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Friday, August 29, 2008

1973 July 1 - Universal Amphitheatre

Jerry Garcia - December 18, 1973

Sunday, July 1, 1973
Universal Amphitheatre – Universal City, CA
Audience Recording

I want to explore a bit more of my favorite portion of my favorite year. Here we will walk the path of one of the earliest 1973 AUDs I added to my collection. The sound quality of this AUD is among the best of the year – recently mastered beautifully by the Mouth Of The Beast team. If there is any knock against it, it is nothing more that the fact that Jerry’s guitar is high in the mix, a fault that no one can bemoan for long. The pure fidelity of the tape reflects just what you might expect from the team of Harvey Kaslow and Craig Todd, who also brought us the legendary 08/06/71 recording. You can luxuriate in this tape.

The middle of 1973 doesn’t get as much love as the more “historic” portions of the year near its end. I’ve explored the contradiction of the mass appeal to my personal preference for the summer shows in the "Getting Seriously Dead" post. So, I will refrain from hopping up on that soapbox again. However it bears mentioning that for the longest time there were scant few pristine soundboard recordings to be found of these summer shows, while November/December offered quite a good number a great sounding tapes. This no doubt impacted (and continues to impact) opinion. That’s just the way it goes. But the Summer shows are the hidden jewel of the year as far as I’m concerned.

This July 1st show in particular is the epitome of a relaxed Dead show as it gets started. It’s far more like we’ve arrived at the Grateful Dead’s house for an afternoon pool party, rather than a mid 70’s rock concert. The energy is mellow – thick with no expectations. As a result, the start of the show can be seen as coming off a little flat. But it’s no matter. The highlights of this show bring it to a level of complete classic 1973 Dead. That this is an AUD, and a darn good one at that, only serves to enshrine the show in my heart as a priceless piece of Summer ’73. This show sits in the shadows of other 1973 shows, and, as with so many others like it from any year, its being regularly overlooked somehow makes it all the more special.

Grateful Dead - July 31, 1973The first set contains a great China>Rider that you won’t want to miss. But it’s the second set that deservers our complete attention. On this night, Playin’ In The Band didn’t close set one. It opened set two. And it is a monstrously large portion of the very marrow found within the bones of 1973. There were a lot of great Playin’s before the summer of 1973, but the song evolved around this time, and perhaps even on this very night. Maybe it was because of the set two placement, but this Playin’ In The Band demonstrates a few characteristics that would follow the song all the way into 1974 - it is enormous (25 plus minutes); it winds its way utterly outside of the semblance of what you could call the song itself; and it finds Jerry hinting numerous times within the jam back at the song’s head long before actually wrapping the song up. These combined elements would follow the song from the Summer of ’73 for years.

The exploration starts off with a prolonged luscious section of jazz-infused jamming which features Jerry changes tone and inflection over and over again. Having Jerry’s guitar so directly in our face, we can fully discern each adjustment he makes in tone and volume. It’s like watching a painter adjust colors on his pallet before applying paint to canvas. Here, instead of the continual adjustments giving a sense of searching and frustration, Jerry is clearly feeling very very good. The jam’s energy grows and the band begins to spiral as if into tightly wound pinwheels of music. After a time things settle way down, and the Playin’ theme appears. Just as it gets pronounce acutely enough to start the crowd clapping in appreciation of a great jam ending, the rug slips out from under everything and we enter an even more slippery jam section of ever-blossoming colors and sounds. We’re hardly ten minutes in.

Eventually they wind through a more aggressive portion of the jam, each member stretching out in multi-directions. Then, as we are bathing in everything there is to love about mid-‘70’s Playin’s, the music frays away completely and we find ourselves in a corner of the universe quite a bit further away from Playin’ than we’d gone before. The music almost completely fractures leaving the focus on Jerry playing an ascending and repetitive five chord pattern over and over again that haunts your heart like some forest of ghosts mingled with a time-imploding ride in outer space. Playin’ is absolutely gone, and we’ve arrived at a destination together with the band that could never be traced back home. The sheer beauty of this place is its own assurance that it will not be found again – a secrete kept by the music itself. This is a measureless landscape of Space. Breathtaking. Gentle. Soul piercing.

From the absolute outer edges of this riveting passage, Jerry tosses the Playin’ theme back into the hall ever so lightly, and it coalesces the band right back into the jazz tinged jamming that so typified 1973. Now we’re following a path down million colored tree lined roads that float in ever-curving arches before our eyes - as if the landscape before us is undulating like a flag in a slow motion wind. That sense of tumbling over one’s step without fully falling is completely prevalent here. This goes on and on and on, over delivering everything known to be idyllic about the band in this year. Finally, the Playin’ theme is back again (for the third time?), and we amble slowly toward what seems to be the end portion of the song. But no. Jerry again drifts the theme out into the most delicate space before finally allowing it to truly return on the gentle breath of sunlight. We hit the song running, and you can’t help but know that this band is the master of their domain, utterly. No one can do what they do.

Later, after a well delivered Truckin’ stomps its way through an energetic post jam, the band hints at Other One before allowing Billy to take a brief drum solo. They come back into Other One proper and immediately the music is slipping deliciously back into that ever falling forward pace, pushed into curves and crevices by Garcia, who can’t seem to hit a bad note. This is textbook 1973 jamming, fluid and syncopated, rolling and spiraling. Along the way they decide to slip into the now well-honed jam that Phil has been nursing all year (something born to 1973 only). It overflows with groovy, jazzy psychedelia. This jam theme took until the late Spring of ‘73 to really pull together nicely. It is very satisfying. Then the Other One returns and the first verse is sung.

Out of the verse, the band tumbles into Space. Again unlike the Spaces later in the year, this is a spectacular chaos of noise and feedback wherein you can tell the band if fully engaged, really working the sound into the fabric of the experience. This is no Space for Space’s sake plopped into a show for effect. They let the noise take on a life of its own, morphing into indescribable, ever-shifting visions. The world forms and reforms before you like a fireball explosion undulating and spreading massive flamed branches and roots in all directions. The Space cools and empties out into an endlessly wide vision of sound patterns. There seem to be light years of space between the individual sounds coming off the stage. Under Jerry’s crooning, lamenting notes, Phil is fluttering against his strings, bubbling as if from just below a still, glass perfect sea. He gurgles and sputters in such a way that leaves you incapable of knowing if it’s him, or your mind playing tricks with the sound. There’s a spiritual majesty to this section – a hush; a calm. It whispers. Its energy has so completely overtaken the musical path, there’s no going back to Other One. Wharf Rat was born for this transition. It picks you up like a shipwrecked survivor who has come to the shore with the tide.

Bob Weir - September 26, 1973Within Wharf Rat, Jerry’s solo is forever etched into my mind because of his guitar’s unmistakable mimicking of a sitar. The strength of the sound rings like bells and resonates electricity for miles and miles as the solo goes on. You hear him turn up, and then up again. It’s fleeting, yet tremendous and not quite duplicated ever again.

Out of this solo, Me & Bobby McGee appears like a sudden shift in the weather. It doesn’t matter whether you think a cowboy song has a place here or not. What’s to be cherished is Jerry’s solo work. He remains quite locked into the precious Wharf Rat moaning as Bob sings. As he enters the true solo after the first chorus you can’t help but completely sink into his tone again. He threads notes and runs together as if they are sacred prayers that could never be expressed in words. It all comes off as effortless – something that often exemplifies Jerry at his most tuned in moments. The song wraps up the wonderful set two jam – Truckin’ > Drums > Other One > Space > Wharf Rat > Bobby McGee. Wow.

Everyone has a Dead song or two that they don’t really need to hear again. For me it’s those ’73-74 Sugar Magnolias. For others, no doubt, it is Casey Jones. Not me. I dig this tune, and in 1973 it just had a wonderful bounce to it. The set ends with Casey Jones, and the show is feeling very mellow again. It’s the send off for the past three day run at the Universal Amphitheatre, and it completely feels like a friend hugging you goodbye. The Dead were about to mount some of the greatest concert work of their career in the upcoming three show run on the East Coast. But that’s a story for another review…

07/01/73 AUD etree source info

Friday, August 22, 2008

1970 October 23 - McDonough Arena

Grateful Dead May 24, 1970
Friday, October 23, 1970
McDonough Arena, Georgetown University – Washington DC
Audience Recording

I remember getting this tape from one of my closest trading partners over the years. He had been trading a lot longer than I had, and got his copy directly from the taper himself, Cary Wolfson, after hooking up with him via an ad in Relix magazine, or some such, back in the late 70’s. He sent this tape to me in our first trade, knowing my preference for audience recordings. This tape was the first *good* 1970 AUD I had heard. There is no known soundboard recording of this show. The show sticks in my brain as the sum of its parts. Every element combines to produce a classic Grateful Dead tape. While I know it is a strange accolade to bestow, it has the sound and vibe of a Grateful Dead bootleg. You come away from this tape smiling, and having really felt something beyond the music itself. Massive musical energy, audience chatter, and 1970 blend together to create a listening experience not to be missed.

Wolfson managed to get the opening New Riders Of The Purple Sage set on tape as well, and it finds the band performing as a well oiled machine. The last five months of touring with the Dead has paid off very well. While the sound quality of the Riders set pales significantly to the Dead’s set, Jerry’s steel playing is fantastic, outdone only by some of the best vocal harmonies I’ve ever heard the band lay down. The entire set is one fantastically sung song after another with the entire band rising to the occasion over and over again.

Mickey Hart March 3, 1968It’s worth noting that Mickey Hart was still with the band here. Within weeks of this show Spencer Dryden would take over for him on drums. While no one could ever regret the change on drums – Spencer brought a quintessential backbeat and energy to the group – Mickey’s departure marked the end of being able to experience his drumming in a very unique setting. He was easily the most psychedelic country rock drummer ever known – not at all born to back such a straightforward ensemble. The resulting special flavor that his style brought to the band is well featured on this tape as he rolls, fills, drops out, and drops in at his characteristically impossible angles. He always seemed driven to avoid the 1 whenever possible, not to mention the 2,3, and 4. His drumming always lent to that wonderfully “electric” sparkle that this band distilled into every drop of music it produced. This show has it in spades.

According to Cary, it was HOT in the hall for this show. And the energy from the Dead matches the heat in the air from the very first notes. The band trembles with the energy of a great boiler room or furnace set to burst at the seams - the kind of heat that would burn to the touch. One could say that this sort of “ball of fire” energy was pretty commonplace for the Grateful Dead in 1970, and it was. But 10/23/70 gets to another level. It’s a take no prisoners sort of seriousness, as if the band has something to prove. And they prove it every step of the way. They swagger and strut their way through every song.

Everything on this night just works perfectly. Every song emanates the divine essence of what the Grateful Dead were. There’s no easier way to describe it. This tape comes off like the mold of 1970. Check any song, and it can be called archetypical. However, this is not to say that each song on 10/23 is its own best version. That’s not it. Most Deadheads familiar with the tape wouldn’t call any one song a “best ever” version. But every song collectively elevates them all into a noticeably rarified air. For sure, there is no fat to be trimmed off of this night’s music. Again, this tape is about the sum of its parts.

Recorded from about 15 rows back from the stage, the sound quality of this tape is great for 1970, which should be taken with the appropriate 1970 caveats regarding recording gear of the time and the rest of the 1970 AUDs to which it can be compared. Interestingly, it doesn’t seem to take much time at all for your ears to acclimate to the sound spectrum of the tape. There’s a tremendous crispness to the highs, and ample thick low end.

Bob Weir 1970They pound out the opening Casey Jones, and immediately the atmosphere is fully charged. The Mama Tried which follows is so spot on you know something good is happening. Needing no time to warm up, the Dead move directly into some heavy hitting material. Hard To Handle is a blast, and the China>Rider is pure 1970 Dead. Bobby's guitar sounds especially fine. There’s a super sweet Candyman as well (perhaps in answer to the song requests earlier in the show?). Interesting to note that the commercial album containing the song wouldn’t be released until the following month, yet the fellow who requested the song sings along almost all the way through. Consulting with some older heads, this is merely evidence that bootlegs from earlier in the year had been circulating among those who searched such things out.

The post Drums section of Good Lovin’ is among the finest on tape. Sweaty, raunchy, and fierce, the jam blazes along. Then they go through many sections of little solo spotlights (not a common occurrence at all) that feature Jerry, then Phil, then Bobby. They build back into a full on jam, and then comeback to this spotlighting once again. Truly, it seems like they are out to prove something. That we know this mini-spotlighting was something utterly unheard of (I can’t recall ever hearing them do such a thing before or after), makes the fact that it comes off so perfectly all the more amazing.

The band launches into the end portion of the show with Truckin’. It seems alright, but really the band is merely catching their breath. The song angles directly into Other One, and the music starts to really shine. Like a crocodile flashing its tail, the band’s strut is back in full force. The first verse appears quickly and coils out into a nice Other One jam. The music is sparse, less of the onslaught you might expect. It’s possible that Bobby busted a string as he drops out and returns out of tune for a moment. This leaves the music open in an explorative way as the band seems to idle along. Bobby gets his act back together and the song heats back up. But even this is only a precursor for what’s to come.

Jerry Garcia December 31, 1970Not Fade Away lays waste to the entirety of the show up to this point. It stomps the ground and leaves a trail of dust in its wake. This becomes a smoldering rendition, pounding out the NFA rhythm on and on. Jerry and Bobby are caught in the same fire, driving the music forward. And then the begin their angling toward Goin’ Down The Road Feelin’ Bad. This song first appears in a set list only weeks prior to this night, yet you can absolutely feel the perfection of the transition. It’s as if the band has clearly discovered something that really turns them on. This country-ish jam is reminiscent of I Know You Rider, but completely fresh. When they begin to sing, the cadence of the melody is different than it would become. It lends a terrific nuance to the experience of a classic Grateful Dead tune, a lot like the Sugar Magnolia on 06/24/70. Jerry also spends extra energy on the vocals, clearly enjoying himself completely. All in all this tune exudes “good old Grateful Dead” to the utmost. The lead section heading back to Not Fade Away is sweetly played. They seem to make it back on a whim even though the NFA>GDTRFB>NFA sandwich has been in place since the first occurrence on October 10th.

The crowd howls and cheers the band back out for the Uncle John’s encore which is spot on beautiful. Any new comer wouldn’t be able to help falling in love with the band after seeing them close with this song. Happiness pours directly off the tape. Jerry and Phil work beautifully through the song’s solo section. There’s an ocean of warm low end vibrating the air.

The band bids the crowd a final goodbye after the song, and we are then treated to a fantastic few minute field recording of the taper and his friends exiting the show in pure rapture – absolutely not to be missed, and one of the “parts” that helps sum up this entire tape.

“Did you get it all down?” “Oh, yes!”

10/23/70 AUD etree source info (includes NRPS)
10/23/70 AUD Download (inculdes NRPS)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

1972 July 26 - Portland, OR

Grateful Dead - Paris, France May 3, 1972

Wednesday, July 26, 1972
Paramount Theater, Portland, OR
Soundboard Recording

There is a lot to love in this show. It’s enormous, and catches the Dead firmly at a peak of power. Beyond great music, there is a over abundance of chatter from the band, talking to each other and to the crowd directly – not at all the norm for the Dead at this time. It adds that little something extra to enjoy on top of an already wonderful show.

What brings me back to this date is the Dark Star. It always sticks in my mind as unforgettable. The rest of the show is icing on the cake, and you never want to miss out on the icing! That there are fabulous renditions of so many other songs, makes this a show that you can comfortably take in completely. For review purposes, I will focus on the Dark Star. But, know that there is a lot to enjoy, not the least of which is the blistering Not Fade Away > Goin’ Down The Road Feelin’ Bad > Not Fade Away toward the end. It’s worth sticking around for this entire tape.

Jerry Garcia April 26, 1972This Dark Star leads off by gently pulling back a curtain to reveal a landscape of slow cartwheeling suns; each extending sky-sized tendrils of thick, ever-changing watercolors. Where they touch, new stars are born in the distance, slowly growing as they emerge from within the giant stars already before you. The music-scape instantly induces a distorted visual field, whisking away the more formalized components of your physical surroundings. Now, there is an ancient incantation calling to your core. The lazy lope of Dark Star awakens your connection to more than simply music. Herein, that sense of attending a church service pervades the experience.

Softly, slowly, Garcia plays his morning bird call lines that would become more and more familiar in the following year. He is charged with an emotion that is hard to name, joyful and lamenting at the same time. His lines rise and fall like an eagle greeting the morning sun for the first time amidst morning mist and dew. The entire band spends long luxurious minutes filling the theater with this haunting aura. All Dark Stars do this to a degree. This version, tucked - almost hidden - in the second set of this show, seems to gain more power from the unexpected placement. You don’t see it coming, and with that there is more power.

Bill Kreutzmann 1972Eventually the first verse appears just before the ten minute mark, and on its heels, the music loses its skeleton and simply melts onto the floor. A whisper quiet Space begins to take form, but soon it also evaporates away. Billy quickly shifts direction and begins to play as if he’s the drummer in a piano jazz trio. Phil, who had been playing low notes as large and long as a mountain range, picks up his part in the trio, and Keith joins soon thereafter. The three of them move headlong into a jam that is absolutely locked into the pocket. It calls your spirit to dance. Your heart catches fire just as Phil turns the corner out of the jazz-based playing and back into 1972 Dead proper.

Fully aflame now, the rest of the band steps into the pocket and what follows is nothing short of breathtaking. Chills roll up the spine. The band has now reached its intended destination. Dark Star was simply the road on the map they followed to their treasure. This jam is highly energized, sunshine sparkled funk, and you can sense that the Dead have reached a goal or fulfilled a calling. It’s highly personal, like the band is not even aware of the audience at all. This evening they have unlocked the door, once again, to their room of riches, and we are blissfully allowed to be there with them. Jerry is dropping runs where his notes ride the crest of the musical wave. They bounce and ricochet off the very top of the music, finding touch points in the syncopated crevices between the rest of the band’s tightly driven interplay. He is soaring, lifting the music higher and higher. It’s a dance of joy.

Jerry Garcia 1972Whether it was twenty seconds or twenty minutes long, you’d call it fleeting when it passed. It leads into a cripplingly twisted Space, infused with skin melting feedback fire and shredding Tiger Jam spirals pouring out of Jerry’s guitar. What’s wonderful about this Space is how it constantly changes direction on you. New vistas are constantly appearing and receding, like the star suns at the beginning of the song, only now they are being tormented by wind from every direction. Visions are swept away to reveal deeper secrets. Colors morph into crushing boulders. Heaving waters burn into crystal. Then, out of the turmoil, Dark Star appears again.

It roars with the intensity of the Space behind it, then cools back to its original state. We reach the second verse of the song, which is an utter rarity by this stage of the game. By 1972 Dark Star had almost exclusively contained the first sung verse only. Somehow nearly thirty minutes have passed, and then the song outdoes itself by dropping into Comes A Time.

Clearly a winning combination in 1972, with this colossal Dark Star heading into Comes A Time, we are held in the delicate touch of the band’s heart. Jerry sings sweetly, and the music flows beneath him much like slowly cascading grass or wheat tickled by the fingers of a soft wind. There is a safety here. We need not worry for anything at all. We are nestled once again in the warm arms of the Grateful Dead.

07/26/72 SBD etree source info
07/26/72 SBD Stream

Friday, August 8, 2008

1984 June 30 - Indianapolis Sports Center

Jerry Garcia 1984

Saturday, June 30, 1984
Indianapolis Sports Center - Indianapolis, IN
Audience Recording

Here’s another example of how there are so many gems lurking in the early 80’s. 1984 is full of great runs and stellar moments. Here, at a small outdoor venue (tennis court), on a hot summer day, smack dab in the middle of Indiana, the Grateful Dead delivered some fine moments indeed. There are so many inroads to great music in 1984. After being away from trading for a number of years, 06/30/84 was one of the first dates that my memory recommended to me as being aextra special from this year. Without a doubt there are a great many more shows from this year that are worthy of being featured here, and I plan to get to them in time. For now, this show feels right. Well recorded, the tape imparts just the right specialness that epitomized 1984.

Indianapolis Sports CenterThe first set rolls along nicely, and features some very pronounced Bobby rhythm work in Saint of Circumstance. He is way up in the mix during the crescendo, and it gives you the ability to dial into his playing as much as he obviously has. But this doesn’t even prepare you for the monstrous Deal that closes the set. As the 80’s progressed, so did Jerry’s exploration in his Deal solos. They tended to contain ever-appearing peaks, like huge ocean waves of energy, pushing the song on and on. Just as one fades, another takes its place. He would punctuate these peaks in such a way that would blow your hair back. 06/30/84 delivers a Deal that scores on all of these points. And the energy carries directly into the next set.

Shakedown Street brings its wonderful high stepping funky prance, opening up the second set on a high note. The band seems to take their time with the entire song, letting things build slowly. By the time they finish up the final “Just gotta poke around” vocal improv, the entire venue is deep in the pocket. It’s a joyful delivery of very Grateful Dead-like music. Slowly, the jam pushes its borders, adding an element of quiet surprise here and there that hints at more spacey leanings. The band is stoking the fire. Our heads swell with a mystic heat. Finally, after traveling in wonderful directions, Shakedown dissipates into the mist of transition with Jerry eventually clearly indicating that Playin’ comes next. The crowd gets it amidst a waterfall of musical dewdrops. Held within a sliver of space between songs, they tickle the nerves, as the music takes its own breath between songs.

Grateful Dead logoPlayin’ rockets forward, always at a faster tempo in the 80’s. In no time the jam is upon us and the music blooms into its characteristic Playin’ flower – petals composed of starlight dappled wagon wheels ever opening, ever reaching. Without effort, the music expands your senses beyond the Self and into a deeply internal journey all at once. The jam goes in twisted directions, changing the landscape over and over. Storm clouds fill the sky and are replaced just as quickly with northern lights, and fire. Energy grows and erupts in snakelike tree trunks, appearing and receding before you. The band pushes the moment over the edge beautifully. With the theme of Playin’ In The Band nearly completely forgotten, the music ebbs back into that dewdrop waterfall filled sliver between songs again. It lingers a bit longer this time, enjoying the near still pools that cover the ground around you. On a whisper, the waters condense into Terrapin Station, and the music moves itself on to the next song.

Sure, Jerry’s going to forget a line here and there ( I think he did in Shakedown too), but the song can’t be altered from its hypnotic course. The early solo section of this version is sublime. That beauty held within the crevices of the last two song transitions steps forth and saturates the music completely. Gravity fades and the world is filled with gently floating precious jewels and flowers. The quiet between notes provides as much substance as the music itself, and nothing is missed from our field of experience. Followed thereafter with the dynamic rise and fall of the song’s end section, this Terrapin ranks up as one of the nicest of the year.

Drums and Space are nice, and the rest of the set satisfies, but the above mentioned passages are where the light really shines. Enjoy.

06/30/84 AUD etree source info
06/30/84 AUD Download

Sunday, August 3, 2008

1969 November 8 - Fillmore Auditorium

Grateful Dead Nov 7-8 1969 poster

Saturday, November 8, 1969
Fillmore Auditorium – San Francisco, CA
Soundboard Recording

This show has rightfully been elevated out of the trading circle and into the Dick’s Picks official release series (Vol. 16). One of the finest choices of all the DP’s.

Below is a review I wrote upon request before the official release in early 2000, in conjunction with the SBD master getting into circulation after Jim Wise painstakingly cleaned up some clicking artifacts on the master tape.

There is something overwhelmingly potent about this show. This second set will mine for any possible remnants of psychoactive chemicals in your being whether they were last placed there twenty minutes ago, or twenty years ago. It will even create them out of the pure ether of your life force if you never added them to your mix personally. This show is a spark that lights a technicolor bonfire in your mind. A roaring, pulsing, groaning beast. This is, after all, 1969. And it is completely obvious why Dick found this to be a crown jewel. There is something overwhelmingly potent about this show.

The Dark Star begins with whispers. They ebb out into the air like flowers opening to greet the morning sun. This is the band’s unique ability to give you reason to feel completely safe within their world. No matter what happens, you are being guided by a friend. A brother holds your hand.

Jerry Garcia 1969Slow passages rise and fall on the way to the first verse of the song. You can sense the craft at work in the band’s collective hand. They have become masters at this over the last three or four years. Gentle smoke rings dance and twist in still air. There are a few moments of slight crescendo before Jerry gets things centered, and the first verse begins.

On the tail of the verse, the drummers open the gates that held back the breezes that would just as easily put ripples into time itself as brush back the hair on your head. Cymbals sing and time signature buckles. The floor opens up and we tumble into a space that is restrained, given what is to come. But we don’t know that yet. Right now, music is gone and the band is running its fingers through our veins and skin. Things climb in intensity. The drummers find a foothold and Jerry returns to earth with his guitar in one hand, and yours in another. Safe again.

Most remarkable about the ensuing music is the myriad of directions being explored. It starts with a nice Dark Star jam that continues to ebb and flow, rise and fall. Phil leads the way into a Feelin’ Groovy jam that acts as the highest peak of the set thus far. The beast is fully awake now, eyes darting in all directions. This peak sets the band at a tremendous energy level. After a brief bit of breathing room, Phil leads the way into Other One.

Dick Latvala's 11/8/69 DAT tape coverThe Other One was another tune displaying the absolute master craftsmanship of the Dead this year, and this one is up for the challenge. Tremendous. There is a wash of layer upon layer of theme rising out of the surging music, like small fires that ooze and glow from the corners of your eyes. After another mild passage, things build with Phil throwing in the Feelin’ Groovy line again. Things settle some more and we find Phil enter with a hint of Alligator under Jerry’s Other One lines. Then it’s as if three or four songs are being played at the same time. Even a small Me and My Uncle is oozing around. This is unbelievably moving. Finally we get to the verse. But nothing can quite prepare us for the jamming that comes out of the Other One and through the next many miles of road. The interplay of the band is remarkable. With so much being hinted at over and over again, that base of primal chemical life force in your brain is completely melded to the mothership at the center of everything. You are "there". For a long while nothing is happening and it is truly magical. In between Other One and Dark Star we have ascended to a place where the distinction between I and Band are gone. No song is being played. No themes are explored. Everything is just stretched out in all directions. The music just "is". Words fail. Dark Star prevails.

It returns, lilting on a bubbly Garcia, hopping through fields of flowers. Only enough Dark Star to know we are there. There’s more of the Feelin’ Groovy underpinning while colors and lights whiz by.

Not good enough for you? Just another Dark Star ho-hummedly trekking toward St. Stephen? No. What’s that theme? Everyone seems together on it, but I can’t quite pin it down? It seems so well rehearsed. But what is it? Then…

Jerry leads the band through an instrumental verse of Uncle John’s Band that is too good to be true. You will never forget the first time you hear this. Ever! It is a joyride of the highest order. When they eventually get back to that theme you couldn’t quite pin down, of course it’s Uncle John’s. The theme quickly passes into a nice transitional state. Then it is Dark Star completely. Amazingly, it is Dark Star of all songs that is acting as our lifeline to reality. But safe once again we are, all cuddled around the band as Jerry finishes this story of so many things. "Shall we go…?"

Grateful Dead 1969It’s St. Stephen, piled on thick. It has a slaphappy feel to it, maybe a tad slower than normal. The Lady Finger verse finds the audience in true silence, and the band plays ever so quietly behind. The riotous build after "One man gathers what another man spills" is real nice, getting almost completely out. But not quite. Fear not, we will get completely out just a little later.

The Eleven is a whip cracking good version, and charges right along. Near the end, as they enter the slightly more bluesy jam after the Eleven theme is explored for the last time, we get the over blending of themes again. Death rears it’s head, but the Dead show no mercy. There is too much raw power coursing through the room. Things start to boil ferociously. The world is about to split apart at the seams. The time signature rolls in and out of 11/8 and then Phil is again hinting at Alligator. The rest of the band is just latching on when Phil gets right into Caution. From here we slide into a nice lazy jam of sorts. You gotta think that they are looking for Pigpen at this point. And sure enough, things truly simmer way down and we hear Jerry call after the amazing lead singer. No luck? Okay, Jerry is content to start hinting at Me and My Uncle. But then Pig must make his way to the stage because the band finds a bit of focus in the direction of Caution again.

This is it. The beat quickens and electricity is brimming all around. This Caution embodies so much of what the Dead were so good at, as really most all Cautions do. They could get a fast paced Bluegrass rhythm going and completely fuse it to the deepest extremes of raw psychedelic space in such a way that you just couldn’t know which way was up. Add in what might be one of Pigpens finest improv raps, and you have yourself one of the best Cautions ever caught on tape.

Jerry Garcia 1969As promised earlier, the band does make it completely *out*, and right on cue. "Just a touch!" After an amazing drop out into feedback with Pigpen cooing and calling in the background, Caution rebuilds itself one small piece at a time. Amazingly, the beat returns from out of nowhere, Jerry’s licks start rockin’ along, but there is still all this deep groaning and flowing all around us. No matter how far back into the song we make it, there is always this element of deep space hovering like a cat waiting to pounce. We get back in the groove, but it is clear from that last break with reality that this band can get much farther out there than anything that has gone down in the last hour. Hold on.

It’s all gloriously too much. Just when it seems that the song is back for a while they really flip out into Space. But Jerry is slamming out the Caution rhythm even faster now and Pigpen comes right back to the microphone. His inspired rap follows.

"Work fine for me
And my grandmother too
It work purdy good
I know it gonna work for you
Ain’t no way
To get around it
I know
Somebody good found it.."

The entire rap is amazing. Pig assembles the words, story, and rhythms as if he spent months getting it just exactly perfect. He’s more in a personal zone. His lines sort of swim and slide along. It’s an eyes closed sort of thing. After some time, you can hear the band putting together The Main Ten behind him.

Grateful Dead May 16, 1969This version of The Main Ten is well explored. It has that unmistakable Playin’ In The Band feeling, but it is peppered with all sorts of great tangents. At its end the band seems sure to go into Death Don’t. But then Jerry is beating out an even faster Caution. There really is no better place to go from here. As it climbs its way back, there is an aura taking shape that begins to defy description. The feathery edges of nerve endings are all rippling in a tide of an effervescent ocean. It’s another period in the show where the distinctions between I and Band are lost. Caution Caution Caution. Eventually there are the block step chords, first in threes, then in fours. This kind of things really must have struck home for anyone in the audience who had seen the band over the years, or listened to Anthem of the Sun under the right conditions. The slamming chords erupting out of a sea of madness - altering the structure again by going from three to four could not help but stir up a haunting recollection of having been here before. Then Jerry is shredding the way into Feedback.

It’s some eight or nine minutes long, and I can’t think of any reason to attempt to lend a linear tour through what happens. You are on your own.

And we bid you good night, good night, good night.

I never intended to post a review on this blog that did not immediately provide the reader with the ability to hear the show in question. It's actually one of my favorite elements of this Internet medium itself. I'm sorry that I'm breaking my own rule here, but you needed to know about this show even though you can't stream it off the archive into your ears right this second. This one is worth your hunting down for purchase. Enjoy!

11/08/69 etree source info
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