The Family Dog was a small room in San Francisco that hosted 17 Grateful Dead shows over the course of nine months from August 1969 through April 1970. The intimate vibe and hometown surroundings usually brought out interesting moments from the band, and while most of these shows aren’t the tightest of performances, they are a nice snapshot of the Dead on the cusp of a significant transition from psychedelic blues monsters to something much more nuanced.
There’s not a lot of nuance here, though. Opening with an early version of Casey Jones and then moving into a powerful take on a brand new Easy Wind, the Dead have brought the power to this performance. Jerry’s playing on Easy Wind, which was always a massive soloing vehicle, is already well developed here, even though this was only the third live performance of the tune. A few songs later and we hear a couple of first time performances – New Orleans>Searchin’. I don’t know the origin of New Orleans (try typing “New Orleans (song)” into Google and see what happens), but Searchin’ was a huge hit for the Coasters and the Dead cover both songs, which sound very similar, with gusto. Searchin’ leads into a trainwreck of a transition into Good Lovin’, with Jerry singing lead vocals, something I don’t recall hearing before or after (which doesn’t mean it didn’t happen). An up-tempo, late 60’s Dire Wolf brings things into a folky vein for a minute before Pigpen rips the roof off on I’m a King Bee and the band follows up with a 30 minute Turn on Your Lovelight to close the night.
A couple of short musical notes about this show. First, Tom Constanten’s organ is actually audible tonight, which is unusual and interesting to hear. He definitely approaches things a little differently than the Pig. Also, the drummers are well-miked, except at one point about 17 minutes into Lovelight when the crash cymbals really overwhelm everything else (and they’re definitely not keeping perfect time). Be prepared. Finally, the notes on the Archive hint at additional songs from this performance, but they appear to belong to tomorrow night’s show at the same venue, so if you came here looking for Dark Star, you’re in the wrong place. Maybe tomorrow . . .