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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

"JGMS 5/20/71" is probably really JGMS 5/20/71

The tape traveling as Jerry Garcia and Merl Saunders, May 20, 1971, Keystone Korner (a.k.a. xx/xx/71 and 5/xx/71) probably really is Jerry Garcia and Merl Saunders, May 20, 1971, Keystone Korner (750 Vallejo Street, San Francisco, CA 94133) [map | JGC | JGBP | shnid-93137 | shnid-100855 | shnid-126365 |shnid-126389 and listening notes]

The most important reason to believe this is that Dead audio archivist David Lemieux, who has also had his hand in a number of Garcia releases, says it is, having compared it to an uncrirculated Garcia Vault recording dated the next night, 5/21/71.

For whatever reason, maybe because the music is just so mindfuckingly awesome and people get distracted, the metadata around this tape have been slippery. Corry prompted me to clarify my own understanding of the tape, which I have done and report here.

Current Metadata

As of late 2013, this presented as a Debbie tape of JGMS 5/20/71 at Keystone Korner.
Note the four dimensions: the provenance of the tape, the band, the date and the venue.

1) Tape: Pat Lee (from JGMF shnid-93137 notes): "It originated from a stash of tapes that Kidd Candelario made for JG back in the early '70's for his listening pleasure. It was labeled Garcia/Saunders jams with no venue or date associated with the tape. I don't remember if it was a cassette or reel source." I have gathered that Jerry's tapes found themselves in the possession of his ex-/"it's complicated" Debbie, whose Cincinnati-area acquaintance, or acquaintance's acquaintance Will Boswell obtained copies in ca. spring 1979. Note: contrary to the assertion in shnid-93137, the tape did not come from Peter Kafer. late shnids have more accurate information, though none of them have complete and correct information.

2) Band: see Pat's testimony: "Garcia/Saunders".

3) Date: We are given the date of 5/20/71 based on an analysis by David Lemieux, apparently comparing this with Garcia Vault tape dated 5/21/71. See shnid-100855.

4) Venue: Pat Lee and friends concluded that the tape was from the Matrix, based on its sound profile. Matt Smith reached the same conclusion, as reported in shnid-93137. The venue is currently given as Keystone Korner, which seems to derive from Lemieux's analysis. I think KK is right, see below.

Metadata Analysis

First, along with Rob Eaton, Lemieux would be the guy likeliest to be able to make this judgment, just for his ears and understanding of the music. The fact that he has access to a piece of tape that no-one else can compare, and that his A/B comparison leads to the JGMS 5/20/71 KK, is probably sufficient to call QED.

But, of course, I don't give up that easily when there are dead horses to beat. ;-)

Second, related, DL2 understands something that I think is hard to see from outside the Vault: tapes were probably recorded in batches at this early stage. In Bayesian terms, knowing that there's a tape of 5/21/71 in the Vault leads us to raise the subjective posterior probability that the prior night was also taped. Jerry wanted to have some tapes of this newish outfit to listen back to. He did that sort of thing. He had Kidd or Bob Matthews or someone come down to the club and spin a couple of nights' oxide. Maybe he leaves with the tape, or maybe he asks Kidd for it a day or month later. Kidd grabs one of the nights, while another night travels a different path, to an acclimatized Vault shelf in southern California somewhere. (It is noteworthy that "5/20/71" does not appear to be in the Vault, while 5/21/71 does - I agree with MS that this suggests that Jerry's tape --i.e., Debbie's tape-- was a master reel, so we are listening to a first copy. However, the tape feels edited down, too, so unless Will introduced these, it's possible that master reels are with Kidd or elsewhere.) Regarding specifically whether this might be Thursday 5/20 or Saturday 5/22, that's of course hard to say, but the tiny crowd makes Thursday sound more likely than Saturday. These shows were listed in the paper ("Rock, Pop Entertainment Here," San Francisco Chronicle, May 19, 1971, p. 59), but a Thursday might have been reasonably quiet.


Third, we are blessed with a 20 minute tape fragment traveling as "5/11/71 Matrix" (shnid-28784 | listening notes), also featuring "Save Mother Earth". Lemieux A/B'd two pieces of tape, but we can triangulate to publicly-traded tape. The "5/11/71 Matrix" performance of SME sounds very much like this one, on every level. It especially strikes me that Garcia's guitar sounds the same, and it sounds a little 1968ish to me. A few times I said "sounds like Hartbeats 1968" when auditioning. Yet these two pieces of tape must be very nearly contemporaneous to each other, and they seem to have arrived by reasonably independent routes within 9 days of each other in May 1971. (To ensure independence of observations, I'd like to ask Lemieux if he has listened to 5/11/71 or not.) Again, the fact that these seem to say "May 1971" makes it more likely that they really are from May of 1971. And, Bayes again, the fact that we have collector tape called "5/11/71 Matrix" joins the fact of Vault tape from 5/21/71 in increasing the likelihood of escaped-Vault tape from 5/20/71.


What about the old notion that this was a Matrix tape? I agree with Pat et al. that it sounds like the Matrix, both in terms of some monitor fuzz around the recording characteristic of tapes made there and in terms of the room feel. I did an "applause analysis" after t03 and t04, and it sounds like a few dozen people in small room. Moreoever, it sounds for all the world like a few dozen people in small room at 3138 Fillmore Street, San Francisco, based on all of the circulating tape from that room from about the same time period. It sounds like a Matrix Tape.

Yet, as Pat has said, "It was purely our guess that it came from the Matrix, due to the sound, nothing else" and here's the kicker - we have no idea what Keystone Korner sounded like. My notes have it as capacity 200. So, while I guess it was bigger than the Matrix, it was not a big room. If Lemieux is correct that this is a Thursday night, a reasonably small crowd might be indicated.

What worries me more is the consonance of this tape with every Matrix tape I have ever heard, which is, well, a lot, in terms of monitor fuzz, the sound of the hardware. The fact that "5/11/71 Matrix" is labeled as such and is very similar worries me a little bit, too, but not as much. He could have asked for tape to be spun both times and places that month, and although "5/11/71 Matrix" sounds like an ambient (i.e., aud) rather than a line (i.e., sbd) recording, that's not dispositive, either. Dead sound guys were known to record from the hall, no reason it couldn't have happened on a Tuesday at the Matrix. The tape is a little degraded (SME is pitched very differently on the two tapes), and it's hard to see. But, again, my point here is that we don't have a baseline of what KK should have sounded like. Lemieux does, and he thinks it sounds the same. So I reckon that what we are picking up is that as contemporaneous performances in small rooms, possibly recorded on the same gear, tend to sound a lot alike.

Bottom line

These pieces of tape are correctly labeled JGMS 5/20/71 Keystone Korner.

Corry concurs: "I have done a little listening and decided that your analysis is fully supported by the evidence, even if the evidence itself is pretty sketchy. A Thursday night tape (May 20), recorded and casually edited by an insider (like Kidd Candelario) for Jerry's pleasure and analysis makes sense of what is missing and present."

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