Friday, May 29, 2015

Playing in the LMA

There are several active GD discussion forums online, and while I lurk at a couple, I'm really only active on just one.  A regular lurk spot is the GD forum at, which has been going for nearly ten years now (!?) and it's only the weirdly linear formatting that prevents me from actively participating.  But it's still an incredible wealth of information, even if that information tends to get buried almost immediately.  I was just revisiting this wonderful post on noteworthy Playing in the Bands from 1976-1995 by bkidwell (who has posted some really fantastic analyses there), which covers a lot of non-obvious selections.  This is most definitely worth a look if you've never come across it.

Some serious #TIANILB happening in there, btw.  As with any great GD analysis, this is equal parts "how could he have left out xyz!?" (really, no 4/19/86?) and "seriously? I've never heard a thing about abc before..." before pointing the way to fertile ground for even more analytical plowing to be done (do you think there will ever be a quasi-comprehensive review of the post-GD oeuvre?).

As for now, my own homework: reacquainting myself with 9/19/87 and 12/27/89.  Then maybe 6/6/93? or 9/28/93?  Do I dare disturb my universe?

Sunday, May 24, 2015

#TIANILB (now trending?)

Deadheads love acronyms almost as much as digital culture in general loves acronyms (JGBheads: TWLWMYD or TWYDTTYD?).  I'm coining one of my own, based on a little note Dick Latvala made in his notebook about 1/22/78, a favorite show of mine and maybe even a candidate for the mercurial top 10.  This particular show had an enormous impact on me as a teenaged listener (of which I will write about more someday), and an old post by my late friend Tim, aka skobud (RIP) on the Transitive Axis forum called attention to it:

"I love where it is written in red pen that THIS IS ALL NONSENSE; I'VE LEARNED BETTER and [Dick is] putting a line through all of these shows: '11/4, 6/77, 5/8/77, 9/3/77, 6/8&9/77, 1/13 SEEM AS POTENT.'  You just gotta love a thought process like that.  Like -- fuck it, what was I thinkingI know better now."

Not to overstate what may be obvious, but that way of thinking is so key, so integral to active engagement in whatever it is that you love to do.  Everyone inevitably gets settled in their ways.  We hunker down into little mental ruts and our minds seek to resolve whatever cognitive dissonances crop up when our preconceptions are challenged.  And here is Dick, the archetypical Dead Freak, feverishly scribbling his responses to the music that he loves, holding it all up against his highest standards of quality that he uses as high water marks, then revising and crossing the whole thing out.  It's interesting (to me) that, even at this early date, shows like Colgate, Cornell, and Englishtown -- shows that are now so canonized that they're identifiable by single words -- were already being touted as all-timers.  Dick may have been a sentimental dude (aren't all Deadheads?), but not here: all those other heavy-hitters are just as potent as 1/22/78?  Nope.  1/22 clobbers all of them.  That stuff about Colgate, Cornell, and Englishtown is all nonsense.  I've learned better.

So I'm proposing my own acronym for these moments of reflection when we get out the scalpel and go to work on our own preconceptions: TIANILB (it even kind of rolls off the tongue: "tia-nilby." maybe? not really? not really).  Who knows?  If I ever finally take to Twitter or whatever supercedes Twitter, you may someday catch me blasting out a revelatory proclamation of greatness for an unheralded gem of a show.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

white kids > the Dead > the blues

Speaking of the blues, I was rewatching the great documentary Chicago Blues (dir Harley Cokeliss) from 1972 which, besides featuring some amazing performance footage of some Chicago blues heavies, really hits hard on the issue of race.  Very powerful stuff, and still very relevant.  Heads up, though, for the guy discussing the appeal of the blues for white kids, starting around 26:40 in.  No big revelation that a lot of white kids discovered the blues through rock & roll, but the one example he brings up is the Dead covering Junior Wells, of all things (I presume he's talking about "Good Morning Little Schoolgirl," not "Next Time You See Me"). 

To be fair, it's not an inappropriate link to make, though it's still a pretty random choice given the many, many, many other more obvious entry points that most rock fans had into the blues by 1972.  The Dead, at least, were public in their admiration for Wells' music: Garcia is very enthusiastic about Wells' amazing "Ships on the Ocean" on the guest DJ spot that he and Phil did for KMPX in 1967.  For what it's worth, that tune comes from the same album as Wells' version of Schoolgirl, Hoodoo Man Blues.  See the amazing Garcia's Record Collection post at deadessays for more blues influences.  Wells had also opened for the Dead at the Fillmore on Jan 13-14, 1967 in a trademark eye-popping Bill Graham triple bill with the Doors!

Friday, May 15, 2015

B.B. King RIP

RIP to a true icon of American music and a cornerstone of electric guitar playing.  Suffice it to say, almost nobody exemplified the "less is more" maxim than B.B. King.

JGB fans certainly know this one:

On official releases, it's usually credited to Lightnin' Hopkins, but this is clearly the version they're covering.  I can't remember which tape it is, but there's at least one recording where you can clearly hear someone (Kahn, I think) refer to this as a B.B. King tune.

And, while B.B. King didn't write or originally perform "The Thrill is Gone" either, it's another song that everyone associates with him.  Garcia sang this one as well.  I always think of Garcia/Grisman's work as casual get-togethers at Grisman's home studio, but I just remembered that actually made a real music video for this one.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

mistakes as style

While listening to both Miles Davis (Miles Smiles) and the JGB (10/11/75) yesterday, I was thinking about this great quote.  

"The higher up you go, the more mistakes you are allowed. Right at the top, if you make enough of them, it's considered to be your style."
-Fred Astaire (not sure of the source; I found it at the NPR Writers Almanac)
In spite of the astonishing facility of the musicians, Miles Smiles has its share of fluffs and mistakes.  Davis accepted them in the name of capturing freshness and spontaneity and that willingness to fuck up became one of the stylistic hallmarks of that band, who are arguably one of the great improvising ensembles of all time.  Garcia, well, he might have made the occasional mistake himself, and often for the same reasons.  When we hear those mistakes and respond positively to them, though, how much of that response is conditioned by our blind devotion and how much is more of a response to his style?  (to be fair, that 75 show wasn't remotely as inspiring as Miles Smiles, but, well, anyway).  

I like the ambiguity of what Fred Astaire is saying, too.  Are the mistakes overlooked and accepted because of the artist's greatness or because of the artist's persistence and longevity?

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

amazingly uncute

Hi there!  It's been, oh, a year and a half, but what's a few months between friends, right?  I had some thoughts percolating and figured I'd give this blog another shot.

Really, though, I just came across this little jewel and figured it was the ideal excuse to get this mother rolling again: an interview (via jerrygarciasbrokendownpalaces) about the Dead's involvement with the Rainforest Action Network in 1988 that resulted in, among other things, the extremely short lived but still mind-boggling pairing of the Dead with Hall & Oates.  Then, just when you thought things couldn't get worse, Jerry's got to go and start hating on tree sloths.  Tree sloths!

"The rainforest's animals aren't that cute, like a three-toed sloth -- an amazingly uncute animal. They're real slow. They have homely faces and they don't look like much. Orangutans are pretty cute and there are some rainforests that have orangs in them. That's part of it. Part of it is that we have to get off this thing of cute. We have to develop other biases."
Ouch.  I mean, of course he's got the right idea and all, but still, ouch.

Play St. Stephen!
 Right.  So.  Good to be back!