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 Rock. Love 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 heads 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.