SUMMER OF DEAD 2014: Roosevelt Stadium, Jersey City, New Jersey, August 1, 1973
We’ve done '71 and '72 this week for the Doom & Gloom Summer of Dead extravaganza. Today, Chris Harriott covers ‘73 in a very special Garcia b-day installment. Here’s to August being better than July.
For four summers in a row, well touring summers at least, the Grateful Dead played Roosevelt Stadium in Jersey City. Kudos to John Scher for making that happen. This show does not disappoint, not even a little bit. It’s easily my favorite of the year and usually one of the first shows I reach for when I want to spin something top-shelf for other deadheads or attempt to convert a non-believer. It also has the added bonus of being played on Garcia’s birthday which usually, but not always, meant an above average show. As with almost all ’73 shows, nearly every tune is enjoyable and well-played (see, e.g., “Bird Song”) but the undisputed highlight is the “Dark Star”->”El Paso”->”Eyes”->”Morning Dew” in the second set. A phenomenal re-mastered soundboard featuring this jam segment appeared in the spring of 1998 courtesy of David Gans and was one of the very first shows I ever got on CDR along with 11/15/71 (which, coincidentally, also featured a “Dark Star”->”El Paso.”) At that point I had around eight racks of GD cassettes and little idea just how much things were about to change with the move from cassette to digital and the emergence of online trading communities. Within a very short time, the days of placing ads in Relix (“Your list gets mine, no high-speed dubs”) and waiting for a response were replaced by rapidly-moving online trees, vines and trading. Multi-generational cassette hiss became a thing of the past and hardcore traders stopped sleeping in 45 minute increments. Within in two to three years I probably acquired twice as many shows on CDR as I had on cassette up to that point.
Back to the show. “Dark Star” starts off with lush, gentle improvisation that dances in and around the DS theme for about 5 minutes before Garcia, with able assistance from Keith, steps outside and charts a course for deeper waters. If my ears don’t deceive me, Keith is playing Fender Rhodes as opposed to piano. Within a couple of minutes they’ve picked up the pace and abandoned the theme completely for roughly (though there’s nothing ‘rough’ about it) 12 glorious minutes of peak ‘73 jamming. Garcia seems completely at ease and in full control as he varies the tempo and intensity of jam and constantly introduces new ideas to which the band responds instantly. After a slow descent back to the first verse, the band immediately drops into a quiet deep space/insect fear segment from which a full-blown Tiger meltdown emerges. As with all versions from this era, the second verse is discarded and, instead, the jam dissolves effortlessly into “El Paso.” If pressed for time, one could quickly summarize the whole show simply by stating “Even the ‘El Paso’ is smoking hot.” I’ve always enjoyed Jerry’s back-up vocals on this tune and the present version is no exception.
A massive “Eyes of the World” follows, with Keith returning to piano and enlivening the proceedings. Simply put, this version of Eyes is 20 minutes of everything that makes deadheads beam when they think of this era. Garcia’s leads are crisp and buoyant. The jam truly takes off just before the 8 minute mark, then peaks, gloriously, around 12 minutes before hinting at “Slipknot” and finally dropping into the standard closing coda. While 6/10/73 is slightly longer, I much prefer this version. Garcia never runs out of ideas, even during the post-coda transition into “Morning Dew.”
"Morning Dew" is heartfelt and powerful, Garcia leans into the vocal and band marches triumphantly underneath. Jerry & Keith at the 6 minute mark, man oh man. Garcia brings things down to almost a whisper at 8 minutes or so and then builds back up with an intensely emotive solo. Keith is with him every step of the way. The jam climaxes with Garcia shredding at 12 minutes. If you haven’t had enough at this point, switch to the well above-average AUD recording for an exceptional, though oddly-placed, encore of “GDTRFB.” God bless the Grateful Dead.
Chris Harriott is a Deadhead and attorney living in Northern New Jersey. You can follow him on twitter @ckhesq.