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Thursday, February 28, 2008

1976 October 3 - Cobo Arena

Grateful Dead October 3, 1976 GRATEFUL DEAD
Sunday, October 3, 1976
Cobo Arena - Detroit, MI
Audience Recording

One of the first tapes from 1976 that I collected outside of a number of June shows, this date was yet another that I hadn’t seen on any other lists anywhere. It might have been something I picked up just to fill out a trade for that reason alone (for a while I didn’t go head over heels for 1976). What I got was a giant dose of the best that 1976 has to offer. This show, and tape, remain at the absolute top of my picks for 1976 Grateful Dead. It takes the ribbon as a show and as an AUD tape.

Other 1976 AUD aficionados might beg to differ, and I’d agree that there are sonically better recordings from ’76 which I will feature here in due time. But this show (set two in particular) does that something special that only certain AUD tapes do – it captures the arena as an instrument. The sound of the hall on this tape is participatory, not distracting. The tape captures all instrumentation clearly. There’s wonderful separation. And Cobo Arena bounces everything from drums to vocals in a perfect outer layer – it all gels into the classic Dead AUD tape experience. I know this tape had a lot to do with my becoming a flag waving, card carrying, AUD loving Deadhead.

Grateful Dead 1976So, back when I got this show, it was only the second set that I found on some guys list. Set one emerged years later when the set two SBD made the light of day. The copy of set one that is part of this version I’m linking in this post isn’t quite up to par with the copy of the second set. While you owe it to yourself to hear the Scarlet Begonias from set one, I’m far more focused on your hearing the second set tape. Oh, and the SBD… Most all SBDs from the Fall of 1976 seem rather flat and dry. This show is a completely different experience in SBD. Not at all what I recommend here.

Allow me to share some thoughts on the big set two jam:

Once we emerge from the vocal section of Playin’, the energy is unmistakable. The crowd is once again hushed by the blanket of concentration happening on stage. There’s a long passage of Jerry playing with the wha-wha pedal, and then without. Each member of the band is picking and choosing their note placement with precision. It’s similar to the energetic spiraling of a ’73-’74 Playin’ but somewhat more mellow. This is a fluid Playin’ jam, not an edgy, dark jam. The expanse of Cobo Arena brings to mind underground caverns lit by invisible light sources of ever-changing colors; the music spreading across the ceiling like a phosphorescent algae flowing as fast as water. Deep into the jam Jerry starts to poke his head up over the spacey, viscous ooze with some lead lines that just make you marvel that things could get even cooler than they already are. The band is in such a good place, this could certainly go on all night. Based on everything that comes after, we are blessed that it doesn’t. Without a flourish, we enter Drums. It is short and sweet.

Jerry Garcia - Fall 1976The Wheel is pretty standard fare for 1976, but the jam afterwards is nothing short of stunning, the first of many more fantastic improvisational passages from this set. The jam is picturesque, as many Wheel jams are, but here the band begins to play loosely with the upbeat jam normally associated with Comes A Time in the late 70's. You want to pinch yourself because it’s so joyful. Another moment in Dead tapes that approaches the satori moment. You’ll tell the story of this jam to your friends back home.

Bobby hints at Dancin', but after many bars of marvelous interplay between everyone, Phil and Jerry seem locked together on their way to Come A Time itself. However, we get Good Lovin' instead. It starts with the refrain we remember from the start of Good Lovin' back in 1970. The tune is incredibly hot. Jerry and Donna's background vocals are spot on. The lead break is sensational - all sorts of things are being toyed with here. But it's the jam out of the song that reaches the same levels of play that have been displayed time and time again over the last ten days of the tour. Each member of the band is listening to, and playing off of, the other. We even hear the familiar shuffle-like jam that came out of Eyes of the World less than a week earlier on 9/28. Near the end, with Jerry and Phil locked together again, they are getting completely in synch for Comes A Time. Then a glimmer of Slipknot appears that makes me think I had heard it before during an earlier jam (in Playin'?). But all things focus on a single point, and Jerry lets loose another stellar version of Comes A Time. Sweet and full of subdued emotion.

Jerry Garcia October 3, 1976The all too short jam out of Come A Time is priceless. It's like a dawn breeze comes by and lifts you up into the air; the sun just peaking up over the horizon. Jerry orbits around a central theme while the entire band seems to search for the right direction to go. But it is as if they cannot help but be in the zone at the same time. I remember when I first got this tape I had never heard one of these late 70's post Come A Time jams before. I was awestruck. The fact that, after quite a few years of trading, I could discover something so unique and so utterly breathtaking from this band that I was already on such familiar terms with thrilled me to no end. And it occurs twice in this show; once out of The Wheel, and again after Comes A Time.

Out of this jam, Bobby finally gets the Dancin' he was hinting at earlier. Nothing stands out more than Phil seeming to sprout an extra left arm or two as he manages to be all over the neck of the bass at every moment. A very smooth transition into Not Fade Away follows. The groove is good, but can't quite match the levels from the rest of the set. Bobby pulls off a China Cat tease on the way back to Dancin', but the rest of the band has little or no interest at all. The crowd, on the other hand, sure hears it, and wants it. China>Rider had not been played since 1974, and wouldn’t again until the end of 1977. There is a brief Drums break before they bring Dancin' back for good and you can hear a big dude call out in a husky voice "I Know You Rider!!!!" Well, no chance tonight.

So, you want to know something that pains this AUD loving, old tape transferring deadhead’s heart? Check out the reviews attached to this version of the show I seeded (linked below) and note the message from the actual taper in 2005. Humboldt Dead, you came so close, and now I can’t find a way to contact you so we can digitally archive your tape as an upgrade. Oh the pain.


  1. I cross posted this to taperssection to see if we can locate contact info for humboldtdead.

  2. I love the way Bobby's attempt at starting Dancing in the Streets is side swept by the Good Lovin' intro. It reminds me of the Dark Star from 8/21/72. About 20 minutes in, Jerry starts into Morning Dew. Bob follows for a little bit, but Phil and Keith suck everything back in the void.

    I find those sort of broken transitions, that prove they are not in fact clever androids, just as delightful as when they seem to telepathically hit real oddball transitions without a hitch like the St. Stephen -> China Cat Sunflower on 6/24/70 or China Doll -> Not Fade Away from 6/4/77. It's good to see your idols humanized occasionally.

  3. I've been listening to the Dead for 30 years beginning with Anthem of the Sun. Connecting with the Dead recently through the movie Sunshine Daydream was completely fun. I was mesmerized by the scene and the performance. Long live the Pole Guy!!!

  4. I am Humboldt Dead. Once again I am amazed to find my humble recording so well reviewed.
    I was playing bluegrass for a living back then, playing in a bluegrass band out of Columbus Ohio. I was also an avid Deadhead and tape trader, We had a gigs in East Lansing and Ann Arbor that week, and I missed the 9/30 thru 10/2 shows in Columbus, Indianapolis & Cincinnati Indianapolis, but luckily, a guy who was involved in the promotion of this show was also booking our band into college campuses and got me 4 tickets 8th row center for Detroit Sunday 10/3. And I owned a Sony 153 that I always took on the road with me. We used the band's vocal mics at the time, AKG D190s.
    A buddy of mine actually slipped the recorder into the hall. Someone else had the mics, someone else batteries and tapes. It was tough in those days. My buddy held the recorder and we sat on either side of him with hand-held mics. It was the only recording that I ever made of the Dead. We got what we got. I am amazed that to my knowledge another recording of this show exists. And I stand by this recording, I am proud of it and it has always sounded great to me.
    Yes, we came so close as the review above says, but we were lucky we did so well. AND I don't have the masters. The buddy who brought the recorder in ended up with the tapes. He made us all copies and then filed away the originals. He may still have them all these years later and if someone here contacts me, I will be happy to find out.
    I am just delighted that there are other people out there that can overlook the flaws in this recording and listen to both a band in top form and feel the ambiance of the room. To me, this is a gem.

  5. Humboldt Dead, please do!!! Look around on your end, and we'll do everything we can from ours!

  6. Humboldt Dead, it's amazing you finally emerged! Thanks so much for your work on this awesome show. If you can locate the masters that would be much appreciated!

  7. Humbolt Dead, please get in touch. I'd love to just chat, even if you have not found the tapes.

  8. Humboldt, what was name of your band? Did you play Lizard's in ELansing?

  9. Yup. Many times in 1975 & 1976. We were the Red Mountain String Band.


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