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Saturday, November 22, 2014

GD 9/27/70 San Diego Sports Arena - CANCELED


I mentioned in my 11/18/73 post that The San Diego State Daily Aztec is digitized and online. Bravo, and thank you, librarians!
They have also, with the support of taxpayers and/or donors, produced scans of some alternative campus newspapers. These are not generally found in the wonderful UMI Underground Press Collection, so there is real value-added here. I had been unaware of these particular San Diego State papers. There's lots of great Latino, Chicano, and indigenous material, as befits the college's long status (like, late 19th century which, in the Amercian West, is old) as a pillar of a very diverse community. The library also appears to have digitized the San Diego Union, the San Diego Tribune, and the San Diego Union-Tribune, but those collections seem to be onsite access only, and I didn't have time to go to campus. I need to investigate a bit more.
Most relevant to this blog, they did a little paper called Sunrise, and it popped up with the following result, dated 10/7/70 to a search on "Grateful Dead" (which is either my first or second filter, depending on how much stuff I expect to return on it and "Jerry Garcia"):
Thought I would turn you on to a little info on how promoter Jim Pagni makes his money - based on the Grateful Dead concert he was forced to cancel because of Jerry Garcia's illness. When the Sports Arena is filled it holds 15,000 people. At Jim's prices, he would have grossed $60,000. Expenses of $12,000 for groups, approx. $6,000 for the facility, $3,000 for advertising, and $1,000 for miscellaneous would have left J.P. with a new profit of $35,000 of the people's money. No wonder J.P. can afford his Mercedes Benz and $100 suits.
A funny thing happened on the cancellation of the Grateful Dead, Leon Russell concert. Supposedly Jerry Garcia was ill, but supposedly he managed to jam in Los Angeles and San Francisco over that weekend. Maybe the Dead finally learned they were playing for an old enemy, James Pagni, and that he is still ripping the people off with his ridiculous prices.
I had no idea what the columnist (Dave Olsen) was talking about. A little sniffing around generated a listing in the 9/21 Aztec for a Dead show in San Diego on Sunday, September 27, 1970: "The Grateful Dead, a San Francisco rock group, are back in San Diego, this time at the Sports Arena."
Innnnnntehrrressssting. Let's unpack.

1. This is a canceled GD gig previously unknown to me.
So, there's that. Naturally, I have added it to my spreadsheet.

2. The Dead in San Diego
The Dead were never that big in San Diego, really. Here's what I come up with in San Diego area gigs for the Dead and Garcia through the 70s:
  • 8/2/68 GD Hippodrome
  • 8/3/68 GD Hippodrome
  • 5/11/69 GD San Diego State Aztec Bowl. Here is some SDSU eyecandy from the show. There are great Rosie McGee and other color pictures from this gig and surrounding stuff, Garcia sporting a very Chicano looking mustache, some gaudy orange stripy clothes, etc. The eyecandy I linked shows a rather empty looking facility.
  • 1/10/70 GD Golden Hall
  • 8/5/70 Acoustic GD Golden Hall. Uncertain, see especially here.
  • 8/7/71 NRPS-GD Community Concourse
  • 11/14/73 GD Sports Arena
  • 11/18/73 JGMS San Diego State Aztec Bowl [canceled]
  • 12/27-28/75 JGB La Paloma Thater in Del Encinitas
  • 2-21/22/76 JGB La Paloma Theater
  • 1/7/78 GD Golden Hall
  • 12/27/78 GD I show "Community Concourse Golden Hall"
  • 7/28/79 Reconstruction Roxy Theater
  • 11/23-24/79 GD Community Concourse Golden Hall
For some reason I felt like there was a Garcia Band show on 5/24/76, but I must be imaging that. Anyway, they weren't that big in SD. There's something about the tone of the Aztec item – "The Grateful Dead, a San Francisco rock group, are back in San Diego, this time at the Sports Arena" – that feels a little cold. Odds are it's a single copywriter (if it's anything at all), but it just feels to me like things didn't always resonate between the Dead and San Diego.

3. The business information
The columnist obviously holds no love for promoter Jim Pagni. His position on capitalism in general is more ambiguous (though writing about "the people" in the Sunrise in fall 1970 probably indicates something). But this is great info, and I agree with him that paying the act $12k and profiting three times that sounds a little excessive.
I do wonder where the contractual information came from. Certainly the promoter wouldn't reveal it.

4. Something's not quite right ...
Maybe columnist Dave Olsen is just the suspicious kind, but he doesn't quite seem to buy that Garcia was sick, which is the given reason for the cancellation. He makes special note that Garcia played the weekend in LA (I assume referring to the Dead's attendee-confirmed Pasadena gig on Friday 9/25 [deadlists]) over the weekend. But Pasadena was before the canceled Sunday gig in San Diego, and between them was a little jaunt out to Salt Lake City for a Saturday show (deadlists, which gives a setlist). This is the schedule of a band that needed the money - SF to LA to SLC to SD to SF don' make no sense at all, unless you are just taking whatever check won't bounce.
I don't think the Dead would have walked away from $12 grand to fuck over the capitalist pig, which Olsen seems to imply. My first guess was that, y'know, Garcia really was sick. Maybe they brought the contract terms to light as a PR move, vilify the capitalist a little bit. "Sorry for the last minute cancellation. By that way, that guy is really fleecing the San Diego hip community …" But they could not have afforded to refuse the gig to make a political statement. Circumstances must have been exigent.

5. But here's what it might be?
Ruth Clifford Garcia Matusiewicz passed away on the afternoon of Tuesday, September 29th. She had been gravely damaged in a horrible-sounding car wreck on September 8 and had held on for three weeks, in traction in intensive care at San Francisco General Hospital visibly suffering inter alia physically. Jerry had barely interacted with his mom for a good long while, but during her hospitalization he visited all the time, bringing in Mountain Girl, coming along with his brother Tiff, crossing paths with ex Sara Ruppenthal and visiting Ruth petty much daily when he was in town. Sara had kept in touch with Ruth, grandma to Heather. It was one of those things, she recounted, where she had been hanging on for awhile before someone called her up and said "She's dying", and she died that day (that whole paragraph paraphrased from Jackson 1999, 198-199).
Both Sara and Mountain Girl confirm that Ruth's passing hit Jerry really hard (Jackson 1999, 199-200). Talking about it six years later (see JGMF, "JG interview by Father Miles Riley, KPIX-TV Studios, San Francisco, CA"), Garcia sounded wistful: "Once your parents are gone ... y'know ... y'know .... they're gone. On some levels it's liberating and on other levels it's very sad."
What I strongly suspect, now, is that Ruth was fading fast (like so many, I have seen this happen), and Jerry went home to be there. We know he played Pasadena on Friday and the Deadlists setlist suggests he did go from there to Salt Lake City on Saturday. But instead of flying down to San Diego, he went home. I conjecture that the San Diego cancellation represents Garcia having to get back to say goodbye to his mother.

6. And one more thing—
Sorry, but this is JGMF: Olsen has heard that Garcia played San Francisco over the weekend, all while allegedly too sick to play San Diego. What might this be? I would not be the least bit surprised if Jerry, having canceled his Sunday out-of-towner to be close to the hospital, didn't nevertheless play closer to home. Why not? It's his favorite way to spend an evening (this would presumably be at the Matrix, presumably with Merl Saunders), he's not doing anything else, and playing is always the order of the Garcia day, even when it might not help, even just a little, to take the mind off its troubles.
Conjecture upon conjecture upon conjecture, of course. But there's nothing wrong with trying to do some groutwork, filling in some interstices, so long as it's labeled as such. As always, caveat lector.

6. In closing
Funny how little flecks can turn out to be small, rippling echoes out from the huge things we have to endure in the human condition. I believe the Dead canceled the San Diego gig so Jerry could see his mother off her mortal coil. If it's safe to say that everyone has mother issues, I hope you'll permit me to infer that Garcia certainly had his. Anytime you get shuffled off to grandparents' care so a living parent can focus on other things, however legitimate those other things are, you're going to have complex feelings around abandonment, attachment, all that. "It's weird", he seems to say in his 1976 interview, and this is pretty much true under any circumstances.
All things considered, he seems to have handled it reasonably well; productively. He immersed himself in the Dead's American Beauty while "it was raining down hard on us", as Mountain Girl put it; Ruth, Phil's mom, Bob's mom, soon Janis all passing; Mickey wrecked over Lennie Hart's perfidy, fixing to leave the band. But the next several years would see Garcia achieving newfound professional and musical heights, in many ways the most productive years of his life. Trouble would come, as it will, but most of that came later. For now it would be taking the lumps but also stepping up to the plate, making his way –truly, for the first time, his own way, in the sense of lacking even implicit parenting—in the world.

NOTES AND REFERENCES
! listing: Daily Aztec (San Diego State College), September 21, 1970, p. 5, accessed via SDSU digital collections, URL http://library.sdsu.edu/find/digital-collections, consulted 11/21/2014.
! expost: Olsen, Dave. 1970. Metacoustics. Sunrise (San Diego State College), October 7, 1970, p. 13, accessed via SDSU digital collections, URL http://library.sdsu.edu/find/digital-collections, consulted 11/21/2014.
! ref: Jackson, Blair. 1999. Garcia: An American Life. New York: Penguin Books.

p.s. Bonus content for Ross, from Olsen (1970): "Country Joe and the Fish have finally split completely. Joe is doing an acoustic thing and Barry Melton and the rest are putting their own thing together." I am sure you knew that, but anyway …

San Diego Public Library, and Public Libraries

I am in love with libraries. Is there a word for this? Someone has asked a Yahoo, but I am not sure I see an answer that works for me. So, as a book-lover is a bibliophile, as a word-lover is a philologist, what is a library-lover?

Anyway, San Diego Public Library, http://www.sandiego.gov/public-library/, stands as a great municipal institution, befitting this jewel of an American city, really just the perfect climate, shimmering water, profound historical Spanish, Mexican and Anglo historical crossings. To me it feels most like Santa Barbara and San Francisco in its coastal-and-Spanish vibe (less like newer LA, while the warm-and-Spanish thing makes it feel a little like Santa Fe).

As a municipal institution worthy of the name must, SDPL serves the public. Taxes are not tyranny when it comes to things like libraries. Stupidity is dangerous and bad for everyone, and warding it off through public investment is no less useful than warding off the fucking cholera, or paying skilled and strong people to exercise organized violence. San Diego is built and sustained on public dollars to this day, not least through its permanent militarization from Cabrillo in 1542 to the freshly-forged (and several more leathered) Marines et al. flying out last night. Safest place on earth last night, San Diego International airport, assuming you love 'Merca and aren't looking to fight.

I love that it remains the San Diego Public Library. It keeps a municipal name, though of course I reckon that a lot of private money has come in. Two-edged sword, that. The private money that can come in through a naming is huge, as it has been since probably well before the Medicis patronized Florentine artists, scholars and public works. The Times (i.e., the New York Times, in my world) had a neat piece within the last week or so on Avery Fisher Hall. Avery Fisher's family is being paid to allow for an unnaming. The namesake bought cheap in the 80s, like $25 million, and the refresh the NY Phil wants and needs runs to the hundreds of millions. There are lots of prospective someone and something elses that might be interested in that particular emblazoning. There's a shitload of money sloshing around Gotham in the New Gilded Age.

Like my beloved San Francisco Public Library, and like every great public library in the world but with the higher relative frequency you see in temperate climates, homeless folks populate the SDPL, especially during the winter months. Fine. It's a true public institution. Everyone has a right to go there and spend the day hanging out and reading. And who doesn't like to drift off to sleep in a comfy chair over a good book? S'all good to me, good to give a hand to an American who's down on his or her luck, as the Looney Tunes used to say.

Here's my call to some would-be Medici Deadhead in the San Diego area: pay for some more state-of-the-art microfilm/form scanners. San Francisco Public Library's are terrific, and almost certainly not cheap. Someone's gift paid for those badboys, and SDPL could use a few more. And endow a little fund that can pay for printing paper from the old-style film scanners, as well. That's still useful, and I'd bet it doesn't run more than few thou a year. A little endowed gift of $50k to start would probably pay for it, in perpetuity. And it'd make the world a better place.


I already discussed a probable rainout of the putative JGMS show at San Diego State on 11/18/73. Next I'll write up a new-to-me canceled Dead gig with an interesting splash of color (update - done).

Friday, November 21, 2014

JGMS in San Diego 11/18/73 probably rained out

The List has long given Jerry Garcia and Merl Saunders at the Aztec Bowl, San Diego State College (I think it was still this C and not a U at the time), November 18, 1973. Because Garcia and Saunders had barely played out of the Bay Area by that time (Ash Grove in LA 5/29-30/73, the Hells Angels show on 9/5/73, John Scher's Passaic Capitol Theatre on 9/6/73), it would have been pretty noteworthy, had it happened.



Like the canceled show at the University of Iowa on 10/20/73, it would have made some logistical sense, dovetailing nicely with Grateful Dead gigging. Also like it (and another early out-of-town show, 2/16/74 in Passaic), however, it appears not to have happened.

Most importantly, despite this being a putative show in a football stadium, I have never seen any eyewitness accounts. Doggie no barkie.

It appears to have rained in San Diego on 11/18/73, less in town than the biblical 4.5" received in the Palomar Mountains, but having just seen S.D. responding to "rain" the last few days, even a half-inch or so may have been enough to scuttle the whole thing. I believe there may have been Aztecs soccer and/or football events planned for the turf, and maybe they didn't want a bunch of rock fans mucking it up.

That makes sense, but the weird thing is that, besides the door listing reproduced above, after a little poking around I have found no mention of the show in either the San Diego Union or, more problematically, in the SDSU Daily Aztec (digitized, albeit with a rather clunky interface, via the University library's digital collections). I do not understand why the show would have been listed in the door published on November 8th, but never mentioned or advertised in the campus paper.

Thoughts about this? Either way, I am about 99% confident that the show never happened, probably one to strike from The List (now, our individually-maintained lists) of Garcia shows.

Monday, November 17, 2014

How Sweet It Is

Risk and Challenge in the 1970s

Here's a back-of-the-napkin sketch, my subjective assessment, of the musical risks and challenges associated with Garcia's 1970s bands (qua personnel and repertoire) playing black and race-fusion music. So, this includes Wales-Garcia, all of the Jerry and Merl outfits, and all of the JGBs. It excludes NRPS, OAITW, GAMB/GASB (playing mostly white roots music), and the Lagin construct.

I intend this at some rather inchoate meso level. There are incendiary flashes and moments in every period. There are great shows. But that's micro level, and not what I am after here. This is intended as a map, if you will, of the structural constraints posed by players, their skills and shared repertoires.

Happy to receive questions, criticisms, etc.!



Rough chronology.
  • HWJG and early JGMS = highest risk and challenge
  • JGMS Forgerty era considerably lower. I didn't include the spring '73 influection Tickner and Sarah experiments, basically show it declining monotonically to July '73.
  • JGMS Fierro era, an uptick.
  • LOM, perhaps a slight downtick.
  • An uptick with Nicky. This is mostly a personnel artifact, less so a repertoire one. Basically, I am saying that Nicky could challenge Garcia in ways that Merl could not (any longer?).
  • The opiate-cushioned descent down down down, though 1978 is certainly better (and generally at a faster tempo) than the preceding two.
  • Reconstruction uptick.


After that, things are fluid on the personnel front, but not so much in terms of risk and challenge. Garcia and Kahn are tweaking the JGB recipe until the advent of JGB #21b in July 1983, which basically endures until both of the principals are, generally, too sick and far gone to care.

Again, comments, criticisms, etc., most welcomed!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Reconstruction Pix by Chris Stone

Some rare, amazing Reconstruction pix from 4/23/79 and 5/18/79 by Chris Stone. This one Gaylord Birch at the Old Waldorf, May 18, 1979.

Major shoutout to the photographer, 1) for getting some stunning shots, and 2) for posting these freely to share. Please be sure to credit him if you archive a copy of this picture.

h/t JGBP

Color:
Arnold, Corry. 2011. Jerry Garcia Band Drummers Top 10 List. Lost Live Dead, November 10, 2011, http://lostlivedead.blogspot.com/2011/11/jerry-garcia-band-drummers-top-10-list.html, consulted 5/19/2013.
Arnold, Corry. 2011. Jerry Garcia Roots And Branches. Hooterollin' Around, December 23, http://hooterollin.blogspot.com/2011/12/jerry-garcia-roots-and-branches.html, consulted 11/15/2014.
Arnold, Corry. 2011. May 19, 1979: The Old Waldorf, San Francisco, CA: Reconstruction/Horslips. Lost Live Dead, January 6, http://lostlivedead.blogspot.com/2011/01/may-19-1979-old-waldorf-san-francisco.html, consulted 11/15/2014.
Arnold, Corry. 2012. Reconstructing Reconstruction, January-February and August-September 1979. Lost Live Dead, November 1, URL http://lostlivedead.blogspot.com/2012/11/reconstructing-reconstruction-january.html, consulted 11/15/2014.
JGBP. 2012. Old Waldorf, 444 Battery Street, San Francisco, CA. Jerry's Brokendown Palaces, June 24, 2012, URL http://jerrygarciasbrokendownpalaces.blogspot.com/2012/06/old-waldorf-444-battery-street-san.html, consulted 11/15/2014.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

LN jg1980-02-20.jgb.late.aud-Sony_23F-Nak_550.131018.flac2448

The Jerry Garcia Band (JGB #11a) played 22 shows in the 29 days of February 1980, warming up locally and then touring college and off-campus theaters, reportedly to help pay for the film rights to Kurt Vonnegut's "Sirens of Titan". I have all kinds of information about John and Jerry's quest for those rights, and their ultimately fruitless efforts to make a movie, just need to find time to write it all up.

While some dislike the sound of this band, often because of Ozzie Ahlers' electric keyboard and synthesizer tones, I have big love for its, and especially Garcia's, playing during this period. The After Midnight release of the Kean College shows on 2/28/80 give an excellent representation of what the group was all about. Lots of very expressive Garcia guitar playing, by turns fast, fluid, cogent, energetic, inventive, plucky, pensive, burning and corrosive. His voice generally sounds pretty good, the repertoire mixes things up nicely, and everything cooks about as it should. I like lots of shows from the tour, with 2/15/80 (Orpheum Theatre in Boston) and 2/17/80 (SUNY Oswego) maybe topping the list, though they're pretty much all good. And, to repeat, it's mostly about energy and guitar playing.

The early (7 PM) show at UMass Amherst on Wednesday, February 20th has only a rotten multigenerated cassette tape in circulation. I must have listened to it at some point, but maybe not. Anyway, the 10 PM show is much better represented, by a recently-polished 1st gen cassette dubbed from an unknown taper's 2x Sony ECM-23f > Nakamichi 550 setup. It's a good tape. It's not great, cut up a little bit and with some overloading.

But it's worth a listen because it's a good show. I don't have a ton of specifics, see my listening notes below the fold.

I found archives for the UMass Amherst Daily Collegian, which naturally held a few ads, such as this one:
Garcia had his hair long like that during the Reconstruction era, in 1979. The picture is almost certainly from the Dead's May 12, 1979 gig in the UMass campus stadium. Ex-post, one of staff photog Wayne Rosenberg's Jerry snaps appeared the next day, and then there was a review the next week.


In addition to confirming that Robert Hunter opened (which I did not have pinned down), and though not a Dead/Garcia fan, the reviewer (Alvord 1980) is mostly pretty impressed. Garcia is a
master of the fretboard … mesmerizing … Garcia did not get involved at all with the audience, although there was dynamic interaction on the stage between the band members, trading off exquisite solos and jovial expressions of delight and amusement between Garcia and the keyboardist, blank expression by the bassist, and multiple expressions of estranged nature by the percussionist. The bass solo was the only low point of the concert ... it sucked!
I assume he saw the early show, since the bass solo in "Simple Twist" is presumably even more feathery and fluttery than the one in the late show's "Russian Lullaby" (which is, perhaps suspiciously, cut out of the tape under consideration). It is nice to hear that Jerry and Ozzie seemed to be having a good time, anyway.

Anyway, good show. "Sugaree", "Tore Up Over You", and even "Midnight Moonlight," which is too often Jerry starting to pack it in, especially impress me.


REFERENCE:

Alvord, Rick. 1980. The Dead's head plays it true to form. Daily Collegian (University of Massachusetts, Amherst), February 25, 1980, p. 7; via URL https://archive.org/details/massachuse19791980univ, accessed 11/9/2014.

Daily Collegians

https://archive.org/search.php?query=%22daily%20collegian%22%20AND%20collection%3Aamericana

That'll get you to scans of the Daily Collegian (University of Massachusetts, Amherst). I gathered up the stuff around 2/20/80, which I have also listened to. The search function seems a little slow - these are some pretty huge files. The pdf of 1979-1980 weighs in at 2GB. Beautiful images, and the scrolling interface seems to work well.

That's not to be confused with the Daily Collegian (Pennsylvania State University): http://digitalnewspapers.libraries.psu.edu/Default/Skins/collegian/Client.asp?skin=collegian&AW=1415545206513&AppName=2

Here are a few other "daily [or otherwise] collegians," college papers that have been archived back in time, sufficient to be useful for GD/Garcia research. Universities are among our greatest assets, and they often do a great job of documenting and archiving themselves. I would gratefully receive links to more sources, or, even better, the best comprehensive link for this sort of thing, because as I inspect this rabbit hole it goes quite deep.

American University:
Bard College: http://inside.bard.edu/campus/publications/archive/
Boston College Heights: http://newspapers.bc.edu/

Cornell: http://guides.library.cornell.edu/c.php?g=30982&p=198784
The Five Colleges of Ohio: http://dcollections.oberlin.edu/cdm/landingpage/collection/p15963coll9 
University of Washington Daily from 9/67-2/68 (interesting dates!): http://content.lib.washington.edu/dailyweb/
Vassar College: http://newspaperarchives.vassar.edu/

etc. etc.

I wish Cal would do the Daily Californian ... the present archives are only 1999-2011.

Lots of Dead and Garcia shows at colleges. At some point I'll be able to give more precise numbers. Lots of ads, previews, reviews, listings, mentions, exposts. Lots of money issues, needless controversies, etc. There are universes of material in the college papers.








Grateful Dead Studies



So Many Roads : The World in the Grateful Dead, A Conference & Symposium; Date: November 5-8, 2014; Location: SJSU Student Union.


Krieger, Lisa M. 2014. Grateful Dead: An early Silicon Valley startup. San Jose Mercury-News, November 7, 2014, URL http://www.mercurynews.com/education/ci_26894788/grateful-dead-an-early-silicon-valley-startup, accessed 11/9/2014.


Sounds like a great event. Congratulations to Michael Parrish, Nicholas Meriwether, and all involved in putting this on and participating.

I hope the folks on the commercial end of the Grateful Dead universe continue to step up and fund the Grateful Dead Archive, patronize the arts and letters more generally. The public sector support for that stuff is disappearing, the rich-getting-richer are going to have to do it. C'mon, hippies, step up to the plate!

Dead in the Panhandle - Sunday, April 9, 1967

Video! (Reminder: great index of Dead-related video here)

http://stock.mrfootage.com/pages/assets_clip/popup_play.php?session_numb=80572&language_numb=1&business_numb=1004&shot_numb=407764

http://vimeo.com/97755921

http://vimeo.com/97755927

These were shared at DNC by Gordon the Drummer.

The 921 link has two minutes of pure gold, starting with the Grateful Dead playing "Caution", high quality color and sound, a bit distant (but correspondingly atmospheric)  in the Panhandle. Wow.

GtD says "In these clips I'm hearing bits of Caution, King Bee, Viola Lee Blues, and an unfamiliar blues shuffle tune sung by Garcia". The last piece sounds pretty interesting to me, would love to hear what others hear.

The link ending 927 is mostly atmosphere, but it's fascinating. A lost child is named - it'd be interesting to interview all of those kids that are announced as lost at Dead shows, "Frank" and all those people. I don't quite catch the name on my one pass-through.


More on this show:


See also http://lostlivedead.blogspot.com/2010/01/january-april-1967-grateful-dead.html;

posters: URL http://www.deadlists.com/posters/1960s/19670409b.html;


Yellow Shark:
The Longshoremen's Hall and Panhandle performances are well documented - The Panhandle sometime in the afternoon (plenty of photographs exist) and Longshoremen's late in the evening. However, there was planned a 2PM Haight-Ashbury "Street Dance" show organised by The Diggers (for one hour). I have always separated this from the Panhandle event as it followed a street theatre event at Haight & Ashbury - and it was called "Street Dance" - which would be inappropriate for Speedway Meadows.

Anyway, again, very cool to be able to see and hear even tiny snippets of this. My thanks to all involved in making that possible!

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Prosopography

“the investigation of the common background characteristics of a group of actors in
history by means of a collective study of their lives” (Stone, 1971: 46).

Stone, L. (1971). “Prosopography,” Daedalus 100(1): 46–79.

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Jerry's New Year's Eve - LN jg1975-12-31.jgb.all.aud-Falanga-Menke-8664-retrack.noshnid.shn2flac


GarciaLive 5

GarciaLive, volume 5, December 31st 1975 Keystone Berkeley (2014) is out, available via jerrygarcia.com.

Let me start by expressing gratitude for these GarciaLive releases. Having been a massive outlier in my interest in Garcia on the side, having often expressed frustration at the paucity of Jerry shows released under the old regime, I am glad to see the music coming out and happy to buy these releases, not least because they are generally very, very well done.

The overall packaging is nice. I appreciate that the booklet picture of the Keystone is correctly placed from ca. 1981 - accuracy is important, and is very much appreciated by those of us who take our metadata like we take our coffee -- seriously. This is an improvement over the inclusion of a photo from 11/26/77, without identification, in a release of the show dated 3/22/78 (GarciaLive 4). I read David Gans's liner notes once quickly, and they look spot-on (more on that below), well-written, well-edited (I had complained about the editing on the killer 12/14-15/74 release), and informative. Good job, David. I haven't listened to it yet, but I have heard that it sounds nice and I fully expect the fat, full, Betty Cantor-Jackson sound. (I hope she is getting paid for these releases!)

Priors on this performance

But I have always disliked 12/31/75 as a Jerry Garcia Band performance and as a Jerry Garcia life event. The main billing for the show is that it's Jerry Band's only NYE show. That's true, but it doesn't go very far if the music isn't good.

I have known the performance from the tapes. I would have been listening to the very early shns of the soundboard (like this badboy) and, especially, the Louis Falanga-Bob Menke upfront (possibly onstage) ambient recording (shnid-8664), since these were fresh on the etree FTP sites. All told I probably listened to the Falanga-Menke tape a good 3 or 4 times through, the board once or twice. That's a lot for any single show.

People generally consider this a great one, but insofar as you'll indulge me in arguing about taste, I'll tell you that I think that's just flat wrong. My hypothesis here is that this is something like the "Cornell Effect" from Deaddom, in which great sounding tapes find mass-circulation relatively early, Patient Zero of the Betty Board contagion, and the show becomes legend. (Cornell is actually a great Dead show, but that doesn't preclude it being overrated.) JGB 12/31/75 at the Keystone has the added Dead appeal of guest shots by Bob Weir (very rare with JGB, only other times it happened were in June '82 and once on Broadway in '87, off the top of my head) and Mickey Hart. Nicky Hopkins draws lots of attention, it's New Year's Eve at the Keystone, and why shouldn't it be great?

But it isn't. As a musical performance, it has some OK moments, and it's rarely downright awful, but mostly it's just boring. That has always been my view.

Listening Preparation

But being a loyal customer, wanting to give the show a fair hearing, I decided to get the release, and to prepare my listen by revisiting the Falanga-Menke tape. Pin down the metadata if I could, just prepare the ground. Like a dog circling around a patch of lawn, if you know what I mean. And of course it became a rabbit hole, but I'll try to cover some ground and walk away from all the things that must be walked away from, conditional on the finity of our time here together. Anyway, I have some listening notes below the fold, but here are a few takeaways.

Players

Confusion bedeviled the sociometrics of this gig from the beginning. Les Kippel wrote in Dead Relix (1976) that
Contrary to advance rumors, the Grateful Dead did not play this past New Year’s Eve. However, Bob Weir and Chris Herold from Kingfish did show up to play at the Garcia Band’s show at the Berkeley Keystone that evening. Bob played rhythm guitar and sang backup vocals, and sang lead on “C.C. Rider.” Other material played at the show included “Catfish John,” “Road Runner,” and so forth. Rumor has it that that might have been the Garcia Band’s last performance.
A few issues later, attendee Jim Wasserman (1976) wrote a letter to the editor, correcting Kippel that the drummer was not Chris Herold, but, he thought, Bill Vitt. This is a great letter, which I reproduce in whole so Corry can read about Grayson Street (see Arnold 2009).
I was at the show, and some of the info you said about it was incorrect. Chris Herold of Kingfish was not there. Weir was there as you said, but I believe the drummer was Bill Vitt, sitting in for Ron Tut [sic]. Also, Mickey Hart showed with Weir for the second set - - and played a very primitive drumset used by the warm-up band (whom I didn't know).

The first band consisted of the drummer, (a bass, snare, tom tom, and two cymbals in the total set) and a slow blues slide guitarist who was pretty good, but generally a let-down for the opening of a New Year's show.

The Garcia Band was also joined by Matthew Kelly of Kingfish from very early in the show. The overall performance was quite good, once the boys got it underway, however. There was what seemed like hours of tuning up and the band took two very long breaks. The show was like a fine old' party, and I think that's just what Garcia was into -- partying on New Year's Eve.
So witness one says the non-Hart drummer was Chris Herold, witness two says it was Bill Vitt, and Corry (Arnold 2009) comes along and has it as Greg Errico. I become confused.

But that's all over now, because now we have Official Documents, and it's Mr. Errico on the skins. (On the Falanga-Menke tape one can hear Nicky slurring "Thanks Greg" at note 3). Otherwise, it's as we have understood things: Matt Kelly on harmonica (throughout the show, as I hear it, should pin it all down), Bob Weir on guitar and Mickey Hart on drums (sets II and III).

Setlist

In putting together what I have around this show, I found a 5-minute fragment of tape that I remember some guy sending me some years ago, labeled 12/31/75 Nicky solo "Maple Leaf Rag", a tuneup from the start of the show. I had always vowed to give it some attention, and I did on this occasion. It is five minutes of tape from an alternative audience recording (i.e., not the Falanga-Menke tape). It's nowhere near as good as theirs, and it is degraded, but it is nevertheless revealing. First, the smaller point, I can hear taper talk where guy says "that looks like the guy from Kingfish". I wonder if Les Kippel was recording this, or if in some other way the taper's guess became Dead Relix's error?

Second, the tuning is not just Nicky, it's the whole band, as far as I can tell. And, it's not Scott Joplin's "Maple Leaf Rag", as advertised. It's Joplin's "The Entertainer". I can't tell you how much I love this little snippet. In terms of the American musical mosaic, it occupies the same part of the canon, just replacing one singleton, now a never-played (Maple Leaf Rag), with another (Entertainer). But I also love it because it's Nicky Hopkins playing "The Entertainer". He is so brilliant, and he can make even the most well-worn classic sound fresh as daylight; this is about as pure a piano tune as you can find, being played by about as pure a piano player as ever graced a bench.

Very cool. But also, tinged. Dawson's Hopkins biography (2011) shows clearly that Nicky was the ultimate sideman, lacking in any of the discernible talents and inclinations that might make one a successful front man, except his musical wizardry. He was shy and quiet and ill-suited to the role (see my "Bloody Hell"), and yet this seems to have been the role that the JGB (Garcia, Kahn and Tutt) and/or Nicky himself allowed to operate. There's just something desperately sad about Nicky playing "The Entertainer", with all of his (and its) beer hall authenticity, warming up for the big show. Later, sweetly optimistic about 1976: "It might even be good for me; you never know" (note 7). To your health, Nicky.

"Mother Nature's Son" is a Garcia singleton, part of the small, compact, tastefully curated set of Beatles material he played publicly.

Performance

You can see the listening notes, and I have already given my bottom line summary. It's OK in parts, it's bad in parts, but mostly it's just boring. It's a mehfest.

Other Context

Here is a little bit of color around this gig, which was contracted for the standard $500 JGB-at-Keystone rate (this would rise to $750 a night in 1977), but probably saw considerably more than that moving around.
  1. Nicky is wasted. You knew this, but he's really, really wasted. He's at that horrible place (note 7), where he's both "pissed as a rat's nightmare" and "dry as a fuckin' boneyard". I believe him.
  2. This is the last JGB #1 gig, as Nicky exits stage left. The conventional wisdom is that he was just too wasted and he had to go. I will argue in the book that he was never planned to last beyond the New Year. Either way, a few days later he'd be gigging a little with ol' pal John Cipollina, he never played with Garcia again, and he entered, from this night, perhaps the darkest period of a life too full of them.
  3. Jerry and Mountain Girl are breaking up (Jackson 1999, 266-268). Right around this time Jerry deeds the Stinson house to MG and moves in with Deborah Koons in Belvedere.
  4. Late 1975 has always been my guess for when the opiates become regularized. I don't know if the following refers to 1975 (it could be any year through 1975, really), but I have always thought it could have: "one Christmastime, on a whim, [Ron Rakow] took it upon himself to score some [China White] for himself and Garcia" (Jackson 1999, 289).
  5. Money is tight, the Dead are going to have to start touring again, the Grateful Dead Movie is already an albatross that would hang around Garcia's neck until mid-1977, etc. etc.
I guess my point is that this is a pretty dark time in the Garciaverse. I would hate to extrapolate from that to this particular performance (the Winterland shows from a week and a half prior are actually quite good). And it's possible I am letting that darkness shade my listening, though I don't think so.

The Show as a Release

So, I find this release a little problematic insofar as it's not a great performance, and it's got all kinds of darkness around it. I understand the marketing appeal of the Dead guys' presence and the fact that it's Garcia's only New Year's Eve with the JGB. I also understand that quality tape is probably in sparer supply than one might wish. I am not going to be too hard on The Powers That Be, but would certainly argue for "great performance" as the first criterion of interest to this particular paying customer.

Anyway, references below, then listening notes below the fold.

REFERENCES
Arnold, Corry. 2009. December 31, 1975 Keystone Berkeley Jerry Garcia Band. Lost Live Dead, December 13, 2009, URL http://lostlivedead.blogspot.com/2009/12/december-31-1975-keystone-berkeley.html, consulted 12/31/2013.
Arnold, Corry. 2010. 2119 University Avenue, Berkeley, CA: The Keystone Berkeley. Lost Live Dead, December 31, 2010, URL http://lostlivedead.blogspot.com/2010/12/2119-university-avenue-berkeley-ca.html, consulted 4/22/2012.
Arnold, Corry. 2011. Jerry Garcia and Keystone Shows Overview. Lost Live Dead, January 2, 2011, URL http://lostlivedead.blogspot.com/2011/01/jerry-garcia-and-keystone-shows.html, accessed 7/23/2012.
Dawson, Julian. 2011. And On Piano ... Nicky Hopkins: The Extraordinary Life of Rock's Greatest Session Man. Foreword by Klaus Voormann. San Francisco: Backstage Press.
Jackson, Blair. 1999. Garcia: An American Life. New York: Penguin Books.
JGMF. 2014. "Bloody Hell".
JGMF. 2014. Nicky after JGB.
Kippel, Les. 1976. Bits. Dead Relix 3, 2 (March-April), p. 19.
Wasserman, Jim. 1976. [Letter to the editor.] Dead Relix 3, 4 (July-August), p. 2.