The first time Robert Hunter dropped, “But what would be the answer to the answer man?” on everyone, I am willing to bet everything I have there were at least three “whoas.” I am also laying 7-2 on a “far out, man.”
7/19/74. Selland Arena in Fresno, California. Start with He’s Gone.
None of them are in tune, with themselves or each other, and Garcia is the worst: he is a noticeable quarter-step away from where he wants to be for most of the song. Plus, he playing the wrong chords. Combining those two choices makes it difficult to succeed. He’s not the worst, though: Billy keeps wanting to get to the next bit a beat early and Keith is being overbearing like he could be, stomping and comping in the middle register with block chords like he did near the end…
But then, as they’re finished with the song part of the song, they turn around and snatch it from themselves and wrestle it with brawny arms and steaming loins and thrusty parts and soiled trousers and punchy crotch and shivering fists and they make Selland Arena in Fresno their lady-friend. (Which would be kinda nice, actually. Old ladies got put on the payroll. Plus, there was most certainly not going to be any of that Led Zeppelin shit going on. Yes, hotel rooms were being consumed by flames at precisely the same rate as Keith Moon went through them, but Garcia was always really sorry about it, man. You know he didn’t mean that shit.)
Here’s the only problem: Selland Arena only held 6,500 people. How do you get 6,500 people to produce enough revenue to justify moving the Wall of Sound? During the GODDAM GAS CRISIS. And it wasn’t like nowadays, they didn’t charge rich people prices at concerts yet; hell, there were no rich people in Fresno fucking California in 1974 going to the Dead show. There might have been some cats with a roll, but nobody with any money. Even if they had money, rock bands didn’t learn how to really sell shit until the Stones’ Steel Wheels tour.
But not of that matters, because GO BACK AND LISTEN TO EYES, PEOPLE. The end of it, the Stronger Than Dirt part, where you suddenly realize again that the Dead, if they hadn’t had such strong strictures in place regarding practicing, could have been Yes. You listen good and hard to what Billy is doing: he has, as I’ve mentioned before, become Jazzbo Billy by 1974, but he was GOOD AT IT. Billy played his drums like he fucked his women: anally. (You are right, that is going too far and it doesn’t make sense, but wow did it make me giggle like a ninny when I thought of it)