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Monday, March 21, 2011

1974 May 25 - UC Santa Barbara

Saturday, May 25, 1974
Campus Stadium, UC Santa Barbara -- Goleta, CA
Audience & Soundboard Recordings

Judged across the entire 30 year span of Grateful Dead music, 1973 and 1974 possess tremendous similarities. However, when viewed in detail they reveal stark differences at many levels.

The explorative playing style in 1974 has an aggressive and intentional bent. The band was pushing in ‘74, whereas in 1973 things seemed more about open discovery. By 1974 the discoveries of ‘73 were well catalogued, and the band spent that majority of '74 working these discoveries to their bidding.

The entire 1974 opus displays this tendency, but the Santa Barbara show on May 25th seems to do so in extreme fashion. 5/25/74 sounds nearly nothing like 1973. It is a show full of an almost hell-bent intensity which pervades the entire performance.

Set 1: U. S. Blues, Mexicali Blues, Deal, Jack Straw, Scarlet Begonias, Beat It On Down The Line, Brown Eyed Women, Me & My Uncle, Sugaree, El Paso, China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider, Around & Around
Set 2: Promised, Ship Of Fools, Big River, Tennessee Jed, Truckin' > Jam > Space > Let It Grow > Wharf Rat, Sugar Magnolia > Going Down The Road Feelin' Bad > One More Saturday Night, E: Casey Jones

We are treated to both a fine soundboard and an audience recording of this sweet show. Being at an outdoor venue in midday, one can't help but appreciate, yet again, the glory of the Wall of Sound being preserved on tape in the open air. The audience tape, recorded by Jeremy Witt, pulses with a thick and almost suffocating electricity that only 1974 could produce. It is not to be missed.

I'm not keeping tabs on such a thing, but the Scarlet Begonias here on 5/25 may be the fastest one on record. The song's syncopated rhythms stand out like spikes. Scarlet churns like a great ball of fire, packed with the energy of swirling suns and titanic plumes of lightning. In whiplash fashion, the band flies through the song's verses, leading to some Donna wailing that eclipses anything you may have heard in another show. She truly outdoes herself -- the energy of the song possessing her in a way that I've not heard before or after (and I've heard my fair share of Donna wails). It's brief, but she seems catapulted into the air by the rushing music. Jerry follows this up with a rapid solo which rounds into the end of the song so quickly it will make your head spin.

But this barely hints at the intensity found in the China>Rider later in the set. Searing, devastating, nearly brutal in tempo, this China Cat jam will evaporate the air in your lungs. The Dead explode through the descending four chord block section and whirl into I Know You Rider amidst a blaze of glory. Phil is causing continental shifts while Garcia's guitar strings become comets burrowing into the atmosphere, their trailing tails crackling with strobe light sparklers. We reach the end of the song as if it was speeding by like a rocketing freight train. It slams to a stop leaving our eyes as wide open as the horizon.The music is taking no prisoners today.

You won't find too many mentions of the tune Around & Around on these pages, but as if to outdo the entire first set leading up to it, this version steps in and demolishes everything for miles around. Rock-n-Rock all the way. Whoa. They need to stop here just to let the Wall cool down a little.

The May 1974 run is punctuated with four fantastic Truckin's over six shows.Number one can be visited on 5/12/74. Here on the closing day of the run, with the full head of steam this sweltering show has been building already, we launch into another epic rendition.

Out of the final verse great torrents of molten lava and serpent tongue licking fire flood every pore. Melting wagon wheels of imploding light fuse all senses into one avalanche of power. Slowly, the band lets the crushing energy of the music give way to a more liquid and loping landscape. Garcia eases into great rich bell tones and the music slips into the air as if turned into ten thousand multi-hued feathers. The air becomes filled with music streaming and trailing in all directions. Eventually, the ironclad connectivity of sound is broken and the music forms undulating mountains spread across a valley stretching into the distance. Coils and tendrils seethe underfoot coming to grip the terrain more and more tightly. Wind shifts and Let It Grow shimmers into view.

Let It Grow, as one might expect, takes off like a rocket ship. Played as fast as any version I can recall, the surging music allows Garcia to reach speeding staccato notes in his solo while also giving way to great swooning shooting stars. This Let It Grow jamming distinguishes much of the 1974 playing style and stands in direct contrast to 1973. Things just didn't move this fast in that earlier year.

Let It Grow tips over the edge of the world into vast clouds, cascading sublimely into Wharf Rat. The song goes on to brew a deeply entwined tapestry of sound-colors. It latches itself to the pulse of our breathing; the marrow in our bones is awash with the touch of this timeless rhythm. The veil of reality dissolves into infinite details, strumming an ancient and haunting song of the soul. Music becomes water and wind finding its way into every crevice; filling every vessel. Here, again, is the forever beating heart of the Grateful Dead. With no effort, we merge into that which can only be described as something we've always known to be ourselves.

By the time the band pulls out Going Down The Road Feeling Bad, we are back in the direct path of the scorching sun. Billy's drumming dances like a symphony of rainbow refractions out of a crystal seascape. He appears to be coming from every possible direction. Jerry lets fly one fiery solo after another, eventually riding that familiar geyser of swirling light into the sky, illuminating the clouds from within. The show seems incapable of exhausting its source of power, and drives on through a set closing One More Saturday Night, and a decidedly tasty Casey Jones in encore. Whew!

05/25/74 AUD etree source info
05/25/74 AUD Download

05/25/74 SBD etree source info
05/25/74 SBD Stream

note: All photos were taken on 5/25/74, photographer credit unknown.


  1. Thanks for sharing. Good stuff. Am working my way through the book A Long Strange Trip. So this is my first true foray into the enormous live legacy of the Dead. Your pointers are truly appreciated.

  2. I was at this show, a blazing hot day on the football field. Show started with Great American String Band, Jerry, Richard Greene along with Grisman if my memory serves. I also remember Maria Muldaur singing at some point.

    I had been at the Cow Palace show a few months previously and the sound was dreadful in comparison. I am a bit dulled at this point but remember few high points in the second set with the exception of Let it Grow, but loving the first set B.O.D.T.L. and Brown Eyed women amongst others.

    Mostly I remember a fairly lame crowd of surfers and normal joes and a too hot day. For me the crowd in the seventies didn't really totally get it until about 1976, with the major happiness quotient hitting its peak in 77. At least down south. I can't speak for what happened in the sixties but in 77 you knew practically everybody in Winterland on a first name basis. Of course it may have just been the bottles.

    Anyway in regards to this show, it sounds better now to me than it did then. Was way too hot that day. Saw the Dead there with Bonnie Raitt a few years later and it was way more psychedelic.

    Just my opinion.

  3. Just found your blog, and greatly appreciate it. Your reviews of each show are great, and the comments from your regular readers are very entertaining.I've been a Deadhead for a long time, but just recently discovered Lossless legs and a few other places where I can obtain Dead shows in lossless quality. I appreciate your blog for pointing me in the right direction, especially for your posts on 7/2/71 and 8/24/72.

    Keep up the good work!

  4. Thanks, Rich (et al)! I'm glad you found your way here and dig what you've found.

  5. AUD is a bit nasaly sounding compared to the SBD but its about the music in this one. Transitions from the Truckin Jam into Let It Grow and from there into Wharf Rat are some of the best i've heard. Completely mind blowing. This show is like a good birthday present. Thanks.

  6. Has anyone ever heard of a tape of the Great American String/Music Band set having made it out of the venue on this day? There are photographs, but no tape as far as I know (and I'd like to be wrong).

    Fantastic work of course, icepetal. Thank you for sharing!

  7. Makes me think there is a good theme for an upcoming PODCAST embedded in this excellent review of May 25, 1974. "The Transition Periods" Certainly the sound and the direction of teh dead shifted (transitioned) from 1973 to 1974 in a monumental fashion, for some reasons eloquently touched on my ICEPETAL in this review and others still be explored (key changes in instruments, for example). Greatly looking forward to the next PODCAST.

  8. I forgot to drop by here for a while, but glad I did tonight; your prose crackes me up, in a good way.

  9. quit being such a deadhead and update your site!

  10. Noah,
    You've totally converted me into an AUDophile. Since I first started getting into Dead music a couple of years ago I never really knew where to go, what to choose, because there's so much. I just chose at random, based on archive reviews, which isn't all bad. But you helped give me a direction for where I should go to look for gold. And now, while of course I love a good soundboard, if there's a decent AUD I'll choose that any day over a good SBD. The feeling is just so much more intense. More than just the music. Lately I've been getting a bunch of Jerry Moore's recordings from the archive. I just want to say thanks for showing me the power of a good audience recording.

  11. This is a solid show and is a great example of why AUD > SBD. I'll take the perceived flaws, you can hear the air the sound is traveling through. This has to be one the best Let It Grows I've heard, bonus on the nice jam into it from Truckin'. Is it just me, or is this Tennessee Jed above average? Jerry seems to be enjoying himself on it!

  12. What I love about them is their unique and eclectic style. Thanks for sharing the article.


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