Highlight mp3s included for unreleased shows only. I recommend DownThemAll plug-in to grab all mp3s on a given page.
3/21/72 academy: still no donna jean. 1st LOOKS LIKE RAIN, garcia on pedal steel, cool phil harmony. not yet my 1st skippable GD tune. 1st THE STRANGER (TWO SOULS IN COMMUNION), final (best?) original by still very active pigpen. nice split between pig/garcia/weir at all these 3.5 hr shows. 1st jammed PLAYING IN THE BAND (finally!), dripping psych/fusion middle section tripling to 3m. hello, 1972!
3/22/72 academy: 1st CAUTION since 3/71. highwire digressions & intricate outro jam. nearly smooth actual segue into UNCLE JOHN’S BAND
3/23/72 academy: great standalone 23m DARK STAR, exquisite/quiet garcia pre-verse, jagged space into MIND LEFT BODY JAM.
3/25/72 academy: private party for hell’s angels booked as jerry garcia & friends, 1st set backing bo diddley on 9 songs, later dick’s picks, v. 30. the diddley set is sleepy at times, especially on the unedited audience version, but nicely popping on tunes with the bo diddley beat (HEY BO DIDDLEY, MONA). topic for next #PopCon: bo diddley leading angels’ mamas in sing-along on TAKE IT ALL OFF on especially anthropological audience tape. then: the 2nd appearance of donna jean. only GD versions of HOW SWEET IT IS & garcia-sung ARE YOU LONELY FOR ME (freddie scott, A+ except for ugly chorus).
3/26/72 academy: sublime PLAYING cuts off as band goes drumless/free. still no donna jean wail.
3/27/72 academy: 1st donna jean wail in PLAYING. crowd eats it up. all love to her muscle shoals bona fides, but #headdesk.
3/28/72 academy: last of 7 great gigs at the academy. donna now screaming on GOIN’ DOWN THE ROAD FEELIN’ BAD, too. the garcia/weir/lesh harmonies on BROKEDOWN PALACE are just sloppy enough without her. another 3+ hour show, almost half new songs since ’70. band relaxed & at ease. europe here we come.
4/7/72 wembley: the bolos & bozos have landed. band (& official mix) sound incredible, rich Band-like piano/organ combo. even bobby/jerry/pig alternation in 1st set, unbroken hour-long sequence in 2nd. scattered OTHER ONE into stately WHARF RAT. europe ’72 mood so fleeting & special. mega-improv, ecstatic & clean 1-drummer arrangements. i’m ready.
4/8/72 wembley: band does a phish-like vamp under weir’s YELLOW DOG JOKE. CUMBERLAND BLUES maintains tendrils of speedfreak ’66 garcia in solos. DARK STAR is among best ever. BK anchors freeness, B3 bursts, & brilliant melodic crests. rare fluid segue into SUGAR MAGNOLIA. equally fluid steamroll into crackling R&B/psych CAUTION. ’72 might be pig’s best year, too. the band destroys it every time he steps up.
4/11/72 newcastle: garcia & weir clearly taking turn calling the opener this tour. band slightly more sluggish than london. GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD now with bouncy summer wah-wah from garcia & 1st non-ridiculous donna jean vocal part. rambling but wonderful 50m TRUCKIN’ > OTHER ONE, with fully developed FEELIN’ GROOVY jam dissolving into dark garcia/lesh duo jam. and finally a near-perfect live BROKEDOWN PALACE, pig on organ, nice keith part, harmonies in ragged-but-right place.
4/14/72 copenhagen: last onstage pedal steel by garcia ’til ’87 & thus final LOOKS LIKE RAIN i’ll (likely) ever care about. bummer. drifty 29m DARK STAR. drumless pre-verse zones, hyperspeed FEELIN’ GROOVY jam, one of 1st ugly/abrupt weir “segues” into SUGAR MAGNOLIA. big GOOD LOVIN’ (with CAUTION & only post-’66 WHO DO YOU LOVE inside) gets narrative, sharp pig/garcia call/response.
4/16/72 aarhus: no donna scream on PLAYING. is this the show where she was having a bad trip under the piano & couldn’t sing? TRUCKIN’ tumbles into solid 20m of OTHER ONE jamming. 1st phil/jerry duo develops into magical full band tangent, dissolves instantly. band veers into ME & MY UNCLE, 1st (& only) verse of OTHER ONE, and nifty 15s BK turnaround into NOT FADE AWAY. bonus: far-out electronics from aarhus university, roughly contemporary to dead’s visit. high-larious doors quote on track 3. http://mutant-sounds.blogspot.com/2010/10/svend-christiansenfuzzy-electronic.html
4/17/72 copenhagen: 1st HE’S GONE, lazy river vibe/tempo intact, minus “wind don’t blow so strange” bridge & endless chorus outro. another hour-long DARK STAR > SUGAR MAGNOLIA > CAUTION. very deliberate playing throughout, especially modal free jams in DARK STAR. HQ video of whole 4/17 show (not in GD’s new DVD box?!), featuring clown masks on BIG RAILROAD BLUES. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5EY-_sEgO_Y
4/21/72 bremen: hour-long TV taping. garcia genially stops SUGAREE: “somebody played the wrong changes in there.” (pig, i think?) more false starts, 2 takes of PLAYING. 6m post-OTHER ONE jam arcs nicely from space to structure, dissolves.
4/24/72 dusseldorf: nicely odd GOOD LOVIN’, drumless & dissonant mid jam. pig quotes james carr’s “pouring water on a drowning man.” 40m DARK STAR (ME & MY UNCLE in middle) shatters/coalesces half-dozen times in 1st half, brilliantly motionless 2nd half until liquid major key jam & garcia slashes into WHARF RAT instead of the 2nd verse of DARK STAR. 3 set show, doofiness to spare.
4/26/72 frankfurt: easily best show of tour so far. high energy, great playing, inventive segues, face-melted banter, bust-outs. 1st 10m & last 10m of 36m OTHER ONE are flawless, song’s internal triplets combusting under oblique improv. middle 16m bitchin’, too. 1st TWO SOULS IN COMMUNION of europe, pigpen’s final original. less developed, but the soul heartbreak is nearly as epic as WHARF RAT. 1st LOVELIGHT of tour, too, darting & way-up psych-funk, a short NOT FADE AWAY jam, a bunch of odd gorgeous changes (go weir!?) into GOIN’ DOWN THE ROAD, whose use of the BID YOU GOODNIGHT bridge to drop into SATURDAY NIGHT makes latter bearable. bonus: robert hunter’s great liner notes to “hundred year hall,” the edited CD release of this show. http://www.gdreferencesite.com/hundred.html
4/29/72 hamburg: 1st “wind don’t blow so strange” bridge in HE’S GONE. alternate phrasing, particularly undramatic “smile, smile, smile.” another night, another 30m DARK STAR. high-octane garcia free-fall throughout + FEELIN’ GROOVY jam.
5/3/72 paris: 1st SING ME BACK HOME since 11/71 & pleasantly the first effective & cool donna/garcia pairing. TRUCKIN’ unspools into boldly out-there OTHER ONE. elegant miniatures & actual lesh solo. he gets the hang of it halfway thru. never previously realized how codified TRUCKIN’/OTHER ONE & DARK STAR/SUGAR MAGNOLIA/CAUTION were as every-other-show jam-suites on this tour. CSN-grade garcia/lesh/weir harmonies on JACK STRAW. garcia sings alternating bridge lyrics for 1st time. hell yes. [ed. note: turned out to be the europe '72 version of JACK STRAW with overdubbed vocals.]
5/4/72 paris: 1st DARK STAR jam is unusually uptempo, developed, & consonant. full-band dynamic shifts & rhythmic through-lines. whole 40m version is an A+ choice for a record store day LP, minus the record store day part. finally heard. sounds so insanely good. mythbusters: donna’s alleged bad trip under the piano doesn’t seem to have incapacitated her at either paris show.
5/7/72 bickershaw festival: UK mudbath. fireworks audibly whoosh by onstage mics. weir: “we’ll want to aim those a little higher.” uncharacteristically sparkling festival performance, closing 3 day event (also featuring the kinks & late-night beefheart) with their usual 2 sets/4 hours. only ’72 gig with both DARK STAR & OTHER ONE. latter has much eventless free noise without 26th b-day boy BK. killer reprise jam. back to weir-only JACK STRAW, for some reason. in the crowd, 17-yr old elvis costello decides to start his own band.
5/10/72 amsterdam: was the weed THAT good? garcia uncharacteristically zonked. hoarse vox & rare lyric/guitar part slips throughout. 35m OTHER ONE is decent but uninspired, formulaic roll from space into structure. big TWO SOULS, but no pig showstopper. aha. McNally, p. 433: “the Concertgebouw was a jewel of a theater [&] the cocaine was far too good.”
5/11/72 rotterdam: garcia back on JACK STRAW duty. first MORNING DEW since 8/71. tentative at first, great 4m coda jam. 48m DARK STAR, longest ever. lazy/floating in all the right ways, garcia/lesh themes pass like ripples. 3rd in a row w/ short DRUMZ. logical DARK STAR wind down and clean stop pre-SUGAR MAGNOLIA. final version of CAUTION (fare thee well) with WHO DO YOU LOVE inside. uneventful late-set TRUCKIN’. bonus: beach boys thru rotterdam 2 nights later en route to record holland LP. bootleg sadly nuked in megaupload purge: http://eatapoop.blogspot.com/2010/06/43-1972-work-in-progress.html
5/13/72 lille: free outdoor gig makes up for 5/5 cancellation/riot. “sounds like homemade shit” sez weir re: monitors. fugs reference? another show without a big pigpen song. cool minimalist organ by pig during 1st drumless OTHER ONE segment. going to miss his exchanges with garcia between lines of the verses.
5/16/72 luxembourg: soundcheck includes 1st BIG RIVER since NYE ’71 debut. garcia sings! misses some verses, but a nice alternate reality. wish i knew enough about luxembourgian politics to dissect the appearance of radio luxembourg’s kid jensen. earnest vibrations. 1st PROMISED LAND since 8/71 & 1st of the keith era. again, no pig showstopper. rare for a radio broadcast. 20m OTHER ONE feels short. 10m SING ME BACK HOME feels just totally correct.
5/18/72 munich: house lights off, garcia tokes spliff, sets on amp, hitler-mustached fire marshal with brass helmet dumps water on amp. power outage, mini riot, roadies beat up fire marshal. (cutler, 309.) not on tape. rare SITTING ON TOP OF THE WORLD, 1st of tour. 1st & seemingly unplanned DARK STAR > MORNING DEW. lovely/dense volume-swelled atonality en route, mostly successful.
5/23/72 lyceum: back to london for tour closers. 1st ROCKIN’ PNEUMONIA & THE BOOGIE WOOGIE FLY (why?) & HEY BO DIDDLEY (inside the NOT FADE AWAY sequence), both sung by JG. garcia plays B3 the under GOOD LOVIN verses, as he did several times throughout tour. nothing crazy. quick switch back to guitar. another DARK STAR > MORNING DEW. decent movement post-DRUMZ (from pig, too), but the dissonant segue feels forced & the song is shaky.
5/24/72 lyceum: A+ post-verse OTHER ONE jam coalesces over 16m from oort cloud zaps to quizzical bop mediations & deep fuzz bliss. heavy: final TURN ON YOUR LOVELIGHT. brief 12m, mucho tasty licks. pigpen obviously struggling. pulls it together by end of TWO SOULS IN COMMUNION, also the final version. no, you must be mistaken. bob weir most certainly did NOT revive TURN ON YOUR LOVELIGHT in the ’80s. i said good day.
5/25/72 lyceum: final BIG BOSS MAN & GOOD LOVIN’ (see: weir/LOVELIGHT), more garcia on organ, no pigpen rap at all, crackling jam. odd inverted 2nd set. UNCLE JOHN’S with odder tentative post-outro jam, legit segue into unusually phrased WHARF RAT, on into 35m DARK STAR. starts quiet, bands snaps into post-verse FEELIN’ GROOVY jam, skittering wah & saturated bass chord disintegration. final SITTIN’ ON TOP OF THE WORLD & the last of pigpen’s ’66-style bouncy garage B3. g’bye.
5/26/72 lyceum: pigpen’s last proper show. fare thee well to MR. CHARLIE, NEXT TIME YOU SEE ME, TWO SOULS, CHINATOWN SHUFFLE. PLAYING IN THE BAND jam finally tops 10m, garcia meltdown heaven. garcia & phil’s voices particularly ragged, especially noticeable on JACK STRAW. for the 1st time, the audience claps the NOT FADE AWAY beat & the band responds with the song song, the bo diddley beat perma-tied to band, heads, & drum circles everywhere. messy OTHER ONE. rare clammed opening, double back via DRUMZ, try again. jam into MORNING DEW sounds schizo in context, but brilliant when excerpted into europe ’72. garcia’s DEW vocals are truly atrocious, saved by overdubs.
6/17/72 hollywood bowl: after delicious europe multi-tracks, a rude welcome back to US soil with totally debauched audience recording. pigpen’s final show. i’ve always been puzzled by stories of him only playing on 1 song. turns out that’s not quite true, but he’s barely audible on shitty tape. 1st STELLA BLUE. ghostly, slow, & graceful from the start, garcia deeply inside vocal. almost literally haunting B3 part, pig’s last. tape-warp sounds bitchin’ on the PLAYING meltdown, though also the most brutal donna scream yet. g’bye pigpen.
7/16/72 hartford: east coast summer stadium gigs. band notably less lush without pig’s B3. the 2nd STELLA BLUE is heavy, awkward in 1st set. 1st MISSISSIPPI HALF-STEP (!), sly & strident. 1st sing-along outro to HE’S GONE (yuuugh) inside OTHER ONE, whose ending gets blurrier. 1st steel-less LOOKS LIKE RAIN, also without phil vox. blech. okay NOT FADE AWAY/HEY BO DIDDLEY powerjam with dickey betts & berry oakley.
7/18/72 jersey city: i can see why a non-deadhead WFMU DJ hated this 3-set stadium gig, especially if the heat was anything like today. band sounds seriously mangled early on, garcia & weir blowing lyrics, lots of gear breakdowns, shaky dynamics, odd pacing. still, sweet PLAYING & great DARK STAR with a killer 2nd jam that never spaces out & a post-verse dissolve into a soulful COMES A TIME. 1st BIRD SONG since 8/71, confident new arrangement with spidery keith piano part, snare-flutter false ending, & curling, lyrical garcia solos.
7/21/72 seattle: band tries early version of WEATHER REPORT SUITE PRELUDE. atrocious & abandoned. by-the-numbers OTHER ONE.
7/22/72 seattle: bear is out of jail apparently. lots of zonked banter & zonked playing. warped high-octane PLAYING IN THE BAND jam. very unflattering soundboard. archetypal donna awfulness on HALF-STEP outro underscores garcia’s breathtaking STELLA BLUE soul belts. dashing BIRD SONG. last(?!) YELLOW DOG JOKE, with doofy HARPUA-like accompaniment.
7/25/72 portland: brilliant 27m OTHER ONE that never loses its homey, unrushed swing. even during the space-out, garcia stays melodic. semi-rare jerry slide jam, A+ improvised changes. phil’s short semi-wanky deconstructive bass solo stays groovy, too.
7/26/72 portland: woolly 30m DARK STAR, awesomely responsive free drumming during 2nd meltdown.
8/12/72 sacramento: big cheer as still-new STELLA BLUE starts. exquisite & correctly labeled by taper with double exclamation points. donna now sings on HE’S GONE verses, too. endless outro leads into jam segment for 1st time. the birth of arena dead?
8/20/72 san jose: 1st FRIEND OF THE DEVIL since 4/71, crisp & uptempo, but far more than 1/2 songs new to repertoire in past 1.5 yrs. gnarly OTHER ONE into the 1st STELLA BLUE in the post-jam slot, affixed neatly to still-useful CRYPTICAL appendix.
8/21/72 berkeley: 1st bay area gig since january. only one verse of DARK STAR, with keith oddly taking charge in pointillistic meltdown. jerry’s segue into MORNING DEW even more oddly overruled by lesh & weir’s atonal slashes. then, more keith & a sleepy EL PASO.
8/25/72 berkeley: incomplete. slowburn BLACK PETER, only 3rd version of ’72. bass solo into OTHER ONE instead of drumz. uneventful.
8/27/72 veneta: 3 sets. magical start to end. given setting (oregon, field, merry pranksters) & playing, likely THE quintessential GD show. tape quality is warm & magical, slight delay on everything. garcia & lesh push CHINA > RIDER jam past usual bounds in 100 degree heat. pranksters almost accidentally invent ween’s shit-mister before they realize the fire truck is filled with sewage. PLAYING IN THE BAND now fully a 2nd set tune, exquisite wah-wah action. lithe & serene 12m BIRD SONG, perfect flutter on false ending. maybe the greatest DARK STAR. oddly static 1st jam & 15m of free-flight that shines with transfixing highness, even bass solo. & then (give or take EL PASO) a gargantuan SING ME BACK HOME. suggested reading: j. dwork’s essay in the deadhead taper’s compendium, v. 1; an anthropological-linguistic study of googly deadhead heaviness. required viewing: sunshine daydream movie. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1UHpx72ifdE
9/3/72 boulder: 3 set stadium show. the anti-8/27, no nuance. lots of shouted, aggro vocals & annoyed banter at song requests. with a nice alternate lyric in MISSISSIPPI HALF-STEP (“pappy sat down & died”) & an extra-curlicued solo, they make the anti-subtlety work for them. cannot. handle. donna. 1st real HE’S GONE jam, neat 2m outro turnaround culminates in odd ’67ish whammy trills from garcia into OTHER ONE.
9/9/72 hollywood: 1st show (i think) with keith on electric piano, zonked wah-wah distortion on 35m THE OTHER ONE. jerry/phil space-out evolves into dashing full-band improvised changes, all 5 darting/weaving at top conversational speed. band returns for 2nd encore & tune, but weir & garcia giggle that bassist has left with “cute little filly.” end show.
9/10/72 hollywood: david crosby holds his own during buoyant DARK STAR manicness, though no croz harmonies on SING ME BACK HOME.
9/15/72 boston: keith’s new electric piano is a subtle but major change in the band’s sound, especially on an abstruse 18m PLAYING.
9/16/72 boston: 1st BIG RIVER since new year’s (& 2nd ever) & 1st DON’T EASE ME IN since 11/70 (& only 2nd electric version since ’66). right decent segue from DARK STAR meltdown into MEXICALI BLUES, but band sidetracks into productive polka-boogie instead.
9/17/72 baltimore: hitting arenas for the 1st time outside the west & sounding a bit lost. stasis-ridden 38m OTHER ONE.
9/19/72 jersey city: 2nd gig at roosevelt stadium in 2 months. cruddy but tolerable audience recording captures crowd more than music. fireworks, clapalongs, requests for rolling papers. hell’s honkies taping crew clearly amped for new songs.
9/21/72 philadelphia: crystalline owsley soundboard, garcia in the left channel, weir in the right. 1st proper HE’S GONE > TRUCKIN’. mammoth post-verse unfolding in 37m DARK STAR. flurrying atonal TIGER jam, brief MIND LEFT BODY theme drips into MORNING DEW.
9/23/72 waterbury: terrible vocals. band tries next-beat segues for 1st time. fun if not fully successful PROMISED LAND > BERTHA. then, the 1st(?) bust-out fest. 1st AROUND & AROUND since 4/71 followed by 1st IT’S ALL OVER NOW, BABY BLUE since 11/70. garcia sings well, mangles words. and then the 1st CRYPTICAL ENVELOPMENT since 11/71 & the last ’til the cringe-y ’80s. pretty sloppy. oh, well. g’bye.
9/24/72 waterbury: yup, weir definitely using light, funky compression, most notable on BIG RIVER, played every show since re-debut. 2nd set again opens with sequence of next-beat segues. debut of TOMORROW IS FOREVER by dolly parton, a mellow garcia/donna duet. assured DARK STAR immolation with sweet rhodes, 3m BEAUTIFUL JAMish denouement, DRUMZ, & liquid segue into CHINA CAT.
9/26/72 jersey city: at the stanley theater on journal square, where my grandpa saw movies in ’30s/’40s, now a jehovah’s witness temple. churning dissolve from the TRUCKIN’ boogie into jam-land & a confident (if mildly jumbled) BABY BLUE, last ’til ’74.
9/27/72 jersey city: a legendary DARK STAR. 18m of bright swing before 1st verse & a jaw-dropping segue into CUMBERLAND BLUES. 1st ATTICS OF MY LIFE since 12/70. ragged but still stunning. then weir insists on more chuck berry covers.
9/28/72 jersey city: another brilliant bear ‘board, perfect bass. poetic rhythmic opacity in typically dazzling PLAYING.
9/30/72 washington DC: FM soundboard with ghost seepage from neighboring frequencies. surprising phil/keith/billy jam in free-ass OTHER ONE.
10/2/72 springfield, MA: garcia bridges the MISSISSIPPI HALF-STEP ending to the descending STELLA BLUE intro. it almost works. 20m TRUCKIN’ with 1st NOBODY’S FAULT jam since 11/70, DRUMZ, & fast’n'thrilling UNCLE JOHN’S jam, dissolving into DEW.
10/9/72 winterland: 1st BOX OF RAIN since 9/70 (& 2nd ever). 1st donna-”enhanced” GD classic. phil’s vocals flirt with headdeskdom. obliterated grace slick jabbers over a loose jam. bill graham retrieves her. grace: “get that bitch off the stage.”
10/17/72 st. louis: great thin-out in PLAYING IN THE BAND. oddly jamless second set with 40 minutes worth of closers.
10/18/72 st. louis: like every show since may, a chuck berry cover. unlike every show since may, chuck’s birthday in his hometown. 1st split-open PLAYING, which segues (via DRUMZ) into DARK STAR with a bright phil-led sequence & FEELIN’ GROOVY jam into MORNING DEW with an opulent meltdown out of the crescendo that eventually gets to the 1st PLAYING REPRISE. nice!
10/19/72 st. louis: fat-toned BIRD SONG. last COMES A TIME til ’76. messy DIRE WOLF, 1st since europe & last for a year.
10/21/72 nashville: long & winding pre-verse in OTHER ONE, atmospheric free drums behind garcia arpeggios & loud/proud bass.
10/23/72 milwaukee: the last (& probably best) of 4 choogly & generally bland versions of ROCKIN’ PNEUMONIA & THE BOOGIE WOOGIE FLU. a vividly river-like 28m DARK STAR, unusually focused on one contiguous theme & transcending the murky audience tape.
10/24/72 milwaukee: BOX OF RAIN finally enters the song rotation, vocals improved all around. or it could be the audience recording. thankfully, a soundboard for set 2 with fully articulated PHILO STOMP in THE OTHER ONE, bright jam led by chordal bass.
10/26/72 cincinnati: nice pre-verse major-key cloud-swells in DARK STAR & uneventful drums/bass fizzle into SUGAR MAGNOLIA.
10/27/72 columbus: decent audience tape by owsley. so much clapping. in a nice variation, HALF-STEP in the post-jam slot.
10/28/72 cleveland: BOX OF RAIN confident, almost aggro. still surreal to hear. primo free meltdown in PLAYING. great drum mix. last ATTICS OF MY LIFE ’til 1989. bye! first CANDYMAN since 11/71, a little rusty, but unchanged & with extra-soulful garcia vocal. hyperreal 28m billy-powered DARK STAR with unceasing movement, PHILO STOMP, TIGER noise, & A+ wah tone.
10/30/72 detroit: another warm owsley audience tape. cool cubist blooze in TRUCKIN’. no big jam, mucho weir-boogie. help.
11/12/72 kansas city, KS: 1st show since release of europe ’72. extra-wacky 1-beat BEAT IT ON DOWN intro. drab vibes & mix.
11/13/72 kansas city, KS: stunning DARK STAR. intricate architecture, endless translucent peaks.
11/14/72 oklahoma city: effortless throughout. sleight-of-hand cascade from HE’S GONE into TRUCKIN’ & crisp 15m OTHER ONE.
11/15/72 oklahoma city: 1st set only. 30m PLAYING achieves lush, delicate drift, electric keyboards particularly warm.
11/17/72 wichita: the only JACK STRAW played in wichita, no cheers for title lyric. THE OTHER ONE heavy on underwater swing & odd phil.
11/19/72 houston: weir strums through 1st WEATHER REPORT SUITE PRELUDE as coda to listless DARK STAR. band seems unsure what to do. TRUCKIN’ conspicuously absent both nights in the city too close to new orleans.
11/22/72 austin: garcia in exceedingly mellow mood, calls ballad after ballad. way soulful CANDYMAN, despite missed lyrics. oh, hey, donna jean now singing co-lead on BEAT IT ON DOWN THE LINE.
11/23/72 armadillo world headquarters: thanksgiving jam w/ garcia, lesh, sir doug sahm, & leon russell. unlimited C&W/tejano choogle. #headnecksunite
11/26/72 san antonio: gravity-free pre-verse DARK STAR tangents. later, a FEELIN’ GROOVY jam & joyous garcia annihilation.
12/10/72 winterland: warm & vivid soundboard. can practically feel winterland bouncing on uptempo tunes, esp. DEAL & SUGAR MAGNOLIA. supremely cracked garcia phrasing in PLAYING, carried into instinctive full-band knottiness during THE OTHER ONE.
12/11/72 winterland: pretty & wending 11m HALF-STEP to open odd & awesome jerry-heavy second set. last TOMORROW IS FOREVER ’til ’74. 35m DARK STAR with 15m build into sonorous clank followed by 15m of uninterrupted space-dread & an angelic STELLA BLUE.
12/12/72 winterland: phil hints at EYES OF THE WORLD ending in bass solo pre-OTHER ONE, with choppy, peppy post-verse jam.
12/15/72 long beach: nice slow implosion from TRUCKIN’ into last ’72 DARK STAR. soaring 1st jam. then, insect communiques.
In a bit of synchronicity/convergence that often seems to happen around the Grateful Dead, my beach reading this weekend was Vladimir Nabokov’s Pale Fire.
Though not on the beach, I also spent some time listening to the Dead’s June 17th, 1972 show at the Hollywood Bowl as part of my ongoing #deadfreaksunite project. It’s the first show post-Europe ’72 and likewise Pigpen’s final performance. He doesn’t sing, and his B3 is mostly inaudible on the truly shitty audience recording, with the very big exception of the debut version of “Stella Blue,” which is near-perfect. Music writers (myself probably included) toss the word “haunting” around with abandon, but Pig’s performance on “Stella Blue” is one case where it’s almost literally applicable.
And here’s where the Nabokov comes in:
Line 627: The great Starover Blue
…neither his first nor second name bears any relation to the celestial vault: the first was given him in memory of his grandfather, a Russian starover (accented, incidentally, on the ultima), that is, Old Believer (member of a schismatic sect), named Sinyavin, from siniy, Russ. “blue.” This Sinyavin migrated from Saratov to Seattle and begot a son who eventually changed his name to Blue and married Stella Lazurchik, an Americanized Kashube. So it goes.
And there it is, Stella Blue’s maiden name: Stella Lazurchik. Sounds like a hippie to me. (I was pretty excited to make this discovery but, naturally, David Dodd & Annotated Grateful Dead Song Lyrics site is all over it.)
Jon Huntsman recently prescribed a “Grateful Dead tour of this country” as a cure-all for our national ills led by a candidate “who rallies the support of the American people in getting term limits and closing the revolving doors of lobbyists.” In this case, I think, “Dead tour” slipped out Huntsman’s mouth as shorthand for a populist/collectivist groundswell with its own obsessive following, something richer and more real than mere grassroots support. And if that’s what Huntsman meant, some freegan should flyer him with #ows propaganda ASAP, it being an heir to the anarchistic/countercultural momentum the Dead carried for some LSD-soaked stretch of the time-track. Either that or show Huntsman Bob Roberts, which is probably more what a Republican candidate-based Dead tour would look like.
Either way, the more interesting part to me is the deployment of the Dead as a symbol by a Republican presidential candidate who–despite claiming to be a Captain Beefheart fan–pretty much has to the definition of square. This goes beyond Al and Tipper Gore inviting the band to the White House. They were fans of the band who at least came out of the same cultural moment. For a Mormon son of a billionaire, this is an invocation of a wholly different kind. “Grateful Dead” once meant something in ye olde English folklore about paying the funeral bills of an anonymous stranger who died in debt. Now, it has a folkloric resonance now of an entirely different sort, a meaning in the American mother-tongue beyond the band itself. Jon Huntsman won’t be getting my vote in any reality, but he certainly has my ear. I wish him the best as he is devoured the traditional manner of the grimacing white man’s quadrennial blood orgy.
The Dead played “Run Rudolph Run” seven times between December 4th and 15th, 1971. Pigpen sang. The tune was a #69 hit for Chuck Berry in 1958, written by Johnny Marks and Marvin Brodie. Unquestionably the best Dead version is the second-to-last, from December 14th at the Hill Auditorium in Ann Arbor. They played it twice in Chuck Berry’s hometown of St. Louis on December 9th and 10th, and it’s too bad not one of those, but the first night in Ann Arbor has the best mix of any of them. Keith Godchaux’s strident Johnnie Johnson-style piano is full and rich, like the familiar warm balance of Europe ’72, Garcia’s lines darting around it. Besides the following night, where he’s too loud, Godchaux is buried in most of the other recordings, Garcia and Weir’s guitars clanging against each other.
It’s a showcase for Pigpen, returning to the band after sitting out the fall tour, the first sign of weakening for the 26-year old alcoholic, who would die less than two years later. At times on the December east coast run, 11 shows from Boston to Ann Arbor, Pig is spotty. In Boston, the band pulled out his show-stopping “Turn On Your Lovelight,” and he faltered, unable to martial the gang into the weirdly psych-funk nooks they were often able to improvise behind semi-improvised patter about “box back knitties and great big noble thighs,” and they only revisited it one other time on the trip.
But by the end of the run, he seems almost back to form, though the big closers wouldn’t return with regularity until the band shuffled off to New York and then Europe the next spring. One lesson of my Dead listening project–revisiting every show close to its 40th anniversary, #deadfreaksunite, etc.–has been a constant reevaluation of the Dead as a working, aggressively evolving band, often marked by the unrelenting, constant expansion of their songbook. Most lately, this involved an appreciation of Pigpen’s still very active role in ’71 and ’72. Even for Deadheads, Pig is sometimes easy to write off in these later years, so often relegated to un-mic’ed sidestage congas.
While he didn’t exactly crank out tunes like Garcia and Weir, he had two new numbers to do for the December run, “Run Rudolph Run” and a new original, “Mr. Charlie,” which would go along fine with “Empty Pages,” introduced earlier in the year, had he not already abandoned that. Early ’72 would see two more Pig tunes go into rotation, “Chinatown Shuffle” (whose pick-up would get jacked for “U.S. Blues”) and the lost masterpiece “The Stranger (Two Souls in Communion).” Even after he left the road following the Europe ’72 tour, he continued to write, producing a set of home demos, which has circulated as Bring Me My Shotgun.
With its “Love & Theft”-like cadences on half-sensical tumbles about some heretofore unknown reindeer named Randolph (?!) and archaic constructions like “girl-child” and “boy-child,” it’s sort of mystifying that avowed Chuck Berry freak Bob Dylan didn’t record “Run Rudolph Run” for his Christmas in the Heart. But it’s a nice little novelty from the Dead’s brief two-keyboard lineup, where Pigpen and Godchaux got a nice Hudson/Manuel-like B3/piano blend on some of the recordings from those tours. Though Pig doesn’t play organ here, Godchaux’s presence gives him the chance to belt over straight-up boogie-woogie piano, a rare pleasure in itself only possible during these few tours.
All of which totally ignores the song’s holidayness, which really has no narrative and is, in an admirably teen-pop way, more about describing the apparent giddiness of the Christmas season in the post-War years. “Shopping is a feeling,” David Byrne said later in True Stories, and there’s maybe some of that in here (infused with holiday spirit, no doubt), with the subtle ’50s consumerism behind lyrics like “all I want for Christmas is a rock & roll electric guitar” and the girl-child’s wish for “a little baby doll that can cry, scream, and wet” (plus perfectly period automotive dreams about Santa speeding down a freeway). Not that Pigpen was signifyin’ or anything. He was–and thanks to the perpetual present tense of the recording is–just singing. The Dead may’ve been hippies, but by late 1971, they were mostly just a rock band.
“Run Rudolph Run”–at least the fifth or sixth Berry tune in rotation–is Pig in his element, and a vibrant little tick in Dead history. But it’s something maybe even more unique than that. In the Dead’s massive unofficial catalogue, it’s one of the very few versions of anything I’d happily call “definitive” with any measure of confidence. And, hey, that’s something to feel good about this holiday season.
The hippie punx continue to roam Bourgwick. Maybe more MC5/fucking-in-the-streets style than (re)united Dead Freaks, they’ve nonetheless colonized a shredded subway ad at my stop with their manifesto-like graffiti.
“Mountains of the Moon” – The Grateful Dead (download)
from Aoxomoxoa original mix (1969)
High on the list of Dead tunes likely to convert freak-folkers is Aoxomoxoa‘s “Mountains of the Moon.” With Tom Constanten’s swirling harpsichord and Robert Hunter’s oblique, mythical lyrics, it’s a bauble that didn’t sustain in the Dead’s repertoire, whose most tender songs required (for better or worse) a certain machismo to survive the ‘heads. While “Mountains” served as a perfect prelude to at least 11 “Dark Stars” in 1969, its modal (1) melody couldn’t even last long enough for the band’s abundant acoustic sets the following year. Drag.
I love how Hunter’s lyrics get down with the folk mythos — Tom Banjo, Electra, etc. — but also find a moment of psychedelic focus, the hallucinations parting for a brief second like ascending angels: “hey, the city in the rain.”
It is perhaps the aforementioned angels who hummm and ooooh behind the original 1969 version on Aoxomoxoa, removed by Jerry Garcia himself in a 1971 remix. On first listen, I wished there were more of them, but I think they’re in just the right proportion to last the duration of the track’s four minutes without grating. Like the Blood on the Tracks demo acetate, the Aoxomoxoa mix comes bundled with the vinyl warmth of its source. (Big ups to SeaOfSound for the music.)
“Eighth of January” – The Kentucky Colonels with Scott Stoneman (download) (buy)
(file expires February 27th)
Thanks to Rev for turning me onto this recording of Scott Stoneman and the Kentucky Colonels performing “Eighth of January” at the Ash Grove in Los Angeles in 1965. In the audience that night was Jerry Garcia.
I get my improvisational approach from Scotty Stoneman, the fiddle player. [He's] the guy who first set me on fire — where I just stood there and I don’t remember breathing. He was just an incredible fiddler. He was a total alcoholic wreck by the time I heard him, in his early thirties, playing with the Kentucky Colonels… They did a medium-tempo fiddle tune like ‘Eighth of January’ and it’s going along, and pretty soon Scotty starts taking these longer and longer phrases — ten bars, fourteen bars, seventeen bars — and the guys in the band are just watching him! They’re barely playing — going ding, ding, ding — while he’s burning. The place was transfixed. They played this tune for like twenty minutes, which is unheard of in bluegrass. I’d never heard anything like it. I asked him later, ‘How do you do that?’ and he said, ‘Man, I just play lonesome.’ (Garcia, c. 1985, via Blair Jackson’s Garcia: An American Life)
By the time the music made it to tape — which is to say, in reality — it was five and a third minutes, proving Garcia’s memory to be about as blown as any Deadhead’s. He’s not wrong either, though. (See also “Cleo’s Back” for the further secret history of the Grateful Dead.)
“Box of Rain” – The Grateful Dead (download) (buy)
from American Beauty (1970)
The Lorimer/Metropolitan station connects the L train to the G train, or Williamsburg to Park Slope. It is, needless to say, a Brooklynite hub. After discovering Grateful Dead graffiti there last year, I had another late night Dead encounter, this time with a drunk hipster.
At around 2 in the morning, over Thanksgiving weekend, he wandered onto the Brooklyn-bound side, carrying a mostly empty bottle of wine, and singing at the top of his lungs. His bellows slapped off the tile, making the lyrics that much more indistinguishable as he sang along with his iPod. I slipped off my headphones, curious to hear what he was singing: “Box of Rain.” Needless to say, I started singing along.
Dude had owned American Beauty in high school but was recently inspired to dust it off thanks to the concluding episode of Paul Feig and Judd Apatow’s Freaks and Geeks, in which Lindsay Weir discovers the Dead and skips out on a summertime academic summit to head off on Dead tour.
“Mountains of the Moon” – the Grateful Dead (download) (buy)
recorded 1 March 1969, Fillmore West, San Francisco
(file expires June 6th)
As I’ve been saying all along, the Dead are hip and getting hipper. With the publication of The Fader‘s Jerry Garcia issue (download it fer free!), the circle is complete. It’s official: Jerry’s cool again. And it’s about fucking time.
It is interesting to see Garcia liberated from the thin, crammed pages of Relix and splashed gorgeously across the thick glossy sheets and high modern layouts of The Fader. The editors present a very specific version of Garcia that is far from the genial, bearded fat dude he was for his last 15 years, and who is often still celebrated by the jamband scene. Titled “Jerry Garcia: American Beauty,” only two of the nine photos of Garcia (including full-sized front & back cover shots) feature the iconic beard. Instead, we get the doe-eyed beatific boy from San Francisco.
Arranged as an oral history/appreciation, the spread features quotes from the usual suspects (Bob Weir, Mountain Girl, David Grisman), but also pontificatin’ from various hipster musicians, including Devendra Banhart, Isaac Brock of Modest Mouse, Craig Finn of the Hold Steady, duder from Animal Collective, and others. Though they missed a few good quotables (no Lee Ranaldo?), they all present alternative readings on how to listen to the Dead. Alternative to the Deadhead mainstream, that is.
What happens now that the Dead are seemingly back in the dialogue, I have no idea.
“Mississippi Half-Step” – the Grateful Dead (download here)
recorded 20 October 1974
Winterland Arena – San Francisco, CA
from The Grateful Dead Movie Soundtrack (2005)
released by Grateful Dead Records (buy)
Even in deepest Williamsburg, Deadheads survive, here leaving their mark on the Brooklyn-bound platform of the Lorimer Street L-train station. Definitely a WTF?, but I’m glad the Deadheads are taking back the streetz. Or, as Boomy reminds: Dead Freaks Unite!
“Okie From Muskogee” – the Grateful Dead with the Beach Boys (download here)
recorded 27 April 1971
Fillmore East, NYC
(file expires February 2nd)
“We’ve got another famous California group here,” Jerry Garcia announced without much drama midway through the middle night of the Grateful Dead’s five-night run to close out the Fillmore East in April 1971. “It’s the Beach Boys.”
And out they came, or the post Brian Wilson incarnation anyway, to join the Dead for five songs, and to play two of their own in the middle. Like many sloppy superjams before and many since, it didn’t quite add up, but remains rather amusing. There are some great moments, from Carl Wilson’s fucking baked-ass “hello” as he arrives onstage to the Deadheads’ cries of “bring back the Dead” between Deadless renditions of “Good Vibrations” and “I Get Around” (the former introduced by Bruce Johnston as “a song that reflects these really fucked-up times”) (wha?).
The most musical artifact of the set, though, is a rendition of Merle Haggard’s still-newish redneck classic “Okie From Muskogee” which finally gets down to business: hearing Garcia’s guitar dart between the Boys’ harmonies. The Dead had been grooving on Haggard all month (indeed, a lovely Garcia reading of “Sing Me Back Home” would be the encore that night), and the ease with which they play matches the laid back Californicana of the BBs’ severely underrated albums from that period. There, ever so briefly, the great straights from the south and the great freaks from the north clicked, and over what? Some tongue-in-cheek twang. Go figure.
“Brokedown Palace” – the Grateful Dead (download here)
recorded 11 April 1972
Newcastle City Hall, Newcastle, UK
from Steppin’ Out with the Grateful Dead (2002)
released by Grateful Dead Records (buy)
(file expires January 24th)
It’s hard to find an excuse to publish a two-and-a-half year-old review of a show by a band I don’t like very much. But I’m going to, anyway, because it involved a pleasantly bizarre excursion to Central Park, and this thing has stewed on my harddrive for way too long. At one point, it was supposed to have run in the Interboro Rock Tribune, though — if it did — I sure never saw a copy.
And “Brokedown Palace”? Well, why not? Consider it a spoonful of honey for all the theorizing about Dave Matthews. Or maybe it’s just honey because honey is fucking delicious. Anyway, I came across this version tonight, recorded in Newcastle on April 11th, 1972, and I love it. For some reason, I can’t remember ever hearing a version from ’72 (or ’73 or ’74, my fave Dead period), though DeadBase swears there are plenty. Except for the high harmonies near the end, it’s all so perfectly assured, maybe even more than the American Beauty rendition, especially Garcia’s monstrously concise solo.
America On Line
by Jesse Jarnow
When guitarist Warren Haynes took the stage with the Dave Matthews Band during their massive free concert at Central Park on September 24th, few cheered. That was to be expected. Though Haynes is revered in some quarters as the ever-active guitarist for the Allman Brothers Band, Gov’t Mule, and Grateful Dead bassist Phil Lesh’s eponymous quintet, he’s mostly unknown in the mainstream.
After dueting with Matthews on a rendition of Neil Young’s “Cortez The Killer,” Haynes ripped into a soaring solo. It was typical Big Rock fare, Haynes’s fingers flying impassioned up the fretboard in a show of bluesy virtuosity, face scrunched in anguish and splayed across the nine jumbo screens to underscore the point. The solo blew to a volcanic climax, the tension released from Haynes’s body, and he stepped back.
And, again, few cheered.
This raises some questions. Likely, it wasn’t a show of displeasure. Nobody was booing, nor were people offering up any particular show of criticism. And it wasn’t abject boredom. Around me, on the fringe of the crowd, people seemed to be having a grand evening under the stars, laughing and smiling in all directions. So, what was it? Why hadn’t that old reliable, the Big Solo, ignited them?
On the surface, the Dave Matthews Band appear to have inherited the stadium rock mantle once held by bands like Led Zeppelin and, more recently, U2: an old-fashioned rock outfit (give or take) capable of creating best-selling records and filling impossibly large halls wherever they choose to roam. But, as the crowd’s reaction to Haynes indicated, perhaps not all is what it seems.
Beneath the same ol’, same ol’ exterior of the rock concert as suburban coming of age ritual, the practices of young concertgoers have subtly mutated. To say that they are having shallower experiences at the shows they attend because, say, their experiences are apparently non-musical is to miss the point. They’re still having a good time and they’re still, like it or not, coming of age. So, what is it that they latch onto?
Given the truly epic surreality of the event, from its conception to is execution – light years removed from the uncomplicated cause-and-effect of liking a band, hearing about their show, buying a ticket, and going (and even further from the vaunted free concerts of yore) – it’s right boggling to conceive of the AOL Concert For Schools as a teenager’s first rock show. Rock concerts have always been theaters of the absurd, but the dramatis personae seem to be changing of late. In Manhattan, anyway, ads had plastered subways and buses for several weeks. Typical copy depicted a picture of a row of school desks, the AOL running man logo branded onto the corner of each (a frightening thought), and the caption “Life needs a music lesson.”
Waiting on line, the acquisition of tickets seemed to be the most popular topic of discussion. Officially, they had been distributed for free via white AOL vans that parked at various Manhattan street corners throughout the week. But, being free and pretty much indiscriminately passed out – in a relatively mysterious way, at that, some seemingly arbitrarily, some after participating in contests – they quickly fell into other hands. We heard tales of a temporary black market that had sprung up to accommodate the distribution of tickets, funneling them out to the suburbs via EBay and co-workers and friends of friends with favors to call, sometimes free, but mostly not.
The line coiled through the park, a human Great Wall of China drudging in slow motion through Frederick Law Olmstead’s Arcadian landscaping, disappearing into the greenery at one end, stretching out onto Central Park’s bordering avenues on the other. On the east side, we had followed it south from the park’s entrance at 72nd Street with no end in sight, as Jon looked for somebody to bestow his spare ticket on.
A kid overheard us. “Do you have an extra?” he asked, with a slight accent.
“Maybe,” Jon replied
“Ya, I came from Germany,” he said.
“Oh yeah?” I replied, glancing at his Ithaca College hoodie.
“Ya,” he confirmed. “I’m from Munich.”
“Okay, you got it,” Jon said.
“Oh, danke!” Munich Boy grinned, and scurried off, ducking under a barricade and cutting into the line.
“Do you ever get the impression that the way these kids act on line might be a good metaphor for the way they’ll turn out later in life?” I asked Jon.
He paused. “Nah, that’s stupid.”
We pressed onward. Near 70th Street, past a row of port-o-lets, the line suddenly changed directions, as if we had passed the equator.
“The line doubles back somewhere down there,” a girl groused.
“This sucks, I wanna go home,” a nearby cop grumbled. “I could be in class right now.”
“Down there” was 65th Street, just north of the Central Park Zoo. “Screw this,” Jon announced, and turned into the park, following the sidewalk along the thru-road. A hundred yards into the park, we hopped the small stone wall, climbed a grassy embankment, and looked down on the line, which we could see in the distance. We could see dozens of other dissidents, looking for alternate paths into the concert. I wondered how many of them were first-time concertgoers.
We cursed Munich Boy as we clamored through the underbrush after the hillside we were following suddenly dropped away. We roamed the Ramble, occasionally catching sight of the line. It was a lovely evening for a stroll, and we wandered up paths and down stairs and past the pond and the gondolas and rowboats peacefully adrift. At the Boathouse, men in white linen suits dined, seemingly unaware of the horde of teenagers milling on the other side of the treeline.
We slipped into line. “Hey, good idea, man!” a guy said, unbothered by the fact that we were blatantly cutting in.
“How long have you been here?” I asked a girl next to us.
“Five hours,” she replied.
“Man, I got here three hours ago,” said a kid standing next to her.
“Really?” said somebody else. “We walked up, like 45 minutes ago. Didn’t even cut.”
The line had broken down their sense of time, it seemed. Mine, too. I have no recollection of how long we were there. People talked. Besides how they got their tickets, they rarely spoke about the band they were there to see (unheard of at show by Phish or the Grateful Dead, two bands the DMB is frequently lumped with). They didn’t even speak with particular frequency about other bands, but mostly about movies or television shows.
While this might not seem worth remarking on at first, it seems some indication of the way the Dave Matthews Band (and, thus, the rock concert as an entity) might now be viewed by young fans: music as something undifferentiated from other pop culture mediums, as opposed to an autonomous experience that exists outside of the mainstream of American life. In other words: rock not as rebellion at all, but as a completely sanctioned experience. Though this has probably been the norm for some time, the concert form has seemingly transformed around this ideal.
We passed a row of ticket takers, a pile of confiscated lawn chairs and blankets (for a day in the park, at that), a thoroughly crouch-mauling patdown (hands placed and suddenly jerked UP), and a bag search (though, officially, they weren’t allowing bags in at all; terror, etc.). Though our tickets had been ripped, and word had come that the show had started, we still couldn’t hear any music. Abruptly, two girls in front of us shrieked, charged up a small hill in the vague direction of the concert field, and disappeared into the woods. There was a rustling, then silence.
The lush green of the Great Lawn sprawled before us, the stately regency of Belvedere Castle and the midtown skyline at our back. The music ricocheted between speaker towers in an echoed maze, bearing strange sonic resemblance to an avant-garde multi-channel sound installation. Six giant screens stood in V-formation, pointing towards the distant stage, which was adorned by its own screen. Though the field was half-empty (presumably, most were still on line), clumps of people gathered around each of the screens.
Each was mounted on an elaborate scaffolding which also included several banks of lights, and a smoke machine. The former flashed constantly, moreless indiscriminately (which didn’t matter, since the images were hardly synched with the music coming from the speakers). The latter, positioned below the screen, jetted smoke straight upward, thanks to industrial fans just beneath the chute. The lights and the smoke both came between one’s sightline and the broadcast images, which simultaneously drew the eye in and created the impression that one was, indeed, watching something real at the center. Crowds sat cross-legged at the bases of the scaffolding, goggling upwards.
A camera mounted on a crane swept over the crowd. Another camera stood on a smaller scaffolding that rose from the midst of the throng. With the exception of a few songs in the middle of the band’s set, the operator trained the camera away from the stage for the entire night, presumably for the DVD of the concert, already set to be released on November 4th. There was no shortage of striking images. A girl holding a bouquet of heart-shaped balloons of silver mylar wandered by, the balloons momentarily framed by smoke billowing from the screen.
Instead of the usual between song pandemonium, the air vacuumed to near silence after a brief smattering of applause. Despite this, the music was not an unimportant part of the event. There was dancing, though it was frequently directed at each other in clusters, like a school dance, as opposed to at the stage. There were singalongs, though only at preset moments, as opposed to when the mood struck. There were giddy screams when favorite songs were played, though they were usually followed by cell phone calls, as opposed to intent listening.
So, why is the Dave Matthews Band the premier party band of the early 21st century? Surely, part of their appeal is in their Joe Rockband quality. Matthews is, as Rolling Stone’s David Fricke called him, “the ultimate Everyman.” Their music maps to that description, too. Despite several long instrumental excursions, there was little extreme about the band’s performance. They played at comfortable tempos with no distortion. All of this accounts for the band’s accessibility, for the college following that was Matthews’ bread and butter in earlier years, but doesn’t explain why listeners seem to be applying different standards to Matthews’ music than previous generations.
Or does it?
Despite its size, despite the screens, the show in Central Park was as close to a non-spectacle as one could get at that magnitude. When soloing, bandmembers would make a point of stepping close to each other and making eye contact. Again, it was an old rock trick (e.g. Robert Plant drawing the crowd’s attention to Jimmy Page by moving near and watching him solo), but effective. But, when Plant looked at Page, he frequently did so with awe, putting the guitarist on a pedestal for the audience by temporarily playing low status.
By contrast, the Dave Matthews Band’s gestures were far more humble. By design or happenstance, each revealed the band as six men playing music in real time. In an age where jump cuts are the norm and linear performances are practically unknown in popular culture, that can be powerful good. It is well possible that the Dave Matthews Band appeals for the same reason that country music suddenly found itself in vogue in the late ’60s. There is not so much an authenticity to the Dave Matthews Band as there is an undiluted simplicity — which is a helluva thing to say about a rock and roll band playing music in front of an estimated 100,000 people at a concert sponsored by one of the biggest corporations in the world.
In this case, it’s not what the guitars are doing, but that there are even guitars at all. Through all, Matthews inspires a certain comfort level. And, hey, as an audience member, that feels great. It is precisely because the rock concert has become such an ingrained ritual that the Dave Matthews Band thrives: simply, at a Dave Matthews Band show, one doesn’t have to behave like he’s at a rock concert.
There are no pretensions of revelation, no high art or inflatable pigs, not even any obvious attempts to get the crowd riled up. Nobody was beat over the head being told that they were having the time of his or her life. Is that rebellion? Maybe so, maybe not. It’s definitely a “to each his own trip” philosophy, minus the drugs and writ large. Like every Everyman, Dave Matthews is a blank slate. Life needs blank slates.
Around us, boys approached girls awkwardly, smoking the second or third cigarettes of their lives, as the new template for a rock show burned itself into their heads. They had meaningful experiences.
“This is the place to be!” a guy in a turquoise Alligator shirt bellowed as he stumbled by. “These guys are the bomb, right?”
A moment later, he held his head and staggered towards the scaffolding, where he vomited. He removed his shirt, revealing a lacrosse uniform, wiped his mouth, and lurched back into the crowd.
“You Enjoy Myself” – Phish (download here)
recorded 26 October 1989
Wetlands Preserve, NYC (soundboard)
Man, y’know, I hate to be negative & shit, but sometimes life requires it and this story is too good to pass up. Carole De Saram is the President of the Tribeca Community Association. As I found out when I saw the final cut of Wetlands Preserved, a documentary I worked on a few years ago, she was one of the prime movers in forcing the Wetlands Preserve out of Tribeca in September 2001. Call it gentrification or something else, but she displaced a very real community in the name of making her own newer, richer community a little blander. That it happened during a month when communities in Manhattan were needed more than ever only made it shittier.
But then there’s karma. Or, more accurately, there’s Borat.
Carole De Saram, as it turns out, is also a member of the Veteran Feminists of America, a group Sacha Baron Cohen interviews in Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. When I saw the film, it was one of the few times where I groaned and thought, “gee, does he really have to fuck with these people?” And the answer, as the universe has pointed out to me, is: hell yes. My new theory is that anybody in Borat who appears innocent is actually atoning for some bad juju he or she previously unleashed on the world.
Anyway, there’s something positive to go along with it: a nicely mixed soundboard of Phish playing “You Enjoy Myself” at the Wetlands in October 1989. For non-Phishies open-eared enough to try, this is as good a place to start as any. If you don’t enjoy “You Enjoy Myself,” you probably won’t enjoy Phish. They’re not the story here, anyway, Wetlands is: a club that allowed this bizarre music to happen in New York.
Here’s a 12-story feature I edited, and partially wrote, about Wetlands on the occasion of its closing.
The suicide of former Grateful Dead keyboardist Vince Welnick on Friday saddened me in a way I couldn’t have predicted. As a latter-day Deadhead, I never had much use for him. In large part, that is because his tenure fell during Jerry Garcia’s final half-decade, a period of terminal musical decline. In the proverbial history book, Welnick is a footnote.
But he was also a real dude, who — until last week — was busting his ass trying to make a living playing keyboards (most recently with various Dead cover bands). His story, http://www.vincewelnick.com/index.php?module=pnForum&func=viewtopic&topic=315&start=0">as posted by his friend Mike Lawson, is heartbreaking. Welnick was depressed, Lawson writes, because his ex-bandmates never invited to any of the periodic Dead regroupings. This, in part, seems to have happened because — while on tour with Bob Weir and Ratdog — Welnick overdosed in the back of the bus, and was subsequently shoved unceremoniously into a cab and sent to the emergency room as a John Doe.
There’s more, of course, throughout both Lawson’s post and the subsequent thread. In a way, with its neat and logical narrative, it makes perfect sense of what happened — something extraordinarily rare. But just because the story makes sense and has an ending doesn’t mean that anything is resolved, or better. Sometimes, the music just doesn’t work, and that might be the scariest ending of all.
How bad could the outtakes be from a Phish album that was basically comprised of demos to begin with? The answer, if you have any wookie blood in you at all, is relative. (And, if you don’t, you’ll come away hating Phish even more than you already do.)
Yes, yes, relative. That is: the three “new” songs circulating from Phish’s 2002 Round Room sessions are very much like their officially released brethren in that they’re half-conceived and far less than they should be. Being outtakes, this less-than-whole-assedness is also perfectly excusable. That doesn’t make them good (or of interest to anybody not already curious about Phish’s creative process).
“Birthday Boys” had already been recorded by Oysterhead, one of the bands Trey Anastasio played with during the two years previous to this session, while Phish was figuring out if they wanted to be a band or not (they didn’t, as they determined later). It’s nifty, heavy on the same impressionistic twang that defined “Pebbles and Marbles,” which led off Round Room. Playful and intricate, it would’ve made an ace Phish tune — especially the cleverly modulating ending. The version here borders on trainwreck, especially as it goes, but — hey — it’s a rehearsal. It coulda been a contenda.
The all-improv (and largely abstract) “Bubble Wrap” is — I assume — one of the band’s first jams after getting back together. They feel disconnected, their parts moving against each other and trying, mostly unsuccessfully, to lock in. It’s kind of uncomfortable to hear Phish, who were rarely less than psychic communicators with big ears, playing like this. A historical curiosity, perhaps. The last song, “Running Scared,” most likely isn’t Phish at all, but Anastasio demoing with songwriting/drinking chum Tom Marshall. Finding the song in the midst of the sloppiness is like trying to find the marble in the proverbial oatmeal (or maybe just figuring out a magic eye). Either way, it’s hard to imagine a way that Phish could’ve made it all too interesting. So it went.