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Thursday, January 28, 2010

1981 August 14 - Seattle Center

Grateful Dead September 11, 1981

Friday, August 14, 1981
Seattle Center Memorial Coliseum – Seattle, WA
Audience Recording

Ooo. There's nothing not to like here. We have a lovely enough recording of a show that out shines its relative obscurity by many miles. Even in a year (1981) that is famous for portraying the enormous lift in the band's playing energy which is so well associated with the early 80's, this performance pushes even those boundaries. This show is played hard and fast, often feeling more intense and edgy than others you may hear. But this is not in any way at the cost of including several extremely satisfying explorations into pure luscious and spontaneous creativity.

Set 1: New Minglewood Blues, Sugaree, On The Road Again, Peggy-O > Beat It On Down The Line, Brown Eyed Women > Little Red Rooster, Don't Ease Me In > Looks Like Rain, Bertha > Promised Land
Set 2: Might As Well > Samson And Delilah, Ship Of Fools, Playin' In The Band > China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider > Drums > Space > Playin' In The Band > Wharf Rat > I Need A Miracle > Goin' Down The Road Feelin' Bad > Johnny B. Goode E: It's All Over Now, Baby Blue

Jerry Garcia New Years Eve 1980-81The show wastes little time before striking gold. Sugaree is sublime. Jerry's soloing spans the slow and soulful expressions of a melancholy bird's song to the rapid fire staccato whirlpools of exploding firecracker fractals. Beneath him, the band slips the cycle of the downbeat in all directions. Phil sends the music into almost unrecognizable terrain as Billy and Mickey accent Garcia's notes causing our internal beat counter to become blissfully disoriented.

But this is only a prelude to the adventures in the second set. After a rocket fueled opening Might As Well > Samson And Delilah we get a lovely Ship Of Fools followed by the show's main event. The Playin' jam is alive with the extra sharp energy of the entire evening. The swirling circles and endlessly curving and careening waves eventually fracture into shards of crackling light as the music takes on a strobe light flickering, rapidly rushing in and out of our visual field. From here the jam ends far too soon. But it is not without its own rewards. For only the second time in the band's history, they segue from Playin' In The Band into China Cat Sunflower. And this China Cat is played faster than I can easily conceive that I've ever heard it played before or after.

Garcia leads the way in and it seems to be going too fast for Bobby ever to pull off his portion of the song's signature riff. But he does it, and about as perfectly as you could ever ask for it to be done. This entire version of the song exceeds all descriptions I've ever given early 80's China>Riders and their ability to come on like a psychedelic carnival of sound and color. The song moves so fast it spouts diamonds and liquid ribbons into the air only to see them trail deeply into the distance as the wind rushes past like the song is speeding down an open highway. Notes fly off like flickering tongues of flame licking into the air. As the band hits the climax of the jam we're pulled light years ahead of ourselves, trapped in the grip of a manic typhoon of speeding music. I Know You Rider does not let up one bit, but somehow in its traditional underpinnings we find some relief from the rushing insanity. That is, until Garcia starts playing his leads again and the world spirals and bleeds endlessly into itself, launching us into a broad smile-infused dance where we lose all care or concern over our inability to find any footing. This is high Grateful Dead drama and there's no better place to be lost.

From I Know You Rider, they hint momentarily at returning to Playin' In The Band but this ends up speeding into a loosely structures space jam before reaching Drums (special tip of the hat to my friend David Minches who digitized this audience master tape and his well executed splicing of an unavoidable tape flip at the head of this jam). The music charges down broad circular paths before exiting our vision leaving the rush of Drums before us.

Bob Weir September 13, 1981There is a long played Space which drips and pools, shimmers and evaporates, smolders and sings its way back toward the Playin' Reprise. As Playin' ends, the band takes another unexpected turn into Wharf Rat (this only the 6th out of 10 times the two have been paired as such, and the first time in over 3 years). It's rare enough to be a complete surprise to anyone listening, newbie or old school trader.

And it doesn't end there. Another transition that was logged only ten times in the band's career is Wharf Rat into I Need A Miracle. Rare enough to look nearly absurd on paper, but matching the theme of the evening where everything seems driven by an overwhelming sense of explosive energy, Wharf Rat finds its tempo unexpectedly quickening and its intensity building as the band pulls off a nearly unthinkable, yet brilliantly played transition into Miracle.

Quintessentially putting the icing on the cake, I Need A Miracle > Goin' Down The Road (these only paired together 8 times ever) caps off the second set, somehow raising the bar even higher with intensity and vigor. The slide into GDTRFB finds the music edging into a collapse of key and tempo, yet without the band missing a step. It's an Americana flag rippling shower of electric folk psychedelia as the band powers along without squandering the chance to extend the solos and elevate the crowd to a frenzy of joy. We are brought back to earth (just barely) with the set closing Johnny B Goode.

And then, as if in fitting style to the band's obvious foray into unexpected terrain all evening, they encore with the first It's All Over Now, Baby Blue played since 1974 (only the 3rd time since 1970), ushering in the return of this song to the line up as something of a staple in the encore spot.

Good grief, do you need any more cajoling? If you haven't started downloading this show yet, there's really nothing left to do.

Smile, smile, smile…

08/14/81 AUD etree source info
08/14/81 AUD Download

Friday, January 22, 2010

Under Eternity Blue - Country Rock Roots

The seventh installment of the Under Eternity Blue radio program hits the Internet airwaves this weekend on Spirit Plants Radio with two show times: Saturday, January 23rd at 7pm PST and Sunday, January 24th at 10am PST.

This episode will dig into Country Rock Roots. Focusing mainly on the late 60s, we will trace a bit of Country Rock's birth as many Psychedelic Rock artists embraced a world of simple structures and traditional instruments launching themselves into a whole new world of heartfelt musical expression.

In addition to the weekend airings, this episode will be added to the Under Eternity Blue podcast series and if you are subscribed, you will find this broadcast appearing as a new podcast download. Information for subscribing can be found at the Under Eternity Blue Music site itself.

Spirit Plants Radio
Under Eternity Blue with DJ Arkstar
Saturday, January 23rd: 7pm PST
Sunday, January 24th: 10am PST

The full weekend line up (11am PST Saturday - 11pm PST Sunday) is listed on the Spirit Plants Radio page above.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

1979 September 1 - Rochester, NY

Saturday, September 1, 1979
Holleder Memorial Stadium - Rochester, NY
Audience Recording

You have to love the way that even after so many years, the riches of the Grateful Dead's concert catalogue can continue to bear fruit. It's not just the occasional previously unheard show coming to light, but as you get more than knee deep into collecting shows, you find that these riches can also come in the form of "upgrades" to classic tapes, let alone by bumping into a date that previously evaded your attention altogether. For me, this happened in spades with September 1st, 1979.

As much as it may have been new to me after so many years, there are, no doubt, scores of traders who have treasured this show for decades. Such is the nature of Grateful Dead tape collecting. There's more out there than could ever be universally experienced. In the case of 09/01/79, this is a wonderful show that I have now found represented by a stellar audience recording. And that sends it right to the top of worthy additions to the Grateful Dead Listening Guide.

Set 1: Mississippi Half Step Uptown Toodeloo > Franklin's Tower, Me & My Uncle > Big River, Friend Of The Devil, Looks Like Rain, Don't Ease Me In, Lost Sailor > Saint Of Circumstance
Set 2: Scarlet Begonias > Fire On The Mountain > Drums > Space > Wharf Rat > I Need A Miracle > Bertha > Good Lovin' E: One More Saturday Night

The show is chuck full of delights spanning a fine Half Step > Franklin’s opener, to only the fifth rendition of Lost Sailor > Saint Of Circumstance (still in it's formative stages). And the first set burns with the fire that we would come to associate with early 80's first sets in the years soon to follow. But, for me, the crowning jewel is the enormous Scarlet>Fire that opens the second set. Long enough to fill the entire pre-Drums portion of the set, this is an under appreciate version that can stand with the best of them.

Scarlet Begonias gets started in a somewhat standard fashion. We are bathed in audience recording perfection as the music pours into us. Brent is slightly out of the mix, but to mention it is to be overly nit-picky. This is one hell of a recording. The song finds its way into its extended jam, satisfying on all levels. Eventually Phil hints at the transition into Fire On The Mountain but Jerry will have none of it. Garcia proceeds to launch into a nearly cosmic level of playing, pushing his only weeks old Doug Irwin "Tiger" guitar into the heavens. His tone absolutely shimmers off the tape, and we are left slack-jawed as he drives himself into one amazing phrase after another. It goes on for several long minutes before the band finally does transition into the next song, and the cosmic level of playing only continues from there.

Fire On The Mountain – all 16 minutes of it – is a 1979 snapshot of the Grateful Dead's evolving essential core magic. Sure, there are folks who proclaim that there is nothing worth their ear after 1974. But this is the sort of performance that even these people would be delighted to hear. The pulsing beat and syncopated rhythms of this Fire On The Mountain display the voice of the band's primal groove in the late 70's. The magic is alive and well, and Garcia wastes no time riding the wave. All of his solos are tinged with something special, but his last efforts goes beyond all expectation. Amidst his inspired and passionate soloing, his exploration of tone via his collection of processing gear pushes his sound into something we might otherwise associate with his midi work ten years later. His guitar's sound pushes completely out of bounds as the world around us is alive in rippling waves and sparkling starlight. We are flashed directly into a singular experience with the music, like some tribal dance reaching its zenith.

The post Drums portion of the show seems to fit an outdoor football stadium party atmosphere perfectly, as the band delivers a nearly solid rockin' ride straight to the end of the show.

A good time had by all, with part of our consciousness left permanently in the outer reaches of the Grateful Dead’s cosmic muse-garden forever. A fitting resting place we’ll happily return to again and again for sure.

Enjoy this stellar audience recording.

09/01/79 AUD etree source info
09/01/79 AUD Download

Friday, January 8, 2010

GDLG-008 - On Down The Less Traveled Road

Listening Session 008: Exploring some shows you might not otherwise think about in an effort to discover more hidden gems across the vast history of Grateful Dead concert recordings.

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