We’ve got to talk about these matrix mixes. I just went through about eight of them, one after another, the digital version of throwing a paperback across the room after an egregious sentence. Etree is full of the damn things, and fuck me if they’re not a solid 95% unlistenable.
In Bill Graham’s great posthumous oral autobiography (seriously), he tells a story about the light show folks trying to get more power and/or control and/and money. He laughed at them. “If you don’t show up, the band goes on; if the band doesn;t show up, you don’t play. The light show is an appendage! ZAYNE HASHEN MEIN TUCHAS, TU ZAF CHARATZIM MITTEN DER PICKLESCHMECKER! “
In a Matrix, the crowd is the light show: it’s there to complement, to heighten the drama, to punctuate and underscore. It can never become a distraction. Rising, falling, cheering, and occasionally singing: all as one, a great human sweaty glob of instant feedback. Technology (and, let’s not forget the hard work and love that Jeffrey Norman and the whole crew do) now allows for a clarity, a precision to the sound that can border on the sterile.
It’s easy to forget that these shows took place in buildings, buildings just chock-full of people going through some real heavy shit, man.
So when David Lemieux announced that the next Dave’s Pick would be November 30th, 1980 at the Fox Theater in Atlanta, part of the big news was that this would be the first (?) official release that could rightly be called a matrix and from the small (for the Dead: it’s still a two songs that take up 20 minutes) snippet of the finished product, they’ve just killed it. Go listen to the drums, how you can hear them playing not just in the band, but in the room. They sound like they are fixed in space in a way that hasn’t been so clear before. The crowd cheers them on at every turn,
As opposed to–and I’m not making this up–one I listened to (briefly) where the matrix was where a compressed-sounding SBD met an AUD that was just dudes shouting out one another and yelling out names of songs that could never in a million years be played at that moment in the show. (Seriously, Mr. Bro-tato Head? You’re shouting for Wharf Rat in the middle of the first set? Go jerk off your uncle.)
p.s. It doesn’t take more than half-a-dozen comments on the announcement page before someone starts someone starts whining that, while the show’s from the ’80’s, it’s not from far enough in to the decade. Bravo.