Thursday, May 26, 2016

Dead & Company Setlists 2

     Alright guys, another short one today.  Just a heads-up, I'm going ona  small vacation, so there may be a post this Sunday, but there also may not be.  Tune in to find out!

     Anyway, here's potential setlists I made for the shows I'm seeing this tour.  There are some songs on here that they haven't played yet, and some that they probably won't play, but a man can hope, right??  Let me know what you think and feel free to critique or share your own below!

Hartford Show

Set One
Jack Straw (BW & JM)
Althea (JM)
Me & My Uncle > (BW)
Cumberland Blues (BW & JM)
They Love Each Other (JM)
Rubin & Cherise > (JM)
The Wheel > (ALL)
Promised Land (BW)

Set Two
Alabama Getaway (BW)
Ship of Fools (JM)
Truckin' > (BW)
Spanish Jam >
Viola Lee Blues > (ALL)
Drums/Space >
The Eleven > (BW)
Help on the Way (BW & JM) >
Slipknot! >
Wharf Rat > (BW)
Franklin's Tower (JM)

The Golden Road (To Unlimited Devotion) (ALL)

Fenway Night One

Set One
Cold Rain & Snow (JM)
New Minglewood Blues (BW)
Friend of the Devil (JM)
Loser (BW)
Beat It On Down the Line (BW)
China Cat Sunflower > (BW &JM)
Wharf Rat (JM) >
I Know You Rider (ALL

Set Two
Eyes of the World > (JM)
Morning Dew > (BW)
Playing in the Band > (BW)
Bird Song > (JM)
Cryptical Envelopment > (JM)
Jam >
Drums/Space >
The Other One > (BW)
Cryptical Envelopment > (JM)
Days Between (BW) >
Not Fade Away (ALL)
Touch of Grey (BW & JM)

Fenway Night Two

Set One
Misissippi Half-Step (BW & JM)
Cassidy (BW)
Tennessee Jed (BW & JM)
Looks Like Rain (BW)
Brown-Eyed Women (JM)
New Speedway Boogie > (BW & JM)
Deal > (JM)
New Speedway Boogie > (BW & JM)
Midnight Hour (BW)

Set Two
Shakedown Street > (BW)
Estimated Prophet > (BW)
Dark Star > (ALL)
St. Stephen > (ALL)
Drums/Space >
Lady with a Fan > (JM)
Terrapin Station > (BW)
The Wheel > (ALL)
At a Siding > (BW)
Terrapin Flyer >
Stella Blue > (JM)
Playing in the Band Reprise (BW)

Encore: One More Saturday Night (BW)

Monday, May 23, 2016

July 1978 Box Set Review

    This week the Dead released a box set that I was not too excited for when it was announced, but it has now floored me with its incredible quality!  As most of you probably know, ‘78 was a year with a lot of ups and downs for the band both musically and personally, and I always approach shows from this year with some hesitation.  The band had developed what I think of as a Big Machine-like sound, in that all the members of the band were parts of this giant engine, and when they were all doing their individual parts in synch, the music had this incredible momentum that the band had been building up to through ‘76 and ‘77.  When the members of the band were not in synch, however, that machine could come to a crashing halt; when you have two rampant drummers, a drunk bassist, and a coked-up rhythm guitar, some not so coherent tempos are going to emerge.  This box set, thankfully, has no such rhythmic disasters, and is really a great snapshot of the Dead at their best in this era.

    These tapes were some of the recently recovered Betty Boards, soundboards recorded by Betty Cantor Jackson when she was still with the band.  Those tapes have famously been scattered to the four winds ever since they went on auction from her storage locker.  Betty was one of the best things to happen in the world of Dead recordings, and she has quite the reputation for the quality of her recordings.  On top of the already great recordings, Jeffrey Norman has once again mastered the mix to perfection, and every note and growl is heard as clearly as the day it was in ‘78 (I assume).

    As a quick aside, the rumor that I’ve heard is that the owners of these soundboards are the ones who have the Cornell ‘77 show that the Dead have always claimed they don’t have in their vault.  So some are thinking that once Dave Lemieux negotiates their return, we’ll have another May ‘77 box set with New Haven 05/05, Boston 05/07, Cornell 05/08, and Buffalo 05/09, with Cornell also being available as an individual show, like they did with Red Rocks 07/08/78 on this one.

    Anyway, here are my notes and thoughts on the box set, by show.  The box is unfortunately sold out, but you can still buy the digital release here, view the tracklist, and listen to some sample tracks.   They released 5 shows, three of which had previously not circulated as soundboards.  The two Red Rocks shows are famous for being the band’s first shows at that historic venue, and for being excellent shows in their own rights.  I, like everyone else, always held the second Red Rocks show on a pedestal, and with this crystal clear recording, it’s even easier to see why!

7/1/78 Arrowhead Stadium: Kansas City, MO
  • A weird show, in that there is only one extended set, but the weirdness of the arrangement possibly even fuels the band’s own weirdness!
  • The band is a little loose and wobbly at first, but there is an undeniable energy to their playing.
  • The first disc is like a condensed version of a first set, and the second disc is the same for a second set.
  • This was played at Willie Nelson’s 4th of July shindig, and the Dead were third on the bill.  They must have blown a lot of these cowboys’ minds.
  • The second discs is one of those discs I know I’m going to play a lot by itself.  All the songs could be a little longer, but they absolutely kill them all.
    • I don’t think “Estimated” has ever come post drums in a show, let alone out of “Space”!
    • Absolutely stellar “Wharf Rat,” I could actually just listen to this over and over.
      • I rarely rant about how good Jerry is, because it’s so obvious, but holy shit!  JERRY!!

7/3/78 St. Paul Civic Center Arena: St. Paul, MN
  • Possibly the best “Loser”?  I mean who’s really to say, but they really get this one right.
  • The Machine is really chugging along tonight!
  • We get to witness some of the early days of Bobby’s slide guitar all know what that means.
    • I think he started in Spring of ‘78, and you have to wonder if Jerry ever sat him down and asked what he thought he was doing.
    • His fills and smaller rhythms with it could actually be pretty great, but you’re all just going to stand there and watch him solo with that thing??  I can only imagine how Warren Zevon felt...
  • Part of what makes the Big Machine work is that everyone in the band knows the songs so well at this point that more of them can play around the melody at once, and they all trust the others to do the right thing and meet up again in the right place.  This is what makes the Grateful Dead so good, and I hope it’s something we’ll be seeing more of as Dead & Company finds its feet.
  • Both of the “Scarlet > Fire”s in the set are shorter than one would hope, but they’re both fantastic in different ways.  This one is longer and closer to what you would expect than the Red Rocks one, which we’ll get to.
  • Really good “Dancing in the Street,” and it gets pretty spacy instead of being straight disco like it was in the previous two years.  Also interesting to compare to the Red Rocks version, which is shorter but even spacier.

7/5/78 Omaha Civic Auditorium: Omaha, NE
  • Some sound issues on “Sugaree” and “BIODTL,” but you can tell that they actually happened live because the band reacts to them.  Or I’ve tricked myself into hearing that, what do you think?  Otherwise, incredible versions of both songs.
  • Great versions of “They love Each Other,” “Dire Wolf,” and “Lazy Lightning > Supplication.”
  • “Deal” to open the second set, pretty unusual.
  • I still think the “Estimated > Eyes” from DaP 15 is better, but this one is a classic.
  • So many good “Wharf Rat”s on this box set, so hard to say which is the best.  It’s either this one or the Kansas City one.
  • “Truckin’ > Iko Iko > Around and Around” is another unusual feature of this show.  This is a much better “Iko Iko” than most, and it’s not typically a favorite of mine, but I really dig this one.

7/7/78 Red Rocks Amphitheatre: Morrison, CO
  • Their first show at this venue, which maybe explains why some of these songs seem a little more tentative than other versions.  They also blow the big shows, so maybe they were just nervous about that?
  • Even if some of these songs aren’t as good as their counterparts on this box, it’s still a fantastic show.
  • “The Music Never Stopped” was the best it ever was in 1978.
  • I always forget that in ‘78 they stopped singing the final “flight of the seabirds” verse in “Cassidy,” and I wonder why they did that?
  • As short as some of the other songs are, this “Cold Rain and Snow” is a monster!  Keep your snappy 2 minute versions to yourself.
  • Keith really takes charge in the “Scarlet” jam and takes the music in places it usually doesn’t go from “Scarlet.”
  • “Fire on the Mountain” is way too short, but it’s got such a different vibe to it here.  It was always very groovy and funky, but this version is a little smoother and less bouncy.
  • Same for “Dancing in the Street,” it’s a lot shorter but very different.  Instead of rocking out into drums, it kind of drifts away into space.
  • A smoking version of “Not Fade Away,” the way it should be.  The Big Machine seriously gets cooking here.

7/8/78 Red Rocks Amphitheatre: Morrison, CO
  • A famous show, and rightly so, everything here is top-notch.
  • Very Big “Minglewood” and “Ramble on Rose.”
  • The obvious set-piece is “Estimated Prophet > The Other One > Eyes of the World,” and for good reason.  This is such an awesome combination of songs, and they’re all played flawlessly.  They could all be a little longer, but there’s so much packed into each one that you really can’t complain.
    • I really want to know why Bobby says “I’m moving to Australia” at the beginning of “Estimated.”  If anyone has any idea, let me know, please.
  • What people talk about less, but is still amazing and I’d say more unique, is the “Space > Wharf Rat > Franklin’s Tower > Sugar Magnolia” transition out of “Drums”!  Again, “Wharf Rat” is pretty short, but powerful.  “Franklin’s Tower” is just such a weird song to go into, and it seems even weirder to go into “Sugar Magnolia”!  Having said that and looked up setlists, I do see that they did these three in the same order at least once before, on 1977-03-19, so there’s that…
  • Triple encore!
    • Another short-but-great version of a song, this time in “Terrapin.”
    • Much better “Werewolves of London” than the first one on the box, Bobby’s slide is a little more under control.

    This box set is definitely a great addition to the Dead’s recording legacy.  It’s exactly what we want in official releases: excellent quality in both recording quality and the quality of playing, and shows that are not widely available.  Any release that points out snapshots of brilliance in unexpected places is a release worth listening to, and this one did absolutely that!  Let me know what you guys think, and tune in for more next time!  As always, you can follow the blog on Twitter and Facebook, and let me know what you want to read about in the future.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Free Show at the 2016!

     I'm sure you have all heard by now, but Dead & Company announced yesterday that they are playing a FREE SHOW at the Fillmore in San Fransisco this coming Monday, the 23rd of May!  In case you were wondering, like I was, it is that Fillmore, the Fillmore West, formerly the Carousel!  You can view pictures of the venue here, to get an idea of what it looks like nowadays.

     Now I, being in Boston, had only a fleeting moment of panic, looking at airline prices and hotels, but ultimately realized this was for you West Coasters.  You lucky dogs!  I would LOVE to see this band in such a small venue, let alone one with such history.  I do wonder if they'll be able to fit all of Mickey's drums and toys, but if they could fit all of Santana in there, I bet Mickey can make it work.

     I'm still crossing my fingers that it will be live streamed like their last free show, but that was through American Express' "Unstaged" series, so I'm not incredibly hopeful.  There will definitely be tapes of it, and I can't wait to hear those!  I'm wondering if they'll do something like they did for the first Fare Thee Well concert in Santa Clara, and play only older songs.  I think that kind of thing is really more Phil's trip than the rest of them, but I bet even Billy wants to play "Cryptical Envelopment" in the Fillmore one more time!

     So here's a potential setlist for this free show, let me know what you guys think they'll play!  And if you're going, brag about it, man!  Just a heads-up, I'll  have a review of the recently released July 1978 Box Set up on Sunday, so feel free to let me know your thoughts on that!

Set One
Good Morning, Little Schoolgirl (JM)
Doin' That Rag (BW & JM)
Beat it On Down the Line (BW)
Cryptical Envelopment > (JM)
(Short) Drums >
The Other One > (BW)
Cryptical Envelopment > (JM)
Cosmic Charlie (BW & JM)
Turn on Your Lovelight (BW)

Set Two
Dark Star > (ALL)
St. Stephen > (ALL)
The Eleven > (ALL)
Alligator > (BW)
Drums >
Space >
Caution (Do Not Stop on Tracks) > (BW &JM)
Death Don't Have No Mercy (BW)
In the Midnight Hour (BW)

It's All Over Now, Baby Blue (BW)
We Bid You Goodnight (ALL)

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Got No Signs, No Dividing Lines

    One thing I’ve brought up in some of my recent posts is the difference between a tracklist and a setlist.  A setlist is obviously just the written record of what was played, and a tracklist is how the individual songs are listed on a CD or digital release.  There is sometimes debate over how a setlist should be presented (not that I have any opinions on that…), but typically everyone is in agreement about which songs were played in what order, especially after a recording is provided.  What I have found all too often, however, is that the tracklists on official releases and recordings on the archive do not match up with what was actually recorded.

    Sometimes it’s little omissions, like not listing the “William Tell Bridge” between “St. Stephen” and “The Eleven,” which I can live with.  Same with if they want to call it “That’s It For The Other One,” “Cryptical Envelopment > The Other One;” or “Cryptical Envelopment > Drums > The Other One.”  What drives me crazy on a tracklist is not necessarily differences in setlist-philosophy, but the drawing of the line between two songs in what I consider to be the objectively wrong place.  Now when I say objectively, I realize that maybe this is all just my own opinion, but I want to try to at least show my reasoning for why I feel the way I do.

    Before we get into all that, I just want to point out a somewhat related problem that shouldn’t happen anymore: mislabeling songs at all.  I can see how in 1970, if you got a bootleg recording of a show and didn’t know the name of a new song the Dead were playing, you would reasonably call it “Don’t Murder Me,” or “Cowboy Song.”  But on the 1995 release of Hundred Year Hall, from Europe ‘72, they label it as “Truckin’ > Cryptical Envelopment > Comes a Time.”  “Cryptical Envelopment”?!  It’s “The Other One,” and had been for almost 30 years at that point!  It doesn’t show that way on the Wikipedia page, but if you look at the actual CD or somewhere like Spotify, you’ll see what I mean.  I haven’t seen anything else like this on official releases, but it still blows my mind every time I see it; inexcusable.

    Quick note: if you expected a ton of research and concrete examples, you will be disappointed.  I tried to find some examples of bad tracklisting, but I ended up just getting annoyed.  So I trust you all to know what I mean, and look back at examples of this in your own Dead experience.

    Anyway, onto the main topic.  I think the most egregious of these errors is between “St. Stephen” and “The Eleven.”  The fact that there is actually a third song wedged in between the two does nothing to simplify the matter.  It seems to me that people always push the labeling too far back into “The Eleven,” making “St. Stephen” seem longer than it actually is on the tracklist.  I think you should either list “William Tell,” or “St. Stephen” should be cut off at the end of “William Tell.”  Either way, “The Eleven” starts immediately after “William Tell” finishes.  Some people believe “The Eleven” should start when the band actually shifts into 11/4 time, which does make a certain level of sense.  To me, however, the jam leading up to the switch from 12 to 11 is an integral part of the song.  Not only that, but it’s impossible to get from “William Tell” to the switch from 12 to 11 beats without the jam between them, and that jam’s theme is so entwined with that of the rest of “The Eleven” that they really are the same song.

    Another classic pairing that seems to always have the cut between tracks in different places is “China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider.”  What makes this different from the previous example is that these two songs were paired together for about twenty years, so there’s twenty years’ worth of evolution to take into account.  The stance I take is that “China Cat Sunflower” inherently includes a jam out of it, and “I Know You Rider” does not inherently begin with a jam.  So anything that comes between the two songs at their most basic levels should therefore be included in “China Cat.”  That includes the “Feelin’ Groovy Jam” that popped up in ‘73 and ‘74 (not “Mind Left Body,” I go by this invaluable guide), and, more debatably, the riff that used to signal the end of Bobby’s solo and then turned into the classic hook they would use in the 80’s.

    I think those two examples are the only ones that are routinely mislabeled, but I want to briefly get into some pairings that have more definitive lines between them, in order to examine the basic philosophy of splitting songs up at all.  I suppose this is actually a new problem, because when people had tapes and records back in the day, the only line to draw was between one side or the other.  There was only a setlist, not a tracklist.  And really, a tracklist is a total fabrication with no bearing on reality other than as a way to talk about music in an analytical way.  The music all just happens without the consideration of where one song ends and the next one begins, so sometimes the transitions between songs happens differently for different players.  If Jerry and Keith are still playing “Scarlet Begonias,” and Phil has already started “Fire on the Mountain,” there is no one argument for where to draw the line that I find to be persuasive.

     That having been said, my general rule of thumb for “Scarlet > Fire” is that when Phil starts with his “Fire” bass line, they’re playing “Fire.”  Usually the way it works is that one of them will switch into “Fire” (usually it’s Phil), and then the rest of the band will fall in with him within a bar or two.  I’d say when two or more of the band have switched into the next song, the line between the tracks should probably be drawn.  So when they’re going into “He’s Gone” from “Truckin’,” and Jerry starts the riff, I think it should still be called “Truckin’” until he convinces at least one other guy on stage that “He’s Gone” is the right choice.  Same with when Jerry starts into “Eyes” out of “Estimated;” at the time, Phil and Keith could still have steered the song into “Terrapin,” so I don’t think the track should be cut until they finally give in and join him on “Eyes.”

    Well that’s how I feel about it, but what do you all think?  What are some other examples of botched cuts or mislabeled tracks?  I bet some of you have versions of “Dark Star” that aren’t listed as a track until after they’ve already finished the first verse, because I know I do…  As always, let me know what you want to read about in the coming weeks in the comments, or on my Twitter or Facebook.  I will definitely have a review posted of the July ‘78 box set once it arrives, or more realistically a few days after it arrives, so that should be out maybe Thursday, but most likely next Sunday!

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Movie Meet Up 2016 (1989-07-02 Sullivan Stadium)

     Here's another Thursday review, this time it's of 2016's Meet Up At The Movies!  I've been going to these for the last three years, and each year it's a real good time.  My parents and I went down the the theater in Dedham, MA, stopping at the Yardhouse restaurant (we'll be stopping at another before the Fenway Dead & Comapny shows too) for great beers and food before the show.  I only spotted two other Dead Heads in the restaurant, but a lot of us were coming from work and couldn't be as decked-out in apparel as usual.

     I managed to stay relatively ignorant of the setlist, despite the best efforts of and Fathom Events.  I, like Blair Jackson, like to stay more-or-less in the dark about the setlist of a show when I can avoid it.  Obiovusly when it comes to downloading shows I have to look at the setlist to judge whether or not it's worth the effort to download it.  But when it comes to shows that I know I'll see or listen to either way, I think it's best to go in with an open mind.  I know it's not the same as actually being at the show, but it helps to try to recreate that experience of being at the whim of the band.

     One thing that set this year's Meet Up apart from the others is that a lot of the people in the theater (there were a cuple dozen of us in total) had actually been at this show from Foxboro, and it meant a lot to them to see it again.  The guy next to me was beaming the whole night!  The show was preceeded and followed by clips of Dead & Company (the same clip), but I'll write more about that at the bottom.  The sound was good all night, but there was some rumbling coming through the walls from the theater next to us, which was occasionally distracting.  Also, in "Friend of the Devil," Brent's piano crapped out, but I'm not sure if that's the recording, the theater, or if that actually happened.  So here's the setlist, with what will soon become my signature review style; it's too much work to make entire new sentences and paragraphs for each song when there's not always enough to say, and I'm lazy.

  • Playin' In The Band >
    • Cool as an opener, glad I didn't have it spoiled!
    • I knew at the time it wasn't a very long version, but the tape reveals that it was only about 5 minutes, which is way too short.
    • Still a great version, the whole band is really together.
    • They reprised it at the next show, which has been released as Truckin' Up to Buffalo.
      • Did they realize they were playing Buffalo next when they decided to do "Truckin'" this night?  Either they did and it's very clever, or they didn't and they totally blew a chance to make the crowd in Buffalo very happy.
  • Crazy Fingers >
    • Always a little rough, especially any version from after '76, but this is one of the best versions I've heard.
  • Wang Dang Doodle
    • WAY better than it ever was with Vince (sorry, Vince), and Jerry is emoting like a beast!
    • Everyone always cheers when Bobby forgets the words, but I think it's really just because he makes an even goofier face than normal when he does.
  • We Can Run
    • I keep thinking I'll have a breakthrough moment with this song, but I still can't get on board with it.  Love Brent, but this is not his best song.
  • Tennessee Jed
    • What a great version!
    • Jerry started emoting again, but I started to think some of his grimaces are just because of the heat; they all look like it's really hot there.
    • First time people started singing in the theater.
      • What movie rules apply at these, and what concert rules apply?  Someone should take charge and set forth movie theater conert rules, and it's not going to be me.
  • Queen Jane Approximately
    • Not my favorite Dylan-Dead song, but this might be the best version of it I've heard.
  • To Lay Me Down
    • Unfortunately the weakest part of the show.  I cheered when Jerry started it, but the band just could not agree one the tempo they were playing.
    • The look that Jerry gave the drummers when he started his solo would kill a lesser being.  The drummers seem to think Jerry's to blame, not them.
  • Cassidy
    • Again, the tape shows this as being much shorter than I thought it was at the time.
    • Definitely a highlight of the first set, very tight and far out.
  • Don't Ease Me In
    • Short but sweet, more incredibly tight playing.  Hard to believe these same guys just blew one of Jerry's best songs!
  • Friend Of The Devil
    • To open the second set??  Are you sure, Jerry?
    • Really good, they take two solo sections.
      • This may be because Brent's first solo got neutered when his piano shat the bed.
  • Truckin' >
    • Two American Beauty songs in a row, but they probably didn't know that.
    • They're all having too much fun on that stage!
    • The "ball of lightning jam" (that thing they started doing after the last verse where the jam builds higher and higher and then explodes back onto the theme.  You know what I mean) is really good and I think Jerry tricks the drummers into getting on a different downbeat, but it all works!
      • Jerry was pranking people all night.
  • He's Gone >
    • I knew this and "Truckin'" were coming, so I was glad they were back-to-back so I wouldn't keep expecting the next one.
    • Incredible, maybe the best part of the show!
    • The outro and jam show the Dead at their best.  They're all playing together and listening to each other, making eye contact, and looking like they enjoy what they're doing.
    • The Bobby/Brent dynamic during the outro could be called the first recorded bromance.
  • Eyes Of The World >
    • Jerry's pranking people again!
      • He lets the drummers think they're doing "Drums," and even tricks Bobby into leaving the stage as well...and then slams into "Eyes"!
    • Starts a little rough because of Jerry's shenanigans, but turns into the best 80's "Eyes" I can currently think of.
  • Drums/Space >
    • Exactly what you would expect.
    • Extended shot of Mickey's finger hovering above the Beam makes people laugh.
    • Very Midi-heavy "Space," but very well played.
  • The Wheel >
    • My third guess for what would come out of "Space," behind "I Need a Miracle" and "The Other One."
    • They nail it on this one, no confusion and everyone knows their parts.
  • Dear Mr. Fantasy/Hey Jude Reprise >
    • Definitely the best version of this pairing I've heard.
    • I could actually listen to this one again, and I would if there was a soundboard recording out there.
  • Sugar Magnolia
    • Surprised there wasn't a post-"Drums" ballad, but not a huge problem for me.
    • Very good, but Jerry pranks Bob by blowing the "Sunshine Daydream" beginning, which is funny, but messy.  It all works out in the end to close the hsow on a great note!
  • Encore:
  • The Mighty Quinn
    • Actually my least favorite Dylan-Dead song, but I guess this was a good version of it.

     That was the main event, and a lot of people got up to go, but then the Dead & Comapny logo filled the screen, and we were treated to an incredible "Slipknot! > Franklin's Tower"!  Interesting that they didnt include the "Help on the Way," maybe they blew it?  Maybe they only had a certain time-span?  John and Bobby traded lyrics, and spread them out a lot more, like Bobby's been doing with "The Other One" and "Estimated Prophet."  The hilarious thing is that even when Bobby has slowed the song down as much as possible, and spread the lyrics out as far as he can, he still blows the last verse!!  So much for his strategy of slowing songs down so he can get the words...

     The MOST IMPORTANT THING we should take from this, however, is not Bobby's troubles with lyrics.  It's the fact that Dead & Company have more video and soundboard recordings, and are willing to release them to the public!!  This is hopefully the beginning of some kind of agreement that will end in people being able to pay for soundboards of their shows!  Some of you may be saying, "But wait, 21st Century Dead, they already played a free show that was shown on youtube that included 'Help on the Way > Slipknot! > Franklin's Tower,' didn't they just show that version?"  No, they didn't!  It was from this show, which anyone who saw and heard the feature last night will agree on.  They'll also tell you that the band is wearing totally different clothing than in the free concert.

     So that's my spiel, hope you learned something!  Or at least enjoyed the read.  Tune in this Sunday to hear me rant about track listings and how they're never right and I'm always right, or something like that.  Maybe I'm wrong and you're right, but you'll only know if you tune in!  As always, follow the blog on Twitter and Facebook, and let me know what you want to read about next!

Monday, May 9, 2016

Pickin' on Dave

    In 2012 the Grateful Dead’s Archivist, David Lemieux, kicked off the follow-up to the acclaimed Dick’s Picks Series: Dave’s Picks.  I’m writing this now because the 18th volume of the series, from 1976-07-17 (with bonus disc from the previous night), should be arriving today and I figured this was as good a time as any to take a look at the rest of the series.  I actually started a review of DaP 10 (handy abbreviation) before I took my own little hiatus from blogging, which I wisely discarded because it was looking way too long-winded (this one got away from me too).  So here I’ll just go over some of the background info, and then just point out some of the more notable parts of the series.

    While this is the successor the the Dick’s Picks series, between the final one of those and the first Dave’s Picks, there was the Road Trips series.  While Dick’s Picks did not always release entire shows, it typically would release the majority of a couple shows.  Road Trips, however, would focus on a period of time, like Winter of ‘68 or November of ‘79, and release some choice selections from a few shows.  Some of the Road Trips really are spectacular, but Dave Lemieux, when given his big chance, decided he wanted to only release full shows, which I have to agree with.  I’m far from the first Dead Head to say that each show has its own unique contours and timeline, and the setlist develops organically.  So while you most certainly can skip ahead to “Weather Report Suite > Dark Star . China Doll” (Dap 9), it’s much better to see how they arrived at that conclusion and what other musical events shaped the setlist up to this point.

    All (most?) of these release have been mixed by Jeffrey Norman, who at this point is probably the most knowledgeable person when it comes to the sounds the Dead can make.  He really has a masterful touch, and is one of the main reasons this series has been so successful.  DiP and the Road Trips both varied in sound quality, sometimes rather noticeably, but DaP has been consistently incredible.  Unfortunately we did not benefit from this with the first four releases, because we didn’t buy any of those.  Three of the four are available as soundboards from the Archive, but the fourth only has a single audience recording. After missing four stellar shows at the highest possible quality, we sign up for the yearly subscription every year now, which also means we get a bonus disc with the second one of each year!

    So let’s take this from the top and work our way down.  Like I said, I’ll only go over the notable parts of the releases, but for a lot of these that might mean talking about just about every song!

  • One of the best shows of May ‘77 if you ask me, and a great start to the series.
  • Pretty standard first set for the era, meaning all great performances.
  • Second set for the ages; we should send this into space.
  • Not the longest “Scarlet > Fire,” but definitely one of the best.  I love this era because the transition into “Fire” was still so new, and you know that almost no one in the crowd even knew there was such a thing as “Fire on the Mountain.”
    • If the closing jam on “Fire” doesn’t melt your face, your sound system isn’t on.
  • By the books “Estimated,” with a great transition into “He’s Gone.”
  • My version has a sudden cut between “He’s Gone” and “Drums,” I wonder what I’m missing…
  • You all know how much I love “The Other One,” and this is the perfect example of why.
  • The only thing I love more than “The Other One” is “The Other One > Wharf Rat,” and boy do they do that.
  • The only thing I love more than “The Other One > Wharf Rat” is “The Other One > Wharf Rat > The Other One,” and holy crap do they do that one too!

  • ‘74 is sometimes my favorite year, especially these big summer shows.
  • This is maximum Phil, the Phillest “Eyes of the World” there has ever been.
    • Seriously, this “Eyes” is lethal if you’re unprepared for it.  Phil will mess you up.
  • The rest of the band is also on fire, especially Keith and Jerry.
    • This era is may be the best for Keith.
  • Not sure how many times we they played “Spanish Jam” and “Mind Left Body Jam” in the same show, but it should have been more often than it was either way.
  • This one came with a bonus disc from 1974-07-29, which is maybe a better show?  Discuss amongst yourselves.
    • My dad was there and they did an epic “Spanish Jam > Wharf Rat” that was also released on the 2011 30 Days of Dead on
    • The show also (not on the disc) features the best “El Paso” the Dead ever did.

  • From Keith’s first tour with the band.
  • They added the excerpt from the previous night because Dave felt bad about it only being two discs.
    • This means we get “That’s It For The Other One” AND “Dark Star,” which is a good thing.
  • Keith must’ve had a different piano at this point, because it sounds...chunkier than the one he brought to Europe.  But still beautiful!
    • Keith should not be allowed to use the organ, it is not his forte, though I can see why they thought it was a good idea with Pig Pen gone for the tour.
  • Everything’s good, but not as good as it would be in a few months.
  • Keith is responsible for “Playing in the Band” turning into a psychedelic monster.
  • “Dark Star > Sittin’ On Top of the World > Dark Star” is one of my favorite “Dark Star” sandwiches.
  • Rare “St. Stephen” with Keith, pre-hiatus.

  • This one only has an audience recording (6/10-ish quality for an aud), so if anyone has the official one let me know and maybe we can work something out?
  • I really like a lot of ‘76 and pretty much anything from September on is great stuff, this included.
  • Really cool “Playing in the Band > Supplication > Playing in the Band”!
  • There aren’t enough “Might as Well”s in the world.
  • Great “Help on the Way > Slipknot! > Drums > Slipknot! > Franklin’s Tower > Music Never Stopped” transition!
    • “Help > Slip!”is pretty standard (really good, really weird), but it gets even weirder when they come back into “Slip!”; they take it at its normal speed, but then do the “Slip!” riff more times than normal and at double speed!
    • Rare second set “Music,” but ‘76 versions are always too short.

  • Fall of ‘73 is one of the best periods of Dead music there ever was.
  • Pretty famous show, one I had in my collection already, but this is much better sound quality.
  • Great “Here Comes Sunshine” and “China > Rider,” both at their ‘73 best.
  • I wish the Dead did “The Race is On” more often than they did; great song!
  • Probably the best version of “Playing in the Band > Uncle John’s Band > Morning Dew > Uncle John’s Band > Playing in the Band” that there is.
  • Not as good as DaP 2, but this one still has a solid “Eyes” with a nice transition into “Sugar Magnolia.”

  • Strange collection of dates, but all really good shows!
  • Three versions of “Mason’s Children,” which not everyone appreciated.
    • But I did!  Especially the “St. Stephen > Mason’s Children” transition from the ‘70 show.
  • Whole lot of Pig Pen!  Some real monster “Lovelight”s, including one where Pig Pen imparted some wisdom to us for what to do when a woman who won’t leave you alone: “You get her in the bed and you fuck her ‘til her legs turn red!”  What a poet.
  • Really everything here is as good as it gets for this era, with some early versions of soon-to-be-classics and really evolved versions of the psychedelic monsters from the previous years.
  • “Good Lovin’ > Drums > The Other One > Cumberland Blues” is not to be missed, gotta love that bonus disc!
  • TC really shines in late ‘69, makes me think he could have become even better if he didn’t want to do his artsy things and not do acid.

  • I think this show is great, but is not as great as some of the the others in the series.
  • Sound quality on this one and the next ‘78 release are both 10/10, you can hear the fabric of their pants rustle as they scratch their asses between songs.
  • Whole first set is really hot.
    • “Ramble on Rose” is really big.
    • “Staying Alive” teases in “Me and My Uncle,” pretty fun.
    • One of the best “Music Never Stopped”s; some “soulful asides” from Bobby and Donna (they were on cocaine and had a lot to say).
  • EPIC “Scarlet > Fire,” put this on your Must Listen List.
  • Third disc kind of lets down the album.  Not bad by any stretch, they just sound like they left a lot of energy behind in the first two discs.
  • “Drums” in ‘78 involved everyone in the band and its extended family banging pots and pans together while making gorilla noises, which is fun for a bit, but a little much for 15-ish minutes.

  • The only 80’s release, and it’s barely in the 80’s.
  • When this came out I wasn’t big on 1980 as a year for the Dead, but have since found a lot of other great shows, which gives this one more perspective.
  • Relatively famous show in some circles, for good reason.
  • Matrix recording instead of pure soundboard, met with varying levels of approval; sounds different in different contexts (ear buds, headphones, stereo, etc.)
  • Another great “Scarlet > Fire” to prove that Dave is really obsessed with that pairing (3 out of 8 Picks so far).
  • Synth intro to “The Wheel” is divisive among the Heads, but I like it.

  • Only Dead show from Montana, but not sure what that means.
  • Also, over 20% of Dave’s Picks are from ‘74.  Dave’s a great guy.
  • “Scarlet Begonias > It Must Have Been the Roses” is good, but not as good as “Scarlet > Fire.”
  • Really big “Playing in the Band,” exactly what you sign up for with the Wall of Sound.
    • They kind of flub the reprise, but what can you do, right?
  • “Weather Report Suite > Dark Star > China Doll” is obviously the meat of the show.  You can only imagine what it must have been like in the Field House with the Wall in such a small place.
    • I love that they turned “WRS” into such a launching pad for these big jams from late ’73 - ‘74.  So many good ones: this, Dick’s Picks 14, maybe another Dave’s Picks….
  • They somehow manage to play regular rock and roll after shattering the universe, just like the Dead are supposed to.

  • Very similar to DaP 6, maybe better?
  • TC is once again killing it in late ‘69.
  • I now wish I had kept the notes I had already made on this show.
  • MONSTER of a “Lovelight,” all hail Pig Pen.
  • The whole show really is fantastic, especially the early versions of what soon became staple in the repertoire, but the feature of the show is the “Alligator > Caution > Feedback > We Bid You Goodnight.”
    • I always had a recording of just this progression on some strange CD, but I’m not sure if everyone is as familiar with it.
    • If you are not familiar with it, you have to listen to it because it will make your life objectively better.
  • Bonus Disc is also very good, but I hate how the list the tracks for “St. Stephen > The Eleven,” they mark the change way too late.

  • I’d like to note that Dick’s Picks 11 was also from the fall of ‘72.  This is either intentional and clever, or coincidental and confusing.
  • When ‘74 and ‘73 aren’t my favorite Dead eras, it’s usually fall of ‘72, and this is one of the many reasons why.
  • The show was from Kansas, and the cover art is Wizard of Oz-esque.  When it finally arrived, the cover was in black and white and the inside was in color!
    • Some people didn’t get it…
  • Once again Dave felt bad that not all discs were filled up, so he added a 30-minute “Playing in the Band” to the third disc...God bless you, Dave.
  • The whole show is really excellent, so it’s hard to pick out just a few stand-out performances.
    • Let’s leave it at “Bird Song,” “Box of Rain,” “China > Rider,” and the entirety of the second and third discs.
  • Maybe the best “He’s Gone” of ‘72?  Definitely way more expansive than any of the Europe versions, and seems more mature from even the two months prior to this show.
  • “The Other One” isn’t as good as 1972-09-15 (swoon), but it’s not fooling around either.
    • More jazzy and spacey than primal and ferocious.
    • In my opinion maybe they should play “Dark Star” if that’s how they feel, but I literally can’t complain.

  • I love this one, definitely one of my favorite Dave’s Picks.  Some people, including me, do point out, however, that Keith is not at his best in this show.  The rest of the band, though…
  • Also, maybe the best Dave’s Picks cover art?  I got my friend a shirt of it, but I wish I had kept it myself.
  • This time Dave filled two discs, but felt guilty that it wasn’t three, so he added an entire third disc!  What a guy!
  • Gotta love “Dupree’s Diamond Blues,” especially the later versions.  Sure the acoustic ones from ‘69 are fun and cute, but the later ones are funky!
  • ‘77 and ‘78 “Let it Grow”s were pretty awesome too, especially this one.
  • Phil is moved to give the band goofy introductions at the start of the second set.
  • The whole second disc.
    • This “Playing in the Band > Eyes of the World” is one of the Grateful Deadest things there is, I mean just listen to Jerry!!
    • “Eyes > Estimated” is always a fun subversion of expectations.
    • This “The Other One” is going to beat you up and steal your lunch money.  It’s only a little over four minutes, which is appallingly short, but it kicks ass!
    • As I may have mentioned, I’m not wild about “Stella Blue,” but this one is so beautiful, and anything that goes back into “Playing” gets pretty wild.
  • The stuff from the Seneca show isn’t as good, in my opinion, but is still definitely worth listening to.

    • Seriously, if you don’t have this show in your collection I don’t know what you’re doing.
  • They started ‘74 with three shows at Winterland, this being the third.  The second night is really good too, but this is clearly the best of the three.
    • Best of the year?  I don’t know, but it’s up there.
  • Honestly, listen to the whole show, it’s all the best.  The highlights are obvious and really everything is a highlight.
  • It’s pointless to debate the best “Dark Star,” and it’s pointless to debate the best “Morning Dew,” but this is the best “Dark Star > Morning Dew.”
    • “Spanish jam” tease in “Dark Star.”
    • The night before’s “The Other One” also has a “Slipknot!” tease from Jerry, but that’s not on this release...
  • I repeat, listen to this show!

  • Right before the band went to Europe, they stopped at the American Academy of Music just to show everyone that they were about to blow all those European minds.
  • Again, Keith is responsible for making “Playing in the Band” a psychedelic beast.
    • Bless his heart.
  • First disc is excellent, second disc should be classified as a drug.
    • One of those discs that you can listen to on its own on repeat and never get tired of.
  • Allegedly the first real post “Truckin’” jam that goes way out there and doesn’t return to the “Truckin’” theme.
  • ‘72 “The Other One”s are probably the best ones.
    • When they came back from Europe I think they got even tighter, though.
  • I want to be upset that they separate “The Other One” and “Wharf Rat” on discs 2 and 3, but it’s all so good I can’t hold it against Dave.
    • I bet it hurt him to do it too.
  • If only Pig had stuck around long enough to give us more of “The Stranger (Two Souls in Communion).”  It’s such a beautiful song and I bet it only would have matured into something even better.
  • Bonus Disc is great, with a much more straight-forward “Truckin’ > Drums > The Other One > Wharf Rat,” that sounds like it almost goes into “Me & My Uncle” too.

  • From the show before DaP 18, which is an interesting choice.
    • I like this one better.
  • The sound quality on this one might be the best of all the Picks.
  • I dare you to find a single mistake in this whole show, I DARE YOU.
  • Seriously, every song on here is a contender for best version of that particular song.
    • “Looks Like Rain,” “Tennessee Jed,” and “Jack Straw,” might actually be the best versions.
  • Maybe my favorite “Estimated > Eyes,” depending on the day.  I truly love the “Estimated” outro though, Jerry is some kind of monster.
  • “Not Fade Away > Wharf Rat > Sugar Magnolia”  will drop your jaw.

  • Spring of ‘73 is an incredibly interesting period for the Dead, growing from the late ‘72 sound towards what would become ‘74 with the Wall of Sound.
    • A sad time too, with Pig Pen’s death.
  • I don’t know how they played all these songs in one show, but it must have been a loooong night!
  • I like the later, more fleshed-out versions of “Here Comes Sunshine” better, but this one is fun.
  • Donna sings “You Ain’t Woman Enough,” which is also fun!
  • Epic “China > Rider.”
  • While the first two discs are filled to the brim with greatness, the third disc is another in the category of “practically a drug.”
  • They only play the instrumental intro to “Weather Report,” and it’s cool to see how that Bobby-tuning-ditty turned into a real song.
  • One of the darkest of the “Dark Stars,” and also one of the Phillest.  Has anyone checked to make sure Springfield wasn’t actually leveled in ‘73??
  • A great early “Eyes” out of “Dark Star” isn’t too surprising, but to close the show by going into “Playing”??  Incredible.  They just didn’t want to stop playing (ha)!

  • Much harder to compare to its contemporary (DaP 2) than the ‘78 shows were.
    • I had this in my collection already, so I personally like it better, but cannot be objective.
  • Keith’s birthday, and he’s playing like it too!
  • It’s really everything good about summer with the Wall of Sound, everything sounds so big and it’s all so goddam good!
    • Only mistake I can find is in “He’s Gone,” but the rest is so good you quickly forget it happened.
  • Yes, they include “Seastones,” and I know why that’s a problem for some of you.  This is really the most listenable version there is, though (damning with faint praise or praising with hints of damnation?), and I listen to it each time I play the record.
    • If Dave includes it, it’s worth checking out.
  • Another sonic journey with its roots in “Weather Report Suite,” definitely one of the best.
  • In fact, “Weather Report Suite > Jam > Eyes of the World > China Doll” is as ‘74 as it gets in the Dead world, and I could listen to it forever.  If you don't love '74 "Eyes," I don't know what to do with you.
    • Could probably be called "Weather Report Suite > Jam > Spanish Jam > Eyes of the World," what do you think?  Seems like a little much, but I think you all should know about "Spanish Jam."
      • After a typo, I now think "Sane-ish Jam" would be a fun name, but I'm getting pretty slap-happy here.

    Alright, that was a lot longer than I envisioned, but I’m not going back!  I was going to include a snippet about DaP 18, but then I wrote a stand-alone review for it, which is really what I should have done for these, but there’s just no time now.  My plan is stay on top of the new releases as they come out, so hopefully I’ll never have to do this again!  That means you should keep your eye out for July ‘78’s review!

    As always, let me know what you think!  Did I miss something about one of these?  Are they not all great?  What should the next one be??  Also, follow the blog on Facebook and Twitter if you want to know what’s coming out when, or if you want to hassle me outside the blog!