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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

New Riders of the Purple Sage and Acoustic Grateful Dead: Lion’s Share, San Anselmo, July 30-August 1, 1970

(This is an updated version of an earlier post,
GD/NRPS19700731-19700801: Lion's Share, San Anselmo, CA, 4/20/2011.)

Some time back, I reported listings for "New Riders of the Purple Sage & Grateful Dead, Lion's Share, 9 pm" for both July 31, 1970 and August 1, 1970, in the calendar section of the Berkeley Tribe. Here’s the scan (click to enlarge). (FWIW, the Tribe calendar’s name was commonly “George”. This day, it was “David” [at the tag end of the question “how about George David?”.)
Calendar section of the Berkeley Tribe v3 n4 (no 56) (July 31 - August 7, 1970), back page.
I have just uncovered a few more tidbits, so I am updating the whole original post. The tidbits are a calendar listing and a preview ‘blurb’ establishing to my satisfaction that the New Riders of the Purple Sage and Acoustic Grateful Dead played the Lion’s Share, 66 Red Hill Avenue, San Anselmo, CA, 94960 on Thursday, July 30, 1970, in addition to the previously-established shows the next two nights.
“Datebook/Opening Today,” San Francisco Chronicle, July 30, 1970, p. 41;
“’Purple Sage’ At Lion’s Share,” San Francisco Chronicle, July 30, 1970, p. 41.
Let me go through some of the points that come up out of this little bit of material, in no particular order.

1. The New Riders of the Purple Sage and Acoustic Grateful Dead played the Lion’s Share, 66 Red Hill Avenue, San Anselmo, CA, 94960 on Thursday, July 30, 1970, in addition to the previously-established shows the next two nights (July 31-August 1, 1970).

2. Michelle’s Mc’s Midsummer 1970 Memories of Acoustic GD at Lion's Share seem confirmed.
With the addition of the Thursday night to our understanding of this run, we can now confirm four of the five confirmable assertions made by Corry's informant "Michelle Mc", as relayed by him at LLD:
The acoustic Grateful Dead played a number of shows at the Lion's Share. They played two or three nights in a row, on a weeknight in the middle of the summer of 1970. She knows--she went. These shows were utterly unpublicized, and only friends of the band were given the heads up.
  • Acoustic Grateful Dead: confirmed.
  • “two or three nights in a row”: confirmed.
  • “weeknight”: confirmed.
  • Midsummer 1970: confirmed.
  • No publicity: disconfirmed. The idea that these shows were mostly for GD family insiders is supported by the fact that the Saturday show was Jerry Garcia’s 28th birthday. If it appeared in the Chron –and more importantly, given that there was an item in the Chron—it was no secret. However, it’s possible that the Share staff called the papers, but weren’t supposed to.
3. Acoustic Grateful Dead
The item and Michelle’s memory make it clear that the Grateful Dead played acoustically (AGD). This brings the 7/30/70 and 8/5/70 tapes to mind, the only two all-acoustic GD nights –billed as such—that I can think of.
4. What About The Tapes?
By the tapes, I refer to the New Riders tape and an Acoustic Grateful Dead tape (shnid 17077), both dated 7/30/70 and said to be from the Matrix. First, given the relative reliability of an “Opening Tonight” item in the Chron and a Matrix tape label, I propose that our lists (i.e., The List) be updated to list GD at Lion’s Share this night, and not at the Matrix.
Second, I had actually offered some analysis and speculation about all of this in the 7/30/70 installation of my still-unconcluded NRPS-Matrix-1970 series. Let me just quote myself at length.
Note that the first NRPS piece (I'll call it set I) runs only 23 minutes. Normally, we would conclude that it's incomplete (and probably missing the material at the start of the set, since there's a set break announcement over continuous tape after Lodi). I do think it's probably incomplete. But it could also be that this night was different, and ended up including the mini GD acoustic set. That might have substituted for at least some part of the expected additional NRPS material.
The tapes do suggest that there was a three-part show on 7/30/70: (I) NRPS, (II) AGD, (III) NRPS. I think the billings fit hand-in-glove with this structure, because …
5. ... The NRPS Appear to Have Been Headliners Above the GD
I think this newly-discovered evidence supports the view that these tape fragments are of a piece, insofar as NRPS seem to be headlining over the Grateful Dead. As far as I know, this is the only time such an arrangement, a kind of inversion of the “An Evening With the Grateful Dead” set structure (see my discussion in connection with a 5/1/70 analysis), ever materialized.
In my post “NRPS-Matrix-1970 05 of 7: LN19700730: Thursday, July 30, 1970”, I had run the discovery of the Tribe listings for 7/31 and 8/1 through evidence provided by the tapes, and said this:
I am intrigued by the possibility that the order in which the acts are listed for those shows might reflect that NRPS was "first billed" over the GD, which might be consistent with NRPS doing two sets and GD just a little acoustic one.
The discovery of another (partially independent) piece of data from the Chron reinforces this connection between these shows and these tapes, in my mind. Both of the calendar listings put the New Riders first, and the Grateful Dead second. If I understand how such listings came about, this correlation is partly spurious: presumably the same person from the Share or from the GD offices called the item into both the Tribe and the Chron. But there may be at least some independence among these observations, insofar as the staffers at the two separate newspapers did not turn the order around and put the GD first. That would have been the obvious, natural thing to do. As far as I know, this is the only time the New Riders are billed over the Grateful Dead. I think the fact that things are billed this way in both papers is no accident. I believe (pure conjecture, of course) that these were quite explicitly and consciously listed as NRPS-GD.
The headline of the preview item, “’Purple Sage’ At Lion’s Share”, especially, reinforces this. It is, I think, incredible to imagine that, under usual circumstances, this would not have said “Dead At Lion’s Share”. Woe betide the Chronicle lackey who should make the mistake of headlining the second act instead of the Grateful Goddamned Dead! No. This was quite consciously constructed with the New Riders at the top of the bill, and the Grateful Dead at the bottom.
I view this as just one more incremental step in the gradual speciation of the New Riders from the Grateful Dead.
David Torbert had been around as NRPS bassist (I said, NRPS bassist. Or, NRPS personnel more generally!) since probably April. They had done a number of high-profile gigs in the An Evening With the Grateful Dead format. I don’t have precise dates for when they started working on the first New Riders album in the studio, but it is certainly right around this time. Dryden said that Tolbert was brought for the express purpose of making an album (Kahlbacher 1974, 27). By mid-1970 the cognoscenti are starting to ask about the Riders’ studio plans (Hard Road interview, took place on 6/22/70). In October 1970, Garcia says that the NRPS record is “about 50% underway” (Goodwin 1971).
We also know, conventionally, that on the Festival Express train a month or so prior to 7/30/70, Garcia had spotted a hotshit pedal steel wizard named Buddy Cage and appeared immediately to have conceived the idea of bringing the Canadian on as his own full-time and permanent replacement. This seems only to have put flesh on the bones of a general plan that he harbored all along, to help found and launch the Riders, help his friends out financially by getting them a record deal (and the attending patch of land in Marin or Sonoma or wherever) and making them famous, and then stepping out gracefully. He was already public with a desire to step back by late 1970: “I think eventually it would be groovy if they auditioned other steel players so they could go out and tour, without having to depend on the Dead” (12/27/70 KPPC-FM interview, shnid 26583).
So, why would NRPS have been top-billed at a local show in a little Marin club that held like 212 people? It’s not like this was their big break. I don’t think they were planning on this being the launch of a national tour in this configuration, of course. Most plausible seems to be just that they wanted to keep things low key, and probably especially the GD guys. These quiet acoustic sets, with loads of wonderful spirituals and such (Jordan, A Voice From On High), along the lines of show known as 8/5/70 San Diego, are profoundly relaxed. From my listen to the NRPS set dated 7/30/70, I said “sounds like just a good old time foolin' around at the bar. It seems to run quite late." Here are Cousin Ace (Bob Weir) and Marmaduke to a sparse and shrinking late-night crowd:
Cousin Ace: “Well the rats are desertin' the sinkin' ship. And, uhh, in the meanwhile we're gonna do a ...” [interruption by Marmaduke: "Welcome to the campfire folks... "] “... hot lead and bloodshed ballad ...” ["... this is story time ..."] “...sad story time ...” ["... here on the plains"] …
All of the tapes in the NRPS-1970-Matrix nexus (feels redundant, but better than NRPS-1970-Matrix matrix!) have that kind of feel. More of alcohol vibe (a la the Festival Express train) than an acid- or coke-fueled one.
So, putting this all together, I think it was probably just a fun, low key, local trial balloon designed to try on what it would look like to have the New Riders go first.
6. What About The Tapes? Part II

So, do the tapes that circulate come from the Lion’s Share? I don’t know. I am honestly pretty stumped.

Everything I know about Lion’s Share tapes has pretty much been posted. Garcia shows are overrepresented since Betty taped so much. Outside of those the only period in which I know tape was regularly spinning at the Share was June 1971-January 1972, when soundman Lou Judson made an impressive batch of recordings. Unfortunately, the pride Mr. Judson seems to take in having taped some of this material does not seem to translate into a willingness to share it, in my experience.

I cannot explain why the “7/30/70” material comes out of “Matrix Tapes”. The likeliest possibilities, it seems to me, are
  1. that the material is from the Matrix, and is mis-dated (though not by much), and the similarities of the tapes and these Lion's Share shows is spurious. Maybe the tapes really are from 7/27/70, as "Mickey Hart and the Hart Beats, with Jerry Garcia", a billing I have just confirmed at LIA's place, also from the Chron (7/27/70, p. 37); or
  2. the material is correctly dated, but comes from the Lion’s Share (e.g., taped by the GD folks), and somehow eventually made it into (or became conflated with) the Matrix Tapes; or
  3. the 7/30/70 show was moved from the Share to the Matrix.
I doubt #3, but #1 and #2 seem about equally plausible to me.

7. NRPS : GD :: Hot Tuna : Jefferson Airplane

Just wanted to note that the Chron item draws this analogy. It’s true for a time, and interesting. Around the same time that Jack and Jorma are branching out from well-known “day-bands” to play some American roots music on the side (alongside, early on, some really hot rock jamming) –which seems to begin in earnest ca. January 1969—Garcia and others in the GD are doing the same thing. It’s obvious, but since I have Jerry and the Jeffersons on the brain I thought I’d bring it up.

Of course, after the initial period, the arcs of Hot Tuna and NRPS diverge. NRPS ends up completely speciated from the GD in terms of personnel and, eventually, organization. Garcia builds it up and then walks away from it. Hot Tuna, of course, always has and always will include (no, really, "be") Jack and Jorma.

8. Summary

Summarizing, six take home points.

  1. This began as a way to just put another event into The List: NRPS/GD at Lion’s Share on Thursday, July 30, 1970, based on evidence from the San Francisco Chronicle.
  2. It seems to confirm the recollection by Corry’s informant Michelle Mc of Acoustic GD sets at Lion’s Share in midsummer 1970.
  3. It is suggestive of one of the only all-acoustic GD sets, ever (alongside San Diego, 8/5/70).
  4. It dovetails almost perfectly with the tapes we have that are dated 7/30/70, though said to be from the Matrix: two NRPS sets sandwiched around a homey AGD set that also features David Nelson and Marmaduke.
  5. It seems to be a rare (perhaps the only) instance of the NRPS headlining over the GD, a kind of reversal of the “An Evening With the Grateful Dead” format (AGD, NRPS, EGD) of 1970. I have argued that this is a small milestone in the gradual (over two year!) differentiation of the NRPS from the GD, which culminated in Buddy Cage taking over Garcia’s pedal steel bench in November 1971.
  6. I don’t know how to reconcile the tapes (said to be from the Matrix) with the rest of the evidence.
There we have it. Why say it in 50 words when you can say it in 2,300?!?


Sunday, February 12, 2012

The List Tradition: Chronicling Infinity

Beyer, Susanne, and Lothar Gorris. 2009. SPIEGEL Interview with Umberto Eco: 'We Like Lists Because We Don't Want to Die'. Spiegel Online International, November 11,, consulted 1/4/2016.

I don't know Eco very well, and there's a bit of mumbo-jumbo in here, but I think it's also a lovely little piece of cultural history, very important to me.

·         "The list is the origin of culture."
·         "What does culture want? To make infinity comprehensible. It also wants to create order ..."
·         "How, as a human being, does one face infinity? How does one attempt to grasp the incomprehensible? Through lists, through catalogs, through collections in museums and through encyclopedias and dictionaries. There is an allure to enumerating how many women Don Giovanni slept with: It was 2,063, at least according to Mozart's librettist, Lorenzo da Ponte. We also have completely practical lists -- the shopping list, the will, the menu -- that are also cultural achievements in their own right."
·         "Wherever you look in cultural history, you will find lists. In fact, there is a dizzying array: lists of saints, armies and medicinal plants, or of treasures and book titles. Think of the nature collections of the 16th century."
·         "In the 'Iliad' [Homer] tries to convey an impression of the size of the Greek army. At first he uses similes: "As when some great forest fire is raging upon a mountain top and its light is seen afar, even so, as they marched, the gleam of their armour flashed up into the firmament of heaven." But he isn't satisfied. He cannot find the right metaphor, and so he begs the muses to help him. Then he hits upon the idea of naming many, many generals and their ships."
·         "At first, we think that a list is primitive and typical of very early cultures, which had no exact concept of the universe and were therefore limited to listing the characteristics they could name. But, in cultural history, the list has prevailed over and over again. It is by no means merely an expression of primitive cultures. A very clear image of the universe existed in the Middle Ages, and there were lists. A new worldview based on astronomy predominated in the Renaissance and the Baroque era. And there were lists. And the list is certainly prevalent in the postmodern age. It has an irresistible magic."
·         "Homer's work hits again and again on the topos of the inexpressible. People will always do that. We have always been fascinated by infinite space, by the endless stars and by galaxies upon galaxies. How does a person feel when looking at the sky? He thinks that he doesn't have enough tongues to describe what he sees. Nevertheless, people have never stopping describing the sky, simply listing what they see. Lovers are in the same position. They experience a deficiency of language, a lack of words to express their feelings. But do lovers ever stop trying to do so? They create lists: Your eyes are so beautiful, and so is your mouth, and your collarbone … One could go into great detail."
·         SPIEGEL: Why do we waste so much time trying to complete things that can't be realistically completed?
·         Eco: "We have a limit, a very discouraging, humiliating limit: death. That's why we like all the things that we assume have no limits and, therefore, no end. It's a way of escaping thoughts about death. We like lists because we don't want to die."
·         SPIEGEL: In your exhibition at the Louvre, you will also be showing works drawn from the visual arts, such as still lifes. But these paintings have frames, or limits, and they can't depict more than they happen to depict.
·         Eco: "On the contrary, the reason we love them so much is that we believe that we are able to see more in them. A person contemplating a painting feels a need to open the frame and see what things look like to the left and to the right of the painting. This sort of painting is truly like a list, a cutout of infinity."
·         "ever since the days of Aristotle, we have been trying to define things based on their essence. The definition of man? An animal that acts in a deliberate way. Now, it took naturalists 80 years to come up with a definition of a platypus. They found it endlessly difficult to describe the essence of this animal. It lives underwater and on land; it lays eggs, and yet it's a mammal. So what did that definition look like? It was a list, a list of characteristics."
·         "The list is the mark of a highly advanced, cultivated society because a list allows us to question the essential definitions. The essential definition is primitive compared with the list."
·         "Schools ought to teach the high art of how to be discriminating."

The piece refers to a forthcoming book under title The Vertigo of Lists, but my copy turns out to be The Infinity of Lists, "first published with the title La Vertigine della Lista in 2009 by Bompiani, Milan"), 2009 translation by Alastair McEwen.
Eco, Umbert. 2010. The Infinity of Lists. Maclehose Press Quercus.

Frankly, the text of that very well done Spiegel interview contains the essential idea of the book, which is a true delight to consume, full of amazing ideas and images. The text is a little uneven in terms of interest to me. Here are some of the words:

What Beyer and Gorris 2009 has translated as "topos of inexpressibility", translator Alastair McEwen renders as "topos of ineffability",[i] a lovelier phrasing to my ear. I am a little bit confused on the translation, in fact, since there is a "Note on translation of the anthology" by Alta L. Price, explaining her translation.[ii] Can anyone explain this to me?

contrasts "practical or 'pragmatic' and 'poetic' lists (Eco 2009, 113). Here we get a real sense of his style: he doesn't define a practical list, but deals out exemplars: shopping list, guest list, library catalog, inventory, list of assets, invoice, menu, tour guide, dictionary.[iii]

Practical lists are purely real-world-referential and finite. He also says they are unalterable, but that's the wrong term and I think the point is redundant.[iv]

He loses that thread, never tells us what poetic lists are. That distinction mostly disappears after the intro, or maybe I just missed it.

"In as much as a list characterizes even a dissimilar series of objects as belonging to the same context or seen from the same point of view (for example, Jesus, Caesar, Cicero, Louis IX, Raymond Lully, Jeanne d'Arc, Gilles de Rais, Damiens, Lincoln, Hitler, Mussolini, Kennedy and Saddam Hussein constitute a homogenous whole if we consider them as people who did not die in their beds), it confers order, and hence a hint of form, to an otherwise disordered set.[v]

defines a congeries as "a sequence of words or phrases that all mean the same thing, where the same thought is reproduced under different aspects".[vi]
museums are "voracious by definition … because they spring from private collections, and private collections spring from rapine, the spoils of war".[vii]

"infinity of properties that may be attributed to the same object".[viii]

"we use definitions by properties if we do not have a definition by essence or if this last does not satisfy us".[ix]

Providing a "semantic representation by essence" requires a strictly constitutive logical hierarchy – platypus. This can generate "dictionary definition", to which actual dictionaries need to provide a great deal more color. Dictionary definition is true in terms of the logic tree and its relations of super- and sub-ordination, but true only as far as it goes. He uses the example of a dog.[x]

We might need to use, instead, semantic "representation by accumulation or series of properties". An open-ended list.[xi]

"Los Angeles … has no center and is practically the outskirts of itself. Los Angeles is an 'etcetera' city and so, if we wish to accept the metaphor, it is a 'list-city' rather than a 'form-city'".[xii]

ch 17 "chaotic enumeration".[xiii]

"disjunctive enumeration expresses a shattering, a kind of schizophrenia of the person who becomes aware of a sequence of disparate impressions without managing to confer any unity upon them".[xiv] Recall Koestler's (1975 [1964]) Act of Creation, the "bisociation of previously independent matrices of thought" … this might be like thinking you spot a pattern, searching around for it, but never pinning it down.

"On considering both coherent excesses [ch. 16] and chaotic enumerations [ch. 17]" Joyce and Borges "did not make lists because they did not know what to say [like Homer, he asserted earlier], but because they wanted to say things out of a love of excess, hubris and a greed for words, for the joyous (and rarely obsessive) science of the plural and the unlimited. The list became a way of reshuffling the world, almost putting into practice Tesauro's invitation to accumulate properties in order to bring out new relationships between distant things … In this way the chaotic list becomes one of the modes of that breakdown of form set in motion in different ways by Futurism, Cubism, Dadaism, Surrealism or by New Realism".[xv]

[i] Eco 2009, 49.
[ii] Eco 2009, 407.
[iii] Eco 2009, 113.
[iv] Eco 2009, 113.
[v] Eco 2009, 131.
[vi] Eco 2009, 134. This reminds me of my ol' favorite, the fish-scale model of omniscience (Campbell 1969).
[vii] Eco 2009, 170.
[viii] Eco 2009, 217.
[ix] Eco 2009, 218.
[x] Eco 2009, 231.
[xi] Eco 2009, 231.
[xii] Eco 2009, 241.
[xiii] Eco 2009, 321.
[xiv] Eco 2009, 323; re Koestler, need to get documented formulation, full reference xxx.
[xv] Eco 2009, 327.

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Digression on Data

Let’s pause for a minute and reflect on how fortunate we are to have such high quantity and quality of materials to exploit. Posters, handbills, advertisements, previews, blurbs, mentions, reviews, ledgers, contracts, calendars and other sources overwhelm us. (By the way, where are the personal diaries/journals, a la Faren Miller's amazing chronicles of QMS? If anyone reading this kept any notes relating to GD and Garcia, please send me an email at!)
Personal memories remain alive and frequently (if imperfectly) captable by those who might seek to document them. They’re often pretty good memories. I’d suggest that levels of intelligence and education among those who remember these things, these “subjects” whose memories we seek to record, explore and understand are generally a way north of the population mean. This is a smart and often articulate bunch. The consciousness that one was engaged in something special or unusual seems to have quite often produced reasonably conscious memory as well – a good thing.

A final point on personal memory, a very meta point that I’ll nevertheless indulge. In comments on my listening notes for May 6, 1983, Corry discussed his ca. late April 1983 data generating process in his role as Keeper of The List, which is very helpful. I produced a nicely anchored memory, one that’s bound up in other important or noteworthy or otherwise salient events, in a kind of syndrome or complex. In the case of the venue for 5/6/83, I find myself persuaded by the participant recollection (i.e., that it was at the Keystone in Berkeley, not at The Stone in The City).

Finally (not really finally, but finally for my purposes here), are events for which there is neither paper nor memory, the shows that happened and that we know about only because of tape recordings. How many were not taped and hence remain unknown? I do not know and I prefer not to think too long on it. Instead, I want to use the lifetimes-worth of taped material we do have as best I can. My listening notes are an attempt to recode the raw data from tapes into other useable (for my purposes) forms. These data, like all of them, have their limits. In a view that Corry has been articulating (e.g., about GD Matrix Tapes from late 1966) and that I suspect is correct, it’s possible that the taped record systematically biases against the quotidian and in favor of the unusual and/or excellent. Recognizing this only reinforces why we need to practice convergent operationalism, i.e., triangulation across sources. We all already do this, but I want to recognize it explicitly as a valuable part of the enterprise.