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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

1973 March 24 - The Spectrum


Saturday, March 24, 1973
The Spectrum - Philadelphia, PA
Soundboard Recording

So we established early on that I set up the Grateful Dead Listening Guide playing the character of an old hippie guy living across the street from you. One day a couple of years ago you and he struck up a conversation, and soon you found yourself invited over to the old guy's basement where you were seated in the sweet spot between artfully spaced stereo speakers as he began pulling tapes off the wall, filling your ears with stories, enchantments and mysteries deep and vast.

Judging from your repeated return visits, everything has gone very well. You continually enjoy an endless parade of music-magic, and the old hippie finds tremendous pleasure in learning more about his own spiritual connection to the music through this sharing and the reflected joy it clearly produces in your welcoming eyes and ears.

By this point we've share a great deal of music and it sometimes becomes a slight struggle for the old hippie to pick the next tape. This time, rather than trying to outdo myself by producing a completely hidden gem, I've decided to go back to one of the very first shows I ever received from the year 1973.

March 24th 1973 is well circulated, and I wore my own tape thin way back when my grand total of 1973 shows was about 2. Perhaps because of this, the show never really struck me as something to recommend to you here. Perhaps I felt somehow that the show's magic wasn't unique enough. Maybe I thought that it was too commonplace a tape. No matter the reason, it didn't help that I hadn't listened to the show in a very, very long time. That all changed on a whim when I pulled the show back out.

Revisiting it now, I'm struck with the realization that this show I so easily let myself forget over the years possesses a heaping helping of that which I treasure most about 1973 Grateful Dead jamming – a certain nimble jazzy Ferris wheel sound that I often only find deep in the summer of this fine year. It's no wonder that this, as one of my very first tapes, cemented my lifelong connection to the Dead, and to 1973 in particular.

Set 1: Bertha, Beat It On Down The Line, Don't Ease Me In, The Race Is On, Cumberland Blues, Box Of Rain, Row Jimmy, Jack Straw, They Love Each Other, Mexicali Blues, Tennessee Jed, Looks Like Rain, Wave That Flag, El Paso, Here Comes Sunshine, Me & Bobby McGee, Loser, Playin' In The Band
Set 2: Promised Land, China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider, Big River, Stella Blue, Me & My Uncle, He's Gone > Truckin' > Spanish Jam > Space > Dark Star > Sing Me Back Home > Sugar Magnolia E: Johnny B. Goode

The pleasures of this show are not only waiting deep in the second set. We are treated to a lovely first set and quite an extended Playin' In The Band to wrap it up. Psychedelics explode on the scene as if they've been held back to the bursting point. The music swirls. Colors bleed. Jerry casts out leads that tip toe deftly over rolling river rapids, often taking a path up over tree tops and then incredibly threading between blades of grass. Late in the jam we find Garcia taking a break while the rest of the band continues to churn with a kaleidoscoping display of yellow-orange embers dancing through burning logs. Jerry returns and adds searing white and fuchsia flames to the mix as the song returns to close the first set.

China>Riders in March 1973 are noteworthy for often delivering an unprecedented amount of energy and momentum, and the one here on March 24th wastes little time living up to the reputation. The transition jam flies. The band locks into a shuffle with Garcia streaming sunbeams, and the familiar four-chord jam, while not being as heavily pronounced as in other versions, does not disappoint as we transition into I Know You Rider. With solo sections that burst with that joyful effervescence that defines the Dead in so many ways, we can't help but smile throughout the entire song.

Of course it's the shows extended jam in the second set that places this show on a pedestal, and for good reason. Out of Truckin' the band lets the music settle into a meadow of grass where wind barely whispers. Jerry delicately lofts out the opening lines of Dark Star, yet no one takes the reins with him. Instead, the entire band slips effortlessly into a rolling jazzy 1973 jam that typifies the year completely. This jam is as reminiscent of the big '73 Watkins Jam as nearly anything else on record in this year or otherwise. The tempo flies as Garcia unleashes long staccato runs that reflect and echo upon themselves leaving trails in the air, cutting a dewy mist with ripples of energy. The purity of the Grateful Dead's musical soul is stretched into the sky, pulling us into a rapturous dance erasing all physical barriers. In this music we feel the Grateful Dead resonate far more deeply within us than words may express.

A small guitar break finds Billy and Phil bebopping out a Drum and Bass solo. The rest of the band returns and picks up right where it left off. We are lost, fuse and reflected within the invisible fabric that beats in the empty space of atoms. Soon a Spanish Jam appears and is quickly vaporized into caverns, light years deep. Great drops of sound randomly take shape and gather together with invisible gravities. Orbits shimmer. Waves rise and fall. Slowly a subtle symphony takes shape. Singing stars and slowly bowed strings rise into harmonies, and the sky fills with a thousand sunsets. An ocean-sized crescendo, as delicate as an evening breeze through trees fills the infinity all around. Dark Star appears.

While it can easily be touted as the shortest Dark Star on record (at only about four and a half minutes), all fairness points to Garcia tipping the Dark Star hand some twenty-two minutes prior as the jam first took form. But we aren't here to quibble over the length of the song. The music flutters like slow rolling redwood tree-sized velvet drapes stretched for a hundred miles around us. And we are eventually left in awe as the band transitions liquidly into Sing Me Back Home. Here the gospel overtones conjure up that familiar feeling of sitting around a campfire, as a story is told. When Garcia hits his solo, notes blossom streaming flower pedals all around. He somehow conjures every ounce of the sound system's power into delicate footsteps that leave no trace in the sand. Grace, as simply delivered as ever.

A classic Dead tape to be sure. Worth the listen even if its been sitting on a shelf for a quarter century or more.


  1. i was listening to here comes sunshine from this show, TODAY. amazing.

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  3. This is one of the best ever TLEO...if you prefer the up tempo pre-hiatus versions of this song. Really bops along and Bobby is strong

  4. (Larry Spilberg on Facebook) WARNING: Long Post. HOPE YOU LIKE IT: This is my all time favorite Grateful Dead Concert that I attended (Capitals Intentional). My third GD Concert and the first time I dosed at one. 16 yrs old w three friends who'd never seen them. Windowpane all around and we got way, way up front. Our Psychedelic Baptism. It was MY NIGHT!!! At the foot of my Buddha, he was breathing fire and looking at us... a lot, and then sometimes he was just tripping out the way he did... you could see it and it could not be denied. The band was ON FIRE! So much I remember. Pigpen had just passed away and there were tears all around during He's Gone, so obviously about Pigpen this night. But count them! Eighteen songs in the first set... they were just having such a good time. So much laughing on stage. Phil and Jerry cracking up constantly and Weir looking confused half the night. First time we saw Weir w short hair. Chk out Truckin and The Spanish Jam and imagine for a moment that that was totally new to you, you were tripping and you did not see it coming.This is my all time favorite Grateful Dead Concert that I attended (Capitals Intentional). This is THE ONE that made me. A 16 year old's Peak Grateful Dead Experience..."Cryptical Envelopment" doesn't even come close to describing it... and as You all Know, nothing can really describe it. Beyond Words.

    1. Fantastic. Thanks for sharing your story. A perfect window back into a musical past we can all share.

    2. I, too, was 16, when 24 March 1973 found me at my first rock concert. I rode sliding, seated on the wooden floor in the back of a rented yellow Ryder truck with a bunch of hippies from school in the Maryland suburbs of D.C., to the Spectrum in Philly, to see The Grateful Dead. I had only heard their album American Beauty on a friend’s pitiful portable, so to suddenly experience an eight-minute Tennessee Jed and perfect 19-minute Playing In the Band through their clear-sounding JBL and McIntosh-based sound system, was rich nutriment to my hungry ears. It changed my life. When the Dead came to RFK Stadium that June 9 and 10 for a co-headlining weekend with the Allman Brothers, I had to attend both shows. I slept on the lawn at RFK with my face planted on my bandana after the first day’s show, too.

      Music that was this accessible as it took one through glorious 20-minute dancing tapestries of buoyant harmonic changes, with instrumental solos and multi-layered vocals, to deliver one in a tidy package to a different place quickly seemed the obvious norm. This was what rock music could provide and did provide. Imagine my surprise when I attended a rock concert where a band played its songs more or less like their studio recordings, then were done. I felt ripped off!

  5. "filling your ears with stories, enchantments and mysteries deep and vast."

    Hey now, I love my Grateful Dead stories. So much so that I made a blog at to serve as my own personal stash of my favorites, but very open to personal submissions from anyone who has something they might want to share.

    So, if you ever feel like rattling off some Dead Tales, please don't hesitate to stop by and submit something. I'd love to hear some (and I know I'm not the only one).


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