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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.


  1. Thank you,

    Italian Head

  2. yes, thank you. took this one for a spin while coming home from work on a perfect Friday not-just-yet-summer afternoon, and ahhh... perfect. thank you.

  3. so noah, which show is stronger in your opionion, 10/9 or 10/10? I think 10/10 is the clear winner here although 10/9 gets tons of hype.

  4. You hit the nail on the head as far as my feelings are concerned. 10/10 wins for me.

  5. The 10/9 fan hangs head and scurries off. Laughs.

  6. Dick's Picks 33 covers these shows. The Dead opened for The Who (much louder) with an abbreviated set this weekend.

  7. Been thinking about that show lately. Reading your interpretation of the "event" is revealing. My experience at that show has been told verbally many times....but I've never written it down. Seems odd since I've been writing a blog MIND JAZZ since 2006. I guess I need to listen and then tell the story one more time.....I'll get back to you after I hear the recording.


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