Today in Grateful Dead History: June 6, 1970 – Fillmore West, San Francisco, CA

skeleton&rosesHold on to your heads – this one is loud.

As we always do when we discuss Grateful Dead shows from 1970, we have to briefly talk about the structure of these performances.  Typical Dead shows from this time consisted of a set of acoustic Dead, a set from the New Riders of the Purple Sage (with Jerry and Mickey) and then a set of electric Dead to close out the night.  On this particular night, it appears that Southern Comfort also played in addition to the New Riders, making this a very looong show indeed.  Unfortunately, the full Dead show isn’t public, so we have a few snippets from the acoustic set and then the entire electric explosion, which is all you really need.

That’s not to say that the four acoustic songs aren’t good.  They are, especially Friend of the Devil.  But the magic takes place later.

The band starts off the electric portion of the evening with Morning Dew, which is just the shot of whiskey before things really get moving.  Two songs later, we get the first ridiculous blast of power with a killer Dancin’ in the Streets that gets rocked way out.  This is followed by a soulful Next Time You See Me and a decent China Cat Sunflower>I Know You Rider.  Then things start to really take off with a Good Lovin’ sandwich that contains one of four known performances of New Orleans, a song that seems to be a perfect fit for the Grateful Dead (Bobby sings it here but it would have worked for Pigpen too).    Calm sets in with a stellar, all-time good version of Attics of My Life and a fun Dire Wolf.

Not satisfied yet?  Good, because all of this was just the warm up before the explosion that is Alligator>Drums>Jam>Turn On Your Lovelight>Not Fade Away>Turn On Your Love Light.  This hour-plus segment, especially the Alligator>Drums>Jam, is a perfect distillation of the ragged, full speed ahead, barely contained but yet somehow a lot “cooler” than 1969 recklessness that was the Grateful Dead in 1970.   Add into the mix a very good Lovelight with some outrageous passages before we even get to Not Fade Away and you have just a stunning display of how good the Dead were during this incredible year.  (And just so that any thorough listeners can’t complain, I know that I’ve said before that I can’t deal with super long Lovelights.  This one is different because, 1, it’s divided by Not Fade Away and, 2, there is a lot of fully formed jamming and not just a ton of endless noodling from both band and Pigpen).  Just plug this thing in and get out of the way.  It’s a top-notch Alligator – probably one of the better ones, and it needs to be played loudly.

You can hear the electric set here: and the acoustic moments here:



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:

Today in Grateful Dead History: September 20, 1970 – Fillmore East, New York, NY

skeleton&rosesIf you’re looking for a great acoustic Grateful Dead performance, look no further than the first set of this show from the Fillmore East.  While the entire night is a first class 1970 Grateful Dead show, it’s the acoustic songs that steal the thunder from a pretty heavy electric performance.

The format for Grateful Dead shows during this tour was pretty consistent – 1 set acoustic Dead, 1 set New Riders of the Purple Sage (with Jerry and Mickey), 1 set electric Dead.  The setlist for the electric set is really interesting, with one of only five Big Boy Petes ever played, one of only 23 Sittin’ on Top of the Worlds and a very early version of Sugar Magnolia.  Caution (Do Not Step On Tracks) is a beast that devolves into a pretty well-deserved Feedback and one of the longest And We Bid You Goodnights that you’ll ever hear.  The arrangement of Not Fade Away is also slightly different than usual, but that seems to be more of a one-off situation than a concentrated effort to push the song in another direction.

With all that being said, the real heart of this show, and the reason that it garners so many accolades on the Archive, is the acoustic first set, which features David Grisman and David Nelson on several key songs.  This is one of the best acoustic Dead sets you’ll hear from this era, with awesome versions of all the key songs, including an Uncle John’s Band opener, amazing harmonies on Dark Hallow and a beautiful Rosalie McFallTo Lay Me Down is about as great a version of this song as the Dead ever performed – it sucks you right in and spits you out, wasted, on the other side.  New Speedway Boogie maintains a brooding, freight train quality throughout its almost ten minutes and Cumberland Blues is awesome as usual.  Finally, a historical note – the Grateful Dead only played Truckin’ acoustically on this tour, and tonight was the final acoustic performance.  From here on out, Truckin’ would be the full-throttle electric version that everyone remembers.  So savor the slow pace and the thoughtful Bob Weir vocals – they won’t be back again.

I don’t have a ton of time to write about this show today, but you don’t need a long review.  Just listen to the first set and, if you can, get your hands on a copy.  This is one you’ll listen to again and again.

Listen here (warning – recording quality is nicht so gut, especially for the electric set):

Today in Grateful Dead History: August 19, 1970 – Fillmore West, San Francisco, CA

skeleton&rosesIt’s hard to beat the Grateful Dead’s August 18, 1970 show at the Fillmore West for historical value, so for the August 19th show at the same venue, we’re just going to have to settle for an above-average 1970 acoustic / electric performance.

Dead shows at this time usually featured an acoustic first set, a set by the New Riders of the Purple Sage and then a set of electric Dead.  Tonight’s show has a bunch of great acoustic numbers, including two that were only played 1970, Wake Up Little Susie and Cold Jordan.  For me, the acoustic highlight is the pairing of Ripple>Brokedown Palace as the songs were laid out on American Beauty.  The Dead only played these two songs together on four occasions – 8/18/70 (their live premiere), tonight, 9/20/70 at the Fillmore East and 11/7/70 at the Capital Theater (all great shows).  So it’s awesome to hear this combination tonight.

The electric set is pretty typical for the era, but there are some definite winners that you don’t normally think of – the set opening Cold Rain and Snow and an amazing, deep Easy Wind with some ear blasting solos from Jerry.  New Minglewood Blues is also hot, with Bob howling the lyrics with a sincere passion that goes beyond even his usual full-throated delivery.  To close things out, we’ve got a thirty minute Turn on Your Lovelight that is not exceptional, but Pigpen does rock out some profane suggestions for the lovers out there and David Crosby contributes some guitar at some point (it’s hard to hear him through the mud).

Like the 18th, the recording of this show is an audience tape of fair quality, but it’s plenty enjoyable.  Check it our here:

Today in Grateful Dead History: May 14, 1970 – Meramec Community College, Kirkwood, MO

skeleton&rosesNOTE: This material was originally published in 2015 on my previous site. It has been updated and edited, sometimes heavily, and was posted in several batches in August, 2016.

The Grateful Dead (or “Grateful Dead” minus the “The” according to the person who introduces the band) played this small school outside of St. Louis along with the New Riders of the Purple Sage in the spring of 1970. This concert followed the typical structure for shows during this era – an acoustic set by the Dead followed by the New Riders (with Jerry on pedal steel) followed by the Dead’s electric set. This recording is missing the electric Dire Wolf , the Cold Jordan encore and it doesn’t have the New Riders’ set either. The electric set does feature the first live version of Attics Of My Life.

This is a standard show from the spring of 1970 until you get to the end when the band really turns up the pressure with the set closing New Speedway Boogie>St. Stephen>Not Fade Away>Turn On Your Lovelight which is part of the bonus disc of Road Trips Vol. 3, No. 3.  This is a worth your time moment for sure.

Oh, and for all the Mickey Hart haters out there, no Mickey Hart!

Here’s the link to the soundboard:

Today In Grateful Dead History: March 8, 1970 – Travelodge Theatre in the Round (Star Theater), Phoenix, AZ

skeleton&rosesThis is one of the stranger Dead shows that’s come across my computer, starting with the venue, a theater in the round that apparently rotated while the band was playing on this crazy night in Phoenix.  (Bob Weir complains about not being able to connect with the audience because the stage keeps turning, but as you’ll see in a minute, audience connection isn’t much of a problem tonight).

The show starts off electric and features a really high voltage version of China Cat Sunflower>I Know You RiderHard to Handle is also firey tonight.

After Hard to Handle, the band switches to acoustic instruments for a few songs before switching back to electric for an impromptu “blues jam”.  This is where things get even weirder, as some member of the audience jumps on stage and sings along with the band.  For a long time.  And the Dead don’t throw him off.

One of the knocks on Pigpen (I don’t agree) is that almost any average white dude could sound like him.  Well, this “guest” vocal performance proves that while anyone can duplicate the shtick, it’s a lot harder to do it effectively.  If you sit through this entire performance, you’ll understand exactly why Pigpen is irreplaceable.  But it’s hard to sit through this whole thing, as you’ll hear almost immediately. After the blues, we get Not Fade Away and Turn on Your Lovelight, both infected with this same guest, now also on harmonica.  (Or maybe there’s a second person on harmonica – it’s hard to tell.  Apparently, all was chaos on the revolving stage by this point).

So, performance wise, the Dead are fine, but a large part of the show is almost untenable due to the vocals.  And, just to make things even weirder, this show was apparently Vince Welnick’s first time experiencing the Grateful Dead, as an audience member.  An auspicious beginning . . .

Listen here, for historical value:

Today In Grateful Dead History: February 1, 1970 – The Warehouse, New Orleans, LA

skeleton&rosesThe Grateful Dead’s 1970 trip to New Orleans resulted in them being thrown in jail, and while no one ended up doing hard time on the drug charges, the experience did inspire Robert Hunter when he penned Truckin’ shortly thereafter.  The bust took place after the January 30th show, and while the Dead were out of jail and able to play on the 31st (a strange show that turned acoustic after Phil’s bass amp blew out), today’s show with Fleetwood Mac was actually billed as a benefit to raise funds for the Dead’s legal defense.

This is not an ideal recording, but if you are interested in the full Bob Weir guitar class, you’re going to really want to start at the beginning of the show, because he is turned way way up in the mix.  Since Bob is usually too low for my taste, it’s nice to hear him out front here, and he shreds it, especially on China Cat Sunflower>I Know You Rider.  The mix adjusts after this sequence and Bob is not quite so prevalent a little later on when the Dead torch Good Lovin’, making up for slightly sloppy execution with tremendous energy and noise.

Most of the rest of the songs here are average at best, but then we get to the monster at the end – The Other One>Turn on Your Lovelight, featuring Peter Green from Fleetwood Mac on a very quiet guitar.  The Other One is a pretty epic ten minutes of power, but that’s nothing compared with the 40 minute nuclear explosion that is Lovelight.  This is not the longest Lovelight ever, but it’s pretty close and it features some very heavy guitar indeed – just wait for the closing guitar sequence.  To my ear, the coolest part is the middle section, with dueling organ and a little space in the jam.  It kicks in around the 23 minute mark.  Unfortunately, there are a lot of little drop outs and pans back and forth at this point of the recording, but it’s worth listening through the glitches.

Clearly the Dead don’t sound too worried about their brush with the law – this Lovelight is a boot square in the ass of the New Orleans P.D.

To listen to the (flawed) soundboard, go here: