|3/17/78, by James Anderson|
My last post had the preamble about this song, which I won't repeat. I will, however, reiterate that these jams are like nothing the JGB played before or after and, in most cases, are comparable to the Dead at their wildest in 1977-79. More folks need to hear these.
2/15/78 Keystone, Berkeley, CA (date uncertain per text file)
is one decent aud recording of this remarkable jam: at 29:15, it's the
longest of all the known versions and also the longest single non-Dead
Garcia improvisation, besides a very small handful of Garcia/Saunders
jams in 1971-72. Even though some of the jams in the Dead's Jan 78 tour
were unusually long for the time, I think this also outpaces anything
else he played that year.
Like in the Dec 77 performances, Kahn is the first to pull away from the I-VII vamp that begins the jam and push more aggressively towards an atonal/arythmic space. Buchanan follows Kahn's lead, while Godchaux either holds tight to the vamp or sticks close to Garcia. Other listeners might not hear it this way, but I think these two complementary but still somewhat oppositional approaches make for an unusual tension, often very effective and engaging, and never less than interesting. I won't map out the landscape of this long jam step by step, but there are many twists and turns. After 3ish minutes of grooving around the vamp, they drop off into a pretty, more minor-keyed space. A couple moments stand out here: starting around 12 min, Garcia and Kahn play a 5-note theme that's repeated and varied for a while; Godchaux takes a brief trip to the foreground at 15:30, playing an almost classical-sounding thing over the slow, churning groove; things follow their own twisty path until, at about 20 minutes, Buchanan leans in with a more assertive groove. Everyone else stays committed to weirdness, but Buchanan's push gets them them all moving in mostly the same direction and the intensity starts ramping up. This final stretch is tremendous! Garcia starts wrapping up around 25:15 with some cool variations on the "I have never been so lonesome" melody, while Godchaux appears to be the one who really corals everyone back into the song itself. An amazing ride.
2/17/78 - Keystone, Palo Alto, CA - as per Jerrybase, but no tape in circulation
2/18/78 Marin Veterans Auditorium, San Rafael, CA
Official release on Pure Jerry: Bay Area '78; the circulating tape has a splice in it.
This jam has a more discernible structure to it (spontaneously conceived, I assume), moving back and forth between an established groove and freer playing. As the jam begins, it feels like they're anticipating something rather than just easing in. Garcia & Godchaux play some lovely stuff right off the bat, and Buchanan plays it loose while Kahn is punchy but a little less forward than prior versions. The bottom falls out for a minute before they find some forward momentum and take off, with Garcia staying closer to the normal tonality of the song. This feels pretty good! Just before 11 minutes, the bottom falls out again. Another groove is established, more minor-keyed and less intense; then again things veer back into free territory again, splashing around like the comedown after a big Dead space jam. At 17 minutes they find **another** groove, this time vaguely funky but sparse. This one isn't as compelling to my ears, but it's interesting to hear, since since the JGB never did this kind off thing. It winds down into near silence, then Garcia strums them back into the song. Structurally, this was quite different from 2/15 and has the most "quiet" spacey playing of any version yet. 23:30 total.
3/9/78 Cleveland Music Hall, Cleveland, OH
The one sbd source runs a little fast, though not too bad. Currently there are no auds, but I would love to hear one. Like a few other sbds from this March tour, Kahn is pretty hot in the mix.
The band returned for their second east coast tour in less than 6 months, playing with a noticeably higher level of energy and more aggressive attack than the fall 77 shows. The jam here starts as usual with everyone slowly pulling away from the vamp. After a minute and a half, Buchanan drops the bottom out, then snaps back into a steady beat after half a minute, but it's too late: Garcia's going for it. The jam follows a freer logic, eventually slowing down into a prettier space. Around 8:45, Buchanan kicks into a brisk groove, pulling everyone else into orbit. Everything stays pretty loose but with forward momentum, until Garcia whips up a big (and long!) fanning climax at 13:35. Wow! This jam is plenty spacey, but with more of a souped-up feel and a linear path than the prior walks in the woods. True to form, Garcia even goofs once they're back in the song itself and repeats the whole final verse as Buchanan is cueing them up to end it. Whoops! Nice little scorcher here, though. 17:41 total (on this tape, but longer with speed correction)
3/11/78 Leroy Concert Theatre, Pawtucket, RI
This show has a few recordings: another bass-heavy sbd, two solid aud tapes (I prefer 14931 taped by Tom Dalti), and a fine matrix that will probably be the winner for most people.
The band sure sounds ethusiastic tonight! Again, they jump ship from the vamp to a quieter groove very quickly, but this time they wait a few minutes to get fully into free space. At 5:30, Kahn starts playing a clear bassline, something he hasn't done in any of these jams, and everyone else locks in. This lasts for a minute until Garcia throws out a big trill and everyone immediately follows his lead and starts building the spacey intensity. Garcia starts to fan up a big one, then backs off, and they splash around. Buchanan lays down a beat again at 10:20, but Garcia and Kahn seem too far gone. Things start coalescing, but the energy remains pretty hairy. Wild! Garcia tries getting them all back to homebase around 11:50, but it takes a little while to circle the wagons and they finally get there at 12:30. This one was a comparative shorty at under 15 minutes, but they're not skimping on the energy here! A very satisfying blast of weirdness.
Both 3/9 and 3/11 are pretty amped up versions -- less patient or "exploratory" and more fiery, although still very spacey (maybe not surprising, given the apparent recreational stimulant of choice for this tour). It seems like Jerry is the one driving the ship here, with Kahn sounding totally zonked (um, in a good way) and Buchanan holding for for dear life. In both jams, Buchanan reestablishes a beat after the spacey midsection, although this doesn't really guide anyone back to the song itself. Godchaux is present in both, but harder to hear because of the bass-heavy sbd mix.
3/18/78 Warner Theatre, Washington, DC
wide circulation of the original tape (an FM broadcast) over the years
and it's official release in the Pure Jerry series, this may be the most well-known of these jams. Inevitable contrarian that I am,
it's also my least favorite.
Again, they drop into space pretty abruptly after starting the vamp, more immediately than in any earlier version. But the general feeling is more hesitant, as if everyone is waiting to see who will get crazy first. It seems like they're having a harder time settling on what to do with this; Kahn suggests a couple ideas, and Garcia plays that impatient "chording" figure a couple of times (around 7:15 and 7:30) that usually indicates that he's ready to move onto something new. But nothing seems to stick, and no one seems willing to just push the boat out of the harbor. Kahn in particular seems less emboldened than he was in earlier versions, while Garcia doesn't seem particularly interested (or able) to find a direction for this to go in. Finally Buchanan throws down a groove at 12:15, and things fall in line for a couple of minutes. But even as Garcia is clearly heading back to the song, they left-turn into some more free interplay before Garcia finally gets them back to the song for real. At over 19 minutes, this is much longer than the prior two versions, but I preferred both of those shorter jams. Still, this is all nearly unprecedented stuff for a JGB jam, and still more exploratory and experimental than most Dead jams from 77-78, so it is well worth hearing.
6/10/78 - Keystone, Berkeley, CA - per Jerrybase, but no tape in circulation
10/26/78 - Paramount Theatre, Portland, OR
A well-mixed sbd (Bettyboard?) fragment exists of the end of the show, which thankfully includes this entire jam. This is a pleasure to listen to. A few auds also circulate.
Unlike earlier versions, everyone stays grooving on the vamp for a while. There's no funny business from Kahn and, unusually, Buchanan is the one who seems to first pull away from the groove. Still, there's no abrupt shifting gears at all, just a very gradual move into more open playing. Before 6 minutes, Garcia finds a vein of weirdness that he works, and everyone else reorients to wherever he's going. A minute later, Garcia has found a little rhythmic groove, Kahn begins a walking bassline, and things start to achieve lift off. Godchaux doesn't want to let go of the 2-chord vamp, but everyone else is in fairly jazzy territory, rhythmically speaking. Garcia is eventually pulled back into Godchaux's tight orbit, but Kahn and Buchanan are throwing down, shifting back and forth between jazz and a more driving rock beat. This is really sweet. They jam this for a while until it falls into freer space around 12 1/2 minutes. No tempo here, and it feels like Garcia is slowly turning up the hear, a la older GD space jams. After 3 minutes of this, they start peaking with Garcia trilling away and everyone else crashing around. At 16 1/2 min, they ease off the intensity and downshift into a quieter, pretty, almost melodic space. Garcia slickly threads in the "lonesome and a long way from home" melody line and brings them right back into the song itself. Great transition! He slips up and repeats the final verse a second time like 3/9/78, and they wrap up at a hair over 22 minutes. Holy smokies, that was excellent.
10/28/78 - Paramount Northwest Theatre, Seattle, WA
A well-renowned show (this is the best aud recording) and often praised as one of Keith Godchaux's best 11th hour performances. I think the early show deserves all the praise it's been given. The late show is bit more of a mixed bag, and this final performance of Lonesome by this band doesn't reach the same heights as 10/26. But it ain't bad!
Garcia starts doing his late-78/79 superfast 16th note runs right at the start of the jam, and Kahn starts getting pushy after not too long. This one jumps around much more at first: there's an abrupt drop in intensity at 4:30, and Garcia seems to stick more to the background as Kahn and Godchaux move more to the fore. Things veer into space at about 6 minutes, things amp up, things ease back, Garcia seems mainly to zip around without finding much of a direction. They reach a fanning climax around 10:20, but the overall vibe of this has felt pretty tweaky and bug-eyed to me. The wave crests, they splash around for a minute, and Garcia strums them back into the song. This one felt solid enough, but it flew by without getting much traction; the feel is similar to 3/18's jam, but more compact at 13:30 total.
And that, unfortunately, was that. A
week later this lineup played its final shows, and no other iteration of
the JGB ever delved this deep again. When Don't Let Go returned to the
repertoire in 1988, that band delivered a few versions that broke the
mold of its general structure and wandered into spacier areas. But they
never sustained this kind of creative group improvisation at such
length, making these few version of Lonesome and a Long Way From Home
nearly unique in Garcia's side career.
In the summer of 1981, Garcia brought Lonesome back -- only twice. On 7/26/81 the jam stays in the vamp: not the C-B (I-VII) vamp of the 70's versions, but the same C-F (I-V) vamp that begins the song, and then eventually shifts into basically just jamming on a C chord. Garcia solos while everyone else bubbles away beneath him. On 7/26/81, the more exciting of the two, Garcia never returns to the song itself and transitions out of the jam right innto Dear Prudence. On 8/20/81 the energ feels a bit more sluggish, but he does return to song to reprise the verse, then segues into Dear Prudence on the final note. Both of these are about 10 minutes long. Then on the JGB's Sept 1989 tour, Lonesome reappeared as an even briefer show-closer: a nice (if short-lived) alternative to Midnight Moonlight, but nothing that was sustained for more than a few minutes.