It’s Friday, I’m in love…

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Another week, another weekend. (Did I use that opening before? I’ve lost track.) And another playlist – #10, if you’re scoring at home.

Sorta random, but listenable. New stuff from the Kills, Minor Victories (including Stuart Braithwaite of Mogwai), Femme, Woods, Steve Gunn, and Lush. Old stuff from Weezer, Elevator to Hell, and some bald guy. A dance-y middle section. And a first-ballot stone classic from the Sonic Youth.

Happy Friday. Enjoy the breather. I’ll be home soon, babe. ILYSM XO

JF

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Grateful Dead Weekly #10: Fillmore East – New York, NY 4/29/71

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On April 29, 1971, the Grateful Dead played their final show at the famed Fillmore East in New York City.

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Promoter Bill Graham’s East Village venue, on 2nd Avenue near 6th Street, opened in 1968, but the Medieval Revival building there dated back to 1925, when it was constructed as a Yiddish theater. Wikipedia says that “[d]espite the deceptively small marquee and façade, the theater had a capacity of almost 2,700,” though other sources say 2,400. The Fillmore East was a counterpart to the Fillmore West in San Francisco, also owned by Graham. BG booked triple-bill/double-set rock shows at both, and artists would often alternate coasts.

Garcia biographer Blair Jackson contrasted the venues:

“It’s too simplistic to suggest that the grand 2,400-seat Fillmore East was a San Francisco-style staging ground for Graham on the East Coast, because in the Bay Area the action was in ballrooms almost exclusively, and the Fillmore East was a classic theater, with an ornate high ceiling, plush seats and rococo filigrees; it was downright nice, particularly for a rock ‘n’ roll nightspot. And make no mistake about it – the Fillmore East was New Yawk all the way, with its raucous and unfailingly energetic and enthusiastic crowds. Yes, Graham brought in all the top San Francisco bands to play there (and without fail they killed New York audiences hungry for that funky-loose, acid-intense hit of day-glo Hashbury musical chaos). But out in the house, and in the warren of small rooms that made up what everyone agreed was the wildest backstage scene of any venue, and even on the street outside, with its never-ending freak parade, there was a buzz in the air that screamed NEW YORK!

What a great place to see a show. You could sit near the top of the huge balcony and see and feel the surges of electric energy blast off the stage and ripple through the crowd like a great sloshing wave that enveloped everything in its path. I remember the silky blue pot smoke haze, hanging in the air like gauze mosquito netting, being pierced by guitar notes, sharp as arrows, and blown into small tornadoes of dancing light by sharp drum cracks and the fat liquid thumping of Phil Lesh’s bass. The light show (first the Joshua Light Show, and later, Joe’s Lights) was impossibly big and always supremely tasteful. I don’t recall much San Francisco-style liquid projection, but rather wonderful blocky splashes of color, two stories high, convoluted geometrics, serene visions of nature, quirky films and slides, and the glow of the massive screen casting rainbow hues on the faces of the audience as it created an ever-shifting ‘sky’ behind the band.”

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By 1971, the concert business had changed, and Graham decided to shutter the Fillmores. Here’s a New York Times piece from that year, where he talked about his decision:unnamedbg

The last show at the Fillmore East was 6/27/71 and featured the Allman Brothers Band. It was later released as bonus material for the reissue of Eat a Peach.  The last Grateful Dead show there (their 43rd) was nearly two months earlier.  It’s one of my all-time faves.

As I’ve admitted, I’m a Touch-head, who went to college in the late-1980s. Back then, I was also a tape-slut. I would dub a cassette of almost any Dead bootleg that I managed to pry away from friends and acquaintances. Usually, that meant n-th generation audience recordings from 1984-87 that sounded terrible. (It’s why to this day that I really don’t care about sound quality – if I could happily listen to that stuff, I can handle lossy mp3s.) Sometimes, it meant something better.  2/14/70?  Sure. Or 4/29/71, which was among my first ten tapes and imprinted itself deeply on my wannabe-hippie brain, as I listened to my walkman on the way to-and-from winter and spring quarter classes during sophomore year.

4/29 was the final night of a five-night run, and it’s clear in the opening Truckin’ that the band was in that rare space between relaxed and tight. The rest of the first set is solid – nice versions of Cumberland Blues, Bird Song, Loser, and Ripple, as well as a deceptively intense Hard to Handle.

The second set is where the magic happens. A Morning Dew that’s by far the heaviest and deepest that I’ve ever heard. A long and beautiful Black Peter. The last Second That Emotion. And the last Alligator, which kicks off an amazing segment that veers into Drums, then a thrilling nine-minute jam, then Goin’ Down the Road Feeling Bad > Cold Rain and Snow. Again, Blair Jackson:

“[T]he second set jam that night, from “Alligator” through “Cold Rain and Snow,” is one of the Dead’s most famous; somehow, miraculously, it managed to sum up the Dead’s six year history at the same time it sounded completely fresh and pointed in a new direction. The communication among the core four is astonishing in places; it’s the group mind at its highest and most expressive. And there, in just a few notes from Garcia’s guitar before the first verse of ‘Goin’ Down the Road Feeling Bad,’ you can hear weariness, sorrow, joy and transcendence rolled into one, and you can’t tell where one ends and the other begins – it’s the long, strange trip reduced to its essence.”

A loose China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider follows.  And the encore includes Pigpen’s inspired take on In the Midnight Hour.

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Highlights from the five-nights were compiled in the 2000 box set Ladies and Gentlemen…The Grateful Dead.  That set includes the 4/29 Alligator segment, and the excellent 4/28 Dark Star segment. Listen to that on Spotify right here…

And transport the Charlie Miller transfer of the soundboard recording HERE.

More soon.

JF

Daguerreotype Vol. 2 + Happy Weekend

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Jack, Drew, Ty and Tommy from Bloomington’s Daguerreotype released a new 6-song EP yesterday morning, following up on Vol.1, which was one of my favorites from last semester.

In addition to their previously-released single “Room With A View,” we get 5 absolutely phenomenal tracks, just in time for better weather and longer days. Having received plenty of well-deserved recognition from a handful of blogs that are significantly more prominent than this one, these tracks will inevitably end up in the hands of the right people.

I saw the group play @ the Blockhouse a week or so ago (I think? I’ve lost all concept of time), and they were f***in’ great. That bill included Brett Hoffman’s Brownies in Cinema, which I have already professed my love for, and Kiki & The Vettes, the group that my pal Swayze at Secretly Distribution plays bass for.

If you’re going to be in the Bloomington area this weekend, check out Daguerreotype’s lead man Jack play in Tourniquets for their album release show tomorrow @ the Blockhouse (finally!!!). You can get in there for $5, and you can throw down an extra $2 to get a copy of the album.

The forecast is looking good down here, and while I can’t speak for the rest of you, I plan on enjoying 70-degree weather and listening to these new tracks. I sincerely hope you do the same.

Stream the EP via SoundCloud below:  Continue reading

R.I.P., Prince

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Writing about Prince leaves me feeling flat. How do you begin to talk about an artist who is so expansive, who swallowed so many styles of music and regurgitated something all his own, who was a virtuoso on multiple instruments, who was more than just music, who challenged how people thought about issues of race, gender, sexuality and personal identity?

Prince exploded on the scene in the late ‘70s, dominated the ‘80s, and then continued to create and perform music almost constantly for the rest of his life. He spit in the eye of the big record companies, questioning their purpose to the artist long before the internet killed them off. He changed his name to an unpronounceable symbol, cuz he could. His needle often swung from eccentric to weird to WTF? and back again.

I just can’t believe all the things people say / Am I black or white, am I straight or gay?

Prince removed his back catalog from streaming services (except Tidal) and blocked unauthorized videos from YouTube and across the internet. That’s fine—it was his music. It makes it harder to share all my favorite songs now, but that’s OK. Back when his material was on Spotify, I had a Prince playlist with everything I considered “essential.” There were around 70 tracks. The only artist I have with a longer playlist of essential tracks is Bob Dylan.

Rumor says Prince has a bottomless pit of unreleased material. If we’re lucky, we’ll be treated to a bootleg series, like the ones we have for Dylan and Miles Davis, which allows us to explore the depths of his music. Lord knows how many gems there are in the unreleased stuff that has already leaked—imagine what’s still hidden.

Speaking of Miles Davis, the two worked on a number of collaborations, but not much of what they produced together was up to Prince’s exacting standards. Seriously, what is in that vault?

Miles says Prince was a combination of James Brown, Jimi Hendrix, Marvin Gaye and Charlie Chaplin. Who are we to argue with that?

Every time I comb my hair / Thoughts of you get in my eyes

Prince was an incredible live performer. People who focus only on his biggest mid-‘80s hits underestimate what a guitar player he was. I never saw him live—that was stupid of me. I wish I’d seen him live.

I have the most love for the sweet spot of Prince music, from the late ‘70s to the early ‘90s. My favorite album is either Dirty Mind or Controversy or 1999 or Purple Rain. Probably 1999 for those extended funk work-outs. Beyond that, his output was sometimes confounding, and yet there were still high points, late-era favorites like Musicology and Art Official Age.

If you disagree, that’s cool, too. Everyone who loves Prince has their own Prince, depending on when they discovered him and what part of his music or artistry or personality resonated with them.

I feel like I’m looking for my soul / Like a poor man looking for gold

My Prince is the one who celebrated life through some of the best damn party music you’ll ever find. It’s the one who could sing about down-and-dirty sex in one breath and spiritual transcendence in the next—and suggest that maybe the two weren’t so different after all, that they were about what it means to be human. It’s the Prince who thought we could dance our lives away.

If there is any chance he’s right about that, if we really can dance our lives away, it’s only because we have his music to dance to.

This Is What It Sounds Like

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Prince is dead.

I don’t want to live in a world where Prince is dead.

Yet I do.

As things go, I’m fortunate.  My love for Prince exceeded my personal space.  I heard from SO MANY friends today asking me how I was.  That doesn’t even include Facebook.

I don’t have a thing to prove, but I’m going to share a bit of what I am feeling. These are some moments:

  • It HAD to be the first time I heard Prince. I remember the big kids in the back of the bus playing Sister on their jamboxes. They huddled over the radio and just laughed at what Prince was singing about! Such sexuality wasn’t sung about at that time. At least not to MY knowledge.
  • 1999 and the beginning of MTV. Little Red Corvette. This cat HAD IT. I was in. I remember specifically saying to my father after I got my first CD player, “I’m going to own every Prince CD ” He kind of shrugged his shoulders and said, “Okay, DO what you want. I don’t like the guy.” He didn’t like the guy.  He thought he was “fruity.” My favorite trip of all time was driving to New Jersey with my parents, and I was the DJ. We listened to John Williams through the mountains of Pennsylvania and New York. I did have a plan though. I wanted to expand their musical minds as well. I am a music snob after all. I put the CD The Rainbow Children in because I loved it. I figured I had my dad in a place where he couldn’t get away and he would HAVE to listen. I said “Dad, I want you to forget what you feel personally about Prince. Listen to the music.” By the end, when the girls are singing their chorus, Joe turned to me and said, “That was GREAT!”
  • My brother Matt originally got the two tape set of Sign of the Times. We would listen to it together. Make comments about it.  Marvel. We both gravitated to the song Housequake. We loved the falsetto “UUHN!” that he would do in that JAM. Matt was also hilarious, and, in order to drive our mother crazy, he would mimic this at night.(Dad travelled, so mom had two teenage boys in the house alone.  Driving mom crazy was a PRIVILEGE.) Mom would get all comfortable and sigh heavily about getting in bed. Matt would then scream “UUHN!!!!” I would start cracking up, and Matt would do it repeatedly. It was always funny. He helped me appreciate The Ballad of Dorothy Parker for its quirkiness and point out the beauty of Forever in My Life. We saw Prince on the Musicology tour together. The look we gave each other when he started to PLAY Forever in My Life is one of my most cherished memories of my brother. My brother also died too soon.
  • I stuck with Prince during the Symbol phase. I trusted him. He hadn’t let me down yet. Don’t get it twisted. There are MANY songs that he did that I don’t care for. I feel it is an important aspect of truly loving an artist and his work. The ability to say, “Yeaaaaah, that one didn’t hit me.” I tended to not favor the singles he would release. I would often yell at the universe and scream, “WHY did he release THAT single?  Release X or Y!!” I never liked, The Most Beautiful Girl in the World, Cream, or most of those 7 minute long Insatiable-type jams. I appreciate, but I skip those.
  • It has always been reported that he has a BILLION songs that haven’t been released. I look forward to those, but I’ll probably still be sad. Oh well. I have been privileged enough to have heard a good deal of stuff that he has recorded and never released.  Funky shit like Work That Fat (insane classic, so nasty). The Daisy Chain (scream one more time). Paradigm (a jam sandwich he wrote for George Clinton, but recorded as well – Brother, can you Paradigm?) All music that YOU SHOULD KNOW.  You will.
  • SWAGGER: It ain’t about this that what when or how. This is about the freaks doing everything thing they wanna do NOW! (NOW)
  • SWAGGER: I don’t need you to tell me.  I’m IN the band! (I Rock, therefore, I am)
  • SWAGGER: Take a picture, Sweetie, I ain’t got time to waste. (Baby, I’m a Star)
  • “Shut up already, DAMN! (Housequake) is my message notification on my phone.
  • I’ve put Prince on every mix I make for people. He always had something to say, and they weren’t playing it on the radio. Damn shame.
  • I quoted some Prince in my vows to my husband. Music is so important to me; I need it to say what I am deficient in saying. John never cared for Prince, but he did THAT day.
  • CHELSEA RODGERS
  • I often referred to Prince as: His Royal Purple Funkiness. The P-funk. The Boy FRIEND.
  • We played Erotic City at my reception, and my beautiful friends Don and Viktoria showed off their dance class moves flawlessly to that nasty beat.
  • The guitar solo in Purple Rain.
  • I taught myself to play Sometimes It Snows in April in the piano YEARS ago. I’m sure there is some big scheme that the universe knows that we can only speculate on. That beautiful song from Parade deals with loss perfectly. Beautiful piano, dissonant chords. Kind words. Plus it happens in April. This is the song that I probably won’t be able to listen to today.

Celebrities who die carry an interesting grief. I didn’t know him, but through what he produced, I did.

Thank U

[This post was authored by Mark Hanner, a dear friend and a musical omnivore. His brother Matt was my bff. Mark will return to LN soon for an ongoing series about heavy metal music. Seriously. -JF]

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It’s Friday, I’m in love…

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Hi, everybody.

Friday playlist time. This one’s all over the place. Old stuff from Blondie, the New York Dolls, and Television. Old-ish stuff from Pavement and LN throwback fave (for now) Jimmy Eat World. New-ish stuff from Chance, KW, and Jamie and Romy. A bonus (tv) soundtrack track. And a stone classic from Sloan that’s about my best friend’s glasses.

Have a great weekend. Oh, and I’ll be home asap, b. XO

More soon.

JF

 

Grateful Dead Weekly #9: The Ark – Boston, MA 4/21-23/69

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On Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, April 21-23, 1969, the Grateful Dead played their only shows at the Ark in Boston – at least, the only shows before it was rechristened the Boston Tea Party.

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Boston.com offers a sketch of the venue’s history. At the turn of the 20th Century, Eban Jordan, founder of the Boston Globe, built 15 Lansdowne Street to house delivery horses and carriages. By 1969, the building, which is across the street from Fenway Park, had become a rock club called the Ark. Later that year, the owners of a nearby venue that had burned down bought the club and rechristened it the Boston Tea Party. (The Dead played a New Years run there in December.) As the disco period dawned, Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager became the new owners of the club, before selling it and moving to New York City to open Studio 54. The club went through a few more name changes over the years (the Avalon, Boston-Boston, Metro, Citi) before becoming the current House of Blues.

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The Dead’s three-night stand there, just a month after the band finished recording its third studio album Aoxoamoxoa, is beloved by fans of the “primal era.” Joe Kolbenschlag, writing for Glide Magazine‘s “Steel Cut Oats” series, sets the scene:

“Unlike with New York’s Fillmore East, the Grateful Dead had yet to establish a solid home base in Boston – up until these three incredible nights, they had only played one other set of shows in the area occurring in late ’67. The lack of a core community in Beantown was made clear before the band kicks off the first night’s set. The crowd was treated to a 5 second ho-hum intro of the group simply as ‘some guys from the West Coast’. Two mind-bending shows later, and before the final night began, the same announcer sheepishly addressed the crowd with one of the most appreciative, stoned, and over-excited intros I’ve ever heard [“the best fucking rock and roll band in the whole world”] – the band had clearly transformed mere ticket holders into legit fans in just a few nights.

Keep in mind, at this point of their career; they were still playing 75% of their gigs in their home state of California. These shows illustrate how they began to slowly build their East Coast fan base – moving from town to town and always leaving them wanting more. The Grateful Dead would never play The Ark again, but would eventually find two long-term Boston homes, first with the Boston Music Hall lasting through the early ’70s and into their post-hiatus years, until eventually growing into the famed Boston Garden which would stand along such other larger indoor venues as Nassau Coliseum, Landover’s Capital Centre, and of course, Madison Square Garden as the most popular – but not always the most accommodating for fans – touring spots on the East Coast.”

At the time, the Dead were still a septet with Tom Constanten on keyboards. That, apparently, gave more leash to Pigpen, as Globe correspondent Steve Morse recently remembered:

“My memory is hazy about which night I was there, but it was an extraordinary introduction. I vividly recall that Ron ‘Pigpen’ McKernan, the Dead’s hard-living organist, fell off the stage during ‘Turn on Your Love Light.’ His bandmates didn’t seem surprised, and kept playing while a roadie dusted ’Pen off before he crawled up to finish the song. I fell in love with the group’s fortitude right there. The Globe’s Bud Collins, later an award-winning sportswriter, wrote in his review that the band ‘was loud enough to melt the ears.’ Of course, as a head-banging college student, that’s what I loved about them.”

The music speaks for itself, but I asked LN’s very own ECM to point us toward the higher highlights.  (Full disclosure, he compiled most of the information for this post.)

On 4/21/69, he recommends Hard to Handle (with Garcia on slide guitar), The Eleven, and Viola Lee Blues.  Additionally, he notes that the first Deadhead Tapers Compendium has this blurb about that show:

“WOW! From the moment it walks out on stage, this band breathes fire like a two-tailed dragon. The pinnacle of the show is witnessed during the great exploratory jams throughout Dark Star and The Eleven, which just keep on building. Note the long Lovelight during which Jerry plays bluesy slide guitar – very hip. An obstinate East Coast crowd refuses to let the Dead leave the stage without an encore. The band members, obviously tired, drag their dragon tails back out on stage to deliver a Viola Lee that, despite a slow start, builds to a ferocious climax.”

On 4/22/69, ECM recommends Mountains of the Moon and its gorgeous transition jam into an all-time great Dark Star that features a Caution Jam, as well as a legendary Death Don’t Have No Mercy.

The Tapers Compendium description:

“Early in this recording Garcia says, ‘we’re going to do some short old stuff, or some old stuff anyway, something you know, since we’re the only one’s here, we can do anything we want, anything, absolutely anything, so if you think of anything weird enough for us to do, we’d be more than delighted to do it, perhaps, perhaps.’ OK. Howzabout a fearsome Other One? Perhaps a haunting rendition of Mountains of the Moon played first on acoustic guitar complete with jam, which segues directly into a fully electric Dark Star > St. Stephen > The Eleven > Lovelight just like Live Dead? Well, that’s indeed what Garcia felt like playing. This is a pretty good example of the Dead on the verge of adolescence about to ascend to a greater maturity. It’s refreshing to go back and check this out once in a while. The energy is high and you can tell that the band is on to something and knows it.”

On 4/23/69, ECM recommends the Intro > He Was a Friend of Mine, the St. Stephen > It’s A Sin > St. Stephen segment, and the The Eleven > Alligator > Caution segment – fantastic jams throughout including a And We Bid You Goodnight/Going Down the Road Feeling Bad “Coda” Jam. The Tapers Compendium’s description of that show is both lengthy and enthusiastic:

“He was a Friend of Mine opens the show with a down-home flavor. Yet it’s a tad deranged and – wanting more of this – the boys sense they need to spread out: thus, Dark Star. This one is hard to describe: the darn thing moves sideways and is unpredictable. The band is so linked up that even a slight hint by someone immediately gets a response and leads to a new direction. Right after the first verses are sung, the earth feels like it’s cracking open, torn fiercely apart by a huge gust of energy from the band. It’s a mighty blow that comes out of nowhere and epitomizes the Steal Your Face logo. I felt stunned before I started laughing out loud by myself.

Things calm down suddenly and a new space emerges. Lesh takes the helm and wraps himself around the music like a boa constrictor working its prey: squeeze and release, squeeze harder and release…over and over with precise increments in pressure. Assorted crevices are dutifully explored with great zeal. Finally, after twenty-five minutes, the band goes into St. Stephen. But a reel flip cuts it after after only two minutes and the music returns for the end of It’s A Sin. This zooms straight into a rockin St. Stephen Reprise.

The Other One is elevated by some superb tandem drumming that pounds relentlessly throughout this scorching version. During the Cryptical reprise, following the last wail of ‘he had to die-uh-uh’ the drummer nail their skins 1..2 with all their strength – and on the third beat the rest of the band explodes. Then they repeat this three more times: one, two, ka-boom. Ity’s savage. The Dead have fiddled with this sequence before but never to such a tremendous and exhilarating effect.

Lovelight, though briefer than the previous two nights (only fifteen minutes here!) is flawed and full of juicy, well-roasted Pig. the band backs him up snugly and even manages more off and creative jamming behind him. It’s hard to believe the show’s only half over.

The heat continues as the Dead deliver outstanding version so Dew, Hard to Handle and Rag to start the second set. Alligator brings wild applause. Following the drums, the boys do their ‘na na na na na’ Burn-down-the-Fillmore thing to delight of the crowd further. Then it’s off to jam heaven. First, a Caution jam spiced with an Other One flavor shoots out of the gate. Then T.C. squeezes out a familiar signal during a pause. The drummers catch it right away and begin the offbest pattern of The Eleven. Everyone joins in, although it starts out hesitantly. Soon, though, it builds into a swift, solid version. After singing the first verses, Garcia starts playing strange, out-there notes. The band follows suit and they all abandon The Eleven for a free jam. Garcia slips in a Goin Down The Road Feelin Bad coda, denying Phil’s Caution teases. But then Garcia seems to say, ‘Well, all right,’ and almost storms into Caution, reaches a peak…and then plays the coda again. Then he simply wails, building to another pre-Caution flurry, but drops back down again, leading the band into more free jamming. Some noodling follows this. Then – utter chaos. Monster belches. While everyone’s distracted, Garcia slips into a genuine Caution right under their noses. Phil rolls into it big time.

Pig struts to the mike with his obligatory ‘gypsy woman’ rap. Weir joins in for some yelping on the ‘All you need’ rap. Then Garcia and Lesh chime in for some wild yelling of ooohs and ahhhs. Fun, fun, fun. As Pig yells, ‘Just a touch,’ the band melts the stage with a feedback-driven electrical storm. Caution climbs back up yet again. This time it goes faster, faster, faster-doo doo doo doo dooo BOOM!”

If that’s too much hippie blather to swallow, ECM’s 2012 31 Days of the Dead project featured the He Was a Friend of Mine opener. Here’s an excerpt of what he wrote about it:

“On the heels of two sensational shows, the Dead wrap up their three-night stint at the Ark with an epic blowout performance. Cries of ‘Speech!’ and ‘Hear, hear!’ from the stage begin. This leads to what is arguably the band’s best introduction ever. After [such a] passionate introduction it would only seem logical that the band would charge right into a well-known rocker like St. Stephen, Not Fade Away, or Hard To Handle. Wrong! The band was too young and smart-assed to engage in such predictable behavior. Instead, they did the opposite by easing into ‘He Was A Friend of Mine’ – an obscure, mellow traditional folk song that had been performed only a handful of times. The choice makes perfect sense if you think about the Grateful Dead’s history with Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters. Seizing the opportunity to pull a prank, the Dead were not going to let this poor guy off the hook that easy for his blunder. Pranks aside, this long, folky opener is pure gold with beautiful three-part harmonies and stellar guitar work by both Jerry and Bobby. I always thought that this song was the inspiration for ‘Attics of My Life’ which was recorded for American Beauty in 1970. This run of shows from the Ark is the crème de la crème for 1969. Where is the official box set?”

Hear, hear. And thanks as always, Ed.

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For 4/21/69, transport to the Charlie Miller transfer of the soundboard recording HERE.

For 4/22/69, transport to the Charlie Miller transfer of the soundboard recording HERE.

For 4/23/69, transport to the Charlie Miller transfer of the soundboard recording HERE.

More soon.

JF