Today in Grateful Dead History: June 30, 1987 – Kingswood Music Theater, Maple, ON

terrapinThe Grateful Dead swung north for this one-off Canadian show in the middle of their 1987 summer tour, and like many shows during this summer, it’s a fun, lightly jammed, upbeat affair.

The boys played a lot of songs during this show, and most versions are the typical “good but not great” 1987 productions that we expect.  There are a few first set highlights – Mama Tried>Big River is sweet summer soloing and When I Paint My Masterpiece is a great sing along tune.  But nothing in the first set is going to blow the doors off.

I picked this show for its second set, which is quite something on paper, with two classic combos and an epic jammer:  Scarlet Begonias>Fire On The Mountain, Estimated Prophet>Eyes Of The World>Drums>Space> The Other One>China Doll>Dear Mr. Fantasy>Around And Around>Good Lovin’.  Scarlet Begonias is just ok, but once the band warms up, Fire on the Mountain booms.  Estimated Prophet>Eyes of the World flows well, especially Estimated, as Bob Weir does his best Bob Weir impression.  As Eyes of the World begins to move towards Drums, a short, different jam – basically a Brent solo – develops.  It’s rather jazzy, in the best possible way, and leads us into an extended, free wheeling Drums/Space.  When The Other One appears it’s time for a smooth liftoff, with Bob’s effects-laden vocals leading into the rousing chorus (screamed happily by the crowd on this Matrix) and tumbling into another cool, short jam prior to China Doll.  Phil, as he should be, is noticeable in the mix here and he’s all over the place, playing nearly as fast as Jerry as Bob crashes out chords around them and the drummers tumble out a swirl of sound-effects boosted noise.

Keep in mind that 1987 is not 1974 (or even 1978), so these “jams” are concise.  But there are a lot of cool ideas in the air, and you can hear the foundation being laid for the more monstrous and adventurous noise that the band would spit forth in 1989 and 1990.  After this portion of the show, it’s rock n’ roll time, with Brent’s performance on Dear Mr. Fantasy beating out Bob’s on Around and Around>Good Lovin’ for the best rockstar vocal of the night.  (It’s a close call).  The only Box of Rain encore of 1987 sends the Toronto fans (and, from the comments, a ton of Americans too) home satisfied.

Check out this Canadian adventure here:


Today in Grateful Dead History: June 29, 1992 – Deer Creek Music Center, Noblesville, IN

stealieThis short show recorded on a wonderful sounding audience tape doesn’t have a lot of highlights but it won’t leave you wishing you’d never heard it, either.

I’m not kidding when I say that this is a short one – the first set is only about 50 minutes long and the second set is about an hour and ten minutes including Drums and Space.  This obviously means that there isn’t a lot of jamming today and a quick look at the setlist will show you why – other than Corrina and The Other One, there are really no platforms for extended exploration here.

The first set just kind of rolls on by without any fireworks, although on Desolation Row it’s pleasant to hear Jerry noodling away behind Bob’s impassioned vocals.  However, something kicks in at the very end and everyone boosts it up a notch for the set-ending Deal, which accelerates quickly and doesn’t let up throughout.

The energy dips again at the start of the second set, with a messy Box of Rain opener into Victim or the Crime, which almost never raises the roof and doesn’t here, either, although as far as Victims go, this one isn’t half bad.  You know it’s going to be a quiet night when Ship of Fools follows and then Corrina, which never really takes off.  After Drums/Space, we’re in for The Other One, which is one of those The Other Ones that you can hear coming from the middle of Drums.  Once there, however, the band is pretty sloppy and nothing interesting comes of it.  Then we’re into the second Jerry ballad of the second set, a standard Stella Blue with some slight guitar miscues at the end that mar an otherwise sweet sounding exit solo.  Sugar Magnolia is typical but there’s a nice Brokedown Palace encore to leave everyone satisfied.

The best thing about this show is the recording, even if there are a couple of flips here and there.  This is a very well done taping job, with awesome instrument separation and clear drums and vocals.  It’s worth hearing just to get a sense of what a nice AUD can do.  Check it out here:

Today in Grateful Dead History: June 28, 1974 – Boston Garden, Boston, MA

stealieUnfortunately, I don’t have a lot of time to review this show tonight.  Fortunately, you don’t need my input here (do you ever, really?) since this one is a good one from start to finish.

The second half of this show was released as part of Dick’s Picks 12 on the strength of several songs – Sugar Magnolia>Scarlet Begonias is a scorcher, with that funky ’74 Scarlet cresting in a pile of bass and sweet guitar wizardry and To Lay Me Down is amazing.

But the classic portion of the night comes during and after Weather Report Suite, which is played in its entirety with Let it Grow at the end.  This is all special music, especially Let It Grow, which rages with pure fire.  But after that, you’d better hold on to your seat because the Dead unleash a 30 minute jam of epic proportions that hints at all sorts of songs, including Dark Star, along the way.  There is a ton of music here, all done up in a unique 1974 way that you’ve likely never heard before and probably won’t hear again.  I’m not going to be able to describe this jam other than to tell you that it’s one of the classics, and that’s why it was immortalized by Dick’s Picks.

As for the rest of the show, it’s 1974, so it’s high quality throughout, but you’re really here for that second set jam.

This audience recording is the most complete copy available, but it’s still missing a few songs at the end.  If you want to hear the whole second set, you’ll need to find Dick’s Picks 12.  But the jam is what you’re looking for, and you’ll find it here:

Today in Grateful Dead History: June 27, 1969 – Veterans Auditorium, Santa Rosa, CA

skeleton&rosesIn this messy show you can really hear the beginnings of the country influences that were creeping into the Grateful Dead and that would become fully realized in 1970.  But in its embryonic stages, the Dead as a country band was an unwieldy beast, and tonight’s show, while interesting, is not very solid.

Part of this might have to do with Mickey Hart’s absence during the first few tunes (but probably not).  In his place, the Dead stuck Tom Ralston, the drummer from a local outfit called The Cleanliness and Godliness Skiffle Band.  He holds his own, but nothing more.

I believe the real reason for the sloppiness tonight is that the Dead are testing out new, seldom played tunes and are also trying to incorporate Jerry on pedal steel guitar.  But since the Dead often “rehearsed” their new songs during their actual paid performances, things could get a little loose, as is the case on the newish tunes tonight.  And there are a bunch of them at the start of this show: Slewfoot (3rd time played and one of only nine ever played), Mama Tried (3rd time played), High Time (3rd time played), Casey Jones (2nd or 3rd time played, depending on who you believe) and Dire Wolf (5th time played, and with Bob on lead vocals none the less) are all in their infancy.  None are played particularly well, but it’s a treat to hear Jerry rip on Dire Wolf.

However, this is 1969 and there is always some magic about.  Tonight, that takes the form of a Dark Star that is clearly cross-pollinated with an uncredited The Other One.   Things start out lightly, but by the midway point, the band is really chugging along with The Other One jam (while still really playing Dark Star) and some very interesting melodic ideas take hold.  At one point, Phil Lesh attempts to move into Turn on Your Lovelight, but the rest of the band is having none of it and Dark Star marches on, a steam locomotive rolling down the track.  This is a unique version of the song and is clearly the highlight of the evening, especially since St. Stephen, where we end up at the end of Dark Star, is a rhythmic mess and the boys cut off what would typically be a pulsating The Eleven to swerve back into country mode for another rarity – The Green Green Grass of Home (one of only nine ever played).  Don’t get too attached to It’s All Over Now Baby Blue, since it’s severely cut.

While this is not a tape you’re going to play every day, it’s an interesting historical relic of that brief period of transition into the Dead’s very fruitful early 70’s dance with country music, and for that, it bears hearing at least once.  Listen here:

Today in Grateful Dead History: June 26, 1986 – Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, Minneapolis, MN

dancing-bear Since we ended last week with a pretty foul sounding audience recording of a good show, I thought that we’d start this week with a foul sounding audience recording of a mediocre show.

Why is sound an issue at this show?  Because it was held in the Metrodome.  For those of you who don’t live in the U.S., or don’t follow North American sports, or both, please feel free to peruse the Metrodome’s entry on Wikipedia.  Especially the photos.  Now picture the Dead playing there as the opening band for Tom Petty and Bob Dylan in 1986.  Yup.  You got it.  If you want additional information, there are some great contemporary sources here.

Or you can just listen to this one-set show to get the idea.  Since this was a co-headlining tour, the Dead condensed their shtick so that Dylan and Petty had more time, but since this is 1986, the show isn’t all that much shorter than a normal 1986 Grateful Dead show.  Maybe Space is cut down a little, but that’s about that.

Good songs?  Not many.  Sugaree is ok until (according to a comment on the Archive that sounds true to me) Jerry hits his head on his own microphone and gets discombobulated.  Iko Iko is always fun in 1985 and 1986 and this one is fine, but it’s really short.  Terrapin Station, which follows Mexicali Blues (how’s that for a pair), is not a dome kind of a song.  Like, not at all.  Truckin’ could probably be a dome song, but no . . . And on and on we go.

I think you get the idea.  1986 Grateful Dead playing in a huge dome in Minneapolis two weeks before Jerry lapses into a coma and almost dies – not the recipe for transcendence.  If you want the full dome experience, you can listen here:

(All kidding aside, the recording here could sound a lot worse – all credit to Danny Taggart for doing what he could under the circumstances.  Listen to it loud and it won’t sound terrible.  But that reverb . . . )

Today in Grateful Dead History: June 22, 1969 – Central Park, New York, NY

skeleton&rosesIf you’re not tolerant of audience recordings, then you’d might as well skip today’s free concert from Central Park in New York City, because the recording of this show is sub-standard.  However, if you’re willing to listen through the hiss and the muck, you’re in for a nice treat – a powerful, dynamic performance by the Grateful Dead at the height of their psychedelic powers.

The actual playlist for this show is as murky as the recording itself – Deadbase says one thing, Deadlists says another.  But this audience recording (which was rearranged to match Deadlists) holds itself out as the complete version in the correct order, so accept that at your own risk.

Oddly, this show could also be the live debut of Casey Jones.  Why do I say could?  Because Deadbase lists June 20th as the debut, and Deadlists is non-committal.  Assuming that Deadbase is correct, this would be the second performance of this classic song, and, in that case, it’s worth hearing in full since it starts from a full out jam that doesn’t morph into Casey Jones proper for several minutes.  In addition, the rhythm of the song differs dramatically from what it would become, making this performance a relatively rare and raw version.

The Dead also play a couple of real rarities today – one of ten Silver Threads and Golden Needles (with Jerry on peddle steel) and one of twelve It’s a Sins.  Both of these aren’t perfect performances, but rarities are rarities, and, in the case of It’s a Sin, the song is stuck into St. Stephen right before the jam usually explodes, so don’t expect much there.  It’s also cool to hear Jerry sing the blues – he didn’t do it enough with the Dead.

If you’re searching for the power in today’s performance, you’ll find it in the heavy jams on Dancin’ in the Streets and The Other One.  These are both really strong efforts, if a little messy.  The show-closing Turn on Your Lovelight goes pretty far out and gets pretty loose, but hey, the Dead are playing to a free crowd in Central Park, so why not?

Once your ears get used to the audio, I think that you’ll enjoy what’s going on here.  But it definitely takes getting used to.  (If you don’t want your cubicle mates to hear a bunch of cursing, keep the volume low at the start – New Yorkers don’t like it when people get in their way, as you’ll hear loud and clear).  Listen to this unique performance in all its ragged glory here: