On Tuesday, August 6, 1974, the Grateful Dead played Roosevelt Stadium in Jersey City, New Jersey. This was their fourth visit to the stadium, where they debuted in 1972.
Named after FDR, Roosevelt Stadium was a WPA project completed in 1937. The art deco municipal venue originally hosted sporting events – baseball, football, boxing – and eventually concerts just a few miles from the Statue of Liberty. According to Wikipedia, its capacity was 24,000. It was demolished in 1985 to make room for a gated community.
The venue didn’t offer much cover from the weather. (That’s a picture of the Band opening for the Dead at Roosevelt Stadium in 1973.) The show was originally planned for August 2, but a storm forced a reschedule, despite the “rain or shine” caveat on the ticket. There are a lot of amusing anecdotes in the LMA reviews from people who were there with heads full of acid and nowhere to go.
So the Dead moved on to Philadelphia, where they played two weekend nights at the Civic Convention Hall Auditorium, before returning to Jersey City.
8/6/74 is a good one in a year full of them. The focus here, oddly, is an excellent first set, rather than the second with its typical jammed-out segments. In fact, frame one features the longest songs of the show: An 18′ Eyes of the World and a whopping 36′ Playing in the Band > Scarlet Begonias > Playing in the Band sandwich. Both are worth your time, but it’s some of the shorter material that provides the main highlights. LMA reviewer Mind Wondrin calls it like this:
“1st set – hardly any pauses, the band just wants to go go go (opposite of the over-rated Veneta ’72). The kind of set that makes you reset what you call 5 stars! I think it’s due to Billy’s propulsion and extra fills (this is right before Mickey first came back). Bertha is very pop-and-lock. This is the Mexicali you want as well. Be attentive for Jer’s descending half-slide 2 mins into BioDtL…. Sugaree has incredible sustain tone! But Keith doesn’t run with it so they tidy up, making it average for ’74. Conversely, Jack Straw is perhaps the best of ’74. Every single member is freaking spanking Eyes in a top 20 all-time version. This is where Jer was a genius – who else could come up with that many variations and themes? C’mon man, gimme my face back. He’s so animated on Promised Land that Bobby has to give him some room during the verses. There’s barely a pause into Deal, the expected set closer. The set low point, it’s still above average (’74 was the Deal-e-o year) and doesn’t hint that a sandwich will now be served. So uptempo you would think it’s Playin’ too fast, it has been much remarked by traders. But, though unique and super-long (quantity isn’t always quality in Dead Land), it’s not the best playing of the set. Still, the tempo, the hotness of the band this night, the backline, and Jer mostly put it over, with lots of hints of ’76/’77. The meat is a pre-Fire Scarlet (!), but it’s kind of Jer deciding ‘look, here’s Scarlet, guys,’ though the jam gets better. The sandwich-bottom is a good-enough, 27-minute excursion. Not the best of ’74 but it goes to some cool places and even Donna’s prescriptive wail is circumscribed.”
Amusing review. Might as well let him describe the rest of the show:
“2nd Set – Super long. Uncle John’s has another jam, in a jammy show, and again the jam is the tighter section. It’s a full stop and Phil tries for El Paso before Peter. Again, the end jam is best, but it takes a long time to get it to really melt. Phil gets his El Paso (now say thank you, Bobby). Jer is all over it like the GOP on an anti-science soundbite; like escaped chimps on the overturned banana semi. Best of ’74…. Loose Lucy is tight, funky, and inventive. Big River was performed so heavily in ’74 but damn if this isn’t up there[,] and I can’t recall a better Ship…. Donna is good in a peppy (not draggy) Row Jimmy but it’s Billy that makes it here. It’s a golden segue with Phil on the harmony section of He’s Gone and though Bobby flubs Truckin’ (like he does Sugar Mag), Jer and Billy are hammers. Sunshine Daydream is mostly an opportunity for Bobby yelp and Donna screech[,] but the encore is astonishing (after bumps?). Jer so rarely did punk-styled, single-note staccatos, so it doesn’t come across as a generic riff, but punctuation.”
Inbetween sets, Phil Lesh and his friend Ned Lagin did their Seastones thing, providing the crowd with a bit of interstitial “electronic cybernetic biomusic.” Whatever. I thought about doing a little research on Seastones, but it’s just not that interesting – it’s like Space without Jerry performed by music theory eggheads. Phil and Ned released a studio album with some of that material in 1975. I don’t recommend it.
The Eyes, Playing sandwich, and UJB from 8/6/74 have all been officially released as part of Dick’s Picks #31, along with highlights from the preceding Philly shows.
For the whole show, there’s some debate over whether the soundboard or the audience recording is better. The question, according to Mind Wondrin, is “SBD is best served by the Wall of Sound.” That doubt is echoed by Icepetal at the deadlistening.com blog. In his post about 8/6/74, he says, “the Wall of Sound wasn’t something possible to capture on a soundboard tape.” Icepetal has more to say about the AUD, and it’s great:
“This is another outdoor AUD, and the taper, Neil Merin, is firmly in the sweet spot. Sitting in the midst of Roosevelt Stadium, the tape captures a great deal of the fun being had by the crowd. But it also captures the intense volume level of the Wall itself. This is hard to pin down, really. But it is clearly one of the ethereal properties of AUD tapes. The music is LOUD. It feels loud. It feels good. You don’t wish that you (the microphone) could be sitting just a little closer. And as you find yourself being absorbed by the transcendent music of the show, you might find yourself sweetly reminded that this is just some dude sitting in the midfield, somehow clutching the mic, deck, extra batteries, et al, and coming away with a spot on excellent recording. This thought hits me over and over while listening to this tape, and it elevates the enjoyment all the more.
. . .
Jerry’s guitar bristles with electricity on 8/6/74. As clumsy as the description is, that’s the best way that I’ve ever been able to describe this recording. And Phil may as well be sitting in your lap. The music conveys its sheer power on this tape. I feel this is a necessary sound experience in the makeup of anyone’s multi-ingredient mix of things that form your appreciation of the Dead’s music. It gives you a top shelf AUD, along with a top shelf show.
After listening to this one, you might find it hard to hear a ’74 SBD and not wonder what a really good AUD of the show might provide.”
Transport to the SBD on the LMA HERE.
Transport to the Marin AUD on the LMA HERE.
And you’ll find the Kevin Tobin SBD/AUD Matrix on the LMA HERE.
Thanks, as always, to LN GD Sensei-in-Chief ECM. Fwiw, Ed does most of the research – photos, LMA links and reviews, other website content, etc. – for these posts. I’m just the writer. It was sorta like that back when we were doing the Dead projects on Phantasy Tour Phish many moons ago. I hope my stuff is close to the quality of Ed’s 31 Days of the Dead stuff. His Instagram is well worth a follow.