Grateful Dead Weekly #19: Seattle Center Coliseum – Seattle, WA 7/1/79

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On Sunday, July 1, 1979, the Grateful Dead played the Seattle Center Coliseum.

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Originally built for the 1962 World’s Fair, or Century 21 Exhibition, the building was known afterwards as the Washington State Coliseum and then the Seattle Center Coliseum.  The Seattle Supersonics called the arena home from the club’s first season in 1967 until its last in 2008.  The arena also hosted concerts, including one by the Beatles in 1966. Seating capacity was around 16,000 for an “end-stage” concert.

1979 was a transitional year for the band.  Donna and Keith Godchaux left the band in February of that year, and Brent Myland joined in April. After a quick east coast tour in the spring, they returned to the west coast for a set of three concerts in Sacramento, Portland, and Seattle.

The Seattle show is a lesser-known gem. John Coulter, writing in the Deadhead’s Taping Compendium Vol. II, hesitated to label the show an all-time classic, and settled instead on calling “a very fine one indeed.” He continued:

“The first set’s highlights wrap around it like bookends. it starts off with a thoroughly well played Half-Step into Franklin’s Tower. There’s lots of outstanding Garcia in both of these, and Mydland takes a nice turn at a lead in Franklin’s Tower as well. The set-ending Passenger – an idea that should have been tried out more often – simply smokes.

Set 2 begins in a disjointed fashion with Don’t Ease Me In and doesn’t hit its stride until Sugaree. A touch of sloppiness in the vocals is more than offset by the guitar work of Garcia and Weir, who both shine here. Terrapin and Playing follow, with a long jam in Playing that I keep wanting to like more than I do. Garcia keeps trying to take it somewhere, but it only twice falls out of noodle range, the second time when Mydland rises to match the intensity level shortly before Drums. Space resolves very nicely into a sweet Stella Blue, which abruptly shifts into the rock ‘n’ roll conclusion. Truckin’ > Around is a keeper, with a well-articulated jam linking the two. Shakedown for an encore is a nice bonus.”

The LMA reviews are even more positive with Burnt Rich tabbing it “one of the best shows on the Archive.” Jeffery-O adds, “This is definitely a crossover show, where the feel is typical of a keith & donna show, but it has that ‘Brent’ sound!!! I cannot believe Brent had only been with the band a little over 2 months?”

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By far the best write-up on this show comes from Icepetal’s Grateful Dead Listening Guide blog. Icepetal calls it “a wonderful show that is ripe with this reflective power” and “overflows with that special timelessness.” According to Icepetal,

“The song selections often enhance this, and make for an extra enjoyable ride. There are actually a lot of shows like this somewhat lost in 1979. July 1st is only one of them. There’s a lot of gold to be mined out here (you just don’t hear much about Summer 1979). This show offers us a great path into these backwaters because the recording is fantastic, and I still tend to use audience recording quality as a bit of a guiding light as I pick shows to review. As I’ve said before, a good show matched with a good recording makes for an ideal listening setting. So, in hunting around the summer of ’79, July 1st stood out as a logical choice.”

I won’t repeat more of Icepetal’s excellent review.  Please visit that website and read it yourselves.  And while you’re doing it…

Transport to the Bob Menke audience recording HERE.

Transport to the Charlie Miller transfer of the soundboard recording HERE.

JF

 

It’s Friday, I’m in love…

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Hi. Happy Friday. Happy Belated Summer Solstice.

This week, it’s a lot of newness. Dinosaur, Jr., James Blake, Mourn, Amber Arcades, Wye Oak, Islands, Wolf Parade, Daniel Romano, Peter Bjorn and John, the Avett Brothers, a reinvigorated Garbage, and a return for my big kid’s fave, Bastille. Also, relative newness from Animal Collective, Iggy Pop, and M83 (I finally found a track that I like off that record). Stone classics? Yep. PJ Harvey, the ‘Mats, Belle & Sebastian, and Karen + 2.

Enjoy. Have a great weekend.

More soon.

JF

Grateful Dead Weekly #18: Shoreline Amphitheater – Mountain View, CA 6/21/89

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On Wednesday, June 21, 1989, the Grateful Dead played at the Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View, California.

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The bay-area venue opened in 1986. Designed by Bill Graham to resemble the Dead’s  “steal your face” logo, Shoreline featured a lawn area and a seating area, with rows placed three feet apart to provide, according to Wikipedia, “ample legroom and space for dancing.” #mrfmtd

Phish-heads joke nowadays about “couch tour,” buying hi-def video streams and chilling at home in front of giant high-def flat-screen tvs, instead of braving the crowds and the hassles and the heat (or cold). Tbh, it’s really cool. This Dead show was proto-couch tour. And it was on Summer Solstice.

The night started badly.  Phil greeted the crowd, remarking briefly that it had been “192 out here today, it’s just getting now down to boiling.” While a bemused Jerry watched, Bobby struggled with some technical difficulties and, after a short tuning jam, kicked his amp. Peak Bobby in full late-80s regalia – ponytail, loose tank top, short shorts, some sleek-ass guitar that doesn’t work. Pretty comical.

Anyway, another short bluesy tuning jam based on Freddie King’s Hide Away and more technical difficulties later, the band launched into bouncy, if lyrically-challenged, Touch of Grey. Minglewood was hot and typically slide-y. (Bobby fancied himself a bluesman during some first sets back then. Minglewoods: Usually good. Little Red Roosters: Usually bad.) Ramble on Rose was good, Row Jimmy was…good-ish? I’m a bad judge; slow Garcia ballads from that era didn’t do much for me. Dylan’s When I Paint My Masterpiece was great, as was the not-uncommon Cassidy > Deal closer.

ECM’s personal notes:

“I was on a business trip in PA for a week of continuing education with the public accounting firm I was working for. I knew that the Summer Solstice show would be broadcast on PPV and national radio, so I brought a boom box (and a few Maxell XL-IIS tapes) with me on the trip to record the show. My peers thought I was nuts. 1989 was a great year for Deal and this one is on fire like the version a few weeks later in Buffalo (7/4/89 “Truckin Up To Buffalo” official release). It ranks 6th on headyversion.com. Row Jimmy is in the Top 20 there.”

I taped it, too – on Maxell URs because XLIISs were way too expensive for me. Like Ed said, the show was on PPV, but it was also on radio (WXRT in Chicago). I convinced my high school friend Mike, who had just gotten home for a short break from West Point, to have his parents buy the show. I schlepped my boom box to their house, set it up in a corner, and spent most of the night loitering nearby, ready to flip the tapes between songs. I’m sure they were pretty annoyed with me. Days or weeks later, I borrowed another boom box with dual tape decks from somebody and edited down what I had recorded. I wish that I still had those tapes – not because the show was so great, but because my GD tape script back then was p tight.  It sorta looked like the top of this backstage pass.

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The second set was better, starting with Scarlet without the usual Fire. Hell in Bucket followed, and whatever.  Then came Clarence Clemons of E-Street Band fame, who sat in for the rest of the show. I like the Boss; I like the Big Man; I like the Dead. I like Clarence better with the former than the latter.  That’s my memory of watching that show: Being just generally bummed that there was a sax in the background.  CC was alright on Estimated > Eyes and maybe Truckin’, but he was mostly surplus to requirements after that. He definitely didn’t help The Other One or Morning Dew, two of my all-time faves.  Lovelight and Brokedown? Well, ok. Advisory: The Drums > Space sequence is long and not very interesting, imo.

Garcia biographer Blair Jackson tends to agree in this installment of the Golden Road blog:

“To be candid, I was considerably less enthused by Clarence’s next appearance with the Dead, during their nationally televised Summer Solstice concert at Shoreline Amphitheatre (Mountain View, Calif.) 6/21/89. I see that in the Summer ’89 issue of The Golden Road, Cranky Pants Jackson wrote: ‘Clarence Clemons dropped by to add his sax to the Dead sound, and in a few spots—most notably on “Estimated,” “Eyes” (which received a big, stomping dancefloor treatment) and “Lovelight”—it gave the songs a fresh R&B feeling. That said, I didn’t like his sax cluttering up “Ship of Fools,” “Morning Dew” and a couple of others, and I’m afraid on a very basic level, he doesn’t understand how to jam with the Dead; it’s just alien to him. He sounds much more at home with the Garcia Band.’ Whoa, harsh, BJ!”

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Other reviews of this show are more favorable. On the LMA, Mind Wondrin asserts:

“It’s often said the band blew the gigs of historical import, yet here’s a show of mini-history (a pay-per-view event, FM-network simulcast, & religious day for some) where they played well. In fact, this almost 3-1/2 hour show (4 hours, in person) is one of the best shows of ’89. After a poor 1st show of the run, a much better show, then a day off, they came back strong.”

chinacat111 says the Deal is the best ever, and Thad agrees, “It’s absolutely SEARING hot. Wow. Yes – the best I have heard, without question. Rest of show is solid in spite of the horrible sax playing.” stratocaster concludes, “Not a show of real smooth transitional jamming…rather the band rocks out certain numbers as ‘set pieces’ more or less…” Fair enough.

There’s a partial video on YouTube – it’s missing the middle half of the first set, which…ok, I would’ve liked to see Bobby emoting on My Masterpiece again, but I doubt many of you will miss that.

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Transport to the transfer of the PPV audio feed HERE.

Transport to the Charlie Miller transfer of the soundboard recording HERE.

Happy Belated Summer Solstice, guys. For all of you seeing the Phish this weekend at Wrigley Field in Chicago or the former Deer Creek in Noblesville, Indiana, have great shows.

More soon.

JF

Should You Care About a New Avalanches Album?

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In 2000, the Australian group The Avalanches released their debut album of electronic music, Since I Left You. The album’s 18 tracks are built almost entirely out of samples, using a technique known as plunderphonics. Basically, The Avalanches’ members Robbie Chater and Darren Seltmann were the ultimate vinyl nerds, and altered and twisted over 3,500 samples from a wide range of genres to make their singular musical statement.

The initial critical acclaim for Since I Left You has only grown in the last two decades, and the album gradually gained masterpiece status among a certain type of music fan. To understand why, I am going to ask you to check out two YouTube videos, both pertaining to the title track of the album.

Here’s “Since I Left You”:

The song’s clearly a blend of disparate sounds, but it comes together in a way that’s about as pleasing on the ear as music gets. A steady beat, a flute, a few “do-do-do”s, and finally the vocal line, which is just about perfect for the music. The song is almost endlessly enjoyable. It’s repetitive without being tiring. As a whole, the album’s songs bleed into one another, with themes and sounds popping up across tracks. Songs change midstream, leaving you with something that feels quite a bit longer and more meaty than 18 tracks.

Now check out this video:

Someone has taken the time to identify the source of each sample in the title track, placing the original next to the altered sample with the track. It’s the same song, but isolating the samples shows you what an accomplishment this really is. Sampling is not always art, but The Avalanches truly took something old (or a great many old things) and turned them into something brand new, with a life all its own.

Now, after 16 years, The Avalanches are releasing their new album, Wildflower, next month. Things have changed since 2000, and it’s not quite as easy to sneak 3,500 samples onto an album without a team of high-priced lawyers knocking at your door. They’ve released three tracks so far, and at least one, “Colours,” apparently contains zero samples, even though it has the same sound-collage feel as the original album.

Let’s see what the rest of the album brings.

Four Tet’s Randoms

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Brit EDM/IDM producer Kieran Hebden usually performs as Four Tet, a long-standing LN fave. Yesterday, he released a compilation of older material called Randoms (artwork above). Here’s his description:

“Over the years there have been some pieces of music that I have made specially for compilation projects or have ended being released only as part of a compilation album. As time passes I look back at this music and find the context it was originally put in often feels a bit random now. So I have put together this new album called Randoms that brings together this music in a different way. The oldest track here is Field from 1996, the first Four Tet track ever released on Leaf Records Invisible Soundtracks compilation. The most recent is Gillie Amma I Love You which was made for a charity project called BOATS in 2013. All the tracks here have been released before and I am sure some internet searching will give you the full details if you are interested. Thank you to everyone who originally commissioned and released this music. The artwork for this was made by Jason Evans.”

The track “Moma” appeared on the Blonde Redhead-curated We Are the Works in Progress benefit after the 2011 tsunami in Japan, but my “internet searching” didn’t reveal many other details. Hebden is currently in a tiff with SoundCloud, so Randoms is a “name your price” (down to zero – as in, free) download on the Four Tet bandcamp website.

More soon.

JF

It’s Friday, I’m in love…

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Hi.

A mixed bag again this week. Stone classics: Supertramp, Squeeze, and Thin Lizzy. New faves: Margaret Glaspy, Wye Oak, and Kevin Morby. And more from LUH. Wow, luh luh luh-ve LUH. Their New Artist Spotlight post is on the way, eventually. Oh, yeah.  I’ve figured out the format (for now). 25 tracks + YLT + something random. So 27.

Enjoy. Have a great weekend. Happy Fathers Day to LN community dads, and Happy Summer Solstice, which will happen before I’m back with another playlist. (The header image is my smaller boy’s view of the solar system – aka the Ulyverse – back in 2013, when he was six. That Unknown? Pry the Oort Cloud or something, idk.)

I’ll be home asap, babe. Hope your day was ok. Love you so. XO

More soon.

JF

Grateful Dead Weekly #17: Giants Stadium – East Rutherford, NJ 6/16-17/91

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On Sunday and Monday, June 16 and 17, 1991, the Grateful Dead played Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

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Home of the NFL’s New York Giants and Jets, the stadium formerly/commonly known as the Meadowlands opened in 1976 and closed in 2010.  The Dead first played there in 1978, then again in 1987 and 1989.  The two-night run in 1991 were their first shows at the venue without Brent Mydland.

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I stopped paying attention to the Dead in 1990. I’ve listened to a lot of ’90s shows since then. In my opinion, Summer 1991 was the band’s last great tour. It has only been the subject of two official releases – 2001’s View from the Vault II, which primarily featured 6/14/91 (RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C.), and 2006’s Download Series #11, which primarily featured 6/20/91 (Pine Knob Music Theater in Clarkston, MI).  The latter is on Spotify.

Obviously, I didn’t attend any of those shows.  ECM did. In fact, he was at Giants Stadium both nights.  Here’s his personal review:

“I attended both of these Giants Stadium shows (along with RFK Stadium) on the Dead’s 1991 Summer Tour. I featured the Jack Straw (6/16/91) in my 2015 edition of 31 Days. It was a weird time for me b/c of the accident my brother’s best friend had, which I wrote about there. Brent hadn’t been dead a year yet, so I was still kind of mourning his loss. Also, something weird happened at the 6/17 show that has always stayed with me. Throughout the show a guy sitting near me repeatedly got up from his seat and gesticulated shooting up heroin in his arm, while he called out Jerry’s name. It was shocking and upsetting to me b/c I thought (perhaps naively) that Jerry was clean. However, in hindsight it turned out to be true. With each passing tour I began to notice that the band – Jerry – was falling apart and it always brought me back to that show and the guy “shooting heroin.”

Musically, these shows are great – much better than I remembered them due to all of the distractions I mentioned above. I especially liked the pre-Drums sequence on Sunday. Jack Straw and China > Rider were completely rockin! The China > Rider is played at such a speedy tempo that it almost leaves you breathless. When the band abruptly goes into Drums after Rider I immediately thought that the reason they rushed through it so quickly was probably b/c somebody in the band (probably Jerry) needed an emergency bathroom break! Who knows, maybe it was planned that way. The ending jam in Black Peter and Stagger Lee in the first set are both quite good too.

I initially did not care for all of the Dark Star teases in the Monday night show. Stop blue-balling me and just play the f’ing thing already! It seemed a little gimmicky to me at the time, but after reading some of the reviews that on the LMA, which discuss  the “envelope” theory and keeping the listener on edge, I have come around and changed my position. The music certainly holds up – Dark Star teases and all. The band was on, especially Jerry and Bruce. You can tell that Jerry was in very good spirits by his vocal inflections on songs like Eyes of the World, Loose Lucy and Might As Well.

The first set is very strong. Eyes of the World was going through a new Renaissance since the band’s standard-setting performance at Nassau Coliseum with Branford Marsalis the previous year. It is always exciting to see the band take a chance and try something new so opening with Eyes was a good omen and set the tone for the rest of the show. This upbeat version is probably one of the best post-Brent versions. Other set highlights include a speedy Brown-Eyed Women, and ass-kicking versions of Loose Lucy and Might As Well, both of which boast very strong vocals by Garcia. Hornsby absolutely destroys his piano solo on Might As Well, leaving Jerry so invigorated that he takes the last chorus around a least a dozen times before ending the set on a very high note. It is an all-time version for the ages.

Set two is highlighted by Saint of Circumstances, New Speedway Boogie, and Uncle John’s Band. Space drifted into a haunting China Doll that got way too personal for me with the heavy lyrical references to death.”

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Ed’s thoughts are in line with some of the LMA reviews. Of 6/16, birdsgosouth said the beginning of the second set was “pure unadulterated SHRED.” GDTrey highlighted the Jack Straw, and dmilks highlighted the China > Rider.  Oh, and jakleggs advised, “If you like Bobby you’ll love this show. He really whips out the velveeta. Some say it’s just average but I like it alot! Picasso Moon is fabulous!!” So there you go.

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6/17 gets more accolades. icecreamjay set the scene:

“There were massive thunderstorms right before the show. It absolutely poured. I remember people running around on the floor (or field) and sliding on the huge blue tarp they used to protect the grass like the whole place was a giant slip and slide. The energy was nuts. This was always a crazy place to see a show. Other people were jumping out of the stands to get to the floor and security was chasing them. It was quite a show. Everyone would wait until security was on the other side of the floor and then about fifty people would all go at once. Security would head to that side, and the other side would use the same strategy. Of course the audience loved it, cheering the crazy fans (Giants has about a ten foot wall and at the time an orange plastic fence that got trampled and torn down) each time another wave jumped.”

According to buddha brian, “The humidity was so intense that we were crying for it to rain …and it did! What a metaphysical orgasm. When the storm finally broke, the night opened up and the energy began to flow, from the sky, the stage and the crowd.” Terrapin31590 opined that it was “the best post-Mydland show,” while omnihead suggested that it contained “the best and most energetic first set of the nineties.” socal (wasn’t he a sometimes member of the GDC crew for a while?) called the show “one for the ages,” adding:

“Truly an impressive show – late era GD at its best (no small thanks to Bruce for this). From the Eyes opener to the Weight encore, the setlist is a work of art. The Dark Star theme colors the entire show. It’s ironic that it’s the most Dark Star-influenced show I’ve ever heard, but the song proper is never played; and that’s a good thing it keeps the listener on edge and paying attention. Not that they needed any gimmick this show. The whole thing rocks. From the Eyes, to the Loose Lucy, to Masterpiece to the crazy second set, there are some ‘best ever’ candidates here. (Def. the best Lucy I know of.). But the obvious draw of this show is that it’s like one big Dark Star w/o the verses. They jam on it, tease it, play the whole theme – it’s all incredible. I think my favorite aspect is the way Bruce sneaks the familiar Dark Star riff into several of the songs – when’s the last time you heard a DS tease in the middle of Masterpiece? One of my favorite shows ever. A must have.”

doug_the_dude laid the blame/credit for the Dark Star teases on keyboardist Bruce Hornsby: “Certainly one of the most interesting, most unusual shows of the ’90s period, if I may say…I know that Bruce in particular had some frustrations with the band’s reluctance to *really* jazz up the setlists during his tenure with the band; this show and set 2 of 6/20 may be examples of his influence (he’s definitely the main Dark Star culprit…)”

tahoe_upsetter remembered “that there was a fan on Jerry that made his shoulder length hair take flight. Watching him smile and the wings flap made me happy for him, just being in the moment.”

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Transport to the soundboard recording of 6/16/91 on the LMA HERE.

Transport to the Charlie Miller transfer and edit of the soundboard recording of 6/17/91 on the LMA HERE.

And here’s ABC network video of the Miracle, Eyes, and Saint…

(There’s also fan-shot video of the whole show, but the quality is so bad that I’m not gonna bother with a link.)

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More soon.

JF