Tuesday, June 5, 2018

9/30/83: a long day, living in Reseda

courtesy jerrygarciasbrokendownpalaces

Friday 9/30/83 was the start of a long weekend in L.A. for Jerry and the band, sandwiched in between two great Dead tours, and just two months into David Kemper's tenure.  This is a relatively long show for the period with two sets at just under an hour each (a good length for a 2-set show, even out of town; early/late shows tended to be longer).  I'm not apologizing, but ya get what ya get with 1983 Jerry.  Vocals?  The man was living off Camels, coke, and heroin smoked off of aluminum foil.  Tempos?  Fast and sometimes shaky.  Guitar?  Louder than all hell and then some.  Deal with it: this is a hot show!  The one recording is a fine, funky quality aud tape with terroir to spare, and our mystery taper sounds like he was up front with Garcia's amp in his crosshairs.  If this era is your jam, then you have to be down with aud tapes like this: there's a recent batch of newly transferred JGB '83 sbds (not new sources, for the most part) that have reminded me that a funky ol' aud tape is usually preferable to a clean monitor-mix sbd, which have pretty erratic guitar mixes and generally highlight more flaws than strengths.  While I wouldn't necessarily call these aud tapes a guilty pleasure, they're the kind of thing I discreetly turn down when someone who's not a deliriously devoted deadhead enters the room (i.e. wife, kids, in-laws, most friends).

A second/first verse flipflop followed by some sparkling up-high soloing in How Sweet It Is lets you know what kind of night you're in for.  Garcia is crushing it in TLEO and goes through the roof with his second solo in Let it RockLove in the Afternoon, a tune I don't love, is taken way too fast and they're working hard to keep it all together, so Garcia eases back with a nice Mississippi Moon and then, whoa, here comes Tangled Up In Blue.  His second solo is particularly tasty, but the end jam is everything catching on fire at once.  Kemper was still working out the whole "one foot on the brakes, one foot on the gas" thing, and succumbs to the temptation of kicking things into high gear a little too early (though he doesn't push as hard or insensitively as his predecessor Greg Errico could do).  It's exciting at first, but soon adds to a general level hubbub that, amazingly, they all manage to stay on top of.  A joyful noise to be sure, but man, I bet everyone's head were ringing after that one.

Kemper, however, finds just the right groove for a very nice Mission in the Rain to start the second set.  A lovely (and brisk) Gomorrah is a nice call; Run for the Roses not so much; but Russian Lullaby is a beauty, particularly in Garcia's reentry after the bass solo when Kemper doubles up the time and Kahn shifts into a brisk walking bassline for a little while.  Nice touch, boys!  Dear Prudence's jam dials it way back, with Garcia playing more carefully and sensitively -- was he fading? was he just feeling like a little TLC was in order? -- and it feels a little out of place with the vibe of the rest of the show.  YMMV, obvs, but heads up for a badly timed tape cut, too.  It's nice, however, to hear Deal closing the show rather than the first set.  Like Tangled, they just go balls-out for broke here, but it's the end of a long, loud night and it's not quite as, um, smooth.  It's not the elegant arc of a well-crafted Deal jam, but no matter: I doubt that anyone left standing had much in the way of critical faculties left at that point, and probably neither will you if you've been blasting this through your headphones for the last two hours.  Which I recommend.

postscript: the JGB played here in 1982 (the debut of the Seals/Errico lineup), 1983, and 1984 (famed for its amazing Sugaree).  JGBP reports the colorful history of the place and its owners.  I will take the liberty, though, of quoting Corry Arnold's description of the club, which is just about perfect:
Reseda is near Northridge, Northwest of Los Angeles (off Hwy 101, between Van Nuys and Canoga Park, for those of you who know SoCal). It's probably a nice enough place, but it has a whiff of one of those faceless LA places without an identity--Tom Petty symbolically dismisses it in the lyrics to his 1989 hit "Free Fallin'": 
It's a long day, living in Reseda /
There's a freeway running through the yard 
The Country Club was a popular rock club in Reseda, which was open from about 1979 until the late 1990s (on Sherman Way near Reseda Boulevard). Lots of fine groups played there, but it was not a hip Hollywood club, since by LA standards Reseda was out in the 'burbs' (the empty club was actually used to film much of the 1997 movie Boogie Nights). Initially the 1000-capacity venue was conceived as a country showcase (hence the name) but it became better known for punk and new wave.

Or, in the words of the Karate Kid, I'm from Reseda, you're from the Hills, that's how we're different.  Something tells me that Garcia secretly kinda dug it, man.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

2/24/73: at long last

poster by S. Ross, courtesy concertposterauction.com

The aud tape for 2/24/73 Iowa City is finally circulating!  Can I tell you how happy this makes me?  I'm really happy that the aud tape for 2/24/73 is finally circulating!  There has always been this mysterious snippet of the tail end of the jam  (/Phil>Feelin' Groovy) which, despite many folks' ravings (including Lavala's) was always hard for me to genuinely enjoy, given what was missing from the front end of it.  Dead.net posted that same fragment plus the Sugar Magnolia closer as part of one of their 30 Days of Dead series.  There's a second sbd fragment from the first set (with a killer Playin', at least), but for a long time that was the most of it.  Frustratingly, there was a gushing review of the whole jam in the first Taper's Compendium, published 20 years ago almost to the day before this aud tape finally reached general digital circulation.  No matter now.  It's here!  Listen!

God, this is good.  They blaze through Truckin' and a nicely developed Nobody's Fault But Mine instrumental/jam, then spiral off towards the Other One.  It seems like they're nearing escape velocity, but right at the moment when it could explode, it implodes instead and they peel back the surface to see the space within.  "Dark Star," says the taper(?), right on cue, but nope: they explore a sparse, darkly melodic space that sounds like it could be a prelude for Stella Blue, if that song existed yet (edit: duh), and Garcia and Lesh spin out one of the most beautiful duets they ever played, Lesh's harmonics pinging out around the arena, while Garcia plays longingly and mournful -- I may be imagining things -- almost maybe like he was thinking about Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground?  (could it be? two tributes to Blind Willie Johnson in the same show!?)  Wishful thinking, I'm sure.  Then a wonderfully timed blast of feedback (Phil?) and it eases itself right into Eyes of the World.  It's almost alarming how tight and fully-formed some of these earliest versions were, and they bite down hard on this one at first.  As they glide into the post-verse jam, Garcia abandons the changes and veers into a spacey tailspin.  There's a small cut at 9:50, the taper reckons this "could be the Other One" (fair enough), but Lesh steps to the fore and starts playing along with Garcia, who backs off and lets him have the wheel.  Lesh solos for a few minutes (our commentator's assessment @12:29: "really hardcore"), and Garcia returns to usher in an utterly joyful Feelin' Groovy jam and a final slam through Sugar Magnolia (always a thing of beauty on an aud tape) which clips unceremoniously a second before the end.

If you're not satiated, then perhaps another listen to 2/19/73 might be in order, another show that belies the expectations you may have for a 'typical' 1973 Truckin>Other One jam.  There are plenty of exciting cat 'n mouse games turn unexpected corners into explosive passages, but none of the brooding melodic spaces of this one.  A very potent pairing.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Aug 93: JGB up north and at home

all stubs courtesy gdsets.com

Here are three JGB shows that are worth a look from the summer of 1993; all are pretty overlooked (afaik), but one of them is one of the best shows of the year.  I have some semi-inchoate thoughts on what it means to listen to Garcia in '93, which can wait for now -- but, in short, I think '93 was a great year for the JGB.  Not consistently great, but the great shows are, for me, some really great examples of late-era Jerry at his best, with an incandescence and thoughtfulness to his playing that's not always there in earlier years when he was ostensibly in "better" shape.  I think anyone with an interest in the full scope of his career owes it to themselves to hear the best of these '93 shows.

For now, though: in August '93, the JGB and the Dead had an unusual piggybacking schedule: the JGB played a weekend in the Pacific northwest on Aug 7-8, then at Shoreline on the 14th, and the Dead played Autzen Stadium in Eugene on Aug 21-22 and Shoreline on Aug 25-27.  Garcia had all of July off, so maybe he was well rested and in relatively good shape.  He also had a new axe to test drive: Blair Jackson's GD Gear book (265) reports that his final guitar, the Cripe "lightning bolt," was debuted at Shoreline this month.  But it looks like Garcia was playing it at the GD Eugene shows, so I assume this means the 8/14 JGB show?  The Cripe’s clean, upper-midrange, almost acoustic-sounding tone was and continues to be controversial among many heads (see this blog, however, for an interesting defense), but for whatever reason, Garcia didn't opt to use this tone for any of these JGB shows, nor any from the fall.

8/22/93 with Cripe, courtesy dead.net

8/14/93 Shoreline

Two runs at Shoreline, to start and end the summer, were a GD tradition from 1989-95 (Shoreline in Oct '95 seems to have been the final booked GD show), but the JGB only played there three times, and one of those was covering for the Dead in 1990, who canceled after Brent Mydland's death.  The '92 JGB show was part of a 6-day California tour, but 8/14/93 was a standalone, preceding the Dead's August shows by a week.  Although the ticket stub indicates this show was part of the very un-Jerry sounding "Pepsi Music Festival," maybe an ulterior motive of this gig was to test-drive the new guitar?  Part of me wonders if it actually was debuted the week before (see below), but judging from Garcia's playing tonight, he was definitely having fun putting his new axe through its paces.  Everything is unusually well played, with that extra burst of feeling that puts a knowing grin on your face.  '93 JGB shows sometimes either take a minute to get rolling, or fade a bit on the last lap, but tonight is a strong one from start to finish.  Forever Young is a powerhouse version with some outstanding solo work, as is Like a Road, and Strugglin' Man and Money Honey are firing on all cylinders.  But the real surprise is the closer: Lay Down Sally was a rare choice for a set-closer, and Garcia makes the most of it here.  With all due respect to 11/12/93, this is my favorite JGB performance of this tune: unlike most versions that are content to groove along in 2nd gear, this one has an arc to it that really takes off around @6:20 when Garcia stomps on his wahwah pedal (plus some other effect?) and gets pretty cosmic for the JGB.  Yeah!  The old man's still got it, kids.

The Shining Star singalongs seem to have been, not surprisingly, an east coast phenomenon (based on the tapes anyway), so there's no sea of voices here, but this one is elevated again by some particularly thoughtful, lyrical, and assertive soloing.  Garcia could be inclined to wax rhapsodic on this tune (I believe that the longest ever Garcia guitar solo ever, over 10 minutes, is in one of these 93 Shining Stars), but this one is punchy and focused.  Typical throwaways like You Never Can Tell and Wonderful World sparkle like small jewels, The Maker is a typically strong reading, and then comes the real litmus test.  This Don't Let Go delivers, and then some.  Given that this was the signature JGB "jam tune," it's hard for me not to feel a little let down that most 90's versions don't actually vary all that much, save for how much energy is behind Garcia's attack.  Every once in a while, though, Garcia would push the jam off its well-beaten path into woolier deep space, a place he rarely went with the JGB after 1978.  Tonight's one of those nights: space, noise, and feedback (no new-fangled MIDI bassoons here!).  I am a happy man.  The vocal reprise is skipped as he steers on into a truly titanic Lucky Old Sun; what distinguishes one version from the other, for me, is usually the quality of his vocals, but tonight he leans into those solos a little harder than usual and the effect is tremendous.  Midnight Moonlight is what it is, but coming at the end of all that, it's more of a celebratory stomp than a "drink up and go home, folks" last call.

The aud tape is a fine pull by Larry Gindoff, the only source in circulation and a great listen.  I don't know why this show doesn't seem to have gathered the accolades of other great shows of this period, but, imho, you owe it to yourself to check it out.

8/7 Seattle, 8/8 Portland

Neither of these shows hits me like Shoreline does, but they are not without their own highlights.  Given that the JGB hadn't been to the northwest since 1984 and that the Dead's planned 20th-anniversary-of-Veneta shows the year before had been canceled because of Garcia's health scare, I can imagine that the general mood at these two open air afternoon shows must have been as festive as could be.  A dance party with the Jerry Garcia Band!?  Well shucks.

Seattle is strong all around and Garcia sounds like he's in good spirits.  He even introduces the band!  A rare first set Maker is fantastic, Like a Road is another stunning version, and Lay Down Sally is an above-average chooglin' version, but not in the same league as Shoreline.  Shining Star, like Shoreline's, is a really commanding version that belts it out, and Garcia sounds like he's pushing himself on Don't Let Go tonight; there's no spacey digression or anything too out of the ordinary, but it's satisfying nevertheless!  Overall not an outstanding night, but a very good show.

Portland, however, has higher highs and lower lows (in the vocal dept, anyway).  Unusually for the JGB, Garcia is noodling extra hard tonight between songs, lots of futzing and adjusting, which makes me wonder if maybe the new guitar was actually being roadtested tonight.  His playing is really energized, but his voice is in noticeably worse shape than the night before, and it continues to deteriorate throughout.  The first set is excellent.  A totally in-the-groove Cats-Mission opener and some extra soloing in TWLWMYD all bode well, but check out the second solo in Stoned Me and the first solo in The Maker!  So good.  But the usual penultimate Sisters & Brothers ushers in... the end of the set.  Hmm.  The second set sounds like Garcia's spirit was still willing, but the flesh was crapping out: things seem a little shorter than usual, and his voice remains ragged and worn.  TWYDTTYD sports a particularly fine jam (sidenote: '93 versions of this song deserve a separate post), and then things settle into a fun but unremarkable groove until rallying at the end for a powerhouse Dixie Down and a very nice Tangled.  Not a top tier '93 show, but a satisfying complement to the Shoreline show, and the highlights would make for an excellent 'bonus disc' to Shoreline's official release (I'm not holding my breath).  Kudos, too, to Mark Severson who pulled off an excellent recording with some extra flavor between songs courtesy of his buddies, who all seem to be having a fine time.

At some point, it would be fun to do an overview of the fall '93 tour, but who knows when that will happen.  There is one lesser-known show, however, that tops 8/14 Shoreline as my personal favorite, and deserves a post's worth of ravings...

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

10/3/80: sing along if you know this one


Going through all the Oct 80 acoustic/electric shows is not a project I will undertake, but I do occasionally enjoy dipping in to see what might be hiding in there.  Tonight, as they start Ripple, Jerry announces "you can sing along with this one if you'd like," and Bob adds, "Jerry wrote this one for his mom."  Ok!  Not things I'd expect to hear from either of them, but there you go.  During the final round of da-da-dada's, someone onstage (one of the drummers?) hollers "sing!" and Bob retorts, "sing, don't howl."  On this aud, however, it doesn't sound like a lot of the crowd took them up on the offer.  C'mon, deadheads!  How many times did Jerry invite you to sing along?  Sheesh.

Otherwise, it's the usual straightforward acoustic set.  Phil seems unusually present in the mix (On the Road Again!), and I always forget what an interesting anomaly these instrumental performances of Heaven Help the Fool were (sans rhythm section).  The only other real noteworthy point, however, is when Mickey can be heard during the lull before Bird Song offering to sing Fire On the Mountain.  Another opportunity lost, I suppose. 

Onto the electric sets.  Excelsior.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

11/12/93: David Murray's blues

by Joe Ryan, via GDAO
This started out as a comment to JGMF's write-up of this show, but it ballooned into a full post's worth of ramblings (lucky you!).  The JGB show on 11/12/93 at Madison Square Garden featuring jazz great David Murray is a popular (or at least very well-known) show, but, while it's historically significant, I don't think it's mostly very good.  While his first time with the Dead two months earlier was outstanding (the Bird Song! the Estimated!) and his 1995 return isn't bad either, this JGB show is redeemed by one out-of-left-field standout performance that belongs on a list of highlights from the year.  Otherwise, this show overshadows some much better but lesser-known performances from '93 while prompting the question of what exactly was going on.

From the start, Murray is playing a lot of saxophone.  A lot.  During Garcia's vocals, during Garcia's solos, just all over the place.  To my ears, How Sweet It Is is a near-trainwreck and Strugglin' Man is the low point, with an unbelievable amount of crossed wires.  What the hell was going on?  Could they hear each other?  TLEO, Forever Young, and Money Honey at least start to get their ducks in a row, but Murray's playing is way over on the abstract side of things and, while the audience cheers every one of his big screaming high-note climaxes, the effect is almost surreal.  But, after strangely starting and stopping Everybody Needs Somebody (the only time I can recall hearing him do that), Garcia cranks up Lay Down Sally and the whole room lifts off -- Murray gets his blows in first, but clears the way for Garcia to take the jam way further than usual.  This is one of the most exciting performances of this tune, and definitely one of the longest.  Um, okay then!  Read into it what you will, but it's a pretty sweet note to end on after a sour first set.  I don't get any sense, however, that Murray "cut Garcia to shreds" (see below) or that Garcia was responding competitively -- rather, it's more like Murray either couldn't hear him for most of the set, or was just going for it without much care, and Garcia kind of shrugged his shoulders and let it roll, before finally belting it out at the very end.  But of course I have no idea what was going on.

The second set is better overall, but at times it's in more of a relieved okay, things finally are starting to go right kind of way.  Depending on your tolerance for Murray's style, Shining Star is or is not kind of a mess, but there's an interesting moment when Murray's solo gets increasingly hairy and Garcia jumps in with some flurrying, high energy stuff to complement what he's doing (this starts around @7:45).  It's a neat moment where Garcia seems to be trying to make something out of a situation that has gone off into uncharted waters, but it's also one of the only moments they seem to actually be engaging with each other.  Maybe Garcia was just out of sorts: his vocals sound completely out of synch with the band on You Never Can Tell, not the first time that night he flubbed his singing, and I wonder if he wasn't also having a bit of an off-night, regardless of Murray's presence.  Murray sits out for The Maker, which provides a bit of a breath of fresh air, although it's not a particularly strong version on its own merits (they were really nailing this tune on this tour).  And then comes the moment that should have attained some real lift-off, Don't Let Go.  Modal vamps!  Open-ended spacey jamming!  Jaaazz!  Murray gets out his bass clarinet and things are sounding pretty sweet.  Garcia hoots and hollers the final round of "hold me tight and don't let go's" and hits on his wahwah pedal right out of the gate.  The stars are aligning!  But... I dunno, it's a fine jam, but Garcia and Murray seem to just play through each other rather than with each other.  Again, I'm wondering more about the sound onstage and whether they weren't able to hook it up for more mundane reasons.  Murray drops out for a minute to switch back to his tenor sax, but Garcia skips the chance to go off into deep space and returns to the vocals instead, and I can't help thinking it was a missed opportunity all around.  Rats.  Fortunately, someone seems to have finally tapped Murray on the shoulder, because his contribution to That Lucky Old Sun is much more fitting, and he actually keeps it relatively within the lines and even plays some suitable horn riffs in the closing Tangled Up in Blue.  Garcia, again, delivers the goods at the last minute, belting out a powerful final Tangled jam that builds to a solid fanning climax that I'm sure left everyone smiling after a pretty perplexing show.

JGMF quotes Gary Lambert in his piece, who relays that no one from Garcia's camp actually told Murray what kind of music the JGB played or what the expectations were.  I can certainly believe it, but I give Murray a lot more credit than that: musicians sit in with other musicians without much advance preparation all the time, and good musicians adjust on the fly -- especially good jazz musicians, who (should) have the ears to pick up on song forms and harmonic patterns relatively quickly and improvise over them.  I don't doubt for a second that David Murray is such a musician.  Jim Powell says Murray cut Garcia to shreds that night, but I don't think so.  Murray plays and plays and plays and, well, he overplays, and imho very little of it sounds "better" than Garcia or even on the same page.  To be fair, Murray seems like he's mixed low for much of the night -- to give soundman John Cutler the benefit of the doubt, I'm sure it was a struggle working with Murray's wider dynamic range (on an acoustic instrument, in a basketball arena) and maybe Murray didn't have much monitor support... but it's also possible that Cutler was mixing him down for other reasons.  I don't know if he had played with singers or pop musicians like Branford Marsalis did, but it seems weird to me that a musician of Murray's stature and experience wouldn't have eased off the gas a bit (see this interview, particularly comment #5, for a number of things Marsalis did that Murray doesn't seem to do).  I don't think that's because no one bothered to tell him that the JGB were essentially an rhythm & blues band.

And, lest you think I'm just not a fan of David Murray: while I can't say I've heard a lot of his work, I have several albums of his that I think are incredible (1980's Ming would be the starter) and I very much like his 1997 Dark Star album.  If you're not familiar with him outside of the Dead, Murray is one of the major jazz saxophonists of the 80's/90's, and was part of a generation of post-loft NYC avant-gardists who made the innovations of Albert Ayler and Coltrane coexist with "the tradition" that so much of the post-Coltrane players had rejected.  Like a lot of those musicians (Henry Threadgill and Arthur Blythe are two contemporaries you may know), Murray was certainly known for a particular sound but could play in a variety of styles very effectively.  To give two then-contemporary examples to consider alongside his JGB performance, try Shakill's Warrior (1991),  a "back to the roots" project revisiting the organ/tenor combos of the 50's-60's [interestingly, this band's guitarist, Stan Franks, was originally slated to play lead guitar in the original 1998 lineup of the Other Ones, but was replaced by Mark Karan and Steve Kimock].  Or try Murray's guest appearance on the Skatalites' recording of his own tune Flowers for Albert (1994; Murray takes the first solo). Neither of these are necessarily representative, but I think they show that Murray could have found something to fit the JGB's sound.  If he wanted to boot it out like Jr. Walker on How Sweet It Is, I am confident that he could have gone there while still sounding like David Murray.

Coming soon: some of the aforementioned much better but lesser-known performances from 1993.

by Joe Ryan, via GDAO

postscript: Murray's spot with the Dead on 9/22/93 was fantastic, but when the Dead came back to the NYC area in 1994, Murray did not appear with them.  While the Dead were at Nassau Coliseum in March 1994, Murray instead sat in with a Dead cover band, the Zen Tricksters, at the good ol' Wetlands Preserve in lower Manhattan (basically a funny-shaped bar down by the Holland Tunnel, if you never went there) for a full 3+ hour show.  It's hard not to wonder what Murray thought about that, but I don't remember anything being wrong with the music at all.  I had the tapes way back when, and I liked them a lot -- but that was over 20 years ago, so I withhold judgment until they appear digitally at LMA.  I would love to hear that again.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

5/8/84: light thickens further in Eugene

In observation of the day, I happily biked home from work for the first this year (it's been a long winter) with 5/8/77 in my headphones, the first time I'd listened to it since, um, last year this time.  I am pleased to report that my commute-by-bike lasts exactly the length of Dancin' in the Streets and Scarlet>Fire.

In the mood for more once I got home, I queued up an older fav that I hadn't heard in even longer: 5/8/84, a show that is emblematic of a shaggy year that has both its fevered supporters and its bemused naysayers.  Much like 1976, there's a lot about 1984 to not like, but hey, if some serious mojo has to come with some serious warts, then so be it.  Garcia's drug abuse and health were the steadily growing elephants in the room, but if you look past the damage he was doing to himself and those around him (and I understand if you can't or won't), there is both a raw ugly beauty and a feverish intensity to the year that I find to be very powerful and exciting indeed.  It's not the effortless grace and execution that the band displayed at their 70's pinnacles; it doesn't even sound like they're necessarily having very much fun -- it's more like a "we've got nothing to lose here" wild-eyed abandon that sometimes fails to hit the mark, but other times hits the bullseye dead-on before shredding through the target.  This show isn't quite an exemplar of this dark mixture at its finest, but it does have one very nice, deep zone right in the middle of it that's about as far from Barton Hall as it gets but delights me all the same.

courtesy deadlists

I remember this whole show being a bit up and down, with Garcia sounding like he was in rough shape.  A week after their east coast spring tour, the band jetted up to Oregon for three shows at the Hult Center's small Silva Concert Hall (capacity 2448) in Eugene, produced by the good ol' Springfield Creamery folks (I swear this is a coincidence! inspiration move me blindly?).  The reunion must have been colored, sadly, by the death of Ken Kesey's 20-year-old son Jed in a car accident 4 1/2 months earlier.  Years later when Kesey eulogized Bill Graham during the Dead's final Halloween show in 1991, he mentioned that Graham had given money for a memorial to his son and that the Dead marked the occasion with Brokedown Palace, which would be this show.

The novelty of the Scarlet>Touch of Grey opener notwithstanding, the first sign of something unusual may be up comes after a stately, relaxed Terrapin that is followed by two minutes of Garcia jamming quietly with the drummers (in reverse of the then common practice of Garcia leaving early as various bandmembers jammed in his wake before Drums proper).  It gives way to a lush marimba-led jam, a standard '84 move where the drummers eschewed the typical percussion bombast for something more warm and considered.  Midway through, electronic effects and delay enter the soundfield, but then things seem to slow to a halt.  Rather than a pause for the guitarists' return, however, various Merry Pranksters emerge to wheel out the Thunder Machine (see also 12/31/78) and then the weirdness really begins.  This kind of Dead music is so far out on the thinnest of musical ice that most heads don't bother with it at all, but it is something to be treasured all the same: the closest point of comparison I can think of would be avant-garde "jazz" of the AACM and Art Ensemble of Chicago, or Japanese experimental bands like the Taj Mahal Travelers.  After a few minutes of this garage sale of odd percussive sounds, Garcia and Weir join the fray and the jungle path thickens and gets denser ("light thickens and the crow makes wing to the rooky wood," perhaps): animals cries, disembodied snatches of speech (Ken Babbs maybe? Kesey himself?), industrial scrapes and crashes, general confusion all around, which then seems to be sucked into a vortex of processed effects to become weirder still.  A little mini Acid Test for some dark times?  After the machine rolls on, Garcia, Weir and, eventually, Lesh, play a solemn, slow march through the haze.  Things take a turn towards the Other One, and they toy with the theme for a while, soaking everything in delicious delay, building intensity steadily and thickening the roux until Phil unleases his roll and Garcia slams into a nasty minor chord.  Some grimy stuff in here!  The ensuing ride feels more akin to the hot and relentless 1970 style Other Ones than the more exploratory 1971-73 era trips.

The rest of the set is a fine listen, but nothing nearly as demented.  It's nothing worth skipping, though.  They follow up with a fine Wharf Rat, then an I Need a Miracle that seems to catch Garcia off-guard, and finally a fine Morning Dew that may be an opaque tribute to Jed Kesey -- it sure as heck ain't in the same ballpark as 1977's vintage, but it's fine for what it is.  Bobby thanks the Pranksters before the encore, a rare twofer of Sugar Magnolia with a jam that's preempted by Brokedown Palace, again in tribute to the younger Kesey.

PS.  If you're so inclined, there's a video of this show, shared by the always reliable voodoonola... but it axes the whole post-Terrapin>drums>space>Other One segment!!  what the heck?

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

3/3/76: I could wait forever / I've got time

courtesy gdsets.com

This show first popped on my radar a while back when I was thinking about Garcia playing outdoors sans GD, but I only just got around to giving it a close listen.  A couple things:

First: good gravy, this is a really nice aud tape!  The whole terroir thing is happening in a serious way here.  One of the gold standards for this period, in terms of sound quality, is the well known 3/6/76 recording made by Pat Lee & friends at Seattle's Moore Theater, but Don Wolfe and Matt Williams' 3/3 tape may be an even more satisfying listen in terms of atmosphere.  The Lane County Fairgrounds Auditorium is more like a big vaulted shed holding around 800ish, and while the tapers succeeded in capturing the intimacy of the space, this is one of those tapes that still inspires a cognitive dissonance between what you know and what you're hearing: to me, this sounds like I'm experiencing the JGB at a house party or maybe a small bar, in the company of a few friends, all very enthusiastic and very attentive.  One great moment of many is when Donna steps up to sing her gospel feature, "A Strange Man," which was brand new to most of the crowd.  They love it, and she has them in the palm of her hand: maybe one of the better Donna vocal moments from this era of the JGB, made all the more sweet by the particularities of this great tape.

Second: in terms of performance, this is a pretty solid early '76 JGB show.  Granted, that's a period that tends to rub many folks the wrong way because of the slowness of the material.  At times I agree (3/6/76, I'm looking at you), but typically I can get down with this stuff just fine.  All we have of this night is the second set, but it's still a satisfying 90 minutes of music. An early "The Way You Do the Things You Do" has a delightful energy to it, and dig how Keith and Jerry slip in a subtle hint of I-VII for a sec in the jam (the "Fire on the Mountain jam" or Eb-Db in this case).  "Friend of the Devil" is divine; "I'll Take a Melody" and "Mystery Train" are satisfying, but not standouts for the period, and the Rolling Stones' "Moonlight Mile" is done about as well as they did it -- I don't mean to sound back-handed, but it's a tough song to pull off!  Much better, however, is this great version of "I Want to Tell You," which they played only a handful of times in early '76 and then dropped abruptly.  Garcia returned to it for a few post-coma shows in 1986-87, then brought it back with the Dead in 1994-95, but these 1976 versions are the real deal, with solid vocals, energetic delivery, and a few minutes of jamming that finds a nice little space to nestle into (more I-VII/"FOTM" again, somewhat similar to the jam in "Lonesome & A Long Way From Home").  The segue into "Sisters and Brothers" is sweetly done and makes for a nice little combo.  A final rarity closes the show, their take on Ray Charles' "Talkin' 'Bout You," not quite as hot as some of the Legion of Mary versions, but par for this lineup.

Finally, if you read the not-so-fine print on the poster, you may notice that the show was put on by Acidophilus Productions/Springfield Creamery, which may ring a bell for any committed deadhead.  Garcia's connections to and performance history in Oregon probably warrant a small book of their own, and the Creamery folks also produced the "Second Decadenal Field Trip" [and potluck!] on the 10th anniversary of their first one (see Blair Jackson), the 1983 and 1984 Hult Center shows (in Eugene), and maybe more.   Unlike the more storied fairgrounds that are a few miles down the road in Veneta, the Lane County Fairgrounds are, I believe, in the middle of downtown Eugene, so this could hardly have been a psychedelic backwoods tribal stomp.  From a pragmatic standpoint, this show may have been just a midweek add-on to two bigger gigs (a Friday in Portland and a Saturday in Seattle), which wasn't unheard of.  There's an Old & In the Way listing for 5/8/73 at Churchill High School (Eugene) and Garcia/Kahn shows at South Eugene High School in June '82 (JGMF), all of which were adjacent to larger gigs in Portland.  Other Dead/Garcia trips to the northwest seem to have been either bigger "professional" productions or college gigs (besides those Hult Center shows), and I have no idea what other events, if any, were organized under the Creamery's auspices.  But I suspect that there must be some story behind Garcia's playing for the Springfield Creamery on a Wednesday night in downtown Eugene, and I'd love to know what it is.

8/28/82: bring a dish to pass (acidophilus not required).  courtesy deadlists.

And the biggest question, of course, is... was this guy was in attendance?