Today is an important day in Grateful Dead history since it marks the first time that the Dead played China Cat Sunflower and I Know You Rider back to back in concert. (For a very thorough discussion of these two songs’ early years, the events leading up to this pairing and subsequent developments in the China>Rider saga, click here). After tonight, China Cat Sunflower would almost never be played again without its I Know You Rider mate. (UPDATE: I put out some feelers and have found at least a couple of these Riderless shows. 1/2/1972 has a Good Lovin’>China Cat Sunflower>Good Lovin’, on 3/9/1985 we hear China Cat Sunflower>Cumberland Blues start the 2nd set and on 7/29/1988 the band plays Crazy Fingers in between China Cat Sunflower and I Know You Rider). So it’s great to hear the genesis of this legendary (in Grateful Dead circles at least) combination of songs, one old and one new, that seem like they were born to be together.
That’s the good news. Now for the bad. You’re going to have a difficult time hearing the vocals on this recording since it appears that it might have been taped so close to the stage that the microphone could hardly pick up the vocals from the band’s sound system. There are also a bunch of issues with tape speed, especially on Alligator, which is wobbly and sounds like it’s way too slow. This is also definitely not the complete show, since it’s missing, at the very least, Death Don’t Have No Mercy at the end, and probably some other songs along the way. What we’re left with here, then, is a 30-some-odd minute portion of a historic show in less than pristine condition.
This does not mean that this performance is not worth your time. The band, while sloppy, is, like they usually are in 1969, plowing through these songs at full bore and the playing is intense. Drums in particular is something to behold.
So, instead of worrying about sound quality, please check out the first China>Rider we’ve got and bask in that 1969 glow. Here’s the only copy on the Archive: https://archive.org/details/gd69-09-30.aud.early.hollister.80.sbeok.shnf