"If you tell the Truth, you don't have to remember anything"
-Mark Twain
"You realize, of course, that everything I say is horseshit." -Kurt Vonnegut

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Like A Puppet Show

Back in 1990 the Grateful Dead did a quick three night run at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum which was capped off with a Mardi Gras fiesta on the final night. These three shows where the prelude to magical time in Grateful Dead history, the Spring 90 tour. DeadHeads look at this time period in GD history with starry eyes, so it was very exciting when David Lemeuix and company announced the Spring 1990 Box set. So download a very good FOB Audience recording HERE.
The band opens up the show and immediately puts the audience "in the groove." In my opinion, this might be the best cover opener the band had and it perfectly describes the audience emotions for the music of the night. They follow it up with the funk groove of "Feel Like a Stranger." In the solo, the band settles in the murky waters and accelerates like a crocodile to the peak. The improve is so good Jerry immediately takes the band into "Sugaree." There is an upbeat glow to Garcia's voice as sings "Maybe I'll meet you on the run." What makes 1990 special is the way Brent is able to fit between Garcia and Phil and Jerry steps away from the "Sugaree" solo to let Brent play. The audience then joins along clapping the song into its final verse. Sweeping is right back into a dark pool, Bobby sinks into "Victim or the Crime." "So I wrestle with my angels" as the magically the solo melts into oblivion before being resurrected to end the song on note. Garcia pulls out a magnificent "Mississippi Half Step" where Jerry's voice shines like a jewel in the night. After "the hours we spent inside the Coliseum" the band jumps into a sparking "Bird Song." The midi comes out as Garcia plays clarinet. The entwining of Mydland and Lesh bombs steers this "Bird Song" into a very rhythmic tour de force.
The second set starts off with a Mardi Gras Parade, from which the band takes the stage. Feeding off the rhythm of the parade the band transitions the beat into "Aiko Aiko," where Michael Doucet and BeauSoleil joins the band. Michael Doucet plays fiddle, and fits seamlessly in the mix, for the next to cajan beat songs of "Aiko" and "Woman are Smarter." The first fiddle solo he takes is supplement with the Phil Lesh circling base lines, just like the rest of the set. Garcia jumps on the Midi for a pretty cool trumpet solo, while Phil thumps along in the background. It seems like Phil always starts in the same place but never finishes the phrase in the same place. At the end of "Aiko" Michael Doucet adds a fill that turns into a solo and sets up the "Woman" which he absolutely shreds. Bobby completely fired up afterwards thanks them. Jerry goes in a complete different direction after that 'Not your run of the mill' "Woman are Smarter," as he mellows with a gorgeous "Standing on the Moon." Bobby can't wait to rev the engine back up and does so in "Truckin'." Don't listen too close to the speaker because you might get hit with some Bobby spit. It was a flowing, "Knocked down gets to wearing thin." The "Truckin'" jam quickly metamorphosis into another spit flying number "Spoonful."
The Drummers definitely pick up on the Parade vibe and revisit that on the "Drums." And this "Space" is compelling with all the Midi sounds that each band member experiments with, and there is seemingly an underlining rhythm with it. So the pick of "The Other One" comes gradual and natural. Bobby with Healy on distortion sings the first verse of "Other One." Then Garcia takes a solo that is in the same catatonic realm as the earlier "Bird Song." After the second verse, the band channels the Europe '72 version of themselves as they prelude into "Dew." It is sung by Garcia with bold confidence that has seemingly been built just for this moment. The guitar cries, just before Garcia asks, "I thought I heard a baby cry?" There is a lot of emotion that Garcia feeds into the singing of this "Dew," which he whispers off into the solo. Phil quites his heavy pick, as the audience keeps beat, for Garcia's guitar moaning low. As the bandmate sprinkle in their instruments the music builds. Jerry then test the salt shaker before salting his plate, as the organ goes from chords to notes, and the enjoy the build. Then the organ rushes in with, Phil's heavy hand, and Garcia's peaking solo, ending in a crash. Bobby takes the reigns, "That shinny ball of hope we can call our own." "Throwing Stones" explodes into "Not Fade" as the band "Bop Bop, Bop-Bop" off stage. They returned to the stage only to bid Fat Tuesday a "Goodnight."
I: LTGTR, Stranger, Sugaree, Victim, Half Step, Masterpiece, Bird Song
II: Aiko, Woman, SOTM, Truckin', Spoonful, Drums, Space, Other, Dew, T Stones, NFA E: Bid You Goodnight

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Thursday, February 21, 2013

How Does The Song Go?

After playing a New Years run, the Grateful Dead decide to do it all over again. The Dead played three nights at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Stadium, which culminated with the the Chinese New Years on this date in 1991. Download an audience recording of the show HERE. It should be noted that These three shows were without Bruce Hornsby, who was off preforming the national anthem at the NBA All-Star Game with Branford Marsalis. This show was also a celebration of Vince Welnick's 40th birthday.
The Chinese Symphony Orchestra opened the show, and the Dead took the stage knowing that they had to top the opening act, "Help/Slip/Franks" started the festivities. They drop into the "Help" like a plane takes off from the runaway, as they smoothly transition into "Slipknot." The notes of the individuals layer the spaces in between and no one steps on anyone else's toes. Fitting together like a puzzle the seamless structured section drops into the dark abyss of improvisation jam. Masterfully Garcia build the band out of the dark section, here Bobby miscues the build but circles back around to get them all on the same page, to the bright "Franklin's." The song is it's normal bright upbeat raucous of time as we "Listen to the music play." Two other first set stand outs are "Stuck Inside a Mobile" and "Jed." The "Mobile" is perfectly sung by Bobby who doesn't a beat or a word. Then the "Jed" exemplifies the band's ability to play off the drunken vibe of the audience, as the song ramps up before ramping up again before the last verse.
The second set starts with dramatic "Playin'." The song's jam takes the band in to a circular whirlwind that vents them into a dogmatic key change. Like Dorothy this key change sweeps us off to the land of Oz, so we think as Jerry starts "Terrapin." But just as soon as we've been brought there we've don't find any Scarecrow, Tin man, or Lion, instead the floorboards drop out from us as the band keys into the "Uncle John's" reprise jam. Where have we gone? The Dead didn't often bail on songs. Woodstock's "St Stephen" is one were they get through two verses than bail because they skipped the second verse, so this is an oddity in a Grateful Dead show. Yet after begging the question "How does the song go," the band ventures back to that mysterious "Terrapin." The band seizes their missed opportunity and capitalizes on it with a spectacular progressive jam at the end of it. This 10 minute jam settles the band down and into "Drums," where the special guest Airto Moreira joins Billy and Mickey. Airto Moreira is a Brazilian drummer who was a member of Miles Davis band when he recorded "Bitches Brew." The three drummers mesmerized the audience as Dragon's Dance moved about the arena. You'll hear the Dance taking place at about the 5 minute mark of the "Drums." Airto stays on percussions as the band plays a rare post-space "Eyes." The last one was almost two years prior. The "Eyes" doesn't disappoint with Garcia showing off his precious guitar work on the song. There is an odd sounding transition into "Throwing Stones/NFA." Even though it is an excellent finish to a great night.
I: Help, Slip, Franks, Rooster, Loser, Memphis Blues, Jed, Promised
II: Playin', Terrapin, Uncle John's, Terrapin*, Drums*, Space*, Eyes*, T Stones, NFA, E: Knockin'
*With Airto Moreira

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If you are anywhere close to San Rafael, do not miss Phil's 73 birthday weekend. Phil will be joined by Jeff Cheminti, Joe Russo, Jackie Greene and Bob Weir for two shows on 3/14 and his birthday 3/15. Quite the line up for that little club!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Sometimes You Gotta Play You're Hand

On Saturday night, I attended a Grateful Dead listening party at the Captiol Theatre. They were reminiscing with the show from February 24 of 1971, which was the last night of a six show run from the Capitol. It was also sadly the last gig the band would play in the Westchester theatre.
The DeadHeads came creeping out of the wood work for this show. There was no lot scene, the neighborhood bars were not any more crowded than usual, and there was no line or pat down to get in. Yet there was a constant stream of folks or all ages, size, creed, and kind that filtered into the venue. Some walked in a went to the bar, others came down to the floor and grabbed a seat while others walked right up to the stage that was set up for the February 24, 1971 Grateful Dead. A basic drum kit was in the back of the stage and was flanked by bass amps on one side and guitar amps on the other side. Just in front of the guitar amps was an organ and mic. In front of the organ was to large carpets with three mic stands on them.
Before the 16 bit master was blared through the PA system, Gary Lambert addressed the audience and he posed the question; who was at this show? About three or four hands went up in the air and the festivities were underway with a mind numbing "Casey Jones." Some heads danced and spun in the open space between the stage and folding chairs, some stood around the bar, and others sat in the seats with the memories flashing like images across their minds eye. Each note brushing them further back till they sat warped in 1971 with the rest of us.
Being from Westchester, and being born less than a half mile from the venue, shows from this venue were a must for anyone's tape collection. It wasn't the first tape that I had gotten but it was definitely in the first 20 shows I had accumulated and the show that everyone circulated was the February 18 show. Too many reason made it the choice show from this run. One there were more songs debuted at this show than any other Dead show and second the "Dark Star" is one of the Mona Lisa in the Dead's history. It's gorgeous spender is punctuated by the "Wharf Rat" that appears between the verses.
For as much as a DeadHead loves "Dark Star" we also love to hear songs like "Bertha," "Loser," and "Wharf Rat." All these Garcia/Hunter classics were debuted on 2/18 along with "Greatest Story," "Johnny B Goode," and "Playin' in the Band." The next night the band debuted "Bird Song" and "Deal." This material would make up next two albums "Skull Fuck" and the Jerry Garcia solo album "Garcia."
These shows were also part of a scientific experiment. Images were projected on the screen behind the band as the audience members were told to concentrate on those images. Other people were set up in Brooklyn and were suppose to telekinetically receive those images on ESP wavelengths. The information was never transmitted.
Mickey Hart also left the band after the gig on 2/18. The internal stress that he felt after Lenny Hart robbed the band of their finances was too much for him and he went on sabbatical. This was later very beneficial for Mickey who study various drums and beats from all over the world that contributed the second set "Drums" breaks and his current solo music. Please check out mickeyhart.net for his song to benefit Sandy victims.
These shows were recorded by the band to be used as for their next live release "Skull Fuck" but none of the material was used. As I've mentioned in past blogs, Bear left the band after the Valentines 1970 gig, which leaves a big hole in the soundboard masters on archive.org and in the Vault. That brings us to the "special guest" for these shows, Betty Cantor. These are the first batch of Betty-Boards, a term that is affixed to some of the best sounding recordings of Grateful Dead music. HERE is her website were you can find all the downloads for the six Capitol Theatre show.
All my friends at the recording on Saturday agreed, that it was a success and we should look forward to more of these in the future. One of the reasons, I heard, is the song selection of the night. Each song rocked the spirit, not one was a slow ballad. I did hope that the show (I stayed away from the setlist after announcing which show it was because I like the surprise) had a "Ripple" in it, because I wanted to hear everyone sing along. One friend turned to me as the end of "Lovelight" built and just said, "Jeez." I knew exactly what he meant.
Another friend asked me which other band could fill about 70% of the venue for a tape of a show. He said, not Phish, but that is because they are still around. Zeppelin? I dont think so because their live recording are not the greatest. Floyd? Maybe. Zappa? Probably. Not too many out there that could but that's what makes them: "Their not the best at what they do but their the only ones who do what they do." According to Bill Graham.


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Stephen Prosper In His Time

This recent Nemo snow storm reminds me of another snowy night show at the Beacon Theatre. Now everything I'm writing about in this blog is about life after the Grateful Dead. Please don't misconstrue my gushing about this show to be a slight against Jerry Garcia or the Grateful Dead. It's about living life with lemonade.
If you plant ice you're gonna harvest wind
In 2006, my wife had a pretty full plate. She was getting her Masters and working in a lab under the direction of Dr. Wadler. Between the two she did not have any free time, but she agreed to go to one night of five nights Phil was playing at the Beacon. The Beacon is my favorite Theatre to see music in New York. The cozy atmosphere and the impeccable sound is why I favorite it and also why the Allman's will set up for a month in the joint.
The first night of the run was the first time I went solo to a show. I had a great time, despite being alone. Seating neighbors were friendly, I had a smart phone to entertain me, and I didn't have to talk to anyone when the music was moving my feet. The second night Warren came out for the second set that was dominated by a "Viola Lee" sandwich. During that Saturday night a heavy thick snow storm started. The taxi's did their very best to keep the snow off the street, but it was clear that New York was bundling up for a whopper of storm. It was that calm before the storm.
Sunday morning I woke up to 18-24 inches of snow that had blanketed the city. My wife was starting to get cold feet (literally) about going to the show. I didn't put up a fight because I knew I could go it alone. Plus I was worried about getting to the show. Subways, trains and buses weren't running to the Bronx, and I was going to have to drive it. 
Because I need a car for work, I have always had a car. I know all the hiding spots to find parking around venues like the Beacon, MSG, Irving, and when it was The Wetland. But when there is a heavy storm; one, no one with a car moves it, and two, parking spots get filled up with snow. I searched for parking garages online and found one near by that was open. 
I parked in an exterior parking lot so I had some digging to do. I kept a shovel in the apartment, which I used to dig. I remember two or three times hitting my car with the shovel. It was inevitable. It took me about 2 hours because the snow drifts on one side of my car were up to door handle, and that was the lower side. I went back to the apartment to dry off and have dinner and then drove into Manhattan. 
It normally took about 15 minutes to get from my apartment to the parking spot hunt and this night was no different. The roads were remarkably clear and there was no traffic on the road. Manhattan was eerily quiet. I got on Broadway from 79th Street and drove down as it occurred to me that all the spots on Broadway were open. No parking garage for me. So I literally parked across the street from the Beacon. It reminded me of the stories my Grandma would tell me of going to dances at Roseland Ballroom where her sister would park right on 52nd Street, in front of Roseland.
I had the extra ticket that my wife was supposed to take. There was no one looking for a ticket in front. Whoever didn't have to wasn't coming out, but I found someone who thought her boyfriend might need one. I miracled them and walked in. 
Buckets of Moon beans in my head
As soon as I walked in I saw that all my digging was for the greater good, we were being treated to a special guest. Barry Sless was on stage playing ambient sounds on his pedal steel with Trey Anastasio. Weather you like Phish or not, the guy can play. I myself have not always dug Phish. In 95, I think I saw them about 12 times, than in 96 and 97, I think I saw them less then half that amount. At the time, I had been to there "last" gig in Coventry, Vermont and I knew that there was something not right with them and him.
This night was different. He was vibing on New York City acting like Vermont and as a result he played with a fire that I hadn't seen since Nassau on 2/28/03. Also, the song selection of the night showed his vulnerable side and it reminded me of his TAB gig at Higher Ground, were he revealed his tender side with songs like "Ooh Child" and "Row Jimmy."
My mind was racing as Trey and Barry left the stage to go conference with Phil. I hit up one friend after another with texts about what was happening. One of my stall worths was off seeing WSP, which I jabbed him for, considering what was happening.
I also pondered the opener. Ever since I first got the famous second Phish gig from Nectar's, 12/1/84, I've wanted to see Trey do "Scarlet," one of my favorite Dead songs. Then I considered the Phish April Fools show from 1986, where the band pulled off "Help/Slip/ACDC Bag." "Slipknot" with all it's intricacies is very much like "David Bowie" and even though Phil closed the first night of this run with it, I pondered each. To my delight they opened with "Help/Slip/Franks." Listen to Trey's guitar roar. He is like a caged animal that gets freed. Trey is shooting straight lightning from his guitar. He is revved and ready to go. When he let loose during the "Help," I remember the Master Larry Campbell's eyes widening as he looked at Phil. Phil gave him a smile and a nod and Larry started laughing. The chills ran down my arm. It was magnificent. Then there is a moment when Trey stops singing the second verse of "Franklin's" because he is not in sync with Lady Joan. They take there time to get it straight, and they have a symbiotic vocal relationship the rest of the night.
Trey gets to bust out "Up on Cripple Creek" next. I hoped that this song would have been picked up by Phish after Levon died but not every penny I throw in a fountain comes to fruition. The whole time he was singing it he was dancing, which is impressive when you hear how heavily the song was played. Trey's knees were bouncing up to his guitar as he yodeled the song.
The "Cold Rain and Snow Jam" was definitely something that wasn't practiced but based on the circumstances, how could they not have acknowledged it. Then the "Buckets of Rain," Trey sings with Joan was breathtaking. Unknowing to us or him at the time, the song really says something about himself and his situation. The confusion of a heartbreaking loss and it is the second Dylan song I remember hearing him sing. Mike sings "Quinn The Eskimo" and once in 1986 he sang "Hurricane." Up until that time the only Dylan song I heard Trey play was the worst version of "All Along The Watchtower" ever, Phish with Buddy Miles and Merl Saunders.  With the "Mmmmm" that Joan lets rip before the song Trey redeems the song by ripping this "Watchtower."
Going where those chilly winds don't blow
Between sets I hope for that "Scarlet/Fire" opener but when the band returns to the stage, I understand that they are going a completely different way. A glorious "St Stephen" that is bursting at the seams and clawing at me like a tiger that has escaped from the zoo. Then Phil gets his Ryan Adams fix in with the bluesy "What's Sin." Trey doesn't play the slow blues very often but listen to the second solo. He sparks the stage with kerosine for it. 
Then, what is the best post-Garcia "Cryptical" ever. True that some of the 22 minutes of electric energy could be considered a lead in to "Dark Star" but it is still the most fascinating jam of the night. It swirls, it curls, it dances, it takes chances, it is what we hope for walking into the venue. That enlightening sense that takes you by the chin and floats you off to never-ever-land. It was pure bliss seeing Trey and Phil transform the peak of the song into a three minute ear organism. The band layers the jam creating several different movements and events. An improvisational masterpiece, which Phil bombs into "Dark Star." The break in verse serves as the opening to roll into "The Other One." The peak of "Cryptical" was a foreshadowing of weight of the verses of "Other One," and specifically the second verse. Trey is like the Emperor from the end of "Return of the Jedi" shooting fire from his finger tips, as they "Come round, in a circle." Back into "Dark Star" as you hear Phil lose his voice as he sing "Mirror shatters." The set is closed with two blazing rockers and to sly songs that fit the climate of the night, "Going Down The Road" and "Gimme Shelter." Trey laughs as he sings, "Going where those chill winds don't blow." They cap the song with a "Bid you Goodnight" instrumental, which is a bit tentative at first though by the end has Joan "humming" a gorgeous end to the song. Like a lot of Phish shows I've been to, a Rolling Stone number ends the set. Trey was pretty geeked to be closing out a storm show with "Gimme Shelter," it's also my opinion that he should cover more Stones songs. He was so enthused to be singing and playing their songs at Festival 8, that I really feel it was their best Halloween Costume.
Phil enlists Rob to come up and sub for him on the Donor Rap. The band then takes on the Phish classic, and Phil's favorite, "Wolfman's." Even though Phil is not able to provide the background "Shirley Temple" it is a spirited affair. Trey then calls out a special guest, a marvelous musician photographer and part time harmonic player, Danny Clinch. No matter how long it would take us to get home, we all "Wait, wait for the midnight hour."
The next summer Trey and Phil joined forces for a tour that featured, Benevento/Russo, Phil and Friends and the GRAB band, which I called Phish Lite. Trey sat in with Phil several times that I saw but none had the furry, energy, and joy that this one had. 
Download the show's soundboard HERE.
I: Help, Slip Franks, Cripple Creek, TLEO, Cold Rain Jam, Lucy, Buckets, Watchtower
II: St Stephen, What's Sin, Cryptical, Dark Star, Other One, Dark Star, Eyes, GDTRFB, Gimme Shelter E: Wolfman's, Midnight Hour

Monday, February 11, 2013

Without A Warning

On this date in 1970, the Grateful Dead and the Allman Brother's meet on stage for the first time. Duane, Greg and Peter Green joined the band on stage for some truly spectacular fireworks at the Fillmore East. Download the soundboard HERE and HERE.
There are a few errors with the recording, which is why we join this show already in progress. The band is in the mist of veracious "Other One." We a brief jam that excels into the second verse before descending back into the "Cryptical." They show two newish songs that will be recorded later in the year for "Workingman's Dead;" "Dire Wolf" and "Casey Jones." A loosey-goosey "Not Fade Away" is punctuated by excellent guitar work by Garcia but is lead by the driving baselines of Phil Lesh. In the last blog, the band turned to the acoustics because Phil's base amp died, well it's back here and better than ever. Garcia's guitar also doesn't have that distinctive Garcia sound because he had just switched from a Gibson to Strat. He used the 1963 Sunburst Strat until May of this year and decides to go back to the Gibson. This is why Garcia sounds cagier that usual.
The is the romp filled "Cumberland," which is followed by a "Cold Rain and Snow" that really pops. The "High Time" is very quite, with wonderful harmonies by that Phil guy again. Then Bobby rips a "Me and My Uncle," which accelerates the heart rate of the band. So as the band drifts into the "Dark Star," this heart rate races the jam as the guest start to join the band on stage. The jam is takes on a Traffic-esk life to it. There might be an actually tease there but I can't pinpoint the song. I even went back to "Low Spark" to see if it reminds me of something but it didn't.
Amiss all the madness Bobby steers the music bus into "Spanish Jam." The theme works well as Garcia, Duane, and Green trade licks and build layers on top of layers of gooey guitar ness.  Phil does his best to entwine the guitarist. Duane steps up and takes a massive solo that peaks this "Spanish Jam." As it peaks, Phil drops a hint to his band mates and as the crescendo crashes, Garcia starts the blues romp. Pigpen leads the full stage through the verses and then they break into complete guitar madness. You can really hear the chemistry that the band has with the two Brothers. Greg sings a verse of "Lovelight" and gives way to his older brother who seizes the opportunity between the verse to take the lead. As Greg sings the second verse, Bobby is quick to join the party, trading "Shine on me's" with Bobby. There is a musical mis mosh that the vocalist send the guitarist into. If you listen close, you'll hear Jerry tease the solo of "Midnight Rider" in the build. Eventually Pigpen reclaims the vocal reigns and leads the band through verses and his "Pocket Pool" rap. There is a battle between the vocalist to stay on theme and the guitarist to blow it up. They both win some battles but the song eventually wins the war after a 33 minutes of explosiveness. Bobby caps the set by declaring, "From all of us to all of you. Thank you, goodnight!"
The band returns to the stage with acoustics in tow. They preform a lovely "Uncle John's Band" to close out the night. The next night the Dead played a club called Ungano's before returning to the Fillmore East for the 13th and 14th. These shows would be the last ones that Bear did with the band, and were memorialized in the Dick's Picks 4 collection.
The Other One, Cryptical, Dire Wolf, Casey Jones, NFA, Cumberland, Cold Rain, High Time, Uncle, Dark Star*, Spanish Jam*, Lovelight* E: Uncle Johns
*With Duane Allman, Greg Allman, and Peter Green