|7/31/74, courtesy jerrygarcia.com|
Truckin' starts a little too slow, but they kick it up into gear and are already in full flight by the time they wrap up the lyrics. I like the upfront, syncopated rhythm figure Jerry plays starting @4:50 that shifts them up into the jam (it's a little similar to the New Speedway Boogie rhythm, but not related) before he starts soloing. They nail the big E chord peak, keep on chooglin', and after some tentatively suggested changes in direction, they pull out the roadmap after around 13 minutes. Without missing a beat, Jerry takes off down his own path -- Phil and Billy drop out, and Bob and Keith provide some very sparse accompaniment. We're out in space now! It's mellow, spacey solo Jerry, until Phil rejoins the fray and the thorns start growing on the vine. He immediately gets aggressive, throwing down some nice big chords, as Bob and Keith patiently stir up the weirdness.
At about 5 min into this jam, some form starts to emerge from the ruckus -- Bill, Keith, and Bob all playing fast and jazzy, driving things wildly forward -- but Jerry and Phil are still off on their jag and the push-and-pull tension that ensues is sublime. Just when Phil seems to be pulled into the rhythm section's orbit, he pokes back out and pulls the tide back with him -- there's a big ol' nasty chord at 7:06 that tips the scales back into chaos. Wonderful! Finally, the wave crests, recedes, and Jerry immediately kicks it into an uptempo, brisk Eyes of the World.
To my ears, some of these 73-74 Eyes can feel like they're grinding their gears a little too hard, but this one is kicking all the way through; it's arguably just as good as the lauded Eyes from 6/18 -- not to mention almost 10 minutes longer. My untested theory is that first set Eyes of this era tended to be a bit more uptempo and energetic than second set versions (though not necessarily better), but this one flies right along in high gear for the full duration. It's also noteworthy because they keep jamming for a good 5 1/2 minutes after the proto-'Stronger Than Dirt' riff, and Jerry threads in the nascent Slipknot figure that he'd been messing around with intermittently since at least February of that year (it's tracked separately on this copy, but I don't think it should be: it's still the extended Eyes jam, and I don't hear any Slipknot until 2:45ish into the track).
June 1974 was one of the band's best stretches without a doubt, and also one of the few periods when the band was regularly willing to burst into fully spontaneous exploration without warming or precedent -- most of the canonized and beloved jams from this month all center around an unusual jam segment that sprouted up in some unexpected spot. The spotlight usually (and rightly) goes to shows like 6/18 Louisville, 6/23 Miami, 6/26 Providence, or 6/28 Boston, but this jam from hot 'Lanta is well worth 40 minutes of your day anyday. Did I mention that this Truckin>Eyes is over 40 minutes long?