SUMMER OF DEAD 2014: Wembley Empire Pool, London, England, April 8, 1972
After some time in the 1980s, Jacob King takes us back to ‘72. This one was released officially; you can check it on your streaming service of choice. But I’ve included some highlights below so you can dive into Wembley Pool. 
This offering from the Dead’s famed Europe ‘72 tour is positively smoking as the band rips through classics, works through newer numbers, and then splits everything wide open in the second set with a massive “Dark Star” > “Sugar Magnolia” > “Caution.”
The first sets for most of the Euro ‘72 tour had a fairly standard set of songs but being that 4/8/72 was only the second night of the tour the band seems fresh and hungry. My money is on opener “Bertha” which blazes into an ascension of spiraling guitar lines and propulsive rhythms from Lesh and Kreutzmann. Another barn-burner comes later in the set with “Cumberland Blues.” Nothing is ever perfect in Dead world but this “Cumberland” comes close to everything one could want from the band in under six minutes. Their ability to mine an old, weird, American sound and turn it inside out on itself is breathtaking. It’s no surprise they put it on the official Europe 72 release. It’s a ripper.
Other first set highlights include a compact 11m “Playing In The Band" that only hints at the direction they would take the number by the end of ‘72. I’ve always dug how the PiTB’s from this tour don’t sprawl as much as they do shimmer. As the band launches into the jam Weir’s chords gently prod the band forward as Jerry’s guitar runs circles. By 6m into the track this thing is really vibrating and a minute later Jerry brings it all to a climax in a cloud of shrilled notes and slight dissonance.
No surprise that it’s the second set where the really jams fly. Hard to say if I have a favorite “Dark Star" but this one is certainly up there. The track opens with nearly 10m of exploratory black hole jamming. By 8m30s Jerry has the guitar screaming and probably freaking out a few heads who took too many tabs. The subsequent comedown is a subterranean groove that gives everyone a chance to exhale, slightly. (To think they haven’t even sung the lyrics of the song yet.) After the band settles down enough to sing the lyrics the group explodes into dissonance (the kind of stuff I like to give to the uninitiated who think the Dead are soft or something) and into a number of melodic and not so melodic jams that Kreutzmann expertly molds. I really admire Kreutzmann’s restraint here; he knows just when to ride the cymbals or when to coming crashing in to help give life to what the rest of the band is mixing together. If this "Dark Star" had ended with what seems like a final squall of noise, I would have said, as the Jews say, "dayenu." Instead, the band bursts into a rollicking "Mind Left Body" jam that holds off the oncoming "Sugar Magnolia" for a few more blissful minutes. That latter is lots of fun, as is the "Caution" that follows it. Bonus that Pigpen throws in some harmonica in the back half of "Caution."
It’s a real treat when everything clicks, even more so when it clicks for nearly an hour of non-stop playing as heard in this “Dark Star” > “Sugar Magnolia” > “Caution.” Dig it. This show seems to now be on Spotify so no excuses for not checking this slab of ‘72 out.
Jake King is a video producer living in Brooklyn, NY. You can find him on twitter @cptblicero tweeting too much of nothing.

SUMMER OF DEAD 2014: Wembley Empire Pool, London, England, April 8, 1972

After some time in the 1980s, Jacob King takes us back to ‘72. This one was released officially; you can check it on your streaming service of choice. But I’ve included some highlights below so you can dive into Wembley Pool. 

This offering from the Dead’s famed Europe ‘72 tour is positively smoking as the band rips through classics, works through newer numbers, and then splits everything wide open in the second set with a massive “Dark Star” > “Sugar Magnolia” > “Caution.”

The first sets for most of the Euro ‘72 tour had a fairly standard set of songs but being that 4/8/72 was only the second night of the tour the band seems fresh and hungry. My money is on opener “Bertha” which blazes into an ascension of spiraling guitar lines and propulsive rhythms from Lesh and Kreutzmann. Another barn-burner comes later in the set with “Cumberland Blues.” Nothing is ever perfect in Dead world but this “Cumberland” comes close to everything one could want from the band in under six minutes. Their ability to mine an old, weird, American sound and turn it inside out on itself is breathtaking. It’s no surprise they put it on the official Europe 72 release. It’s a ripper.

Other first set highlights include a compact 11m “Playing In The Band" that only hints at the direction they would take the number by the end of ‘72. I’ve always dug how the PiTB’s from this tour don’t sprawl as much as they do shimmer. As the band launches into the jam Weir’s chords gently prod the band forward as Jerry’s guitar runs circles. By 6m into the track this thing is really vibrating and a minute later Jerry brings it all to a climax in a cloud of shrilled notes and slight dissonance.

No surprise that it’s the second set where the really jams fly. Hard to say if I have a favorite “Dark Star" but this one is certainly up there. The track opens with nearly 10m of exploratory black hole jamming. By 8m30s Jerry has the guitar screaming and probably freaking out a few heads who took too many tabs. The subsequent comedown is a subterranean groove that gives everyone a chance to exhale, slightly. (To think they haven’t even sung the lyrics of the song yet.) After the band settles down enough to sing the lyrics the group explodes into dissonance (the kind of stuff I like to give to the uninitiated who think the Dead are soft or something) and into a number of melodic and not so melodic jams that Kreutzmann expertly molds. I really admire Kreutzmann’s restraint here; he knows just when to ride the cymbals or when to coming crashing in to help give life to what the rest of the band is mixing together. If this "Dark Star" had ended with what seems like a final squall of noise, I would have said, as the Jews say, "dayenu." Instead, the band bursts into a rollicking "Mind Left Body" jam that holds off the oncoming "Sugar Magnolia" for a few more blissful minutes. That latter is lots of fun, as is the "Caution" that follows it. Bonus that Pigpen throws in some harmonica in the back half of "Caution."

It’s a real treat when everything clicks, even more so when it clicks for nearly an hour of non-stop playing as heard in this “Dark Star” > “Sugar Magnolia” > “Caution.” Dig it. This show seems to now be on Spotify so no excuses for not checking this slab of ‘72 out.

Jake King is a video producer living in Brooklyn, NY. You can find him on twitter @cptblicero tweeting too much of nothing.

Daniel Bachman - Parc de la Cure D’air, Paris, France, June 14, 2014
I’ve been fairly effusive about Daniel Bachman’s brand of guitar soli genius over the past year-and-a-half or so — but the guy just keeps getting better. You’ll just have to trust me when I say that his latest, Orange Co. Serenade, is the guitarist’s best LP yet. [Or you can go listen for yourself at The Fader]. It’s a wonderful, assured recording that splits the difference between Bachman’s love of timeworn, old-timey melodies and dronier, more “out” sounds. The album kicks off with the latter, as a single organ chord blends with a tangle of gloriously psychedelic guitar strings. But you’ll find plenty of more straightforward moments as well, from the meditative, lovely “Coming Home” to the big riffs of “Little Lady Blues.” The compositions feel a bit more deliberate, the transitions ever more masterful on Orange Co. Serenade. It’s out today. Buy it. You’re going to love it. 
As an added bonus, I’ve got this extremely great live recording of Dan in Paris last month, featuring some of the new album, a few older tracks and a sneak peek at the man’s next album, out sometime in the near future on Three Lobed Recordings. I especially love the extended, untitled piece that kicks the whole thing off. 

Daniel Bachman - Parc de la Cure D’air, Paris, France, June 14, 2014

I’ve been fairly effusive about Daniel Bachman’s brand of guitar soli genius over the past year-and-a-half or so — but the guy just keeps getting better. You’ll just have to trust me when I say that his latest, Orange Co. Serenade, is the guitarist’s best LP yet. [Or you can go listen for yourself at The Fader]. It’s a wonderful, assured recording that splits the difference between Bachman’s love of timeworn, old-timey melodies and dronier, more “out” sounds. The album kicks off with the latter, as a single organ chord blends with a tangle of gloriously psychedelic guitar strings. But you’ll find plenty of more straightforward moments as well, from the meditative, lovely “Coming Home” to the big riffs of “Little Lady Blues.” The compositions feel a bit more deliberate, the transitions ever more masterful on Orange Co. Serenade. It’s out today. Buy it. You’re going to love it. 

As an added bonus, I’ve got this extremely great live recording of Dan in Paris last month, featuring some of the new album, a few older tracks and a sneak peek at the man’s next album, out sometime in the near future on Three Lobed Recordings. I especially love the extended, untitled piece that kicks the whole thing off. 

The Ramones - Whiskey A Go Go, Los Angeles, California, October 21, 1977
Hey ho! In honor of Tommy Ramone’s recent passing, I wrote up this thing for Pitchfork: The CBGB Beat: Five Drummers Who Powered The NYC Punk Explosion. With the exception of Tommy now, all of these guys are still with us (and still working!). I had the chance to see Clem Burke in action a few years back and the dude is just a stunning drummer. Go see him if you can. In the meantime, you can check out more vintage live Ramones action via Big O. Let’s go! 

The Ramones - Whiskey A Go Go, Los Angeles, California, October 21, 1977

Hey ho! In honor of Tommy Ramone’s recent passing, I wrote up this thing for Pitchfork: The CBGB Beat: Five Drummers Who Powered The NYC Punk Explosion. With the exception of Tommy now, all of these guys are still with us (and still working!). I had the chance to see Clem Burke in action a few years back and the dude is just a stunning drummer. Go see him if you can. In the meantime, you can check out more vintage live Ramones action via Big O. Let’s go! 

SUMMER OF DEAD 2014: Oxford Plains Speedway, Oxford, Maine, July 2 and July 3, 1988 
The Summer of Dead and summer camp! Buzz Poole looks back on 1988. 
In the summer of 1988 I was 11 and spent a month at a sleepaway camp in Nobleboro, Maine. It was great – we swam in the lake, camped out and climbed Mt. Washington, shot rifles, and goofed off in the ways boys do when they haven’t reached puberty but can sense it approaching. I spent three summers going to this camp and those month-long stints made countless impressions on me that I can track to this day. I’m not sure I can credit summer camp for making me a Deadhead, but even before I knew anything about the Grateful Dead I received an unforgettable lesson in just how important the band was in the lives of its fans.
That summer, the Dead wrapped up its East Coast summer tour with two nights, July 2nd and 3rd, at Oxford Plains Speedway in Oxford, Maine. By all accounts, and as the recordings confirm, the shows oozed carefree summer attitude enhanced by the rural setting, about an hour northwest of Portland, creeping up on the New Hampshire border and the White Mountains. Of course, I wasn’t there, but I did watch, along with the rest of the camp, a swimming race in the lake between counselors vying for an extra ticket that had become available.
These guys were old in my eyes. They were in college, grew facial hair, and had sex. I don’t remember a jerk among them. Sitting around campfires or killing time during a downpour, we’d talk about all sorts of stuff – girls, family, sports – but they weren’t pontificating about their favorite art house films or the bands they listened to. We were kids after all. Knowing what I know today, though, these guys were on the crunchy side, happy to spend their summers introducing a bunch of rambunctious boys to the joys and hardships of the wilderness.
So they we all were, gathered down at the lake to watch a bunch of counselors, with nicknames like Pothole (when not out on a camping trip he taught pottery classes), get really riled up to win the opportunity to go see this band with a recent hit song and, apparently, a devoted fan base. The winner was one of two brothers who both worked at the camp. I’ll never forget his smile. Back then I didn’t have the right words for it, other than “happy” and “big.” But his smile more closely resembled religious fervor or tripped-out bliss, a Cheshire cat grin to be sure.
Oxford is about eighty miles from Nobleboro and it just so happens that I pass through there a few times a year when on my way to visit family. Route 26 is a mostly two-lane road that hasn’t changed much since 1988. It doesn’t matter the time of year, every time I pass by the rickety-looking stadium I think back on that day of the race in the lake and how badly these guys wanted to see a band, something I came to understand and appreciate about five years later.
When I listen to the shows now, especially July 2nd, I almost feel like I was there, as if being in the state at that time, and having watched this race, and still passing by the stadium make me a part of those concerts by some cosmic proxy. It’s absurd, I know, but it’s real to me, which is all that really matters. I’ve stopped and walked the empty dust and gravel parking lot and imagined a summer evening and a relaxed “Iko Iko” opener bubbling out over the grandstands, and pondered the beam-heavy, synthesized soundscapes of Drums and Space climbing into the night sky over such a sparsely populated region.
I can’t tell you the first time I listened to these shows, certainly not until the mid ‘90s, but even without hearing them until years after they happened, there’s just something about them that has been with me for twenty-six years, in the same way that everything about my first Dead show in 1993 has stuck with me since, and in a way explained quite a bit about that race in the lake. I can’t explain it better than this, but since the Grateful Dead defy explanation on so many levels, it strikes me as just about perfect.
Buzz Poole is writing a 33 1/3 about Workingman’s Dead. Keep up with him @BuzzPoole.

SUMMER OF DEAD 2014: Oxford Plains Speedway, Oxford, Maine, July 2 and July 3, 1988 

The Summer of Dead and summer camp! Buzz Poole looks back on 1988. 

In the summer of 1988 I was 11 and spent a month at a sleepaway camp in Nobleboro, Maine. It was great – we swam in the lake, camped out and climbed Mt. Washington, shot rifles, and goofed off in the ways boys do when they haven’t reached puberty but can sense it approaching. I spent three summers going to this camp and those month-long stints made countless impressions on me that I can track to this day. I’m not sure I can credit summer camp for making me a Deadhead, but even before I knew anything about the Grateful Dead I received an unforgettable lesson in just how important the band was in the lives of its fans.

That summer, the Dead wrapped up its East Coast summer tour with two nights, July 2nd and 3rd, at Oxford Plains Speedway in Oxford, Maine. By all accounts, and as the recordings confirm, the shows oozed carefree summer attitude enhanced by the rural setting, about an hour northwest of Portland, creeping up on the New Hampshire border and the White Mountains. Of course, I wasn’t there, but I did watch, along with the rest of the camp, a swimming race in the lake between counselors vying for an extra ticket that had become available.

These guys were old in my eyes. They were in college, grew facial hair, and had sex. I don’t remember a jerk among them. Sitting around campfires or killing time during a downpour, we’d talk about all sorts of stuff – girls, family, sports – but they weren’t pontificating about their favorite art house films or the bands they listened to. We were kids after all. Knowing what I know today, though, these guys were on the crunchy side, happy to spend their summers introducing a bunch of rambunctious boys to the joys and hardships of the wilderness.

So they we all were, gathered down at the lake to watch a bunch of counselors, with nicknames like Pothole (when not out on a camping trip he taught pottery classes), get really riled up to win the opportunity to go see this band with a recent hit song and, apparently, a devoted fan base. The winner was one of two brothers who both worked at the camp. I’ll never forget his smile. Back then I didn’t have the right words for it, other than “happy” and “big.” But his smile more closely resembled religious fervor or tripped-out bliss, a Cheshire cat grin to be sure.

Oxford is about eighty miles from Nobleboro and it just so happens that I pass through there a few times a year when on my way to visit family. Route 26 is a mostly two-lane road that hasn’t changed much since 1988. It doesn’t matter the time of year, every time I pass by the rickety-looking stadium I think back on that day of the race in the lake and how badly these guys wanted to see a band, something I came to understand and appreciate about five years later.

When I listen to the shows now, especially July 2nd, I almost feel like I was there, as if being in the state at that time, and having watched this race, and still passing by the stadium make me a part of those concerts by some cosmic proxy. It’s absurd, I know, but it’s real to me, which is all that really matters. I’ve stopped and walked the empty dust and gravel parking lot and imagined a summer evening and a relaxed “Iko Iko” opener bubbling out over the grandstands, and pondered the beam-heavy, synthesized soundscapes of Drums and Space climbing into the night sky over such a sparsely populated region.

I can’t tell you the first time I listened to these shows, certainly not until the mid ‘90s, but even without hearing them until years after they happened, there’s just something about them that has been with me for twenty-six years, in the same way that everything about my first Dead show in 1993 has stuck with me since, and in a way explained quite a bit about that race in the lake. I can’t explain it better than this, but since the Grateful Dead defy explanation on so many levels, it strikes me as just about perfect.

Buzz Poole is writing a 33 1/3 about Workingman’s Dead. Keep up with him @BuzzPoole.

RIP Charlie Haden

A bummer of a way to end the week. Charlie Haden passed away today. Haden came to renown first as the bassist in Ornette Coleman’s group in the late 50s and early 60s. But his career stretched far and wide, from his collabs with Carla Bley to work with Keith Jarrett and beyond. Check out this clip of him performing with Old And New Dreams, a group with Don Cherry, Ed Blackwell and Dewey Redman. It kicks off with an extended bass solo that is pure Haden. You should also check out this excellent NPR interview from a few years back

SUMMER OF DEAD 2014: Greek Theatre, University of California, Berkeley, California, May 13, 1983
The Summer of Dead checks into the Solar Motel. Chris Forsyth (who you may recall made one of our fave records of last year) goes to the Greek in ‘83. Chris’ tour with the Solar Motel Band kicks off TONIGHT in Cleveland. Check out the dates and go go go. 
I’ve been digging into the early ’80s a lot lately. I think a lot of people generally consider this a pretty fallow zone. It’s a period during which Garcia was known to be rapidly speeding towards rock bottom in terms of his health and drug addiction and the band had ceased making studio records after a few increasingly weak and misguided stabs at mainstream accessibility culminated in 1980’s Go To Heaven. That record, with its famously horrendous (or is it hilarious?) cover photo of the band in disco leisure suits and a production approach that reminds me of nothing so much as the soundtracks to Magnum P.I. and Simon & Simon, is a festival of bad decision making. You can love it as a period piece (and as usual there are a couple real good songs buried under the production muck), but it’s clearly not the work of clear headed focus or even an inspiringly addled artistic vision. It’s just adrift. Phil Lesh in his memoir bemoans what he perceived as the loss of “group mind” in this era due to the level of drug abuse among the band and crew.
So, you might think that these factors would translate to a lack of direction on stage, right? Well, to my ears, that’s just not true. Sure, much of the most consistently exploratory experimentation was long gone from their sets, but there’s still plenty of fluidity to my ears. On a lot of these early 80s shows, the band walks the line of relaxed and taut, expansive and focused, and judging from the clarity of his playing and singing, you’d never know that Garcia was at this point a barely functioning human and looked like a junkie bum who slept on the street (which, barring his steady job in the Dead, he admits he just might have been). I find his playing in this period to be some of the most articulately lyrical, melodically inventive playing of his career — just beautiful, beautiful playing. Channeling, really. The band continue to integrate new songs into the sets - a sign that they were not quite ready to go on creative auto-pilot. Brent brings a lot of good energy, especially on B3 and backing vocals.
This gem from a spring ‘83 run at the Greek Theatre is a perfect example. It’s a stellar audience recording and Bob’s guitar is plenty present in the mix (always a plus for me). I first ran across this show over at Dead Listening, which also notes the fact that this show contains the first ever “Hell in a Bucket.” I rest my case.
Chris Forsyth is a Philadelphia-based guitarist. His Solar Motel LP on Paradise of Bachelors is totally amazing. A new record, Intensity Ghost, is coming your way this fall on No Quarter Records. 

SUMMER OF DEAD 2014: Greek Theatre, University of California, Berkeley, California, May 13, 1983

The Summer of Dead checks into the Solar Motel. Chris Forsyth (who you may recall made one of our fave records of last year) goes to the Greek in ‘83. Chris’ tour with the Solar Motel Band kicks off TONIGHT in Cleveland. Check out the dates and go go go

I’ve been digging into the early ’80s a lot lately. I think a lot of people generally consider this a pretty fallow zone. It’s a period during which Garcia was known to be rapidly speeding towards rock bottom in terms of his health and drug addiction and the band had ceased making studio records after a few increasingly weak and misguided stabs at mainstream accessibility culminated in 1980’s Go To Heaven. That record, with its famously horrendous (or is it hilarious?) cover photo of the band in disco leisure suits and a production approach that reminds me of nothing so much as the soundtracks to Magnum P.I. and Simon & Simon, is a festival of bad decision making. You can love it as a period piece (and as usual there are a couple real good songs buried under the production muck), but it’s clearly not the work of clear headed focus or even an inspiringly addled artistic vision. It’s just adrift. Phil Lesh in his memoir bemoans what he perceived as the loss of “group mind” in this era due to the level of drug abuse among the band and crew.

So, you might think that these factors would translate to a lack of direction on stage, right? Well, to my ears, that’s just not true. Sure, much of the most consistently exploratory experimentation was long gone from their sets, but there’s still plenty of fluidity to my ears. On a lot of these early 80s shows, the band walks the line of relaxed and taut, expansive and focused, and judging from the clarity of his playing and singing, you’d never know that Garcia was at this point a barely functioning human and looked like a junkie bum who slept on the street (which, barring his steady job in the Dead, he admits he just might have been). I find his playing in this period to be some of the most articulately lyrical, melodically inventive playing of his career — just beautiful, beautiful playing. Channeling, really. The band continue to integrate new songs into the sets - a sign that they were not quite ready to go on creative auto-pilot. Brent brings a lot of good energy, especially on B3 and backing vocals.

This gem from a spring ‘83 run at the Greek Theatre is a perfect example. It’s a stellar audience recording and Bob’s guitar is plenty present in the mix (always a plus for me). I first ran across this show over at Dead Listening, which also notes the fact that this show contains the first ever “Hell in a Bucket.” I rest my case.

Chris Forsyth is a Philadelphia-based guitarist. His Solar Motel LP on Paradise of Bachelors is totally amazing. A new record, Intensity Ghost, is coming your way this fall on No Quarter Records. 

"I Saw Nick Drake" - Robyn Hitchcock, Birmingham Town Hall, England, May 16, 2009

Good people of the Internet, you can now go check out my latest Invisible Hits column on Pitchfork. It deals with some of the best/most interesting unreleased Nick Drake items. It’s a good one! And hey, here is the original Invisible Hit-maker Robyn Hitchcock performing his sublime ode to Nick a few years back. I think it pretty much says it all.  

SUMMER OF DEAD 2014: Soldier Field, Chicago, Illinois, June 22, 1991
More Summer of Dead action! In this installment, Mitch Carroll goes DEEP into a choice 1991 show. Terrapin! Dark Star! HORNSBY!
In selecting a show to review for the Summer of Dead, I had a few criteria in mind. If not a summer show, than at least a fun and bubbly Dead show rather than a dark psychedelic mind-fuck more suited for winter hibernation. Second, an unheralded show I feel is due some attention. Thinking of favorite shows that have gone under the radar, one that came to mind was 6/22/91. An excellent show, particularly the second set, which likely gets overlooked due to other standouts from the Hornsby era. It also fit the criteria of being a bright summertime show for kicking back on a sunny day, enjoying some cool ones, and mainlining some DMT. 
Thinking back on this show, it became apparent that all objectivity would be thrown out the window. For a Deadhead, these cherished shows became the fabric of our lives, intertwined with our identities. And I started to think back to why I loved this show, who I was at the time, and what I understood about the Dead then vs. the present day version of my “self.” In 1991 I was a 15 year old living in the Chicago suburbs, just beginning what would become a life-long experimentation with hair length and mind-expanding substances. Unfortunately I wouldn’t get to see the Dead for the first time until the following summer, so this is the one that got away. And for me, this show is like a personal 5/8/77, the first great soundboard recording to fall into my lap. The energy, clarity, subtlety, and intricacy of the music was astounding. So come on back with me for a walk down memory lane…
I’ll be honest, I haven’t listened to this first set much, as the second set is where the goods are at. But there are some moments here to consider. You’ll be excused if you skip over the “Hell in a Bucket” opener as I usually do. Listening to the organ and chorus makes me think Bob may have been going for a “Stuck Inside of Mobile” feel with “Bucket,” but he missed the mark. Eventually it heats up at the end to a nice crescendo, and Jerry is clearly energized as he immediately noodles the “Shakedown” riff before the rest of the band joins in. “Shakedown” feels like a bonus opener in this slot, before the setlists became completely safe. The signature Grateful Dead bounce is in full effect, and the band sounds engaged in the conversation, chugging and swirling around each other. At the nine minute mark they’re locked in and open up the discussion to new ideas. Jerry busts out some tasty licks on the midi sax, which Bob counters with some trumpet bursts to mixed results, before they return to the chorus and finish the song off. Nothing incendiary, but it’ll get your head bobbin’. The rest of the set does tread in predictable territory, but with a fine collection of tunes for the era. “Wang Dang Doodle” may be my favorite of Weir’s blues covers, as it strives to continue “Shakedown”’s groove rather than going for vocal histrionics. But Bobby can’t be helped and is a bit over the top on this rendition. It’s also marred the same qualities that aided Shakedown - swirling band interaction and synth - and serves as a prime example of why purists accuse the Dead of musical gang rape. “Friend of the Devil” rolls along, a bit more upbeat than the crawl it often became. The dual keyboards, particularly Vince’s organ, overwhelm the tune at times, and the drummers even get in on the action as it builds up. But Garcia sounds vocally strong, this is a classic tune, the sun is shining, and you’re in a crowd of 50,000 people losing their marbles, so it’ll do. Crooner Bob comes out for “Masterpiece,” which I’ve always enjoyed, if not as much as the Garcia Band versions. Sadly missing are Jerry’s backing vocals, with Vince making his presence known on the refrain. Garcia’s playing is nimble though, and continues with the intro licks to “Brown Eyed Women.” A nice if unremarkable version. I’ve never been a big fan of “Let it Grow,” particularly without the Weather Report intro. And the woodcutter’s daughter line ranks among my least favorite lyrics all time. But along with “Shakedown” it provides the only real jamming potential in the set. Bob really lays on the midi effects, which may have sounded distorted and grating at the show depending on one’s state of mind. The band locks in and chase each other around toward the end of the jam, but like the “Shakedown” fail to break any new ground. All in all, a fine if forgettable set. “We’ll be right back.” And away they go.
Things seem to turn a corner in the second set, and the band finds a groove they can stick with. They tickle the intro to “Foolish Heart,” Bobby hinting at the “Do Re Mi” song, gently easing into the tune. Unlike many of the first set songs, this one is really perfect for the dual keyboard attack and the midi sounds of this era. Garcia has said in interviews that this song doesn’t have any pads, with each person playing their own unique line throughout. At times it could be a hot mess, but when it clicked and they all danced around each other it was magic, as they do here. The keyboards are shimmering, Phil’s bass is bubbling, and Garcia hits that bittersweet spot we all love. They take a few laps around the track between verses before locking back into the melody. Lyrically the song doesn’t rank among Hunter’s finest moments, and I’ve never heard a version where Garcia gets all the words right, but the vocals mainly serve as a pit stop between the jams. 
"Foolish Heart" pairs nicely with "Looks Like Rain," which they glide right into. When I was 15, "Looks Like Rain" was a cool tune, still in the midst of slow dancing to "Wonderful Tonight" at homecoming and romanticized ideas about relationships. I’ve done some hard livin’ since then, and suffered my share of Donna Jean overexposure, so my feelings about this tune have changed over time. I’ve also been dealt my share of scars at the musical indiscretions of Mr. Weir, so it’s hard not to be jaded about it now. But if I can suspend those preconceptions and try to take the tune for what it is, I get the appeal. Garcia hangs in the background, able to focus on those silvery leads. Bobby builds it up and then falls back down to the gentle melody floating along, only to do it again. For a few measures it’s just Weir’s vocals and Garcia’s guitar improvising with each other on the refrain. If that’s not a quintessential Grateful Dead moment, then I don’t know what is. The keyboards trickle in, the bass rumbles, the drums thunder, and they work it up to a downpour. A triumphant moment to share in a large crowd of people. Without all the jean shorts and pink guitar inside jokes I would come to accumulate over the years, Bob Weir seemed like a rather normal dude who somehow got drafted by this motley crew. Little did I know he would turn out to be the biggest freak of the bunch. So street cats aside, the song and this version kick ass. 
"Crazy Fingers" comes gently lilting out of the ashes of scorned lovers. A fine example of something uniquely Grateful Dead, with the band marrying a backwoods melody to an island rhythm, united by Hunter’s kaleidoscopic visions in eternal bliss. Garcia’s voice sounds a bit ragged, but the tune manages to blossom nonetheless. The outro jam finds them picking up where "Foolish Heart" left off, continuing the conversation almost as if it had never stopped. Hornsby finds "Dark Star"’s frequency and teases it for a few bars, as he did on a number of occasions during his tenure in the band. But the other members of the band are more tuned into Bobby’s jam vehicle, fiddling with it in the closing notes of "Crazy Fingers" before exploding into "Playin’ in the Band." Again, like "Let It Grow," not one of my favorite tunes but one with some good jam potential. This one seems rather brisk at around 10 minutes, never really taking it too far from the "Main Ten" theme. Hornsby continues to prod the rest of the band to join him in "Dark Star," but he just orbits around in his own galaxy before Garcia docks the ship at "Terrapin Station." 
Hard to believe this folk-prog tune was the defining song of the second half of the Dead’s career, and the stadium hippie anthem it became. And amazing that I escaped my teenage years without a tattoo of Venus and a crescent moon on my shoulder. I guess there’s always my midlife crisis for that. To observe a stadium crowd entranced by this tune, it’s easy to understand how an outsider would view Deadheads as a cult. But “Terrapin” has many of the same qualities that make hypnosis effective, and given the right mind-set and setting, it’s conducive to accessing alternate states of consciousness. That experience is just not everyone’s cup of mushroom tea. This “Terrapin” is well played and does what any good version should, taking us on an internal journey with vaguely specific lyrics we can all relate to, the music bouncing along, seducing our unconscious. Maybe you’re reminded of another time or place you heard this song, a feeling you had, or something else. You might become more or less aware of sensations in your body, a sound outside, the temperature of the air, or some other thought that pops into your head. And you may lose yourself in a moment of eternal transcendence as the music gently builds and surprises you with a cry of “Inspiration!” And from there, all hell breaks loose, audience in ecstatic rapture, band storming heaven, busting down the pearly gates. The Ouroboros melody spins around, always ending up where it began. With the audience fully engaged, they’re more open to the weird suggestions the band has to offer. Like “Foolish Heart,” the jam out of Terrapin is really suited for this era, the band making full use of the sonic palette to reveal the pattern underlying the chaos. Tribal drums battle it out with synthetic flutes, a distorted bass snarls at a trumpet’s blast, Hornsby’s still lost in space, until the music becomes more meditative. The keyboard players paint the celestial auras they excelled at in this era (notably the jam out of “Let It Grow” on 10/20/90). Terrapin still lingers in the background, pulsing in and out, the signal fades and the drummers take over. 
I’m not nearly high enough right now to listen to or comment on Drums and Space, and really would rather just get to the “Dark Star” that follows. I’m assuming you feel the same way. “Terrapin” and “Dark Star” only occurred together in the same show seven times, New Year’s Eve in 78 and 80, and five post-Brent era shows. Pairing the defining song of the Dead’s first 10 years with the biggest song of the second half of their career is certainly notable, but I digress. The band drifts into “Dark Star,” audience likely still not quite sure if they’re hearing what they think they are, following all the previous Hornsby teases of the tune. And then the band all join together to definitively announce those familiar notes, letting the crowd know, ‘yes, this is really happening.’ Hearing that melody makes Deadheads salivate like Pavlov’s dog, but rather than drool for meat powder, there’s a collective “HOLY SHIT!” exhaled in anticipation of the ego dissolution and face melting to ensue. Like the “Playin’”, this “Dark Star” never drifts too far from the shore, the band even sticking to conventional sounds throughout, and they fade out before arriving at the lyrics. They flow into a reprise of “Playin’”, which does allow for a bit of experimentation building up to the “Main Ten” before slamming back into the chorus, Cowboy Bob with guns a-blazing. 
Garcia adds a bit of twang to the end of “Playin,’” nicely transitioning into the country ballad “Black Peter.” Seems like “Black Peter” was the post-space Jerry ballad I saw more than any of the others, so I probably took it’s genius for granted. Not quite as cosmic as “Stella Blue,” dramatic as “Wharf Rat,” or climactic as “Morning Dew,” this death bed lament of the lysergically over served does contain Hunter’s finest lyric in the bridge. The band is relatively restrained through the song, and come together nicely on the bridge to bring it to a strong peak. Following that, they drop away and allow more of the focus to fall on Garcia’s voice, starting as a tender plea before building up to a howl. These were the spine-tingling moments, a hushed stadium, a single spotlight on Jerry, emoting in a way that only he seemed capable of doing. Like “Terrapin,” amazing that such a huge crowd could be so mesmerized by such an un-rocking tune, but that’s a testament to the genius of the song and the band’s ability to connect to the audience.
From here on out, we’re riding the gravy train. The audience is so fired up it really doesn’t matter what comes next, the band could’ve had a farting contest onstage. But sticking with the formula, Bobby realizes it’s a Saturday Night and time to rock out. That they do, but frankly the keyboard sounds make this version pretty much unlistenable. Maybe these big sounds came across better in front a huge audience, but whatever the case it’s dreadful to listen to at home. “The Weight” encore that concludes the evening may not be as profound as “Baby Blue” or tender as “Brokedown,” but not quite the throwaway that “I Fought the Law” was or “U.S. Blues” came to be. It serves as a transition from deep space back to reality, the absurd lyrics and traditional song structure bridging both worlds. The crowd-friendly sing-along reorients our intrepid travelers, giving them something familiar to grasp onto, while practicing some communication skills for the world that lies beyond the stadium gates. It’s also an opportunity to shower each vocalist with a bit of adulation. A celebratory ending to a long summer night. 
So there you have a show that is the 90’s Grateful Dead in a nutshell, adjusting to playing in front of huge audiences, with an expanded lineup and new technologies and sounds at their service. The first set contains some classic tunes for the era, but the band has trouble finding their footing, and the more traditional and shorter tunes don’t lend themselves to the environment or new sonic textures. In the second set, where the tunes open up, they’re able to find that groove and maintain it throughout. In the context of the 90’s, there were certain songs that worked better in certain parts of the sets. It was a formula that worked until, well, it became too formulaic, predictable, and stale. But that too largely depended on the playing and level of engagement of Mr. Garcia. There are still “Playin>Uncle John”’s and “Throwin’ Stones>NFA” from the era that are gorgeous. 

Hope you enjoyed this “review.” If this show doesn’t do it for you, I’m sure you’ve got another one that can take you back to a certain time, memory, and feeling, and holds a special place in your heart that may not make sense to others. And while it may be self-indulgent to interject so much of myself into a review or go on a nostalgia trip, it seems impossible to do justice to the music without discussing the impact it had on me. I could say “Jerry played this, Bob played that, fliberty jib on the bippity bop,” but that does little to describe the sum of the experience. I can identify how the music affects me, if not necessarily why. And if anything, hopefully Dr. Shulgin’s passing reminded us that the entire universe is inside, if we look at it with the right kind of eyes. And Grateful Dead music does a better job taking me on these inner journeys than any other type of music I’ve yet discovered. They stoke the embers of our unconscious to wake it from its slumber, providing access to whole other star systems before they slip through our fingers like so many grains of sand, taking their secrets with them. Maybe that’s why we keep on going back for more. Shall we go…?
Mitch Carroll blogs and tweets about stuff and things at walklikeagiant.blogspot.com and @iwalklikeagiant.

SUMMER OF DEAD 2014: Soldier Field, Chicago, Illinois, June 22, 1991

More Summer of Dead action! In this installment, Mitch Carroll goes DEEP into a choice 1991 show. Terrapin! Dark Star! HORNSBY!

In selecting a show to review for the Summer of Dead, I had a few criteria in mind. If not a summer show, than at least a fun and bubbly Dead show rather than a dark psychedelic mind-fuck more suited for winter hibernation. Second, an unheralded show I feel is due some attention. Thinking of favorite shows that have gone under the radar, one that came to mind was 6/22/91. An excellent show, particularly the second set, which likely gets overlooked due to other standouts from the Hornsby era. It also fit the criteria of being a bright summertime show for kicking back on a sunny day, enjoying some cool ones, and mainlining some DMT. 

Thinking back on this show, it became apparent that all objectivity would be thrown out the window. For a Deadhead, these cherished shows became the fabric of our lives, intertwined with our identities. And I started to think back to why I loved this show, who I was at the time, and what I understood about the Dead then vs. the present day version of my “self.” In 1991 I was a 15 year old living in the Chicago suburbs, just beginning what would become a life-long experimentation with hair length and mind-expanding substances. Unfortunately I wouldn’t get to see the Dead for the first time until the following summer, so this is the one that got away. And for me, this show is like a personal 5/8/77, the first great soundboard recording to fall into my lap. The energy, clarity, subtlety, and intricacy of the music was astounding. So come on back with me for a walk down memory lane…

I’ll be honest, I haven’t listened to this first set much, as the second set is where the goods are at. But there are some moments here to consider. You’ll be excused if you skip over the “Hell in a Bucket” opener as I usually do. Listening to the organ and chorus makes me think Bob may have been going for a “Stuck Inside of Mobile” feel with “Bucket,” but he missed the mark. Eventually it heats up at the end to a nice crescendo, and Jerry is clearly energized as he immediately noodles the “Shakedown” riff before the rest of the band joins in. “Shakedown” feels like a bonus opener in this slot, before the setlists became completely safe. The signature Grateful Dead bounce is in full effect, and the band sounds engaged in the conversation, chugging and swirling around each other. At the nine minute mark they’re locked in and open up the discussion to new ideas. Jerry busts out some tasty licks on the midi sax, which Bob counters with some trumpet bursts to mixed results, before they return to the chorus and finish the song off. Nothing incendiary, but it’ll get your head bobbin’. The rest of the set does tread in predictable territory, but with a fine collection of tunes for the era. “Wang Dang Doodle” may be my favorite of Weir’s blues covers, as it strives to continue “Shakedown”’s groove rather than going for vocal histrionics. But Bobby can’t be helped and is a bit over the top on this rendition. It’s also marred the same qualities that aided Shakedown - swirling band interaction and synth - and serves as a prime example of why purists accuse the Dead of musical gang rape. “Friend of the Devil” rolls along, a bit more upbeat than the crawl it often became. The dual keyboards, particularly Vince’s organ, overwhelm the tune at times, and the drummers even get in on the action as it builds up. But Garcia sounds vocally strong, this is a classic tune, the sun is shining, and you’re in a crowd of 50,000 people losing their marbles, so it’ll do. Crooner Bob comes out for “Masterpiece,” which I’ve always enjoyed, if not as much as the Garcia Band versions. Sadly missing are Jerry’s backing vocals, with Vince making his presence known on the refrain. Garcia’s playing is nimble though, and continues with the intro licks to “Brown Eyed Women.” A nice if unremarkable version. I’ve never been a big fan of “Let it Grow,” particularly without the Weather Report intro. And the woodcutter’s daughter line ranks among my least favorite lyrics all time. But along with “Shakedown” it provides the only real jamming potential in the set. Bob really lays on the midi effects, which may have sounded distorted and grating at the show depending on one’s state of mind. The band locks in and chase each other around toward the end of the jam, but like the “Shakedown” fail to break any new ground. All in all, a fine if forgettable set. “We’ll be right back.” And away they go.

Things seem to turn a corner in the second set, and the band finds a groove they can stick with. They tickle the intro to “Foolish Heart,” Bobby hinting at the “Do Re Mi” song, gently easing into the tune. Unlike many of the first set songs, this one is really perfect for the dual keyboard attack and the midi sounds of this era. Garcia has said in interviews that this song doesn’t have any pads, with each person playing their own unique line throughout. At times it could be a hot mess, but when it clicked and they all danced around each other it was magic, as they do here. The keyboards are shimmering, Phil’s bass is bubbling, and Garcia hits that bittersweet spot we all love. They take a few laps around the track between verses before locking back into the melody. Lyrically the song doesn’t rank among Hunter’s finest moments, and I’ve never heard a version where Garcia gets all the words right, but the vocals mainly serve as a pit stop between the jams. 

"Foolish Heart" pairs nicely with "Looks Like Rain," which they glide right into. When I was 15, "Looks Like Rain" was a cool tune, still in the midst of slow dancing to "Wonderful Tonight" at homecoming and romanticized ideas about relationships. I’ve done some hard livin’ since then, and suffered my share of Donna Jean overexposure, so my feelings about this tune have changed over time. I’ve also been dealt my share of scars at the musical indiscretions of Mr. Weir, so it’s hard not to be jaded about it now. But if I can suspend those preconceptions and try to take the tune for what it is, I get the appeal. Garcia hangs in the background, able to focus on those silvery leads. Bobby builds it up and then falls back down to the gentle melody floating along, only to do it again. For a few measures it’s just Weir’s vocals and Garcia’s guitar improvising with each other on the refrain. If that’s not a quintessential Grateful Dead moment, then I don’t know what is. The keyboards trickle in, the bass rumbles, the drums thunder, and they work it up to a downpour. A triumphant moment to share in a large crowd of people. Without all the jean shorts and pink guitar inside jokes I would come to accumulate over the years, Bob Weir seemed like a rather normal dude who somehow got drafted by this motley crew. Little did I know he would turn out to be the biggest freak of the bunch. So street cats aside, the song and this version kick ass. 

"Crazy Fingers" comes gently lilting out of the ashes of scorned lovers. A fine example of something uniquely Grateful Dead, with the band marrying a backwoods melody to an island rhythm, united by Hunter’s kaleidoscopic visions in eternal bliss. Garcia’s voice sounds a bit ragged, but the tune manages to blossom nonetheless. The outro jam finds them picking up where "Foolish Heart" left off, continuing the conversation almost as if it had never stopped. Hornsby finds "Dark Star"’s frequency and teases it for a few bars, as he did on a number of occasions during his tenure in the band. But the other members of the band are more tuned into Bobby’s jam vehicle, fiddling with it in the closing notes of "Crazy Fingers" before exploding into "Playin’ in the Band." Again, like "Let It Grow," not one of my favorite tunes but one with some good jam potential. This one seems rather brisk at around 10 minutes, never really taking it too far from the "Main Ten" theme. Hornsby continues to prod the rest of the band to join him in "Dark Star," but he just orbits around in his own galaxy before Garcia docks the ship at "Terrapin Station." 

Hard to believe this folk-prog tune was the defining song of the second half of the Dead’s career, and the stadium hippie anthem it became. And amazing that I escaped my teenage years without a tattoo of Venus and a crescent moon on my shoulder. I guess there’s always my midlife crisis for that. To observe a stadium crowd entranced by this tune, it’s easy to understand how an outsider would view Deadheads as a cult. But “Terrapin” has many of the same qualities that make hypnosis effective, and given the right mind-set and setting, it’s conducive to accessing alternate states of consciousness. That experience is just not everyone’s cup of mushroom tea. This “Terrapin” is well played and does what any good version should, taking us on an internal journey with vaguely specific lyrics we can all relate to, the music bouncing along, seducing our unconscious. Maybe you’re reminded of another time or place you heard this song, a feeling you had, or something else. You might become more or less aware of sensations in your body, a sound outside, the temperature of the air, or some other thought that pops into your head. And you may lose yourself in a moment of eternal transcendence as the music gently builds and surprises you with a cry of “Inspiration!” And from there, all hell breaks loose, audience in ecstatic rapture, band storming heaven, busting down the pearly gates. The Ouroboros melody spins around, always ending up where it began. With the audience fully engaged, they’re more open to the weird suggestions the band has to offer. Like “Foolish Heart,” the jam out of Terrapin is really suited for this era, the band making full use of the sonic palette to reveal the pattern underlying the chaos. Tribal drums battle it out with synthetic flutes, a distorted bass snarls at a trumpet’s blast, Hornsby’s still lost in space, until the music becomes more meditative. The keyboard players paint the celestial auras they excelled at in this era (notably the jam out of “Let It Grow” on 10/20/90). Terrapin still lingers in the background, pulsing in and out, the signal fades and the drummers take over. 

I’m not nearly high enough right now to listen to or comment on Drums and Space, and really would rather just get to the “Dark Star” that follows. I’m assuming you feel the same way. “Terrapin” and “Dark Star” only occurred together in the same show seven times, New Year’s Eve in 78 and 80, and five post-Brent era shows. Pairing the defining song of the Dead’s first 10 years with the biggest song of the second half of their career is certainly notable, but I digress. The band drifts into “Dark Star,” audience likely still not quite sure if they’re hearing what they think they are, following all the previous Hornsby teases of the tune. And then the band all join together to definitively announce those familiar notes, letting the crowd know, ‘yes, this is really happening.’ Hearing that melody makes Deadheads salivate like Pavlov’s dog, but rather than drool for meat powder, there’s a collective “HOLY SHIT!” exhaled in anticipation of the ego dissolution and face melting to ensue. Like the “Playin’”, this “Dark Star” never drifts too far from the shore, the band even sticking to conventional sounds throughout, and they fade out before arriving at the lyrics. They flow into a reprise of “Playin’”, which does allow for a bit of experimentation building up to the “Main Ten” before slamming back into the chorus, Cowboy Bob with guns a-blazing. 

Garcia adds a bit of twang to the end of “Playin,’” nicely transitioning into the country ballad “Black Peter.” Seems like “Black Peter” was the post-space Jerry ballad I saw more than any of the others, so I probably took it’s genius for granted. Not quite as cosmic as “Stella Blue,” dramatic as “Wharf Rat,” or climactic as “Morning Dew,” this death bed lament of the lysergically over served does contain Hunter’s finest lyric in the bridge. The band is relatively restrained through the song, and come together nicely on the bridge to bring it to a strong peak. Following that, they drop away and allow more of the focus to fall on Garcia’s voice, starting as a tender plea before building up to a howl. These were the spine-tingling moments, a hushed stadium, a single spotlight on Jerry, emoting in a way that only he seemed capable of doing. Like “Terrapin,” amazing that such a huge crowd could be so mesmerized by such an un-rocking tune, but that’s a testament to the genius of the song and the band’s ability to connect to the audience.

From here on out, we’re riding the gravy train. The audience is so fired up it really doesn’t matter what comes next, the band could’ve had a farting contest onstage. But sticking with the formula, Bobby realizes it’s a Saturday Night and time to rock out. That they do, but frankly the keyboard sounds make this version pretty much unlistenable. Maybe these big sounds came across better in front a huge audience, but whatever the case it’s dreadful to listen to at home. “The Weight” encore that concludes the evening may not be as profound as “Baby Blue” or tender as “Brokedown,” but not quite the throwaway that “I Fought the Law” was or “U.S. Blues” came to be. It serves as a transition from deep space back to reality, the absurd lyrics and traditional song structure bridging both worlds. The crowd-friendly sing-along reorients our intrepid travelers, giving them something familiar to grasp onto, while practicing some communication skills for the world that lies beyond the stadium gates. It’s also an opportunity to shower each vocalist with a bit of adulation. A celebratory ending to a long summer night. 

So there you have a show that is the 90’s Grateful Dead in a nutshell, adjusting to playing in front of huge audiences, with an expanded lineup and new technologies and sounds at their service. The first set contains some classic tunes for the era, but the band has trouble finding their footing, and the more traditional and shorter tunes don’t lend themselves to the environment or new sonic textures. In the second set, where the tunes open up, they’re able to find that groove and maintain it throughout. In the context of the 90’s, there were certain songs that worked better in certain parts of the sets. It was a formula that worked until, well, it became too formulaic, predictable, and stale. But that too largely depended on the playing and level of engagement of Mr. Garcia. There are still “Playin>Uncle John”’s and “Throwin’ Stones>NFA” from the era that are gorgeous. 


Hope you enjoyed this “review.” If this show doesn’t do it for you, I’m sure you’ve got another one that can take you back to a certain time, memory, and feeling, and holds a special place in your heart that may not make sense to others. And while it may be self-indulgent to interject so much of myself into a review or go on a nostalgia trip, it seems impossible to do justice to the music without discussing the impact it had on me. I could say “Jerry played this, Bob played that, fliberty jib on the bippity bop,” but that does little to describe the sum of the experience. I can identify how the music affects me, if not necessarily why. And if anything, hopefully Dr. Shulgin’s passing reminded us that the entire universe is inside, if we look at it with the right kind of eyes. And Grateful Dead music does a better job taking me on these inner journeys than any other type of music I’ve yet discovered. They stoke the embers of our unconscious to wake it from its slumber, providing access to whole other star systems before they slip through our fingers like so many grains of sand, taking their secrets with them. Maybe that’s why we keep on going back for more. Shall we go…?

Mitch Carroll blogs and tweets about stuff and things at walklikeagiant.blogspot.com and @iwalklikeagiant.

Bardo Pond - Metro Cafe, Washington DC, December 9, 1999
If you’re in need of a feedback fix this afternoon, dig into a massive slab of live Bardo Pond via Archive.org. A commenter notes: “This show has everything about Bardo Pond that you love. The roar of ‘Limerick’ along with the psychedelic swirl of ‘Datura’ — here, expanded to twice it’s original length. The violin drone throughout is beautiful.”  
Photo via the Bardo Pond Photography blog

Bardo Pond - Metro Cafe, Washington DC, December 9, 1999

If you’re in need of a feedback fix this afternoon, dig into a massive slab of live Bardo Pond via Archive.org. A commenter notes: “This show has everything about Bardo Pond that you love. The roar of ‘Limerick’ along with the psychedelic swirl of ‘Datura’ — here, expanded to twice it’s original length. The violin drone throughout is beautiful.”  

Photo via the Bardo Pond Photography blog

Les Rallizes Denudes - Yodo-Go-A-Go-Go (aka Flightless Bird Needs Water Wings)
Skree! Get over to Big O for a healthy dose of the shadowy psychedelic sounds of Les Rallizes Denudes! This is a band that seems more like a dream than reality. But they’re real! I think. 
Head Heritage: Seemingly endless sonic flame-throwers of phased white noise streak across your inner landscape, as stupidly loud and overly-backlit lead guitar emissions perpetrated by a perpetually be-shaded longhair pummel the similarly be-shaded but barely adequate musical backing that sags and creaks under the wattage. Occasionally, lead vocals of a singular variety are provided by said be-shaded mad axeman, whose paranoid personality ensures all songs are delivered in a voice of querulous subterranean gargling from beyond the valley of Alan Vega…

Les Rallizes Denudes - Yodo-Go-A-Go-Go (aka Flightless Bird Needs Water Wings)

Skree! Get over to Big O for a healthy dose of the shadowy psychedelic sounds of Les Rallizes Denudes! This is a band that seems more like a dream than reality. But they’re real! I think. 

Head Heritage: Seemingly endless sonic flame-throwers of phased white noise streak across your inner landscape, as stupidly loud and overly-backlit lead guitar emissions perpetrated by a perpetually be-shaded longhair pummel the similarly be-shaded but barely adequate musical backing that sags and creaks under the wattage. Occasionally, lead vocals of a singular variety are provided by said be-shaded mad axeman, whose paranoid personality ensures all songs are delivered in a voice of querulous subterranean gargling from beyond the valley of Alan Vega…

STEVE LOWENTHAL, author of Dance of Death: The Life of John Fahey on WFMU’s John Allen Show
Hey! Head over to the ever-great Delta-Slider blog to read my write-up of a trio of recent guitar soli records released on the VDSQ label. They are all quite good. Steve Lowenthal is the dude who runs VDSQ, and he’s also the author of the new Fahey bio! I have yet to read the new Fahey bio, shamefully, but I’m going to get to it soon. I have listened to this interview with Lowenthal, however, which is full of good music and Takoma talk. Pictured above is a detail of a map of Takoma Park drawn by Blind Joe Death himself. What a kooky place! 

STEVE LOWENTHAL, author of Dance of Death: The Life of John Fahey on WFMU’s John Allen Show

Hey! Head over to the ever-great Delta-Slider blog to read my write-up of a trio of recent guitar soli records released on the VDSQ label. They are all quite good. Steve Lowenthal is the dude who runs VDSQ, and he’s also the author of the new Fahey bio! I have yet to read the new Fahey bio, shamefully, but I’m going to get to it soon. I have listened to this interview with Lowenthal, however, which is full of good music and Takoma talk. Pictured above is a detail of a map of Takoma Park drawn by Blind Joe Death himself. What a kooky place! 

SUMMER OF DEAD 2014: Shrine Auditorium, Los Angeles, California, August 23, 1968
The Summer of Dead is heating up! Trip on back with Mark Milner in today’s installment. 
It’s summer 1968 and the Dead were something of a live force. Sure, they weren’t the touring behemoth they’d become in the 70s, but even in the summer of love, they were a seasoned road band, who’d been everywhere from Toronto to Portland. 
All the while, their sets were going through a remarkable metamorphosis: bluesy tunes like “Viola Lee Blues” or “Caution” were getting looser and longer and new tunes like “Dark Star” and “That’s it For the Other One” were giving the band room to stretch out and improvise. When browsing through tapes from this period, it feels like they were getting better every night, growing into a psychedelic powerhouse.
By summertime, they were in top form. With a recording truck in tow, the Dead hit Los Angeles’ Shrine Auditorium for two nights in August. They were on foreign turf and played with a fury, like they had to prove themselves to a skeptical audience. The results are nothing short of stunning.
"The Other One" opens their show, with the band exploding out of the gates like a sprinter. Next comes "Dark Star": while it doesn’t get as far out and spacey as the Live/Dead version, it’s full of tasty guitar riffage. It segues into “St. Stephen” (which sounds a little hesitant to my ears, but it was a new song at the time), which builds up to a frantic version of “The Eleven,” played with enough energy to power a locomotive. For over 10 minutes, Garcia weaves through a chugging rhythm section like a boxer finding his spots.
After a harsh cut, the tape picks up with a slow, mournful cover of Rev. Gary Davis’ “Death Don’t Have No Mercy.” Then comes the meat of this show: a half-hour suite of “Alligator” and “Caution.” Pigpen’s bluesy singing kicks it off as the band slowly builds up behind him, before dropping away to let Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann go at it on the drums. After a while Garcia comes back, his guitar going back and forth with their percussion solo. Soon the whole band roars back into an instrumental “Alligator” reprise, deftly segueing into a forceful version of “Caution” and finally ending in a squall of feedback. It’s 20-plus minutes of the band at a white-hot fury. 
This is a show we’re lucky to have: the tapes sat for years, an unusable mess thanks to syncing issues. Somehow they weren’t erased or recycled and in the early 90s, technology was able to pick through the audio mess and put it back together like a jigsaw puzzle; the second show of this stand was eventually released as Two From the Vault.
Even if you have that record, check this out. The Dead played a lot of good shows after this, but I don’t think they ever played one more exciting from front to back: nary a second is wasted. If they were out to prove something to this LA crowd, they certainly did. 
Mark Milner is a freelance writer and music fan who regularly contributes to Bearded Gentlemen Music. His writing has also appeared on The Good Point, Extended Play, and CTV.ca, among others. Find him on Twitter at @thejockocracy.

SUMMER OF DEAD 2014: Shrine Auditorium, Los Angeles, California, August 23, 1968

The Summer of Dead is heating up! Trip on back with Mark Milner in today’s installment. 

It’s summer 1968 and the Dead were something of a live force. Sure, they weren’t the touring behemoth they’d become in the 70s, but even in the summer of love, they were a seasoned road band, who’d been everywhere from Toronto to Portland. 

All the while, their sets were going through a remarkable metamorphosis: bluesy tunes like “Viola Lee Blues” or “Caution” were getting looser and longer and new tunes like “Dark Star” and “That’s it For the Other One” were giving the band room to stretch out and improvise. When browsing through tapes from this period, it feels like they were getting better every night, growing into a psychedelic powerhouse.

By summertime, they were in top form. With a recording truck in tow, the Dead hit Los Angeles’ Shrine Auditorium for two nights in August. They were on foreign turf and played with a fury, like they had to prove themselves to a skeptical audience. The results are nothing short of stunning.

"The Other One" opens their show, with the band exploding out of the gates like a sprinter. Next comes "Dark Star": while it doesn’t get as far out and spacey as the Live/Dead version, it’s full of tasty guitar riffage. It segues into “St. Stephen” (which sounds a little hesitant to my ears, but it was a new song at the time), which builds up to a frantic version of “The Eleven,” played with enough energy to power a locomotive. For over 10 minutes, Garcia weaves through a chugging rhythm section like a boxer finding his spots.

After a harsh cut, the tape picks up with a slow, mournful cover of Rev. Gary Davis’ “Death Don’t Have No Mercy.” Then comes the meat of this show: a half-hour suite of “Alligator” and “Caution.” Pigpen’s bluesy singing kicks it off as the band slowly builds up behind him, before dropping away to let Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann go at it on the drums. After a while Garcia comes back, his guitar going back and forth with their percussion solo. Soon the whole band roars back into an instrumental “Alligator” reprise, deftly segueing into a forceful version of “Caution” and finally ending in a squall of feedback. It’s 20-plus minutes of the band at a white-hot fury. 

This is a show we’re lucky to have: the tapes sat for years, an unusable mess thanks to syncing issues. Somehow they weren’t erased or recycled and in the early 90s, technology was able to pick through the audio mess and put it back together like a jigsaw puzzle; the second show of this stand was eventually released as Two From the Vault.

Even if you have that record, check this out. The Dead played a lot of good shows after this, but I don’t think they ever played one more exciting from front to back: nary a second is wasted. If they were out to prove something to this LA crowd, they certainly did. 

Mark Milner is a freelance writer and music fan who regularly contributes to Bearded Gentlemen Music. His writing has also appeared on The Good Point, Extended Play, and CTV.ca, among others. Find him on Twitter at @thejockocracy.

Peter Kerlin Octet - Live on The Long Rally with Scott McDowell, WFMU, June 23, 2014
Loved hearing this a few weeks back on FMU and now it’s up for all to enjoy on the FMA. Kerlin is the bassist in Chris Forsyth’s Solar Motel Band, but his Octet is a different thing altogether. To wit: “Instrumental jazz that goes for a rock beat and then swings into a complete free style. Melodic and hooks abound. Dig the vibes.” It’s great. Check it out. 

Peter Kerlin Octet - Live on The Long Rally with Scott McDowell, WFMU, June 23, 2014

Loved hearing this a few weeks back on FMU and now it’s up for all to enjoy on the FMA. Kerlin is the bassist in Chris Forsyth’s Solar Motel Band, but his Octet is a different thing altogether. To wit: “Instrumental jazz that goes for a rock beat and then swings into a complete free style. Melodic and hooks abound. Dig the vibes.” It’s great. Check it out.