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crank up that old Victrola and put on your rockin' shoes
May 9, 2012 6:20 PM   Subscribe

On the evening of May 8th, exactly thirty-five years ago tonight, two remarkable things happened at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. A beautiful spring afternoon suddenly turned to dropping temperatures, and by nightfall a light snow was falling on the campus; meanwhile, in a campus auditorium, Barton Hall, one of the greatest improvisational rock bands in history was performing what would later come to be known as their greatest concert.

The Grateful Dead are well known for their improvisation as well as the devotion their fans have shown to them and to the preservation of their live performances. (Here is a nice photo looking up from the taper section at a Grateful Dead concert in 1980.) Almost 2,200 Grateful Dead concerts were carefully recorded on tape by fans and preserved; and today, almost all of these recordings can be found in the massive collection of recordings on the Internet Archive's Grateful Dead section.

Among those recordings, however, this night's performance – May 8th, 1977 – has a place of pride among fans as the archetype of Grateful Dead concerts, and perhaps the most perfect show they ever played. Disputes about this question are of course endless, but one point most agree on is that this concert is an excellent place to start if one wishes to get into the Grateful Dead; tens of thousands of people were introduced to the Grateful Dead through this tape, which remains the most popular live recording of the band.

The highlights of this show were many. If you'd rather quit reading and just listen, you can skip to one of the high points of the show: the "Scarlet Begonias" -> "Fire On The Mountain" medley. This show is almost certainly the best recorded instance of the Dead playing those two songs together; the breezy, joyous transition between the songs is seamless and perfect. But there are other moments that should be noted. Jerry's keening solo on "Loser" is gorgeous; the band's freshly reworked (but complicated) rendition of "Dancing In The Street" came off effortlessly; and the "St Stephen > Not Fade Away > St Stephen" medley in the second set is electrifying.

Present that night were the core members of the Grateful Dead – Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir on vocals and guitar, Phil Lesh playing the bass and singing, and Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart playing the drums. Also with the band were Keith Godchaux, who had played keyboard for the past six years, and his wife, Donna Jean Godchaux, who sang.

The Full Setlist

Set 1

· New Minglewood Blues
This song was a common fixture at Grateful Dead concerts from 1966 onward; it is an old song, first recorded by Noah Lewis, the author, in 1928. Here is a good history of the song. As usual, Bobby is singing here.
· Loser
This song was a composition by the Dead's premier songwriting duo, Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter. Here is the "Annotated 'Loser'" page, which gives a good overview of the song. Jerry sings this song.
· El Paso
A cover of the famous Marty Robbins tune which the Grateful Dead were fond of playing.
· They Love Each Other
A warm tune from the Hunter/Garcia songbook. Annotated.
· Jack Straw
A song by Bob Weir with lyrics penned by Robert Hunter; Annotated.
· Deal
Another Hunter/Garcia composition. Annotated.
· Lazy Lightnin' > Supplication
A song by Bob Weir and John Perry Barlow, the Grateful Dead's second songwriting team. Annotated.
· Brown Eyed Women
A Hunter/Garcia tune. Annotated.
· Mama Tried
A cover of the Merle Haggard classic which appeared frequently in Grateful Dead concerts in the late 1970s.
· Row Jimmy
By Robert Hunter and Jerry Garcia. Said Robert Hunter: "I really feel that 'Row Jimmy' is happening in New Mexico." Annotated.
· Dancing In The Street
A cover of the Motown tune originally recorded by Martha and the Vandellas The Grateful Dead played this song throughout their career, but in 1977 they trotted out a newly-reworked version that was a bit more jaunty and syncopated. It was a complicated song to play in concert, so in a few years the band went back to the original arrangement – but this is one of the best examples of them playing the reworked version just right.
Set 2

· Scarlet Begonias > Fire On The Mountain
A famous medley, perhaps the most famous among Grateful Dead medleys. Both lyrics were penned by Robert Hunter; the tune of "Scarlet Begonias" was written by Jerry Garcia, whereas "Fire On The Mountain" was written by Mickey Hart. Annotated "Scarlet;" Annotated "Fire."
· Estimated Prophet
A tune by John Perry Barlow and Bob Weir. Said Bob of this song: "The basis of it is this guy I see at nearly every backstage door. There's always some guy who's taken a lot of dope and he's really bug- eyed, and he's having some kind of vision. He's got a rave he's got to deliver." Annotated.
· Saint Stephen > Not Fade Away > Saint Stephen
This is Robert Hunter and Jerry Garcia's song (annotated, and here's a great deconstruction) sandwiching the classic Buddy Holly composition.
· Morning Dew
This is a cover of a folk tune by the Canadian Bonnie Dobson. Here is the original recording from 1962.
Encore

· One More Saturday Night
A song that was written by Bob Weir, and has lyrics that were sort of by Robert Hunter. This song was actually one of the reasons Bob Weir and Robert Hunter didn't like writing together; Robert Hunter so disliked the changes Bob wanted to make to the lyrics that he said Bob Weir should just take it and not credit him. It's worth pointing out that here they are performing the song on a Sunday night.
Available recordings

Thankfully, not only one but many recordings of that evening remain. Here is a selection of the better ones:

Jerry Moore's audience recording. Jerry Moore was legendary in the Grateful Dead community; he was the original editor of the Grateful Dead fan magazine, Relix, and became well known as a capturer of notoriously good "mouth of the beast" recordings (from the apex of the speakers about 10 feet from the stage.) Of the audience recordings I've heard of this night, Jerry Moore's is the best.

Jeff Stevenson's audience recording. Jeff Stevenson was also a memorably good taper. This is another "mouth of the beast" recording, and while slightly less clear than Jerry's, it sometimes seems a bit more immediate and a little warmer, at least to my ear. Also, note that this recording was transferred to digital by Jeff Stevenson himself.

Steve Maizner's audience recording. This is another well-regarded audience recording which sounds to me to be from a little further back in the audience. It has very good ambience, and nice clarity.

Betty Cantor's soundboard recording. Betty Cantor is a famed figure in the Grateful Dead's history. After the big bust in New Orleans in 1970, Owsley "Bear" Stanley went to federal prison for two years, and the Grateful Dead were left without their producer and lead technician. Betty Cantor, who was already a fixture as an assistant on tours, stepped in and took over production duties and sound for live shows, a duty which she performed for the next two decades. (A few nice pictures of her behind the boards can be seen here, here and here. Bear had been aciduous (geddit?) about carefully taping and labeling each show; Betty retained this habit, and in fact was often making three and even four recordings simultaneously, especially on the Europe '72 tour. Here is a good interview with her from 1995 regarding her recordings, which have been known among tapers as "the Betty Boards."

As Betty notes in her interview, through an unfortunate series of events her entire personal collection disappeared when she lost her house over a dispute about payment with the band. That misfortune was in some ways a boon for fans, however, because it meant that these tapes were soon disseminated among fans. The Barton Hall tape in particular, in high quality, happened to be circulated early and often. Because of this, it was the "first tape" for thousands upon thousands of new Grateful Dead fans.

Since the dawn of the internet age of tape trading, it's become much easier to refine and perfect these recordings. A popular form now is the "matrix recording" – a combination of two or more sources, spliced together carefully. Among many tapers, soundboard recordings, while of the highest quality and perfection, can sometimes sound "flat" or "dead," and can lack the excitement that can be felt from the crowd. For this reason, a recording that is a combination of the audience and soundboard recordings can be the best.

My own personal favorite recording of this concert is a matrix of Jerry Moore and Steve Maizner's audience recordings, combined with the pristine "Betty Board" soundboard recording. You can listen to it in streaming format it here.
posted by koeselitz (96 comments total) 130 users marked this as a favorite

 
Wow, great post. I've probably listened Barton Hall a hundred times over the last thirty years and I've never gotten tired it. The ending of Morning Dew still gives still gives me goose bumps. A great band at their peak.
posted by octothorpe at 6:29 PM on May 9, 2012


Thank you koeselitz!

I remember in my mid teens I was very much into the Dead, and would spend DAYS downloading the few tapes I could find online on the early internet. I was very lucky in that I got to see one of their last passes through Atlanta as a teen.

The St Stephen -> Not Fade Away -> St Stephen of this show is pretty much the Platonic Form of this combo, in my opinion, and it still gives me chills listening to. It really shows the beautiful fluidity of the live Dead show in a pure form.
posted by strixus at 6:37 PM on May 9, 2012


I'm sorry, but we've been instructed not to "waste your time with that hippie shit. Go listen to some people with actual talent at playing their instruments." Didn't you get the memo? The band referred to was the Beatles, but I'm sure the principle applies. [grin]

More usefully, this is great. I'd not heard of this concert. Thank you
posted by mojohand at 6:48 PM on May 9, 2012


I have not heard many deadheads say this was the greatest performance, but the consensus is definitely that it was the greatest traded tape recording. I never understood archivist Dick Lavatla's resistance to selling a CD of the thing which surely would have been a big seller.

Dick's Picks #29 May 19, 1977 Atlanta, GA & May 21, 1977 Lakeland, FL

Dick's Picks #3 May 22, 1977 Pembrook Pines, FL

To Terrapin: May 28, 1977 Hartford, CT

are all CD's from that same tour well worth a listen.
posted by bukvich at 6:49 PM on May 9, 2012


Nice post, koeselitz.
posted by box at 6:50 PM on May 9, 2012


Yah! Great show. I prefer earlier (okay, non-Donna) Dead, but as noted, a helluva place to start.
posted by parki at 6:50 PM on May 9, 2012


For completely random reasons this is the exact perfect post for this evening. Thanks.
posted by jessamyn at 6:52 PM on May 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


koeselitz, since I can only favorite you here once I'll just follow you around to all subsequent threads and favorite you from hereon.

And kids, welcome to my lawn. Enjoy.
posted by hal9k at 7:03 PM on May 9, 2012 [11 favorites]


My introduction to this show was sitting in the local hippie watering hole and this tape being shuffled into the deck around 9pm on a quiet Wednesday night. The bar was deadly silent from note one until the applause at the end. Then nods were seen around the bar, another round was ordered and the tape flipped back to the start. I'm pretty sure I listened to this show at least three times on that night, but I surely don't remember anyone complaining and I (only somewhat clearly) remember stepping out onto rain-slick early morning streets, slightly altered and feeling like some things have a certain magic moment to them, and that occasionally, in the right circumstances, that moment could happen, again... and again... and again... So, I'm plugging in my Sennheisers and relaxing tonight and enjoying these links. Thanks.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 7:03 PM on May 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


bukvich - yeah, that Pembroke Pines show is really my favorite of the tour right now, particularly the very fine "Eyes Of The World."

parki - You have to admit that Donna actually sounded really good on the 1977 tour - this show is a good example, I think.

Oh, and one more thing - a few months ago I realized that all 36 of the Dick's Picks concert recordings are on Spotify. What this means is that virtually every single Grateful Dead concert that was recorded is available online for free now. The Internet age is a beautiful thing. This is something I could not begin to dream of in my youth.

Oh, and one more thing: if you're going to listen to Dick's Picks, start with #4. It's the best, hands down.
posted by koeselitz at 7:04 PM on May 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


maybe more than one more thing
posted by koeselitz at 7:06 PM on May 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


I feel like I must be the only metafiliter user who never really understood the dead or modern jam bands.

They always struck me as what happens when you take jazz, remove the pretty lounge crooners, add mushrooms, and let people play without any criticism or attempt to limit the entire run time of songs to the 3 - 5 minute margin that nearly every other genre respects.
posted by sourbrew at 7:06 PM on May 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Sweet post! Thank you!
posted by rleamon at 7:12 PM on May 9, 2012


koeselitz - "good", okee dokee, but "really good" is too much of a stretch for me. :-)

When they were on, they were frighteningly good.
posted by parki at 7:12 PM on May 9, 2012


I feel like I must be the only metafiliter user who never really understood the dead or modern jam bands.

I think one of the things that is weird to understand about the Dead's popularity is how much it's only sort of about music. I mean people like the music, but a lot of times they like the whole combination between the music, the friendly pretty people at the shows, the vibe of the band and the scene around where the band is playing. I think a lot of people have romantic places in their heart where they believe the world could be a special place where they and people like them fit right in and where everything mostly worked. I think for a lot of people, they only get to that place in dreams or through movies or teevee or maybe vacationing, I don't know. I think for some people, they got to live those dreams when they were following the Dead or going to shows or even just interacting with people who were swapping tapes or selling t-shirts or pipes or whateverthehell. Getting to listen to woodley-woo music out in the sunshine high on acid hanging out with a lot of people who are smiling at you and just really really stoked to be there. It's a nice place to be. And if you like places that are nice places to be, you'll like it. There's some remarkable consistency to the scene which is sort of interesting.

And sure, it's not really real, at some level. But it's a neat internally consistent party that anyone was invited to. Can't afford a ticket? Hang out in the parking lot. A shared hallucination that made (and makes) a lot of people really happy in the short and the long term. A lot of the Dead's early sharing and taping-allowing and that sort of thing really didn't become part of more mainstream music culture for decades later. It was, for me--never much of a Deadhead but I went to a few shows that were really wonderful--one of those examples of people wanting to be the change they wanted to see in the world. The music is fine, I was never personally one of those "This is the BEST jam ever" folks, but it meshed really nicely with a scene and a time and a group of people who seemed to mostly enjoy sharing it. So that's part of what I like about it. If it doesn't resonate with you, that's okay too.
posted by jessamyn at 7:17 PM on May 9, 2012 [27 favorites]


@sourbrew: You're probably not the only one, but you're right that you don't really understand *and* you're close to being eponysterical, so that's something.
I'm happy to admit that the Dead are not for everyone (especially if you like good vocals, and aren't into improvisational music). But..."take jazz, remove the pretty lounge crooners"?
Also, Anton Bruckner is on the phone...he wants to hear more about this 3 - 5 minute limit.
posted by uosuaq at 7:17 PM on May 9, 2012


This was the first tape I heard that had enough bottom end to truly appreciate Phil Lesh's playing...and it's a helluva Scarlet > Fire. Like parki, I tend to listen to earlier shows (especially stuff from ~73 during Mickey's hiatus,) but I always liked Donna's brief interlude during the segue into Fire on the Mountain. This kinda makes me regret not being more diligent about backing up the countless SBD recordings I've downloaded over the years. That brief period when they were all available for download on the Archive was wonderful. Even though I don't listen to them much anymore, I still think of my internet connection speed in terms of how long it takes to download a dead show. We've come a long way from leaving sugarmegs.org open overnight to download a show track by track. Thanks for the post.
posted by Lorin at 7:18 PM on May 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh man, sugarmegs.org, that takes me back. Tape trees by e- and snail mail. Good times.
posted by parki at 7:28 PM on May 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


My pick for an underrated show from this era is 10-9-76, now Dick's Picks #33 ... The second set (Help > Slip > Drums > Samson & Delilah > Slip > Franklins) is unreal.
posted by Lorin at 7:42 PM on May 9, 2012


I feel like I must be the only metafiliter user who never really understood the dead or modern jam bands.

Nobody is the only anything.

Great post, koeselitz. I'm really enjoying this after a day of being a sulky stressball.
posted by peripathetic at 7:44 PM on May 9, 2012


I remember cassette tapes in the early 80s. I had maybe a dozen that got repeated listen. A few older friends of friends had connections to soundboards and deep archives and occasionally some new copies would make their way mysteriously up the line, but with each re-recording they got worse in quality, so quality was everything and it was rare to have a soundboard (a term of ambiguous meaning), usually a muffled 20th generation. The Internet Archive is sort of like heaven in that no one back then could imagine something like it would ever exist. There was magic passing around those tapes that is missing from downloading the best at a moments notice. The physical object, social trading networks, each tape unique due to flaws introduced in copying and repeated listening. It's like books vs ebooks.

FWIW, Internet Archive is founded and run by Brewster Khale who is something of a dead head, I believe his wife even more so. Support IA! It's a non profit and seeks donations.
posted by stbalbach at 7:46 PM on May 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


When I was in college a few of my friends were fanatical Dead Heads with huge collections of tapes that played 24/7 in their rooms. The digital age is good for concert collectors. Man some of those tapes back in the day were horrible multi-generation copies. With digital copying and internet distribution high quality recordings are widely available. It takes some of the satisfaction out of the hunt (see today's earlier movie thread) but the resulting music you listen to is much improved. Barton Hall? Great fucking show.
posted by caddis at 8:04 PM on May 9, 2012


Yep. I remember my brother-in-law took me on tour in the early nineties, even though I was probably too young for it. By the end of the summer I had a nice little pile of tapes, but nothing compared to his collection. The next time I saw him several years later, he was bumming tapes from me because I had the net and he didn't, heh. The ebook analogy is apt because it was always "Yeah, they're good, but they'll never replace my tapes!"
posted by Lorin at 8:08 PM on May 9, 2012


it's very good, but the best?

veneta, oregon, 08-27-72 is so lysergic, you can actually get a contact high from it

dick's picks no 4, 2/13/70, 2/14/70, is astonishing and the dark star on that is one of the highpoints of 20th century music, period, not just the dead

in miami, 10/26/89, the dead played a truly dark and terrifying 2nd set

on their tour in '72, the dead were at a real peak, and the 2nd set of 72-05-26 has the truckin' and morning dew that were on sides 5 and 6 of the europe '72, as well as a lot of other stuff, including a version of sing me back home that will tear your heart out

i think the best version of fire/scarlet i've heard was 10/14/94

i do agree that 5/8/77 is a very good place to start - but frankly, the dead had gotten pretty "professional" and slick at that stage and weren't taking chances a lot
posted by pyramid termite at 8:11 PM on May 9, 2012 [6 favorites]


I miss Jerry

.
posted by Windopaene at 8:12 PM on May 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


I never did really put in the time to figure out which tours/lineups/shows I preferred. (I'm the sort of philistine who's honestly perfectly happy just listening to Europe '72 over and over again. Doesn't help that I don't have any Deadhead friends on this side of the continent...)

But this one sure is good!
posted by nebulawindphone at 8:12 PM on May 9, 2012


yeah, we all do ...
posted by pyramid termite at 8:13 PM on May 9, 2012


This is a great post, thank you (and I know of the band, but not a lot about them). I've listened to a couple of the tracks so far.

This is probably the first time I've not felt horrid after reading youtube comments too. Not feeling cranky after reading youtube comments means it's a double A plus evening!
posted by pymsical at 8:17 PM on May 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't care for the Dead's music, nor do I much like the jam bands they spawned.

But they're hugely important for creating at least one essential component of a sustainable business model for fringe music -- allowing audience taping and trading. That's filtered down to everyone from ardent DIYers Fugazi to RIAA-poster-children Metallica.

So, um, yeah.

The Dead. Woo.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 8:17 PM on May 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


veneta, oregon, 08-27-72 is so lysergic, you can actually get a contact high from it

My favourite shows are more accurately described as favourite Dark Star performances, and that's a good one. The entire Sunshine Daydream movie taken from that concert is on youtube in good quality. Warning: naked hippies.
posted by Lorin at 8:23 PM on May 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


sourbrew: “I feel like I must be the only metafiliter user who never really understood the dead or modern jam bands.”

jessamyn: “I think one of the things that is weird to understand about the Dead's popularity is how much it's only sort of about music. I mean people like the music, but a lot of times they like the whole combination between the music, the friendly pretty people at the shows, the vibe of the band and the scene around where the band is playing. I think a lot of people have romantic places in their heart where they believe the world could be a special place where they and people like them fit right in and where everything mostly worked. I think for a lot of people, they only get to that place in dreams or through movies or teevee or maybe vacationing, I don't know. I think for some people, they got to live those dreams when they were following the Dead or going to shows or even just interacting with people who were swapping tapes or selling t-shirts or pipes or whateverthehell. Getting to listen to woodley-woo music out in the sunshine high on acid hanging out with a lot of people who are smiling at you and just really really stoked to be there. It's a nice place to be. And if you like places that are nice places to be, you'll like it. There's some remarkable consistency to the scene which is sort of interesting.”

That's a good description, jessamyn. Thanks.

For me, it happened when I was fifteen. I was on the swim team, and both of my coaches happened to be into Phish like I was – yeah, I was a weird kid, but I thought they were fun; but this was way before you could download that stuff on the internet (that I knew of, anyway). So the neat thing was that one of my coaches, Greg, had this huge collection of tapes, and one time he said he'd let me take a dozen of them or so home to copy them. He also had a lot of Grateful Dead tapes; he told me that Phish were good, but the Dead "really have something to say." So he threw in a few of those for me to take home and copy too.

So I took home a whole bunch of these tapes. The thing you have to remember is that I grew up in a religious home, so I didn't really hear anything but sanctioned "Christian music" for a long time. I remember sitting in my room alone and sifting through all these tapes with different dates, thinking about how each one was recorded by somebody carefully and labeled and then traded around and shared. They all had these different dates on them; Phish shows from the 90s and back into the 80s, some rare stuff I was really excited about. I looked at all of them and thought about how these recordings had been traded from person to person, that each one was sort of this object that was cared about and cherished and shared.

And then there was... this other tape. A Grateful Dead tape. The label said it was from 1968. I remember sitting there sort of amazed, thinking about that – I mean, of course this tape itself isn't from 1968, I thought, but... did they even have tapes back then? Maybe eight-tracks? Some kind of reel-to-reel device? My fifteen-year-old mind didn't know, but it was crazy to think of that – that somebody in 1968, years before I was born, had gotten together a bunch of equipment to record this band, and then passed the tape along, and people had passed this tape from person to person carefully making copies for decades. With a sort of awe and wonder, I put the tape into my little tape player in my room and pushed play... and the first song was "Mountains Of The Moon." It was strange and sort of mystical, and I think it had this echo for me because that's how far away it seemed – like this had been recorded on the moon, and this document that had been preserved gave me a sonic picture of this alien landscape.

And for me it was actually spiritual, in a kind of fantasy sort of way, like the feeling I got when I read The Fellowship of the Ring for the first time that year. And most of all it was mine – this thing I listened to alone in my room, without telling my parents about it. It was the first personal spiritual experience I think I had with music, a transcendent moment of wonder when a song communicated something really precious to me that I don't think I could describe in words.

And I have to say – the Grateful Dead really hold up, after all these years. Phish are fun but silly, and I like them. But lyrically, the Grateful Dead are one of the truly great American bands, and they really stand above all the other "jam bands." Robert Hunter is, I believe, a lyricist easily on par with Dylan, if not better. He created this sort of musical American mythology, or he translated the American mythology into song. No lesser soul than Lenny Kaye, the writer and guitarist for Patti Smith, said in 1970 that they were one of the greatest rock bands in existence. I happen to think he was right; and we have even more reason for believing it than he did then.
posted by koeselitz at 8:34 PM on May 9, 2012 [11 favorites]


pyramid termite: “dick's picks no 4, 2/13/70, 2/14/70, is astonishing and the dark star on that is one of the highpoints of 20th century music, period, not just the dead”

Starts with easily the best "Casey Jones" I've ever heard; has my absolute favorite "China Cat Sunflower" > "I Know You Rider;" has a "Dark Star" that indeed transcends the Dead and even rock music itself; and includes a most insanely awesome "Turn On Your Love Light" that just grinds fantastically forever and ever and does nothing but get better until you're in a coma of happy. And the "We Bid You Goodnight" at the end is gorgeous, too. So, so good.

I haven't heard 10/26/89 or 10/14/94, though. I just finally started actually listening to the late stuff a few months ago, after years of loving them – started with the "Formerly the Warlocks" shows from 89, of course. I will have to check those out. Thanks.
posted by koeselitz at 8:41 PM on May 9, 2012


“…but at Alpine Valley, they did “Lovelight” into “Sugaree” into “Dark Star” into “Lovelight” into “Sugaree” into “Lovelight” into “Dark Star” into “Sugaree” and then the moon came out and it was like Jerry willed it…”

(Not Anti-Deadist)
posted by ob1quixote at 8:48 PM on May 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


I am not a Dead fan but this, this is one awesome post. Well done koeselitz.
posted by Ber at 8:52 PM on May 9, 2012


Aside from BitterOldPunk's comment just above, about their welcoming of live taping and the subsequent distribution of said tapes, there is something else about the Dead that I've long admired: their steadfast conviction to a musical ethos that eschewed the kind of music-biz *professionalism* that ultimately can make so many bands' live performances exercises in well-executed but ultimately soulless music. Songs so rehearsed and choreographed that there is never a chance taken, never that spontaneous spark of improvisational vision and courage that is so key to great live music experience. They were really rather unique among rock bands in the sense of how completely and wholeheartedly they embraced the notion of collective improvisation. On a good night this resulted in some transcendent performances.

On the other hand, there were lots of not-so-good nights. Lots of clunkers. If only the band had been able to balance their love of improvisational risk-taking with a bit more solidity as a performing ensemble. I mean, really, I've heard a hella lotta Dead tapes that sounded like guys who just barely knew how to play with each other. And I'm talking about on songs that they'd been doing for years. Also, my god, their vocals were really, really ragged. You'd think guys that got up onstage to sing night after night after night throughout their lives might have worked on it a bit, you know? Garcia especially could have become a much better singer than he was. Anybody can. But you do have to work at it, you know, a little. His vocals were often absolutely dreadful: lazy, out of tune, singing half off-mic.... just a mess.

There's another element of their group that has always kept me from truly embracing them fully, and that's... the bass. To be more precise, the lack of it. Among the San Francisco bass players of the 60s, none of whom were noted for their grounding abilities or genuinely solid groove, Phil Lesh must've been one of the weakest. It's not a guitar, fer chrissakes, it's a bass guitar. It's supposed to be a bedrock: that's been its function in blues and country and rock since the beginning. Many of the San Francisco bass players, and Lesh in particular, always struck me as guys who just kinda thought they were playing a guitar that just happened to be missing a couple of strings and was tuned down a little lower.

There are lots of other aspects to the Dead (both positive and negative opinions) that I'd love to go into in greater detail, but, damn, I gotta get some work done!

Thanks for the post, koeselitz.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:53 PM on May 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


Indeed. Thanks for a great post, koeselitz.
posted by ob1quixote at 8:57 PM on May 9, 2012


As the kind of person who thinks of the Grateful Dead as a fantastic live performance band that took two albums worth of of good material and inexplicably turned it into an career spanning three decades, i.e. not a Deadhead but still an admirer, I say without reservation that the performance of the St. Stephen medley koeselitz linked is one of the best live rock performances ever.

Caution should be exercised as it could actually turn you into a Deadhead. It most definitely will give you a reason to consider coming out of retirement, if you follow me.
posted by ob1quixote at 9:33 PM on May 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Funny, I just listened to this show commuting home from NYC tonight. Especially sweet, "Row Jimmy" and a bubbly vibe throughout. Very, very well recorded.

Here's the version I listened to which is a Hunter Seamons Matrix (Soundboard/Audience Mix) recording. I don't believe it's listed above.

You can't go wrong:

http://archive.org/details/gd1977-05-08.111493.mtx.seamons.sbeok.flac16

Mr. Flapjax at midnite, I do agree with your critique. BTW, I wonder what would they have sounded like with a great bassist? I think that they would have been far more exciting: In a band of supposed equals, Garcia had too much of the responsibility for pulsing them forward. Lesh mainly reacted to him. He eschewed the traditional role of rock bass, yet he seldom offered a musical impetus that pushed the flow of the music in a new direction; he was a follower.

Don't get me started on Mickey Hart...

I can't imagine them with good vocals though and if you didn't like Garcia's voice, what can you say about Weir who was somewhat tone-deaf on a good night?

Yet, their strengths like clever song construction, lyrical storytelling, their ability to take you on a musical journey, sense of community and occasional transendence was distinctive and unique. I am still searching for their gestalt in other performers and other musical styles.
posted by noaccident at 9:39 PM on May 9, 2012


The Dead are one of those bands where I'll hear a song somewhere and go, "This is great! Who is this?" and it's them, so i go and try to listen to one of the bewildering number of albums and bootlegs and it's shit, so i give up. Skimming the linked recordings, this bootleg and this thread might be my entry point.

I still say Jerry Garcia seemed like a dick, though, despite my parents' assurance otherwise.
posted by cmoj at 9:41 PM on May 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Among the San Francisco bass players of the 60s, none of whom were noted for their grounding abilities or genuinely solid groove, Phil Lesh must've been one of the weakest.

jack cassidy couldn't groove? - news to me - he was a monster - he had to be to make that band sound good - they never had a real good drummer and paul kantner's rhythm guitar was all over the place - and jorma, at that time, wasn't playing much rhythm

he's holding that band together - and managing to come up with some nice jamerson type lines while he does it - pity he didn't have an earl palmer to do it with

what phil did wouldn't have worked in most bands - and sometimes didn't work with the dead - but he was more of a jazz player in spirit and saw the role of the bass a lot differently - it's not like he was going to "lock into the kick" in THAT band, anyway

one reason why i haven't been listening to the dead as much as i used to is that when they don't manage to totally blow everyone's mind, they're not a very tight band sometimes, which is where their philosophy of "the one is where you hear it" and playing the arrangement each member felt that night let them down

i've heard versions of bertha where the band couldn't decide whether they were doing it as rock, reggae or disco and that was not good

---

Don't get me started on Mickey Hart...

he was better in the 60s, i think - after he returned to play with them, i kind of felt that the interplay got a little sluggish and the grooves, such as they were, suffered
posted by pyramid termite at 9:42 PM on May 9, 2012


On the evening of May 8th, exactly thirty-five years ago tonight, two remarkable things happened at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. A beautiful spring afternoon suddenly turned to dropping temperatures, and by nightfall a light snow was falling on the campus;

Really, the only thing remarkable about this part of the story is that it was, in fact, a beautiful spring afternoon in Ithaca. It may be gorges, but it's also either burrrrr frozen freezing or the peak of summer warmth with very little in-between.

I'm entirely too young to have one of these amazing Dead memories like many of y'all, but I was lucky enough to see the Dalai Lama speak in Barton Hall a couple of years ago (also Stephen Colbert, alas not on the same bill!). What a history for what is frankly kind of a dump of a hall to host everything from ROTC to track and field to the Dalai Lama to one of the greatest rock concerts ever held.

(Yes, it was a very odd, yet slightly poetic, juxtaposition to have the Dalai Lama speaking in the ROTC building.)
posted by zachlipton at 9:53 PM on May 9, 2012


This is a great post. I've never been a huge Dead fan, but I do listen to them every once in a while. I got introduced to them through mp3s of live recordings traded on my college network. Way way back in the late 90s, complete with crappy bitrates and no track breaks. "What the hell, I'll play this single file in Winamp for a couple hours."

Every once in a while I'll see someone link to a show that I'll download and listen to. I don't know nearly enough to say "Greatest version of this song" or "Best show from that tour." I probably don't even know the actual names of most of their tunes. I never sit down and devote my full attention to listening; instead I'll listen when I'm working on something that's primarily for my own amusement or benefit. I'll sort of tune in and out of the music as it catches my attention.

They always struck me as what happens when you take jazz, remove the pretty lounge crooners, add mushrooms, and let people play without any criticism or attempt to limit the entire run time of songs to the 3 - 5 minute margin that nearly every other genre respects.

Sourbrew, from my point of view you pretty much covered it. Jazz minus crooners plus mushrooms minus criticism and without regard for time limits. Not something I'd want to listen to over and over and over again, but an interesting experiment that I'll check out every once in a while. Other people are going to like it more, and others are going to like it less, and when you phrase it like that I think it's easy to see why people with good taste could love or hate or not really care about the Dead.

For what it's worth, here's my contribution to the thread: The 1973 Watkins Glen Sound Check. Couldn't tell you much about it other than it came higly recommended and that I last listened to it probably a year or two ago.
posted by compartment at 9:54 PM on May 9, 2012


I feel like I must be the only metafiliter user who never really understood the dead or modern jam bands.

They always struck me as what happens when you take jazz, remove the pretty lounge crooners, add mushrooms, and let people play without any criticism or attempt to limit the entire run time of songs to the 3 - 5 minute margin that nearly every other genre respects.
'

Okay, I'm not a deadhead, but my bestest girlfriend is, and she was getting me into the Dead right around the time Jerry died (and thus ended my pursuit of them, sadly).

One of the books she handed me about the band gave me an interesting insight into what made them special as far as the jamband/improvisation thing is concerned, and that is, they were attempting to exhibit groupmind through their playing.

So, to try a short explanation of this...

From what I understand, they didn't go to the stage with a written setlist. They went in perhaps having decided what the first song of the set would be, and they'd go from there. With their longer jams where they blend several songs together, they'd actually get into an instrumental section of the song and then someone in the band would musically suggest they move into another song. And other band members would either pick up on this and go with it, or they'd reject it and suggest a different song to transition to, or they'd ignore it completely and just continue with the same song.

Apparently there are live recording where you can hear this going on. Phil Lesh, say, will put forward a song with his bass, and others will either follow suit or not. Or so on with other members of the band, whatever was going on at the time.

These musical transitions were inspired by any number of things -- personal mood, reading the crowd, political events, the quality of the drugs...

But part of the point of the Dead, as far as I grok it (which isn't very far) is that what most interpret as meandering endless jamming is actually an attempt to take a group of individuals and to use musical expression to meld them into a single cohesive unit.

Yeah, it's related to jazz. Some of the interviews I've heard with Trey Anastasio about the exercises that Phish would do lead me to believe they were also attempting the same kind of thing. Overall, I think it's one hell of a difficult thing to do for as many decades as the Dead kept doing it without flying apart into jagged shrapnel of egos.

If you're going to call them a hippie band, call them that because they were attempting this thing, this melding of individuals into a whole which is larger than the sum of the parts. Because, at its core, that is the gospel which hippie philosophy preaches: that if we could all drop our personal bullshit and truly come together, we could transcend all our problems and make beautiful music together.
posted by hippybear at 9:57 PM on May 9, 2012 [6 favorites]


on the other hand, this might be the worst night the dead ever had - 8/24/85 - amps blowing, monitors obviously not at the right levels, and a band that just can't seem to get it together

it's awful - don't listen
posted by pyramid termite at 10:04 PM on May 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think the Dead suck ass, but this is a great post. You did good, Koeselitz.

Getting to listen to woodley-woo music out in the sunshine high on acid hanging out with a lot of people who are smiling at you and just really really stoked to be there. It's a nice place to be.

That's funny, because hearing the Grateful Dead instantly brings me back to being four years old and being the only little kid at some festival where all the grownups are smoking up and dancing naked. Good memories because I was a cute kid and got loved on by everyone, but somehow the music never imprinted on me.

The entire Sunshine Daydream movie taken from that concert is on youtube in good quality. Warning: naked hippies.

I just watched most of that, and although I know I wasn't at that one (since I wasn't born yet), I'm pretty sure that in a similar concert movie of some of the later concerts one of the little kids running around would have been me. Everything looks so familiar; it's a super weird feeling because I would have been a bit too young to make really precise memories but just watching this makes me smell the dust and pot and feel the sunshine.

By modern standards I'm sure my parents were incredibly negligent to let me run loose in those places, but as a kid it couldn't have been better. Everyone was friendly and if I was lost I felt like I could just run up and grab onto anyone's leg and they would help me out.

So yeah, they made genuinely, absolutely terrible music, but they provided an amazing experience for thousands and thousands of people over a bunch of decades, and I'm willing to give them all the credit for that.
posted by Forktine at 10:13 PM on May 9, 2012


"They're not the best at what they do, they're the only people who do what they do."
posted by docgonzo at 10:13 PM on May 9, 2012


pyramid termite: "on the other hand, this might be the worst night the dead ever had - 8/24/85 - amps blowing, monitors obviously not at the right levels, and a band that just can't seem to get it together

it's awful - don't listen
"

I think someone overdosed at that show. ON ROTO-TOMS.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 10:15 PM on May 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is the Dead experience I wish I had. I saw them only once, in 1972, in Austin. It was in the city auditorium and the cops would not allow anyone to stand up or dance. I spent the entire evening tripping with a cop standing right next to the row I was sitting in and I never did get into the groove. Right on, koeselitz!
posted by a humble nudibranch at 10:16 PM on May 9, 2012


Thanx Jessamyn, great description.
They were my younger brothers life -- he took a weekend trip to Ocean Beach SD CA in college, pretty much from the minute he saw OB he knew, went back to Flagstaff and bought a saxophone and took lessons and then a guitar and a flute and mostly taught himself all of them and moved to OB the day after graduation from NAU, he's lived everybody's HS study hall dream and pretty much still does, albeit with a pretty wife and darling daughter nowadays. He toured with the Dead for many years, he was a founding member of a Dead cover band which played in OB for years.
OB then and pretty much still resembles a Dead show, people with dreads go as far west as they can, they go until they hit the Pacific, then smoke amazing pot around campfires on the beaches. (You should see the pot that people smoke in OB; you'd want to marry it, I don't smoke and haven't for decades but pretty much got high just looking at it. Jesus.)

He's played me tons of their tapes, my little brother has, or tried to, it ran right off of me. I've been listening to some of these songs as I type this in and enjoying it pretty much; for whatever reason, They Love Each Other sticking with me. I'm taking a trip later this week, I'll take this Dead show and play it as I drive, see how that works out, driving often a good place for music to get past my censors.

I happened to be in SF the week that Jerry Garcia died, an interesting experience; though Haight Ashbury was long a relic of another time, every bit a tourist trap as Bourbon Street in NO or Sixth Street here in Austin, for those couple of days it seemed okl. People came from all over, maybe a small bit of like what Central Park maybe was when Lennon was shot. Colorful buses filled with tie-dyed shirts and blankets and head-bands, some grieving and some celebration.
posted by dancestoblue at 10:31 PM on May 9, 2012


I'm taking a trip later this week

Lucky! Can you send me a couple of hits?
posted by hippybear at 10:35 PM on May 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Interesting. From the Loser comments: "Technically...these live Dead uploads are against the Dead's legalese as well."
posted by Ardiril at 10:35 PM on May 9, 2012


Yeah, I don't like them either, but Jessamyn's comment kinda makes me wish I did.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 11:32 PM on May 9, 2012


If you're not really into the Dead, I have added over 10,000 hours from 2,100 performances at the DNA Lounge to the Internet Archive.

That should hold you for a while.
posted by jscott at 11:33 PM on May 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


The best show had no drum solo. Not a coincidence.
posted by pracowity at 11:52 PM on May 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


The drum solo was usually part of the "space" part of the show, between the second and third sets.

This show had no third set.
posted by hippybear at 11:58 PM on May 9, 2012


Anyway, the Dead had two drummers. Not really a solo.
posted by hippybear at 11:59 PM on May 9, 2012


A friend put it this way.

"You go to college. You drop acid. You listen to the Dead. You listen to Beefheart. You pick one and never look back, except to look down on the other lot."

Fast and bulbous.
posted by Devonian at 1:40 AM on May 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


Man, the muse was holding Jerry's hand on that night. His licks sound so fluid, very natural with interesting bends here and there.

I have liked the dead's music for 30 years now, because they said it without saying it. They implied it. I like the indirection.
posted by telstar at 1:41 AM on May 10, 2012


Fast and bulbous.

Heh heh.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 2:36 AM on May 10, 2012


Thanks, I know how I will be spending my daylight hours!
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 3:43 AM on May 10, 2012


There seem to be a lot of stories about weird weather accompanying signature Grateful Dead concerts...
posted by Slap*Happy at 4:25 AM on May 10, 2012


On the other hand, there were lots of not-so-good nights. Lots of clunkers. If only the band had been able to balance their love of improvisational risk-taking with a bit more solidity as a performing ensemble.

This was what always frustrated me about the Dead as a live band. I was a huge Deadhead in the late 80s-early 90s, but I was a teenager and couldn't follow them around, so I got to see them once a year at most. And holy crap was it frustrating when the show that I'd been anticipating for months and shelled out good money and driven four hours to see - turned out to be kind of meh.

I didn't see any large-venue concerts for a few years, during which time I met and married a Rush fan, so the next time I saw a big concert it was Rush. And say what you will about soulless, over-prepared, over-processed, yada yada - that show was good. And you didn't have to worry about whether they were going to play your favorite song, because of course they were going to play your favorite song. Obviously it would be kind of boring to follow them on tour, since every show was the same, but if you only get to see a band once per tour, it's kind of nice to know what you're going to get.

I may be the only Dead fan in the world who prefers the studio albums to the live shows. I enjoy the songwriting, and the studio performances are at least on key. Plus I have a short attention span and don't care for the extended jamming.
posted by Daily Alice at 5:17 AM on May 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


I may be the only Dead fan in the world who prefers the studio albums to the live shows.

Nu-uh. I'm right there with you on that. In the studio they could work on their vocals, get good takes, get things right. Suitable for repeated listenings. Workingman's Dead, American Beauty, Wake of the Flood, Mars Hotel... those are good records. Some of their live albums are good too, cause they did lots of tweaking and vocal overdubbing to mask all sorts of sins and flubs. Europe '72, for example.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:24 AM on May 10, 2012


This is perfect, thanks koeselitz. Just the thing to get me through the pile of grading in front of me.

I dated a Deadhead for a while, when I was in my early 20s. The first time he played a Grateful Dead tape for me I didn't get it at all. Long, boring, no point. You needed a half hour just to listen to one damn song. He was a musician though, and hanging out with him and his friends eventually helped me see things in a different way, and listen to things in a different way too. I saw the Dead with the benefit of some chemical assistance that year. I looked all the tie dyed t-shirts and sheets hung around the grounds and the parking lot and finally understood why people in the late 60s were so into ugly-ass tie dye.

When we first started dating I was studying business and by the time we broke up I was applying to art school.
posted by Cuke at 6:10 AM on May 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's nice to see a post about The Dead that is filled with mostly positive comments. I don't know if the mods are deleting the "what did the deadhead say when the drugs wore off?" jokes or if people are just in a good mood or whatever, but it's nice.

I never got to see them live, never having appreciated them much until after Jerry died, but they're one of my favorite bands to put on when I'm walking or driving or doing something where I just want to relax.

I'll bookmark this thread and listen to the show next time I'm taking a bath or something.

I may be the only Dead fan in the world who prefers the studio albums to the live shows.

I've always been that way with Phish. I saw them several times in the early 90s, mostly down at Great Woods in Mansfield, MA, and I enjoyed the shows, but I really can't listen to their live stuff unless I'm there. Love their albums though, at least their earlier ones. Haven't listened to their newer stuff (post Billy Breathes), though I suppose I should.
posted by bondcliff at 7:08 AM on May 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


Heh. Memories of getting my parents to drive me to Circuit City so I could buy some Maxell XLII cassette tapes to send to some hippie I met in an AOL chat room. The tape-traders were the first real Internet community I was a part of. In a shoebox somewhere I still have my first tape, 07/08/78 @ Red Rocks.

My understanding is 05/08/77 never saw an officially-sanctioned release because the vault masters have some cuts in them where the reels had to be changed halfway through a song, and securing the rights to splice in someone's audience recording was too much of a legal hassle for the band to bother with. It's the same reason we only got the first set of 04/26/69 when it was eventually released, and the What's Become of the Baby > Feedback > And We Bid You Goodnight at the end of the second set of that show is one of my absolute favorite performances of theirs ever. So dark and noisy, but culminating in beautiful, three-part harmony.
posted by word_virus at 7:08 AM on May 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


I may be the only Dead fan in the world who prefers the studio albums to the live shows.
Nu-uh. I'm right there with you on that. In the studio they could work on their vocals, get good takes, get things right. Suitable for repeated listenings. Workingman's Dead, American Beauty, Wake of the Flood, Mars Hotel... those are good records.
For all the emphasis on performance and improvisation, and the novelty of their approach to it, there's a sense in which their greatest accomplishment was really just good old-fashioned songwriting. Nobody would have signed on to hear them sing a different version of Sugar Magnolia every night for weeks or months at a stretch if it weren't for the fact that Sugar Magnolia was a song worth singing in the first place. You know? And if you're looking to appreciate the songwriting, the best way is (either to just sing the songs yourself or, barring that) to listen to the studio albums.
posted by nebulawindphone at 7:13 AM on May 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'd say the same thing about Phish, for what it's worth, though it's a different kind of songwriting quality. If Phish had come along in the late 60s, they'd have fit right in with the early prog rockers. I don't know if they'd have had any patience for the jug band thing.

I dunno. There are other jam bands who have the same improvisational fluency as those two. (There are others that have much greater improvisational fluency than the Dead did on a bad night/week/month/year.) But there aren't many who consistently wrote such interesting and re-listenable songs, and I think that's the real reason why they've been the two bands in their category to attract such a serious following.
posted by nebulawindphone at 7:19 AM on May 10, 2012


But then, I'm saying this as someone who never seriously followed either band, and mostly just listens to the same few concert recordings over and over in both cases. So what do I know? Maybe I'm missing the point.
posted by nebulawindphone at 7:21 AM on May 10, 2012


There's a point?
posted by Floydd at 8:04 AM on May 10, 2012


So I have noticed that most of the old Dead shows are in streaming form now, and not the type of MP3's that are easily moved around.

Has something changed?
posted by Danf at 8:24 AM on May 10, 2012


I only saw Phish once (in 1991, in a bar in Champaign, IL) but my experience was that they were spectacular live. They were astonishingly tight. I'm sure their style evolved in the ensuing couple of decades, but that night they were spot on. I still listen to Rift and A Picture of Nectar all the time.
posted by Daily Alice at 8:43 AM on May 10, 2012


Danf: "So I have noticed that most of the old Dead shows are in streaming form now, and not the type of MP3's that are easily moved around.

Has something changed?
"

This happened.
posted by octothorpe at 9:12 AM on May 10, 2012


"Magic is what we do. Music is how we do it."
JG
posted by horsemuth at 9:14 AM on May 10, 2012


Ardiril: “Interesting. From the Loser comments: ‘Technically...these live Dead uploads are against the Dead's legalese as well.’”

As far as I know, this is in fact not true. Warner may mark it infringing and get it pulled from Youtube, but the Dead's legalese has generally always allowed taping as long as that taping is not for profit and was done independently; they only retain ownership over recordings which they themselves (or their surrogates) have recorded on their equipment. An interesting point here is that the "Betty Boards" tapes are entirely within that realm; they do not belong to the Grateful Dead at all. She purchased her own Nagra tape machine, and used it and only it (plugging into the soundboard) to record shows.

As far as I know, the mass removal of recordings from the Archive was done mostly by personal request, not explicitly through legal action – although obviously there is a question about whether the Dead could assert legal authority if they wanted to.
posted by koeselitz at 10:15 AM on May 10, 2012


I'm going to comment on the first of those two remarkable things, the snowfall. We were living in Cazenovia, NY, about 30 miles north of Ithaca. Over the winter, more than 12 feet of snow had fallen in our beautiful Adirondack foothills. It was May 9th, Mothers Day, and a foot and a half of snow fell. In May. We thought, "You have to be crazy to live in a place like this," and two months later we headed the U-Haul truck south to Virginia. (Most of the snow had melted by then.)
posted by Dolley at 10:44 AM on May 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


the Dead's legalese has generally always allowed taping as long as that taping is not for profit and was done independently

The explicit conditions on the Taper's tickets I used were, and I quote, "Non-Commercial, Home-Use Only", which I find the Internet Archive satisfies nicely.

Ever since Archive.org worked right on my smartphone ( and with subsonic ) I haven't even THOUGHT of converting the bulk of my cassettes. There's a bunch of things I really want to take the time to do right... ( 25th Anniversary Trips Festival in NYC with the Dinosaurs and Papa John Creech springs to mind... ) but aside from that, and some tapes that really "Bring Me Back" ( i.e.: special shows where I want to listen to MY tape because I was standing under my mic stand and I want to hear THAT sound... ) , someone else solved my problem for me...
posted by mikelieman at 11:34 AM on May 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Huh, Deadheads have obviously mellowed well with age, 20 years ago there would have been all sorts of "show was *COMPLETELY RUINED* by Donna's wailing!!" snark if this discussion had been on r.m.gdead :-).

Oh man, the joys of getting together in a hotel room after the show with stacks of players and reliving the show YOU JUST FREAKING SAW as the tapes slowly unwound over fresh copies for distribution, each carefully labeled with the show and generation #.
posted by Runes at 12:09 PM on May 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


Wow wow wow wow, thank you for this. I was at Kennedy airport waiting for my flight back to school in Buffalo, trying to pretend I was not with my parents who were there to see me off. A group of "hippies" sat down, and my folks were all, "Look at this crew!" and my face got redder and redder and I got more flustered as I realized next to whom I was sitting. My folks waved goodbye, the band scooped me up and jostled me in to first class with them (yes, first class to Buffalo), plied 21 year old me with drinks and 4 free tickets and backstage passes to the show at the Aud, hustled me and my girls to the green room (that's what they called it, I swear) and well, the rest is my own personal little groupie memory. Thank you, Billy.
posted by thinkpiece at 1:23 PM on May 10, 2012 [6 favorites]


hustled me and my girls to the green room (that's what they called it, I swear)

They called it the green room because that's what everyone calls it.
posted by hippybear at 1:55 PM on May 10, 2012


10 years on and off the road, and a lifetime on the bus. Great post.
posted by terrapin at 2:26 PM on May 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've always thought that this show was a great collision of two important things musically for the dead. First, recording quality was getting better and better, so even though the shows in late '68 and '69 are my preference, the recording quality isn't. Secondly, the Dead were less frenetic and seemingly more tight and groovy as opposed to the wild crazy balls to the walls late 60s. This confluence gives you the entire '77 run of great recorded shows, with 5-8-77 as the apex. It's not my fave show, but man is this one fun to listen to really damn loud on good speakers.
posted by schyler523 at 2:50 PM on May 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


metafilter: if you like places that are nice places to be, you'll like it.
posted by Ayn Rand and God at 4:28 PM on May 10, 2012 [1 favorite]



They called it the green room because that's what everyone calls it.
posted by hippybear at 4:55 PM on May 10 [+] [!]


Yeah, no, I know that. I just meant, it's such a massive cliche nowadays, but back then it was like super special and showbizzy.
posted by thinkpiece at 6:24 PM on May 10, 2012


A little late to this thread but this:

and his wife, Donna Jean Godchaux, who sang


An absolutely filthy lie.
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 7:14 AM on May 11, 2012


that was kind of mean
posted by caddis at 9:06 AM on May 11, 2012


Thanks for this, koeselitz. I've been enjoying the hell out of it.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 5:32 PM on May 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


Koeselitz - great post. But you missed one of the best "songs" in the show... Take a step back!

And take another Set Back!

And another Step Back!

And another Step Back!

But I'll let it slide... great work.
posted by tenderman kingsaver at 7:20 PM on May 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


Whaddya mean no?
posted by schyler523 at 7:39 PM on May 11, 2012


Look, I have to say this - 1977 was an awesome year for Donna, who often sang better than the rest of the band, to be honest. I mean, have you actually listened, for example, to the Pembroke Pines show from (I think) May 19th, 1977 - the one that's on DP 3? She's fantastic there. She makes the opener, "And The Music Never Stopped," sound awesome - she sings the interludes herself, Bobby just follows and harmonizes. She sounds a lot like Bonnie Raitt did around the same time.

She had bad nights, yeah, but this nonsense so many old-timers spout about how she's terrible needs to stop. I get the feeling it's this thing where once upon a time it was just that some people were annoyed at her breakdowns, but because hate can seem like a badge of honor, it became this way to prove you were a hardcore deadhead - all you have to do is hate on Donna.

Donna Jean Godchaux is the Yoko Ono of the Grateful Dead. That is - a woman who had the gall to interlope upon the sacred boy's club that was the band, for which crime she was and forever shall be punished by taking the blame for all kinds of stuff that isn't her fault.
posted by koeselitz at 10:12 PM on May 11, 2012 [4 favorites]


I won't do a full Donna derail but I suspect that with many Deadheads, these two statements:

who often sang better than the rest of the band, to be honest

That is - a woman who had the gall to interlope upon the sacred boy's club that was the band, for which crime she was and forever shall be punished by taking the blame for all kinds of stuff that isn't her fault.

Are made of the twains that shall never meet.
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 5:08 AM on May 12, 2012


i agree, donna jean gets a bad rap - she's the only one of them in that time who had a real professional singing background before they joined the band - bad monitors and the overall sound level of the band had a lot to do with her miscues - which compared to bob forgetting the lyrics, jerry sounding like an old man and phil singing above his range, aren't that bad in the context of the band's history

i was shocked the first time i heard a deadhead disparage donna's singing - it just kind of seemed weird to me that her singing wasn't acceptable, but everyone else's was
posted by pyramid termite at 5:09 AM on May 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


Considering that (at least before Brent) she was the only member of the Dead who had any kind of singing voice, it seems pretty disingenuous beat Donna up for her singing. And seriously, listen to her on the Scarlet -> Fire from this set, she sounds great. I think that a lot of it was that the Dead were just a hard band to sing for, she missed cues because there weren't any damn cues to follow.
posted by octothorpe at 5:50 AM on May 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Dead Fans are FANS. And like any other fans of anything, the slightest change will produce an instant argument about the effects, real and potential.

I Miss Jerry :(
posted by mikelieman at 5:52 AM on May 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


There seem to be a lot of stories about weird weather accompanying signature Grateful Dead concerts...

May 13, 1973 Des Moines Iowa State Fairgrounds
Rain, then sun with double rainbow just at end of Here Comes Sunshine.
Phil says to Jerry "Didn't know if our crew could pull that off"
posted by hal9k at 8:38 PM on May 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


Slap*Happy: "There seem to be a lot of stories about weird weather accompanying signature Grateful Dead concerts..."

My favorite one has always been the Mount Saint Helens one - they were playing "Fire On The Mountain" in Portland when she blew, but had to cut the show short because ash was falling on the city.
posted by koeselitz at 8:41 AM on May 13, 2012


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