Today In Grateful Dead History: August 3, 1969 – Family Dog at the Great Highway, San Francisco, CA

skeleton&rosesUPDATE 5/31/2017 – Lost Live Dead has a great, very long post discussing the mystery violin and sax players from this show.  Check it out here.  

If you’re in the mood for a full fledged burst of free-jazz psychedelia, this is your show.  The Dead are joined on stage by a violinist (who may be David LaFlamme) and saxophonist (who may be Charles Lloyd)  – these things are murky – for a performance that defies convention, venturing way, way out there beyond the boundaries of the band’s typical 1969 schtick (which in and of itself was plenty out there to begin with).

Sloppy versions of Hard to Handle and Beat it on Down The Line  open this show before we get our first taste of what’s to come with a charged up version of Hi-Heal Sneakers, a rarity indeed.  High Time and Mama Tried are similarly messy, but then we get to Dark Star, with the guest musicians wailing away and the Dead dragging us further off into space for a good twenty minutes.  None of this is particularly polished, which is what lends this show its charm – Branford Marsalis won’t be threatened by these players, but the force of the performance is almost overwhelming.

After Dark Star we fire into Alligator and an extended (for 1969) version of Drums before the truly bizarre starts to take place in The Other One.  Although it’s not even clear that this song was actually played at this show, it seems to fit in perfectly here, so I’m not going to complain, even if it was added from another night.  At the end of The Other One we drop into Caution (Do Not Step on the Tracks), the free-ist of the free jazz portion of the show, where all semblance of cohesion breaks down and we end up with some out of tune fiddling and incredibly violent feedback before a short and much needed burst of melody in the form of And We Bid You Goodnight to close out this one of a kind show.

Don’t play this if you’re not in the mood for some truly interesting noise.  Cornell 1977 it ain’t, but it’s wonderful if you’re ready for it:


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