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.