Today in Grateful Dead History: October 4, 1970 – Winterland Arena, San Francisco, CA

skeleton&rosesThis show was billed as Quicksilver Messenger Service’s final performance and it featured that band (obviously) along with Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead.  (The New Riders of the Purple Sage and Hot Tuna were both rumored to have played tonight too, but no confirmation, recorded or otherwise, exists).  Because of the full bill, the Dead had about an hour to perform, so they had to make the most of it.

Short set aside, the most unusual aspect of this show was that it was broadcast quadraphonically – something that had only been done live several times before and might never have been attempted since.  What this entailed was broadcasting the show on two separate radio stations at once and then tuning two separate receivers, each with two speakers attached, to the different broadcasts.  Since each broadcast was in stereo, this allowed you to manipulate all four channels at the same time.  To top this off, the performance was also broadcast on live television, so you could watch the bands and listen to the quadraphonic mix all at the same time.  (For more on the Dead on the radio in 1970, and this show in particular, you can read a great post on Lost Live Dead here).

This recording came from KSAN-FM’s stereo broadcast, so you’re not getting the full quad experience.  This obviously creates an unusual mix, with Phil and the drummers louder than they might usually be.  Additionally, the levels on Phil’s bass keep topping off, creating a semi-distorted tone that you won’t hear very often on normal recordings.  Thankfully, Phil is full of great ideas throughout the night and it’s a pleasure to listen to him.

The rest of the show is filled with shorter songs – the closest we get to “jamming” is during Good Lovin’, which is split by a six minute Drums.  Most of the short songs are all well done, with a very wide open transition between China Cat Sunflower and I Know You Rider and a wonderful, up-tempo (electric) Brokedown Palace.  Historically, tonight is one of only six performances of Till the Morning Comes, all of which took place between September and December, 1970, so it is worth tuning in just to hear that song.  Things begin to break down by the end of the show, with a very sloppy version of Casey Jones turning into a slightly less sloppy shot of Uncle John’s Band.  Still – this is high energy, good-time music.

This show isn’t going to win any awards, but if you want a short, fun listen and you’re in the mood for some serious Phil Lesh, then this is a great bet.  Listen here:


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