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Friday, June 27, 2008

1983 September 6 - Red Rocks

Grateful Dead March 29, 1983 Warfield

Tuesday, September 6, 1983
Red Rocks Amphitheatre – Morrison, CO
Audience Recording

Man, I love finding great shows hidden in the early 80’s! It’s like panning for gold, knowing that there’s so much to wade through, only to come across a ten pound handful of the precious stuff. I got a nice unassuming nudge in this show’s direction from a decades long friend who was in attendance for this one, sitting in the sweet spot, and feeling that spot most completely. His fond reflections made me immediately curious about the show. About thirty minutes later I had tracked down two masters on the archive and had them at the ready to ride. Tip of the hat to the good old Internet tubes for that!

Jerry Garcia March 29, 1983 WarfieldYou’ll often hear about “dream set lists” if you hang out with tape collecting Deadheads long enough. We just like talking about this stuff. There are two kinds of dream set lists: actual, and fantasy. 09/06/83 can easily be describe as an actual dream set list. The planets just align for us. Challenged to create a 1983 set list yourself, this one would be somewhat of a long shot. But, if you’re going to get a Dupree’s, Bird Song, and Lazy Lightning in a 1983 first set, you know you are well on your way. When you follow up with a star studded, waste no time second set that tosses in an Uncle John’s and a Brokedown, you’re there.

After warming up with some standards that sometimes manage to go to some twisted little off ramps (check the vocal weirdness on Peggy-O), the second half of the set begins with Bird Song. Ever the set one dose of wonderful, spacey exploration, Bird Song lives up to its reputation. It overflows with a crazy level of energy. Not frenetic are frenzied, but wildly crazy just the same. They push out all the boundaries imaginable. It is a dance that defies a body’s ability to express it, a symphony that has been written in six different directions. It is ever-lifting, and any time you think it might come down, it doesn’t. It’s wonderful. It will scramble your senses, leaving you ready for so much more.

Bob Weir 1983The Supplication borders on Other One intensity at times. A churning ball of cosmic fire, Bobby plays very aggressively. Brent hammers away. And Jerry is spot on as he seems to run a serpentine course in four dimensions, maybe five. At times his leads hover in the cloud of the other players’ sharp and pointed voices, Then he swoops out and down in impossible arcs to crackle like liquid lightning (nothing “lazy” here) across the face of the crowd. His seductive riffs beckon us to follow him back into the cloud, but the onslaught of the rest of the band is at times too intoxicating in its own right. We are left hopelessly at the mercy of the entire picture, unable to rest our eyes on just one color or abstract shape before it morphs into another.

Set Two explodes with the opening Help>Slip>Frank. The Slipknot ambles beautifully in coolly flowing patterns which eventually find Bobby and Brent bathing the music is nearly blinding fog blankets of sound swells. These ease off, and Jerry’s slow motion corkscrew continues to draw us along from there.

Grateful Dead 1983Franklin’s Tower is an awesome ride, stacking one better lead section on another. It goes in and out of the verses is like a warm summer storm that rises and falls on the wind as it passes overhead. Eventually Jerry nears hurricane stature in the last solo, and beams of white hot light ignite the air around you. Then the storm recedes, leading us to an fantastically psychedelic and creative Playin’ In The Band.

This Playin’ starts stretching it’s legs with Jerry working the wha wha in somewhat un-1983-like fashion. Under him, Brent is laying out huge moaning drones that fill the air with an endless expanse of timelessness. Phil works his way into this some as well. This is really nice stuff. Eventually Jerry settles into his more staccato lead style, and Brent works into a sound that feels like a wooded steel drum. Bobby is setting off flare-like bursts, and everything starts bobbing and weaving around you. Soon thereafter, Mickey is angling into a pre-Space style of drumming, smacking tones and riffs from impossible angles to the beat. Things are slipping so far from a traditional Playin’ jam, you have to wonder if they are cutting the jam short to let the drummers go. Not at all.

Jerry Garcia September 11, 1983 Santa FeJerry rounds us all the way back to the Playin’ theme and the band draws to a hush. Now Billy is queuing the start of Drums. No doing. We’re barley half way through. From here the music cracks all molds and fractures into chaotic reflections of different dimensions. It grows more aggressive, and Phil is pulling some semi-frightening groans from the mountains around you. An unexpected melodic cohesion appears, and above it Bobby starts working a slide behind his guitar pickups. This produces bird like chirping that grows to subtle screaming. Then the entire mass of music flies out of any semblance of song structure. Bobby leads this weirdness too, with his own deep swelling dissonant groans. The music finally trails off leaving you on the shores of Drums and Space.

A really nice Space takes form, as if the band was intrigued by the efforts in Playin’ and want to push things even further. Rather than sounding forced at all, everything works together very well. Jerry’s scales flow in more than sometimes meaningless directions, and around him wild swells of sound, like giant taffy rivers, crest their banks. Things go from totally strange to eerily melodic with Bobby and Jerry settling into a duet. It floats back and forth from strange to subdued until eventually coming out on the other side into Uncle John’s Band.

A winner in almost any show from any year, Uncle John’s begins a truly delightful post Drums/Space set of music. Just as we were wrapped in non-1983 passages during Playin’, UJB simply exudes all things Grateful Dead and defies simple assignment to any one year. It’s smile producing all around. The Playin’ reprise ties up the loose ends and drops directly into Throwing Stones.

Brent Mydland September 11, 1983 Santa FeNot to be missed, the jam section of this tune departs everything remotely resembling the song itself (much like the Playin’ earlier). It’s short lived, but extremely unexpected and enthralling as the entire song is dismantled and lit on fire. Topping it off by nailing the return to the song proper, the band seems in no mood to let anything go off without some extra oomph.

Not Fade Away doesn’t disappoint in this regard either. The energy is high, and the song high-steps along, brimming with energy. The crowd chants long after the band stops playing, on the way to the Brokedown Palace encore. This caps the evening with that ever loving embrace which pervades the joy of Grateful Dead music throughout time.

This show strikes me as very special, and even more so when juxtaposed against the mainstream music of the day. It was the Summer of Flashdance, Dexy’s Midnight Runners, and right there at the top of the charts in September 1983, Men Without Hats’ Safety Dance.

Nestled in the Red Rocks theater, I’d say it was a somewhat more preferable scene.

There are a couple of good AUDs up on the archive for this show. Front to back, despite some odd track ID starts (the track labeled "Drums" starts at the begining of the Playin' jam), this one recorded with Beyer microphones seems to please my ears the most. Nice highs and lows:

The other recording up there, recorded with Sennheiser's, has a great sounding second set that offers a bit more midrange, if your tastes lean more this way.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

1975 September 28 - Lindley Meadows

Grateful Dead - 09/28/75 Lindley Meadows

Sunday, September 28, 1975
Lindley Meadows, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CA
Audience Recording

So, this recording and show carry with them a lot of great history. Not the least of which is a deep steeping in the mythical story telling of Grateful Dead tape legend and lore. For this is one of the audience tapes that historically was said to have been recorded by the band (Phil Lesh in particular) from the stage itself. “Really?! Wow, that’s gotta be cool?” “Yeah, it’s probably one of the best audience recordings of the Dead ever.” Well, half of that story is true. It is absolutely one of the very best of the best AUDs. But Phil didn’t tape it. Phil didn’t make any tapes.

“Don’t worry. We’re trying not to.” -Bob Weir, 09/28/75

Bob Weir 09/28/75 Lindley MeadowsThen there’s the well enough substantiated story that the band was higher than kites for this show. While it has always been very well understood that this band played under the influence of LSD many many many times, there are some shows that come to mind when Deadheads talk about shows where the band was “known” to have been chemically altered for sure: 08/27/72, 05/11/78, and 09/28/75 among them. So, this places an extra special sparkle to re-living the day’s concert when listening.

Also, there is the fact that a baby was born during the show, with the band and stage announcers doing their best to help. Phil and Bobby can barely contain their desire to be pranksters.

Phil Lesh 09/28/75 Lindley MeadowsNext, before this century, if you weren’t in the most enshrined trading circles, you couldn’t find a complete copy of this AUD to save your life (and the real deal master itself only just went into circulation in May 2008). When you might have run into this recording (I was lucky enough to score 45 minutes of the show on cassette about 12 years ago), there was no way you could accept that it was an AUD at all. Clearly Phil and the band had to have had a hand in making this tape, right? It just sounded WAY too good. And there was the fact that there were a painful amount of right channel dropouts throughout the tape which allowed you to appreciate the quality, but never really left you wanting to listen to the tape again because of the pain involved in those dropouts.

Then the SBD came on the scene, sounding super duper. Someone digitized the AUD (a multi-gen version) and spent the time patching the dropouts with the left channel – palatable now, the AUD was a dizzying drink from the fountain of audience magic. Well friends, that was nothing…

Jerry Garcia 09/28/75 Lindley MeadowsI’m not going to attempt to document the story of taper Bob Menke here on these pages. Let’s just say that BadBob (his own moniker) bleeds the history of Grateful Dead taping and collecting. He’s one of those fellows whose name lands in the inner circle when playing the dart game of Dead tapers. ‘Nuff said. Menke's story has been one of clouded half truths, misunderstandings, and mystery in the eyes of tape collectors. Over the last number of years, the real Bob Menke has made his way into the digital scene, so a lot of the mystery has faded. But, it sure did fuel the fires that made this particular tape one of such grand story telling. This is one to tell the grandkids about, to be sure.

Jerry Garcia 09/28/75 Lindley MeadowsSo Menke recently digitally transferred his master, and the MOTB crew finished it off with heroic editing (glad I didn’t face this task). And now we have this AUD for the ages, in its most beautiful glory.

The recording is so good, it makes the AUD vs. SBD debate seem silly. It’s a little unfair, like bringing an NBA all star off the bench at a junior high basketball game. So much so, that it's fair for a SBD supporter to cry foul - “Oh, well, 09/28/75! You can’t talk to me about that show. That’s not fair.” Regardless, when you want to know what it might have sounded like pressed up against the stage for this hallmark Dead show in the year after they retired (you may never see them again), this is it my friends. Cripplingly good.

Jerry Garcia 09/28/75 Lindley MeadowsRight out of the gate, the Help’s On The Way>Slipknot spins gold. The Slipknot casts sound colors into the air like a juggler balancing 30 balls in the air all at once with multiple sets of arms, a la some Hindu god. Everything weaves into everything else. The stand alone Franklin’s Tower is fantastic. Jerry lets off a solo after the second verse that threatens to crack the sky with sheer force. It’s a towering mass of energy. During the a cappella portion of the song the band has you nestled in the palm of their hand. And, something that always makes an AUD all the more enjoyable is when an audience member shouts out some perfectly timed response to the music. It could be as simple as a woo! or a yeah! Here there’s a guy locked in and feeling it. His shouts will put a smile on your face.

Bob Weir & Phil Lesh 09/28/75 Lindley MeadowsBobby prophetically calls attention to the fact that he is going to completely blow the lyrics to Truckin’, and proceeds to do so in bewildered fashion. The jam takes a little bit to really get its legs. But once it does, it flies. The band catches that rocking, funking, winding groove reminiscent of 1974, and the jam rolls on and on. Each band member’s contribution comes through on the tape perfectly. Bobby’s punctuated string scraping shreds are beautiful.

From Drums they go into King Solomon’s Marbles. I must say that it sounds like the challenge of the band’s collective mental state becomes slightly more apparent in the intricate passages of this song. However, nothing fundamentally falls apart, and the slightly unfurling edges add to the psychedelic mystery. But things are probably not as tight as the band would prefer. Still, this version is as pleasing as any other from 1975. When they lock into the 7/8 time signature and let the solos take form, you feel the rug slip deliciously out from under your feet. The snaking rhythm coils in every direction, riding the wind and circling the clouds.

Jerry Garcia 09/28/75 Lindley MeadowsFrom here there is a loose transition into Not Fade Away, Jerry seems to hang on a string bending note like he’s clinging to the edge of the world hoping not to fall off. His solos that follow are full of a certain slow burning energy, lots of massive notes that push against each other like saturated balloons. It makes for some very nice listening. The Goin’ Down The Road smacks of good old Grateful Dead, everyone having a good old time.

This is a sensational field recording, documenting not just the music, but a whole lot more. It’s great to finally have this master tape available in its full splendor. Thank you, Menke.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

1970 May 7 - M.I.T. Dupont Gym, Cambridge, MA

Jerry Garcia & David Nelson - New Riders of the Purple Sage, Dupont Gym, M.I.T., May 7, 1970

Thursday, May 7, 1970
Dupont Gymnasium, M.I.T., Cambridge, MA
Audience Recording

I’ve mentioned once or twice one of my earliest trades with a guy who had the whole enchilada: 3000+ hours of music, page after page of a tape list, all hand written. He mailed a photocopy to me so we could arrange a trade. As I've recollected in a previous post, I probably baited him with my 25th anniversary Watkins Glen tapes. In that trade I scored 05/12/74, 06/09/76, and 05/07/70. In retrospect, I know I will never forget this trade, though the name of the trader has completely drifted away. I kept good notes, but not good enough.

Jerry Garcia Canadian Train Tour - July 1970The 1970 MIT tape was mind boggling to me. It wasn’t a good quality recording, but it was complete, and I mean really complete. It was the entire show, end to end, New Riders set included. It was so early in my on line tape collecting journey that going through the show from start to finish was riveting for me. Probably the first time I did such a thing with a 1970 show - there just aren't that many complete documents out there of these three set 1970 shows. The acoustic set has much the same feeling as the famous Harpur College show on May 2nd, five days earlier – it exudes a certain undeniable comfortable swagger from the band. Their interplay with the crowd smacks of confidence. The hitherto almost unheard event of an “acoustic set” manages to stop the entire audience in its tracks. Don’t Ease Me In opens the show and is delivered perfectly. The I Know You Rider come off like a church service, the energy so thick you can’t help but recognize the magic going on. Friend Of The Devil is Jerry story telling at its finest. Before I go on praising the actual show, I want to tell more of the story around the copy I put into digital circulation.

A year or so after scoring this show, someone reached out to me with a request. This person had this grad school professor (East Coast, as I recall) who had been sitting on a large collection of Reel to Reel tapes – not his own, many of which were Dead related, many unlabelled. Since this person didn’t have access to a R2R deck, but knew I had one, he asked if I would be willing to sort through the tapes and look for any potential gold hidden in dem dar hills. As it would come to pass, this was a significant day in my Dead tape trading life.

Phil Lesh May 6, 1970 MIT Free Outdoor ConcertJudging solely on what *was* labeled in the precious boxes I received in the mail, I knew we must be dealing with a very old-school taper. Just the fact that there was a reel with the FM broadcast of 08/13/75 ("One From The Vault") among the tapes was clue enough. That show had passed quite far out of trading circles at the start of the 90’s. In fact, in my own short history of tape trading, I had no clue that such a tape was every out there. Thus the fun began. Probably the most staggering discoveries in this collection came from the single reel that contained an upgrade to 07/18/72 running both sides on the left channel, and 05/07/70 on the right.

So burned into my memory is my first pass at testing the blank side of this tape (the reel was labeled only as holding the 07/18/72 Roosevelt show), that whenever I hear the first strains of the Don’t Ease Me In I am transported back to standing in my basement, staring at the reel turning in front of me as shivers rolled up my back. Not only had I stumbled upon a fantastic show that I knew was in very low circulation, but this was such a profound upgrade in sound quality, I could hardly let myself believe it was 05/07/70 at all. At first I just stood smiling at the fact that I was hearing *some* acoustic Dead set in really fine quality. The 05/07 revelation came later, as I wouldn’t allow myself to quickly scan the tape by fast forwarding to check the song list – the tapes were old, and I didn’t want to take the chance of damaging them. No longer able to just feel lucky, I was clearly living a charmed life in Dead tape land with this kind of stuff make its way into my hands.

Jerry Garcia 1970Months, perhaps more than a year, followed with the process of my trying to validate that I might really be holding onto the best copy around. This is a similar dark, dusty, and sometimes lonely process that any historian might pour through when trying to date a particular literary find. I began reaching out to people I knew, and people I didn’t know, trying to hunt down the truth. Mostly, I wanted to find a better cassette version of what I had gotten in trade a few years prior because a fair portion of the end of Lovelight was going to have to come from an alternate source, since the upgrade reel ran out early. In the end there was no better sounding copy for patching the end of the show other than my original tape. But, I did happen across a completely different master tape, circulating in unknown lineage, that would help bridge some of the in between song passages, and first handful of seconds on songs where the better tape was pausing and missing the first notes. 05/07/70 was my first foray into digital cross fading. As rough as this seed was to assemble, it was a pleasure compared to the pains of assembling edits on analog cassette, trust me.

Musically, this show has quite literally everything. In much the same way as Harpur College 05/02/70 provides an incredible document of a complete evening with the Dead in Spring 1970, 05/07/70 does as well. Many might agree that if only we had a soundboard of 05/07 that could stand up next to Harpur, the battle for which show bests the other would be very tight. The multiple tape sources, all with multiple gens, that represent this best possible version *could* someday be upgraded to the AUD master itself. Heck, if it could happen for 06/24/70, it could happen here to. Everything is possible at this point. Doubtful that there is a soundboard out there, though.

Jerry Garcia May 24, 1970Perhaps the highest recording quality portion of this show occurs for the acoustic set. For a 1970 AUD, it doesn’t disappoint. The set is driven by Jerry’s amazingly emotive vocals. He is so expressive, there are times where his voice sings like a bird. Things are so intimate, at times it’s like you’re sitting around a campfire with just Jerry and Bobby. The Friend Of The Devil and Candyman are flawless in this regard. As the show announcer says, “wood, organic, Grateful Dead.” The crowd is suspiciously silent throughout the set while the band plays, very different (more respectful?) than the 06/24/70 acoustic set. It lends to the church-like, hypnotic proceedings. This set gives and gives. Repeated listening over the years have never failed to satisfy.

The New Riders set elevates the energy up as a perfect segue headed toward to the Electric Grateful Dead. This set finds the Riders (including Mickey on drums and Garcia on pedal steel) in top form. They had really honed their craft in the prior 6 to 8 months, and this was their first actually tour out on the road with the Dead. They perfectly lift the crowd into a more energized state while continuing to draw on the acoustic country leanings of the first set. The Riders managed to condense psychedelia down into 4 minute songs in such a way that they draw you in without knowing why. Great stuff, always.

The Electric set comes out guns blazing, and turns in great song after song. But this show goes down in history for its Cyptical>Other One>Cryptical suite and its Lovelight. This face melting Other One explodes with such force it’s as if mountains are exploding all around you, oceans are boiling over in earthquake-driven frenzy, and stars are smashing together only inches from your eyes. There is no place to hide. It overwhelms the strongest of wills to stand in the face of its power. It will win. There are breaths taken before the second verse, but this seems only to set us up for the band out doing itself on the explosive ramp up to the last verse itself. The fans around the taper scream out of control at this, and you can’t help but feel that it is a most appropriate reaction. Towering, over the top energy. Then the Cryptical Reprise places us in one of those absolutely perfect places of quiet comfort. It is seductively psychedelic, reminding me of times cocooned at the bottom of an empty ocean bowling up around me for miles – the music lightly drifting around like dust in sunlight. When the Cryptical explodes into the “You know he had to die” section, you’re a goner. Massive explosions again rush into the distance leaving us in a drippy Cosmic Charlie. Awesome.

Grateful Dead 1970Ready for the challenge of living up to the Other One, Lovelight is like a self contained set unto itself. Lovelight>St. Stephen Jam>Jam>Darkness Jam>Jam>China Cat Sunflower Jam>Lovelight. There’s nothing like a Lovelight that forgets itself in direction after direction. It’s the fastest 34-odd minutes ever. It rounds corners, pokes its head up, spins, flips, and dances with fantastic creativity. The jamming cooks and rocks. This is inspirational music, the kind of stuff that would turn you into a Deadhead for life. The monstrous front end Lovelight quivers, rumbles, shakes and grooves like a fountain of multi-colored music. They hit St. Stephen at 80 miles an hour and tear the house down. Jerry is everywhere. A tripped out mini jam follows on the way to Darkness Darkness. The Jam out of the Darkness Jam burns hot and eventually finds its way into pure 1970 heaven – that lilting Feeling Groovy groovy-ness that is often found in 1970 Dancin’ In The Streets. Another spot you could leave me forever. Then we whip around into the China Cat Jam from there, and it is just wild. If you didn’t know that this band let things come from an improvisational creative flow, you’d think that this was an orchestrated medley of hit tunes. When they coolly slip back into Lovelight, and Pigpen returns to the mic, they head into a built up ending that will leave you exhausted. An explosive groaning and extended final note serves to scorch the earth in its wake. And then it’s done. The tape runs for a while after, and some guy’s exclamation of “Holy shit” seems to capture the moment perfectly. The tape runs down to the very last clap, and it’s time to come back to earth again.

Grateful Dead 1970 Fillmore EastI’m linking to my original gdADT copy here.

Audience Devotional Tree Round 4 - September, 2001

Friday, June 13, 2008

1982 March 13 - Reno, NV

Grateful Dead Greek Theatre May 1982

Saturday, March 13, 1982
Centennial Coliseum – Reno, NV
Audience Recording

Here’s a show that absolutely smolders. It is packed with riveting passages all over, and some of the most intensely explosive Garcia solos in song after song. This is one of those shows that teaches you that all shows are not created equal. While the band was damn good in 1982, and the early 80’s in general, it is shows like this one that make many others pale in comparison. Are you worried that you might be stuck in the 70’s? Unable to appreciate the 80’s? Let’s get down to business, my friend.

Jerry Garcia 1982The band sprints out of the starting blocks with Alabama Getaway. There are problems with Jerry’s vocal mic early on, but its hard to care. The Dead’s energetic start infects the crowd, and the whole tape vibrates with that wonderful AUD tape energy despite the sound system working itself out. Alabama segues right into Greatest Story Ever Told beautifully. The hard driving beat of the first song pounds it’s way past the song end. While half the band is understanding the direction to GSET and setting off on that path, Jerry offers up one more Alabama refrain on the guitar that creates a thrilling swirl of one song into another. You hit Greatest Story like an out of the park grand slam. Very satisfying.

Tasty mid-first set tunes follow on the way to a very nice China >Rider set closer. But during the set break the band must have gotten their hands on some serious mojo, because they saunter into the second set and deliver serious sparks.

Feel Like A Stranger is a crafty and sneaky player in the set two opening slot. The band lets the edges fray beautifully and the song pushes at its own edges like an oily skinned soap bubble catching itself in mid burst then pulling itself back to just inside the point where the surface explodes into mist and evaporation. It gets exactly as weird as you wish most all Strangers would. The Franklin’s Tower that follows is full of wild excitement. It throbs with an up tempo vigor. Like solar flares exploding off the sun, Jerry’s solos erupt in a fabulous dance of energy, each one outperforming the last in their ability to twist fire into the air. Somewhere around the third solo passage it becomes clear that this is the sort of playing where Jerry is in his finest form. And the second set has only just gotten started. His last solo will just leave you staring in crazed disbelief. My God, can he get any more up? Yep, apparently he can.

Bob Weir 1982Estimated Prophet finds ways to generate peaks and valleys of energetic play that reward the listener while keeping interest focused. Even the slippery, snaky jam section feels more like a roiling sea on the verge of storm. It brings a nice sense of having to keep your balance while bright coral formations below the water’s surface twist and bend your vision with the roll of the ocean. You've lost the ability to see straight lines and angles. Everything is a gooey pulsation around you. The song segues out and Jerry firmly leads to He’s Gone. But the band takes an alternate path into Eyes Of The World.

Eyes starts softly, with almost nothing more than Jerry playing with a high hat tapping behind him. He delivers “Right outside this lazy summer home” with nothing but this musical background, and then the whole band chimes in on the “Ain’t got time to call your soul a critic, no” line thereafter. It’s almost as if it was rehearsed, and it is a wonderful arrangement to start the song. The Eyes delivers exactly the same blend of extra popping highlights that have been coming before it all set. Jerry sounds completely enthralled as he rolls out lead after expressive lead. Toward the end, the song spirals up to a fabulous twinkling and shimmering interplay between Jerry and Brent that makes an already over the top version of the song even better. It stops me in my tracks every time I hear it. Fantastically psychedelic.

Phil Lesh 1982The show’s Space is a multi verse poem of different landscapes and emotions. Passages appear and disappear, growing into view then receding away. Eventually Other One takes form and it captures the full onslaught of energy that has been brewing over the entire set. Deep in between the verses of the song, an ascent starts that refuses to stop climbing. Like flying up a mountainside at breakneck speed you almost star to worry this will never let up. And then the climactic release of Phil’s booming rumble winds us into the last verse. After this there is an extended Dear Prudence theme. A relative staple in Jerry’s solo act, it’s the only time it appears in a Dead show. Short lived, undeveloped, it coasts into Black Peter instead.

This is not a show to be missed. With breathtaking highlight after highlight, the less than absolutely perfect sound quality simply doesn’t matter. Listen to this show.

Friday, June 6, 2008

1976 October 10 - Oakland, CA

Grateful Dead - Oakland 1976

Sunday, October 10, 1976
Oakland Coliseum Stadium – Oakland, CA
Audience Recording

“This might be a great recording…”
(audience member leaning in to talk to the taper during The Wheel, 10/10/76)

This audience tape is of the breed that gives off unparalleled energy. Outdoor, sitting in the sweet spot, if you want to hear the pure might of the Dead’s sound system in 1976 then look no further. The band’s power on this date defies all stereotypes associated with the shows of this year. Virtually everything will blow your hair back. The sound stands as tall as a skyscraper in front of you. And while the tape comes with a plethora of raucous outdoor audience enhancements (everyone is having a grand time), over it all the music on this tape simply explodes. It’s not sonically perfect, but most of the tapes that share this characteristic are not (see 05/12/74.) This tape does have ample low and high end which, coupled with its clarity, makes for a very enjoyable listen.

The show opens with a Might As Well that lets us know that the band is already on a pretty serious high. And loud. Things are really really loud. It feels great. Jerry’s steel-necked Travis Bean guitar seems to be vibrating electricity at every turn. I can’t recall it ever sounding quite as nice. And he finds the pocket on most every single song. The solos are all peppered with a little something extra. Likely, as good as it sounds in the crowd, the band’s monitors are equally cranking for the outdoor setting. Having played on outdoor stages many a time myself, I know that when these things are perfectly set you can really lose yourself in the bowl of sound rising off the floor around you. It all leads to the sensation that the music plays the band. They are just relaxing into the entire experience, and hitting it out of the park time and time again. Jerry is spinning pure gold all day long.

Jerry Garcia Oakland 1976Virtually everything in set one delivers the goods. Do not pass up the Ramble On Rose which features the fantastic echoing of the vocals from the back of the stadium. It’s a really cool effect, not to mention Jerry's howling delivery of the “Goodbye mama and papa” line. Wow. And even if you feel like you never have to hear another Promised Land again until the day you die, you might want this to be the one you hear when that day comes. Jerry’s final solo run starts off with an ascending run that goes over the top, a complete embodiment of the entire first set’s energy. And one of only three West Coast performances of Friend Of The Devil in 1976 (with its new slowed tempo) provides a needed breathings space for everyone.

The set closing Dancin’>Wharf Rat>Dancin’ is a sweet set ending treat. As I've probably pointed out before, the devoted deadheads of the day might have been shaking their heads as the song kicked off in the pure disco stylings of the day, but in retrospect we can easily lock into the groove. The band pounds things out in synch with the already charged energy. Jerry sets off into the solo section under Phil’s snaky popping bass runs. Bobby syncopates the rhythm. And what follows is good times Grateful Dead. After a time the band cools. Jerry rolls way off on the high end and begins weaving his licks around the stadium in slow moving curves. He then lifts into the air with a few high note bends, and the band lands in a tightly pocketed section which settles even further as they spin down into Wharf Rat. This transitional pairing saw a total of 7 incarnations, 6 of them in 1976. Jerry offers a bit of slide work, and the Dacnin’ has been completely left in the past. Or has it? Bobby and Keith seem of a mind to return, and Jerry takes the bait, speeding his solos. But this then becomes something like the feeling of easing the radio dial between two stations that are on nearly the same band. Like two watercolors drying into each other, Dancin’ comes and goes, the spacier jam appears and disappears, and after a nice period of this back and forth we arive at Wharf Rat. Jerry offers towering solos out of the song which stand like majestic gigantic redwoods all around you. Bobby deftly brings the band back to Dancin’ and they cook through the chord change arrangement section perfectly. The set ends. The sun is shining at midday.

Jerry Garcia & Bob Weir 1976The big set two jam is another 1976 set that looks amazing on paper. They were really pushing themselves in creative directions. The performance is up to the task, and does not disappoint. Playin’ In The Band rolls into the jam and the quintessential 1976 playing style takes form. Giant wagon wheels the size of galaxies, formed more out of multi-colored gossamer syrup than wood, begin slowly spinning into each other under your feet for as far as you can see. Here again we find the magic of a 1974 Playin' bleeding into the years after. It’s deeply psychedelic jazziness pervades the band’s mind bending meanderings. Coolly the band slips into Drums.

This Drums is short and sweet. Near the end, the drummers hint at Other One and the crowd catches this and cheers. However, whether by a last minute redirect or a forgotten pre-determined set list, the Other One is not meant to be (yet). The hallmark drum intro to The Wheel quickly forms and moves things along. This song was such a nice addition to the lineup in 1976 and came to embody part of the real “feel” of ’76 shows. This day’s version has it in spades.

The Wheel makes a sensationally invisible transition from post-Wheel lilting music into a deep Space blow out. As great as the Playin' jam was, I think this post-Wheel jam is even better. This goes into a short Drums followed by the entire energy of the whole show peaking with Other One.

Phil Lesh - October 1976This is a take no prisoners version, chugging along with an almost evil grin. Burning white hot electricity blows you back like a ferocious wind storm. Our continually somewhat vocal neighbors around the taper are gasping and chuckling in complete rapture. The music speeds on and on, taking us hurdling down twisted pinhole fissures in interlocking caverns formed by the erosive power of torrential rushing energy through the landscape of consciousness. Did I mention it takes no prisoners? This is yet another satori moment, almost brutally grabbing you by the throat and aiming your senses directly at the band. You can barely remember to breath.

And then, because this band had a knack for tapping into the loving center of the elevated conscious experience, rather than opting to play with the fragile psyches in their grip, they let the horizon balance and wind subside on the shores of a Stella Blue. The song emanates grace, safety, and warmth. It’s a very welcome stabilizer, which tips right over its own edge back into the forest of impossibly colored trees and iridescent rivers. A jam comes back which finds the band moving more slowly through the caverns they sped through minutes earlier on the return trip to Playin’ In The Band. Playin’ reaches its crescendos, capping a fantastic set two jam sandwich. Sugar Magnolia seems a most appropriate set closer.

This is a wonderful listening experience that surprised me in being even better than I remember when I decided to revisit it in consideration for the blog. Worth returning to again and again, and definately from the opening notes on.

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