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Monday, March 11, 2013

1970 June 4 - Fillmore West

Grateful Dead
Thursday, June 4, 1970
Fillmore West - San Francisco, CA
Audience Recording

Few and far between are complete audience tapes of the Grateful Dead in 1970 which include the acoustic opening set, the New Riders of the Purple Sage middle set, and the electric Dead closing set. Fewer still are those that sound as good as any AUD tape could in that year. Here, however, is just such a tape.

The Dead left the Bay area at the end of April, 1970 and embarked on a six week, 17 show tour hitting mostly college campuses on the east coast, along with a night at the Fillmore East in New York and spending  a couple days overseas in England. Despite the spotty completeness of recordings from this run, it’s an epic tour, giving us some of the very best shows of the year - the fabled and iconic May 2nd show at Harpur College easily springs to mind. 

On those audience tapes we do have from this run, there is no shortage of excited energy in the crowds, something we’ve come to call that “east coast vibe.” This is just the first thing thing that makes the tape from June 4th, 1970 at the Fillmore West in San Francisco an intoxicating experience - the vibe is decidedly “west coast” - the audience is unmistakably lower key than those at Dead shows out east. And that only scratches the surface of what makes the 06/04/70 AUD tape a fantastic listen.

If you’ve listened to a lot of 1969-1971 Grateful Dead, you will quickly pick up the feeling of the band being “at home” on this tape from the Fillmore West. No one is in a hurry. Nothing pushes the evening along. But it’s more than that. There is also the sound of the band in this hall.  I’m not just talking about the amazing tape recording - speaking of... my goodness, uh... wow - I’m talking about a particular taste to the sound of the PA, the mic placement, the acoustic guitars, the vocals, the drums (especially cymbals). With Bear still not quite yet on his way to federal prison, he is as much present on this recording as the entire band. The sound here at the Fillmore West exudes a sense that he is truly in his element. The room sounds that good.  Perhaps it was just the comfort of a known stomping ground and house equipment, but the sonic nature of space within this room is stunning.

While those who need to find fault may point to the less than perfect levels and clarity of low-end on this tape, it’s hard to be disappointed with this listening experience. And again, as a 1970 AUD tape? Whoa.

Set One - Grateful Dead Acoustic: Monkey and the Engineer, Deep Elem Blues, Candyman, Silver Threads and Golden Needles, Friend of the Devil, Black Peter, Cumberland Blues, Wake Up Little Suzie, Swing Low Sweet Chariot, Uncle John's Band

Set Two - New Riders of the Purple Sage: Working Man's Blues, If You Hear Me When I'm Leaving, Whatcha Gonna Do, I Don't Know You, Portland Woman, Truck Drivin' Man, Superman, Louisiana Lady, All I Ever Wanted, Henry, Last Lonely Eagle, Fair Chance To Know, The Race is On, Mama Tried, Honky Tonk Women

Set Three - Grateful Dead Electric: Casey Jones, Me and My Uncle, Hard to Handle, It's a Sin, China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider, Attics of My Life, It's a Man's World, New, New Minglewood Blues, Good Lovin', St. Stephen > Not Fade Away > Midnight Hour, It's All Over Now Baby Blue

The acoustic set is about as close to the Grateful Dead’s back porch as we are going to get.  Relaxed, and with no expectations (save for a good deal of complaints over getting the monitors to work properly), the set displays a tremendous intimacy. There is a fragile honesty to the proceedings, without a hint of pretension anywhere. The guitars are warm, the vocals round. In Candyman, the drum and cymbal work are so well mixed, they seem to be perched on the listener’s shoulder.  More than feeling like you are on stage with the band, it feels like the band is in your head. The song wraps with the band saving a complete vocal train wreck so well, you’re left thinking this was just some alternate way they decided to treat the very end of the tune tonight.

Sublime acoustic Grateful Dead continues. Once David Nelson and Marmaduke from the Riders join them on stage at Cumberland, good goes to great. The closing Uncle John’s Band, again with those drums so well placed up in the mix, is gorgeous. We finally see the audience energy rise - ready for true lift off.

When the New Riders of the Purple Sage take the stage, to obviously state that things become more electric it an understatement. This band (with Jerry on pedal steel from inception through October, 1971 - you knew that already, right?) approaches psychedelia with ninja-like skills.  You almost don’t catch it until you start listening just below the surface of this country rock five-piece. 

Early Riders music shimmers with a taffy pulling goo. Drums, guitar and pedal steel are all continually appearing, receding and reappearing from a wash of rippling melodies. Mickey Hart (on drums until late November, 1970) is hell bent on being remembered as the most asynchronous country drummer of all time.  That he manages to keep the music driving forward is quite a testament to his drumming chops, because he takes advantage of every opportunity to go after beats that are not on the one, two, three or four - as if he is scoring a game measured in such things. He is winning this game, and causing everything in the musical orbit to open into ellipses and other complicated mathematics (see Louisiana Lady - he scores into the bonus round on that tune). David Nelson’s guitar play twangs as if played by fourteen fingers, let alone four.  And Garcia on steel... well, the guy knew how to work an instrument - even one he continually admitting to being woefully incapable of finding the time to master.

The Riders’ set is fantastic. In their own world of musical documentation, June 1970 is woefully under-represented (this tape marks one of only two June 1970 evenings we have), so catching this complete set in such breathtaking detail is a dream come true. Things continue to swirl and elevate as their set continues. Whatcha Gonna Do, and I Don’t Know You begin to peel back the veil of straightforward country rock completely, as the music drives in a cyclone of song. The evening is becoming more electric on all counts. The Riders are the glue, the transparent fully explored example of how a late 60’s psychedelic juggernaut like the Grateful Dead could so naturally release Working Man’s Dead and American Beauty here in 1970. Through the Riders, it all comes together. It all makes more sense.  And then it all explodes into a carnival of colors when the electric Dead take the stage...

Casey Jones is delivered in near perfect LP replication.  The energy soars and the hi-stepping Grateful Dead march is in full swing. The audience recording brings all of this into intimate focus. It still feels like the entire band is exploding in the palm of your hand. This quality emanating from a 1970 AUD is not something typical, and it forces one to take pause and smile. This is really good.

The set list is interesting for its lack of Dark Star or Other One, though perhaps understandable with a long weekend ahead filling out this stand. More interesting is finding a version of “It’s A Sin” showing up. We are missing the first hunk of the song, but still... we have no known previous record of this song being played in 1970 whatsoever. So, pretty cool.

The China>Rider (also clipped at the start) is ferocious. It has all the charging madness of a 1968 China Cat Sunflower, and Garcia’s guitar tone blazes with deafening, sun streaming power. The transition into I Know You Rider is nicely done, and the band keeps a quick clip moving which lends even more energy to the tune.

The stand alone Attics of My Life is a treat, despite the overdriven vocals. It somehow seems sedate in comparison to the outright spiritual awakening that is communicated in the version a few weeks later on 6/24/70.

Then we come to It’s A Man’s World.  One of only a dozen known versions, all occurring between April and September 1970, this song is full of sultry swagger. Pigpen howls and howls, with the band cooly chugging below. As Garcia starts working into his solos, everything jells. The band comes alive and casts serpentine phrases and rhythms over the crowd. The song flies with a transcendent “Eleven” vibe, like a jam pulled right out of 1969. Garcia’s notes fly on tiptoes leaving a trail of dancing sparkles. And a special nod to the boys’ backing vocals here - expertly delivered while kicking out such groovy underpinnings.

Now the band seems to be hitting full stride.  Minglewood bores into the chest, taking the giant sound of 1970 Dead directly back into this earliest of band standards. The solo crashes like a meteor on stage. Bobby screams, rips, roars and screams some more.

Good Lovin’ picks up directly where Minglewood and It’s A Man’s World leave off. We are rocketing forward. The mid-song Drums is clipped, but we pick up just as the band gets back down to business. All six band members are moving in different direction, and manage to congeal and disperse over and over again.  Garcia wails. His notes have become liquid fire, speeding through the sky. Everyone comes back together and concludes the song with knock out force. We are breathless. And then comes St. Stephen.

Here the audience tape provides a glimpse into the sonic tidal wave of the Grateful Dead in a fashion not readily available in any other tape this reviewer can bring to memory. After the “lady finger” section of the song proves to be intensely personal - it is so within the head that the head expands to fill all space - the flash pot/gunshot that follows becomes an endgame for the senses. The music becomes enormous, even cataclysmic, as if towering forces are locked in battle. Galaxies collide, exploding in endless eruptions. Above it all, a cymbal swell begins to take form, certainly a mainstay portion of this tune. But this tape brings it into bone bleaching focus. The swell begins to level everything in its path, yet the music muscles its way even higher. Nothing is left of personal space. There is no room left.  Here, we are lost to the music. We are gone. And the sound wall continues to roar. This one passage delivers the goods so completely, it starts to make sense why people would religiously follow the band from show to show for decades. You come out on the other side wondering, what just happened? Sensational.

Into Not Fade Away we go. More blistering work from Garcia.  It’s just a single verse, and the band tumbles into a jam that returns to St Stephen. Garcia is cartwheeling now, flinging plumes of fiery light into space. From here we move into Midnight Hour - only one of five known versions in 1970. 

The song is another Pigpen swagger punctuated by the band’s crushing hand of power. Under a lazy Pigpen rap, the band begins to take things in other directions. A very Dancin’ In The Streets style jam ensues. Jerry finds his way into extremely pastoral spaces with his solo, juxtaposed against the strut of the music nicely. His solo is soon crooning and swooning, headed toward some astral plane. The band gets it, and we become utterly lost again.  The muse of the band is singing New Potato Caboose, Caution, Dancin’ and anything else it feels like singing. Deep within this spectacular passage we hear the smallest hint from Bobby teasing back to China Cat. Before we fully confirm in our head that we just heard it, Jerry certainly did, and the band gives the theme full treatment before landing back in Midnight Hour on the back of some Garcia volume knob work.

Baby Blue (one of just three known versions in 1970) is wickedly cut short on the AUD tape due, undoubtedly, to a lack of blank tape after such a long evening. But I’m not going to scold our taper, Gerry Olsen, in any way. This tape is pure gold. We are blessed completely in our opportunity to hear it, and the window into 1970 Grateful Dead it provides for our ears. Enjoy!

06/04/70 etree source info
06/04/70 AUD download

Thursday, September 27, 2012

GDLG-011 - Playin’ in the Playin’

Listening Session 011: More interwoven adventures through the wonderland of Grateful Dead live music.


Saturday, June 16, 2012

Under Eternity Blue - Contemporary Psychedelic Folk

The thirteenth installment of the Under Eternity Blue radio program hits the Internet airwaves this weekend on Spirit Plants Radio with two show times: Saturday, June 16 at 7pm EST, and Sunday, June 17 at 8am EST.

Most fans of this site probably also enjoy a wide variety of psychedelic folk from the 60's and 70's. In this episode, we explore similar musical pleasures produced in the more modern times of our current century. Check out the creative juices that are flowing in the here and now. You will be very glad you did.

After this weekend's 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 then. Information for subscribing can be found at the Under Eternity Blue Music site itself.
Under Eternity Blue with DJ Arkstar
Saturday, June 16: 7pm EST
Sunday, June 17: 8am EST

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

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

1980 September 6 - Lewiston, ME

Saturday, September 6, 1980
State Fairgrounds - Lewiston, ME
Audience Recording

Strip away time. Erase the day of the week, the month, the year. Tumble into a kaleidoscope of color. Pass through the membrane. Be the membrane. There never was a membrane. You're back at a Grateful Dead show.

When they did it well, it was all about the evaporation of everything that grounded you to the here and now, yet allowed you to slip all the way into the here and now just the same. The Dead's musical muse simply was. It didn't evolve so much as slowly turn, ever-present in the light. A telltale sign that the band was coaxing the muse out came with the strong impression that you were no longer hearing music being played right now. More often, the muse simply sounded like the Grateful Dead, echoing backward and forward, un-tethered to "today."

Here's a show with the opportunity to echo as far forward as it could backward. Played in 1980, it stands at the center of the Dead's 30 year career.  This is too coincidental a reason, I know, but the show is indeed packed with muse-infused moments. On 9/6/80 the music played the band.

Set One: Alabama Getaway > Greatest Story Ever Told, Sugaree, Me & My Uncle > Mexicali Blues, Tennessee Jed, Stranger, Fried of the Devil, Far From Me > Little Red Rooster, China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider > Promised Land
Set Two: Shakedown Street > Lost Sailor > Saint of Circumstance, Althea, Playin' in the Band > Uncle John's Band > Drums > Space > Not Fade Away > The Wheel > Uncle John's Band > Playin' in the Band > Sugar Magnolia E: One More Saturday Night> Brokedown Palace

The entire show is worth all of your ear's time. Yet, there are several highlights that bear mentioning – so many, that I'm quite sure I will overlook a few.

Sugaree plays on and on, Garcia speeding and swirling effortlessly. The band is locked in with him, everyone adding fuel to the fire. It's a healthy, long version, typical of the time period. Feel Like A Stranger is sublime. The jam is tossed into a heavy syncopation after Bobby missteps a "silky silky silky crazy night" line. It's impossible to tell who in the band slips with him, and who stays in the prescribed beat count of the song. But the result is an extremely extended jam that fires flares off in roller coaster streaming arcs for what feels like an eternity. The phrasing is filled with the standard Stranger themes, but it is peppered with so much more. When they somehow manage to pull together for the final refrain, it's like be shaken from an epic dream.

China>Rider had a wonderful tendency to catch fire in the early 80's. After just sort of reappearing in rotation at the start of 1979 (after a 4 year hiatus), the song duo had taken on a more upbeat tempo, and by 1980 it was a pure carnival of light and sound. The China>Rider here on 9/6/80 is flat out perfection. A wonderfully glowing solo section cascades into an I Know You Rider which finds Jerry's tone crisp and clean. He rounds corners and rolls over hills, spraying notes to the horizon. The last solo catches the light of the sun and soars like a bird. We slam into a Promised Land that punctuates the end of the first set with the same elevated energy that has permeated the entire show so far. It will blow your hair back and leave you breathless. And set two is still to come…

Leading off with a rousing Shakedown>Saint of Circumstance>Lost Sailor, the second set gets off to a fine start. But it's the huge meat of the show where the Grateful Dead's muse fills every pore. In case you overlooked it above, this is a very long ride: Playin'>Uncle John's>Drums>Space>Not Fade Away>Wheel>Uncle John's>Playin'>Sugar Magnolia. Within this roughly 60 minutes stretch of music, we find the Dead dipping deeply into the well of creative juices they've been tapping throughout this entire early September run.

Playin' quickly transports the band to no-time. Jerry's rapid staccato lead lines slowly swirling in and out of view are the only hint that it is still 1980. The jam flies down rails of light, banking around hillsides and tunneling through showers of rich watercolor rain. Footing is easily lost as perception is swept up into the buoyancy of music. When Garcia eventually directs the band into Uncle John's it rings with the message that we have arrived. There is a vast opening of hands and hearts here. You can feel it everywhere. The Dead have brought a crowd of thousands to trusted and familiar place. Here, the musical loping is timeless. As the song's joyful bounce tips over into the 7/8 time signature jam, the band is alive with light. Everything dazzles, and the music pulls into great tracks of ascending smoke. Before Drums, form dissolves into pulsing fragments and regressions.

Space is brief, yet bottomless. Phil hurls massive planets, churning with purple lava, over and into the body of the crowd. They take away the space to breathe, as the air is filled with magma over and over again. Suffocating, taffy-like moans expand to fill the fairgrounds.

Not Fade Away appears and ignites the crowd's energy. And while it arrives off of a Garcia hip check into the boards, The Wheel which follows swoons with that unmistakable Grateful Dead vibe. A timelessness is returning, and when they deftly transition back into Uncle John's Band, the segue jamming is sensational. The ever-present underpinning of joy and welcoming arms envelope the audience and it becomes easy to lose oneself in the long spiraling cycles of the music's structure. Another nice transition unfolds back into Playin' to bring things home. The music swirls between the 7/8 and 10/4 time signatures. Themes merge and the Dead's music elevates the senses. The song ends with a few extra refrains during which Jerry delivers some unexpected soloing sparkle just when you'd otherwise expect the song to be over.

Sugar Magnolia closes the set, and things end with a Brokedown Palace encore that further solidifies this show's ability to strike the chord of the timeless Grateful Dead muse. Jerry's short solo floats like starlight through a softly swaying summer breeze. It is enough. We are bathed in the band's pure lore of folk-psychedelic Americana music. It is everything Grateful Dead. Fare thee well.

09/06/80 AUD etree source info
09/06/80 AUD Download

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Under Eternity Blue - Soul Funk

The twelfth installment of the Under Eternity Blue radio program hits the Internet airwaves this weekend on Spirit Plants Radio with two show times: Saturday, July 30 at 11pm EST, and Sunday, July 31 at 11am EST.

It's been a scorcher of a summer so far, and nothing reflects the heat quite as nicely as Soul Funk - that pocked genre of music from the late 60s to very early 70s that was born out of James Brown and had an unmistakable imprint of the dawning of everything we know as Funk today.

After this weekend's 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 then. Information for subscribing can be found at the Under Eternity Blue Music site itself.
Under Eternity Blue with DJ Arkstar
Saturday, July 30: 11pm EST
Sunday, July 31: 11am EST

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

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