Today in Grateful Dead History: November 20, 1970 – The Palestra, University of Rochester, Rochester, NY

skeleton&rosesThis is a really hot show that suffers from a poor recording in many places and some setlist questions.  But what is certain is this: after the Dead’s main performance, they are joined by Jefferson Airplane’s Jorma Kaukonen for a unique jam session that more than makes up for the issues with the recording.

This is a powerhouse 1970 Grateful Dead show – raw and thrilling throughout.  Good Lovin’, wherever it belongs in the setlist, is a highlight, as is the phenomenal Truckin’> Drums>The Other One>Saint Stephen>Not Fade Away>Goin’ Down The Road Feelin’ Bad>Not Fade Away>I’m A King Bee that takes up a lot of space during the second half of the proper Dead show.  It’s a weird thing to hear I’m A King Bee at the end of this sequence, but Pigpen rips it up at a level equal to or greater than all of the rockin’ that’s been taking place around him.

When the real Grateful Dead show concludes, Jefferson Airplane guitarist Jorma Kaukonen, who had been performing elsewhere in Rochester that night, joins the band for a great extended jam session that starts with It’s All Over Now and launches into uncharted waters from there.  Jorma and Jerry sound like two peas in a pod throughout the night, trading licks and other ideas and generally playing at an exceptionally high level considering that they both already played full shows before this jam started.  Things really lock in during the Dead’s first and only performance of Darling Corey, which strays (atmospherically, at least) from its folkie roots.  But this is just the midway point in 30 minutes of spirited playing that also includes a messy version of Around and Around.  Once all of the guitar heroism is out of their systems, the boys settle down and send us home with Uncle John’s Band as the audience claps along.

As I pointed out at the beginning, there is only one flawed audience recording of this show available on the Archive.  Pieces of songs are cut, there are tons of dropouts and flips and the sound quality of what’s on tape is not ideal.  But this is an example of a show that needs to be heard even if it doesn’t sound great – the Jorma jamming alone makes it a keeper, despite the outside noise and the Dead’s full show doesn’t disappoint either.

Listen here:  https://archive.org/details/gd70-11-20.aud.cotsman.9001.sbeok.shnf

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Yesterday in Dead & Company History: November 17, 2017 – TD Garden, Boston, MA

Last night my wife and I had the good fortune to take in Dead & Company at the Garden.  After learning more about the Dead through the sheer force of osmosis than most people would get through a lifetime of normal listening, this was the first time that my wife had the chance to see any surviving members of the Grateful Dead play live and we were treated to a great night of music, filled with memorable songs and awesome people.

For those of you who don’t know (if you’re reading this, you’re highly unlikely to fit this description), Dead and Company is Bob Weir, Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart plus John Mayer as the Jerry substitute de juor, Oteil Burbridge on bass and Jeff Chimenti on keys.  I know, I know, John Mayer.  Get over it – the man is an incredible guitarist and he consistently charged the crowd like no other Jerry fill-in I’ve ever seen.  Without him, this night would not have been nearly as good.  Sorry.

The boys opened the show (at the ungodly hour of 7:15!) with Jack Straw, and if a show starts with Jack Straw, you know you’re on the right track.  This led into New Speedway Boogie – not one of my favorites, but in this day and age, the chorus was cathartic.  I’m still singing it this morning.  After a heartfelt but basic Althea, I got my pre-show #1 wish when the band played Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo.  The middle solo section was intense, but after a couple of minutes the band slowed down and spaced out, with Mayer and Bobby standing next to each other and gently playing together, listening intently the whole time.  It was a calm, beautiful moment and the crowd was rapt.  This led into Big River, just like my favorite Half-Step of all time (from the old Boston Garden on 5/7/77) did.  This was a great moment – having listened to that version of Half-Step so many times, I’m used to hearing Big River after it, so it was amazing to hear it that way live.  Mind blown.

After Big River came the consensus highlight of the night – Sugaree.  Just like with the real Dead, this song became a soloing platform with John Mayer ripping into the song with glee.  Things just kept getting better and better the more he soloed, and the crowd got more and more worked up until the tail end came crashing down with a furious charge.  The place went bananas, as it should have.  This was pure guitar shredding bliss and it led into the set closing Music Never Stopped.  Look back at that setlist for a second – could you ask for anything more?  The band could have stopped there and we would have left incredibly happy.

Of course, we got a second set too, and it led off with another favorite, Scarlet Begonias>Fire on the Mountain.  This was a good version, but nothing really special took place.  However, a brilliant He’s Gone followed, with peaks and valleys in the right places and long ending jam into, of all things, Viola Lee Blues.  The transition between these two songs was great and the band really seized hold of Viola Lee, with Mayer getting to show off his blues chops, much like Jerry used to on those epic, old school versions from the mid sixties.

Things slowed down with Drums and Space.  Obviously, this sequence is not everyone’s cup of tea (although one dude in front of us boogied his ass off the whole time).  But it is one place where I think the band actually improved things as they went into the 90’s, and by now it’s a brilliant set piece that is so much more than Billy and Mickey banging on random drums.  It also works a lot better live than on tape.  At one point, Oteil came out and contributed a little bass before going backstage to listen to the rest of the piece.  I enjoyed it tremendously.

Space devolved into a Miles Davis modal jam that was very well done and touched more on true jazz (for better or for worse) than the Dead ever did.  This led into an impassioned Wharf Rat>The Wheel.  I love both of these songs, but with this version of Dead and Company, they tend to drag a little, so while the band’s heart was in the right place, the tempo was in bed.  A lot of the audience was sitting by this point, so the boys lit into a fiery (for them) Sugar Magnolia that brought the place to its feet to close the show.

But the band saved the best (as far as my wife is concerned) for the encore – Ripple.  This is her favorite Grateful Dead song, and of course, with beginner’s luck, she got it.  When those first notes hit, the whole arena erupted into a 20,000 person sing-along that we’ll never forget.  It was quite the way to end the show and sent everyone out into the night glowing.

Long story short, Dead and Company knows what they’re doing.  They are not a blazing fast band – they are more like the 1976 Grateful Dead on Quaaludes with a flashier guitarist.  But they delivered the goods with a great night of awesome tunes and memories we’ll savor forever.

I’ll post the show audio when it appears on the Archive.  Till then, happy weekend.

UPDATE:  Here’s the audio – good AUD:  https://archive.org/details/DeadCo2017-11-17

Today in Grateful Dead History: November 17, 1978 – Rambler Room, Loyola College & Uptown Theater, Chicago, IL

Dancing Skeletons

Today is a first for me – I get to review two shows from the same day.

The first is the “Grateful Dead’s” benefit acoustic performance at Loyola University’s Rambler Room in the afternoon before the band’s nighttime show at the Uptown Theater.  I put Grateful Dead in quotations here because the band was billed as Bob Weir and Friends and Billy, Keith and Donna weren’t there.  But if Jerry, Bob, Phil and Mickey are playing together, then we’re going to talk about it anyway.

I came across this recording years ago and always liked it – it’s a short and sweet acoustic performance in front of a very small crowd in 1978, which makes it highly unusual.  The song selection is also very eclectic – there are a few songs the Dead had never played before and wouldn’t play again (Whinin’ Boy Blues, Tom Dooley and KC Moan, for example) and there are a few tunes that had been retired for years and would be resurrected during the 1980 acoustic / electric shows (Deep Elem Blues and Dark Hollow).  On top of that, we’ve got Stagger Lee (which they played at the Uptown Theater the night before and the night after), Oh Boy, a great Buddy Holly tune that the Dead should have played more often, and the debut of Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door, which the boys wouldn’t break out again until 1987, when it would become a fairly standard encore song.

Let’s be clear – this is not a pristine performance.  The sound quality is pretty bad and they’re not playing perfectly, but it’s fantastic to hear the band loose and live, playing on acoustic instruments for the first time in years.  It’s also interesting to hear how the arrangements of the songs changed just a little bit between here and 1980.  We’re also missing a piano.  But putting all that aside, this is a fun part of any Dead fan’s collection of shows.

After playing the Rambler Room, the Dead moved back to the Uptown Theater for the full band’s electric performance.  Unfortunately, there is no complete recording of this show – we’ve got Shakedown Street and Cassidy from the first set and the entire second set, almost all on a very, very distant, muddy audience recording.  The upside is that the band actually plays pretty well on the recording that we have.  There is a good Ship of Fools, and the Estimated Prophet>Eyes of the World>Drums>Space>Terrapin Station sequence is surprisingly good (especially Estimated Prophet) considering the uneven nature of the other two shows from this run.  It makes one long for the full show on soundboard, which is not something I say very often about shows from 1978.

You can hear the full acoustic show at the Rambler Room here: https://archive.org/details/gd1978-11-17.acoustic.sbd.samaritano.32879.sbeok.flac16

Shakedown Street and the entire 2nd set of the Uptown Theater show reside here on the audience recording: https://archive.org/details/gd78-11-17.paud.wiley.11488.sbeok.shnf

Cassidy, Bertha, Ship of Fools and Estimated Prophet (all of which, save Cassidy, are on the AUD), can be heard on a soundboard here:  https://archive.org/details/gd1978-11-17.135718.sbd.partial.schley.andrewf.flac1644

Today in Grateful Dead History: November 16, 1985 – Long Beach Arena, Long Beach, CA

dancing-bearLike today’s show at the Long Beach Arena, my review is going to be short.

In the first set, the Dead play an advanced 1985 version of Sugaree and at least make an effort at Let It Grow.  That’s about it.

The second set opens with the very rare combination of Tennessee Jed followed by Cumberland Blues.  Both are pretty good versions.  After that, the boys are mailing it in.  They sound like they are going to call it a night after Gimme Some Lovin’, but Jerry decides to throw the crowd a bone and fires off a Truckin’ that is barely longer than the album version (Bob of course screws up the vocals) before an anesthetized Black Peter and a corny Good Lovin’ close out the show.

The encore is Day Job – the boys put more into it than the entire post-Drums segment.  Says a lot about this show, right?

All that being said, if you need a really short dose of 1985, there aren’t any complete clunkers here either.  Just not a lot of passion.

Listen here:  https://archive.org/details/gd85-11-16.sbd.18374.sbeok.shnf

Today in Grateful Dead History: November 15, 1971 – Austin Municipal Auditorium, Austin, TX

stealieIt’s been a strange couple of weeks here at the Daily Dose when it comes to setlist abnormalities and unusual jams and today’s show from Austin in 1971 doesn’t buck the trend, with the last first-set Dark Star for 20 years (and the second-to-last of all time) and a Not Fade Away jam that defies description.

First, a little personnel recap.  Pigpen could not join the Dead on this part of the 1971 tour due to health problems, and Keith Godchaux had been playin’ in the band for a little less than a month (Donna had yet to join), so the five-piece, Pigpenless band was thinner than it would ever be.  So the boys made up for it by turning everything up to eleven.

Like the November 12th show in San Antonio, tonight’s performance has a focused raw energy – I know that sounds like a contradiction, but when you hear it you’ll know.  Unfortunately, like the 11/12 show, this recording is marred by a crummy soundboard mix.  The good news tonight is that this show was released in its entirety as Road Trips Volume 3, Number 2, which is available on Spotify.  The official release sounds a heck of a lot better than the recording on the Archive, so listen to it elsewhere if you can.

Dark Star is definitely the highlight of the first set, a nice, mellow version with an El Paso dropped into the middle of it for good measure.  The Dead don’t reinvent the wheel here, but it’s still a nice trip, and the last of its era.  There are some other great songs in the first set, like Playin’ in the Band, which, at six and a half minutes, is just aching to take flight.  The pent up jamming here sounds great and hints at better things to come for this song next year.  I also enjoyed the blaring version of Loser.

The second set starts with several “normal” songs in a row, although it bears noting that Garcia’s work during Me and Bobby McGee is especially potent tonight.  Everything after that is very down-to-earth, as if the Dead didn’t know what to do in this slot without Pigpen.  Not Fade Away provides the answer – it’s all systems go here and we get a monster performance focused, once again, on Jerry’s massive solos and Bob Weir’s hints of China Cat Sunflower.  After 10+ minutes of rocking, the Dead move into Going Down the Road Feeling Bad, also uptempo, for some additional variations on the same theme before returning once again to Not Fade Away to round things up.  This jam never gets “out there”.  Instead, it’s one of those rocking jams that typically flow out of Not Fade Away – grind it out, dance-band rock and roll.  But it’s a good one.

If you don’t have your hands on a copy of Road Trips, you can listen to the muddy soundboard here:  https://archive.org/details/gd71-11-15.sbd.cotsman.12438.sbeok.shnf

Today in Grateful Dead History: November 14, 1973 – San Diego International Sports Arena, San Diego, CA

stealieSometimes, when I read through a setlist at the start of the day, I’ll see a particular sequence of songs that just stands out as something to look forward to.  This morning, I saw this: Truckin’>The Other One>Big River>The Other One>Eyes Of The World>The Other One>Wharf Rat, and I was immediately excited for what the Dead had in store for me.

The band didn’t disappoint.  This run of tunes opens the second half of the Dead’s 1973 show at the San Diego International Sports Arena (go Clippers – but not in 1973), and it is a very unusual set of songs indeed.  I can count only a couple of other times that Big River ever followed a stand-alone The Other One, and I’m having a hard time locating any show that has an Other One that is interrupted twice before resolving.  So in and of itself, this setlist would be pretty epic, but it’s what the band does with the music that’s really important today.

If you’ve listened to even a fair number of Dead shows, especially ones from the 80’s and beyond, you’ll know that it’s sometimes difficult for the boys to transition between songs that are not normally paired together.  (This was not as a much of a problem in these early 70’s years when Billy was the only drummer, but it still came up).  Well, today those transitions in The Other One work spectacularly well, starting with the windup from Truckin’.  Unfortunately, Phil is not turned up very high in the mix, so we’re not treated to the thunder that often accompanies the start of The Other One, but the Dead slide into it like a warm bath anyway.  Likewise, after a very open jam, Jerry picks up the chortling beat of Big River and the band takes off immediately – there’s no hesitation and no train wreck, nor is there a problem devolving (on the beat!) back into The Other One at the conclusion of the song.  In between, the band is rocking and rolling through Big River with a special verve, as if they know they’re coming back to the spacey jamming soon enough.  The second part of The Other One basically keeps the pace from Big River, but we can tell that the band is looking for a more melodious space, so into Eyes of the World they go.  Like most of my favorite Eyes, this one does not linger on too long and it’s filled with lots of neat back and forth playing before we’re once again in The Other One for my favorite part of the night, the wind-down into Wharf Rat.  I can’t really explain what it is about this that hit me so hard, but the gradual transition into such a tender tune was pretty cool.  And the playing on Wharf Rat is top of the line.  At the end of the song, the band barely riffs on Dark Star with hints of Feelin’ Groovy, but the song slows to a gentle close instead, capping a great hour + of music.

This special passage is clearly the heart of the show, but don’t let that keep you from the first set, which has several ripping moments of its own.  For instance, Here Comes Sunshine is a little messy, but you’re not going to hear Jerry Garcia jam on this tune any harder than he does tonight – he’s bringing the fire.  The whole band gets into the act two songs later with a fast, free for all version of Cumberland Blues that barely hangs on to reality.  And the China Cat Sunflower>I Know You Rider is at its 1973 best.

This is an all-time gem of an Other One.  Listen here:  https://archive.org/details/gd1973-11-14.sbd.miller.79049.flac16

Today in Grateful Dead History: November 13, 1972 – Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall, Kansas City, KS

stealieIf you are a soundboard snob, then you might as well pack it in right now, because today we’re going to discuss a slightly dicey forty-five year old audience recording.  But those of you who stick around will be rewarded with one of the most unique Dark Stars of the 70’s.

The reason that this show probably isn’t very well known is that almost all of the first set only exists online in the form of a very muddy audience recording.  The levels are far to high and the instruments  don’t blend well at all.  Most of the vocals top out.  But trust me, the underlying music is very good here, no more so then on Tomorrow is Forever, which suffers more than most songs from the recording quality.  This is probably my favorite Grateful Dead version of the song – Donna rises above the occasion and Keith’s piano is a work of art.  I remember that the other band members used to compliment Keith by saying that he could pick up any style of playing almost immediately, and this particular song shows just how well he could play country piano when he wanted to, which, unfortunately, was not too much as the 70’s wore on and the Dead moved away from those roots.  But not tonight.  You should listen despite the audio issues.

Playin’ in the Band is the last song of the first set, and it is also the first song on the second audience source that furnishes most of the music from this point forward.  This recording was made by Bear himself and it is exponentially better than the first source, which is good, because the Dead turn things up to another level on this Playin’ in the Band, which lays waste to your senses starting about halfway in.

After the set break we get a few warm up songs before the main event, a 33 minute Dark Star for the ages.  This one builds very slowly, but you need to stick with it until approximately 20 minutes in, at which point the dissonance begins to build and the tension in the room rises.  Just when you’ve probably reached your breaking point, Phil takes over and drives the song over a cliff into a frenetic Feeling Groovy jam.  This is one of the fastest versions of this sequence that I’ve ever heard, yet the Dead are up to the task tonight, rocking on Dark Star like you’ve probably never experienced.  I know I haven’t.  And then, without missing a beat, we’re off into a Morning Dew that will lacerate your spirit.

This review isn’t going to do justice to these two songs – just plug them in and be patient.  If you sit back and let it unfold, you’re about to experience a phenomenal 45 minutes of pure 1972 Grateful Dead.

You can listen to all the glory here, and remember, the sound gets better with Playin’ in the Band, so don’t judge this audience recording by its opening songs:  https://archive.org/details/gd72-11-13.aud.hanno.10089.sbeok.shnf