Sunday, July 30, 2023

Don't Panic, this is the Movies, remember? Grateful Dead at Universal Amphitheatre 6/30/73

 Between the May/June stadium shows that were recently released on the Here Comes Sunshine box set and the huge Watkins Glen concert with the Allman Brothers and the Band, the Grateful Dead did a short west coast tour that included three more stadium shows in Vancouver, Portland and Stadium (all released on the Pacific Northwest: the Complete Recordings 73-74 box set), followed by a three-night stand at Universal City’s intimate new concert venue, the Universal Amphitheatre. The Amphitheater had been created as a  regular stop on the Universal City studio tours where western-style stunt performances were performed during the day. At 5200 seats, the venue was one of the smallest venue the band played that year (the Pershing Auditorium in Lincoln, Neb. was a tad smaller at 4800), but certainly the smallest place they played that summer of big stadium shows. The amphitheatre was well designed for music, with a wide arc of seats that was not deep so that the farthest seats from the stage were less than 150 feet. Although it was later enclosed, the venue was outdoors when the Dead played there. It also had quite a bit of LA glitz, with the ushers all in tuxes and the backdrop behind stage curtain showing the wild west décor that was the setting for the afternoon stunt shows. 

Although I had just seen the Dead in May at UCSB, another out of town show beckoned, and the fact that my friend David’s well-connected father got us primo seats for the Saturday show was an added incentive, so I took a cheap commuter flight down and joined David and my roommate Tim, also in LA for the summer, for another memorable 1973 Dead show. 


Despite the small venue, the Dead’s sound system was much the same as what they used at UCSB, with stacks of McIntosh amplifiers and hard trucker speakers behind the band and much taller columns of speakers on either side of the stage. Despite the enormity of the PA, the sound was not overwhelming, and, as the PA committee moved towards the wall of sound, all of the instruments and vocals were crystal clear. With trim body and his hair newly styled into a black halo around his face, Jerry Garcia was dashing in his trademark black t-shirt and jeans, and Weir, Lesh and Donna Godchaux were also a tad more dressed up than was the norm at the time. 


The first set was pretty standard, relying heavily on material from Garcia and Weir’s solo albums aamd Europe 72, long with newer tunes destined for Wake of the Flood. Weir opened with Promised Land while the sound was tweaked. Next up was a bright, letter perfect rendition of “They Love Each Other” followed by equally crisp renderings of “Mexicali Blues,” “Tennessee Jed” and “Looks Like Rain,” on which Keith Godchaux contributed some gorgeous, delicate piano. The set’s first extended excursion was “Bird Song,” on which Kreutzmann masterfully driving the bus with mostly cymbals and kick drum. Garcia, Weir and Lesh stretch out, especially during an extended coda, out of which they charged directly into a spry “Cumberland Blues,” with Garcia and Keith G. playfully jousting licks. As the song concluded, some smoke drifted across the stage, but was quickly dispersed, prompting Garcia to quip “Don’t panic folks. This is the movies, remember?” Weir came back with “Wait until they see the volcano.” 


Next up was “Row Jimmy,” with lush vocals by Garcia and Donna, Keith switching between electric and grand piano above Kreutzmann’s crisp martial drumming. After a fine “Jack Straw,” Keith shone again with barrelhouse licks on “Beat It On Down the Line,” after which things slowed down with a rare first set “Black Peter.” A long set-closing “Playing in the Band” found Garcia and Weir trading spicy chordal stabs while Keith kept the proceedings grounded on his electric piano. 


The second set opened with a bang with “Greatest Story Ever Told” followed by “Ramble On Rose” and a lively “El Paso.” We were lucky to catch the run’s “Dark Star” next. Medium in length, the introductory part was all about Garcia jousting with Lesh, until Keith asserted himself with some ambient electric piano about five minutes in, and getting a delicate near-solo passage starting at about 6:30, with the electric piano sounding eerily like an old toy music box. Garcia then re-inserted the Dark Star intro and went into the first verse. After the vocal interlude, the light, airy mood devolved into feedback and darker chaos for several minutes before stopping abruptly as the band shifted gears radically and dropped into “Eyes of the World.” “Eyes” was a long version played to perfection. The coda to “Eyes” featured two runs through the proto-“King Solomon’s Marbles” section with a lengthy instrumental interlude between them where Keith, back on the grand piano, played some virtuoso jazzy passages with Jerry. The post-marbles jam continued for a while, the volume decreasing and the pace slowing as the band shifted nimbly into a gorgeous, moody “Stella Blue.” After a tuning break, the set concluded with a double dose of Weir-sung rock and roll  with “Sugar Magnolia” and a “Saturday Night” encore


After a good night’s sleep and a hearty breakfast, I headed back to northern California very satisfied with the weekend. The Universal Amphitheatre was a really special place to see the Dead, and a treat to see such an intimate show in a year of big arenas and stadiums. Although the Dead never played there after this run, Garcia appeared at the venue twice in 1989 and 1991, although it had been converted to an indoor hall by then. 

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

Sun, Sea Breezes, and the Grateful Dead. UC Santa Barbara May 20, 1973



I can readily say that the most enjoyable Dead show I ever attended took place 50 years ago this month (writing this in May 2023) outdoors on the UC Santa Barbara campus. After starting 1973 with a show at Stanford’s Maples Pavilion, the band mounted a musically memorable and doubtless very chilly Midwest tour during the last half of February. Following a brief break, they swung through the eastern seaboard mostly playing basketball arenas and large auditoriums. Following a six-week hiatus, they started a May-June tour of outdoor stadiums comprising five shows at four venues which  have now been compiled as a 17 disc Rhino Box Set called Here Comes Sunshine. Oddly, the first show of this outing was in Des Moines Iowa, followed by two shows closer to home in Santa Barbara and San Francisco 


The stadium show marked the return of both the band and venue following mishaps in 1969. As documented by reporter Michael Lydon in a tour journal published  in Rolling Stone, The Dead’s performance at UCSB’s Robertson Gym was cut short when Jerry Garcia and Bear decided that the house sound system provided for the show was inadequate and should be replaced with their own equipment. However, the Dead’s sound system was ultimately not assembled, and the band slunk off without playing the second set that they had announced to the crowd. 


The last show held at UCSB’s stadium took place on November 9, 1969 and featured a bill comprising LA folk rockers Sweetwater, the Steve Miller Band (who ultimately did not perform), and headliners Crosby Stills Nash and Young. I also attended that show and a description is provided here. This popular billing led to many people without tickets crashing the gates and damaging the facilities, leading to a ban on concerts being held there until 1973. At the time, UCSB was a hotbed of student activism, which probably reached its peak with the February 1970 riots that culminated in the burning of the Bank of America branch in Isla Vista, the campus-serving community adjacent to UCSB. By 1973, with US participation in the Vietnam war coming to a close and violent student activism ebbing, the campus agreed to give both the Dead and concerts at the stadium another chance. 


A group of my UCSC friends and I drove down the coast on Friday afternoon after classes, getting to the Isla Vista apartment of the friends we stayed with in time for dinner. In the early evening, a group of us walked over to the campus to check out the situation at the stadium. Although we were unable to get into the venue, all of the lights were on, and the Dead were in the middle of a sound check. Actually, it was just Phil testing out the sound system, but we were treated to a good quarter hour or so of him soloing on his bass, with the sound reverberating through the stadium. It sounded like the sound was coming from different places on the stage, which seems entirely possible given that Lesh’s Alembic bass “Big Brown” had quadrophonic capabilities that had each string routed to a different set of speakers. 

Phil and McIntosh Amps 5/20/73 Photo M. Parrish



On Sunday morning, we took our time getting over to the stadium, probably arriving around 10 AM. It was a perfect day for an outdoor concert, sunny but not too hot, and tempered by gentle sea breezes. In contrast to general admission stadium concerts in subsequent years, there was no real ‘land rush’ for seating, and our group secured a comfortable outpost on the field about 100 feet from the stage. In contrast to the 1969 CSNY show, the venue was full but did not seem oversold, and there was plenty of space to spread out on the grass or in the stands. If there were any crowd control issues, I did not see them.  



Dave Torbert and Marmaduke 5/20/73
Photo: M. Parrish

     The show opened at noon with Dead family members New Riders of the Purple Sage. By 1973, the New Riders had established themselves as a strong headlining act, especially on the east coast. They opened the afternoon with an expansive set that split the vocal duties between principal songwriter John “Marmaduke” Dawson’s originals, lead guitarist David Nelson’s takes on “Dim Lights, Thick Smoke, and Loud , Loud Music”  and “She’s No Angel.”  Bassist Dave Torbert sang lead on the majority of the tunes, including the Robert Hunter penned rocker “Kick In the Head” and rock and R&B classics including “Hello Mary Lou,” “School Days,”  and “I Don’t Need No Doctor.”

After a reasonable break, the Dead took the stage, starting off with a familiar opener, “Bertha.” This was only the second time I had seen the Dead in a large outdoor venue, and the improvement in the overall band sound between this and the previous summer’s show at the Hollywood Bowl was amazing. Since late 1972, a sound engineering brain trust convened by Ron Wickersham and comprising Bear, John Meyer, Sparky Razene, Dan Healy, John Cutler, Rick Turner, and John Curl had been working on tweaking the band’s stage setup leading towards 1974’s immense wall of sound. The UCSB stage setup was really a mini-wall of sound, with stacks of different types of family-built Hard Trucker speaker cases and McIntosh amplifiers arrayed behind the band along more familiar elements like Garcia’s twin reverb amp and the Courtney Pollack tie-dyed speaker cabinets. The most notable changes were the towering columns of speakers on either side of the stage that comprised the majority of the PA, with a wide variety of sizes and shapes of speakers transmitting different elements of the band’s sound. A large canvas shade was stretched between the enormous scaffolding that housed the PA stacks, keeping the majority of the sun off of the band. 

Garcia played the entire show using the Alembic-modified Stratocaster "Alligator" while Weir favored a similarly tweaked Gibson SG. Keith Godchaux used a full grand piano that, despite being covered by a reflective tarp, demanded repeated ministrations by a harried-looking piano tuner.


Photo: M. Parrish

The first set rolled along with familiar tunes for awhile, “Mama Tried,” a letter-perfect “Box of Rain,” a rousing “Deal,” “Looks Like Rain” and “Tennessee Jed.” Next up was Weir’s interpretation of Buck Owens’ “The Race Is On”. Previously sung by Weir a few times in in 1969-70,  either sitting in with the New Riders or by the Dead with Marmaduke guesting on vocals, the country chestnut had been dusted off during the winter tours and given a peppy new arrangement with great harmonies from Donna and Jerry. The “China Cat Sunflower”/”I Know You Rider” medley was a perfect complement to the sunny day, and featured an embryonic version of the transitional D-A-G-A passage that became a full blown feature of the medley up until the band’s hiatus at the end of 1974. 


Rather than concluding the set with China Cat>Rider, the band kept going with “Beat It On

5/20/73 Photo M. Parrish

Down the Line,” again showcasing Donna’s great harmony vocals, followed by the first ‘new’ song of the show, “They Love Each Other” in its early (and, to my ears, superior) up-tempo arrangement. The set then wrapped up with a gnarly, 19 minute excursion into the depths of “Playing In the Band.”

Following a generous break, the band came back with another set of single songs, starting with familiar opener “Promised Land” and including two more of the new-for-1973 tunes, “”Row Jimmy” and Here Comes Sunshine”  alongside relative newcomers “Brown-Eyed Women,” “Mexicali Blues,”  “Jack Straw” and “Greatest Story Ever Told,” wrapping up with a cheerful “Casey Jones.”  Mid-set, several of us were confused by the fact that the band had not launched into a typical second set medley/jam, and it was a surprise to all when Weir announced that they were going to take another short break. 


As the day progressed and shadows grew long, the Dead showed no signs of fatigue as they

5/20/73 Photo: M. Parrish

launched into their third set with a powerful “Truckin’” which led into a gritty instrumental take on “Nobody’s Fault But Mine” driven by Garcia’s gritty slide guitar and then which opened up into a free-form jam in the key of E that featured some fine ensemble playing before dropping into an athletic, jazz-inflected Kreutzmann drum solo that culminated with Lesh’s bass bomb that heralded the arrival of “The Other One.” After a powerful first verse, the band settled into a more plaintive late afternoon exploration and some rapid arpeggiated soloing by Garcia that erupted into a furious wah-wah driven “Tiger” passage that shortly dropped into the mellow intro to another of the unrecorded tunes, “Eyes of the World.” “Eyes,” along with the earlier renditions of “Here Comes Sunshine,” China Cat>Rider,” and “They Love Each Other,” were perfect complements to the lazy Sunday afternoon. The  brisk, jazzy outro to “Eyes” abruptly morphed something newly appended to “Eyes,” the repeated bass-and-guitar driven repeated minor key riff that ultimately emerged (in expanded and modified form) on record as “Stronger than Dirt or Milking the Turkey” on their 1975 album “Blues for Allah.” As the pace slackened and the volume crept downwards, Garcia and Hunter’s poignant “Stella Blue” emerged out of the previous instrumental chaos. By this time, the late spring afternoon was starting to ebb, and the Dead wrapped up their third set with “Sugar Magnolia.” Retuning for the encore, Garcia told the crowd "We had a pretty nice time today. Thank you all for coming." before sending the mellow crowd happily on their way with a no-frills “Johnny B. Goode.”


We all had school on Monday, so made the trek back to Santa Cruz Sunday night with happy memories of a glorious day of music on our minds. The Dead played a similarly ebullient outdoor show at Golden Gate Park’s Kezar Stadium the following Saturday which I did not attend because of a conflicting engagement in the Sierras. 

Saturday, April 22, 2023

The Ducks and Friends in Santa Cruz – Summer of 1977

 My last summer in Santa Cruz before leaving for graduate school in Chicago was an eventful one in CSNY lore. Most notable was Neil Young’s summer-long residence in town, during which he played 18 shows with an ad-hoc supergroup called the Ducks, mostly in small, funky watering holes. Although unofficial tapes of a few of these shows have circulated for years, this month (April 2023) marks the first official release of the band’s music on a two-disc compilation entitled High Flyin’ that does a good job of providing an audio document of the band’s energetic live sound and its diverse catalog of original and cover material. 

In addition to Young, the Ducks comprised bassist Bob Mosley, guitarist Jeff Blackburn, and drummer Johnny Craviotto. All had deep musical roots that allowed them to easily stand toe-to-toe with Young creating a raw energy that blended their California roots with a bar band energy that paralleled the emerging ethos of punk rock (Indeed, Young and Blackburn crafted “Out of the Blue and Into the Black” either during the summer or shortly thereafter). 


Mosley was the bassist and the most commanding vocalist in the original lineup of legendary San Francisco group Moby Grape. After recording two albums with the group’s original lineup, they famously started to fragment with the defection and mental breakdown of Skip Spence, the band’s vibrant and  charismatic front man. Although they filled out their Columbia contract with two fine additional albums, they never recaptured the financial and critical success of their initial heyday in 1966-68. In 1971, the original band (plus cellist Gordon Stevens) relocated to Santa Cruz and recorded a fine album, 20 Granite Creek, named after the address of the sprawling mountain house they lived in at the time. The band did a few dates in support of the album, including an infamous gig at the Fillmore East, but Spence soon quit again and the group broke up once more. Most of the band members remained in the Santa Cruz mountains, and a new version of the group existed from about 1973-75, with original members Mosley, Peter Lewis, and Jerry Miller augmented by Blackburn on guitar and vocals and Craviotto on drums and vocals. This group was a live powerhouse on good nights, and Blackburn contributed quite a bit of original material, including the driving anthem “Silver Wings” which was later a mainstay of the Ducks shows, with two versions showcased on “High Flyin’.


Young knew both Mosley and Blackburn since the 60s, as the Buffalo Springfield and Moby Grape connected early in their careers, and Blackburn, then partnered with vocalist Sherry Snow, was also part of the early SF Ballroom scene. Blackburn had moved to the Santa Cruz area in the late 1960s, and stayed there until his untimely passing earlier this year. 


As Ducks tour manager Frank Mazzeo recounted the band’s origins in an a 2002 interview with writer Ben Marcus, he was drawn to Santa Cruz when he heard that the Jeff Blackburn Band (which then comprised Blackburn,  Mosley, and Craviotto) had lost their lead guitarist, so the enigmatic Young decided that a summer in Santa Cruz playing in a superior bar band would be a great thing to do. Renting two bungalows on the cliff above Seabright Beach, Young and Mazzeo settled in for the summer.


Young was no stranger to Santa Cruz, having first performed at the Civic Auditorium in 1973, and subsequently made a few guerilla performances with Crazy Horse at county venues like Margarita’s and the Catalyst in 1975 and 1976 (a practice he continued into the 1990s). His first appearance of the Santa Cruz summer was not a Ducks show per se, but rather a guest shot at a birthday celebration for another Moby Grape member, lead guitarist Jerry Miller, at the Backroom, a concert space behind beloved but long-defunct Szechwan restaurant the New Riverside. Young only guested on a few songs near the show’s end, but the Ducks were revealed publicly a few days later through a cover article/interview in Santa Cruz weekly Good Times, announcing their debut at the Crossroads, a tiny watering hole that was located in the Sash Mill shopping center just north of downtown. 


In pre-Internet days, news of the band’s creation traveled slowly, so I was lucky enough to get into the packed Crossroads for their first show. I had seen Young several times previously, with CSNY, the Stray Gators, at the 1975 SNACK benefit, and a memorable 1976 Berkeley Community Theater show with Crazy Horse, but seeing him in such an intimate setting was an unexpected treat. A large equipment/recording truck outside was out of character for a small bar gig, and the number of roadies/technicians outnumbered the band members. Despite the front page Good Times article, it was a remarkably low-key gig, and the Crossroads was not oversold, nor did there seem to be a lot of people shut out from the show. 


Despite this being the first official Ducks gig, the two strong sets of music the band played indicated a lot of rehearsal had preceded the live show. Since Blackburn, Mosley, and Carviotto had been performing together for some time, they had already developed a strong onstage chemistry, particularly the rhythm section. In addition to being a commanding vocalist, Mosley remains one of the most powerful straight-ahead bass players to come out of the San Francisco ballroom scene, and he and Craviotto meshed powerfully with Blackburn’s chunky rhythm guitar, a synchrony that reflected the many hours they shared together on stage in Moby Grape and Blackburn’s band. Young’s sizzling lead guitar and raunchy harmonies fit right into the band’s well developed bar band persona.  


All four band members shared lead vocals, roughly alternating turns throughout the show. Young performed a rousing “Mr. Soul” at just about every gig, but otherwise focused on a relatively short list of mid-seventies originals each night, including versions of “Little Wing” (recorded the previous year for the only recently released Homegrown), “Human Highway,” “Are You Ready for the Country,” “Long May You Run,”  “Comes a Time,” “Cryin’ Eyes,” and “Sail Away” (the one Ducks song he apparently penned during his summer in Santa Cruz). On any given night, Young sang less than a quarter of the tunes performed over what was usually two sets. This reflected either his reluctance to hog the spotlight after joining an existing band or, equally probably, the fact that the band already had a strong repertoire of road-tested material featuring the other three musicians. 


Mosley’s vocals included a couple of mid to late period Grape Tunes: “Gypsy Wedding” from 20 Granite Creek and “Truckin’ Man” from Moby Grape 69. He also performed a number of other originals, most of which have not ended up on subsequent Moby Grape or Mosley solo albums. 


Craviotto’s vocal slots mostly comprised renditions of classic rock and country anthems like “I’m Ready,” “Honky Tonk Man,” and “Bye Bye Johnny.” A smooth, supple vocalist, he also took lead on a breakneck cover of Jack Nitzsche’s “Gone Dead Train.”  


The deepest catalog of Ducks tunes belonged to Blackburn, and they were a diverse bunch of tunes ranging from wistful country rockers like “This Old Car,”  the mystical anthem “Two Riders,” the surf-rock raveup “Hey Now, and the elegant instrumental “Windward Passage,” which they introduced at later Ducks shows. 


All in all, that first show was an amazingly energetic and entertaining night of music that belied the fact that the quartet had only been working together a few days. After another night at the Crossroads, the Ducks regularly played several times a week at watering holes throughout the Santa Cruz city limits. They would approach a venue in the afternoon, buy out the band scheduled to play there, and put out another night of high-energy rock and roll. As the word spread through Santa Cruz County and beyond, hunting for the elusive Ducks gigs became a pastime for more and more people. I was working in Palo Alto at the time and also preparing to move to Chicago for grad school in a few weeks, so I did not join the hunt, but a tip from a friend got me into a second gig at the Crossroads a few weeks later, which found the band in even finer form. That show, on August 5, is represented by seven tracks on “Flyin’ High.”


During prime Duck season, I also got to see a Moby Grape show on July 29 (I think) at the Crossroads, with the lineup that recorded the 1978 Live Grape album: Jerry Miller, Peter Lewis, Skip Spence (back after a long absence), and newcomers Cornelius Bumpus, Christian Powell and, from the Rhythm Dukes, drummer “Fuzzy” John Oxendine. Spence was definitely in his own orbit, and the addition of Bumpus’ songs and vocals lend a new R&B flair to the band’s sound. Although the Ducks did not play that night, no band members were in attendance at the Grape show, and Mosley was not part of the band again until sometime in the 1980s. 


The other show I saw with Young in attendance that summer was a sublime acoustic benefit for the United Farmworkers at the SC Civic, billed as a David Crosby solo show. Following a great set by the original David Grisman Quintet (the first of many times I saw them), Crosby appeared alone for the first few songs, opening with a killer triptych of “The Lee Shore,” “Page 43,” and “Triad” after a few more songs, he brought out Graham Nash, and they performed five songs as a duo, most notably a gripping version of Nash’s “Cathedral.” After Crosby’s “Low Down Payment,” the duo were joined onstage by ‘local boy” Neil Young, who stayed for the remainder of the show, with the trio performing Young’s “Human Highway,” “New Mama” and “Only Love Can Break Your Heart” along with CSN/CSNY favorites “Déjà vu,”  “Our House,” “Wooden Ships” and “Teach Your Children,” concluding the impromptu reunion with “Sugar Mountain.” This was a warm, intimate performance that showed the trio in good spirits and enjoying one another’s company. 


By the end of July, word had spread about the Ducks and all of the shows had lines of would-be patrons from the rest of the bay area and beyond that far exceeded the capacity of clubs like the Crossroads and the Backroom. The Ducks moved to playing larger venues like the Catalyst and the Santa Cruz Veteran’s Auditorium, but a lot of the magic had slipped away. Near the end of August, some of Young’s guitars were stolen from his summer rental, and the Ducks era ended with their biggest show, at the Santa Cruz Civic. Young returned to his ranch in the mountains and, although the remaining Ducks continued to perform for a while without Neil, the band lost much of its mojo, and soon disbanded. Blackburn continued to be an important part of the Santa Cruz music scene until his passing last year, whereas Craviotto switched gears and became a well-respected manufacturer of high-end wooden drums. Sadly, he also passed in 2016, leaving Young and Mosley (who seems to have retired from the music business) as the last Ducks standing. It’s been a long time coming, but High Flyin’ does a fine job of capturing the magic created during those few weeks in Santa Cruz nearly a half-century ago. 

Thursday, February 9, 2023

The Dead Back on the Farm. February 9, 1973

 It’s hard to believe that it was 50 years ago today that I first heard the Grateful Dead in my hometown of Palo Alto (well, really in Stanford if you want to get technical). Although I had seen Jerry Garcia played in and around town with Merl Saunders and the New Riders a few times, the Dead had not played in town since the Midpeninsula Free University Be-In in 1967, and a temporary ban on rock concerts at Stanford’s Frost Amphitheater had kept them from the most obvious appropriately sized venue in the area. Thus it was a welcome surprise when the Dead announced that they would open their winter 1973 tour at Stanford University’s basketball stadium, Maples Pavilion.  The stadium, named after principal donor Roscoe Maples, had opened in 1969, but this only the fourth time the 7500-capacity venue had been used for a concert after evening shows were banned from Frost in fall of 1970. 


The show was memorable musically, but its artistic aesthetics were leavened with a number of physical challenges. The Wall of Sound made its official debut at the Cow Palace the following March, but the Maples show was the debut of the prototype of that system, which replaced the Dead’s traditional wall of amplifiers with stacks of hard truckers speakers and McIntosh amplifiers, creating a towering edifice behind the band for the first time. As has been famously recounted in several Dead histories, and recounted by sound man Dan Healy himself in a 1982 Interview with David Gans (published in Conversations with the Dead), the debut of the new system did not go as planned: “ We spent maybe $20,000 on amps, crossovers and stuff, started the show, and in the first two seconds of the song wiped out every brand-new tweeter. Smoked every single one. “Oh, okay, we learned about that!" you know? We went through all these changes to put these protection devices, and they never worked! They blow long after the speaker’s gone.” 


It was further into the opener, “Promised Land,” than two seconds into the song, and you can’t hear it on the edited soundboard tape, but the loud pop and screech as the speakers gave up the ghost was a signal to the audience that all was not going well. The band carried on regardless.


Meanwhile, down on the floor of the pavilion, the carefully arranged rows of folding chairs created both obstacles and hazards to the audience, who were used to stand and  flow organically like a giant amoeba since the early days at the Fillmore and Avalon. In relatively short order, the chairs were disassembled and stacked against the stands on the side of the pavilion, and things proceeded as usual for a general-admission Dead show. Speaking of the stands, my friends and I had (wisely, given the circumstances) positioned ourselves about midway back in the stands, away from the folding chair debacle. 


A unique feature of Maples Pavilion was its sprung floor, created by matrices of crossed wood under the playing floor that was designed by architect John Warnecke to prevent player injuries. In practice, the floor created greater risks of injuries for players, and it was removed during a $30M retrofit of the stadium in 2004. In the meantime, the combination of the sprung floor, a sea of dancing deadheads, and the towering speaker columns created another hazard, as the towers started to visibly sway back and forwards. Fortunately, the arc of movement of the towers was not sufficient to cause them to fall, but at the peak of their flexure I was glad to be in the stands and not on the floor. 


The physical challenges of the gig aside, the Maples show marked the debut of a raft of new material that would comprise the bulk of the Hunter-Garcia material on the band’s next two studio albums. Although both “Stella Blue” and “Half Step Mississippi Uptown Toodeloo” had been road-tested during the last half of 1972, an impressive seven compositions made their debut at the Stanford show. After Weir’s opener, the band moved right into “Row Jimmy,” which managed to blend the wistful balladry of “Stella Blue” with the choral cadences of tunes like “Tennessee Jed” and “Ramble on Rose.”


After solid versions of “Black-Throated Wind,” “Deal” and “Me and My Uncle” Weir apologized for the problems with the new sound system, commenting “This is sort of get the bugs out night – that’s why we’re here.” And “If it irritates you, tonight’s going to get you crazy. Lesh then asked “Is there anyone back there who can’t hear?” As the conversation dropped into mayhem, Garcia slid into “Sugaree.” After another relatively new Weir piece “Looks Like Rain,” the second Garcia-Hunter tune,  the uncharacteristically raunchy “Loose Lucy” was rolled out, its mid-tempo boogie accented by a lumbering, repetitive guitar and bass figure. 


Deep into the first set, the third new tune appeared, the sparkling “Here Comes Sunshine.” After the sometimes bleak pictures painted in most of the 1971-72 Hunter lyrics, the song’s breezy optimism, shared with “Eyes of the World and “They Love Each Other,” literally brought a warmer, sunnier face to the band that was also embodied in most of their performances during 1973.Lyrically and melodically,  “Here Comes Sunshine” remains one of the gems of the Garcia-Hunter songbook, although Garcia flubbed some of the lyrics in its maiden outing. The generous first set concluded with a 19 minute version of “Playing in the Band.”


The second set was preceded by a plea by Wavy Gravy for funding to help rebuild the recently demolished Bach Mai Hospital in Hanoi, after which the band opened with a strong “China Cat/I Know you Rider.” After “Jack Straw,” the next new tune was rolled out, “They Love Each Other.” Previously Hunter had veered away from love songs, other than melancholy remembrances of lost love like “Wharf Rat” and “Stella Blue,” but “TLEO” is a full-blown celebration of a couple’s palpable love for one another, coupled with a sprightly melody from Garcia. I confess to always preferring the up-tempo 1973 incarnation of the song with the bridge to the simplified, slower version that emerged on Reflections and in subsequent live performances.


If there is any complaint to be made about the Dead’s stellar run of performances overseas captured in the Europe 72 box set, it would be the repetitive choice of the tunes used to anchor the extended segments of the second sets, which mostly alternated between “Dark Star” and Truckin’ leading into “The Other One.” Although the extended segment of the Stanford second set started with “Truckin,” it led smoothly into the next of the band’s debuts, “Eyes of the World.” “Eyes,” with its jazzy chords and relatively sprightly tempo, was to become a second set mainstay during the rest of the band’s performing history, and a crowd favorite. Eyes wove its way into the debut of another of Hunter’s melancholy story songs, the sadly elegant “China Doll.” Later in the band’s career, the conclusion of the second set medley would usually herald the end of the show, but the Dead still had quite a bit of gas in their tank at this show. A trio of short tunes, Big River, “Ramble On Rose” and “Box of Rain” preceded the evening’s final debut, the quixotic “Wave That Flag.” Although this snappy tune persisted in the Dead’s repertoire through most of the year, its off-the-cuff lyrics were ultimately deemed not ready for prime time, and the song re-emerged Phoenix-like, as “US Blues” at the first Dead shows of 1974 at Winterland. 


With all of the new songs rolled out, the Dead returned to familiar territory to wrap up the marathon show with “Sugar Magnolia.” “Uncle John’s Band,” “Around and Around” and an encore of “Casey Jones.” 


Technical challenges and bouncing floors aside, the Dead put on a strong performance at home to prepare for their winter swing through the Midwest that would commence a week later in Madison, Wisconsin. Although Garcia, and later Weir, were regular visitors to mid-Peninsula clubs in the rest of the 1970s, the Dead would not return to their old stomping grounds until they began an annual tradition of shows back at Stanford, this time at Frost Amphitheater, in October, 1982. 




Sunday, January 23, 2022

Watch the Skies - The Who and the Dead at the Oakland Stadium October 9-10/76

 If you’re reading this, chances are good that you have friends that you have acquired because of musical interests in music. Many times those shared musical interests overlap broadly – for instance, if you both like the Dead, you may well both like groups like Hot Tuna and the Allman Brothers. In college, one of my best music friends was Jeff E., a fellow UCSC student and Palo Alto resident who was also a DJ at Stanford Radio Station KZSU. Jeff’s and my musical worlds overlapped tangentially. His favorite group by far was the Who, but he had eclectic tastes spanning people like Bowie, the Kinks, the Move, the Beach Boys, and so on. He had next to no use for the Dead or most of the 60s San Francisco bands. Nonetheless, we bonded over music fandom, and saw quite a few shows together, including the infamous 1973 tour opener for the Who at the Cow Palace where drummer Keith Moon collapsed on stage twice before being replaced by an amateur drummer from Monterey who did quite a creditable job of helping them finish their show. We also saw musical comedian Martin Mull several times at his gigs at SF dinner club the Boarding House, several years before Mull became a TV actor on Fernwood 2Nite. 


In the fall of 1976, a terrifically excited Jeff called me to give me a heads-up to a remarkable confluence of our musical worlds. He breathlessly announced “Your favorite band and my favorite band – together at the Oakland Stadium!” He also alerted me to Bill Graham’s latest way of springing this massive double bill on the world. Graham posted ads in the Chronicle on a Sunday in late August simply stating “Watch the Skies at noon on Friday!” Since I did know what to expect, I was at the local BASS tickets outlet at the Saks Fifth Avenue store at Stanford Shopping Center at noon the following Friday, when an airplane towing a big banner circled the Bay Area announcing the two shows with the Grateful Dead and the Who that were scheduled at the Oakland Coliseum stadium on October 9 and 10, 1976. The Oakland Stadium held a lot of folks, so these shows did not sell out immediately (I’m not sure if they ever stopped selling tickets), but we were among the first people to get tickets.


The Dead had worked back into touring through the summer and fall of 1976, initially playing multiple nights in small capacity theatres in Portland, Boston, Philadelphia, New York, Chicago and San Francisco and then doing a run of east coast and Midwest venues, mostly small ballparks and coliseums, in August through early October. The Two Oakland Coliseum shows were by far the biggest venues they had played so far that year, and this was the first time other than Woodstock that the two bands, both strong draws in the Bay Area, had shared a bill. 


The Who had most recently played two San Francisco concerts in March at Winterland, after a 2 ½ year gap of area shows following the 1973 Cow Palace gig. Tickets for the Winterland shows were by lottery and many folks, including me, were shut out. Therefore, the Day on the Green gig was a big event for Who fans as well as for the usual suspects who were just looking for a big outdoor rock festival. 


We rolled into the stadium early in the morning, and ended up with a decent spot about 1/3 of the way back from the stage. Since starting the Day on the Green shows in 1973, Bill Graham Productions had continually upped their ante in terms of production and set design. For these shows, the crew prepared an elaborate stage set that had a London skyline on the left, one of San Francisco on the right, joined by a bank of fog above the stage proper. The stage itself was oddly outfitted with a bunch of flower beds in front of the monitors (the Dead crew must have loved that) and potted trees in the back that partially obscured the rear bleachers, the scoreboard, and the backstage area.


I had seen the Dead at the stadium once before, on 6/8/74, but this was the first time they had opened a show at what, for them, must have been the ungodly hour of 11 AM. I brought my camera and, as the band took the stage, I worked my way up near the rail to take some pictures for the first few songs. I was used to being up front at smaller shows, and Dead audiences were pretty congenial and relatively loosely spaced in those days at places like Winterland, but the large crowd, the mixture of Who fans, Deadheads, and those just looking for a Day on the Green made the experience more harrowing than what I had experienced previously.  As they did so often, the Dead kicked the show off with “Promised Land”, and the gyrating bodies in close quarters made for an adventurous photo expedition. I stayed up front through “They Love Each Other” and managed a few different angles, but the forward position of the grand piano and the flowers made it challenging to get decent pictures. The first set was pretty standard fare for the time, ending with an extended “Sugaree.” Although the Dead did not have the Wall of Sound for this gig at the Stadium, the sound was really fine, and the crew had somehow remedied the echo off of the back wall of the stadium that plagued the 1974 show that did feature that imposing sound system. 

Grateful Dead 10.9.76 Photo: M. Parrish


By the start of the second set, the sun was starting to heat up the crowd, and the band played a memorably inventive medley, opening with St. Stephen, which weaved in and out of Not Fade Away, leading straight into “Help on the Way” and “Slipknot”, followed by a brief Rhythm Devils segment that led into an energized “Samson and Delilah.” Garcia continued with some free-form minor key soloing, followed by some unique conversation with Keith Godchaux’s piano that gradually morphed back into “Slipknot.” A brief reprise of the main “Slipknot” theme finally cascaded into a welcome “Franklin’s Tower.” The Dead were on the clock for an hour second set, so they plowed on into the set-closing “Saturday Night,” returning with a quick “U.S. Blues” for an encore.


During the lengthy set change, the field was getting hot, and we retreated to the stands at the rear of the stadium, which still afforded a good view and sound. When the Who came on, the large stage set kind of dwarfed the four musicians the quartet, who nonetheless succeeded in summoning enough raw energy to charge the crowd. Townshend jumped around the stage and Moon, in what proved to be his last Bay Area appearances, appeared relatively healthy and turned in energetic performances. The band’s set was pretty pro-forma, with a first half composed of tried and true numbers like “I Can’t Explain” and Substitute,” along with most of “Who’s Next” and two songsfrom their most recent outing, The Who By Numbers. They then went into an abbreviated version of Tommy, wrapping things up with a trio of other favorites, “Summertime Blues,” a long version of “My Generation (with a bit of “Join Together” in the middle), and “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” Despite lengthy clapping from the audience, there was no encore.

The Who 10.9.76 Photo: M. Parrish


The next Day’s Dead performance was high energy from the start, opening with “Might as Well,” fueled by some boogie-woogie piano by Keith. Other highlights were rare mid-set versions of “Deal” and “Promised Land”(one of three repeats from the previous day), and the one-time-only set closer that comprised “Wharf Rat” embedded in a spacy “Dancin’ in the Streets” sandwich. The second set was more mellow, this time featuring an extended segment bookended by “Playing in the Band,” with “The Wheel,” Drums. “The Other One,” and “Stella Blue” as filling. They closed with powerful versions of “Sugar Magnolia” and, as an encore,  “Johnny B. Goode.”


The Who’s set proved to be a near-carbon copy of the first day’s set, down to the jokes between songs, so I left near its end, leaving the Who fans to wrestle with traffic in the parking lot. They did manage an encore, allegedly in response to financial coaxing by Bill Graham, combining “Shakin’ All Over,” “Spoonful” and their limp take on “Johnny B. Goode” to wrap up the weekend. This was sort of the last hurrah for the who as the original quartet. Although they did record one final album with Keith Moon, had five more dates on their 1976 US tour, and played two ragged shows in London in 1977, Moon’s deteriorating physical condition precluded any of the long tours that had carried the band through the last decade, and the drummer passed away in September of 1978. For me, their performances were disappointing, particularly in comparison to the two spectacular performances I had heard from the band at the Fillmore West in 1969 and the SF Civic in 1971.


The Dead continued their relentless post-hiatus touring with a couple of shows in LA, the NYE show at the Cow Palace discussed here, and then a full roster of theatre and arena shows the following year, with Winterland, where the band played ten shows in 1977, returning as the band’s home base. The two bands did share the stage again in Essen, Germany in 1981 for a Rockpalast TV Broadcast, where Pete Townshend sat in for the last half of the Dead’s second set, gamely trying to blend into the Dead's well-oiled interplay. 


So, did these shows make Jeff into a Deadhead? Definitely not, although he said that he appreciated their musicianship, it really wasn’t his cup of tea, and I don’t know that he ever saw them again. Still, it was great for us to be able to see our favorite bands together, and Bill Graham’s crew made sure that the two shows were memorably enjoyable events. 

Thursday, July 30, 2020

The Grateful Dead Unplugged - 1968-1970

Although 1970 was fraught with financial and personal challenges for the Grateful Dead, it was a tremendous year for them artistically. One of the most notable aspects of a very busy touring year (133 nights of performances, 147 shows in total) was the introduction of acoustic sets into their performances at select shows. These performances were often showcases for the new songs the band was writing at the time, which resulted in what are arguably their two best studio recordings – Workingman’s Dead  and American Beauty– but they also provided the opportunity for Garcia, Weir, and Pig to revisit their folk roots with a variety of traditional, bluegrass, blues, and folk tunes. The purpose of this piece is to trace the band’s experimentation with acoustic instruments onstage from the first occurrences in late 1968 to November 1970, when the Dead abandoned acoustic shows until 1978. I should note that, deep in writing this piece, I discovered a 2009 Deadessays post  that covers much of the same ground. Since my take is somewhat different, I was an eyewitness to three of the shows with acoustic sets, and I had already penned nearly 8000 words, I decided to go ahead and put this out in honor of the 50thanniversary of the year of the Acoustic Dead.


Late 1968 and Early 1969

The band’s use of acoustic instruments began relatively late in 1968, when they played one-off acoustic versions of Aoxomoxoasongs. For the first half of 1969, they often introduced the suite that comprised the bulk of Live Dead with Dupree’s Diamond Blues followed by Mountains of the Moon with Garcia playing his acoustic Martin and Weir playing muted electric guitar. 


From known setlists, Mountains of the Moon was only performed live by the Dead using at least one acoustic guitar (Jerry’s). Its first known live airing was at the Los Angeles Shrine Auditorium on Dec. 20, 1968, where Garcia performed it solo on acoustic guitar. Its next airing was at. the infamous 1/18/69 Playboy After Dark taping, where the Dead dosed the cast and crew. Garcia played an acoustic six string, Weir an acoustic 12 string, and TC a harpsichord on what is one of the most beautiful and ethereal live versions of that song and can be seen here. Existing set lists show Mountains only having been played nine times live, and it was wedged in between Dupree’s and Dark Star in all but two of the shows. 


There were a couple of relatively raucous fully electric versions of Dupree’s played at the Avalon Ballroom on January 24 and 25. The version from the 24thalso notable in that Pig played some funky harmonica that the band obviously decided did not fit the song. It was also played electric a number of times after the semi acoustic couplet leading into Dark Star was dropped, and of course was resurrected in 1981 through the rest of the Dead’s performing history. 


The hybrid acoustic electric versions of Dupree’s and Mountains of the Moon were performed relatively often during the first half of 1969. The first known version of this acoustic couplet is from the Dead’s late show on 2/11/69 at the Fillmore East, a show that was released on CD in 1997. The medley recurred on that tour in Philadelphia (2/15/69) and at the second Dream Bowl show in Vallejo (2/22/69).  It was subsequently played at two of the winter 1969 Fillmore West shows recorded for Live Dead, again at the Avalon in on 4/5/69, on tour in Boston (4/22/69), Chicago (4/26/69) and back at the Fillmore West on 6/7/69, when the two songs were preceded by the debut version of Dire Wolf, performed nearly solo (with minimal percussion support) by Garcia. 


On July 12, the show at Flushing Meadows opened with the last Dead performance of Mountains of the Moon a stand-alone version again with Garcia on his Martin. Although the only known recording is a sketchy audience recording, Audio quality aside, it is another hypnotic version, with a long spacy outro. 


Starting in June, Garcia started playing his new ZB Pedal Steel on a few songs in many sets, a trend that continued at many shows during the last half of the year. As interesting as these performances are, they are tangential to the topic at hand here, although quite a few tunes later played during acoustic sets appeared either during these performances or at shows where Bob Weir sat in with the early versions of the New Riders of the Purple Sage in summer/fall 1969. 


Acoustic Sets in December 1969

As the year drew to a close, Garcia and Weir played short acoustic sets to open the 12/19/69 show at the newly re-opened Fillmore Auditorium, and again at the McFarlane Theatre in Dallas. Both sets were hastily assembled because of band member absences. For the Fillmore show, Phil Lesh was MIA somewhere, whereas Billy Kreutzmann was the latecomer for the Dallas show. These sets, which seem ad-hoc, presumably presented the model that the band decided to institute in limited shows during 1970. 


The Fillmore set consisted entirely of covers and traditional tunes that Garcia and Weir presumably knew by heart. Bob opened with “Monkey and the Engineer,” a whimsical song that has been in his repertoire, on and off, since 1964 when he was with Mother McCree’s Uptown Jug Champions. The tune was composed by Jesse Fuller, an Oakland musician who performed as a one man band for years in the bay area and also composed “San Francisco Bay Blues,” which was covered by many artists including the Weavers, Hot Tuna, Eric Clapton, and Phoebe Snow. 


Next Garcia sang the traditional murder ballad Little Sadie, which was one of a large group of songs that Garcia and his contemporaries heard on recordings by the likes of Clarence Ashley, Woody Guthrie, and possibly Johnny Cash. This song remained a mainstay of Garcia’s acoustic performances throughout his career, with a studio jam version recorded by Garcia, Tony Rice,  and David Grisman on their Pizza Tapes release. 


Next, Bob Weir sang Long Black Limousine, a slow ballad that was written by Vern Stovall and Bobby George, and subsequently covered by a variety of country artists, including Bobby Bare, Glen Campbell, and Merle Haggard. The most famous version, however, was recorded by Elvis Presley in 1968 on From Elvis in Memphis.  Weir summoned the same mournful country voice he used to good effect on Green Green Grass of Home (played several times in 1969 electric with pedal steel).


Garcia chose another traditional tune I’ve Been All Around This World, for the last acoustic number. Widely covered in the folk and bluegrass traditions, this slow ballad describes the arrest and incipient hanging of the subject of the song. Like Little Sadie, this song stayed in Garcia’s acoustic repertoire for the duration, and was the title tune of a Garcia-Grisman album released in  2004.


At this point, Phil apparently showed up, so they switched modes and started the electric set with the first live rendition of the fine but short-lived Workingman’s Dead outtake Mason’s Children.


A week later, in Dallas, history repeated itself with Kreutzmann MIA, allegedly still in the air en route to Dallas. As a result, Garcia and Weir again did an acoustic duet to open the show.  The set started with the four tunes played at the Fillmore, played in the same order. 


Next Weir sang a gospel tune, Gathering Flowers for the Master’s Bouquet.  Written by Marvin Baumgartner, this song was recorded by a variety of country artists, first by California family band the Maddox Brothers and Rose in 1948. It was subsequently recorded by the likes of Hank Williams, Connie Smith, and the Stanley Brothers. This was the only performance of this song at a Dead concert, although Weir subsequently performed it with Lukas Nelson at a club gig in 2013. 


Still killing time, Garcia and Weir did the first acoustic version of Black Peter, which had been in their performing repertoire for the month of December and had in the set for 10 previous electric renditions. At the end of the song, Garcia announced that Kreutzmann had shown up, and the duo wrapped up the acoustic set with a performance of Uncle John’s Band, without keyboards or bass, but with muted percussion and Phil on harmonies.


Strumming Down in New Orleans

The next acoustic set within a Grateful Dead concert also occurred as a result of an accident – this time the failure of the speaker on Phil Lesh’s amplifier during the January 31, 1970 concert the Dead played with Fleetwood Mac at the Warehouse in New Orleans. The second of three shows the band played there, this show was followed by the infamous arrests of most of the band on drug charges so, on a personal front, it was not one of the group’s better evenings. 


The acoustic segment that closed their show opened with six songs featuring just Garcia on electric guitar and Weir on acoustic. They opened with another rendition of Long Black Limousine, on which the duo alternated lead vocals on the two verses. Jerry’s tastefully arpeggiated solo is a highlight, and the whole performance was punctuated by ominous electronic grunts from the ailing amplifier. 


Next Weir sang Seasons of My Heart, a slow George Jones ballad that he sang seven times with the Dead between November 1969 and February 1970. Most of those performances were electric with Garcia on either pedal steel or electric guitar. On this version, Garcia’s enthusiastic electric leads provide an interesting contrast to the song’s languid tempo.


Sawmill is a Mel Tillis-penned, uptempo country tune that Weir performed regularly with the New Riders during his “Bobby Ace” guest spots beginning in August 1969. It was also performed several times during electric Dead sets 


Old, Old House is another George Jones tearjerker that the Dead had performed once previously, at the Fillmore East on 6/21/69, with Garcia on pedal steel guitar. Weir also sang it at least once with the New Riders on 8/28/69, and probably on other occasions. 


The streak of George Jones hits continued with the catchy, Don Rollins-penned tune, The Race Is On, which Weir also performed a number of times with the Dead and the New Riders with Garcia on pedal steel guitar, and subsequently became a mainstay of the Dead’s 1973-74 repertoire, making a few return appearances in the 80s and 90s. 


Following a short break, Garcia returned to perform what I believe are solo acoustic versions of three songs performed acoustic in previous concerts already discussed – Black Peter, Little Sadie, and I’ve Been All Around this World. Following the Garcia tunes, Pigpen did the first of what would be many solo versions during the year of Ligntnin’ Hopkins’ Katie Mae, Although Mckernan primarily played keyboards, harmonica, and percussion during the Dead’s electric sets, his work in folk clubs prior to the Dead had shown him to be a very skilled country blues guitarist, a talent that he put to work many times during the 1970 acoustic sets. 


The part of the evening that was recorded ends with a ragged version of Cumberland Blues, the first in an acoustic set featuring two acoustic guitars and one and possibly two percussionists. Weir butchers the words in two places during a performance that seems like a very weird way to end a show. It is possible that more music was played after the tapes ran out.


After these three impromptu acoustic sessions, the Dead decided to start incorporating acoustic segments into selected shows. There were at least a couple of reasons for the implementation of these acoustic interludes. First, much of the material that the band was composing during 1969 and early 1970 readily lent itself to performance with acoustic instruments. Secondly, this format allowed for the performance of a variety of traditional, folk, and country covers that either were not part of the Dead’s electric performance repertoire or would not be presented in what the band members viewed as an optimal format in that context. Third, and possibly most importantly, Garcia and Weir had evidently enjoyed these returns to their folk roots, and wanted to do more of them.


It is important to note that these acoustic performances, like the partially acoustic interludes leading into Dark Star in 1969, did not occur at every show. In most cases, they occurred in theatres during multi-night runs, where the equipment and staffing were available for what were often time-consuming and technically complex changes of equipment necessitated by setting up microphones for the guitars, setting up seats for Garcia and Weir, and rebalancing the PA for the different mode of delivery. The decision to include or exclude these sets may have also been dictated by how much time the band had for their sets and whether the venue had a curfew or not. 


Fillmore East February

The first premeditated acoustic sets occurred during the late shows of the last two nights of the Dead’s legendary February run at the Fillmore East. Portions of these sets were officially released in 1973 as part ofBear’s Choice. During the Fillmore East run, acoustic music was not performed during the shorter early shows, and there was no acoustic set during the late show on February 11, which instead included an extended jam with members of the Allman Brothers and Fleetwood Mac. However, the late show encore that night was an acoustic version of Uncle John’s Band featuring a single guitar and spare hand percussion. The acoustic sets themselves were just Weir and Garcia (and later Pig) on acoustic guitars – no bass or percussion. 


For the February 13 late show, the Dead opened with five electric tunes, taking a break after a lengthy Smokestack Lightning to reconfigure the stage for the acoustic numbers. What followed was a six-song acoustic set, starting again with Monkey and the Engineer and Little Sadie.” Next up was the first Dead rendition of the Everly Brothers tune Wake Up Little Suzie sung with verve by Weir with energetic harmonies from Garcia, leading directly into “Black Peter.” Following “Uncle John’s’ Band, Pigpen again closed the set with Katie Mae.


The next night, the acoustic set in the late show occurred after three electric tunes, and was a repeat of the previous night’s setlist, with the exception that “Little Sadie” was replaced by the first Dead version of Dark Hollow, a song initially recorded by folk singer Bill Browning in 1958 that subsequently became a standard for bluegrass performers like Mac Wiseman and Ralph Stanley. The Dead did a killer version of this tune, with great harmonies from Garcia behind Weir’s vocal lead. 


Texas Tour

After the Fillmore East shows, the Dead, still smarting from the arrests in New Orleans, did a five date tour of Texas. All of the audio that is known from that tour is a fragment of the show on February 23 in Austin, which again included a six-song acoustic set, notable in the inclusion of an acoustic version of Me and My Uncle as well as the last Dead performance of George Jones’ Seasons of My Heart. The entire acoustic set is known.

2/23/70 Acoustic:  Monkey and the Engineer, Little Sadie, Me and My Uncle, Black Peter, Seasons of My Heart and Uncle John’s Band. It is unknown whether acoustic sets occurred in the other Texas shows. 


Family Dog and Southwest

For a three-night run at the Family Dog, the Dead played entirely electric shows on 2/27 and 3/1, but inserted a brief three-song acoustic set in the middle of the 2/28 show: Monkey and the Engineer, Little Sadie and Black Peter.


The Dead did not do any acoustic songs at their 3/7/70 Santa Monica show, but broke out a five and a half song acoustic set well into the show the next night in Phoenix. After six electric songs, the acoustic set comprised Monkey and the Engineer, I’ve Been All Around this World, Me and My uncle, Black Peter, and Katie Mae, the outro of which morphed into a bizarre blues improvisation by an audience member that endured for nine minutes, during which Pig dispensed with his acoustic guitar and the band took up their electric instruments to finish out the piece. The same audience member inserted his strange vocal and harmonica contributions into the last two electric songs, Not Fade Away and Lovelight. If this had happened a few years later, roadies would have had him offstage before he sang a note.


Capitol Theatre/March Shows

After a week or so of rest, the Dead were back on the east coast, starting with the mysterious and unrecorded performance with the Buffalo Symphony Orchestra on 3/17, followed by a two night stand opening the Capitol Theatre in Portchester. This venue became the site of some of the most iconic Dead shows of the next year, and again both late shows featured acoustic sets in the middle of the performance. 


On March 20, the six-song acoustic set included three tunes new to the repertoire. Deep Elem Blues was in the Jerry Garcia’s repertoire since at least 1963, when It was performed by Jerry and Sarah Garcia at the Tangent in Palo Alto. It was also in the Dead’s early setlists, as evidenced by their performance at the Matrix on 12/1/66. Don’t Ease Me In was the Dead’s first single, and was also part of their performing repertoire in 1966. Friend of the Devil came out of some songwriting sessions between Robert Hunter, NRPS songwriter John Dawson, and Garcia near the end of 1969. Originally intended as a New Riders tune, Garcia ultimately commandeered Friend of the Devil for the Dead. The Capitol performances, featuring many minor lyrical differences relative to the version ultimately recorded on American Beauty, appear to have been the first versions performed live by the Dead. The remainder of the set featured two Workingman’s Deadtunes, Black Peter and Uncle John’s Band, and another version of “Katie Mae.”


The next night’s late show featured a shuffled version the previous night’s setlist plus one additional tune: Friend of the Devil, Deep Elum Blues, Don’t Ease Me In, Black Peter, Wake Up Little Suzie, Uncle John’s Band, and Katie Mae. 


The next show the Dead played, on 3/24, was an all-electric performance at an amusement park, Pirate’s World in Dania Florida. Maybe because of the venue, they played a relatively short set (90 minutes), but it was notable for a rare-for-1970 electric version of Don’t Ease Me In, which was doomed to become a tiresome set closer/encore in the last two decades of the band’s tenure. 


The next verified date in the Dead’s weird 1970 touring schedule was the April 3 show at the Field House of the University of Cincinnati. Again, the band stuck in an acoustic set mid-show after playing six electric songs. This seven-song set was notable for the first known live performance of Candyman, but otherwise consisted of material performed in earlier sets: Friend of the Devil (still with some alternate lyrics), Deep Elem Blues, Candyman, Wake Up Little Suzie, Black Peter, Uncle John’s Band, and Katie Mae. For the first time, the entire acoustic set featured restrained drums (both Hart and Kreutzmann this time) and Lesh on harmonies and electric bass. Katie Mae continued to be performed by Pig solo. 


Fillmore West with Miles Davis

One of the Dead’s most famous hometown runs was this co-bill with Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew band which had the legendary trumpeter appearing before the Dead’s single long set. As was the case at the Capitol shows, the Dead played short acoustic segments in the middle of their set on the first three of the four nights. On the fourth night, the band played the entire show in electric mode, although they performed a few songs (Candyman, Deep Elem Blues, Black Peter) that were normally performed during acoustic sets during that era. The 4/11/70 show was notable in that it included the first acoustic version of New Speedway Boogie. As shown below, the setlists were relatively similar the first three nights.


4/9/70: Friend of the Devil, Deep Elem Blues, Candyman, Black Peter, Uncle John’s Band, Katie Mae

4/10/70: Friend of the Devil, Deep Elem Blues, Candyman, Wake Up Little Susie > Black Peter, Uncle John’s Band

4/11/70: Don’t Ease Me In, New Speedway Boogie, Friend of the Devil, Me and My Uncle, Candyman, Black Peter, Uncle John’s Band. 


I went to the Friday show as described here.

Photo: Michael Parrish
Photo: Michael Parrish

As in Cincinnati, the acoustic set that night included electric bass and drums for the whole set. 


Family Dog – Hartbeats/Cards Off the Bottom shows

After playing a short electric set at a benefit on April 15, the Dead took part in a unique weekend of shows at the Family Dog. The shows were billed as Mickey Hart and the Hartbeats and Bobby Ace and the Cards off the Bottom of the Deck, with the rest of the bill being the New Riders of the Purple Sage and Charlie Musselwhite. 


The Hartbeats/Bobby Ace segments each night were extended Grateful Dead acoustic sets, incorporating some of the New Riders into the sets for the first time. Since they were set to begin the first tour of “Evening with the Grateful Dead” shows in a couple of weeks, these could probably be considered as dress rehearsals for those shows. However, they are even more interesting because there is so much material performed that was never played on any other occasions. We are very fortunate that the master soundboard reel of the second of the weekend shows turned up in 2013, having been in Mountain Girl’s possession from a stash of tapes that had been in Jerry Garcia’s possession. Otherwise, these shows, for which audience tapes do not appear to exist, would be basically lost to musical history. Fortunately long time fan Judy Dawson did keep setlists of the other shows, so we have a reasonable picture of the entire weekend, with a single acoustic set each night.


4/17/70: Don't Ease Me In, Long Black Limousine, Monkey And The Engineer, Deep elem Blues, Candyman > Cumberland Blues*, Me And My Uncle*@, Mama Tried*@, Cathy's Clown*@, Wake Up Little Susie*@, New Speedway Boogie*@,Friend of the Devil, Black Peter, Uncle John's Band

4/18/70: I Know You Rider, Don’t Ease Me In, Silver Threads and Golden Needles, Friend of the Devil, Deep Elem Blues, Wake Up Little Suzie > Candyman, Cumberland Blues*, New Speedway Boogie*, Me and My Uncle*@, Mama Tried*@, Katie Mae, Ain’t It Crazy, Roberta, Bring Me My Shotgun, The Mighty Flood > Black Snake


4/19/70: I Know You Rider ; Friend Of The Devil ; Candyman ; Sawmill ; Deep Elem Blues ; The Rub ; Katie Mae ; Roberta ; Big Breasa ; She's Mine ; Cumberland Blues* ; Wake Up Little Susie*@ ; Mama Tried*@ ; Me And My Uncle*@ ; The Race Is On*@ ; Uncle John's Band


The first night, Pigpen apparently did not do any songs, and the set consisted entirely of material performed in earlier acoustic sets with the exception of the Everly Brothers tune Cathy’s Clown, which Weir had done with the New Riders. Although it can’t be verified with recordings, it seems likely that this and the preceding two tunes, Me and My Uncle and Mama Tried, were sung by Weir with harmonies added by Marmaduke from the New Riders, as was the case in Weir’s guest slots with NRPS during 1969 and 1970. If the format followed that of Saturday’s show, Garcia would have played electric guitar on the segment starting with Cumberland Blues and ending with New Speedway Boogie, with David Nelson adding an additional acoustic guitar for those tunes.   


On the 18th, the set opened with the first of the lovely acoustic versions of I Know You Rider that became common during the acoustic sets of the next few months. Delivered at a much slower pace than the electric versions paired with “China Cat Sunflower,” the tune takes on a mournful quality very different than the generally exuberant and uptempo electric versions. It also included an additional verse that was not included in the electric versions “I’d rather drink muddy water, sleep in a hollow log, than stay here in Frisco, be treated like a dog.” 


This show also featured the first acoustic version of Silver Threads and Golden Needles, although the band did a sizzling electric version of the tune back in 1966 and did several versions with Garcia on pedal steel in 1969. As noted above, Garcia played electric guitar on Cumberland Blues through Mama Tried, with Nelson and Dawson from the New Riders sitting in. However, the real jewel of this show is the six-song set of tunes played solo by pigpen at the end of the tape. Starting with Katie Mae, he continued with another Lightning Hopkins tune, Ain’t It Crazy (the Rub), which he had performed back with Mother McCree’s Uptown Jug Champions and that later made its way into Dead electric sets in 1971. The next four songs, were only performed at these shows, and three of them only this night. Roberta is a traditional blues tune that Pig made his own with different lyrics. Bring Me My Shotgun and Black Snake are Lightning Hopkins tunes whereas The Mighty Flood (which John Lee Hooker recorded as Tupelo Blues) is probably traditional but credited to Hooker.

.Pig’s versions of all of these are so well executed and soulful that you would imagine he played them all the time. He may have at home or backstage, but these were the only performances in the context of “Dead” shows, and really show their bluesman in his best light.


The final night allegedly featured the pig mini-set in the middle of other familiar acoustic Dead tunes, and featured two additional blues songs, the mysterious Big Bresa and She’s Mine, yet another Hopkins tune. 


Late March Shows

The week after the Family Dog shows, the Dead played two nights at Mammoth Gardens in Denver. There is a poor audience recording of the first night, which documents a fairly typical six-song acoustic set: I Know You Rider, Monkey and the Engineer, Friend of the Devil, Me and My Uncle, Candyman, and Uncle John’s Band. From a format standpoint, though, this is significant as the first show where the acoustic set preceded the electric set, rather than being stuck in the middle. This format would get further massaged during the May east coast college tour. There is an extensive discussion about the two Denver shows here. It appears likely that the New Riders did not appear, and that the acoustic set preceded the electric set. An interesting annotation is that it appears that opening act John Hammond and Pigpen did an acoustic blues set together after the Dead’s set one of the evenings. Since Pig had been flexing his chops on acoustic blues at the Family Dog shows, this seems entirely plausible.  Before heading back to California to regroup for that tour, the Dead played one long electric set at an outdoor concert in Poynette, Wisconsin. Two attendees confirm that there was no acoustic set at this show.


May East Coast Tour

The Family Dog shows were clearly preparation for a new touring format for the Grateful Dead – an Evening with the Grateful Dead. As noted in Lost Live Dead here, the Dead devised a relatively economical, if physically taxing, method of touring and performing without opening acts. In the new format, the Dead would open the show with acoustic numbers, folk songs first, moving into more country/bluegrass territory in the middle of the opening set, having a few hybrid acoustic electric tunes with Garcia on electric guitar and David Nelson on acoustic, and wrapping up with one or more gospel numbers featuring a vocal quartet of Garcia, Weir, Marmaduke and David Nelson. Next would be the New Riders set, with Garcia on pedal steel and Hart on drums. Weir was frequently introduced in the NRPS set doing some of the country tunes he had been singing with the Dead and the New Riders for the last year or so. Generally the NRPS set would finish with some familiar rock song – either Honky Tonk Women or the Weight, leading into the main dish – an hour plus electric set by the Dead. Regarding the Alfred show, JMF goes to great length here to postulate that this show had a slightly different format, with the New Riders going first, followed by the acoustic, then electric Grateful Dead.


This tour was somewhat of an endurance event for the Dead -17 shows in 19 days, mostly at colleges and a few ballrooms. The tour opener was at Alfred College, one of the State University of New York campuses located in far upstate NY. A complete SB tape of this show circulates, so the format of the show is very clear, and the entire show is relatively concise at just about two hours. 

5/1/70 Acoustic Set: : Deep Elem Blues, I Know You Rider, Monkey and the Engineer, Candyman, Me and My Uncle*@, Mama Tried*@, Cumberland Blues*, The Race Is On*@, Wake Up Little Suzie*@, New Speedway Boogie*@, Cold Jordan*@, Uncle John’s Band.


From Me and My Uncle through Cold Jordan, the Dead were augmented by Nelson on guitar and Dawson, who provided harmonies for all of these tunes. This was the first of many live versions of Cold Jordan, which featured Nelson on mandolin and some really gorgeous four part gospel harmonies from Garcia, Weir. Nelson, and Dawson. 


The best known (and arguably the best) of the May College Tour shows occurred the next night, at Harpur College, the Liberal Arts and Sciences campus within SUNY Binghampton. This show was widely distributed among tapers after a pristine version of the entire show was broadcast on public radio in California and New York, just a few weeks after the performance date. In 1997, it was the first acoustic set commercially released, on Dick’s Picks Volume 8. Clearly the band was having a lot of fun that evening, and the banter between songs during the acoustic set is priceless. It was notable in including the acoustic set debut of two Grateful Dead classics: Dire Wolf and Beat It On Down the Line. Also, contrary to the listing on the commercial release and countless tape lists, Candyman was not a partial version leading directly into Cumberland Blues. Instead, the version of Candyman was cut on the master real, and the remaining portion was ingeniously grafted onto Cumberland. Jerry played electric on Cumberland, Although he had done so on numerous occasions in the bay area, this was also the first night on the tour that Weir guested during the NRPS set, playing on Sawmill, the Race Is On, Me and My Uncle, and Mama Tried. 


5/2/70 Acoustic Set: Don’t Ease Me In, I Know You Rider, Friend of the Devil, Dire Wolf, BIODTL>Black Peter, Candyman, Cumberland Blues*, Deep Elem Blues*, Cold Jordan*@, Uncle John’s Band. 


The next day, the Dead played a free outdoor concert at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut. Despite the absence of an adequate soundboard or audience tape, this is one of the best documented of the May 1970 shows, and you can find an extensive discussion of it here.  It is notable in being the first time the Dead tried to play acoustic music outdoors (apparently with mixed results), and in being one of only two free concerts during the tour. It also coincided with a massive protest over the murder of black panthers and the continued incarceration of Bobby Seale, and followed a series of fire bombings on the campus on May 1. The brief acoustic set featured just Bob and Jerry, as much of the rest of the band was still in transit. A film of the event (viewable only in person at the Wesleyan library) shows a guest harmonica player on two of the acoustic songs, and is also audible on a brief audience tape of the start of this set. 

5/3/70 Acoustic Set (partial list):  Deep Elem Blues+, Friend of the Devil+, Silver Threads and Golden Needles, Black Peter

+With guest harmonica player


Following a couple of rare days off, the Dead played their second free outdoor show of the tour on a chilly night at Kresge Plaza at MIT. This really fine show was one 90 minute electric set, and set the stage for the group’s scheduled show at MIT’s Dupont Gym the next night. 

The 5/7/70 performance was the longest shows of the known shows on the tour, nearly five hours as compared to the total time of two hours at the Alfred College performance at the start of the tour. The acoustic set was unusual in that there was no guest slot with Dawson during the acoustic set, although Nelson played second acoustic guitar when Garcia switched to electric for Cumberland Blues and New Speedway Boogie, which was rendered in a long, pensive version perhaps reflecting the weird political events of the previous several days. Weir guested during the Riders set, doing four tunes: The Race is On, Seasons of My Heart, Mama Tried and Sawmill. 

 5/7/70 Acoustic Set: Don’t Ease Me In, I Know You Rider, Friend of the Devil, Me and My Uncle, Deep Elem Blues, Candyman, Cumberland Blues*, New Speedway Boogie*, Black Peter, Uncle John’s Band.


The next night the band hit yet another State University of New York Campus, this time in upstate Delhi. All that is known of the sets from this show are derived from a partial audience tape of the electric set. Chances are there was an acoustic set, but we don’t have any information about it. This show is discussed at length here.


The next night, 5/9/70 the Dead were over in Worchester Mass at Worchester Polytechnic University. A tape of a partial acoustic set purporting to be this show was proved to actually be the start of the 5/3/70 Acoustic set when matched with the video from that show. Memories of attendees indicate that an acoustic set was played, including Black Peter, Monkey and the Engineer, and Cold Jordan.


Another consecutive gig in the schedule found the Dead down in Atlanta, where the band presumably flew but their equipment did not, leaving them without . Some audience memories indicate that the Dead played with the Allman Brothers, using that band’s equipment because theirs was MIA. Apparently there was no acoustic set, but there was a jam with the Allmans. No recordings are known from this gig either.


5/14/70 found the Dead in Kirkwood, Missouri of all places, playing at Meramac Community College. A complete soundboard recording of this show circulates, and it includes a fairly standard, six song acoustic set: Don’t Ease Me In, Friend of the Devil, Deep Elem Blues, Silver Threads and Golden Needles, and Candyman. The acoustic set was plagued by sound problems, which seems to have led to its early termination.  The band made up for the abbreviated acoustic set with a nearly two hour electric performance, after which they must have caught a flight for New York.


The norm during this era was for the Dead to play multiple night runs at the Fillmore East – a guaranteed money maker for both Bill Graham and the Band. For whatever reason, most likely the scheduled multi-band festival the next day at Temple University, the band only played a single night, with early and late shows, at the Fillmore East. On previous runs at both the Fillmore East and the Capitol, the early shows were short electric shows, with acoustic segments only in the late shows. However, this time the new three-set format was employed at both the early and late shows, resulting in the bands playing a total of nearly six hours in one very long evening. The bulk of the late show was released as Road Trips Vol. 3 Number 3 in 2010. 


Throughout the tour, the configuration of the acoustic sets had been fairly constant, at least based on extant recordings and setlists. The band apparently held back a few surprises for New York, at least in part necessitated by a desire not to repeat material from the early and late shows.  These shows marked the first time on tour that Pigpen participated in the acoustic sets. In the early show, he sang and played harmonica on Ain’t It Crazy (the Rub), performed with the rest of the band, and the last show included his solo versions of She’s Mine and Katie Mae. The late show included two covers not previously played. The set opened with Garcia singing The Ballad of Casey Jones, the folk song that originally introduced the legend of engineer Jones into the folk tradition. This tune was performed a few other times by the Dead, and was common in sets by the Jerry Garcia Acoustic Band in the 1980s. The late show acoustic set closed with another debut, another bluegrass quintet rendition of “A Voice From On High,” one of Bill Monroe’s most moving gospel numbers. Following the electric set, the late show concluded with an encore of Cold Jordan.


Meanwhile, in the New Riders sets, Weir guested on Mama Tried, Me and My Uncle and Sawmill in both the early and late shows.  


5/15/70 Early Show Acoustic Set:  Don't Ease Me In, I Know You Rider, Ain’t It Crazy (The Rub), Friend Of The Devil, Long Black Limousine, Candyman, Cumberland Blues*, New Speedway Boogie*, Cold Jordan*@


5/15/70 Late Show Acoustic Set: The Ballad Of Casey Jones, Silver Threads, Black Peter, Friend Of The Devil, Uncle John's Band, Candyman, She's Mine, Katie Mae, I Hear A Voice Callin'*@


 The next day 5/16/70, the Dead participated in a multi-band outdoor festival at the stadium of Philadelphia’s Temple University, sharing the bill with Jimi Hendrix, the Steve Miller Band, and Cactus. A partial audience recording exists of their brief show, which was a single electric set.


It appears that the band had been contracted to play the final show of the tour at Fairfield University in Fairfield, Connecticut, but the show appears to have been cancelled. This is discussed at great length here


 In any event, the Dead’s marathon spring tour had come to a close. putting them back in the Bay area for nearly a week before leaving for the UK for their first European show, a single shot at the Hollywood Festival in Newcastle-Under-Lyme. Recently uncovered film that was added as bonus footage for the documentary Long Strange Trip does show Garcia, Weir, and Lesh rehearsing the harmonies for Candyman with acoustic guitars at some indoor venue in the UK.


June in San Francisco and New York

After returning from England, the Dead had a week without gigs before returning for another four night hometown stand at the Fillmore West. For these shows, the Evening with the Grateful Dead format was followed, with the exception that home towm blues-rock band Southern Comfort played between the Acoustic Dead sets, which opened the night, and the performances by the New Riders and the electric Grateful Dead.  As had become typical for these acoustic sets, Nelson and Dawson joined for one or more songs near the end of the acoustic set. The first night featured the first version of “Swing Low Sweet Chariot” which featured Nelson prominently on mandolin. Weir guested with the New Riders on 6/4, but not on 6/5, which I attended.


6/4/70 Acoustic Set: Deep Elem Blues, Candyman, Silver Threads & Golden Needles, Friend Of The Devil, Cumberland Blues*, Wake Up Little Susie*, Swing Low Sweet Chariot*, Uncle John's Band


6/5/70 Acoustic Set: Dire Wolf, I Know You Rider, Silver Threads & Golden Needles, Friend Of The Devil, Me & My Uncle, Black Peter, New Speedway Boogie* 


6/6/70 Acoustic Set: Don't Ease Me In, The Frozen Logger, Friend Of The Devil, Candyman, Deep Elem Blues, Cumberland Blues*, Wake Up Little Susie*@, New Speedway Boogie*


6/7/70: Don't Ease Me In, Silver Threads & Golden Needles, Friend Of The Devil, Candyman, *@Cold Jordan,*@ Swing Low Sweet Chariot,*@ Cumberland Blues, Me & My Uncle*@, New Speedway Boogie*


The middle of June was busy for the band. The Dead played two dates in Hawaii, both apparently entirely electric shows with buddies Quicksilver Messenger Service. Workingman’s Dead was released on June 14, and the band went to Memphis for a one-off electric gig on June 19, returning to the Bay Area where they participated in a 6/21 benefit at Pauley Ballroom at UC Berkeley where they performed with numerous other acts, playing a short electric set. 


On June 24, the Dead did another one night-two show stand at the Capitol Theatre in Portchester, NY. Like the two-show 5/15 date at the Fillmore East, the early and late shows both featured the acoustic/NRPS/electric format, making for a very long evening, and two of the more interesting electric sets of the year. The early show acoustic set included a relative rarity, the Gene Chrysler country weeper Let Me In, which was a hit for Porter Wagoner in 1966. That tune shows up a few times in Dead related sets, including the KSAN studios jam featuring Garcia/Weir/John and Mario Cipollina/Pete Sears that occurred in July and another studio jam in Boston in November that featured Garcia, Weir, and Duane Allman. It also included the first acoustic set version of Attics of My Life, which had been played in the electric set a few times in previous weeks. Dawson and Nelson do not appear to have contributed to the early set.  The Late set was notable for the first appearance of Big Railroad Blues, which opened the acoustic set, and for the presence of an acoustic encore of Swing Low Sweet Chariot. 

6/24/70 Early Show Acoustic set: Dire Wolf, Don't Ease Me In, Attics of My Life, FOTD, Let Me In, Candyman, Uncle John's Band. 

6/24/70 Late Show Acoustic Set: Big Railroad Blues, Deep Elem Blues, Monkey & The Engineer, The Rub, Silver Threads & Golden Needles, Friend Of The Devil, Candyman> Cumberland Blues*

Electric set encore: Swing Low, Sweet Chariot*@


Festival Express and Mississippi River Festival

From 6/27 to 7/5, the Dead were part of the Festival Express train tour through Canada. A good deal of footage from the festival tour was shot and much of it ended up in the Festival Express film that was released in 2003. A number of additional filmed performances are viewable on youtube, and an exhaustive exposition of the shows, available film and music can be found here


What we know for sure is that the Dead played a free acoustic set in Toronto’s Coronation Park to placate protesters who thought the shows on the tour should all be free. There was also an acoustic set at the 7/4/70 Calgary show, from which the opening version of Don’t Ease Me In (with Pig sitting in on harmonica) was included in the film. We know from tapes that Candyman, Dire Wolf and Uncle John’s Band were also performed in that afternoon’s acoustic set. 


One notable change that apparently started on the Festival Express tour has to do with the configuration of the acoustic sets. Up until these shows, Garcia, Weir, and Pig (when present), performed sitting on folding chairs whereas Phil Lesh stood up to play electric bass. From the Festival Express shows through the end of the acoustic set experiment, the band all performed standing, with the obvious exception of the drummers and keyboard player, when one was present.


Right after the festival express wrapped up, the Dead played a one nightery at the Mississippi River Festival, an outdoor, multi-day event in Edwardsville, Illinois. Newspaper accounts of the event indicate that an acoustic set was played before the electric set, also verified by this photo by Jeff Ward. 


The Dead at Midnight – Fillmore East

Without missing a beat, the Dead were back at the Fillmore East the next night for the first of four shows. These followed a unique format, starting at midnight and running until the wee hours of the morning. Complete audience tapes exist of the last two nights, but documentation from the first two shows is more problematical. There may not have been an acoustic set on 

7/10/70 – in any event, no setlist or recording exists. These shows featured the debuts of several covers. The 1960 Everly Brothers Hit So Sad (to Watch Good Love Go Bad) was sung as a unison trio by Garcia, Weir, and Dawson, with Garcia still on electric guitar following New Speedway Boogie. Rosalie McFall is a familiar bluegrass tune penned by Charlie Monroe that later became an important part of Garcia’s acoustic repertoire in the 80s and 90s. How Long Blues, sung by Garcia with Pigpen on Harmonica, was a country blues standard written by Leroy Carr and Scrapper Blackwell and first recorded by the duo in 1928. Tell It To Me (often called Cocaine Blues) is an uptempo cautionary tale about the dreaded powder written and recorded by country artist Billy Hughes in 1947. 


7/9/70: Silver Threads & Golden Needles, Cumberland Blues*, Dire Wolf, Swing Low Sweet Chariot*@ 

7/10/70: No setlist known for acoustic Set, although it presumably took place.

7/11/70: Monkey & The Engineer, Don't Ease Me In, I've Been All Around This World, Dark Hollow, Black Peter, El Paso, New Speedway Boogie*, So Sad (To Watch Good Love Go Bad)*@, Rosalie McFall*@, A Voice From On High*@, Cold Jordan*@, Swing Low Sweet Chariot*@ 

7/12/70: Dire Wolf, The Rub, How Long Blues, Dark Hollow, Friend Of The Devil, Candyman, Katie Mae, She's Mine, Rosalie McFall, Tell It To Me, Wake Up Little Susie, Cumberland Blues* 


Bay Area and California July and August

After the Fillmore East shows, the Dead stayed in their home state for the rest of July, August, and the first half of September working on American Beauty. In between studio sessions, they managed a number of gigs, many in very small venues, as they introduced much of the new material, and some additional covers, into their repertoire. They also experimented with a format incorporating just the acoustic Dead set and the New Riders at some of these shows. Unfortunately, the dates of several existing recordings are disputed. Let’s start with some shows that are documented by reliable dates. As Owsley Stanley was prepared to be incarcerated in Terminal Island, the Dead sent him off with a couple of shows at San Rafael’s Euphoria Ballroom (soon to be reinvented as Pepperland). The 7/14/70 show featured an acoustic set, with David Crosby rather than David Nelson playing second acoustic guitar (12 string in his case) when Garcia switched to electric for Cumberland Blues and New Speedway Boogie. The second show, on the 16th, featured one electric set. 


7/14/70 Acoustic Set: Don't Ease Me In, Friend Of The Devil, Dire Wolf, Dark Hollow, Candyman, Black Peter, How Long Blues, Deep Elem Blues, Cumberland Blues%, New Speedway Boogie%

%David Crosby on 12-string guitar. 


Going in chronological order of assigned dates, the next shows for which setlists are known are what is identified as a July 30 Matrix show featuring the New Riders, with Dead members opening with a brief six song acoustic set. The novelty in this set was the debut of a new Garcia-Hunter ballad, To Lay Me Down, which opened the set. Although To Lay Me Down did not appear on record until 1972, on the first Garcia solo album, its lyrics were penned by Robert Hunter in an amazing literary epiphany one afternoon in Late May when Hunter was part of the Dead’s entourage to the UK for the Hollywood Festival. That afternoon, as he consumed a fine bottle of Retsina, he penned the lyrics to Brokedown Palace, To Lay Me Down, and Ripple, three of the Dead’s most tender and enduring ballads. The version performed at this show is fully formed, the same sans some instrumental differences with the one that appears on Garcia. 

There are at least two problems with the assigned date for this show. Newspaper research by some other Dead bloggers turned up both calendar listings and eyewitness accounts of the Dead and New Riders performing not at the Matrix in San Francisco, but at the Lion’s Share in San Anselmo on July 30 and the next two nights in the same acoustic Dead/NRPS combo found on the purported Matrix tape. 


Interesting scholarship on the summer 1970 shows can be found here, here, and here


I would like to offer an additional theory that this performance is not from late July but more likely late August/Early September, simply because of the presence of To Lay Me Down. That new tune is not performed on the well-dated mid-August Fillmore West shows, but does appear on two of the mid-September Fillmore East, so it is entirely possible that To Lay Me Down was put in performance shape after the Fillmore West shows. On the other hand, if this show was from late summer, it might well have included some of the other American Beauty tunes like Ripple, Brokedown Palace, or Truckin’, so the date may not be that far off. 


7/30/70 acoustic set: To Lay Me Down, Dire Wolf, Candyman, Rosalie McFall, A Voice From On High, Swing Low Sweet Chariot 


At any rate, we do not have setlists for the three Lion’s Share gigs. If only one could be a fly on the wall at those shows…


The next Acoustic curiosity from this period is a tape that has always been identified as Golden Hall, San Diego 8/5/70. This soundboard tape was in trading circles very early. I remember it being listed on a very early tape trader ad I found on a bulletin board at Palo Alto’s World’s Indoor Records in the summer of 1971, although I probably did not get it until 1974 or so.


This is an entirely acoustic performance again prominently featuring Nelson and Dawson. A Lost Live Dead post regarding the otherwise undocumented Los Angeles shows in late August suggests that this tape might be from one of the 8/27-28 gigs featuring the Acoustic Dead and the New Riders at the short-lived Thee Club. However, I would again offer the set list as evidence that the date for this show is probably close to being correct, even if the venue is suspect. It included a unique selection of songs that were parts of acoustic sets earlier in July, along with the Dead debut of the Marty Robbins classic El Paso along with the only known Dead performance of Jimmy Martin’s Drink Up and Go Home, which later found a home in Garcia Acoustic Band sets in the 1980s. What are missing, though, are the four new  American Beautytunes performed at the Fillmore West shows – the lone tune from that album being Candyman, which had been in the repertoire since April. Still, it’s a nifty show, featuring a long run of bluegrass tunes and another version of To Lay Me Down. 


“8/5/70” Setlist: Candyman, El Paso, Rosalie McFall, Tell It To Me, Drink Up & Go Home, I Hear A Voice Calling, Cold Jordan, Swing Low Sweet Chariot, Deep Elem Blues, Dark Hollow, Friend Of The Devil, Mama Tried, To Lay Me Down, Dire Wolf, The Ballad Of Casey Jones.


The Fillmore West run was probably both a convenient infusion of cash as the Band was working in the studio on the new album, and a way to do a trial run for several of the songs they were recording. No reliable audience tape exists for the first night, so I would approach the partial setlist below with some caution. I went the third night, and the tape and setlist concur with what I remember from the show. The second night included four tunes not previously performed, all from the American Beauty Sessions. Truckin’, later to emerge as a charging electric rocker, started its performance life as a whimsical, choogling jug band tune. The other two songs from Hunter’s May London Trifecta, Ripple and Brokedown Palace, were performed as a medley. Finally, the album’s Pigpen contribution, the country blues shuffle Operator, was performed by the whole group. There was a piano player on Truckin’, Ripple and Brokedown Palace. The style of keyboard playing is sufficiently different from Pigpen’s work that I believe these parts may have played by Ned Lagin, who was in town during the summer helping to record American Beauty. As usual, Garcia switched to electric guitar for New Speedway Boogie with Nelson joining on acoustic, and the set concluded with Nelson and Dawson contributing to the two gospel bluegrass tunes. 8/19/70’s acoustic set was in much the same vein as that the previous night, including the three new Garcia-Hunter songs along with a couple of the obscure covers played earlier in the summer, How Long Blues and Cocaine Blues. 


8/17/70 Acoustic Set (?):  Cumberland Blues, New Speedway Boogie, Dire Wolf, Candyman, Swing Low Sweet Chariot 

8/18/70 Acoustic Set: Truckin', Dire Wolf, Friend Of The Devil, Dark Hollow, Ripple> Brokedown Palace, Operator, Rosalie McFall, New Speedway Boogie*, Cold Jordan*@, Swing Low Sweet Chariot*@ 

8/19/70 Acoustic Set: Monkey & The Engineer, How Long Blues, Friend of The Devil, Dark Hollow, Candyman, Ripple> Brokedown Palace, Truckin', Tell It To Me, Rosalie McFall, Cumberland Blues*, Wake Up Little Susie*, New Speedway Boogie*, Cold Jordan*@, Swing Low Sweet Chariot*@ 

Acoustic Dead 8.19.70 Photo: M. Parrish


Near the end of the month, the Dead and New Riders played two dates at a new club in Los Angeles, Thee Club. These were again billed as acoustic performances by the Dead with the New Riders playing a regular electrified set. There has been speculation that the “8/5/70” set might in fact be from one of these shows. A thorough discussion of this weekend can be found here

 8/27,28/70 Thee Club, Los Angeles California (Setlists unknown)


Fillmore East September

September was a quiet touring month as the Dead finished up American Beauty,but they did travel to New York for another four-night run at the Fillmore East, continuing the acoustic/NRPS/electric format that they used in previous engagements. Soundboard recordings exist of part of the electric set from 9/19 and of the entire shows from 9/18 and 9/20. Poor audience recordings also exist of the entire shows from 9/17 and 9/18, plus the recently discovered acoustic set from 9/19, so we have a good idea of what was performed during these shows. With the exception of 9/18, when the acoustic set was aborted after two songs because of sound issues, each night concluded with the bluegrass gospel medley of Cold Jordan into Swing Low Sweet Chariot. The first two acoustic sets opened again with Truckin’, after which it disappeared from the acoustic sets for the rest of the year, and started appearing in the electric set on 10/4/70, where it has remained ever since. 


The real oddity of these shows took place on 9/17/70, with the only version of Box of Rain performed by a never-to-be-repeated lineup that very nearly recreated the album version. Phil Lesh was on acoustic guitar rather than bass, David Nelson played electric b-bender lead guitar, David Torbert played bass, and Jerry Garcia played piano, with Bob and the drummers in their usual roles. A truly awful recording can be heard here on Jack Toner’s audience tape. 


The last two nights heralded the brief return of To Lay Me Down, this time with kind of a lead piano part which may have also been played by Garcia. As far as I can tell, this run and the August Fillmore West engagement were the only shows where the band had a piano onstage. It is also prominent in the two versions of Truckin’ so perhaps that was either Pigpen or some uncredited guest.


9/20/70 is justifiably regarded by many as among the best of the 1970 acoustic sets. High energy, and bolstered by the twin mandolins of David Grisman and David Nelson. 


9/17/70 Truckin’, Monkey & The Engineer, Dark Hollow, Friend of The Devil, Ripple, Brokedown Palace, Box Of Rain&, Rosalie McFall, Cold Jordan> Swing Low Sweet Chariot 

9/18/70 Truckin’, Black Peter (aborted)

9/19/70: Don't Ease Me In, Candyman, Silver Thread and Golden Needles, Friend of the Devil, Deep Elem Blues, The Rub, Rosalie McFall, Cumberland Blues, New Speedway Boogie, To Lay Me Down, Cold Jordan> Swing Low Sweet Chariot 

9/20/70: Uncle John's Band, Deep Elem Blues*#, Friend Of The Devil*#, Big Railroad Blues*# Dark Hollow*#, Ripple*#, To Lay Me Down, Truckin', Rosalie McFall*#, Cumberland Blues*#, New Speedway Boogie*#, Brokedown Palace*#



After the New York shows, the Dead did a weird little two-date tour, hitting Pasadena on 9/25 and the Summit in Salt Lake City the next night. Apparently the Pasadena show was the New Riders and one Dead Electric set. On the other hand, the Salt Lake City show (verified by a newspaper review and several eyewitness reports on included a long acoustic set followed by a relatively short electric set. Here’s a partial setlist for the acoustic part. 

9/26/70 Acoustic (partial, from concert review) I Know You Rider, Ripple, Candyman, Friend of the Devil, Uncle John's Band

I have no idea why the two consecutive dates would have had such different configurations. In any event, the Salt Lake show was the last acoustic set played at a one-nighter.



The Last Hurrah – Capitol Theatre November Shows

In October there were the two “Three Bands for Three Dollars” shows at Winterland on 10/4,5 both entirely electric as far as we know (the 10/4 radio broadcast began with the Dead’s electric set, but it is possible the New Riders and/or Hot Tuna played beforehand. 


Starting on 10/10, the Dead spent pretty much the rest of October and all of November on the East Coast and Midwest. 30 dates in about six weeks – a stretch even for a hard-touring band like the Dead. These shows were all electric, and the first leg (10/10 to 10/18) was just the Dead without the New Riders. 


However, when the Dead returned to the Capitol Theater in early November, they played what turned out to be the last three acoustic sets of 1970 on 11/6,7,8 at one of the band’s most legendary runs, sadly known only from some very good audience tapes. The main events at these shows were the wild electric sets, but some interesting tunes turned up during the acoustic sets, notably the second known acoustic version of Attics of My Life and three versions of El Paso and Operator. Either there was no acoustic set on 11/5 or recordings of it were not made or have not survived. 


11/5/70: No acoustic set?

11/6/70: Candyman, Uncle John's Band, Attics of My Life, Drums & Phil, Don't Ease Me In, Deep Elem Blues, Dark Hollow, Friend of The Devil, The Rub, Black Peter, El Paso, Brokedown Palace, Uncle John's Band

11/7/70 Deep Elem Blues, Monkey & The Engineer, Big Railroad Blues, Operator, Ripple, El Paso, Cumberland Blues* 

11/8/70: Dire Wolf, I Know You Rider, Dark Hollow, Rosalie McFall, El Paso, Operator, Ripple, Friend of The Devil, Wake Up Little Susie, Uncle John's Band 


After the Capitol shows, the Dead were back to all electric shows for the duration of their career, save for a few small benefits and the long run of 1980 shows in San Francisco, New Orleans, and New York. There were probably several contributing factors to dispensing with the acoustic sets. First, they were plagued by sound problems stemming from the difficulty of properly placing and balancing the microphones for the guitars. Secondly, in many cases, the extended acoustic sets, plus a healthy set by the New Riders, often resulted in a surprisingly short electric set. And as interesting and fun as the acoustic sets were, the electric sets are where the improvisational and energetic magic happens. Finally, with the advent of two albums worth of strong new material released during 1970 and many more new compositions emerging in late 1970-early 1971, the band simply had more material to play during their electric sets. 


In December, concert billings indicate that the band at least pondered doing a few additional acoustic sets. The 12/21/70 Show at Pepperland was billed as the Acoustic Dead, but it turned out to feature Garcia/Lesh/Kreutzmann/David Crosby (David and the Ding-A-Lings) instead. A Winterland benefit on 12/23/70 was also advertised as featuring acoustic Grateful Dead, but they ended up playing a single electric set instead. Radio ads for New Years eve also promoted both acoustic and electric sets, but no acoustic set was forthcoming. Given Winterland’s cavernous acoustics, an acoustic set probably would not have been very feasible for either of these shows anyway. I remember that the acoustic set for the 12/31/80 NYE show at the Kaiser didn’t really work that well for the same reason.


After generally playing one longish electric set in the late 1970 electric shows, the Dead mostly transitioned to the now-familiar two-set formula at the El Monte Legion Stadium shows at the end of December 1970. The end of 1970 also saw one last appearance of the acoustic gospel quartet, as Garcia, Weir, Nelson and Dawson did a short radio broadcast/interview to hype the three El Monte shows.


KPPC Studios 12/27/70: Silver Threads and Golden Needles, Cold Jordan, a Voice From On High, Swing Low Sweet Chariot.  


The Grateful Dead's experimentation with playing acoustic instruments onstage during 1968 to 1970 was another aspect of their experimenting with different genres of music and different ways of performing. Even though it didn't end up being a permanent part of their onstage persona, it stands as a high water mark of the Dead's creative expression during one of their most interesting and productive years. It's hard to believe this was 50 years ago. 

*With David Nelson

@With John Dawson

# With David Grisman

& Garcia on piano, Nelson on guitar, Torbert on bass