The second half of 1984 is Garcia's Rock Bottom period. But it's not all terrible, and some of it is rather amazing. Ain't that always the way.
My reaction to 12/6/84, a Thursday at the Starry Night in downtown Portland, is similar to my reaction to 8/24/84. The vocals are unprofessional, embarrassingly bad. For a guy who testified to feeling responsible to give at least a professional effort to his paying fans, out of respect to them, in this period he tested and, on some nights and some dimensions, transgressed that boundary. Yet his guitar playing is incendiary, not just hot (really silvery hot), burning, but also very expressive. That's the thing that contravenes my priors. I would not expect such fluidity and articulation to come out of the fingers of a stone-cold junkie. Opiates anesthetize. Yet there's an awful lot of feeling in the guitar playing here.
What a weird little tour, the "1984 Northwest Tour", per the handbill. I have a few random thoughts.
- I infer from the handbill (which looks like it could have been Garcia's personal copy ... har har) that the Friday 12/7 show at Starry Night was sold out and so isn't listed.
- I won't say "only Garcia" and his operation would call this a tour. I guess it is, strictu sensu. But it ain't much of one.
- I assume that Windham Hill Records paid for Michael Hedges, maybe for the handbills, etc., defrayed costs for Garcia.
- Every time he's in Eugene, we have to look for a Kesey connection, though I don't have any evidence of one.
Let me elaborate a bit more on one point.
Whenever people make the argument that Garcia's side projects were about drug money for John and him, I think they have something like this little jaunt in mind. Like the handbill, it's a little filthy, grungy, unclean. You know Garcia was rocking the same black t-shirt and the same icky cords night after night, dandruff covering his shoulders, sweating like a greased pig, pungent, feculent (per wk), fingers covered in tar from smoking Persian. He and John had scraped the bottom of the barrel with an acoustic duet tour out east for John Scher, now, a week later, a week later, up to the PNW. It all feels a little like chomping down on the tinfoil from Garcia's bindles. A little zingy.
That's probably "right", but so what? We all gotta eat. Jerry and John in this period had needs, and needs cost money, and you gotta go out and get paid if you want them fulfilled. The nature of the needs is kind of irrelevant. It's not like the guy is lazing around the house all the time. This is the end of a year in which I count 128 musical events, mostly live shows by the Grateful Dead, the JGB and the Garcia/Kahn duet. That might not sound like much for the average American who works fifty five-day weeks. But the gig must be physically exhausting. I get physically exhausted, to the point of soreness, lecturing about political science. Standing up and blaring away for a few hours in a smoky little place in seedy downtown Portland would take it out of you. Then there's the road. At some point I'll be able to calculate some distances, and 1984 would be a fine place to report on them. But the dude was zigzagging the country all year long. And, if you believe in the frictionless market (I call her Sparkle, my unicorn), then private returns equal social returns, and Garcia probably generated a shitton more revenue in 1984 than any of us did. There's always that about the Dirty Fucking Hippie.
At some point around this time, my sense is January 1985 but it could have been December 1984, the GD and other loved ones apparently stage an intervention and tell Garcia to get clean. Ever the passive-aggressive, he fuck yous them by getting busted in Golden Gate Park on January 18, 1985. I think this 12/6/84 show is an interesting fleck in the whole mosaic, deeply flawed but strangely compelling, a Human Thang.
**update: see also LN for the next night, 12/7/84**
Jerry Garcia Band
8 NW Sixth Avenue
Portland, OR 97209
December 6, 1984 (Thursday) - 7 PM
74 min s1s2p Otto Rice aud shnid-124941
--set I (5 tracks, 53:15)--
s1t01. [0:36] How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You) [8:47] [0:13] %
s1t02. [0:15] Knockin' On Heaven's Door [13:25] [0:15] %
s1t03. [0:05] I Second That Emotion [9:32] [0:02] %
s1t04. [0:15] Mississippi Moon [7:12] ->
s1t05. Tangled Up In Blue [12:32 (1) [0:05] %
--set II (2 tracks, 21:17, missing last three songs)--
s2t06. [0:14] Sugaree [12:35] [0:11]
s2t07. [0:03] Get Out Of My Life, Woman [8:07] [0:06] %
[MISSING: Simple Twist Of Fate]
[MISSING: Run For The Roses]
[MISSING: Midnight Moonlight]
! ACT1: Jerry Garcia Band #21b
! lineup: Jerry Garcia - el-g, vocals;
! lineup: John Kahn - el-b;
! lineup: Melvin Seals - keyboards;
! lineup: David Kemper - drums;
! lineup: Jaclyn LaBranch - vocals;
! lineup: Gloria Jones - vocals.
! Recording: symbols: % = recording discontinuity; / = clipped song; // = cut song; ... = fade in/out; # = truncated timing; [ ] = recorded event time. The recorded event time immediately after the song or item name is an attempt at getting the "real" time of the event. So, a timing of [x:xx] right after a song title is an attempt to say how long the song really was, as represented on this recording.
! TJS: http://www.thejerrysite.com/shows/show/1735.
! db: http://db.etree.org/shn/20325 (sbd); http://db.etree.org/shn/124941 (this fileset); http://db.etree.org/shn/127067 (Bruce Young flac2496); http://db.etree.org/shn/127068 (Bruce Young flac1644).
! map: https://goo.gl/maps/W2atf
! venue: http://jerrygarciasbrokendownpalaces.blogspot.com/2012/07/starry-night-8-nw-sixth-avenue-portland.html
! band: JGB #21b, THE Jerry Garcia Band (http://lostlivedead.blogspot.com/2012/01/jerry-garcia-band-personnel-1975-1995.html).
! R: field recordist: Otto Rice;
! R: field recording equipment: 2x Sennheiser 441 > Sony D5M
! R: field recording media: 1x cassette, unknown stock;
! R: field recording location: front row balcony;
! R: transfer: Marantz PMD 510 > HHB 850 CD/0 by Otto Rice (jjoops's copy); extraction, mastering, encoding by Jamie Waddell.
! R: seeder comments: "from the Jjoops Tupperware, unconfirmed exact lineage; Very Good Audience Recording by Otto Rice ... seeded at Lossless Legs 7 4 2013 a Project **GEMS** mastered by Jamie Waddell"
! R: yes, nice tape.
! P: The vocals are horrific. Want to cringe in embarassment for Our Hero? Check him out trying to sing @ 2:45 of Miss Moon. The guitar work sounds fine.
! P: t01 HSII Garcia's vocals are truly painful to behold. But, as was so often the case, his guitar work seems not to suffer. The song goes on a couple of extra measures at the end, while Jerry thinks about how he's gonna do the final vocal inflection without a functioning voice.
! P: t03 ISTE brutal vox. The ladies sound good behind him. You can hear why he wanted those big voices behind him on the chorus. He needs to vocally carry as little as possible. Jerry solo late 2 over 3, some tempo management issues early in the solo.
! P: t04 MM horrific, horrific, vocals. @ 2:45 he clams badly. Guitar solo 3:30ff sounds good.
! t05 (1) JG: "We're gonna take a break for a little while, we'll be back in a little bit."
! R: t05 TUIB seeder said it "has a few small glitches, but is mostly complete [missing from sbd source]." IMo these are more than small glitches. From 6:12 to the end, there are lots of tape gremlins.
! P: t05 TUIB oh my God these vocals ... The humanity! He flubs first verse, but it's the croaking that really gets me. Ouch. The guitar playing is quite good, e.g., in late 10-minute mark. Kemper hitting sharply, Melvin watercoloring with purpose. Nice. The "compensation hypothesis", that as has voice got really bad, he made up for it with creative and powerful guitar playing, is worth entertaining.
! P: t06 Sugaree features some scintillating guitar work, e.g. 8-minute mark. Seeder GEMS loves the Sugarees from this time period (e.g., August 1984), and I can see why. This is good.
! P: t07 GOOMLW the note Jerry hits around 15 seconds in is so freaking tasty. He is doing some really fast runs, almost like Viola Lee Blues, while he tries to lock in the tempo. Nice!