Jesse Jarnow

#deadfreaksunite 1969

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#deadfreaksunite 1969
tape-by-tape notes

An extended listening project tracking the Grateful Dead’s evolution, recording by recording. Originally posted on Twitter on each show’s 40th/50th anniversary and edited here for readability and occasional revision/correction and minor expansion. Many shows streamable via archive.org.

1/17/69 santa barbara: with santana at a long-mysterious venue. 17-minute TURN ON YOUR LOVELIGHT opener starting to space just slightly. pig’s a bit slurry at the start, but he & band really starting to click on moves between sections. garcia & lesh get with the pretty locked-in riffs. 2 box back nitties cues. with this begins the 6-year golden age of DARK STAR suites where virtually everything is reliably magical, here a 44-minute DARK STAR > ST. STEPHEN > THE ELEVEN > DEATH DON’T HAVE NO MERCY. during 13-minute DARK STAR, mickey (i think) hits tom-tom accents during 2nd jam, but still no kits. TC’s organ is (as will be the usual) barely audible, sometimes floating through as vague but pleasing ambience. DEATH DON’T HAVE NO MERCY is starting to get spare & gothic, a song i never quite appreciated fully until @amirbarlev’s @LongStrangeDoc. pretty sure pigpen kept playing organ on this one. 26-minute THAT’S IT FOR THE OTHER ONE > COSMIC CHARLIE. 8-minute OTHER ONE with 3D pre-verse nebula. 1st dead version of COSMIC CHARLIE after the hartbeats’ 10/68 debut. raw & unnecessarily complicated comix-y fun. hard not to see mr. natural in title role.

1/18/69 los angeles:  the grateful dead occupy playboy after dark & allegedly dose the coffee urn & hef’s pepsi with LSD, a story i’d believe slightly more if any of the dosed ever told it. aired in july ’69. at a fake playboy mansion, jer raps with hef & the dead play 3 songs not yet on their albums. a studio set with “books not even worth stealing,” according to TC. “that’s the big one up there at night,” sez jerry, introducing MOUNTAINS OF THE MOON & looking fuzzy without his glasses. beautiful, thoroughly baroque, & totally hifalutin (or just totally high) acoustic/harpsichord version, with weir on 12-string. ST. STEPHEN edited heavily & TURN ON YOUR LOVELIGHT in background under the credits. both play more like ‘60s montages than actual performances. fun crowd shots. does maybe seem like a real party is starting?

1/23/69 avalon ballroom (rehearsal): run-through of THE ELEVEN 3 days before the “live/dead” take. apparently, someone’s taken TC outside & gotten him stoned. DUPREE’S DIAMOND BLUES rehearsal the day before its proper debut has full drums, closer to the later versions.

1/24/69 avalon ballroom: early set opens with 30-minute THAT’S IT FOR THE OTHER ONE > NEW POTATO CABOOSE. increasingly rare CABOOSE never clicks. vocals frayed, awkward bass solo, jam in 13 doesn’t fly. whole night slightly too ragged for live album. earliest live taped versions of 2 “aoxomoxoa” songs: DUPREE’S DIAMOND BLUES & DOIN’ THAT RAG. pig plays harmonica on DUPREE’S, threading it to the jug band. RAG has tasty jerry outro. i adore this early garcia/hunter period, surrealism similar to the scene’s posters/comix. 19-minute standalone DARK STAR opens late set. cloud-bursting post-verse jam peaks with dense bass leads, cymbal action, & nifty inverted rhythms by weir. TC’s circus organ still buried except when band gets quiet. garcia pops string, aborts 2nd verse, jams more, tries again. TURN ON YOUR LOVELIGHT missing song verses, mostly just garcia shreds. at one point, voices cheer in swells, just off mic. plug gets pulled (or power fails) & pig continues mic-less: “fuck it.” total hippie chaos ensues. chants, incoherence, DRUMZ, etc. the 3 shows are also the reopening of the avalon ballroom by a new family dog splinter group, the somewhat ironically named soundproof productions. for a dose of the san francisco ’69 DIY scene politics.

1/25/69 avalon ballroom: occasionally off-kilter mix, irresistible music. getting right to it, set 1 is 52-minute DARK STAR > ST. STEPHEN > THE ELEVEN > TURN ON YOUR LOVELIGHT. TC’s organ is way overdriven in places & sounds boss but too loud. late show begins with the 2nd proper versions of the 3 newest songs, all well improved over their debut takes, especially COSMIC CHARLIE, buoyant & exuberant. funny that it recycles “hung up waiting for a windy day” from ALLIGATOR. of early dead tunes, ALLIGATOR may’ve undergone the most wee tweaks in sections/lyrics/parts/tempos, now with kinda goofy vocal jam. 22-minute ALLIGATOR > CAUTION > BID YOU GOODNIGHT greeted with enthusiasm. weir & pig take solo vocal lines during closer.

1/26/69 avalon ballroom: stoned crosstalk as band gets ready, lesh quoting REVOLUTION 9. 1st set is 37-minute THAT’S IT FOR THE OTHER ONE > CLEMENTINE > DEATH DON’T HAVE MERCY. mix is borked ’til midway into OTHER ONE. garcia immolates during CRYPTICAL ENVELOPMENT outro. last known CLEMENTINE, lesh/hunter moodiness forgotten ’til resurfacing in the ‘90s. 1st since 2/68 & rewritten. REVOLUTION 9 callback during new quiet section earns laughs from crowd. listen as the song disappears from memory during segue into DEATH DON’T HAVE NO MERCY. TC has no swing whatsoever, but he sounds convincingly psychedelic on CLEMENTINE. nor does not he have an ominous blues setting, playing organ on this take of DEATH DON’T HAVE NO MERCY, a task he will be relieved of soon. late set is 40-minute DARK STAR > ST. STEPHEN > THE ELEVEN > TURN ON YOUR LOVELIGHT. perhaps playing to the 16-track (& LP side limitations) 10-minute DARK STAR is shorter than recent takes. it’s a solid edit, garcia glides through episodes quickly/dramatically in 2nd half. ST. STEPHEN slightly rough in places, but then band turns corner into just-exactly-perfection, even the vocals, with both THE ELEVEN & LOVELIGHT at full snarling speed, & soon constituting a side-and-a-half of “live/dead.”  listened to this LOVELIGHT gazillions of times but never noticed phil singing off-mic response vocals during the 2nd verse ’til just now. great version that moves quickly from idea to idea, landing naturally at big finale. phil: “and leave it on!!”

2/2/69 minneapolis: the opening of new psychedelic venue. local band blackwood apology leads off with rock opera “house of leather.” 90-minute set is band’s archetypal “compact” approach when coming to a new town, with long pigpen rave-ups bookending psychedelic suites. crowd not buying at first. walk-outs & heckles. lesh & garcia heckle back. jerry: “we come all the way across the country & leave the comfort & beauty of california & come out in the cold miserable rain & snow & what do we get? people who can’t dig it. too weird!!” garcia pretty much rips into 16-minute DARK STAR, which is charged & beautiful, with early feedback clouds, aggressive for a song with only hand percussion. 20 more sharp minutes of ST. STEPHEN > THE ELEVEN > DEATH DON’T HAVE NO MERCY, with ugly tape cuts. TURN ON YOUR LOVELIGHT entering its own golden age, with rolling pigologues deep inside the groove while the band turns effortless corners & surfs weird pockets atop circular double drumming. the 1st reference to “pocket pool,” i guess?

2/4/69 omaha: a small club on their first trip to omaha. opening act was the unknown, from st. louis. another night of the dead getting hassled. garcia heckling a heckler: “hey far out man. this is too much. this is the lamest trip we’ve been taken on in our entire career, absolutely the lamest.” people calling requests, too. off-mic, garcia suggests MORNING DEW. phil: “is that what somebody wants to hear?” jerry: “it’s what *i* want to hear.” weir, getting in tune: “close enough for progressive rock…” tight, powerful DEW follows. 37-minute DARK STAR > ST. STEPHEN > THE ELEVEN > DEATH DON’T HAVE NO MERCY. tape is sped up, making DARK STAR sound particularly strident. DEATH DON’T remains extra-atmospheric, pigpen back on organ, though cut-off again. 36-minute CRYPTICAL ENVELOPMENT > THE OTHER ONE > ALLIGATOR > DRUMZ > CAUTION. 1st taped instance of band dropping the CRYPTICAL epilogue, someone onstage calling an audible, a nice move. drummers use chant for reentry before action-packed CAUTION. gets to deep blissful spot, turns noisy & atmospheric while pig is still singing, reforms, peaks, & zooms off the rails. tape cuts out mid-feedback.

2/5/69 kansas city, ks: first visit to kansas, opening for the iron butterfly. missing TURN ON YOUR LOVELIGHT opener & dropping right into the suites, mainly a fantastic 44-minute DARK STAR > ST. STEPHEN > THE ELEVEN > CAUTION > BID YOU GOODNIGHT. beautiful gliding DARK STAR, but the more pummeling jams win the day & audience. a perfect shift into pretty ragin’ CAUTION. pig’s section is short. garcia & weir sing long drone tones over feedback before short screamo vocal jam. a cool development in the post-CAUTION meltdown is TC matching garcia/weir/lesh’s feedback with organ drones. friendly ovation early in BID YOU GOODNIGHT. crowd gets into it. long version, garcia hitting the weird lines about the child-eating beast.

2/6/69 st. louis: st. louis debut, their 2nd night opening for the iron butterfly. MORNING DEW is prelude to 50-minute DARK STAR > ST. STEPHEN > THE ELEVEN > TURN ON YOUR LOVELIGHT. fantastic shimmering peak to DARK STAR with lead bass & chiming weir, along with twisting garcia threads. LOVELIGHT only sort of gels. the dead get some extra time & burn through THAT’S IT FOR THE OTHER ONE, exiting upwards into feedback (TC leaning on the organ, phil looking for melodies) & into BID YOU GOODNIGHT, earning a nice reception.

2/7/69 pittsburgh: incredibly heavy triple bill of the grateful dead, the velvet underground, & the fugs, each playing an early & late show, MC’d by paul krassner. 48-minute early set is DARK STAR > ST. STEPHEN > THE ELEVEN > TURN ON YOUR LOVELIGHT. typically lovely neon skywriting in DARK STAR. power failure almost kills flow before fluid & bombastic THE ELEVEN. LOVELIGHT scrambles midway & never fully ignites. late show capped by half-hour ALLIGATOR > CAUTION > BID YOU GOODNIGHT that peaks as much as ambles. cooking CHINA CAT squigglies after drum break & gradual float before CAUTION. feedback starts conversational & dissolves slowly. handy overview of the checkered relationship between the ex-warlocks.

2/11/69 fillmore east: early & late shows opening for janis joplin, her post-big brother NYC debut. maybe because they’re sharing a bill with janis, early show is blues-heavy. 1st taped KING BEE since ’66, a pigpen standard for the next 3 years. the debut of the short-lived pig-sung HEY JUDE. charming but silly, especially the nah-nahing coda. late set begins as mickey presents bill graham with the cowbell that graham played on the night he “became part of the grateful dead,” aka when the dead dosed him & graham jammed. “welcome to the band, bubby,” mickey says. a monster late show, 1st time adding new acoustic songs to front of suite, a powerful sequencing with quiet transition to electricity. 54-minute MOUNTAINS OF THE MOON > DARK STAR > ST. STEPHEN > THE ELEVEN > DRUMZ > CAUTION > BID YOU GOODNIGHT. middle DARK STAR jams fully conversational, phrases & ideas spread between musicians, TC starting to get into the weave, often punctuated by garcia soaring over the top with a crystal lead.  garcia keeps pulling out peaks in CAUTION. they even earn an encore, far from the usual in early ’69. big ’n’ bright COSMIC CHARLIE, particularly violent tape cut after 2 minutes.

2/12/69 fillmore east: missing the beginning, 34 minutes of DARK STAR > ST. STEPHEN > THE ELEVEN > DEATH DON’T HAVE NO MERCY. pro deceleration into ultra-quiet DEATH DON’T. big reception from NYC heads afterwards. 32-minute ALLIGATOR > CAUTION > BID YOU GOODNIGHT has the most sustained bliss of the set, big jams swelling/receding after the drum break, basslines pulling cool harmonies from garcia’s wilding. CAUTION hovers at the edge of chaos after the vocals, splitting open methodically & surrendering to chaos. feedback codas developing a nice arc with miniature episodes, here cosmic TC noise blurps “peak” with garcia’s volume swell melodies.

2/14/69 philadelphia: the 1st of 2 nights at the original electric factory. 53 minutes of DARK STAR > ST. STEPHEN > THE ELEVEN > TURN ON YOUR LOVELIGHT. even with beginning cut, DARK STAR is longer than usual, garcia extra-lit & lyrical throughout. the 2nd set is probably missing some parts afterwards after the DEATH DON’T HAVE NO MERCY ending, but i’m really starting to see why it was such a band favorite, a quiet/spacious non-pigpen landing after a good freakout.

2/15/69 philadelphia: fantastic show start to finish. new songs really clicking, beginning with opening DOIN’ THAT RAG, with a few nice lyric variations. surprisingly assertive & worked-out harmonica part by pigpen throughout COSMIC CHARLIE. only time, i think? big cheer for MORNING DEW, its 1st time punctuating a big psychedelic suite. set-closing TURN ON YOUR LOVELIGHT with long early stretch of archetypal explosive garcia blues breathlessness while conversations spin behind him. 2nd set flow exquisitely, beginning with 49-minute MOUNTAINS OF THE MOON > DARK STAR > ST. STEPHEN > THE ELEVEN > DEATH DON’T HAVE NO MERCY. during MOUNTAINS garcia solos confidently on acoustic right up til switching off. 1st DARK STAR to crack 20 minutes, though could be ‘cuz garcia pops a string & disappears for 4 minutes, resulting in a lush weir/lesh/TC jam. nice window on weir’s playing, which is great. jazzy, spacious, & filled with strange movements & occasional lead flourishes. 47-minute ALLIGATOR > CAUTION > BID YOU GOODNIGHT also stretches extra-wide & extra-gnarly. instrumental BID YOU GOODNIGHT jam acts as bridge into CAUTION & prelude to beautiful set-closing vocal version. big cheers. grateful thanks from garcia.

2/19/69 fillmore west: part of an acid test-like event called the celestial synapse, with an appropriately weird & anarchic tape (often misdated 6/19/68). icky buzzes ’til midway through sloppy 35-minute TURN ON YOUR LOVELIGHT > NOT FADE AWAY > TURN ON YOUR LOVELIGHT. 1st recorded NOT FADE AWAY since ’66. pigpen sings 1st line & weir takes rest, doing it in the choppy ’66 arrangement, ala the stones. tape rolls during break. naked tripping commune leader raps. audience oms for 22 minutes, led by stephen gaskin, later leader of the farm. various heads (& kids?) take mic, babble over om, jam on dead’s percussion. stage takeover, chanting. fascinating field recording. 2nd set is fantastic & ranging 47-minute jam, slowly coalescing into 1st version of THE MAIN TEN (the theme that would become the PLAYING IN THE BAND intro), a vivid DARK STARish episode, unidentified flying shapes, & OTHER ONE variations.

2/21/69 vallejo: luxurious 73-minute DARK STAR > ST. STEPHEN > THE ELEVEN > TURN ON YOUR LOVELIGHT. thrilling new episode in DARK STAR, the sputnik jam spiraling into an overdriven garcia peak with busy movement & the drummers shifting to their kits. the longest version of THE ELEVEN, i think, just over 20 minutes. doesn’t necessarily go many new places (garcia once called the song a “trap”), surfing the big strange groove because they can & maybe practicing for the live album they’re recording next week. during deep-pocketed TURN ON YOUR LOVELIGHT, maybe the only time i’ve ever heard pigpen refer to himself in the 3rd person. as in, “wake up, ‘cause the pig is hungry.” MORNING DEW to close.

2/22/69 vallejo: trying new setlist tweaks at out-of-town gig. powerful 54-minute MOUNTAINS OF THE MOON > DARK STAR > THAT’S IT FOR THE OTHER ONE > DEATH DON’T HAVE NO MERCY. 22-minute DARK STAR turns alien after the sputnik jam again, making cover for cool drum entrance. 2nd set has 56-minute DOIN’ THAT RAG > ST. STEPHEN > THE ELEVEN > TURN ON YOUR LOVELIGHT. another extra-long THE ELEVEN (as per usual this month, seems), with dug-in bass solo.

2/27/69 fillmore west: can hear how amazing the sound quality is during a few of the tech breaks during the early show as the stage creaks in stereo. love the sound of garcia counting off songs with reverberating boot stomps. delightfully high garcia banter, better heard: “it’s really too weird up here, man, it really is… beyond the pale.” my favorite part, off-mic, “beyond the fuckin’ pale.” then, a stomp into the perfect THAT’S IT FOR THE OTHER ONE. great dynamics, packed with mini jams. the late show (following sets by sir douglas quintet & pentangle) begins after 1 in the morning on a thursday night. DUPREE’S DIAMOND BLUES sets up 56-minute MOUNTAINS OF THE MOON > DARK STAR > ST. STEPHEN > THE ELEVEN > TURN ON YOUR LOVELIGHT. DARK STAR glows from the start, all the episodes developed over the past year & even the past week combine for perhaps the single classic take. also a break through: for 1st time, kreutzmann adds exquisite whispered drums from early on, going in/out as song peaks/recedes. (a pretty astounding comparison of the 4 different mixes of the 2/27/69 dark star.) TURN ON YOUR LOVELIGHT has a few idyllic “goin’ to the country” references but, more, a document of pigpen getting confident in pushing his vocal tics between speaking & singing with band improvising with him. hey, maybe the all-time COSMIC CHARLIE, too?

2/28/69 fillmore west: their 2nd night of 4 with sir douglas quintet & pentangle, each playing early/late sets. early show is pigpen special, getting 3 tunes. long late set introduced by bill graham: “the last of the gay desperados…” 19-minute THAT’S IT FOR THE OTHER ONE is prelude to 53-minute DARK STAR > ST. STEPHEN > THE ELEVEN > DEATH DON’T HAVE NO MERCY. epic 20-minute DARK STAR moves away from pulse after the 1st verse, disintegrating after the sputnik jam & out into quietly swinging weir/lesh/kreutzmann space jazz (hart on guiro) before garcia enters quietly & builds back towards song. mickey shoots off small cannon during ST. STEPHEN. drums fade entirely halfway through THE ELEVEN while everybody else keeps ripping, then return. sounds great. jam digs in deep. conversational flows. 39-minute ALLIGATOR > CAUTION > BID YOU GOODNIGHT. fantastic ambient vibrations by TC during post-CAUTION feedback. mickey shoots cannon again. noise-squelched BID YOU GOODNIGHT. “goodnight from all the electronic mice,” sez jer.

3/1/69 fillmore west: bill graham introduces the band, “the american version of the japanese film ‘the magnificent seven’…” whole early show is deliberate 44-minute suite. no real jams to connect the songs, just short purposeful pauses. last recorded THAT’S IT FOR THE OTHER ONE > NEW POTATO CABOOSE combo, as paired on “anthem of the sun.” bass-led 13s jam in NEW POTATO is fuzzyblissy, before a peaceful crossfade to DOIN’ THAT RAG & COSMIC CHARLIE. garcia, before the late show, charmingly, “hey, this is gonna be good, you guys!” (collective band laughter, but he’s right!) bill graham: “the great high hope…” & band starts into an hour of purposefully sequenced music, beginning with DUPREE’S DIAMOND BLUES. 58-minute MOUNTAINS OF THE MOON > DARK STAR > ST. STEPHEN > THE ELEVEN > TURN ON YOUR LOVELIGHT. DARK STAR is bolder by the night. kreutzmann’s drums enter subtly, cymbals first, under dense conversation & vanish again. spiky sputnik meltdown & resolution before 2nd verse. ST. STEPHEN has mickey’s cannon & a good cosmic aside by weir, “except in california.” garcia/drummers jam leads into LOVELIGHT, which hits weave. TC starting to fit in. his playing isn’t bluesy but colors the jam under pig’s raps in a very deady way. encore is the 2nd & final HEY JUDE, lost ’til the ‘90s. this time, the 1st half is tentative & it’s the coda that works, achieving primal liftoff with gang chorus (& presumably a singalong) with garcia shredding.

3/2/69 fillmore west: hard to tell what’s happening, but i think bill graham comes out to introduce the band, garcia declares “free turf!” & launches into 57-minute DARK STAR > ST. STEPHEN > THE ELEVEN > TURN ON YOUR LOVELIGHT, the entirety of the early show. another night, another amazing & sensitive 20-minute DARK STAR. kreutzmann’s cymbal-masked drum entrance in the post-verse jam is starting to solidify. natural feeling TC organ runs. sputnik episode deconstructs into jagged secret codes. “help, help we need some organized minds up here,” garcia begs before late show. DOIN’ THAT RAG showing signs of developing jam. way powerful 34-minute THAT’S IT FOR THE OTHER ONE > DEATH DON’T HAVE NO MERCY, the latter perfect from the start & chosen for “live/dead.”  54-minute ALLIGATOR > CAUTION > BID YOU GOODNIGHT takes its sweet time getting to CAUTION with slow deliberate bass jam. a showstopping combo since ’67 (& on “anthem of the sun”), ALLIGATOR > CAUTION becomes a rarity after this. post-CAUTION feedback highlighted by sublime minute-long volume swell coda by garcia, on “live/dead” along with BID YOU GOODNIGHT, which cuts on master after 36 seconds. beautifully sung, but too bad they didn’t have a full take with all the verses.

3/15/69 san francisco hilton: on phil lesh’s 29th birthday, the grateful dead at the black & white symphony ball at the san francisco hilton, annual benefit for the SF symphony. weir’s mom was on the entertainment committee. short charming onstage soundcheck, all band members conversing with owsley. show opens with debut of otis redding’s 1968 hit HARD TO HANDLE, sung by pigpen. both pig & band almost have grip on song, equally feeling their ways through the jam. 58-minute DARK STAR > ST. STEPHEN > THE ELEVEN > TURN ON YOUR LOVELIGHT. mushy tape, but i think both drummers come in midway through 15-minute DARK STAR for the 1st time, soaring in through big garcia note cloud, only fading during final chorus.

3/28/69 modesto: 54-minute DARK STAR > ST. STEPHEN > THE ELEVEN > DEATH DON’T HAVE NO MERCY. long DARK STAR takes 15 minutes before drums enter. tom toms flare briefly, dissolving & reforming several graceful times behind garcia’s guitar. band aborts set break after realizing they only have a little time. ken babbs or some other weirdo jabbers & 22-minute THAT’S IT FOR THE OTHER ONE ensues. CRYPTICAL ENVELOPMENT’s reprise rushes past peak into chiming coda, woozy climax, & feedback landing.

3/29/69 las vegas: las vegas debut & only show there ’til ’81. rare mickey talk. “the next thing we’re going to do is something we wrote especially for the ice palace here in las vegas, we wrote it this morning.” cue 50-minute DARK STAR > ST. STEPHEN > THE ELEVEN > TURN ON YOUR LOVELIGHT. 15-minute DARK STAR feels particularly forceful, with big bold lines over the pre-verse jam, & a spiky (even icy) post-sputnik disintegration near the very end that phil leads back towards prettiness as drums swing quietly. signs of a budding head scene in las vegas, 2 years before hunter s. thompson’s arrival, though the promoter was apparently a san francisco computer programmer, temporarily in las vegas for work.

4/4/69 avalon ballroom: the dead’s last weekend at the avalon ballroom, freak staple since ’66, with the flying burrito brothers & aum. perhaps already influenced by sneaky pete’s pedal steel with the burrito bros., garcia plays slide guitar during the intro to THE OTHER ONE. mega-allmansy 1st 90 seconds or so. very present TC throughout 22-minute TURN ON YOUR LOVELIGHT, doing his best to get funky, with mixed results. cool & confident atonal organ burps. more slide guitar by garcia. 40-minute DARK STAR > ST. STEPHEN > THE ELEVEN. after intro, DARK STAR locks on jaunty shaker/guiro groove & kreutzmann’s drums enter before vocals for 1st time. post-verse rides brighter, drums accenting sputnik jam before disintegration into gongs, space, & resolution. nice stereo drum mix, good for untangling drum parts on ST. STEPHEN & what’s happening as they spool into THE ELEVEN, kreutzmann in the left channel & hart in the right, & eventually break apart into chaos & noise to close the show.

4/5/69 avalon ballroom: 1st set is the psychedelic special, DUPREE’S DIAMOND BLUES as prelude to 46-minute MOUNTAINS OF THE MOON > DARK STAR > ST. STEPHEN > THE ELEVEN > TURN ON YOUR LOVELIGHT, now the third time they’ve played this whole sequence. 17-minute DARK STAR has bold post-verse garcia lines. kreutzmann finds an entrance point, taps a cymbal for a bit, & eventually drums come in for spell, exiting just as naturally. quiet/savage harmonic weirding by garcia before double-drummer swell into 2nd verse. attention “william tell” truthers (including the person who labeled this recording): here’s a version of ST. STEPHEN with the “william tell” ending that jumps right to TURN ON YOUR LOVELIGHT with no sign of THE ELEVEN until they actually play it in the 2nd set. after the fantastic berserker early versions of COSMIC CHARLIE, band has slowed it waaaaay down, & i can’t say it’s working super well vocally or otherwise. 1st taped CHINA CAT SUNFLOWER in a year, debuted in early ’68, set aside for some reason, & revived for “aoxomoxoa.” less manic & a l’il stiff, but garcia’s solo instantly blooms into the familiar CHINA CAT jam. awkward modulation to DOIN’ THAT RAG, now with vocal reprise. end of CRYPTICAL ENVELOPMENT downshifts with astonishing smoothness into THE ELEVEN & accelerates from there. jam opens up into the return of the garcia-sung IT’S A SIN, played by the hartbeats in ’68, pigpen on harmonica.“whaddya wanna hear that’ll last 10 minutes?” garcia asks, which results in 20-minute ALLIGATOR > BID YOU GOODNIGHT with drum interlude, dense feedback, bells, volume swell melodies, organ whistles. wonder how “sound proof productions” did with all that.

4/6/69 avalon ballrom: 1st proper date since late ’68 with no DARK STAR. weir asks for requests. 1st recorded BEAT IT ON DOWN THE LINE since 3/68 & 1st IT’S ALL OVER NOW BABY BLUE since 12/66, slowed down & lovely. “what else do you wanna hear that we used to do?” garcia asks. deep DEATH DON’T HAVE NO MERCY, fantastic guitar tone & stark responsive organ by pigpen. more third person from pig during TURN ON YOUR LOVELIGHT: “tell ‘em pig said it was okay.” 1st VIOLA LEE BLUES since early ’68. big cheers. smashing until after 1st jam’s big peak when the amps go out. “somebody’s trying to tell us something,” observes weir before vocal/drums reprise. farewell, avalon ballroom!

4/11/69 tucson: the grateful dead begin a 2-week cross-country tour with their only ever gig in tucson, at a WPA auditorium. again coming out of THAT’S IT FOR THE OTHER ONE, a restrained & spacious IT’S A SIN with pigpen’s harmonica getting nearly equal billing with garcia’s guitar/vocals. more garcia slide on HARD TO HANDLE, getting tighter. 50-minute DARK STAR > ST. STEPHEN > THE ELEVEN > TURN ON YOUR LOVELIGHT, with gaps in middle. after jamming on it in february, THE MAIN TEN (future PLAYING IN THE BAND intro) arrives during the DARK STAR drum swell. TC dials in the swirls.

4/12/69 salt lake city: the dead play utah for the 1st time, at the student ballroom, presented by the students for a democratic society. an early & late show.weir’s yellow dog joke, his perennial tech break time killer, makes its on-tape debut in two parts, with GOOD MORNING LITTLE SCHOOLGIRL in the middle. pigpen charmingly hijacks all the punchlines. “you don’t have to laugh. nobody does.” HE WAS A FRIEND OF MINE, always rare (at least on tape), returns to the rotation & jams out for the 1st time, crossing 10 minutes as garcia’s fuzzy curlicues spiral upwards & back to a whisper. opening the late show, 54-minute DARK STAR > ST. STEPHEN > THE ELEVEN > TURN ON YOUR LOVELIGHT. as drums become more fixed part of DARK STAR, new spaces emerging, like garcia’s alien toned extrapolation, here backing off to give extra jam space to TC. garcia brings slide over to LOVELIGHT. also some gonging. nice drums/guitar breakdowns. one rap culminates in a solid mid-song grunt-fest. gettin’ freaky in mormon country. jam lands into feedback session but tape cuts out after a minute.

4/13/69 boulder: 25-minute (& incomplete) TURN ON YOUR LOVELIGHT opens & takes its sweet time warming up, building to pigpen crowd work to get the vibe on for the evening. a mellow contrast with the busy show-closing version the night before. 54-minute DARK STAR > ST. STEPHEN > THE ELEVEN > DEATH DON’T HAVE NO MERCY. stunning 24-minute DARK STAR with harsh gap during post-verse acceleration. kreutzmann rides cymbal for a bit before bringing in kit for swingin’ bliss jams with garcia, lesh, & weir. breakthrough! while still totally shredding, THE ELEVEN is relaxed, almost laidback, getting quiet in the middle. sweet landing into DEATH DON’T HAVE NO MERCY, perfect dynamic & delightful quiet guitar tones. after almost 2 hours, band takes set break. 14 minutes of ALLIGATOR, with a short garcia/drummers jam, chanting, peaks, & BID YOU GOODNIGHT theme before the tape cuts off.

4/15/69 omaha: presented by radio free omaha. compact HARD TO HANDLE opener effective in new role as pigpen icebreaker, as are a few familiar songs from their first album, including recently-returned BEAT IT ON DOWN THE LINE, confident & driving. another great CHINA CAT SUNFLOWER again downshifts haltingly into DOIN’ THAT RAG, its most frequent destination for the next little while. 27-minute set-closing TURN ON YOUR LOVELIGHT starting to hit marathon proportions, wee bit tiring here. apparently revived a few days previous, 1st taped SITTIN’ ON TOP OF THE WORLD in over a year, the old reliable post-jugband zig-zagger, pretty much unchanged since ’66. love this groove. 29 fuzzy minutes of DARK STAR > ST. STEPHEN > THE ELEVEN before tape runs out. strident garcia throughout. TC comes alive, leaning into organ noise & adding blossoming crystal infinities under garcia arpeggios. quick MAIN TEN theme before 2nd verse.

4/17/69 st. louis: outdoors. tape begins with lost dog announcement & promoter introduction, kreutzmann & hart’s intro dictated by weir: “thumpy & dropstick on drums.” HARD TO HANDLE opener with lyrical garcia slide. “i understand this is tornado weather,” weir says, almost excited. 50-minute DARK STAR > ST. STEPHEN > IT’S A SIN > ST. STEPHEN > TURN ON YOUR LOVELIGHT. dramatic kreutzmann drum entrance in DARK STAR, riding cymbal under feedback/gong, snare snapping in just as garcia starts lyrical solo, the whole jam growing ever more conversational. 1st split-open ST. STEPHEN replaces the “ladyfinger” bridge with IT’S A SIN with pigpen harmonica spotlights. clever, but a little bit of a momentum killer. after the “william tell” ending, they again skip THE ELEVEN, upshifting into LOVELIGHT. after 23-minute THAT’S IT FOR THE OTHER ONE they segue perfectly into CAUTION, which ends after 49 seconds. “they’re taking our road manager to jail if we play any longer, so fuck you…” says phil to the fuzz. more polite so-longs from other band members.

4/18/69 lafayette: indiana debut. experimentalist george stavis opened. wonder if he & garcia interacted? nice spooky film soundtrack playing as band tunes up. no real jam suite, just a smooth & apparently spontaneous phil led segue out of CRYPTICAL ENVELOPMENT into another groovy SITTIN’ ON TOP OF THE WORLD. another marathon 27-minute TURN ON YOUR LOVELIGHT. the 1st taped BEAT IT ON DOWN THE LINE with flexible intro count, 13 beats.

4/20/69 worcester: rescheduled from 4/19. rahsaan roland kirk pulled a gun & demanded to headline. as the band sets up, garcia: “last time we were here, it was a colossal disaster, this time it’ll be worse.” weir: “we gotta start with something good to make it bad.” (apparently it involved multiple power outages.) 44-minute DARK STAR > ST. STEPHEN > THE ELEVEN > DEATH DON’T HAVE NO MERCY. muffled tom toms accent DARK STAR middle before sputnik jam draws in cymbals & pivots briefly to flaring chaos. as 2nd verse is about to drop, garcia adds soft, beautiful melodic thread. acoustic DUPREE’S DIAMOND BLUES & MOUNTAINS OF THE MOON close the set, their 1st time not serving as prelude to DARK STAR & co.. MOUNTAINS gets a short outro solo.

4/21/69 boston: set 1 closes with 22-minute ALLIGATOR > DOIN’ THAT RAG, connected by drum break, garcia/drumzers jam, garcia/lesh/kreutzmann segment, & BID YOU GOODNIGHT theme. garcia keeps turning it around & uses it as half-effective bridge into DOIN’ THAT RAG. short FOXEY LADY tune-up noodle opens 2nd set, instigated by garcia/hart/lesh, i think. 66-minute DARK STAR > ST. STEPHEN > THE ELEVEN > TURN ON YOUR LOVELIGHT. glassy glockenspiel chatter by hart before/during sputnik jam during DARK STAR. brief drums. revived VIOLA LEE BLUES sounding a l’il woozy (or maybe just out of tune) as the encore, though gets better as it goes, finally blowing out into feedback with gonging, garcia leads, more glockenspiel, & TC organ colors before the tape cuts out.

4/22/69 boston: band maybe starting to realize the value of lead with familiar songs, opening 1st set with the recently revived SITTIN’ ON TOP OF THE WORLD & 3 others from the 1st album. they sort of take requests. monitor hassles & feedback-laced DUPREE’S DIAMOND BLUES, then extra-long 81-minute MOUNTAINS OF THE MOON > DARK STAR > ST. STEPHEN > THE ELEVEN > TURN ON YOUR LOVELIGHT. 4th & final time band played this 6-song full-set sequence & a rare repeated setlist. lush 27-minute DARK STAR is longest yet, 9 minutes pre-verse, with quiet drum episode. after pause for mickey’s gong, kreutzmann jumps on kit & everyone surfs. following sputnik jam, lesh hints at CAUTION, band goes abstract, lands drumless, & peaks again before verse 2. 29-minute TURN ON YOUR LOVELIGHT is also the longest yet, getting into band improv, including nice zapped-out garcia & swelling CAUTION jam before final vocal reprise. someone popped a string & sounds like end of show is missing.

4/23/69 boston: a legend-cementing show in boston to close a 3-night midweek run at the ark & begin a new era of setlist hijinks. garcia: “this guy’s gonna make a little speech…”  promoter: “monday night i didn’t know how to introduce the people up here, because i’d never heard them live, [now] i know even better. this is the best fucking rock & roll band in the whole world…” floating HE WAS A FRIEND OF MINE opens. someone requests MORNING DEW. “no,” says garcia to general laughter. requester responds inaudibly. garcia, droll: “fuck you.” phil: “you gotta stick around to hear MORNING DEW.” jerry: “yeah, ’til morning. ha, ha, ha,” & counts off… well-plotted 47-minute DARK STAR > ST. STEPHEN > IT’S A SIN > ST. STEPHEN > THAT’S IT FOR THE OTHER ONE > SITTIN’ ON TOP OF THE WORLD. only hand percussion ’til 2/3 into 21-minute DARK STAR. little cloud of abstract wilding after the sputnik jam. harsh tape flip midway, but ST. STEPHEN drops “william tell” end for 1st time, bridging right to CRYPTICAL ENVELOPMENT. loving the happy bounce of SITTIN’ ON TOP OF THE WORLD as a destination in the jam suite. garcia accedes to request & MORNING DEW opens set 2. big cheers. 48-minute ALLIGATOR > DRUMZ > JAM > THE ELEVEN > CAUTION > BID YOU GOODNIGHT. rare flying mid-jam segue into THE ELEVEN. an audible, i think. drummers cue time signature change with joint pattern. band hits rising chords without single-note figure usually used as pivot. extra-long 17-minute THE ELEVEN with mega-tight post-verse shred jam that turns into a gradual deconstruction into CAUTION by way of melodic garcia & lesh dialogues, a BID YOU GOODNIGHT theme that edges into MOUNTAIN JAM, & more. CAUTION is fantastic, too, peaking big & folding back in half-time for more pigpen, with sweet garcia volume-swells. glockenspiel floats through feedback before BID YOU GOODNIGHT. crowd going just absolutely bananas for encore on a wednesday night in boston. drummers tease at NOT FADE AWAY, but IT’S ALL OVER NOW, BABY BLUE. over-emotive garcia leans into it, starting to turn into a great singer. maybe it’s the new monitor system.

4/25/69 chicago: the battle of the ex-warlocks. 1st of infamous 2 nights with the velvet underground & detroit band SRC. conflicting stories. based on the tape, i have a new theory. popular version is that the velvet underground played an extra-long opening set, leaving the dead only an hour, & that the dead opened 2nd night & retaliated. doug yule tells it several ways: but the tape says… strangely humdrum. 5 of the 6 songs are covers. pigpen gets 2/3 of the mic time. can see serious R&B-head lou reed deeply not digging this. no hint of jams/psychedelia/weirding. forceful 23-minute TURN ON YOUR LOVELIGHT. after LOVELIGHT, weir announces “we’re gonna come back & do a 2nd set in a little while & we’re gonna bring on 2 other real good bands & they’ll blow your minds anyway…” so, based on that… i think the shows were scheduled fillmore-style, alternating acts, with early & late sets for each. on night 1, the dead opened & the velvets played so long that the dead couldn’t do a late set, which (in turn) the dead did to the VU the next night.

4/26/69 chicago: night 2 of the formerly-the-warlocks battle with the velvet underground, in which the dead take their revenge. after the velvet underground blew through the dead’s late set the night before, the dead do the same to the velvet underground. a firsthand report, culled from ye olde dead.net. 21-minute MOUNTAINS OF THE MOON > CHINA CAT SUNFLOWER > DOIN’ THAT RAG. only taped instance of an acoustic/electric transition after MOUNTAINS into anything besides DARK STAR. a nice alt-universe suite, even if it’s barely a segue into DOIN’ THAT RAG. 25-minute CRYPTICAL ENVELOPMENT > THE OTHER ONE > THE ELEVEN > THE OTHER ONE > IT’S A SIN. maybe ‘cuz of impending segue, OTHER ONE is one of 1st to turn inside out, imperceptible A+ time signature shifts. quick 2nd verse, using CRYPTICAL tag as a transition. back-to-back revivals by weir, 1st taped NEW MINGLEWOOD BLUES & SILVER THREADS & GOLDEN NEEDLES since ’66. former is yet another 1st album tune revived. on latter, sounds like garcia’s itchin’ to get home & play his new pedal steel. the shift to LSDC&W begins (again). garcia still can’t quite get all the words to IT’S ALL OVER NOW, BABY BLUE, but singing them with more conviction. really great. ST. STEPHEN again drops “william tell” ending into 33-minute TURN ON YOUR LOVELIGHT, pig & phil doing, uh, crowd work. wild 40-minute VIOLA LEE BLUES > WHAT’S BECOME OF THE BABY > WE BID YOU GOODNIGHT encore. 20-minute VIOLA LEE has fierce CAUTION JAM as last peak before dissolving into feedback, the studio BABY played on top. breathtakingly psychedelic. only done once. kinda like the high harmony part someone (presumably not a band member) is singing off-mic during BID YOU GOODNIGHT.

4/27/69 minneapolis: set bookended by TURN ON YOUR LOVELIGHT, opening with 28-minute LOVELIGHT > ME & MY UNCLE > SITTIN’ ON TOP OF THE WORLD, both perfect segues. 1st taped UNCLE since ’66, maybe closer to rolling ’80s groove than what it would become before that. hour-long DARK STAR > ST. STEPHEN > THE ELEVEN > LOVELIGHT. 26-minute DARK STAR has beautifully developed pre-verse jam(s). post-verse gongs lead into wild kreutzmann-fired space with most celestial TC organ playing yet & new corner after new corner. the 2nd LOVELIGHT is a bit redundant, though does yield more jam pockets than pigpen raps, which is a nice balance change. MORNING DEW on the other hand is a jawdropper. fantastic vocals by garcia.

5/3/69a rocklin: an hour-long afternoon set at the sierra college pop festival, their 1st of 2 gigs that day. some of my fave jerry banter: “we’ll mention that nobody here is made of sugar & nobody will melt if it rains. the worst thing that could happen is that we might be electrocuted en masse & that’s not so bad, shit.” also: “hey man, we’re just hassling up here, can’t you understand? we’re in the middle of a hassle. if you want, you can hassle along with us… this is just life. this is no show. this is the way we live. we’re just hassling here in an attempt to make some simple music.” more great tech break theater, including jerry on phil’s broken strings, eric clapton references, & weir inviting a dog onstage. weir also tells what seems like a puzzling & tasteless joke but i think is connected to real rock & roll lore, though can’t verify weir’s bit. anyway, solid MORNING DEW opener, a favorite of dick latvala. most of set is 25-minute TURN ON YOUR LOVELIGHT with a few gnarly guitar jams & not a whole lotta pig raps. all pretty low stakes, including BABY BLUE & BEAT IT DOWN THE LINE.

5/3/69b winterland: alternating sets with mongo santamaria & the jefferson airplane.
lesh: direct from the sierra pop festival, here’s bill graham.
garcia: direct from bill graham, the gospel truth!
crowd (led by weir?) sings “come all ye faithful… to winterland.”
graham: san francisco’s own seven samurai, the grateful dead…21-minute THAT’S IT FOR THE OTHER ONE with the action shifting from the CRYPTICAL ENVELOPMENT outro to the OTHER ONE middle jam, sailing & diving & thinning out in the middle. muddy tape, but cool garcia dialogues with TC’s B3 & then phil’s bass.

5/7/69 polo field: a wednesday afternoon in golden gate park with the jefferson airplane, just ‘cuz. loose & lovely & audibly lysergic. definitely the end of an era, the last free san francisco park gig ’til ’75. coming out of jam, only hart drums on ME & MY UNCLE. charming garcia announcements about lost kids & found car keys. dude asks heads to stop standing in front of speakers. “aw, go away, ya cop,” sez jerry. much other trippy crosstalk. it’s bill the drummer’s 23rd birthday & he shows up properly late, missing the opener, i think here sporting his pigpen shirt. almost 3 minutes of a mystery instrumental, possibly just improvised. weir starts fingerpicking chord changes & rest of band gradually joins. can anybody identify it? gets cut off as it starts to pick up speed. a tape gap, probably with some songs missing, cutting into 13-minute THE OTHER ONE > SMOKESTACK LIGHTNING. dense pre-verse OTHER ONE peak & thinning in the middle. 1st taped SMOKESTACK LIGHTNING since 3/68, only the ending, perpetual pigpen rarity. 1st taped GOOD LOVIN’ since ’66, with jerry on vocals instead of pig, singer on the utterly manic early versions. the only dead song to have 3 different lead singers at various points. and i think mydland sometimes took verses in the ‘80s, too? 55-minute DARK STAR > DRUMZ > TURN ON YOUR LOVELIGHT to close. languid 1-verse DARK STAR moves adjacent to usual motifs without hitting them directly, veering into many short & melodic garcia pockets, with subtle, supportive vox organ & chiming lead bass.

5/10/69 pasadena: opening for “cream’s farewell concert” movie. a hippie introduces the band, leading the crowd in a long “gong bong,” a breathing exercise to get you hiiiiiiiiiiiiigh “without all the dirty dope.” power failures interrupt HARD TO HANDLE & MORNING DEW & i still dig it more than cream. 72-minute DARK STAR > ST. STEPHEN > THE ELEVEN > TURN ON YOUR LOVELIGHT. mushy sound in parts of DARK STAR, but garcia’s guitar peaks & turns throughout, kreutzmann’s drums flocking around it. before last verse, a quiet space builds back to fierce swirl.

5/11/69 san diego: an afternoon bill (& FM broadcast) with canned heat & santana. raging MORNING DEW opener. 29-minute THAT’S IT FOR THE OTHER ONE > GOOD MORNING LITTLE SCHOOLGIRL with smooth segue & radio crosstalk about canned heat, mostly confirming it at 5/11. 30-minute ALLIGATOR > TURN ON YOUR LOVELIGHT with much of santana seemingly joining. percussion interludes extra drumzers drumzing, making chaos, a vocalist, & supposedly carlos, but i don’t hear him.

5/16/69 morago: a high school in the east bay. not a great set, but good stories. after the grateful dead get hired to play a high school, they open with the most appropriate/inappropriate song in their repertoire, pigpen singing GOOD MORNING LITTLE SCHOOLGIRL. fairly tame set, including a lightly jammed DOIN’ THAT RAG & a 22-minute TURN ON YOUR LOVELIGHT with pig exhorting people to get their thumbs out of their asses. someone’s shouting for ST. STEPHEN. principal supposedly turns lights on mid-song.

5/23/69 hollywood reservation: the  dead headline (i think) the first rock festival held on native american land to avoid local laws, including joe south, muddy waters, & more. another big MORNING DEW. many sets now open with pig/jerry/weir alternation. ME & MY UNCLE is weir’s 1st new cover in a bit & will become band’s most played song ever. always garcia who signals it so far. love the big spaghetti western leads. 68-minute DARK STAR > ST. STEPHEN > THE ELEVEN > TURN ON YOUR LOVELIGHT. languid pre-verse rambles but band jumps confidently into post-verse noise/swell/launching before thinning back out. a few icy, spiky episodes by garcia provide lift-offs. cohesive half-hour LOVELIGHT finale, feeling like an equal balance between big colorful garcia leads & extended pigpen parts, including a cool pig/drummer breakdown.

5/24/69 hollywood reservation: on one hand, the dead seem determined not to repeat what they did the night before. on the other, they open with a 27-minute TURN ON YOUR LOVELIGHT, which they’d played for half an hour to close the previous set. some fun new turns within. alternate universe suite #1: 28-minute HE WAS A FRIEND OF MINE > CHINA CAT SUNFLOWER > THE ELEVEN > DEATH DON’T HAVE NO MERCY, all magic segues. great acceleration into the brightness of CHINA CAT, which opens into (a slightly flat) THE ELEVEN via a different path than ’68. i’ll admit to having a soft spot for weir’s joke about the yellow dog, told during tech breaks, but this is a particularly terrible & painfully slow iteration & rightfully bombs. after he says “shit,” concerned non-dead voice off-mic remarks “did he just swear?” alternate universe suite #2: 24-minute ALLIGATOR > ST. STEPHEN > BID YOU GOODNIGHT is less successful, but still fun. extended ALLIGATOR drumz segment slams into ST. STEPHEN without the chiming intro & exits to feedback without the “william tell” ending.could be wrong, but i think the big rock pow wow was the last time the grateful dead & timothy leary shared a stage. pretty sure i’m not buyin’ anything tim’s selling.

5/30/69 portland, OR: springer’s, a hippie ballroom. ripping: ’77 MORNING DEW. rippinger: ’69 MORNING DEW. another show-opening gong rush. mickey never should’ve gotten rid of it. jerry pops strings. “you can talk amongst yourselves, or maybe it’s ‘talk amongst yourself’ or ‘you can talk to yourself.’” 23-minute DARK STAR > COSMIC CHARLIE. band rushes out into DARK STAR jam, which stays bright (& mildly out of tune), with a fracturing post-sputnik freakout, before ignoring the 2nd verse, dissolving purposefully down to quiet, & back up into COSMIC CHARLIE. 39-minute ST. STEPHEN > THE ELEVEN > TURN ON YOUR LOVELIGHT, cutting off (maybe) at the end. THE ELEVEN gets up into peak flows & LOVELIGHT stays vibrating, bouncing between garcia jams & pigpen scenes. once again, from michael lydon’s great 1969 rolling stone cover feature.

5/31/69 eugene: 1st recorded COLD RAIN & SNOW since 10/67, pretty much still in early/speedy LP form with pronounced guitar break. long tech hassle with ken babbs stand-up babble. “remember, there’s more of us in this room than anybody else!” student tries to get people to dance.
garcia: it’s free turf. anybody can do anything they wanna do.
babbs: we can take it, we’ve been stoned!
garcia: *been*?
shift continues: 1st tape of weir doing curly putman’s GREEN, GREEN GRASS OF HOME, c&w hit in ’65 for porter wagoner, global #1 in ’66 for tom jones, & solid lol about weed for heads in ’69. tape sez garcia’s playing pedal steel, but it’s just faux steel licks on 6-string. 20-minute THAT’S IT FOR THE OTHER ONE > SITTIN’ ON TOP OF THE WORLD. properly berserker THE OTHER ONE jam, starting to explode outwards from the middle of its suite. prankster chaos continues throughout, people shouting onstage during music. babbs grabs mic during 30-minute TURN ON YOUR LOVELIGHT with decidedly mixed results, though occasionally amusing crosstalk. 2nd set opens with (i think) the longest ever HE WAS A FRIEND OF MINE, almost 15 minutes. occasional windows of sweet & brilliant garcia solos, but whole jam never quite comes into focus, or perhaps tune. 29-minute DARK STAR > DOIN’ THAT RAG. free drummin’ post-verse weirdness opens into crisp-phrased sputnik jam & further abstractions. babbs’s voice occasionally pokes through as jam coalesces prettily. tape cuts before DOIN’ THAT RAG jam & the segues might continue. some spun prankster (not kesey or babbs, i don’t think) takes the mic at the beginning of IT’S ALL OVER NOW BABY BLUE for pseudo-heavy rap & tries to sing with garcia throughout. not a keeper take.

6/69 pacific high recording (maybe): jerry garcia solo demo featuring 3 future grateful dead classics, all debuted that june & included on “workingman’s dead” the following year. garcia & robert hunter’s 1st real forays into americana. all 3 songs are breakthroughs in different ways & begin a new, simpler phase in garcia & hunter’s songwriting. a few takes of DIRE WOLF. some are pretty chipper, garcia overdubbing spritely & fluid acoustic leads. only one pass through CASEY JONES, garcia & hunter’s update of the old ballad. fully formed, intro lick already there. a few subtly different flourishes, jerry shifting into a sweet & winning falsetto in places. love the folk feel, before the dead made it gigantic. a 5-minute blues instrumental with garcia overdubbing slide guitar. generic, but with enough chord changes that it sounds like a song sketch. unfinished garcia, but not terribly compelling either. HIGH TIME is another major new move for garcia & hunter, a relationship song that’s neither psychedelia nor overtly building on folk tradition. more forceful than the fragile dead versions to come. also new: garcia’s beautifully wounded, quiet vocals. will be more fragile & beautiful when it slows down even more. #deadfreaksunite [x/x]

6/5/69 fillmore west: opening an eventful 4-night run at the fillmore west, alternating sets with jr. walker & warner bros. labelmates the glass family. early show closes with 25-minute THAT’S IT FOR THE OTHER ONE, another wild middle jam, but the CRYPTICAL ENVELOPMENT outro is still where the jam’s at, with an unusual & patient organ-padded section early on & soaring upwards from there. sweet landing. alternate universe mini-suite: punchy 8-minute CHINA CAT SUNFLOWER > SITTIN’ ON TOP OF THE WORLD. the segue works just exactly dandily & the jug/folk/rock destination is similar in concept to I KNOW YOU RIDER if not quite as cathartic. 67-minute DARK STAR > ST. STEPHEN > THE ELEVEN > TURN ON YOUR LOVELIGHT. DARK STAR continues to dissolve earlier pathways, weir adding great mini-leads during post-verse jam, contributing to peak. THE ELEVEN ends with thoughtful, quiet conversation.

6/6/69 fillmore west: the night jerry garcia showed up late & bill graham made the band go on with another guitarist, ome of many random june ’69 guest appearances. probably. the result is a preview of dead & co., garcia replaced by a blues hammer, in this case wayne ceballos of aum. after SMOKESTACK LIGHTNING, people shouting “where’s garcia?” lesh: “[we’re] sadly depleted…” in response to crowd, “well, one guitar player’s pretty much like another.” ceballos joins ragged BEAT IT ON DOWN THE LINE & leads sonny boy williamson’s CHECKIN’ UP ON MY BABY. bulk of set is interminable 47-minute TURN ON YOUR LOVELIGHT. garcia returns midway through. maybe. hard to tell what’s going on, but sounds like a mega-jam to me, at times bordering on a shreds video.

6/7/69 fillmore west: show begins with live debut of DIRE WOLF, mostly just a peppy solo acoustic performance by garcia with the band (kinda) following. MOUNTAINS OF THE MOON set ups the DARK STAR suite for the 8th & final time, one ending of the “live/dead” era. 46-minute DARK STAR > ST. STEPHEN > THE ELEVEN > SITTIN’ ON TOP OF THE WORLD, DEATH DON’T HAVE NO MERCY maybe missing between last two. dreamy but rapt DARK STAR intro. post-verse slashes, weir digs into sputnik jam. nearly solo garcia space feeds into outro variations. boffo entrance to THE ELEVEN, fierce & detailed, as is SITTIN’ ON TOP OF THE WORLD, its last version serving jam-suite duties ’til ’72. janis joplin comes out for concise, screamodelic 20-minute TURN ON YOUR LOVELIGHT, one of 2 tapes of her with the dead. lots of sweet & funny answer vocals between janis & pig. not transcendent but better than the other guest versions from this run.

6/8/69 fillmore west: an infamous show in internal band lore. the most fun set of the run, before garcia & lesh (& others) get too dosed & sit out much of the late show. early set opens with 13-minute DANCING IN THE STREET, 1st since spring ’68. drummers are ready, locking in immediately. jam gets deep & bright, garcia pulling out neon threads, weir working gear shift, band moving together. slowed-down mutant reentry. no real segues, but set keeps flowing. HE WAS A FRIEND OF MINE is perfect, with languid garcia phrasings. last recorded version of NEW POTATO CABOOSE, 13 minutes & a doozy. some grunge, but bass jam surges into sustained bliss exactly as designed. vocals almost sound okay. late show is a mess, multiple accounts of LSD-dosed apple juice below. on tape, it begins with 36-minute TURN ON YOUR LOVELIGHT fronted by aum’s wayne ceballos, elvin bishop on guitar. tag-team superjam features some decent chaos & probably increasingly fewer dead members. elvin bishop & pig duet on THE THINGS I USED TO DO & WHO’S LOVING YOU TONIGHT, with the dead drummers & probably other musicians, before garcia rematerializes for slightly woozy but happening 21-minute THAT’S IT FOR THE OTHER ONE > COSMIC CHARLIE. multiple people dosed the apple juice at the 6/8/69 dead show with an estimated $50,000 worth of LSD crystal, led by notorious acid dealer goldfinger. unsurprisingly, accounts differ. first up is from dennis mcnally’s official bio. a long account of the 6/8/69 dosing by phil lesh, from his memoir. jerry garcia & mountain girl remember the 6/8/69 mega-dosing to dennis mcnally (in “jerry on jerry”), the bad trip that would inspire robert hunter to write “black peter” (& stop doing LSD for a while), & perhaps the story of CSN’s true influence on the grateful dead, when garcia/hunter listened to the band’s first album over & over as hunter was coming down.

6/11/69 california hall: most of the grateful dead at san francisco’s california hall, at a scientology-related benefit, billed as bobby ace & the cards from the bottom of the deck. no tape, but a songlist exists from an early deadhead whose other lists match up to tapes. a prototype of the new riders of the purple sage, one of jerry garcia’s first outings playing the pedal steel, besides coffeehouse gigs with john dawson, playing a slew of songs that would make their way to dead sets soon & a bunch that wouldn’t. the show was a “quasi-benefit” for… scientology. according to dennis mcnally’s bio, weir was ending his brief dalliance under TC’s tutelage & was exiting with a benefit to, uh, get clear.

6/13/69 fresno: everything is a bit frayed. nice to hear TC’s keyboards distinct in the mix during an otherwise sloppy HARD TO HANDLE, though. maybe he’d’ve been better served by a rhodes, or something more percussive? aum’s wayne ceballos comes out for GOOD MORNING LITTLE SCHOOLGIRL, not ronnie hawkins, despite deadbase’s claims. 15-minute CHINA CAT SUNFLOWER > MORNING DEW settles down easily, but DEW loses some oomph without the dramatic gong intro. with no DARK STAR, a 42-minute ST. STEPHEN > THE ELEVEN > TURN ON YOUR LOVELIGHT. could be the recording, but feeling a little edgeless. ceballos & sanpaku flautist gary larkey (probably) hang for LOVELIGHT.

6/14/69 monterey: in the college gymnasium at @mpcmonterey, with aum & the bitter seeds the 1st “electric” DIRE WOLF, mostly garcia solo again, guitar a bit out of tune. lesh picks it up as it goes along, the drummers accent occasionally. except for the great new song in the middle, just an absolute mess, really. 53-minute DARK STAR > ST. STEPHEN > THE ELEVEN > TURN ON YOUR LOVELIGHT. pre-verse DARK STAR jam is big & assertive over hand percussion, chunky & rhythmic garcia leads, hard-fuzzed (with aggressive lesh) as drums enter. wayne ceballos of aum comes out again for LOVELIGHT, the 4th time in a week, & doesn’t add a whole lot. mercifully short, with a 5-minute drum break (plus chanting).

6/20/69 fillmore east: a 2-night stand at the fillmore east with savoy brown, the buddy miles express, & @joshualightshow, celebrating the release of “aoxomoxoa” & instead debuting a virtually new grateful dead. it’s not bill graham introducing the band. instead of the nitrous-hosed psychedelia from their brand new album, the band opens their big NYC gig with george jones’s OLD, OLD HOUSE, sung by bob weir. garcia’s on pedal steel for the 1st time with the dead. nice! one of two known dead versions. garcia on pedal steel for DIRE WOLF, too, 1st version of briefly lived arrangement with weir on lead vocals. he & the song sound great except for weir’s affected cowboy drawl. garcia’s back on 6-string for debut of merle haggard’s MAMA TRIED, sung by weir, playing acoustic. then, holy crap, the 1st version of garcia & robert hunter’s HIGH TIME. garcia’s vocals sound almost perfect & fragile & quiet, jumping easily into upper registers. a spare drum part that sometimes seems almost non-existent. weir’s harmonies are rough but sweet. eventually, they get to DUPREE’S DIAMOND BLUES, the 1st song of 2 songs featured from the new album. garcia calls his 12-string a “dozen wire.” 52-minute DARK STAR > ST. STEPHEN > THE ELEVEN > TURN ON YOUR LOVELIGHT. DARK STAR itself is missing a chunk, not even 8 minutes. perhaps because of a popped string, garcia switches to an acoustic during one of the LOVELIGHT breaks & it sounds boss.

6/21/69 fillmore east: GREEN, GREEN GRASS OF HOME opens, garcia on pedal steel. “there’ll be a brief pause while we allow you to consider the new development,” he notes. no one shouts “judas!” but there’s some chatter in the room. wish the audience tape was less muffled! ME & MY UNCLE makes a lot more musical sense in a set with pedal steel & songs like HIGH TIME, which is sublime even on this shitty tape. garcia’s voice & TC’s keyboards whisper through the murk. starting to build transitions from americana to psychedelia. 13-minute CHINA CAT SUNFLOWER > MORNING DEW, a more forced segue than the other iteration of this combo, the latter getting polite applause when it starts. (also an indication of how polite/quiet the crowd is the rest of the time.) 22-minute ALLIGATOR > DRUMZ > THE OTHER ONE > CRYPTICAL ENVELOPMENT > OL’ SLEW-FOOT is perfectly mid-’69. engaging post-DRUMZ jam continues into deep OTHER ONE. a big tape flip in CRYPTICAL, but comes back in time to catch garcia switching over to pedal steel & weir counting off into the 1st recorded version of crockett/webb’s OL’ SLEW-FOOT, probably picked up via porter wagoner. wild steel licks.

6/22/69 central park bandshell: a sunday in the park with the grateful dead, their last free show there, appearing each june since ’67 at the naumberg bandshell. legendary show for the parkies, the LSD-dealing graffiti artist longhairs who hung around the bandshell throughout the ‘70s, because it was the day owsley came to the park. 12-minute DANCING IN THE STREET opener is all sunshine despite the fuzziness. the 1st recorded CASEY JONES, presumably debuted during an untaped set at the fillmore east over weekend, floating in on a jam that sounds like a slightly brisker ROW JIMMY. sounds more familiar by the time the ending ramps up. 1st taped SILVER THREADS & GOLDEN NEEDLES with garcia on pedal steel, sparkling through the audience tape guck. weir & lesh’s harmonies sounding a little better. 30-minute DARK STAR > THE OTHER ONE > ST. STEPHEN > IT’S A SIN with some tape cuts/fades. DARK STAR pre-verse jam gets down to stark garcia/lesh space, with quick post-verse shift into 1st OTHER ONE fully severed from CRYPTICAL ENVELOPMENT segments. using OTHER ONE end tag, band lands in ST. STEPHEN, leaving it unfinished & shifting into IT’S A SIN at the “ladyfinger” bridge, before 22-minute TURN ON YOUR LOVELIGHT closer. there will be rumors of free dead shows in central park for years to come. #deadfreaksunite [6/6]

6/27/69 santa rosa: with an unnamed prototype of hot tuna & the cleanliness & godliness skiffle band. 1st 9 songs all drawing from folk/americana, almost all new or revived in the past 2 months, featuring occasional acoustic guitar/pedal steel/guests, before shifting over to psychedelia. a little kid introduces the band, “from good ol’ san francisco, the good ol’ grateful dead.” opening OL’ SLEW-FOOT features pete grant on banjo, an old garcia buddy from the palo alto scene. marmaduke might be singing, too? i adore garcia’s harmony on MAMA TRIED. per @corry342, cleanliness & godliness’s tom ralston subbed for a delayed mickey hart early in the show. to my ears, only MAMA TRIED sounds like it has extra percussion. (garcia played pedal steel with c&g, too.) 2nd taped version of CASEY JONES, again starting with short jam, garcia still figuring out intro lick. but vocals come in so forcefully that it’s a surprise not to hear the crowd cheer in recognition. some rhythmic discombobulation & extra chords, but shaping up quickly. in the context of all the other folkiness, the 1st taped version of pigpen doing BIG BOSS MAN since early ’67 plays like a labor song (which it totally is!) & a seemingly clear antecedent to EASY WIND. cool, loose feel. but they’re still weirdos: 40-minute DARK STAR > ST. STEPHEN > THE ELEVEN JAM > GREEN, GREEN GRASS OF HOME. long DARK STAR has rhythmic swells & post-verse flows. hart’s jackhammer snare pushes up/out, lesh teases LOVELIGHT, weir hits new patterns, & all land gracefully. once again, the band exits from psychedelia with garcia shifting to pedal steel for a weir c&w tune, getting as far as THE ELEVEN transition jam before attempting a crossfade into GREEN, GREEN GRASS. IT’S ALL OVER NOW BABY BLUE going well before tape cut.

6/28/69 santa rosa: chaos prevails as show starts, bordering on a hootenanny. phil introduces OL’ SLEW-FOOT winking to owsley: “this song is about bear drops. does a bear drop in the woods, that is the question?” pedal steel, pete grant on banjo, onstage fireworks. grant plays banjo for 1st few songs, mostly inaudible. enjoying the bright combo of the pedal steel & TC’s glassy keyboards, though. someone is audibly talked down from setting off further fireworks. a voice off-mic, maybe jerry, “you see what they were going to light?!” garcia switches back to electric for MAMA TRIED, played extra slow (yes, slower than the recent dead & bro debut), which sounds nice in places but doesn’t quite hold together. maybe it would with pedal steel? john “marmaduke” dawson doubles weir on ME & MY UNCLE with his odd, high voice, which almost kinda works. it’s marmaduke’s 1st official appearance with the dead. garcia’s been backing him on pedal steel at coffeehouses, soon to be the new riders of the purple sage. no real psychedelic jams & just one song from their brand new album, DOIN’ THAT RAG. only improv is a 28-minute TURN ON YOUR LOVELIGHT closer, pulling out all the stops, downshifting into a mini swing episode. many electric garcia shreds en route.

7/3/69 colorado springs: sharing a bill at reed’s ranch with alice cooper & beginning an 11-day jaunt to the east coast. indoors, despite the venue name. a 90-minute set opening with another pedal steel double-shot. 2 c&w covers by weir that never made it into the dead’s canon (& are ignored by even deep cut cover bands): SLEWFOOT & GREEN GREEN GRASS OF HOME. zero songs from the last 2 albums. hart (audibly) playing kit on HIGH TIME for 1st time & wow is it a mess. sweetest jam is melodious & bittersweet 13-minute HE WAS A FRIEND OF MINE, a keeper. unusually, TC leads start of 27-minute TURN ON YOUR LOVELIGHT jam, which goes off the rails in a mostly good way around halfway through, into propulsive guitar, but can’t quite recover the groove or momentum for the finale.

7/4/69 chicago: with the buddy miles express & the sir douglas quintet at the kinetic playground. owsley is not having it anymore with weir’s lame jokes, pausing the tape in the middle of the yellow dog story & later during some other joke that i don’t think i’ve heard on another tape. two pedal steel double-shots, including the late set debut of gene crysler’s 1966 song LET ME IN, sung by weir, learned (as usual) via porter wagoner. onstage firecrackers (by mickey?) during OL’ SLEW-FOOT, effective & dramatic from a psychedelic/musique concrète POV. using the post-verse tag, THE OTHER ONE lands in HIGH TIME, replacing the CRYPTICAL ENVELOPMENT outro. an early iteration of a garcia ballad following a big frothing jam. i like TC’s chugging organ on the still-developing CASEY JONES. weir watch: “someone in the front row is wearing a heapload of suntan oil & it sure smells weird up here & i thought i’d tell you.” ST. STEPHEN drops “william tell” ending & jumps right to 25-minute TURN ON YOUR LOVELIGHT, more firecrackers, though no sign anyone realizes it’s july 4th. it could easily be someone lighting shit on fire just ‘cuz, shockingly common at ‘60s dead shows.

7/5/69 chicago: after crashing MORNING DEW opener, 44-minute DARK STAR > ST. STEPHEN > THE ELEVEN > IT’S ALL OVER NOW BABY BLUE. DARK STAR folds into sparse, questioning abstraction after sputnik jam. less a segue than a dissolve into a lovely but hissy/garbled BABY BLUE. the CHINA CAT SUNFLOWER jam keeps getting more raging & the band is still looking for a destination, trying out songs like puzzle pieces. tonight, it’s HIGH TIME. nope, next! another slow MAMA TRIED. mega-extended TURN ON YOUR LOVELIGHT feels like its own country, 34 minutes tonight, with cool improvised bridge/turnaround that pig latches onto.

7/7/69 atlanta: for free in atlanta’s piedmont park with spirit, chicago, allman brothers, & hampton grease band. the dead’s 1st gig anywhere between virginia & florida. the day after the atlanta pop festival, many of the bands play in piedmont park. the dead didn’t play atlanta pop, but show up & close the night with a 2-hour set anyway. another big MORNING DEW opener relies more on the band’s propulsive groove than garcia’s dramatic solos, though they’re that, too. garcia hits big vocal notes in HIGH TIME, his range almost audibly expanding. crowd is audibly way into it, with big cheers/claps at DARK STAR’s peaks &, later on, a few different spontaneous chants & clapalongs during TURN ON YOUR LOVELIGHT. monster 84-minute DARK STAR > ST. STEPHEN > THE ELEVEN > TURN ON YOUR LOVELIGHT. lush 27-minute DARK STAR, half before 1st verse, weir & lesh planet-hopping with garcia from the start & avoiding the usual byways. chaotic but awesome 37-minute LOVELIGHT finale has gregg allman on keys, probably duane on guitar, & perhaps the hampton grease band, spirit, & chicago horns. cool “shine on me” harmony. l’il breakthrough for pig, drawing out many new & unfamiliar phrases.

7/11/69 new york state pavilion: on the site of the 1964 world’s fair in queens, across from shea stadium. the closest thing to an east coast acid test, according to nyc dead freaks. long tech break to begin the tape, in case anybody is making a mix of weir’s nonlinear jokes. garcia on 12-string electric for opening DUPREE’S DIAMOND BLUES & DIRE WOLF. last DUPREE’S ’til 1977 revival. garcia reclaims the DIRE WOLF lead vocals from weir with gusto, no longer playing pedal steel. but HARD TO HANDLE features garcia on pedal steel for the only time, a lovely twist. CASEY JONES allllmost has intro lick in place. fun alternate suite: 52-minute ALLIGATOR > THE OTHER ONE > DEATH DON’T HAVE NO MERCY > TURN ON YOUR LOVELIGHT. nearly 15 minutes of garcia shreds after ALLIGATOR drum break, twisting into triplets. LOVELIGHT cuts after 8 minutes & could conceivably be 4x longer.

7/12/69 new york state pavilion: last tape with a pedal steel segment to open. fare thee well to MOUNTAINS OF THE MOON, too, the last recorded version, & the only one with a jam, gentle & modal. too bad about tape quality. can occasionally hear jets whooshing over from LGA. 11-minute CHINA CAT SUNFLOWER > MAMA TRIED. because of the tape quality, severely underrated CHINA CAT with extended intro & perfect segue out of the now-familiarly raging jam. the 2nd c&w/folk tune to work in the slot, MAMA TRIED is now creeping back to a faster tempo. 61-minute DARK STAR > THE OTHER ONE > ST. STEPHEN > THE ELEVEN > TURN ON YOUR LOVELIGHT. DARK STAR drops in post-verse, kreutzmann already on drum kit, good swells, sputnik jam that sounds headed to the second verse, but swerves into THE OTHER ONE instead. after THE OTHER ONE post-verse tag, someone onstage (phil?) shouts for more DARK STAR, but garcia’s already into the ST. STEPHEN intro. shouty & participatory LOVELIGHT, with pig pulling people onto the mic, including mickey hart.

8/1/69 family dog: on his 27th birthday, jerry garcia refuses to cross the picket line of the light artists’ guild strike at the family dog. the dead play without him. garcia & others retreat to van, smoke jerry’s “superweed,” & plan community meetings for DIY scene. the subsequent meetings, “the commons,” are part of a complex summer in san francisco, including the conception, planning, collapse & cancellation (!) of the utopian wild west festival. to be held in golden gate park, it would’ve rivaled woodstock. according to one news report in local paper good times, the dead (minus garcia & hart) played a set, “jamming with two flautists from the audience & a conga drummer off the beach.” the meetings go well enough until jawdropping blow-out between local spiritual guru stephen gaskin & promoter bill graham.

8/2/69 family dog: with the light show strike suspended, the grateful dead make their full debut at the family dog at the great highway, the collective’s new venue in old ballroom at playland by the sea, on the ocean “at the edge of the western world.” a fun & confident set, the new songs are both tight & playful. opening CASEY JONES is filled with forceful miniature jams, lots of TC’s keys. HARD TO HANDLE warps & woofs conversationally. david nelson adds b-bender solos to MAMA TRIED & SLEW-FOOT. pedal steel mini set features the dead debut of george jones’s SEASONS OF MY HEART, TC gamely adding some lovely organ colors. garcia gets a sweet dive-bombing fuzz tone for 2nd half of his OL’ SLEW-FOOT solo. only out jam is 25-minute THAT’S IT FOR THE OTHER ONE, though the most psychedelic part of the recording is when tape-heads go amiss near peak of 27-minute TURN ON YOUR LOVELIGHT, leading to some far-out whooshing & image distortion.

8/3/69 family dog: a violinist & saxophonist join, identified by deadbase as david laflamme + charles lloyd respectively, but almost certainly neither. “hey, the bear’s got a banjo,” garcia remarks before 1st song. (“get away with that thing!” someone adds.) owsley did own a banjo. his copy of pete seeger’s “how to play the 5-string banjo” with his name inscribed is now in ned lagin’s collection. maybe he wanted to jam? violinist plays on nearly every song, fitting in casually, starting with opening HARD TO HANDLE. A+ chaos, especially BEAT IT ON DOWN THE LINE (with 28-beat intro), a candidate for mickey hart’s most wonderfully anarchic drum performance. sax joins for 1st taped dead version of HI-HEELED SNEAKERS since ’66, garcia & pig sharing vocals, violin adding hot jazz vibes. violinist stays for HIGH TIME. sure sounds like a rumbling synth in places, too, but how? fuzzed b-bender solo by david nelson on MAMA TRIED. a ranging, raging 72-minute DARK STAR > ALLIGATOR > THE OTHER ONE > CAUTION > BID YOU GOODNIGHT with the saxophonist & violinist, who both seem to know what they’re doing & fit shockingly well. besides side jams, the 1st time anyone’s joined for DARK STAR. 23-minute DARK STAR has full sputnik meltdown before 1st verse. the usual motifs are there, but guests drive new textures & new peaks. the saxophonist spins around garcia & adds active themes in every zone. violin is more atmospheric, but usually on point. who are they?! OTHER ONE continues epic hippie-jazz free melts. sax gets honky but freaky as jam deconstructs, almost floats back to DARK STAR, & becomes fire music as CAUTION erupts. americana themes by guests in last feedback swirls before garcia reclaims stage.

8/16/69 white lake: after mountain & before credence clearwater revival. @andyzax & @briankehew’s new mix of the dead’s woodstock set features 14 new minutes of pristine stage chaos before & after the music. chip monck & ken babbs tag team on the mic. can’t hear getting weir getting knocked by shocks from the microphone, but hear some of his complaints. “kinda zappy up here.” great pre-set raps by babbs, tripping face, including a nice “this land is your land” reference.” terrible dead set. 1st ever show-opening ST. STEPHEN. weir skips 2nd verse & garcia follows before fizzling into sleepy MAMA TRIED at “ladyfinger” bridge, inexplicable even on film. were they going to segue back? was it a tech issue? was jerry too high & forgot? on a pure chaos level, the woodstock tape is highly entertaining, if awkward. babbs, keeping together relatively well, tries to hold crowd during 11-minute break. most of his psychedelic raps stop landing, but still less insufferable than monck. country joe offers an acid warning. excellent stoned crosstalk with weir & owsley as they try get the microphones on. weir also starts to tell the YELLOW DOG STORY but doesn’t get going, which is surely for the best. fashion watch: garcia wore his faded pigpen shirt. only 19-minute DARK STAR gels, halfway through, sliding into a dazzling post-verse jam with bright garcia/lesh/kreutzmann peaks but skipping 2nd verse & petering into HIGH TIME. ambitiously quiet song under circumstances. walkie talkie chatter via lesh’s bass. as band kicks into interminable 37-minute TURN ON YOUR LOVELIGHT, rando grabs mic & starts trip-babbling about “the third coast,” interrupting pigpen. for a rando, he’s kinda great! ken babbs sez he led the dude away by dangling a joint like a carrot.

8/20/69 seattle: rained out at the seattle aqua theater, the dead play their 1st post-woodstock show at el roach, a local bar & “favorite movement hangout,” according to the seattle helix. no tape.

8/21/69 seattle: playing in front of a moat. rained out the night before & rescheduled. 1st co-bill with the new riders of the purple sage. 1st taped version of EASY WIND, sung by pigpen. 1st dead song written solely by robert hunter, band alternating between a pair of rolling blues grooves. fantastic HIGH TIME, garcia singing confidently, group vocals/harmonies coming together. rare NEW MINGLEWOOD BLUES, the last taped version ’til 5/70, featuring sanpaku’s gary lackey on flute & vocalizin’. lackey sticks around through CHINA CAT SUNFLOWER, staying enthused, a very period sound. ultra-compact 29-minute THAT’S IT FOR THE OTHER ONE > DARK STAR > COSMIC CHARLIE. DARK STAR is shortest of the era. with both verses & no apparent cuts, it doesn’t break 7 minutes, though the jam flows & finds a quiet destination. like an update to the 7-inch version. the real news is that the slow version of COSMIC CHARLIE is finally working, with confident vocals & tight playing, as well as a good tape flutter dissolve at the end. a virtual b-side to DARK STAR.

8/23/69 mount st. helens: the tiny & entirely forgotten bullfrog 2 festival, featuring the dead, taj mahal, & a bunch of bands that sound like they were invented by thomas pynchon. assume new colony is not new colony six?  a week after woodstock, another festival set that’s way better. again, very present organ playing by TC; HARD TO HANDLE solo underscores its similarities to the VIOLA LEE BLUES groove. rare dedication by pigpen, “for calypso joe, from new york.” intro lick now in place, the last appearance of the looser CASEY JONES with pre-verse solo & mini jams. 2nd EASY WIND swerves into blues-choogle & crosses the 10-minute mark. they’ll rein it in soon. 73-minute DARK STAR > ST. STEPHEN > THE ELEVEN > TURN ON YOUR LOVELIGHT. long DARK STAR has important new move, dropping the pulse & going free/percussionless after the 1st verse, then voiding, gonging, arpeggiating, building, surfing, peaking, peaking, peaking. 27-minute LOVELIGHT seems somehow reasonable, with inventive pockets & grooves before pigpen turns over the mic to randos & then it’s less interesting. perhaps the new post-woodstock policy of allowing randos their turn?

8/28/69 family dog: a thursday afternoon jam session at the family dog, minus TC & pigpen. making his first appearance on a dead-related tape, a.b. skhy’s howard wales on organ, soon a regular garcia collaborator. band warms up with 2 early dead standards, IT’S A SIN & HI-HEELED SNEAKERS. not coincidentally, both soon jump into the garcia solo songbook. wales is hyperactive, almost cartoonishly shreddy. 64-minute DARK STAR > THE ELEVEN JAM. wales runs rampant over song parts (& even over garcia), short circuits usual jam patterns & kicks band into wild new spaces. the least deferential guest ever. occasional dead air, but mostly busy mad scientist inventions. there’s a mystery flute player in the mix, too, but virtually impossible to hear. wonder if it’s the same mystery flute player as 8/3? once owsley levels the mix & garcia starts following wales, zig-zag improv thrills ensue, wales & garcia clearly finding conversational ground.

8/29/69 family dog: with the new riders of the purple sage, the rubber duck co., & commander cody, with bands alternating sets from stages on opposite sides of the room. CASEY JONES tightens up. still a bit of a mini jam, but mostly hard charging confidence. (maybe too confident in the case of mickey’s chattering cowbell midway through.) screams for HEY JUDE are met with giggles. “HEY JUDE is a lost cause,” weir says. “the first request that blows our mind, we’ll do,” offers jerry, which yields an exuberant (& short) medley of early dead/warlocks covers: 11-minute NEW ORLEANS > SEARCHIN’ > GOOD LOVIN’. gary “u.s.” bonds’s NEW ORLEANS is solid, great dual lead by weir & pigpen. too bad it didn’t stick around. 1st recorded SEARCHIN’ comes back raucously, too. lesh charges into GOOD LOVIN’ but garcia takes over. the old crazed jerry-sung version. 1st taped DIRE WOLF since the july east coast tour, slowed down slightly & with less of a rock feel. sung solo by jerry, again with no harmonies. skittering drums, but closer to its familiar & comfortable form. messy but quite charming. 30-minute TURN ON YOUR LOVELIGHT is great for half. rare instance of pigpen trying to get the crowd to shout louder. seems to be ending for, like, 10 minutes. “thanks for keeping us high,” jerry says genuinely.

8/30/69 family dog: kinda iffy performance for the most part. the last of 5 pretty awkward CHINA CAT SUNFLOWER > DOIN’ THAT RAG pairings. they’ll get there yet! 54-minute DARK STAR > ST. STEPHEN > ELEVEN JAM > DRUMZ > HIGH TIME. another pathbreaking DARK STAR, dropping pulse & building from silence towards gorgeous melodies. garcia pops string & weir jams briefly on TIGHTEN UP, 1st of several great DARK STAR themes over next years. sweet feedback solo by garcia before last verses of ST. STEPHEN. after the “william tell” outro, band shifts time signature but loses the thread despite lesh’s attempts to steer. confused DRUMZ segment lands in not-fully-convincing HIGH TIME.

9/1/69 prairieville: the new orleans pop festival, held at the international speedway near baton rouge, playing after lee michaels & before the jefferson airplane. labor day festival set in front of ~25,000 people. perhaps the most passive-aggressive stage intro ever: “if you will, one of the slowest fucking groups, but one of the finest in the world, the grateful dead…” mostly quite compact, including an enthused CASEY JONES opener. one of the only versions of EASY WIND played anywhere near an actual bayou. still tightening, but swells to convincing swampiness. 60-minute DARK STAR > ST. STEPHEN > THE ELEVEN > TURN ON YOUR LOVELIGHT. DARK STAR drops briefly to pulselessness after the verse but doesn’t quite find a coherent path back to the peak, though nice garcia/TC conversation. during LOVELIGHT (& i might be reading too literally) pigpen seems to attribute the “wake up in the mornin’ ‘bout a quarter-to-five” bit of his rap to chuck berry, perhaps “reelin’ & rockin’.”

9/6/69 family dog: a surprise show with the jefferson airplane at the family dog. more craziness out by the pacific. a few warm-up tunes, including rare HE WAS A FRIEND OF MINE & then a bunch of warlocks-style rarities, goofing around & half-accidentally workshopping. 1st taped BIG BOY PETE since ’66, olympics cover with exuberant group vocal by jerry/pigpen/weir. sharpest of the ’69 garcia-sung GOOD LOVIN’s. 1st ALL OVER NOW maybe since ’66, band figures it out onstage. much like the late ‘70s versions, but with more swingin’ drums. 1st “modern” NOT FADE AWAY, led by weir with pigpen on harmonica. pulled out earlier in the year at manic ’66 speed, it slows down enough to emphasize the pulse. garcia hits bliss zones before an almost-crisp pullback segue into EASY WIND. MIDNIGHT HOUR also returns to rotation in the closer slot, 1st on tape since 8/68. not a super snappy version, but pigpen does some heavy crowd-work, apparently targeting anyone sitting on the floor. according to this intel by somebody who worked at the family dog, the bands played on the venue’s two stages at the opposite sides of the room & then jammed back & forth from them. maybe that’s what happens at the end, but i’m skeptical. triumphant post-woodstock jefferson airplane in a small club. powerful at times. closer is frequently enthralling 30-minute VOLUNTEERS with garcia & hart, apparently longest jam in taped airplane history. spencer dryden is a monster! what a great drummer.

9/7/69 family dog: delightful sunday hang with members of the grateful dead & the jefferson airplane at the family dog, playing oldies & oddities. no real noodles, just rock songs! garcia/kaukonen/casady/kreutzmann/covington, if i had to guess. loving the garcia/kaukonen vocal tandem on buddy holly’s PEGGY SUE & jimmy reed’s BABY WHAT DO YOU WANT ME TO DO & garcia’s solo vocals on THAT’LL BE THE DAY & JOHNNY B. GOODE. only times for all of them, i think. garcia asks for requests, someone calls for WIPE OUT, & the drummers & garcia launch into a big surf rumble that’s not quite WIPE OUT but all fun. lands (briefly) in a fragment of BIG RAILROAD BLUES, which would jump into the dead repertoire the next year. things are petering out by the time someone (joey covington, supposedly) takes the mic for garage-slop 6-minute LOUIE LOUIE > TWIST & SHOUT > BLUE MOON. the latter is a chill coda, led by jorma, i think. miraculous how concise everything is.

9/17/69 alembic: rehearsal at alembic, the new sound workshop in novato inspired by owsley & still one of the world’s premier guitar/bass makers. tape begins with garcia, lesh, & constanten (i think) running through a generic R&B instrumental that would sound like a vamp if not for lesh shouting out occasional section changes. run-throughs, arrangement, & 3-part harmony work on 2 songs with garcia on pedal steel, SEASONS OF MY HEART & mel tillis’s SAWMILL. garcia will soon abandon trying to sing & play pedal steel at the same time, but not yet. band spends half-hour figuring out themes & tags from various classic cartoons & get deep into it, some with pedal steel, presumably as many joints circulate. TC excels. a lot of extremely quality garcia giggles, as entertaining as the music. 20 minutes of slowing the tempo & spacing out the feel of old staple COLD RAIN & SNOW, removing the harmonized guitar break. the pivot between the amphetamine version on the debut album & the arrangement they played through ’95. mickey hart might be the only drummer here? a few casual passes of DIRE WOLF, slowly firming up. 22 minutes of jamming on THE ELEVEN, apparently experimenting with new rhythmic variations. garcia & lesh give hart shit for losing track of the pulse, the only tense part of the tape.

9/26/69 fillmore east: opening for country joe & the fish, plus sha na na. 45 minutes of DARK STAR > ST. STEPHEN > THE ELEVEN > KING BEE > DEATH DON’T HAVE NO MERCY. the recording of DARK STAR is murky af, but the post-verse space-out is as lush as a liquid light show, spinning into the 1st FEELIN’ GROOVY jam. so blissy. far-out tape bleed during DEATH DON’T HAVE NO MERCY, the ghost of some opera singer or blues belter on some earlier layer of tape.

9/27/69 fillmore east: last time as an opening act, playing 1st at the early show before country joe cedes the late headlining slot to them. bill graham introduces the band, “the magnificent 7 of san francisco…” before a straight-forward set for the early saturday crowd. highly condensed jams & miniature choogles, presumably saving the real freakiness for the untaped late show. NEXT TIME YOU SEE ME resurfaces for 1st time on tape since 3/67. set’s most open moment is soaring jam in CHINA CAT SUNFLOWER > HIGH TIME, the last taped version before the arrival of I KNOW YOU RIDER. more a dissolve than a segue. 1st great DIRE WOLF. just as they joked on previous week’s rehearsal tape, the band is now dropping miscellaneous cartoon-ish themes into tuning breaks sets. here they include TAKE ME OUT TO THE BALLGAME, 3 days after the mets clinched the national league east.

9/29/69 cafe au go go: newly reopened cafe au go go in the west village, where they played on their 1st trip to NYC in ’67, a single alluring tape side includes fascinating & thrilling alternate universe suite with 26-minute DOIN’ THAT RAG > THE SEVEN > GOOD LOVIN’, both segues clearly planned-out next-beat pivots. this must’ve happened other times. 1st of only 2 surviving versions of THE SEVEN, instrumental sequel to THE ELEVEN, plotted carefully with intricate garciaing. final taped version of the jerry-sung GOOD LOVIN’, too, here just a platform for a drum break.

9/30/69 cafe au go go: sharing a bill for the only time with the holy modal rounders. 1st taped CHINA CAT SUNFLOWER > I KNOW YOU RIDER. 9 minutes, missing beginning. short & undeveloped jam compared to last few versions of CHINA CAT, but can’t argue with that landing. group vocals only on RIDER & big sparkling garcia breaks. tape warp/speed issues get pretty unbearable during 24-minute ALLIGATOR > DRUMZ > THE OTHER ONE. lots of great OTHER ONE themes, though, some adjacent to SPANISH JAM. clean end after the 2nd verse tag, no sign of CRYPTICAL ENVELOPMENT.

10/24/69 winterland: between the jefferson airplane & sons of champlin. band opens with 4 freshest songs, all destined for “workingman’s dead,” followed by big new CHINA CAT SUNFLOWER > I KNOW YOU RIDER combo, weir’s transition sounding like GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD. much yelling at bear about monitors & mics. 9 minutes of THAT’S IT FOR THE OTHER ONE > COSMIC CHARLIE, an obvious but dizzying segue that’s almost too much, peaking & peaking & peaking before pulling back slightly into the verse of COSMIC CHARLIE.

10/25/69 winterland: 59-minute DARK STAR > ST. STEPHEN > THE ELEVEN > TURN ON YOUR LOVELIGHT. brilliant weir-driven DARK STAR, playing co-leads & pushing band through blissed new FEELIN’ GROOVY & TIGHTEN UP themes while garcia soars, & more co-leads before last verse. stephen stills joins band on guitar/vocals for LOVELIGHT & energy level seems to dip a bit, perhaps cuz stills’s guitar is buried in the mix. hard to pick out stills all the time, but jam hits some moody non-blues.

10/26/69 winterland: long soundcheck/tuning instrumental by weir that sounds fully formed enough to be a song. 1st taped live version of the slowed-down COLD RAIN & SNOW, still stumbling a little. garcia dedicates DIRE WOLF to the local serial killer: “this song is dedicated to the zodiac cat & also to paranoid fantasies everywhere… & everybody can sing along if they feel up to it, it’s real easy to sing.” lazy sunday vibes. garcia: “this is a sunday night, everybody try to remember that. it’s been a long, weird weekend.” great 11-minute EASY WIND gives weir a chance to flex his solo skills, finding a nice casual weave with jerry.

10/31/69 san jose: student union ballroom. not terribly halloweeny on tape tbh, but every day was probably halloween in the ‘60s. standard issue set with a batch of the new tunes & a few wee jams. DIRE WOLF is a warm singalong with almost nonexistent drums. can really hear garcia turning into a fantastic singer on HIGH TIME. big, soulful ache. 25-minute THAT’S IT FOR THE OTHER ONE surfs a powerful jam corner before the 1st OTHER ONE verse but mostly lays low, besides wild psychedelic gonging by hart during outro. half-hour un-spooktacular TURN ON YOUR LOVELIGHT with big happy garcia jams.

11/1/69 family dog: opening 2 nights on the great highway with danny cox, as well as the golden toad (feat. steal your face logo artist bob thomas). well-paced 2-hour set with nice balance between the new americana, psychedelic jams, & pigpen rave-ups. garcia keeps trying to sell DIRE WOLF as a singalong, “this is a song about… what you do when the wolf comes to the door.” the slowed-down arrangement of COLD RAIN & SNOW clicks up the tempo slightly & works much better. 1st taped version of GOOD LOVIN’ with pigpen singing lead, garcia still doubling him occasionally, with drum break & brief jam. no pig rappin’ yet. 15-minute HE WAS A FRIEND OF MINE swells & recedes several times with beautiful volume swells by garcia. after returning to chorus, a trailing fade into glorious CHINA CAT SUNFLOWER > I KNOW YOU RIDER. (too bad, the actual FRIEND > CHINA CAT segue on 5/24 was boss.) big 31-minute ALLIGATOR > UNCLE JOHN’S THEME > TURN ON YOUR LOVELIGHT. with BID YOU GOODNIGHT melody as cue, garcia leads high-speed instrumental coda/verse/chorus/coda of not-yet-finished UNCLE JOHN’S BAND, clearly rehearsed, bridging to LOVELIGHT.

11/2/69 family dog: one of only 3 surviving versions of MIDNIGHT HOUR for ’69, notable (kinda) for weir-led jam. doesn’t quite take off. only taped SEASONS OF MY HEART with garcia on 6-string instead of pedal steel. 1st DANCING IN THE STREET since june is way truncated. nearly 10 minute GOOD LOVIN’ is great, its new arrangement borrowing from ALLIGATOR with a drum break followed by garcia/drummers jam & rest of band piling back on for speedy fun. an instant staple. 60-minute DARK STAR > ST. STEPHEN > THE ELEVEN > DEATH DON’T HAVE NO MERCY. epic DARK STAR, settling post-verse into silence/gonging/pick scrapes/noise before the sputnik arpeggio sets up a perfect & gradual combobulation into triumphant FEELIN’ GROOVY & TIGHTEN UP jams. stunning DEATH DON’T with intense dynamics & deeply present garcia vocals. also the last time it appears (on tape) in the DARK STAR sequence, perhaps not coincidentally as it is on “live/dead,” released the week after this show.

11/7/69 fillmore auditorium: back at the original fillmore auditorium, briefly returned to freak control & booked by the flamin’ groovies & co. as “the old fillmore.” good ol’ stage chaos (thankfully tracked out individually). someone plays the STAR SPANGLED BANNER on penny-whistle. new jams, CHINA CAT SUNFLOWER > I KNOW YOU RIDER & the tightly turning GOOD LOVIN’, are compact platforms for sunshine. 67-minute DARK STAR > UNCLE JOHN’S THEME > DARK STAR > CRYPTICAL ENVELOPMENT > DRUMZ > THE OTHER ONE > TURN ON YOUR LOVELIGHT. after post-verse DARK STAR gonging, slow-motion bassline makes shapes as drums slowly enter. brilliant rhythm guitar colors & round lead bass. after return to DARK STAR theme, a pass through the FEELIN’ GROOVY jam transitions to another worked-out instrumental UNCLE JOHN’S BAND, the whole song compacted into 100 seconds. a harsh tape flip misses the move back to DARK STAR, but it goes right back to soaring. next beat segue from DARK STAR into THAT’S IT FOR THE OTHER ONE suite, short & fierce, phil calling audible segue into LOVELIGHT before the last verse. big bass & conversational jams ensue, the sprawling LOVELIGHT dipping occasionally into zonk.

11/8/69 fillmore auditorium: possibly the night garcia was tripping so hard he thought assassins were after him. fierce CASEY JONES with audible italics from garcia on “take my advice you’d be better off *dead*” & followed by DIRE WOLF, with its “don’t murder me” chorus. wild & semi-disorienting co-leads by garcia & weir on EASY WIND. deeply present garcia vocals on the 1st great CHINA CAT SUNFLOWER > I KNOW YOU RIDER, over the top & intense, the 1st of many suite-ish pairings with HIGH TIME, equally intense. extra-charged GOOD LOVIN’, too. in the middle of all this, 1st recorded version of CUMBERLAND BLUES, rare garcia/lesh/hunter co-write, sung by garcia/lesh/weir over hot-rodded country-psych groove. 96-minute mega-sequence DARK STAR > THE OTHER ONE > DARK STAR > UNCLE JOHN’S THEME > DARK STAR > ST. STEPHEN > THE ELEVEN > CAUTION > THE MAIN TEN > CAUTION > BID YOU GOODNIGHT just keeps giving & giving. post-verse DARK STAR rises up through the FEELIN’ GROOVY jam & straight into a far-out OTHER ONE, riding back into a DARK STAR peak before lesh leads the charge into the most realized UNCLE JOHN’S THEME, filled with triumphant garcia licks. slammin’ 37-minute CAUTION, depending how you count it, driving the late jam energy level way into wider spaces than TURN ON YOUR LOVELIGHT, filled with walking bass heaviness & sparkling 8-minute feedback/organ/volume swell coda. a mid-CAUTION reel flip makes the sequence a bit confusing when an unidentified rando suddenly appears on mic to read a poem before band slips into 3 minutes of THE MAIN TEN, proto-PLAYING IN THE BAND jam. no idea. one of mickey’s friends? BID YOU GOODNIGHT feels slightly more crackling, too, with the fuller set of lyrics. was this the night garcia was extra-dosed? who knows? maybe it was one of the more discombobulated sets from december, but i hope not.

11/15/69 crockett: a moratorium day benefit. highlight is mini-suite with the 2nd CUMBERLAND BLUES bouncing right into CHINA SUNFLOWER > I KNOW YOU RIDER, followed by the now-customary breath-pause segue before HIGH TIME. enjoying TC’s bright B3 between the beats on CUMBERLAND, especially. 43-minute (ack) TURN ON YOUR LOVELIGHT with long amp outage. weir is of no help when enlisted for crowd-work, leading bad singalong. pig grabs harmonica, jams with drummers & keeps going when the guitars come back. sounds boss! wish he did this more often.

11/21/69 sacramento: 1st birthday party for sacramento freeform FM station KZAP, with the now-ubiquitous commander cody & plus a.b. skhy (feat. howard wales). 2 45-minute sets with a tech intermission. CUMBERLAND BLUES & CHINA CAT SUNFLOWER > I KNOW YOU RIDER are subtle anchors, great high-energy pivots between americana & psychedelia that make the whole flow more coherent. the compact GOOD LOVIN’ continues to yield subtle wonderfulness in its post-DRUMZ pocket, tonight driven around an ambiguous jazzy mode & building back to chorus.

12/4/69 fillmore west: 1st of scheduled 4 nights with flock & humble pie. stage announcements about the free festival with the rolling stones scheduled for saturday at sears point, including where to meet by the golden gate bridge for a bike pool. by the end of the night, organizers will be on the hunt for a new location. 1st BLACK PETER, garcia & hunter’s existential masterpiece, lyrics stemming from a notoriously bad trip by hunter. the song/structure are formed, the arrangement/dynamics are not. kinda herky jerky. great confident vocal by garcia, though. 38-minute DARK STAR > HIGH TIME. DARK STAR opens almost aggressively fast with drum kit from the start, a rarity. could be the mix, but feels disjointed. a few lovely bass leads. post-verse space builds & edges on joyous FEELIN’ GROOVY jam without ever resolving.
jerry: seeing as how we blew most of the set just remembering how to play…
phil: …so we’re gonna blow this part of the set remembering how sing a song we just learned last week.
the debut of UNCLE JOHN’S BAND, casually dropped at the end of a show. a little fast, no intro solo, but the verses & lilting/uplifting harmonies are worked out & stunning. outro jam curls alluringly, before last chorus & reprise of 1st verse as ending.

12/5/69 fillmore west: the last night of the ‘60s, the evening before altamont. with the venue nailed down for the next day’s free festival, more pre-altamont chatter. sez weir, “bear wants me to tell you to bring dope.” 2nd version of BLACK PETER feels more formed already. taper snaps along with CUMBERLAND BLUES & sings badly with COSMIC CHARLIE. less amusingly, in order to save tape/battery, he also pauses between songs (& during THE OTHER ONE drum break!), losing potential snippets of altamont banter & tantalizing bits of music. big: 12-minute CHINA CAT SUNFLOWER > I KNOW YOU RIDER is longest yet, with a tiny taste of CAUTION during the transition. bigger: the 1st RIDER with jerry’s solo “i wish i was a headlight on a northbound train” verse. alluring sliver of UNCLE JOHN’S BAND followed by tiny fragment of THE MAIN TEN & a clean move into a gorgeous (& prescient) IT’S ALL OVER NOW, BABY BLUE. “that was me tying my shoelaces, in case you’re interested, folks,” the taper announces during segue.

12/7/69 fillmore west: opening with the 3rd version of BLACK PETER, a perfect post-altamont dirge, 10 minutes & taking its time. wonderful stark full group playing, so stark that the B3 is almost prominent. the sunshine is way compact, including the revived DANCING IN THE STREET, GOOD LOVIN’ (with garcia & weir co-leads), plus CHINA CAT SUNFLOWER > I KNOW YOU RIDER (garcia’s “headlight” solo verse gone again) bridging to ST. STEPHEN > THE ELEVEN > TURN ON YOUR LOVELIGHT. might be the weird mix, but lots of back-channel full-group jams/conversations make an otherwise standard 27-minute LOVELIGHT fairly enjoyable, including lots of TC’s B3.

12/10/69 thelma: a tiny & briefly-lived club on the sunset strip called thelma. 5-song guest appearance by stephen stills, his 2nd of year, playing guitar on 5 songs & leading 1. he’s mildly discernible on CASEY JONES & shreds with garcia on GOOD MORNING LITTLE SCHOOLGIRL & EASY WIND. someone’s playing harmony lines & it sounds cool. stills leads BLACK QUEEN, from his self-titled 1970 debut, which will return the next time stills does, in another 14 years. TURN ON YOUR LOVELIGHT cuts off after 3 minutes, which i think i’m fine with. late show cuts off after 27-minute THAT’S IT FOR THE OTHER ONE > COSMIC CHARLIE, which is too bad because it’s a pretty decent audience tape for the era.

12/11/69 thelma: BLACK PETER starting to explore ways to get from dirge to big garcia solo. drums disappear from DIRE WOLF, traded in for hand percussion, tightening up & paving the way for acoustic sets to come. early set closes with 46-minute DARK STAR > ST. STEPHEN > THE ELEVEN > CUMBERLAND BLUES. DARK STAR is almost by-the-book, imploding & following a glowing path upwards, flowing into peaks via the FEELIN’ GROOVY jam. transition into THE ELEVEN feels extra-exploratory with misterioso bass leads. 1st time CUMBERLAND BLUES comes out of a segue, which also seems to really lock in its manic LSDC&W groove. late show highlighted by intricate DANCING IN THE STREET, rapidly becoming a centerpiece again with good flow between drummers. never long enough. set capped by 26-minute THAT’S IT FOR THE OTHER ONE > COSMIC CHARLIE.

12/12/69 thelma: over both shows (& 3+ hours of music), the dead play 7 of the 8 songs that will comprise “workingman’s dead,” with great dynamics from dramatic HIGH TIME to drumless DIRE WOLF, where TC’s B3 sounds vaguely garth hudson-y. in late show, 12-minute UNCLE JOHN’S BAND > HE WAS A FRIEND OF A MINE, garcia kinda blows through the UJB outro & covers with vocals. jam spirals smoothly into 1st verse of the penultimate HE WAS A FRIEND, an eloquent coda rather than a springboard of its own. call for requests yields 54-minute show closing ALLIGATOR > CAUTION > BID YOU GOODNIGHT, the jams getting good after the ALLIGATOR drum break & better during CAUTION. controlled mayhem but mayhem nonetheless.

12/13/69 san bernardino: with the flying burrito bros. & country joe & the fish at the swing auditorium. a decent showcase with occasional odd vibes. deep garciaing on HARD TO HANDLE. BLACK PETER has moved almost instantly from dirge to dramatic showstopper. garcia digs into his falsetto there & on CUMBERLAND BLUES. deep jams & expansive pigologues during TURN ON YOUR LOVELIGHT, including discourse on pocket pool vs. real pool. pig gives shit to weir: “why don’t you tell somebody a stor-ay?” plug gets pulled after 24 minutes.

12/19/69 fillmore auditorium: 1st ever acoustic grateful dead acoustic set opens their last stand at the original fillmore auditorium. lesh is late, so garcia & weir do 4-song acoustic set, all dead debuts. the taper (bear?) pans voices/guitars around weirdly at first. weir does MONKEY & THE ENGINEER, a kids song learned via jesse fuller, formerly done by mother mccree’s. garcia’s LITTLE SADIE (via clarence ashley) is dark & gothic. lovely harmonies on stovall/george’s country standard LONG BLACK LIMOUSINE. BEEN ALL AROUND THIS WORLD feels well-worn. before latter, weir plays part of a tune that sends both into giggles. can anybody ID it? when lesh shows, band debuts the short-lived MASON’S CHILDREN, garcia & hunter’s 1st altamont answer song & maybe the dead’s last garage-psych blaster. cool 3-part lesh-heavy harmonies & questing solos. slight lyric difference, 1st line is “*the* mason died on monday…” so many new songs! UNCLE JOHN’S BAND starting to get slightly tamed. beautiful minimal intro solo by garcia with a vaguely calypso lilt & B3 counterpoint. mickey seems to be playing hand percussion during the verses, which keeps groove light.

12/20/69 fillmore auditorium: band opens with brand new MASON’S CHILDREN for 2nd night in a row, feeling their way between the verses. that & CUMBERLAND BLUES are the only songs played all 3 nights. 14 are only played once. 51-minute DARK STAR > ST. STEPHEN > THE ELEVEN > NEW SPEEDWAY BOOGIE. post-verse quiet builds into impressive B3/gong cloud & exquisite builds & valleys, including FEELIN’ GROOVY jam, en route to 2nd verse. great constanten throughout. debut of NEW SPEEDWAY BOOGIE, garcia/hunter’s 2nd altamont song, ominous & doom-laden & timeless. but a mess tonight, trying to find the tempo. the fairly involved answer vocals by weir & lesh don’t work, either, especially weir’s falsetto. its only time in the jam slot. pig & band don’t sync on 35-minute TURN ON YOUR LOVELIGHT, the band (intentionally?) blowing through several “now, wait a minute”s, collected as supercut at end of “dave’s picks 6.” nice ending with mickey’s cannon, though. anyone ever seen a picture of it?

12/21/69 fillmore auditorium: short sunday set opens with 16-minute SMOKESTACK LIGHTNING > NEW SPEEDWAY BOOGIE. 1st SMOKESTACK since june. i think weir is trying to play slide in places? wrong year, buddy! 2nd SPEEDWAY has better executed answer vocals, soon toned down. another raging MASON’S CHILDREN. after slopping it up at the family dog in late summer, NOT FADE AWAY returns for good. weir counts it off & begins with vocal, buddy holly-style. pigpen does answer vocals & harmonica. 27-minute GOOD LOVIN’ > DRUMZ > THE OTHER ONE > CUMBERLAND BLUES. not many zags in centerpiece OTHER ONE, floating in place, but still enjoyably conversational.

12/26/69 dallas: bill the drummer’s plane is late, so garcia & weir stall with 40 minutes of acoustic tunes, apparently not entertaining the idea of playing with only mickey. repeating 4 from last week at the fillmore, they introduce 3 new ones, jerry trying to hold crowd. a heckler complains that LONG BLACK LIMOUSINE sounds like country music on TV & garcia replies with one of my favorite all-purpose responses to anything: “hey, it’s not my fault if you watch TV, man!” (weir: “i watch all the country music i can on TV.”) only version of GATHERING FLOWERS FOR THE MASTER’S BOUQUET, bluegrass/gospel from 1948, led by weir, “more or less in keeping with the spirit of the season.” 1st acoustic BLACK PETER & thrilling UNCLE JOHN’S BAND, lesh joining on vocals, hart on light percussion. electric portion is a little rough around the edges & crowd doesn’t seem to be into it. during tuning break, garcia: “man, this place is really quiet, no kiddin’, are you people all sitting in the dark watching us goof around up here? …anybody want a microphone?” 24-minute DARK STAR veers into spare tangent before 1st verse. drums enter gradually with the sputnik figure &, amid dubby percussion noise, jam ascends on deep garcia inversions & fuzzed bass into the FEELIN’ GROOVY & TIGHTEN UP themes. tape flips at end of DARK STAR & cuts back after 1 verse of NEW SPEEDWAY BOOGIE. maybe nothing missing or (as on 12/19) the rest of a suite. brief 14-minute TURN ON YOUR LOVELIGHT closer. promoter: “you’ve just had it done to you by the grateful dead.”

12/28/69 hollywood, FL: the middle day of the miami rock festival, billed as the last rock festival of the ‘60s. very festival energy, opening midway through BLACK PETER, slightly less dirge-like for festival duty, mostly pumping through big bouncing new tunes. CHINA CAT SUNFLOWER feels keyed up. punchy banter as pig urges the crowd to come closer & chaos ensues. pig: “if them things fall down it’s in *TROUBLE CITY* for you…  if you stay, you might get smashed, so it’s your decision.” apparently one of the light towers actually does falls over? (i absolutely adore the expression “in trouble city.”) MASON’S CHILDREN busts deliciously into jammyland. another “compact” 17-minute TURN ON YOUR LOVELIGHT, this one getting abstract just before the ending, with gongs & garcia inversions & new pig melodies to match.

12/29/69 boston: maybe the 1st weather-themed opener, with COLD RAIN & SNOW. BLACK PETER & EASY WIND feel sluggish this evening. MASON’S CHILDREN soars into mini-quest, though no destination. over 2+ hours, only 2 songs played during 3-show run in boston in april. before the 2nd set, garcia: “okay, is everybody ready to boo-gie?” (big cheers.) i can’t tell if garcia is being ironic or if he’s using the british pronunciation & we should’ve been calling it “new speedway boo-gie” all along? indistinguishable offstage screaming during GOOD LOVIN’ drum break, followed shortly by rando grabbing the mic, “I’LL GET THE FUCKING MICROPHONE–“ & sounds of rando being hauled away. thankfully, @internetarchive user Renegade53 provides an explanation. closing the show, 1st of many ST. STEPHEN > NOT FADE AWAY pairings, here segueing at the “william tell” ending. jerry replaces pigpen as 2nd NFA vocalist during verse, though pig is still playing harmonica & howling during various refrains.

12/30/69 boston: with the introduction of the final “workingman’s dead” tunes, the band now enters the very brief half-year where the primal psychedelic repertoire lives side-by-side with the new americana at its full power. 2nd set opens with an early stunning version of UNCLE JOHN’S BAND. excellent harmonies & a beautiful middle solo that seems like it’s briefly made of light. MASON’S CHILDREN starting to sound big with good dynamics & punchy bass. delicious 45-minute DARK STAR > ALLIGATOR > DRUMZ > THE ELEVEN > ALLIGATOR > BID YOU GOODNIGHT. last ‘60s DARK STAR. ambient glockenspiel jamming before verse. long gorgeous noise-space precedes a jam that takes a thoughtful & unpredictable path to a quietly blissed peak. tape flip sadly misses the 1st segue of the suite & most of ALLIGATOR, but THE ELEVEN goes way deep, escaping its circular jam & eventually moving back to ALLIGATOR by way of the BID YOU GOODNIGHT theme & a beautiful SPANISH JAM-like rumination.

12/31/69 boston: the grateful dead ring in the ‘70s at the boston tea party, their only new year’s gig outside of san francisco. new year’s energy is palpable & band has even less planned than usual. “did you hear that, man?” jerry asks weir during a tech break. “it’s a request for the joke about the dog.” “i’ll tell you at midnight,” weir tells the crowd & that’s just what happens. at midnight, the grateful dead begin the new decade by having bob weir tell a terrible joke, while TC offers comedic organ commentary. “well, it looks like the ‘70s are gonna be weird,” garcia announces. the midnight set gets into gear with 2 semi-connected suites, both with moments of big primal thrills before trailing into nothingness, 31-minute ALLIGATOR > CAUTION & 18-minute GOOD LOVIN’ > DRUMZ > THE ELEVEN. night closes with 30 minutes of loose garage/country that sound like a late night at the family dog, opening with a stomping BIG BOY PETE & an early standalone NOT FADE AWAY. kind of enjoying TC’s absurdist B3 parts. C&W mini-set led by weir, feat. george jones’s SEASONS OF MY HEART & 1st THE RACE IS ON, which will last on/off ’til ’95. final OL’ SLEW-FOOT & last electric SILVER THREADS & GOLDEN NEEDLES. garcia finds slipstream during set/year-closing DANCING IN THE STREET.

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