Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Aug 93: JGB up north and at home

all stubs courtesy

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

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...


  1. Thanks for this. Checking out 8/14/93 right now, nice, as you say. I had heard the 8/8/93 show years back, and found it dreadful, mostly around the vocals (which you note), so I might have lumped 8/7 in with it in my mind, but at some point I'd like to check the former out.

  2. I do think the Cripe debuted 8/7/93, BTW - just googled and it seems to be what people say.

  3. BTW, the Shining Star singalong is definitely happening late 18ff of 8/14/93.

  4. Ragged vocals don't irritate me as much, particularly if his guitar playing is top notch; I think I just don't notice them, really, unless his playing is also sub-par. Granted, at this stage, bad vocals often correlate with general tiredness and decline. But I was struck at how sharp his guitar playing was in parts of the 8/8 show. It's not a must-hear show, imho, but I feel the highlights mentioned are well worth a listen.

    also, re my Shining Star singalong comment: I didn't mean that west coast crowds didn't sing along at all, just that the east coasters seemed to "get more into it." My sketchy impression of west coast crowds (as represented on aud tapes) is that they would sing along, but with less, I dunno, fervor. I should just scratch that line.

  5. Oh Gawd, I just listened to 8/8/93, and I vigorously disagree with any remotely positive assessment of that show. The vocals are HORRIFYING. I could barely listen to it. These are the worst Garcia vocals since before the coma, IMO, and, by the end of the show, among the worst ever. I found this one painful and embarrassing.

    1. Just for the record: I agree the vocals are mostly bad, but "bad" in the sense that he's lost his voice and is powering through it (like, say, Jan 78), not bad in the sense of him being too sick/wasted/weak to sing coherently. I hear his guitar playing as still pretty powerful: not consistently amazing, and it's not a *great* show by any measure, but I still don't think it's anything like the "worst ever" -- there are 94 shows were he sounds sick or totally disoriented (8/14/94, iirc, is terrifying in spots) and nothing like that is happening here.