Thoughts On The Dead

Musings on the Most Ridiculous Band I Can't Stop Listening To

Tag: barton hall

Were They Ever Here At All?


Does music leave scars on buildings like it does on hearts? Maybe a venue is like a coffee cup, and the inside gets stained after years of use, darkening and thickening and flavoring every cup thereafter. Or like resin on a bowl, and you could take a paper clip to, say, the Fabulous Fox and scrape off the gooey leavings?

Maybe venues have favorite bands; maybe they trade tapes; maybe some nights, they suffer through the acts just like the audience.

An old roadie I know told me that if you were in a theater on a night it was dark, and you listened carefully, you could hear it singing to itself. I don’t know how trustworthy old roadies are, though.

Thoughts On The Second Set Of 5/8/77

  • Most famous Dead intro?
  • Bill Graham at the Great American Music Hall on One From The Vault is pretty good.
  • This one just kinda happens.
  • General Admission wasn’t as highly structured in 1977 as it is today: the kids could crush up against the stage, and Take A Step Back was a regular in set lists throughout the years.
  • And then, Phil.
  • Garcia starts it, sketching out the chords.
  • Bobby, too; a tiny counterpoint.
  • And Mickey hits his tom three times:
  • And then, Phil.
  • WOMP!
  • Ba-DOOOM.
  • And begins the second set of 5/8/77, which is the selling point of the show, which is the most famous show and BEST EVAR and Library of Congress and yarble yarble.
  • Around 70 minutes of (almost interrupted) uncut choogle: this is not the stepped-on custy shit.
  • Garcia has taken over the song, because that is what Garcias do, and his tone is purer and cleaner than it would be on Fall Tour, when he would switch from the white Travis Bean to Wolf.
  • Mrs. Donna Jean only helped out in the Scarlet>Fire transition sometimes, but I like when she did: it is very spooky and I become frightened, but in a good way.
  • She sounds like a sexy ghost.
  • Garcia is now soloing again.
  • I’m going to stop mentioning that: you should just assume Garcia is soloing at all times.
  • Anyway, here’s my thesis: the revisionists are wrong, and this set is actually special.
  • This doesn’t discount from the meta-textual bullshit that weighs the show down; a large part of why 5/8/77 is more famous than other (arguably better) shows from that tour is because it was more available than other shows, as a tape, back in the day.
  • IMG_4231
  • (I stole that picture from Jesse Jarnow, which means you have to go buy his book.)
  • That was the tape everybody had, not 5/25 or 5/5; some people may have had those shows, I suppose, but I did not.
  • As with everything else, I was strictly an end-user when it came to Dead tapes: I knew one guy who traded, and he made me copies of his stuff, and not all of it.
  • And I suspect that there were a lot more people like me than there were committed traders with libraries who were able to make any sort of educated comparison between shows.
  • But here’s the thing: if you had a thousand tapes, or a hundred, or a dozen, then one of them was going to be 5/8/77.
  • If you only had one Dead tape, then it was definitely going to be 5/8/77.
  • So, the revisionist theory states, if we had the entire Fall Tour available to us–as we do now–we would not privilege May 8th, and instead see it as just another of a string of superb shows from the East Coast.
  • The rallying cry of the Cornell Revisionist is “Not even the best show of the week.”
  • (I have decided that Cornell Revisionists are now a thing that both exists and needs to be capitalized.)
  • Ahem.
  • You all right?
  • I get excited when he does that.
  • One of his better tricks.
  • They are now screwing around in between songs, which is different than tuning between songs, but they are also tuning a little.
  • A thought I’ve had: what if other bands took five minutes between each song, but we just don’t know it because they didn’t record everything?
  • Estimated starts like Scarlet: Mickey’s toms and Phil’s swoopity bass.
  • His bass–and its swoopifying–is one of arguments against Cornell Revisionism: while Phil played variations of the Scarlet intro at other shows, and was swooping up and down the neck of his guitar all year, he did it the best at this show.
  • Phil is on fucking point, motherfucker.
  • Charlie comes, Phil’s getting ’em first.
  • Get some, Phil.
  • Keith is back on the wimpleorgan, and it sounds like a funeral for a TV vampire.
  • I know I was going to stop mentioning when Garcia soloed, but he has turned the Mwah Mwah Machine back on, and it makes me so happy I had to tell someone; it’s late and I didn’t want to knock on the neighbor’s door.
  • Funny thing: remember the whole “uninterrupted choogle” thing?
  • Yeah: no.
  • Literally five minutes of absolutely nothing after Estimated.
  • Great Estimated, by the way: it’s still going as I write this, but I feel like jumping ahead in order to chastise a rock band 39 years ago.
  • Of course: the five minutes of dead air occurred at the show that occurred, but I’m listening to the show that got recorded, so it goes right from Estimated into St. Stephen, one hit after another.
  • (None of these songs were hits, at least not for the Dead.)
  • At least in the version of reality represented by the tape, the second set of 5/8 has a forward thrust, a rushing momentum, that combines with a dramatic leanness–there’s no Drums–to coalesce into a greater work; perhaps that you can’t easily break it into the “pre-Drums/post-Drums” that began to take hold around this time gives it a cohesion that was rare for later second sets.
  • Plus, it fucking rocks.
  • The Dead didn’t rock a lot.
  • We both know what they did, and what type of semi-defunct band they were.
  • But this hour-plus can stand up there with Metallica.
  • (It cannot; that is wanton hyperbole and cheapens us both.)
  • The jamming in this set is more directed than usual: it is the difference between radiation therapy and making love to a Real Doll made of plutonium.
  • And it might be the best defense of Mickey: this sound, this roar, this tumbling thunder is worth the hassle of having a second drummer, and the added hassle of having it be Mickey.
  • Not Fade Away is doing something to my loins.
  • I want to hump food.
  • Or eat sex.
  • Something primal, that you need a shower after.
  • Garcia is now playing primarily harmonics, high and wheeling and FWAAAAAAAANG and it is a good sound.
  • If forests made this sound, I would hike more.
  • But forests just sound like birds.
  • Some forests sound like monkeys.
  • But I digress.
  • If there’s any show from the tour that can rival this one, it’s 5/5; that’s it.
  • I have made my arbitrary decision: FITE ME.
  • First sets are first sets–we all love them, but they’re not allowed to drive the car–and though there are far better first sets (anything with a Sugaree or a Half-Step), no show has a better second set; ipso fact, no show is better.
  • If no show is better–
  • Don’t.
  • –then 5/8 is–
  • Don’t you do it.
  • Thank you.
  • Fuck you.
  • No, not “fuck me,” pal: the category of BEST EVAR is a valid and vital one; it is chosen objectively and based on merit and logic and reason.
  • None of what you said is even possible. There’s nothing objective about art; it exists outside of language and operates purely on an emotional level. Furthermore, a piece of art this famous is even more unknowable, as it’s impossible to evaluate on its own merits. 5/8/77 is the Mona Lisa of the Dead’s universe, and you’re unable to separate the work from the bullshit.
  • Well, yeah, if you put it that way.
  • Such a good show, though.
  • Gonna get back to it.
  • You stay safe out there.
  • Sure: Keith starts out Morning Dew on the wimble, but switches over to piano; Keith always played ballads well.
  • Although Dew really isn’t a ballad; it just seems like one.
  • Faster than Ramble On Rose, for example.
  • The whole second set is quick, but it’s not a rushed and frenzied speed: it’s like a freight train full of beardos.
  • The Dew is around 14 minutes and most of it is Garcia soloing: sometimes he plays a lot of little notes, and sometimes he plays a few big notes.
  • Lyrics, lyrics, lyrics.
  • Back to soloing.
  • Listening to them well and surge and drive the song up and down, building to the peak, masterfully like this makes the 80’s–and Garcia’s slide–that much shittier.
  • The dynamics went out of the band soon after this; each song was one mood and one volume, and the music lost and got lost.
  • Everyone is listening to, and playing around, Garcia: it’s like he’s the accompaniment and the band is all soloing.
  • And now the drummers commit Ragnarok.
  • And Bobby does a little fanning of his own, but NOW GARCIA’S DOING IT AND I LOVE THAT SO MUCH AND HE WON’T STOP DOING IT and he stopped doing it BUT NOW HE IS AGAIN AND–
  • Knock it off.
  • Sorry.
  • It sounds like the end of the world, or like battleships having make-up sex.
  • And then the world ends.
  • Not with a whimper, but with a power chord.
  • But, you know: gotta do the encore, and it’s a good one.
  • One More Saturday Night gets no respect: the Dead stuck it in the encore spot, and the Dead half-assed their encores.
  • OMSN was a victim of geography.
  • Big and boppy here, though.
  • Bobby yelps and Phil swoops and Garcia solos and it sounds just like the Grateful Dead are supposed to sound.
  • There are a bunch of acceptable music theory nerd ways to change keys, but the best way is the rock and roll way: the Cymbal Crash Key Change.
  • This can be explained using the old rock maxim: If you do something loud enough, it doesn’t have to make sense.
  • Thank you all, good night.

Thoughts On The First Set Of 5/8/77

  • Inspiration, move me–
  • Oh. shut the fuck up.
  • Don’t start already.
  • Just get on with it sans invocation, please.
  • Fine: The Grateful Dead, who are currently opening with Minglewood in my headphones 39 years ago, performed a show at Cornell University, more specifically in Barton Hall, and this particular show went on to be famous.
  • Minglewood’s done already?
  • Jesus, I type slowly; now we’re at the first Garcia tune, Loser, and Keith is on the wheezy, squicky keyboard instead of piano.
  • The first reason for the show’s ascendancy to BEST EVAR is evident only a song-and-a-half in: the recording sounds great.
  • I’m listening to the Hunter Seamons matrix, which is what I linked to, and I think the blend of audience noise and the original just exactly perfect Betty Board is well-done; if you’d prefer the naked Betty (hey now), it’s also available, but not as a Charlie Miller transfer, so I can’t vouch for it.
  • Also, if you don’t listen to the matrix, then you can’t hear the guy who yells “DARK STAAAAAAR!”
  • During the first set.
  • In ’77.
  • Don’t be that guy.
  • And now I completely disgusted by humanity and need their sounds erased from my skull (except for the sounds made by the Dead) and I have switched to the SBD I had on my other hard drive.
  • People ruin everything.
  • El Paso bolsters my argument: the drummers are clean and separated; you can tell Billy’s snare from Mickey’s, and hear the difference in high-hats.
  • I’ve made this analogy before, but I like it and so I will again: Betty’s soundscapes were like cafeteria trays.
  • Every food has its own well-defined space, but they combine to form a cohesive meal.
  • Keith is hard left and loud, like he is in all the Betty Boards; Garcia and Phil overlaid on top of one another in the middle; Bobby on the left, and the sound is so clean that even while Garcia is soloing as loudly as possible (so, you know: almost always), you can still concentrate on any other player with ease.
  • Bobby’s doing these quiet harmonic accents in They Love Each Other, and even with the six of them wailing away next to him, you can still make out whether he hits two strings or three.
  • What does the Grateful Dead sound like: what the crowd heard that night, or this recording I’m listening to now?
  • The aether has stopped transmitting in Barton Hall; the sound that was heard there no longer exists.
  • Betty’s tape is still here.
  • They’re playing Jack Straw too slow.
  • Wait.
  • They sped up.
  • Good job, guys.
  • Barton Hall was, of course, named after New York fitness impresario David Barton.
  • This photo is labelled as 5/8, but take that with a grain of salt.
  • dead phil donna bobby jerry
  • The Dead looks very Grateful Dead here: it’s as if they were cosplaying as themselves.
  • Also, Bobby is not paying attention and Phil is hitting the singles bar after the show.
  • Does the show pick up at Deal?
  • It’s a great Deal.
  • Best Deal in town.
  • Hey: you can find a better Deal than this, you take it.
  • Garcia’s killing it.
  • He’s like the Spanish Flu of 1919.
  • Killing it.
  • Is this a better deal than the 10/29 from Northern Illinois?
  • Possibly.
  • Is this sort of comparison boring and pointless?
  • Shit, yeah.
  • (It is in no way better than the 10/29; that one’s the BEST EVAR.)
  • We now come to Tuning.
  • In the Dead’s defense, they got a lot better at tuning their instruments over the years, and I don’t mean that they spent less time doing it.
  • Early on in the Dead’s career, they would also spend four or five minutes tuning their guitars, but the guitars would not be in tune at the end of that time, and they would just play the song that way.
  • (Someone on Etree is bundling up all the versions of every show from 1971, and I’m grabbing the ones I don’t have; naturally, I’ve been listening to them and the only conclusion you can come to from this evidence is that at least one person in the band did not know how to tune their guitar and it was Garcia. Seriously: the man was out-of-tune for the entire year.)
  • I mean, it could be in a lot worse places: the lethal cut in the 3/18/77 Caution Jam, and the Stella Blue heartbreaker from the From Egypt With Love shows.
  • You know I love me some Garcia–who is perfectly in tune here–but Bobby is doing more interesting stuff than him in this LLL>Supplication transition.
  • Garcia’s only playing one note at a time; Bobby is playing many simultaneously.
  • Seems tougher, at the least.
  • Bobby also plays more complicated parts under his vocals, whereas Garcia mostly did a B.B. King-style “play, sing, play, sing.”
  • Y’know what: Bobby is now the Garcia.
  • Stop that.
  • WHAT?
  • He’s right. I don’t wanna be the Garcia.”
  • Bobby?
  • IMG_4202
  • “In fact, I’m amazed you would even suggest it.”
  • You look surprised.
  • “There ya go.”
  • Okay, both of you: get out of here.
  • “Namaste.”
  • Bite me.
  • First set of 5/8/77 is neither overrated nor underrated.
  • Actually, I don’t know if anyone’s really bothered to rate it
  • And even if they did: fuck ’em; listen to it for yourself; it’s free.
  • Mellow first set, almost subdued; still just as tight as an offensive metaphor about the female genitalia.
  • Second cowboy, Mama Tried, which is appropriate for today and ’77, too: Mother’s Day was the next day after the Saturday show.
  • Aw.
  • “Thanks, Mom.”
  • They’re playing Row Jimmy, and I keep referring to Keith’s keyboard as a wimpleorgan in my head; I have no idea where that word came from, but it sounds right.
  • If an organ-grinder was making that sound, the monkey would be dead.
  • It’s just an unhealthy timbre, plus he’s playing it sullenly.
  • (When I make that assertion, please remember that there is an almost 100% chance that I am either projecting or making things up entirely.)
  • Reggae was not the Dead’s groove.
  • All the big bands did some reggae tunes in the late 70’s, just as they all did some disco tunes; the disco songs were uniformly better.
  • The Dead (and every other white-guy rock band) overplayed the reggae tunes, and one of the main points of reggae is to not play too many notes.
  • You just pick, like, five good ones.
  • Plus, Phil’s philosophy of bass was incompatible with reggae, although he had the correct tone for it, especially in the deeper registers
  • (Phil was playing the four-string Alembic in the picture in ’77; he wouldn’t switch to the six-string until ’84 or ’85, and I think an excellent usage of the Time Sheath would be to take that low-B back to ’74 and hear it through the Wall.)
  • Occasionally in between songs, there will be silence.
  • Not silence.
  • There are random cheers.
  • Chairs scrape.
  • But no tuning, and the mics pick up no talking.
  • And then they start the next song with a huge burst of energy.
  • I wonder what they were doing?
  • They blew this intro every single time they played this song.
  • And then Keith and Mrs. Donna Jean left the band and Brent joined; they kept the disco arrangement; they fucked up the intro with Brent, too.
  • One meeting would have solved this, and not even a full-band meeting.
  • Billy was not needed at this meeting.
  • There were only three people involved, two of whom were best friends, and two of whom have had scurrilous things printed about them: they still managed to forget whether the song started with the chorus or the verse four times our of five.
  • I prefer the disco version to the straighter take on it they did in 1970, and dragged back against both the song’s and the crowd’s will for a dozen or so shows in the 80’s.
  • Disco Dancin’ means disco jammin’ and THERE IS SO MUCH DISCO JAMMIN’.
  • They jam so hard.
  • And Garcia has activated the Funktron and powered up the Mwah Mwah Machine.
  • Remember when Bobby was playing guitar better than Garcia?
  • Yeah, that’s not happening anymore.
  • Ooh, maybe he made Garcia mad.
  • You shouldn’t look a Garcia directly in his guitar.
  • It makes him solo.
  • Other things that make Garcia solo:
    • Mornings.
    • Afternoon.
    • The rest of the day.
    • Asking him to.
    • Paying him to.
    • Sometimes Garcia will be soloing and the solo he’s playing gives him an idea for another solo, so in a way: soloing makes Garcia solo
  • This end riff is cousins to Slipknot!, I think.
  • The live fade-out is rare, but the Dead pulled it off a lot; it may be because of the lack of rehearsal needed.
  • The big TA-DA finish requires everyone to be in sync; a fade hides all mistakes.
  • I’m gonna take a short break; I’ll be right back.

We Gonna Pitch A Ball Down To That Barton Hall


I got nothing.

Oh, come on! It’s the Most Wonderful Show of the Year!™

Why the trademark sign?

Garcia Estate has claimed the intellectual property rights to everything involving 5/8/77.

Sure. Listen: I don’t wanna.

You gotta.

Do I haveta?

Well, you oughtta.

What’s left to say?

Maybe you could talk about how when the crowd departed the gym–

It was snowing.

after that scorching show–

It was snowing.

the snow fell from the sky in a very, very , very symbolic and meaningful way.

Oh, perish the thought I would deny the snow’s symbolicism and meaningfullness: it definitely wasn’t just weather.

Y’know, for someone who insists on jamming magic into everything he writes, you’re kind of a literal-minded putz sometimes.

I like my magic; when other people tell me something’s magical, I immediately want to piss on it.

That’s a personality flaw.

Big time, yeah. Anyway: let’s just pretend it’s October 2nd and listen to the Portland show with the Casey Jones opener.

Why don’t you want to listen to Cornell?

It’s not that: I am going to listen to Cornell; I am excited to listen to Cornell; I deliberately don’t listen to Cornell all year so I can enjoy Cornell. But I have nothing left to say about it.

Haven’t live-blogged it.



I despise you.

That Time Of Year

You know it. This one’s indelibly scratched into you; it won’t buff out.  Does that opening Take a Step Back take you back, raise the hairs on your arm, the boner in your soul? The dynamic tension of the intermittent instrumental stabs and barks bouncing on both sides of your head, then there’s Mickey on the right, then Billy opposite, Mickey again, and one of these days some kid’s gonna die with this general admission bullshit, and Keith–high up and sprightly and hard left on this sterling example of Betty’s Boards.

And then: swooping like a sex pterodactyl up to the most perfect note he’s ever played, Phil sounds like a 20-ton Super Ball.

That was the magic moment for me when I was just a small Thought on the Dead, that bombombom phWOOO kicking off the hour-plus second set that has been enshrined in the Library of Congress and in an even more patriotic honor, blasted at detainees at Gitmo. (The only effect the psychological torture had, however was a request for “some ’72, as a palate-cleanser, praise be unto him.”)

I’ve written about this show before and I’ve never really written about the show before and won’t again this time because the show is almost besides the point: it’s a holiday now (try calling in Cornell to work) and the origins of holidays are almost always immaterial. There were lots of friendly meals between white settlers and Indians, but we picked one and put it on a Thursday. It’s the one day of the Enthusiasts’ year when everyone’s listening to the same show: it doesn’t matter which show, honestly. (Probably shouldn’t be a ’93.)

Not to argue against this one: you can’t. They rocked out with their cocks out on this night in Barton Hall, metaphorically except for Billy, and to take the position of BEST EVAR HARGLEFLARGLE is to take a defensible stand.

But it’s a superfluous one: the greatest show the Dead ever played is the next one you listen to, if you’re an Enthusiast.

To ask “What was the best show the Dead ever played,” is like asking “How many flarns do you want?” In both cases, the word your answer hinges upon (are flarns a yummy, wafflle-like dish or kicks to the jaw?) is completely vague.

Define ‘best.’ For some in the band, I assure you that they think the best show ever was the one in which they got paid the most. For Mrs. Donna Jean, it was a show early in ’73, when she had started singing more songs with the band: someone threw her roses, expensive ones, and she pressed one and she still has it.  Someone whipped a used Christmas wreath at Mickey’s head once and he leapt into the crowd and started beating random fuckers with a microphone stand.

Best is where you find it.

p.s. There are a shit-ton of Matrix mixes, “upgrades,” remasters, and karaoke versions of the show on the tubes, but I’ve linked to the original Betty Board, because it’s the best. She got it right the first time.

The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year

bobby greatest picture ever

Happy Cornell Day, everybody. This is my gift to you.

Greatest Story Ever Traded

Yes, clearly it’s Titanic and Mind-Blowing and Earth-Shattering and Vast and Under-Rated and Over-Rated and Just Exactly Perfect, but the one quality that no one ever mentions is accessible. And 5/8/77 is accessible in spades.

Sure, there’s jamming, but it’s not the Neptunian jazz of ’74, nor the acid-skronk of ’69. There’s no waste; Garcia’s long, liquid lines are building to something, always, and Billy and Mickey have their feet on the gas pedals with a safecracker’s whispered touch–little bit faster here, slower there, bigger now Bigger Now BIGGER NOW and shhhhhhh…

There is command.

The greatest ever? No. not even the best show that week–5/5, with its majestic Sugaree gets my vote–but Barton Hall has something that only Veneta and Egypt also have: mystique. Fame. Perhaps we can’t even make an honest reckoning of that night anymore. Read some Don DeLillo; it’s good for you:

Several days later Murray asked me about a tourist attraction known as the most photographed barn in America. We drove 22 miles into the country around Farmington. There were meadows and apple orchards. White fences trailed through the rolling fields. Soon the sign started appearing. THE MOST PHOTOGRAPHED BARN IN AMERICA. We counted five signs before we reached the site. There were 40 cars and a tour bus in the makeshift lot. We walked along a cowpath to the slightly elevated spot set aside for viewing and photographing. All the people had cameras; some had tripods, telephoto lenses, filter kits. A man in a booth sold postcards and slides — pictures of the barn taken from the elevated spot. We stood near a grove of trees and watched the photographers. Murray maintained a prolonged silence, occasionally scrawling some notes in a little book.

“No one sees the barn,” he said finally.

A long silence followed.

“Once you’ve seen the signs about the barn, it becomes impossible to see the barn.”He fell silent once more. People with cameras left the elevated site, replaced by others.

We’re not here to capture an image, we’re here to maintain one. Every photograph reinforces the aura.  Can you feel it, Jack? An accumulation of nameless energies.”

There was an extended silence.  The man in the booth sold postcards and slides. 

“Being here is a kind of spiritual surrender.  We see only what the others see.  The thousands who were here in the past, those who will come in the future.  We’ve agreed to be part of a collective perception.  It literally colors our vision.  A religious experience in a way, like all tourism.” 

Another silence ensued. 

“They are taking pictures of taking pictures,” he said. 

He did not speak for a while.  We listened to the incessant clicking of shutter release buttons, the rustling crank of levers that advanced the film. 

“What was the barn like before it was photographed?” he said.  “What did it look like, how was it different from the other barns, how was it similar to other barns?”

If you heard it today for the first time, would you recognize it as THE GREATEST DEAD SHOW OF ALL TIME EVER? Would the shock of genius, the green flash of recognition hit you, run up your spine, Billypunch the dick of your soul?

If you really did meet the Buddha on the side of the road…would you know it was him?

PS  I have deliberately not linked to the show on the archive because you have it.

Perhaps They’re Better Left Unsung

It wasn’t like roulette, you see. The casinos have made fortunes since they installed those immaculately legible tote boards listing the numbers that have landed previously in red with big ol’ tempting empty spaces in between and they’ve been raking cash in because your dumb ass has evolved to think 15 is gonna hit because it’s due. It makes sense to believe that present events are based upon past observation: that’s why people instinctively shielded their crotches whenever Billy came around, for al the good it would do them. Billy was like Gretzky: he could always find your five-hole.

But just as it is a logical fallacy to think that the rules of real life apply in the casino, it is also a mistake to think that Hoyle has any say over the world. (It’s called the Ludic fallacy, which I know because it is one of those facts that gets lodged in my brain instead of, say, how to find love.)  So, why do we forget that about the Dead? Why do we lionize certain shows only to ignore the rest of the week? These men were, appearances to the contrary, human. They had good runs. But the forest is invisible but for the trees, especially when some trees are, y’know, Barton Hall or Red Rocks. They suck up all the light.

Talking about the Dead is to talk about overshadowing. Garcia overshadowed the rest of the band, Mickey’s overkill overshadowed Billy’s light touch, ’77 and ’73 overshadowed all the other years, and Vince’s playing overshadowed the charitable work he did as a participant in the saddest Make-A-Wish event ever. Even Vince knew enough to be embarrassed.

We let ourselves think the greatness appeared as weird happening, crepuscular beams from a murky sea. Not so. 5/19/74 is rightfully well-regarded, especially the raging Truckin’>Mind Left Body jam. but listen to the very next show, 5/21/74 at UCLA the University of Washington* where they proceed to pull out a GODDAM 45 MINUTE PLAYIN’. Give the kids some Robotussin, shoot the dog and LISTEN to this thing, to the peaks and valleys that spring like Zeus out of inchoate spaciness one after another. (And, since it’s a GREAT matrix mix, listen to the appreciative audience cheer every twist and turn. Listen to ’em ROAR for Donna in Playin’. hell, listen to Donna!

Yeah, 2/14/70 is historic, but 2/11 is better. Yes, 1977 was THE year, but y’know: ’78 kicks more ass than an avowed lover of kicking ass who had spent his last dime to enter an ass-kicking contest in an attempt to win enough money to open his own business, a high-end Ass-Kickery.


*Thanks to a comment by an Esteemed Enthusiast, the location of the 5/21 show has been amended to note the actual location. For his Sherlockian abilities, he will receive a lifetime supply of Bobby Weir’s Shorts Shorteners. Shorts too long? Shorten ’em with Shorts Shortener!

It Was 35 Years Ago Today

Your opinion of 5/8/77 (and I know that, if you’re reading this, you probably own the show, but check out the Matrix tape on I linked to–it might even be better than the famed BettyBoard) has absolutely nothing to do with 5/8/77’s congenital greatness. It’s like the Sun: you cannot ignore it. (Also, it will give you skin cancer, but since everything gives everyone cancer nowadays, why hold that against the show?)

(What if, instead of culture doing what we wanted it to do, we did what culture wanted us to do? A truly memetic view of the world? And what culture wanted us to do was get cancer. That’s something DeadBase won’t tell you, primarily because it makes no sense.)

Now, the first set is spectacular, especially the Lazy Lightning/Supplication and Deal. But, the second set is obviously where the money is hidden. I always loved the very beginning of it:

All right, now we’re gonna play everybody’s favorite fun game: Move Back. Now, when I tell ya, “Take a step back,” everybody take a step back. Right? Right. Okay, take a step back. And take another step back. And take yet another step back. And another. Take a step back. Doesn’t everybody feel better? Whaddya mean, “No?”

And Keith plays his little snake charmer thing, and Garcia says,

Now, see, uh, all these people in front are getting horribly smashed here. So, uh, that means all you people in the back have to move back…

or feel real guilty–

…just move back some.

Then all your friends won’t be so bug-eyed.

Garcia tocks away the Scarlet chords, soft and gentle, and then Mickey counts it off with this little triplet: dot dot dot…

AND THEN PHIL COMES IN: BOMP-buhWOOOO bum Bum BUM.  That immensely confident bounce that the song enters with!

You know the rest of it. Just listen to the music play.

1977 and Bobby Jokes: You Know, The Usual

Why hasn’t Barton Hall been released commercially? Not that I’m looking for it, obviously: I can still remember the all-black Maxxell with 5/8/77!!! written on the tag in red ink. Since then, I’ve never not listened to this show. Even though the boys and I drifted apart during the first decade of the new millennium, that second set still called to me. “Just the first little bit,” I would tell myself. “Just the opening to Scarletdat dat dat–bom ba WHOOOM!” And then, of course, it would be seventy minutes later and the Dead would have destroyed and rebuilt the world with Morning Dew.

But no official release. They have the tapes, obviously, along with a fondness for releasing Spring/Fall ’77 shows–there have been 5 Dick’s Picks, one Road Trip, one Digital Download, To Terrapin, and the 10 CD Winterland ’77 box set. (Swear I did that by memory, so if I’m wrong, then…I don’t know: nothing, I guess. Carry on wasting time reading this nonsense.)

There’s a great book that came out last year, Love Goes to Buildings on Fire by Will Hermes. It might be the definitive history of one of the most fertile musical scenes in history, New York in the 70’s. The author is mugged taking the subway to the train for Cornell and loses not only his money, but also his Dead tickets. The New York Times wrote an article recently about the archive and the sheer volume of shows available nowadays and its effect on ranking shows and whether or not the band should be appreciated show-by-show or by tour. Quite honestly, I think the author of the article was assigned an article covering The Dead’s weary arrival into Manhattan and just couldn’t interview Bobby again. True, there had been no dickpunching since Billy went back to the ocean, but still, you try asking Bobby  any other question other than, “When did you start looking like Dad Wolf from Teen Wolf?

So, who was on Style’s Woof-mobile?

Anyway, what I’m saying is that 5/8/77 is kind of almost vaguely “out there.” And we’re coming up on the 35th anniversary, but no one’s talking advantage of it. New members, fresh blood. Think I haven’t seen hobbies die? I used to work in a comic book shop, man: Hell holds no terrors for me.

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