As the sound of chaos slowly fades in the distance behind you, the song appears.

In the Estimated jam, Jerry becomes very expressive. Not only does he let his running lines scale the small hills and valleys around us, but he leaps into the air from time to time to traverse the clouds and sunshine directly. He’s playing “big.” In doing so, you can feel the music’s power take form, settling into the zone which typified a better than normal experience with the Grateful Dead. Eventually it feels like we are getting far more magic than we deserve from some odd venue, opening act single set version of Estimated Prophet. But it just keeps on coming, the entire band delivering more and more of the precious stuff. For me, as I listen to this, I can help but gain an extra level of delight in knowing that this pure moment is buried in a show that gets very little press. I love that I could have forgotten about something so magical, and then found it again. If you’ve heard this show in the past, and somehow just put it aside, you will know exactly what I mean here when you listen to the Estimated. And it doesn’t let up at all as the music moves along into the next songs. As things progress the entire band begins to drive the intensity in a more and more tightly would ball of energy, arriving shortly thereafter in Other One.

Jerry Garcia 1978This Other One exhibits a fluidity that courses nimbly over the senses. Like rapids rampaging downhill, the momentum builds quickly and Jerry is careening his notes into towering heights which bend and twist the music along. The band sounds very locked into the moment, seeming to relish their ability to whisk the daylight-soaked crowd of onlookers fully into their corner of the galaxy. The only drawback is that it feels like the band is sensing the press of their opening timeslot. We arrive in Wharf Rat much too quickly considering the fact that the band is obviously dialed into the zone, leaving behind an Other One that could have grown to mythic proportion.

However, this Wharf Rat is fabulous. Right out of the gate Garcia’s solo is full of tremendous peaks, his notes emanating out from the depth of his soul – an outpouring of emotion. It grows, subsides, then builds again into a rampaging passage of shredding guitar notes – massive and threatening enough to nearly disrupt any ability to remain grounded to the physical plane. The final verse comes and goes, and the music heads right back to this sense that chaos could overtake things at any moment. Wonderful stuff.

They close the set ferociously with Around & Around and Johnny B Goode. This serves to bring the crowd back down to earth and demonstrate the band's ability to please all comers with good old rock and roll. No one goes away unhappy.

1978 often pales due to its proximity to 1977. But like 1976, ’78 offers some truly inspired playing just waiting to be discovered by somewhat more intrepid explores of the Dead’s musical archive. 07/01/78 is a shining example of just this sort of discovery. Enjoy!

1978-07-01 AUD etree source info
1978-07-01 AUD Download

Thursday, July 17, 2008

1971 August 6 - Hollywood Palladium

Jerry Garcia - Berkeley Community Theater, August 1971

Friday, August 6, 1971
Hollywood Palladium – Hollywood, CA
Audience Recording

They almost don’t come any more hallowed than this recording. Frightfully well recorded, this tape does as much to show how good AUDs could be, even back in 1971, as it does to show how unfortunate it was that most others from the really early years were not. With this recording, Harvey Kaslow and Craig Todd raised the bar for the entire span of Grateful Dead audience recordings. While the actual master reels themselves still elude us to this day, Rob Bertrando’s reel copy of the master seeds all variations of this show in digital (and non-digital) circulation.

More so even than recording the Dead on this night, Kaslow and Todd also captured the New Riders of the Purple Sage (still with Jerry on steel) opening set, thus providing us a heaven-sent window into an entire evening with the Grateful Dead family. Since we have it all at our fingertips, I implore you to listen to this date from the true begining. Start with the Riders set. You will not be disappointed. With this AUD’s ability to present near crystal clear clarity and great stereo separation, it provides one of the most potent ways to immerse yourself into a night with the Grateful Dead in 1971. To be sure, virtually every one of those nights in ‘71 included the New Riders of the Purple Sage.

New Riders of the Purple Sage - April 25, 1971
Here’s the thing about the NRPS. They were able to distil psychedelia into a concentrated syrup and drop it expertly into standard song structure such that it would infuse everything. It’s more subtle than anything that might grab you by the shirt and fling you into a wormhole like a Dark Star, Other One, or intense feedback. Also, you’re most likely to find it only by not looking for it at all. It’s more sneaky than that. You go in looking to enjoy some fine country rockin’, and come away having found far more being provided.

Jerry poured an incredible amount of psychedelic energy into his steel playing. It was clearly a joyous outlet for him when the Dead began “going country” in 1969, allowing him to express himself through a different voice. But he was still Jerry Garcia. And it was still 1969, ’70, and ‘71 Beyond their being a talented group of musicians supported by terrific song writing and expert covers, they could gently stretch the more formal borders of country western music into something all their own. Having Jerry in the band as a side man playing steel and singing back up was ideal for all parties. Make no mistake, by the way, it was not Jerry’s band. It belonged to David Nelson and John Dawson.

John Dawson 1971On 08/06/71 the Riders were in perfect form. The ease you feel from the band is luscious. They take the first couple of songs to completely settle in. The vocal mic required a little adjustment before things balanced out completely. When they reach the third tune, "I Don’t Know You," they are off to the races. The sound system kinks are worked out, and the song sparkles into the room and typifies the perfect blend of country and light psychedelics that was the Riders pure comfort spot. Marmaduke’s (John Dawson) lyrics, distinct vocal inflections, and the groups spot on harmonies are icing on the cake. After the song, there’s a great conversation in the audience near the tapers where a gal clues in that it is actually Garcia playing the pedal steel. She tips off her neighbors, and even has to explain to one that Garcia is the lead singer of the Grateful Dead. Priceless stuff. Earlier in the set there’s also an enjoyable little conversation between some guy and the tapers themselves talking about the recording set up.

It’s during the next song, "Down In The Boondocks," where Garcia begins to really shine. Easily my favorite of all of his Boondocks solos (yes, I've also obsessively collected all the NRPS shows in circulation), it’s at this point that you get the sense that he might be headed toward an inspired night of music. Next comes Portland Woman, one of the band’s most infectious tunes. More sensational solo and fill work from Jerry, and the band has managed to slip into much more of their psychedelic rock vein - you hardly saw it coming. Then comes Dirty Business.

Jerry Garcia on Pedal Steel '70-'71Jerry flips on the fuzz box and the wha-wha pedal, and things become decidedly more weird. This song snakes its story out into the crowd. And between the verses, Jerry reaches some undeniably mind melting moments over and over again. You’ll find him shaking the Palladium to its foundation as his solos progress. There is more condensed, raw power flying off the stage during these sections than can be imagined. Electricity crackles in the air. You sense that the pedal steel is resonating itself to the point of levitating off the stage. It’s pure amazing Jerry Garcia; one for the record books. And it isn’t coming from the Grateful Dead.

Perfectly, the band rounds the corner out of the brooding, coal dusted vibe of Dirty Business into Henry, and the hall is elevated right back into the band’s bright sunshine, carefree, weekend energy. This pervades the rest of the set, and you can’t help but feel good as they move from song to song, everything dappled with Dawson’s great vocals, Garcia’s brilliant side man work, Nelson’s string bending twang, and sweet harmonies from everyone throughout.

In much the same way that the band managed to bring on its psychedelic edge quietly through infusing its power into the nooks and crannies of their music, the highlights throughout much of this set appear more in the way a little salt flavors the entire dish you add it to in cooking. The band’s skill is everywhere, bubbling up in all aspects of the music, drawing you along.

New Riders of the Purple Sage - November 1971While we experienced evidence earlier that some fans had no clue who this NRPS band was, clearly there are a few fans in attendance who are well seasoned listeners, demonstrated when someone screams out a request for Only Daddy That’ll Walk The Line, a song not often performed by the band. They immediately grant the request and deliver a great version.

When we get to their cover of The Weight (a mainstay for the Riders) the entire theater has become completely enamored with the band, clearly no throw away opening act here. More wonderfully delivered lines from Dawson. More stellar solo work from Garcia. And still the set goes on to deliver gem after gem including the haunting Last Lonely Eagle, and mammoth set closing rocker of Honky Tonk Women. The crowd is left on the tips of their toes, and the Dead show has yet to begin.

Jerry Garcia 1971The Dead’s music on this night captures the peak period that stood between Mickey’s departure on drums (02/18/71), and the addition of Keith on keys (10/19/71). This in between stage found the band back with its original 1965 lineup, and its finale at the end of August is often referred to as the last Warlocks show. (If you don’t know, that was the name of the band prior to their landing upon Grateful Dead.)

Set one is great, and sounds so good. That unmistakable AUD energy is everywhere. While 1971 typically stands in the shadows of the years immediately on either side of it, the year resonated with its own distinct characteristics, none-the-less. And this recording captures exactly what 1971 was about beautifully. The crowning jewel of the first set is the tremendous Hard To Handle. A featured track on Fallout From The Phil Zone, this Hard To Handle has long been considered the best of all time. The band’s ability to fan the flames of energy throughout the solo section of this particular rendition, and its subsequent transmission of energy into the audience, combine to capture on tape the most elemental power of the Grateful Dead – that invisible connection between band and crowd, building into each other until they act as one. It’s nothing short of invigorating to be along for this ride as the crowd’s frenzy coils and boils into a frothing sea of electricity. Caught in stellar sound quality proves that once in a while everything is in the right place at the right time.

Jerry Garcia December 1, 1971Splashing perfectly into Casey Jones, the entire crowd locks in and sings along. Even the perpetual "Woo-Woo" guy seems forgivable in light of how beautifully this tape brings across the experience of the band/crowd energy. A sensational end to the first set.

Set two opens with stand alone Saint Stephen. Gutsy with swagger and bounce, the song ends up somewhat disjointed by a few slight miscues and Jerry breaking a string in the final solo. They end up having no trouble what-so-ever making up for the rough start as the go right into a powerful 1971 Truckin’. Jerry’s guitar work in between Bobby’s vocals is acrobatic – lots of really nice stuff going on. On the tail of a clear Other One premonition, they head into a quick drum break.

Then comes a classic 1971 Other One with Jerry’s leads casting a dark magic conjured from ancient spells. The song is all about stoking its own dark voodoo for the first handful of minutes before it whisks away the horizon and exposes you to a groundless perch among stars and moons shrouded in fire and red smoke. The brink of danger is everywhere. Then, with full embodiment of the sinister nature of the song’s main character, the band slowly begins to reveal Me And My Uncle. Glimmer by glimmer the song transition appears. You can feel the musical hints coming on, which eventually reach Billy’s ears. Yet, as he calls up the backbeat, the rest of the band remains in the darker gloom of the Other One’s foreboding and thick canopy and for a brief time you are wonderfully caught completely between songs.

Bob Weir 1971Soon Me And My Uncle fully materializes and has all the connective tissue needed to justify its placement in the middle of an otherwise psychedelic romp. It feels just right, having somehow wafted in on an unsuspecting breeze. It’s dead stop transition back into the swampy night of the Other One leads to a gentle, yet still dark passage that includes Bobby tossing in a few measures of his Weather Report Suite Prelude, years before it would fully mature. Jerry is casting stars from his finger tips, and everyone is floating along the eons-slow spin of galaxies. Eventually Other One returns, and the witchcraft takes hold again. The song reaches some wonderful heights (again) and then lands squarely back into the final verse.

Later, a majestic Morning Dew casts its always timeless power over the crowd. As is typically the case, you could line up Morning Dews from all the years and find little distinction between them beyond the quality of Jerry’s voice. The song is pure Psychedelic Americana Folklore Rock. Seeming incapable of coming across as anything short of soul piercing, as the song heads into its most quiet moments on the way to its slow elevation of sound and energy, the air is filled with drifting sunbeams pooling into stained glass oceans. Jerry sings softly, the music swells and throbs – another moment where you can find no reason to ever leave.

Pigpen 1971Closing with Lovelight, Pigpen delivers another great rap which includes his stopping the band completely so he can have a frank heart to heart with all the fellas in the crowd. Once stopped, the band oozes back into form around him out of volume swells and shifting feedback which eventually coalesce into a sweaty delta bluesy groove which slowly builds in tempo. Jerry kicks out some super blues soaked riffs as they head toward the final section of the song. A not too offensive tape flip forces the song to reach its climax a bit sooner than we might like. But it’s still a 23 plus minute version, and while not one for the ages, still a very good time.

Personally, while I’ve visit the NRPS set from this night time and time again, I had not listened to the Dead show end to end in nearly 10 years before getting ready for this review. In such nice quality - what an awesome gift. You’ll want to frame this entire night and mount it on a wall. Remember, Riders first.

New Riders of the Purple Sage
08/06/71 AUD etree source info
08/06/71 AUD Download
(note: We only have SHN files of this set up on the archive. You will have to save and possibly convert them into wavs or mp3s for your listening pleasure. Worth it.)

Grateful Dead
08/06/71 AUD etree source info
08/06/71 AUD Download

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Walk In The Sunshine

If you could see it, it might ungulate like the liquid mirage of heat off a road. It might extend out from the stage in stratified layers, like ripples expanding out in wide arcs from the speaker towers - the low end in slow pulsing waves of purples and blues, the highs in frenetic squiggles of sea foam greens and yellows. There was a unique quality to the Dead’s music when they played in an outdoor venue – a palpable energy that you could almost taste, and quite definitely feel, as it washed over you. Out-of-doors, because there is little to no interference coming from the enclosure of a venue, the music captured on tape can feel more pure, not having to battle with the way a hall’s ambience can suck distinction out of low end and vocals. You’re left on more intimate terms with the music, and somehow with something more as well.

Birkshaw, England crowd May 7, 1972Good (and sometimes even not so good) audience recordings capture this energy amazingly well. So distinct is this “outdoor essence,” I knew from the very start I needed to create an Outdoor label, for this blog which would allow one to explore examples of just this certain visceral experience coming off of recordings. It bleeds off of tapes in something akin to the sum being equal to more than its parts. You often don’t know it’s there until you find yourself basking in some hypnotic passage of music and your ears pick up on something beyond the music itself. It can sometimes be expressed in the sound of electricity in Jerry's guitar, or the massive wattage of warmth emanating from Phil's bass. You can sometimes even feel it in between songs while the band may be tuning, and the crowd is relaxing. In the same way that without fully understanding how, we can somehow triangulate the precise direction from which a sound is coming while having only two ears on our head (physically we should only be able to discern left or right), there’s more going on than meets the eye (or ear). It seems that we can listen with more than our ears. Other subtler senses are listening, to be sure.

Panhandle Crowd Oct 6, 1966The audience recording awakens something beyond just the music, or in the microphones, or on the tape heads. It’s there regardless of our having any scientifically defined means of identifying it. And in an outdoor setting it can become a truly heightened experience. Perhaps in reducing the entire concert experience to the bandwidth of only sound, our ability to perceive more subtle layers is revealed? However it works, more often than not, when the band and crowd are locked into the moment of sharing the spiritual side of musical expression, it materializes into the auditory documentation we hear on tape.

I don’t know how long it took me to key into this phenomenon. Certainly I wasn’t looking for it, and it only started dawning on me over the years as I found myself more and more drawn to the audience tape medium. And to a degree, it might only be something I find happening in my own head. But, I know it plays a large part in the intense pleasure I take out of listening to old Grateful Dead shows, and sharing this mysterious level of listening with those who are willing to, uh.. listen.

Monday, July 7, 2008

1977 November 4 - Cotterell Gym

Grateful Dead 11/06/77

Friday, November 4, 1977
Cotterell Gym, Colgate University – Hamilton, NY
Audience Recording

Jerry Moore nailed this recording from directly behind the soundboard. In such an intimate venue – a gymnasium – this leads to one of the finest AUD recordings we could hope for. You may as well place this on the shelf with other Grateful Dead “best AUDs ever.” Beyond the music being crystal clear, there is a tight packed feel to the energy of the crowd and band in such close quarters, and this becomes an unmistakable fuel for fantastic music.

This show gets off to a great, high energy start with a Bertha>Good Lovin’. The peaks reach quite high, and the band seems fully charged. This continues on into the Brown-Eyed Women, and Jerry punctuates the last “Looks like the old man is getting’ on” line with a nice “Yes it does” to close the song. The set continues with emotionally charged renditions of song after song.

Jerry Garcia 1977The set closing Let It Grow should absolutely not be missed. A geyser of psychedelic energy, deep in the jam the song comes completely loose of its moorings and showers electricity in all directions, only to have the band perfectly return on cue for the chord change headed back to the final chorus. From there, the song escapes its cage again, firing itself around the crowd in warped directions. The music ties itself in liquid knots. The drummers seem bent on leaving the song for space, and Jerry is completely outside of the song’s pocket. Unsurprisingly, they all gel back together perfectly to round things out. A great set closer.

Returning for set two we get a playful band introduction from Phil which lends to the already intimate vibe on the evening. The set rockets of with a terrific Samson > Cold Rain. And then the meat of the second set begins.

The Playin’ jam grows slowly, taking seed without Jerry for a number of minutes. Over a slow drawn out germination through a coolly swirling viscous ooze of psychedelic fog, the band explores a very contemplative space. It’s dark and roaming, like a silent midnight walk through ancient forests. Slowly the energy mounts and the rising sun begins to catch the dewdrops on leaves, casting a shimmering glow across the bark of trees drawing out hundreds of colors therein. Eventually triumphant, the sun bursts to fill the entire morning sky and the band flows beautifully into a very rapid tempo Eyes Of The World.

Bobby & Donna 1977Eyes absolutely gallops along with Jerry burning solos into the air, and the energy crackles. The intro solo subsides, then is followed by a slight return, as if Jerry needed just a little more. The first verse arrives and we are elevated into the splendor of the song itself. And, man, it is rocketing along at breakneck speed. When the first verse ends, and Jerry hits the solo again, he’s a bit louder, and the band notches things up just a bit more. Now things take flight locking into the satori-like pastures where we become one with the music. There’s less and less of anything else. The band has us right there with them. Verse two soars, and they go into the next solo section, elevating once again. Unable to conceive that there are higher levels to reach, Jerry blows every boundary clear out of the air, blasting a palpable energy into the crowd with the force of an exploding sun. The music rises. The crowd elevates. The music impossibly rises again. And pressing the limits of getting too much of a good thing, it does it again. That familiar feeling of giddy rapture overwhelms, and you can’t help but smile in the presence of exactly what brings you back to this band’s music time and time again. This is it, captured on tape – the fleeting magic moment that open your heart and fuses you into the soul of the band itself. It could be four minutes, or four million years. It’s both at once, and transcends the simple measure of time. This is that exact thing that our non-deadhead friends probably haven’t heard, and might unintentionally miss while you try to expose them to it. For sure, and for reasons we can only guess at, this is not for everybody.

Jerry Garcia & Bob Weir 04/30/77Estimated Prophet follows Eyes (the first time Eyes lead into Estimated instead of the other way around) and it’s good. But it is hard to compare to the previous song. It doesn’t matter. You can sense that the crowd is overjoyed just to be with the band now. Estimated casts its oily visions into the gym, and there is a haunted nature to the music akin to what was going on during Playin’. When the band tumbles over a ten story waterfall into Other One, the frenzy returns. The music captures you like snaking vines around your legs and arms, dragging you down to the planet’s core where rock is molten and gaining breath is impossible. It comes off like a magic trick because it is gone as quickly as it arrived, in under four and a half minutes. They go directly into Drums out of the first verse. Did they really just play Other One?

The rest of the show is vintage 1977 Dead including a fun Iko Iko and a glorious Stella Blue, with a very nice return jam into the Playin’ reprise. It’s all softly swirling rivers of muted lights and colors which eventually find the song capping off the jam in fine fashion.

This recording provides a wonderful blend of capturing the essence of Dead show energy with near perfect recording conditions. Jerry Moore’s hall of fame status was already a shoe-in after his work in 1974. We can only thank him again for continuing to prove himself to be the taping perfectionist that he was. The guy knew what he was doing, and it is because of his efforts (and those like him) that we can even have these conversations about some of the more ineffable qualities within the Grateful Dead’s musical cannon.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

1974 August 4 - Philadelphia, PA

Jerry Garcia 1974
Sunday, August 4, 1974
Civic Convention Hall Auditorium – Philadelphia, PA
Audience Recording

Albeit spanning two venues, I think one of the best three day runs by the Grateful Dead occurred on August 4th, 5th, and 6th, 1974. The first night was a tough tape to come by in trading circles. 8/5 and 8/6 were in pretty regular SBD circulation by the late 90’s (and surely well before). And while good quality, low gen versions of those two were hard to hunt down, the 8/4 SBD simply wasn’t around at all. Now featured in Dick’s Picks 31, the soundboard is easily accessible, and this Pick is a must in all collections. But here we’ll talk about the audience recording – another chance to get your head right in to middle of the Wall Of Sound. Never an opportunity you want to pass up.

08/04/74 PosterThe first cassette version of the AUD I was able to score was woefully hissy. But, this show gave such fine rewards upon subjection to the otherwise less savory aspects of the tape itself, it was worth it. It wasn’t the master recording’s fault (as we learned later). It was just a bad copy of the master that had finally made its way around. The master itself, recorded by Jerry Moore, was part of the great Moore digitizing project that a few of us took on back in 2003.

In all fairness, 8/4 probably stands third in line behind the next two nights as a complete show experience. Yet, considering the next two nights, this leaves a ton of room for excellence. Its own highlights shine very brightly indeed.

This show also provides an excellent example of how the Dead’s jamming style had developed over the last year or so. Once you’ve listened to a few 1974 shows you can start to recognize a consistent “feel” to the playing style - a tightly wound, aggressively driven exploration of improvisation. The band would push and pull themes, working their talents at will, sometimes into more than one direction at a time. The evolution of the band’s playing and jamming style from 1973 to 1974 is quite distinct. An analogy that has always come to mind for me in describing this evolution is to describe 1973 as the band riding in the back seat of a car careening downhill on a wild ride with no one at the wheel. It's a never ending adventure. In 1974, the band is in the same car, but they have climbed into the driver’s seat so they can control the madness of flying down the mountain, taking the car where they like. By August ’74, they had fully mastered this, and were using it to brilliant ends.

Grateful Dead 1974On this show in particular, Playin’ In The Band embodies this evolved playing style wonderfully. For the first ten minutes it is a solid romp through this pure 1974 essence. Eventually, Jerry pauses for a break that lets the rest of the band lay down some wickedly dark funk grooves. Billy smashes his hi-hat, which phases the sound into the mic. It’s an awesome little flourish that is hard to forget. When Jerry returns, something has clicked and the music blossoms. Immediately there is a shift and the music fractures into multi-layers, no longer one raging force. The span of colors seems to stretch more completely across the spectrum. Phil steps outside of the firm pocket of bubbling, hopping notes, and starts to pull in some more strange sounds amidst the backbeat. The driving groove doesn’t change, but other elements are taking shape. There are now more open spaces within the soundscape, which allows you to concentrate on different elements a little more. Jerry is flinging pointed phrases everywhere, each dripping with a cosmic psychedelic edge. Time and time again he catches a run of notes and hangs within, circling and spiraling. Like flashes of galaxies normally hidden from view in the night sky, he bursts into view with visions that leave you gasping for breath.

These are the sorts of things that make you want to listen to this Playin’ again, to catch the little openings that fade as quickly as they appear. Through these openings we reach the true nature of magic that this band somehow found the means to express over and over again. Their musical efforts combined like a forest shaman’s potion that, once ingested, peels back the curtain of the everyday cacophonous noise that fills life, bringing you face to face with something more true, more undisturbed. In those true moments there is nothing more than your experience of them. They pass, and you look over your shoulder saying, “That was it.” And with that, it’s already oh so long gone. No different than moonlight, a flower growing through a sidewalk crack, or the passing view of a mountain touching the sky, sun, and clouds; these moments are often veiled by nothing more than the normalness of life, and pass without notice. If you can focus your attention to the beauty within, for a shimmering moment there’s nothing else. This is a beauty that is always around us, of course. We simply don’t often spend our time experiencing it. The Grateful Dead served as a divining rod to the stuff. They knew where to look. We knew our eyes should follow. They could call up this beauty in their music, and it would strip away distraction and chatter, bringing us directly into the moment.

Jerry Garcia 1974We get more of these precious window opening moments in the huge Let It Grow>Wharf Rat>U.S. Blues that follows in the second set. The solo section of Let It Grow (not even the jam) finds Jerry careening over the edge of cliffs, sailing through the sky. His lines are wonderfully lyrical, triumphant, and joyous. As they head into the post song jam, we’re essentially placed right back into the burning hot funk jam feel of Playin’. The band is completely locked in on the groove. Jerry floats lines around, then flips on his wha-wha pedal with a beautiful entry note. From here, he lays down some absolutely drippy lines of music. He seems to go in a new direction with every phrase, sometimes cooking along, sometimes exploring the lightest of musical expressions. Slowly beneath him, the rest of the band is deconstructing completely, until it’s a painted canvas of sharp, bunched up angles, Jerry mixing impossible colors over the top. Crazy patterns overwhelm one’s ability to see straight. Eventually Billy drops out completely and the music slips into an underground lake that echoes all around a mile wide cavern. The chaotic patterns can’t be held off, and they fill the space again until Billy re-emerges and a more classic insect fear / tiger jam takes shape. It’s like being shot up the throat of a volcano. Dangerous music, to say the least. This expands out and Phil and Bobby begin the march into a Spanish Jam. A burst of feedback ensues, and Jerry makes an executive decision to go for Wharf Rat instead. The transition swells into view, and what could have come across as a bumpy turn, renders itself majestically into the next song.

New Wharf Potato Rat

This Wharf Rat, along with most from the ’73-’74 period, locks solidly into one of the Dead’s pervasive core grooves that turns up as a transportational vehicle in virtually all years. If we were to dub it a name tied to one of the songs in which it first appeared, we could call it the New Potato Caboose groove. Easy to pick out, this groove also shows up in Crytpical Envelopment and Bird Song most clearly (I made reference to this before with the Bird Song from 09/07/73). The exit solo section of this Wharf Rat taps directly into the heart of this groove. You need only open your ear to it. The music lifts you into the air, buoyed on nothing more than the breath of creation. A pristine tapestry of refracted crystal shimmering diamonds, the music bores its way into the very heart of you. Pierced and pleasantly poisoned, your heart expands to fill your entire being. Collectively, there is that sense that the single entity of the entire crowd, and the band, has closed its eyes. Jerry plays in a different direction with almost every turn of a phrase. So much emotion courses out of his guitar, it might as well be a lute’s strings plucked by the hand of angels. Under him, the band is continuing its trend to crack the edges of steady song structure, but rather than ferociously taking corners and twisting paths, this all forms within clouds and mist. They weave strange rhythmic patterns out into the air.

Phil Lesh 1974Eventually this simmers down, and Phil hints at Truckin’. But Jerry is working his way into another fabulous song transition that moves to U.S. Blues. You couldn’t ask for two songs more diametrically opposed in theory. But Jerry leads them in, and the band grabs on with sublime perfection. It’s brief, yet sensational. And U.S. Blues is splendid. It somehow exceeds all expectations, delivering itself as a set closer, much like a Sugar Mag, but more so. The cheers of the crowd after this massive three song jam are some of the loudest I’ve heard. Pure delight. Perhaps sensing that there is little where else up to go, the band closes the set with Sugar Magnolia itself.

Don’t miss the chance to give this AUD a good loud ride. The highlights are not to be missed.

Audience Devotional Tree Round 9 - November, 2003

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