Today’s show features a couple of big first performances – the first Black Peter and the first full Uncle John’s Band with lyrics. That’s a pretty historic show right there, and when you throw in a long, dynamic thirty minute Dark Star, you’ve got a great night at the Fillmore West
Where to begin with Black Peter? This embryonic version of the tune is a very bluesy arrangement with a pretty straightforward beat, and it sounds wonderful. Jerry’s solo, like the rest of the song, is more blues based than it was in later years, and, in this context, that’s all for the better. You’ve got to hear this one.
Uncle John’s Band closes out the evening, and it is more true to the “typical” version of the song, although it’s really raw. This one isn’t as exciting a listen as Black Peter, but hey, it’s the first performance, so it’s worth waiting until the end.
Those premieres aside, the true height of this show comes during Dark Star. I’ve been reading the new oral history of the band, and at some point in the book someone (I’m doing a real good job describing this so far, aren’t I) says that the repetitive organ line in the song gave the Dead an anchor that they could rely on when things got really out there. This concept comes through loud and clear here, with Jerry and Phil traveling to the far reaches while still barely tethered to that organ. This Dark Star also shows the Dead’s reliance on volume as a significant part of the performance. There are segments of the song that slowly build up in volume while not really increasing in tempo at all, with incredible effect. The first time this happens, a little less than a third of the way through, your ears will pop. Ditto the other couple of times near the end. I’m excited to come back to this Dark Star again – there’s a ton going on here.
The rest of the show is vintage 1969 Grateful Dead.
Be forewarned – the recording of this show is not good. You can barely hear Bob Weir or cymbals of any kind during large parts of the show and the mix is incredibly muddy. But that’s just fine – this is historic stuff. Check it out here: https://archive.org/details/gd69-12-04.sbd.wizard.23975.sbeok.shnf