|July 74, Bottom Line, unknown|
Some more sources fill in some more coloful context. Thanks to JGMF's detailed reading notes from manager Richard Loren's book, I learned second-hand that
"On the Fourth of July weekend, the Garcia-Saunders Band was playing in New York at the Bottom Line on West Fourth Street in Greenwich Village. The Dead had just finished an East Coast tour, and Jerry's Compliments album had been recently released. The owners of the Bottom Line had contacted me back in February, offering a four-show engagement for the Garcia-Saunders Band, and we'd accepted. I arranged for John Kahn and Merl to fly in, and John brought along his girlfriend at the time, Maria Muldaur, who was riding high on her hit single "Midnight at the Oasis." She sat in as a guest vocalist, and the group was hot. Word got out, and lines stretched around the block for every show. The Bottom Line was the happening place to be in the city, and all sorts of people were showing up."and I found this review in the New York Times 
"Last Friday [June 28] it was announced -- on radio only -- that something called Merl Saunders and friends would be at the Bottom Line Monday and Tuesday [July 1-2]. The place was immediately sold out, another show added late Wednesday, and security guards engaged to repel the hordes. Scalpers reportedly enjoyed a field day outside the door. For Dead fans know that Merl Saunders and friends include not only Mr. Saunders, a first-rate organist, electric pianist, and synthesizerist with an impressive jazz background, and John Kahn, an excellent bass player, but also Bill Kreutzmann, the Dead's drummer and Mr. Garcia on guitar."
|stub courtesy lostlivedead|
Unlike later Bottom Line appearances (in November '74 and April '75), these July gigs weren't early/late show arrangements. Steeleye Span headlined the early shows, and "Merl Saunders & Friends" had the late shows.
The music is good, but most of it (with one notable exception) doesn't do it for me the way that a lot of '74 Garcia/Saunders does. Part of it, admittedly, has something to do with the recording: given the circumstances, Jerry Moore's tapes of 7/2 and 7/3 are about as good as it was going to get, but it's still a recording made with mics hidden on a tabletop in a packed nightclub. I also miss Fierro. His playing polarizes a lot of listeners, but I think he was a talented player who fit well with the music and added some welcome color to the front line.
The Bottom Line was, at the time, the premiere rock & roll club in Manhattan, and, while I'm sure that a vaguely billed Jerry Garcia show (vaguely promoting an album on his own independent label) wouldn't have been the industry feeding frenzy that other Bottom Line showcases were, I'll bet that a whole mess of freaks came out of the woodwork. I think the Bottom Line and the Keystone were roughly the same capacity rooms (400ish?), but the difference in atmosphere was probably night and day. As Corry put it, "it was actually on the East Coast where the Dead became really huge, and Garcia became larger than life... the Dead could headline Madison Square Garden, and a few weeks later Garcia would play this bar [in Berkeley] where he had to walk through the crowd to get to the stage." In addition to a hearty number of rabid heads who hadn't seen a local show in a while, the NYC chapter of the Hells Angels must have also been out in full force, not to mention anyone else who wanted a piece of Jerry (hell, John Lennon showed up drunk and belligerent when they came back in November). So while it wasn't the Wall of Sound, I doubt it was a real relaxing time, either. Maybe all that's projection or conjecture that's unfairly coloring my impressions of this tape? My impression is that they hit some high moments but don't really settle into the kind of sustained groove that was easier to conjure on more relaxed home turf, that vibe that carries the music along with it, until the second set of the final night.
We have no recording of the first night, and although there's a setlist, I wonder if any official tape exists -- Kidd Candelario had been taping the Dead's shows, but he probably would have been with the crew in Wisconsin, and I don't think Betty was working this tour at all. For what it's worth, the NY Times review (above) liked it:
"The early show on Monday fulfilled the wishes of most of the Dead's fans present (and the late show that night apparently went even better). Mr. Saunders was satisfying virtuosic [sic], Mr. Garcia unleashed his customary brand of introverted and extroverted blues guitar, Maria Muldaur bounced onstage for a song, and in general the group blended jazz, blues, country and Dead funk in satisfying proportion."  [note: I think he means first/second set instead of early/late show]
7/2, the second night, has its moments, but I find it to be an inconsistent performance. The first set is mostly strong but unremarkable. My Funny Valentine gets the frothiest: after a fairly tame start, they get looser and woolier as they roll through its 23 minutes, but there's a bummer of a cut as Garcia is moving to the top of his of solos (@11:40ish). Still, they slowly unmoor themselves from the song itself and boil to a spacey, tumbling climax, with Garcia trilling heatedly before walking down neatly back into the melody. Very nice! Roger "Jellyroll" Troy appears in the 2nd set to sing How Long Blues. As far as guests go, he was an infrequent regular: we have tape of a couple of earlier sit-ins, and he was in the Howard Wales group that Garcia toured briefly with in Jan 72. I'm not a big fan of Troy's singing style or his more aggressive bass playing (it reminds me a little of Jack Casady), but he was clearly a strong musician who was welcome onstage with some heavies (I see that Troy also guests on a Mike Bloomfield/Al Kooper Bottom Line recording from a few months earlier). Garcia peels off a really nice solo in It's Too Late, but nothing else in the set does much for me: After Midnight seems to never get off the ground, and My Problems Got Problems feels good but is much shorter than most other versions. Garcia introduces Troy again at the end of the set, so maybe he's also sitting in for the closing How Sweet It Is? A word for the audience, though: Moore's recording shows a crowd that's clearly hanging on every note, but that's also listening hard and respectfully, with very little of the usual "Jerreee! Casey Jones! Dark Star!" chatter.
|Roger Troy 1/29/72 - courtesy GDAO|
|Garcia & Troy, 1/29/72, courtesy GDAO|
For as far from the Keystone or the Lion's Share as they were, it's fitting that Garcia managed to end what must have been a pretty grueling tour with a return to the unstructured, after-hours club vibe that gave birth to this band in the first place. Like the guy said years earlier, "nothing's weirder than coming to New York."
A final bit of color: here's another nugget from the NY Times on the Bottom Line, from a slightly later puff piece on the club's classy amenities and high-end sound system. "Big acts like Jerry Garcia or Leonard Cohen have been guaranteed from $5000 to $7500,” reports the Times (not bad for a 400 seat club?), who also reserve a few words for the Bottom Line's kitchen. "For West Coast rock and roll, like Jerry Garcia, ordering will be heavy on pizza, french fries, and Heinekens." 
 Rockwell, John. "Dead's Fans Know Who a Friend Is." The New York Times, 5 July 1974. Web.
 Walker, Gerald. "The Rock Road Leads to The Bottom Line." The New York Times, 4 May 1975. Web.