Today In Grateful Dead History: October 30, 1970 – Gym, SUNY Stony Brook, Stony Brook, NY

skeleton&rosesThe New Riders of the Purple Sage were contemporaries of the Grateful Dead who played a much more country tinged blend of music than the Dead ever did. (Think Flying Burrito Brothers).  They also happened to share Jerry Garcia, who played pedal steel guitar for the New Riders until 1971.  (Sometimes Phil or Mickey also played with them).  Quite a few of the 1970 Grateful Dead dates were also New Riders of the Purple Sage performances – sometimes the Dead would play a set, then the Riders, then the Dead, or sometimes, as is the case at today’s show at SUNY Stony Brook, the bands would play an early show and a late show, with the New Riders opening and the Dead headlining both shows.  This means that Jerry was on stage for four sets tonight – two with the New Riders and two with the Dead.  What’s great about this recording is that it includes both New Riders shows and both Dead shows, giving us the full concert experience.

This site is devoted to the Grateful Dead, not the New Riders of the Purple Sage, for a reason – the Grateful Dead are (in my humble opinion), much better than the New Riders.  So I’m not going to focus on the New Riders’ portion of these shows, other than to say that you’ll hear some pretty good country rock and your foot will definitely tap at points.  You’ll also get the chance to check out Jerry’s pedal steel chops.  But beyond that, we’re not journeying into the depths of space with the New Riders.

The Dead’s portion of these shows is pretty typical 1970 Grateful Dead.  1970 and 1971 marked the transition from the heavy hitting 60’s into the more mellow sounding 70’s, but there is still a lot of tension between the two eras, which leads to some great music.  The first thing you’ll notice here is the tone, which is thin if you’re used to pristine soundboards.  Fortunately, most of the members of the band are audible on this recording, with the exception of Pigpen.  Caveat – I listened to this through pretty crummy computer speakers, but it’s almost impossible to hear Pigpen’s organ at all in either show.  Which stinks to high heaven, because it would have definitely added some depth to this sound.  But if that’s my only complaint about the sound on a 1970 soundboard, then we’re doing just fine.

The early show is rushed, since the holders of the late show tickets were apparently trying to bash in the doors of the gym and the band needed to clear out the first audience quickly.  The highlights of the early show are Truckin’ (a slow roller), Sugar Magnolia (a raver) and a smokin’ Cumberland Blues.  The late show is longer and jammier, with another Truckin’ that’s not as good as the earlier version.  Things pick up with Dancin’ in the Streets, which features what is known as the Tighten Up jam (if you don’t know it, you’ll recognize it when you hear it).  This leads into Big Railroad Blues, followed by St. Stephen>Not Fade Away>Going Down the Road Feeling Bad (a wonderful version)>Not Fade Away>Turn on Your Lovelight.  This sequence is explosive, and shows off that wonderful 60’s sound that still percolates up throughout 1970.

This is not the best 1970 show you’ll ever hear, but it is very representative of what was going on with the Dead and the New Riders and the end of the late show is worthy of a listen.  You can do that here:


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