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. 

Neil Young - Royal Society Fairgrounds, Dublin, Ireland, August 26, 1995
Heyyy, I wrote a little something for Pitchfork today, inspired by the news that Scott Walker and Sunn O))) are jamming together: The Good, The Bad, and Loutallica: 5 Collaborations Between Rock Icons and Their Disciples. So! Here’s a full show video of Neil Young with Pearl Jam in that faraway summer of 1995. I have never been a fan of PJ, but I actually think Mirror Ball is pretty good. And this show sounds pretty good, too. Just ignore the backwards baseball cap on the bass player.  

Neil Young - Royal Society Fairgrounds, Dublin, Ireland, August 26, 1995

Heyyy, I wrote a little something for Pitchfork today, inspired by the news that Scott Walker and Sunn O))) are jamming together: The Good, The Bad, and Loutallica: 5 Collaborations Between Rock Icons and Their DisciplesSo! Here’s a full show video of Neil Young with Pearl Jam in that faraway summer of 1995. I have never been a fan of PJ, but I actually think Mirror Ball is pretty good. And this show sounds pretty good, too. Just ignore the backwards baseball cap on the bass player.  

SUMMER OF DEAD 2014: Choice “Bird Song”s From 1972
If you hear that same sweet song again, will you know why? This is perfect for your long weekend. Randy Reynolds guides us through some of the most high-flying versions of “Bird Song” from 1972. 
By all measures, “Bird Song” stands to be high on my list of fav Dead songs. Topped only by “Morning Dew” and “Playin’ in the Band.” The song was one of the first tunes I ever liked that was connected to the whole Grateful Dead thing. Found on the Garcia album, the tune’s opening riff had some mojo that I was willing to investigate. If I hadn’t heard it, I may not have fallen headfirst down the Dead well and I definitely wouldn’t be here right now revealing some treasured performances from 1972.
The Grateful Dead’s first performance of the year of “Bird Song” came on July 10th at Roosevelt Stadium in Jersey City, New Jersey. After 20+ dates in Europe (that would later yield the classic Europe ‘72) less than two months before, The Dead churn out a roving version of this Hunter/Garcia jam. The piano starts to buzz and hiss around the halfway point, but in no way does it harsh any vibes. It doesn’t snag you from the start like the next one does and there’s no Pen (his last was on 6/17/72) but it’s definitely a grower with some choice thrills from the band.
Listen
GD’s appearance on August 27th at The Olde Renaissance Fairgrounds in Veneta, Oregon on behalf of the Kesey family and Springfield Creamery is well documented (see: Sunshine Daydream) and rightfully so. The entire performance is glorious but most importantly, it contains the single greatest version of “Bird Song” to ever exist.
Listen
September 10th finds The Dead at the Palladium in Hollywood, CA. What happens here is an almost 14 minute version of “Bird Song.” Though a little reserved at first, it gets cookin’ after the 3 minute mark. It’s got some choice exploratory passages and boy do Kreutz and Lesh crush it. A rad one fer sure.
Listen
A rare appearance at Vanderbilt University in Nashville on November 10th yields an incredibly strong performance. This may be one of the best ever! They waste no time getting to the jam here with Lesh leading the way early on. Kreutz even gets a little breathing room to solo out of the jam before Jer returns to the verse. There are serious dividends to those who enter here.
Listen
Lastly we find a spaced out version straight from my hometown of Houston, Texas on November 19th. It seems that the keys have some rad spacey effect on them, providing a unique charm not often found on this tune. Weir’s rhythm work shines on this one, sharing the same importance as Garcia in many respects. Found here is a different take than usual with unsung members shining brighter here than the regular sect.
Listen
Randy Reynolds is a writer for The Big Takeover and sideonetrackone.com and Executive Producer for the PBS music documentary series, Hardly Sound.

SUMMER OF DEAD 2014: Choice “Bird Song”s From 1972

If you hear that same sweet song again, will you know why? This is perfect for your long weekend. Randy Reynolds guides us through some of the most high-flying versions of “Bird Song” from 1972. 

By all measures, “Bird Song” stands to be high on my list of fav Dead songs. Topped only by “Morning Dew” and “Playin’ in the Band.” The song was one of the first tunes I ever liked that was connected to the whole Grateful Dead thing. Found on the Garcia album, the tune’s opening riff had some mojo that I was willing to investigate. If I hadn’t heard it, I may not have fallen headfirst down the Dead well and I definitely wouldn’t be here right now revealing some treasured performances from 1972.

The Grateful Dead’s first performance of the year of “Bird Song” came on July 10th at Roosevelt Stadium in Jersey City, New Jersey. After 20+ dates in Europe (that would later yield the classic Europe ‘72) less than two months before, The Dead churn out a roving version of this Hunter/Garcia jam. The piano starts to buzz and hiss around the halfway point, but in no way does it harsh any vibes. It doesn’t snag you from the start like the next one does and there’s no Pen (his last was on 6/17/72) but it’s definitely a grower with some choice thrills from the band.

Listen

GD’s appearance on August 27th at The Olde Renaissance Fairgrounds in Veneta, Oregon on behalf of the Kesey family and Springfield Creamery is well documented (see: Sunshine Daydream) and rightfully so. The entire performance is glorious but most importantly, it contains the single greatest version of “Bird Song” to ever exist.

Listen

September 10th finds The Dead at the Palladium in Hollywood, CA. What happens here is an almost 14 minute version of “Bird Song.” Though a little reserved at first, it gets cookin’ after the 3 minute mark. It’s got some choice exploratory passages and boy do Kreutz and Lesh crush it. A rad one fer sure.

Listen

A rare appearance at Vanderbilt University in Nashville on November 10th yields an incredibly strong performance. This may be one of the best ever! They waste no time getting to the jam here with Lesh leading the way early on. Kreutz even gets a little breathing room to solo out of the jam before Jer returns to the verse. There are serious dividends to those who enter here.

Listen

Lastly we find a spaced out version straight from my hometown of Houston, Texas on November 19th. It seems that the keys have some rad spacey effect on them, providing a unique charm not often found on this tune. Weir’s rhythm work shines on this one, sharing the same importance as Garcia in many respects. Found here is a different take than usual with unsung members shining brighter here than the regular sect.

Listen

Randy Reynolds is a writer for The Big Takeover and sideonetrackone.com and Executive Producer for the PBS music documentary series, Hardly Sound.

Butthole Surfers - Double Live
Thanks to Marc Masters for pointing this out — a free download of the Surfers’ Double Live “bootleg.” 
Disc #1 - Too Parter, Psychedelic Jam, Ricky, Rocky, Gary Floyd, Florida, John E. Smoke, Tornadoes, Pittsburg to Lebanon, The One I Love, Hey/Dum Dum, No Rule, U.S.S.A, Comb, Noise
Disk #2 - Graveyard, Sweatloaf, Backass, Paranoid, Fast, I Saw an X-Ray of a Girl Passing Gas, Strawberry, Jimi/Lou Reed, Kuntz, 22 Going on 23, Creep in the Cellar, Suicide, Something
The lowdown: 
In the mid 80s there were a bunch of bad sounding live bootlegs for sale. By ‘88 the band felt they could bootleg the band as well as everybody else, so they joined the crowd and released their own crappy bootleg too. 
Taking a portable DAT recorder on the road, they taped shows in the winter of ‘88. When they got back to Texas, they sorted through the DATs and compiled the best of it to a 2 disc, 29 song set on their newly formed Latino Buggerveil label. Slightly better sounding than most bootlegs of the time, only a limited pressing was made and it went out of print fairly quickly. 
Since it’s doubtful this will ever be reissued again, here all the songs in the MP3 format, for those who want it but are reluctant to cough up the 100 bucks or so for an original copy on Ebay.

Butthole Surfers - Double Live

Thanks to Marc Masters for pointing this out — a free download of the Surfers’ Double Live “bootleg.” 

Disc #1 - Too Parter, Psychedelic Jam, Ricky, Rocky, Gary Floyd, Florida, John E. Smoke, Tornadoes, Pittsburg to Lebanon, The One I Love, Hey/Dum Dum, No Rule, U.S.S.A, Comb, Noise

Disk #2 - Graveyard, Sweatloaf, Backass, Paranoid, Fast, I Saw an X-Ray of a Girl Passing Gas, Strawberry, Jimi/Lou Reed, Kuntz, 22 Going on 23, Creep in the Cellar, Suicide, Something

The lowdown: 

In the mid 80s there were a bunch of bad sounding live bootlegs for sale. By ‘88 the band felt they could bootleg the band as well as everybody else, so they joined the crowd and released their own crappy bootleg too.

Taking a portable DAT recorder on the road, they taped shows in the winter of ‘88. When they got back to Texas, they sorted through the DATs and compiled the best of it to a 2 disc, 29 song set on their newly formed Latino Buggerveil label. Slightly better sounding than most bootlegs of the time, only a limited pressing was made and it went out of print fairly quickly.

Since it’s doubtful this will ever be reissued again, here all the songs in the MP3 format, for those who want it but are reluctant to cough up the 100 bucks or so for an original copy on Ebay.

SUMMER OF DEAD 2014: Beat Club, Bremen, Germany, April 21, 1972
Number two in our star-studded Summer of Dead extravaganza! Grady Don Sandlin digs into the Dead in Germany. 
The Grateful Dead’s European tour in the Spring of 1972 is them at their peak. This is the last complete tour with the original five members (Garcia, Weir, Lesh, Kreutzmann and Pigpen), augmented by piano player Keith Godchaux and occasionally his wife Donna on backing vocals. Following the trajectory of their albums Workingman’s Dead, American Beauty and 1971’s live Grateful Dead (as well as Garcia’s self-titled and Weir’s Ace solo albums), this is them at their best, to my ears.
This set was recorded and filmed on a sound stage for German TV show Beat Club. Judging from what’s available on YouTube, only “Beat It On Down The Line" and "One More Saturday Night" were aired. Like everything they do, there are flaws alongside "moments of blinding brilliance." It is unique because they are not performing for an audience, just the TV crew as well as the Dead’s own. So, it’s as close to a studio recording as they would get for a little while.
The entire film (and I’m assuming remixed album) will be released this year. The film will be shown in theaters on July 14 as this year’s Meet Up At The Movies (last year’s was the superb Sunshine Daydream from later in 1972). Expect to hear and see more of this soon.
Grady Don Sandlin is the drummer for RTB2 in Denton, TX. He’s been a fan of the Dead since he was 14 (20 years) but never got to see them with Garcia.

SUMMER OF DEAD 2014: Beat Club, Bremen, Germany, April 21, 1972

Number two in our star-studded Summer of Dead extravaganza! Grady Don Sandlin digs into the Dead in Germany. 

The Grateful Dead’s European tour in the Spring of 1972 is them at their peak. This is the last complete tour with the original five members (Garcia, Weir, Lesh, Kreutzmann and Pigpen), augmented by piano player Keith Godchaux and occasionally his wife Donna on backing vocals. Following the trajectory of their albums Workingman’s Dead, American Beauty and 1971’s live Grateful Dead (as well as Garcia’s self-titled and Weir’s Ace solo albums), this is them at their best, to my ears.

This set was recorded and filmed on a sound stage for German TV show Beat Club. Judging from what’s available on YouTube, only “Beat It On Down The Line" and "One More Saturday Night" were aired. Like everything they do, there are flaws alongside "moments of blinding brilliance." It is unique because they are not performing for an audience, just the TV crew as well as the Dead’s own. So, it’s as close to a studio recording as they would get for a little while.

The entire film (and I’m assuming remixed album) will be released this year. The film will be shown in theaters on July 14 as this year’s Meet Up At The Movies (last year’s was the superb Sunshine Daydream from later in 1972). Expect to hear and see more of this soon.

Grady Don Sandlin is the drummer for RTB2 in Denton, TX. He’s been a fan of the Dead since he was 14 (20 years) but never got to see them with Garcia.

Neil Young & The Stray Gators - Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto, Canada, January 15, 1973
Grab one of the better sounding audience tapes from Neil’s Time Fades Away tour of early 1973 via Big O. I think this was one of the first Neil bootlegs I heard from this period. I can still remember writing the song titles out for my cassette. A pretty great show! Funny how much Neil hates this era. The Stray Gators sound fantastic to my ears. 

Neil Young & The Stray Gators - Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto, Canada, January 15, 1973

Grab one of the better sounding audience tapes from Neil’s Time Fades Away tour of early 1973 via Big O. I think this was one of the first Neil bootlegs I heard from this period. I can still remember writing the song titles out for my cassette. A pretty great show! Funny how much Neil hates this era. The Stray Gators sound fantastic to my ears.