"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

Friday, March 29, 2013

Shooting Powers Back And Forth

Today is the anniversary of one of the most famous special guest appearance in later year, which is referred to as the Branford show. Download the Soundboard of the show HEREHERE, and HERE. There is very interesting FOB Audience tape that just came into circulation thanks to Dead Phish Blog, which you can download HERE and HERE.
Over the last week, I've listened to the Audience copy of this show over the Soundboard. The Board is crisp and pristine sounding but this is a show that I am so familiar with that listening to the Aud is hearing it through a different voice. I'm so familiar with this show and specifically the "Eyes," do in part to it's inclusion on "Without A Net," that I hum along with the soloing lines. Jerry's pulling off notes, Branford's leads, and the Celeste sounds of the midi have all been etched into my subconscious from the years of training.
I remember my friend saying to me in the High School hallways in between classes, "Hey Jeff got the Branford show." So later that day I asked Jeff if he wanted me to get him a tape.
"No, this is the full show. Two tapes." I hadn't had any full shows. "Oh and make sure you get the Maxell XLii-S, the black tape. It's worth it." I knew that meant that my trip to Listening Material was going to cost me two extra dollars, but in the long run the tape held up so it was worth it.
As a young DeadHead this show was part of my formative years. Even though this came from one of the all time great Grateful Dead tours, and at that time I didn't realize it's perfection compared to the shows I was attending. Yet this was how I expected when I went to a Grateful Dead show.
The quintessential "Jack Straw" opener, followed by a rocking "Bertha." Still to this day, even though I love "Blow Away" and when putting some lullabies on my phone for my newborn the first song I chose was "I Will Take You Home," but "We Can Run" is my favorite Brent song. That is only because of it's placement on this show. Then the two songs that fit a Nassau show like a glove, "Ramble On Rose" and "Masterpiece." Because the "Hours spent inside the Coliseum" is "Just like New York City."
 "Well alright ok, we got ourselves a special guest tonight." This is as much as an introduction of Branford to the crowd as it is DeadHeads to Branford. I was told in later years, that this was not only the first time Branford played at a show it was also the first time he had listened to the Dead. It's unbelievable that his fluid interaction are based solely on his musical reactions. Then listening back to it, you hear how he doesn't figure out the song or the notes till after the jam. This is when he joins Brent and Jerry on the main riff off the song. Its pretty amazing, which is why I could never figure out how this "Bird Song" didn't make it onto "Without A Net." Though this "Bird Song" was redeemed, as it was officially released as part of the "So Many Roads" Box Set.
The second set is a few of my favorite Grateful Dead things. It all starts with the slow deliberate "Eyes of the World." The inter play between Garcia and Branford is just the prelude to this monumental "Eyes." Where Jerry chooses the wide open songs to venture on with Branford, Bobby choose his more regimented songs like "Estimated." Although it is an open ended song, the chorus verse and solo section are specifically structured, and yet Branford seems to excel in through these chord changes. Then the band drops into the only "Dark Star" of the Spring 90 tour and the first one since the Fall 89 tour closer written about HERE. As I mentioned earlier, this was Branford's introduction to the DeadHeads, well after this show he said that every time he played a show after this that someone at some point would call for "Dark Star." This "Dark Star" is the bookends to "Drums/Space" and breaths like the light source to heavens. So the proclamation comes next as they play "The Wheel," followed by the apocalyptic rant, "Throwing Stones." Branford is as comfortable playing the air "Wheel" as he is with the structured "Throwing Stones." Branford then switches to from Alto to Tenor Sax as they close the set with a swinging "Lovelight." Jerry brings down the house with a magnificent "Knocking on Heaven's Door," with Branford provide plenty of sweet fills.
All though starting in on New Years 1988, the Grateful Dead had their first special guest horn player since the Fall 73, this Branford show really opened up new avenues for that the Dead continued to explore throughout the 90's. The swing style of Clarence Clemons was fun but it lacked the drive of exploration that the band excelled with. (Though this didn't stop Clarence and Jerry from considering living together in 1989.) The band seeked out other jazz horn players like Ornette Coleman and David Murray. Yet Branford holds a special place in Grateful Dead lore partly because of this show. In fact in 2009, when The Dead was having a hard time selling tickets for 2 shows at the crumbling Brendan Byrne, they announced that Branford was joining them. It sold me and I enjoyed two evenings with Branford and The Dead.
I: Jack Straw, Bertha, We Can Run, Ramble, Masterpiece, Bird Song, Promised
II: Eyes, Estimated, Dark Star, Drums, Space, Dark Star, Wheel, T Stones, Lovelight, E: Knockin'
"Bird Song" and Second Set with Branford Marsalis

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Saturday, March 23, 2013

Familiar Faces In An Empty Window Pane

In 1995, the Grateful Dead played their most spirited show on this date. It is not cocincedent that this was in large part to the special guest that played with them on this night. Their former mate Bruce Hornsby put the two step back into the Grateful Dead stride, which you can download a SBD of HERE and HERE. I'm well aware of the negative stigmatism that is associated with shows from 1995 but this is probably the best from the year.
There is quite the pep in the "Half Step" opener, and Garcia doesn't waste anytime to jump all over the solo as they reach the coda. The harmony vocals sets Garcia off as his voice cracks "Across the lazy river." Durning the blues jaunt "Wang Dang," Bruce Hornsby starts to make his presences felt. Bruce slides in and takes over as Garcia's guitar solo slowly fades. Throughout the show Bruce glowing Grand Piano fills those space that are left by Garcia. "Cold Rain and Snow" Jerry leaves space for Bruce's piano to sing a solo. Bruce then wins the award for Best Supporting Role for his fills in "Loser," "Easy Answers," and "So Many Roads." Complementing the vocals and the Garcia leads throughout those songs. Please don't skip "Easy Answers" this version is definitely more bluesy than cheesy.
The second set opens with the second ever "Unbroken." At the time, some DeadHeads didn't believe that they had actually played it in Philly, no matter what the setlist sheets in the lot read. So you can hear the crowd rejoicing as the band begins the song, but it also signaled that Philly wasn't a fluke. "Unbroken Chain" was now in the Grateful Dead lexicon of songs and crowds in 95 anticipated the song, I remember seeing a giant chain of linked glow sticks being passed through the crowd as a request for the song on particular nights.
After shaking the cobwebs off, Jerry starts to gearing up the energy by launching into "Scarlet/Fire." The audience is eating up every verse of "Scarlet" and egging the band on so that Jerry vaults through a massive solo. Bruce and Phil lay the frame work that Jerry feeds and build off of making the final verse a potent declaration of "The sky was yellow the sun was blue." The transition jam is lead be Bruce's grand sinking the band into the dark funk of "Fire." Bobby makes a great call by choosing "Corrina" next because of its airiness and its inclination to improvisation that made it a Deadhead favorite. There is also the reference that the song was part of Hunter's Terrapin Suite, which is partially true. Hunter took the line "There's no fear that to lovers born would ever fail to meet" from his "Leaving Terrapin" from the Terrapin Suite but the rest of the song is independent of Terrapin. (Ratdog didn't help the rumors by playing "Corrina" in the middle of "Terrapin Station" and "At The Sliding.")
In the intro of "Corrina," Bruce lays down a funky little keys diddi that he revives several times after the verses, in "Matilda," and in the little jam that peaks into "Drums." Bruce owns this portion of the set, which is what makes this such the unbelievably energetic show for 1995.
Out of "Space," the puts together the building blocks that forms "Days Between." The song has four verses each one representing one of the seasons. The lyrics for the songs came together after Hunter and his wife spent an evening on the town with Garcia and his then girlfriend Barbara Meier. The four of them had a great time reminiscing of times spent in there younger days. The song beauty is in its sentimentality of the night.
They spice up the set with a killer "Good Lovin'," which Bruce tickles the funny bone of. The encore the night with a joyous "The Weight" that Bruce, instead of Vince. It's not lost on me that my favorite show of 1995, doesn't feature a "Samba in the Rain."
Listening to this second set brings me back to some long car trips. I had copies of at least half of the shows from 95 and would listen to them depending on the weather. The liveliness of this show would get me through a spring drive. I'd pop in the Maxell XLII-S and a hundred minutes of pavement would disappear in the rear view mirror. Ahh the good times behind the wheel.

I: Half Step, Wang Dang, Cold Rain, El Paso, Loser, Easy Answers, So Many Roads
II: Unbroken, Scarlet, Fire, Corrina, Matilda, Jam, Drums, Space, Days, Good Lovin' E: The Weight
With Bruce Hornsby

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Friday, March 22, 2013

Like A Ringing A Bell

So I'm getting this blog out a day before the anniversary because there are two shows that fall on the 23rd and I feel that each show deserves it's own day.
This is the bands first gig in 1975, it's also the first gig since Bill Graham printed "The Last One" on the 10/20/74 ticket stub. So here the band comes out of hiatus to play this SNACK benefit. Download the FM recording of the the gig HERE.
The DeadHeads in the audience must have had so many questions come out of this gig. What happened to the Wall of Sound? Is Mickey back? Where's Donna? Is Merl now in the band? And lastly: what the hell is this that they are playing?
In January of 1975, the band went into the studio looking to do something they had never and would never do again, create an album of new material that has not been road tested. Now there is one "Slipknot!" teases from 6/20/74, but the fully composed piece was not put together by that point. So this being the first opportunity for the band to air out it's new material. So the band displayed the theatrical "Blues for Allah" without the accompanying lyrics and the instrumental "Stronger Than Dirt." Audience members must have checked their ticket stub to make sure that they weren't at the Frank Zappa show accidentally. None the less Jerry's warm voice singing "La la la la, la, la" brings us back from Eternity.
The band would only play 4 gigs in 1975, and half of them have special guest so there will be another one this year. See ya tomorrow.
Blues for Allah, Stronger, Drums, Stronger, Blues for Allah E: JBG
With Merl Saunders & Ned Lagin

Dark Star Orchestra is holding a cool event in August, DSO High School. The schooling takes place at a resort in the Catskills and will feature four nights of live performances and master classes durning during the day. Find out more of the event HERE. No word yet if there will be a cooking class where they teach you how to make garlic grill cheese, kind veggie burritos, and ganja goo balls.
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Monday, March 18, 2013

Raise A Cain

Thirty-five years ago, JGB played a gig at the Capital Theatre, which was broadcast live on WNEW radio station. Yet somehow this the show slipped off into obscurity until earlier this year when the Soundboard audio showed up along with the video of the show on YouTube. This magnificent gem can be downloaded HERE and the video can be found below.
This version of the JGB band featured, John Kahn, Maria Mulduar, Keith and Donna Godchaux, and Buzz Buchanan on drums. The show opens with my favorite JGB tune, "Mission in the Rain." It becomes obvious from the intro that Jerry is really feeling it and spirit as he "Comes round agian." The shoulder shrugs the facial expression, the bowing John Kahn, and the swaying girls really personalize the full expression of the songs music and lyrics. Watch as the duetting girls ignite the chorus, which jump starts Garcia guitar as he brings the house down with the sprawling shaking guitar notes. The delicate "Russian Lullaby" gives Garcia and Kahn the opportunity to fill in the pauses in-between each others improvisation jam. The two really show off their symbiotic relationship.
They fire up the after burners with the upbeat ramp "Tore Up Over You." As Garcia steps back from the mic, he emcees himself in a solo, that he shakes rattles and rolls through. This barn burner blues song is the most rocking feature of night. "Love in the Afternoon" is the first album track for which they are touring to promote. You'll notice the "Cats" banner hanging in the back of the stage on the wide shots of the band. The beautiful spiritual song sung by Maria and Donna, "I'll Be With Thee" comes next. Be careful because this is the song that gets stuck in my head after listening to this show, which is shocking because of the reverence I have for the next song.
I love The Band. I morned for days when Levon Helm died last April, but this is the most heart wrenching version of "Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" ever. The song more resembles "Stella Blue" rather than uplifting version that Levon sang for the LAST time at the Last Waltz later this same year. Listen to Garcia's vocal quiver during "Virgil." Then the dramatic pause Kahn sets Jerry up for the solo. It's a masterpiece. And as they sing "Na na na na na na" they pause again as Jerry sings "Like my brother before meee." The band feels the song deep down in their bones. And just when you think its over, the song chorus is revived as Donna lets out a yell and the band caps song and the set with a pinnacle finish.
They encore with the second album track, "Rhapsody in Red." Like the earlier "Tore Up," Garcia can hardly keep his swiveling body still and John Kahn can barely keep his shaking head still. An electric end to an electric evening.
I'll be back on Friday with a Special Guest blog. If you happen to be in Indianopolis, the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art has a feature called "Guitars" running until August 4th. The have guitars by Hendrix, Buddy Holly, Woody Guthrie and Jerry Garcia's "Wolf" on display. Here is a video of the first time Jerry plays the Wolf, at a Hell's Angels wedding reception. Not a bad wedding band to have play your wedding.
Mission, Russian, Tore Up, Love, I'll Be With Thee, Dixie Down, Rhapsody

Thanks to Hidden Track for bringing the videos to my attention. Connect on Facebook and Twitter

Friday, March 8, 2013


Forty years ago today, the Grateful Dead lost their first original member, Ron "Pigpen" McKernan. It was a sobering experience for the band, who had seen Pigpen's declining health prevent him from touring with band after the June 17, 1972 Hollywood Bowl show. He was not able to sing at this show, which crippled this blues showman's ability to light up the stage.
Stay with the video through "Mr. Greatest Fresh Water Reservoir" and you'll see the highlight of the Grateful Dead set from Woodstock, this 35+ minute verse of "Lovelight." This is my favorite Pigpen tune, how could it not be?
Pigpen is credited as being the leading voice in the band to transition from an acoustic bluegrass band to an electric blues band.  Songs like "Cold Rain and Snow," the band was able to bring with them to their electric gigs, but much of their material had to be started anew. Pigpen knew enough blues material, from growing up as the son of a radio blues DJ, to help supplement the bands repertoire. He was the Grateful Dead front man, but his role quickly changed when they started playing the Acid Test. Pigpen tried LSD once and didn't like it, so when the freak out was in full swing, Pig would sneak away with a bottle of Southern Comfort. These habits are what made him a kindred spirit with Janis Joplin, who was his friend and lover from the mid 60's to her death.
In 1968, Pigpen and Bobby were briefly kicked out of the band because they were not keeping up musically with the band's direction. Bobby pledged to put more practice time in, but Pigpen kind of had a "whatever" attitude about the whole thing. So when Pigpen came back, he was relegated to congas for certain songs, but Pig's flare couldn't keep him down long and his tunes grew into show stoppers like "Lovelight."
Then in 1970, The Grateful Dead released two studio masterpieces. The first one, Workingman's Dead contained seven Garcia/Hunter songs and one Pigpen original, the first one the band ever recorded. American Beauty featured one Pigpen song. Here is the first original preformed live on the Festival Express tour.
After the August 26, 1971 gig in the Bronx, Pigpen was forced by the doctors to take a leave of absence from touring with the band. He had liver disease that was bought on by his excessive alcohol abuse. He started his drinking career at the age of 8 and this was his first hiatus. In an act of solidarity the whole band donated blood, in hopes that he would fully recover. Pigpen returned to the stage on December 1, 1971.
Pigpen's creativity grew and his songwriting abilities started taking shape. Pigpen began the recording sketches of a solo album, which has never been released because it is only a series of rough demos. When the band began their first ever tour of Europe in 1972, their were 10-12 Pigpen songs in rotation. Here are a couple of pro shot songs from Copenhagen on April 17, 1972; "Next Time You See Me" and "Chinatown Shuffle."
In Europe Pigpen contracted hepatitis, which is why in his last performance at the the Hollywood Bowl he did not sing. On March 8th, 1973, Pigpen was found dead at the age of 27 from a gastrointestinal hemorrhage in his home.
This is my cat Pigpen. I found him abandoned in a vacant apartment. I bought him home, to foster him and have had him ever since. Much like his namesake, he has a drinking problem.
Hopefully you didn't miss the recent Bob Weir STFU service announcement at the recent Ratdog Quartet show from Sweetwater. Jonathan Wilson opened the show playing songs solo. Bobby then came out and played some songs acoustically. The bar became chatty and durning "Hard Rain Gonna Fall," Bobby pauses and walks off stage stating, that he'll come back with the band and play louder. This clip is the encore where he shouts at the bar to "Shut The Fuck Up." Hopefully the audio of the show pops up soon. 

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