Grateful Dead shows from the late 60’s usually feature a rotating lineup of the same songs (although a lot of new ones were being added during this part of 1969), and since the performance quality usually ranges from good to exceptional, it’s hard to tell these shows apart. However, certain days stand out, like today, where Phil Lesh gets stuck in traffic (or so they say) and Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir take the stage alone for a four song acoustic mini-set during which they perform, all for the first time, Monkey and The Engineer, Little Sadie, Long Black Limousine and I’ve Been All Around This World. Despite the fact that these are all first performances, Garcia and Weir sound remarkably proficient tonight, which leads one to believe one of two things: either the boys were already rehearsing this material in advance of the acoustic sets the band would play in 1970 or these are just a bunch of songs that the two guitarists liked to play with each other and knew inside and out. Maybe it’s both. In either case, they all make for good listening and distinguish this show from some of the other performances of this era.
When the full band arrives they pull off yet another first performance – Mason’s Children, a difficult song that, like the material that preceded it, sounds well-rehearsed tonight. It also takes us in a completely different direction after the acoustic warm up – the sound of the complete Dead in full flight is nearly overwhelming here, especially with this seldom played and never officially recorded tune. (Apparently, it’s about Altamont – the Dead would premier New Speedway Boogie, which deals with that debacle in a much clearer way, at tomorrow night’s show).
The Dead then launch into a bunch of relatively new songs which all debuted during 1969 – Black Peter, Hard to Handle, Cumberland Blues and Casey Jones. They are all good, but not great, versions, heralding the progress to come.
From here we’re going to get the full-bore 1969 Grateful Dead psychedelic extravaganza – a blistering The Other One / Cryptical Envelopment, a short Uncle John’s Band and a 30 minute Turn on Your Lovelight that hits all of the usual notes. When it comes to The Other One, things start slowly, and the lengthy drum solo in the middle is disruptive, but the second half of the song, included as part Cryptical Envelopment here, is where the action happens, with the musicians swirling notes around each other and Jerry and Phil chasing each other down the twisting musical pathways with no worries in the world. It’s a pure distillation of everything 1969 in ten minutes.
This is an unusual one and portends good things for 1970. Listen here: https://archive.org/details/gd69-12-19.sbd.hanno.9183.sbeok.shnf