Grateful Dead Monthly: Shea’s Theater – Buffalo, NY 1/20/79

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On Saturday, January 20, 1979, the Grateful Dead played a show at Shea’s Theater in Buffalo, New York.

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Shea’s Buffalo, as it was known (it’s now Shea’s Performing Arts Center), was a jazz-age movie palace that opened in 1926. The theater was designed by Rapp & Rapp, the architect firm that designed many similar theaters in Chicago, including the shuttered Uptown, which hosted the Dead eighteen times between 1978 and 1981. According to Wikipedia, Shea’s interior was designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany, and the furnishings and fixtures, including the Czech crystal chandeliers, were supplied by Marshall Field. The interior contained over an acre of seating, and the cost of the project was nearly $2 million.

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Shea’s fell into disrepair in the 1960s and 1970s and eventually closed. A judge blocked then-owner Lowes Corporation from removing the fixtures, while a group called Friends of Buffalo finalized a restoration plan. The theater reopened in in the late-70s, shortly before the Dead arrived.

In 1978, the band was in disarray. Dennis McNally, in his essential A Long Strange Trip, mentioned “emotional problems” at that time, among which was the deteriorating relationship between Keith and Donna Godchaux and their relationship with their bandmates. Substance abuse was a factor, and spousal abuse (by both parties) was, as well. The problems continued into the next year. On the night of the Buffalo show, Donna left the band. Keith stayed on. According to McNally, the Godchauxs and the Dead officially parted ways in February.

LMA reviewer johnmm1959 disputes that, and offers some insight into Donna’s absence:

“This was quite a show in quite a place. Uncharacteristically, they started about an hour late. I was getting concerned because I was really taking flight when the thought occured to me that there might be a problem, like in New Haven the previous November. I found out later through a reliable source that Jerry had the job of telling Donna and Keith that they were done. Contrary to what was written in ‘Long Strange Trip,’ Donna headed home, and Keith hung on for the remaining shows. Jerry was found meandering the hotel lobby minutes before the show was to begin. (A combination of being upset and under the infulence of his choice at the time.) It took the band a few songs to find their stride and the show provided enough ‘moments’ to be considered a keeper.”
LMA reviewer jsunsh adds, “I was there and the vibe was strange – an hour late in starting – no Donna – and no idea of the tension in the band.”
That tension showed in the music. At least at first. ECM’s take? “1st Set = Unspectacular. 2nd Set = Unspectacular until Estimated, then full psychedelic Other One > Drums > Other One > Dark Star. Sick, sick, sick.”
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This Dark Star was only one of two in ’79 (1/10 featured Donna), and then it was shelved for two years. LMA reviewer jjjbaggins calls this show “an important artifact” because of the late second set DS: “Only two Dark Stars all year, … and this one, while short, is thoughtful and deep. It comes out of a beautiful post-drums noodle … and climbs into a rockin’ NFA (although it seems Jerry wanted to explore it further).”
LMA reviewer Brownie1960, in a long, rambling post about his psychedelic experience, talks about being the guy screaming before Estimated Prophet:
“Let me add some context. I didn’t know a lot about the GD at the time, and the first set had already been a life changing experience for me. I was three or four rows back from the column of speakers on the right hand side of the stage. I was hanging on to the seat in front of me for dear life during Sugaree. It felt as if all the water from all the rivers on earth were washing through me all at once. If I would have let go, I don’t know where I would have ended up…. I remember nothing about intermission or Miracle Bertha Good Lovin’. Loser started all the water from all the rivers of the earth running through me again. During the interval between that and Estimated Prophet, I had a pretty lucid moment. I kept hearing all of these people calling out song names…. So after I heard a person call out a song title, I screamed at the top of my lungs, ‘ANYTHING BUT THAT,’ like it would somehow harm me if the band actually played that song. I also remember screaming for them to ‘PLAY SOMETHING WEIRD,’ but I don’t think it made any of the tapes. I do remember it was kind of like white light from the sun when Dark Star started. I was sure there were streamers released from the ceiling during this, but nobody else saw them. I sort of went back to my normal life after this, although it never was the same again.”
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That brings us to ECM’s friend Rick Koh. If you’re a regular here, and read the Cornell post, you might remember that Rick attended 5/8/77. He quipped, “How could it be the best show ever if they didn’t play Dark Star?” Rick was also at 9/3/77 and 1/20/79. In an email to Ed, Rick rated the latter, this show, as the best of those three: “I know it is not a renowned show but it stands (out in my memory) as a one of my favorite shows [I] ever attended – maybe because Donna wasn’t there, or because it was full of friends, as I was attending University of Buffalo at the time.” And he told a story about “calling” Dark Star, by, basically, yelling at bassist Phil Lesh. As Rick recalled in that email, he got “to the second row aisle where I had an epiphany that Phil wanted me to call him to play Dark Star … and they did. My yelling is confirmed on some aud tapes.”
Last week, I heard the story from the man himself. What a treat. At the end of a long and fun convo, he labeled this one, “just a great show.” Listen for yourself (and let me know if you can hear him) …
Transport to the Charlie Miller remaster of the Jerry Moore audience recording HERE.
And here‘s a post about this show from Grateful Dead of the Day.
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Thanks, Rick. And thanks, as always, Ed.
More soon.
JF
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2017: The Playlist

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Last week, I posted my 2017 wrap-up. Buried at the end of it was a playlist of my favorite tracks from last year. It’s long, as I mentioned – 125 tracks. Honestly, I was shooting for 100, but couldn’t figure out what to cut because it’s all killer, no filler. The only ground rule was one track per artist/band. I repeated two: London Grammar and The War on Drugs. The latter because they had arguably the best album of the year; the former because they had arguably the best cover of the year – their take on the Verve’s “Bittersweet Symphony” is hauntingly great, and seems to capture some of the mixed feelings that me and many of the folks I know and love experienced.

My favourite song last year was Rolling Blackouts Costal Fever’s “The French Press” from their EP of the same name. I decided that the EP was too short for my list of best albums (it’s eight minutes less than Kamasi Washington’s Harmony of Differencewhich was #5, but almost too short for me), so I wanted to repost the playlist and spotlight a fantastic song and record.

The playlist is a not-surprisingly gender-balanced musical snapshot of a year when women forever changed our political and cultural discourse. By my count, sixty-eight of the tracks (54%) feature female artists – either singing the songs, or contributing to them. Not bad. #timesup Oh. And FYI: This list is not little kid (or ice cream parlor) friendly. Swears on some tracks. Sorry.

I already have Friday playlists plotted out for a month or so, so there still will be some 2017 leftovers coming up before this year gets into gear.

More soon.

JF

Jazz Is… #6: Ahmad Jamal

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Jazz Is… is back.

An earlier post in this series covered pianist Cecil Taylor.  Miles Davis, upon hearing Taylor, quipped, “Who’s that motherfucker? He can’t play shit!”

Miles was more complimentary about another contemporary, pianist Ahmad Jamal. In his autobiography, Miles said, “When people say Jamal influenced me a lot, they’re right.”

Ahmad Jamal was born in Philadelphia in 1930. He began playing piano at age three.  By age fourteen, he was a professional, and recognized as a “coming great” by the great Art Tatum. After high school, Jamal joined George Hudson’s orchestra.  On tour in Detroit, he discovered Islam. He converted to that faith and changed his name when he moved to Chicago in 1950.

Chicago was where Jamal established himself – first at a club called the Blue Note (in the so-called Loop at Madison & Dearborn), and later at the lounge of the Pershing Hotel on the city’s south side, where his trio was the house band. That band featured bassist Israel Crosby and drummer Vernel Fournier. In 1958, they released the live album At the Pershing: But Not for Me.

The album was initially panned by a Down Beat magazine review as “cocktail music” for it’s lightness. The review added that the music was “emotionally, melodically, and organizationally innocuous.” Miles apparently disagreed, finding inspiration in Jamal’s minimalism – “his concept of space, his lightness of touch, his understatement.” On Allmusic, Scott Yannow said that Jamal and his band had “a magical chemistry during this era, and the pianists close attention to dynamics gave the group its own sound.” And according to A.B. Spellman of the National Endowment of the Arts, “Nobody except Thelonious Monk used space better, and nobody ever applied the artistic device of tension and release better.”

The public embraced But Not for Me, too. It was best selling jazz recording that year, and today has sold more than a million copies. The key track is “Poinciana,” an eight-minute Latin-tinged groove that even appeared in jukeboxes at the time. Imagine that: A jukebox with jazz.

The popularity of But Not for Me led to a sequel, Jamal at the Pershing, which featured more material from the same live recordings.

Both albums are contained all covers, however. After a hiatus for a period in the ’60s, Jamal eventually began writing and recording his own material. A high-point is 1970’s The Awakening.

Ahmad Jamal is still active today. He received the Jazz Masters Award from the NEA in 1994, and became a living Jazz Legend at the Kennedy Center in 2007. Just last year, he was recognized at the Grammys with a Lifetime Achievement Award.

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Jamal was one of my dad’s favorites. While my poodle-skirt mom was geeking on Sinatra, my dad, the jock, was aping Bohemian in Chicago’s NW burbs and introducing his set to jazz. (I told you it used to be on jukeboxes, right?) This post is dedicated to him. And, as usual with this series, Wikipedia was a primary source.

More soon.

JF

2017

a-deeper-understandingHey, guys. Happy New Year. And Happy Friday.

For new followers, who may have discovered this blog via Ed Martin’s 31 Days of Dead project, welcome. And for old followers, welcome back. With the festive period past us, we’re back to a more regular schedule. So let’s start 2018 with something about 2017, and an epic Friday playlist.

When I suggested moving the Liner Notes HQ holiday party from Winter Solstice (the traditional date) to New Year’s Eve, OM balked. He wanted our business all done and dusted well before the end of the year. His argument was that most music journo sites/blogs publish their lists in mid-December, and that nobody cares after that. (Something about internet culture, and people on their phones more over the holidays at boring family functions. And blah x3. I tuned out, tbh. He talked for a while.) My argument was that the end of the year is the end of the year and that a 2017 wrap-up has to wait until 2017 wraps up. Right?

Ultimately, I won. In retro, I suspect that O just got sick of me ranting about time (it’s a theme). And he realized that he didn’t have NYE plans.

The party didn’t start well. We were supposed to start with parallel staffers – my side, O’s side – and move to a joint meeting afterwards. Then a lunch thing, then the party. The meetings happened. Ours was fun. Jane the Barber (JTB) wore a t-shirt with a handwritten SZA on the front. Austin the IT Guy wore a Deafheaven t-shirt (not sure that band had an album this year). The writers and interns fluffed whatever. We talked briefly, and voted. Everybody was cool. We adjourned, and waited.

And waited.

When the O-side meeting finished an hour later, Trevor (TA) had an announcement. What was formerly the outreach team would be now called the outreach-marketing team, or the OM team. The reaction was not positive. Here was the exchange…

TA: Hey, guys. In-house, we’re now known as the OM team.

JTB: Ha. What?

TA: Jane.

JTB: Trebro.

TA: Really?

JTB: Really. What?

TA: Whatever. We’re the OM team.

JTB: K-so. We’re the J-Team.

TA: Haha, like the A-Team. That movie sucked.

JTB: Movie?

The exchange got worse after that. O and I calmed the waters, and chased people out of the conference room. We erased the chalkboards and talked about our lists, and the votes from our teams. Then we got to the simpler LN biz, like we used to do way back. This record vs. that record, tired gripes (the National vs. Crash Test Dummies), fresh whinges (Arcade Fire), plenty of eye rolls, even more Don Draper handshakes, etc. After much chalk dust and eraser smear, we made our lists and pulled down the maps, so nobody would spill the results.

The party was ok. Jane and her friends sorta mocked Tre, and Tre sorta hit back (not hard, he’s a nice person). Austin commandeered the speakers to play some Baroness. The new guy (everybody called him BoyToy – not sure why, and I interviewed him) requested something off the back half of Station to Station. Not exactly dance music, but still cool.

A guy named Adam showed up, eventually. He played a short set, partly on the office organ. (That’s him up top.) I left early, and heard stories late. Nothing too interesting. Anyway.

Normally in these year-end posts, I have a point to make. I’ve done “music is the best,” when we were still on Hypervocal. I’ve done “music matters.” I’ve done “musicians matter.” I’ve done “music blogs don’t matter.” And last year, I did a sort of greatest hits of my earlier posts, with a coda of “let’s talk.” We didn’t. Don’t worry, I’ll ask again in a bit. So what else? How about “music got me through.”

2017 was tough for my team and me. I don’t want to detail all the whys, but here’s one. My dad died in May after a week in the hospital and two weeks in hospice. Cat Power’s Moon Pix was my go-to during that time, so it wasn’t a surprise when I saw Chan Marshall in this thing from Spotify.

I’m curious about some of those stats. 8,120 songs seems like a stretch – there must be some repeats included in that number. (Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever’s “French Press” is probably the song that I revisited the most. London Grammar’s “Bones of Ribbon” was a distant second.) And 1,499 different artists? I feel like a slacker that I didn’t hit one more for a solid, round 1,500. And what’s up with genres? Spotify says that I explored 179 of them, but it seemed more like 10.

The big number is important, though. I listened to more than 69,491 minutes or 1,158 hours of music on Spotify last year. And countless more hours of music on the radio (mostly Chicago’s WXRT). Not-so-humble brag, but that’s alot of music. So our tag line – “We write, you listen” – is more like we listen, then we write. And then what?

Do you listen? Not just to what’s here, but to what you’re into? Of course, you do. What is it? Old stuff? New stuff? Do you have a plan? Certain websites or blogs that you visit regularly? Or do you just search for what you want to hear? Do you subscribe to a streaming service? Which one? Why? You can respond below the line, as they say. Or you can email: linernotesmusicblog@gmail.com

I’ve come off as a snob sometimes here. That’s not my aim. Last year, I posted mostly Grateful Dead shows and extremely long playlists for my best friend on her workday drives. This year, I’ll post stuff like that, and hopefully more “editorial material.” It won’t be judge-y. If you’re not into it, that’s cool. If you are, check it out. I listen to so much music that I feel like I have a foundation to talk about it. But …

This isn’t a bully pulpit. This isn’t an ego trip. This is just a place. A virtual office with virtual staff, who log ear time to make recommendations and open conversations. Let’s talk.

Here’s my list.

  1. The War on Drugs – A Deeper Understanding
  2. Kendrick Lamar – Damn.
  3. Hundred Waters – Communicating / Currency EP
  4. SZA – Ctrl
  5. Kamasi Washington – Harmony of Difference
  6. Moses Sumney – Aromanticism
  7. LCD Soundsystem – american dream
  8. Lorde – Melodrama
  9. Bing & Ruth – Home of the Mind / Dorsal EP
  10. Father John Misty – Pure Comedy
  11. Fleet Foxes – Crack-Up
  12. London Grammar – Truth Is a Beautiful Thing
  13. Courtney Barnett & Kurt Vile – Lotta Sea Lice
  14. Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Luciferian Towers
  15. Broken Social Scene – Hug of Thunder
  16. Vijay Iyer Sextet – Far from Over
  17. Fever Ray – Plunge
  18. Four Tet – New Energy
  19. Ratboys – GN
  20. Waxahatchee – Out in the Storm

Honorable Mention (alphabetical):

  • A. Savage – Thawing Dawn
  • Angel Olsen – Phases
  • Tony Allen – The Source
  • Beach Fossils – Somersault
  • Bibio – Phantom Brickworks
  • Brightness – Teething
  • Julie Byrne – Not Even Happiness
  • Cigarettes After Sex – Cigarettes After Sex
  • Feist – Pleasure
  • Carl Craig – Versus
  • Grizzly Bear – Painted Ruins
  • Laura Marling – Semper Femina
  • Mogwai – Every Country’s Son
  • Perfume Genius – No Shape
  • St. Vincent – MASSEDUCTION
  • This Is the Kit – Moonshine Freeze
  • Max Richter – Three Worlds
  • Vagabon – Infinite World
  • The xx – I See You
  • Zola Jesus – Okovi

And here’s the usual caveat: Another day might yield another list. Any of the records on the Honorable Mention list could have been in the Top Twenty. Ultimately, they may be, if I edit the list. Oh, fwiw: I decided that, great as it is, Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever’s The French Press EP was too short to be eligible.

Bonus, too. There’s an accompanying playlist. It’s long – I was shooting for 100 tracks, but couldn’t get lower than 125. Every one here is great. I only repeated two bands (The War on Drugs and London Grammar). And I tried to sequence them like a normal Friday playlist, grouping certain styles and beginning and ending strong. Enjoy.

More soon.

JF

 

 

31 Days of Dead 2017 – Bonus Material: “Iko Iko > Day-O > Women Are Smarter” & “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” – Pittsburgh, PA 7/6/87

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Iko Iko > Day-O > Women Are Smarter, Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door

7/6/87 – Civic Arena – Pittsburgh, PA

One of the great things about a New Year’s Eve Grateful Dead concert was the tradition of a third set or at least an extended encore. Taking a page from the band’s playbook, I have followed that tradition in these projects. This year my “third set” is taken from the Pittsburgh Civic Arena on the same day that the band’s album, In The Dark was released. This show, along with the two shows that followed in Roanoke (July 7th & 8th) were the only indoor arena shows during the stadium tour with Bob Dylan. The shows were added after the Dead-Dylan tour was announced. Tickets were nearly impossible to get. The band delivered with what are arguably better shows than they played with Dylan.

The Pittsburgh show is made extra special by the presence of the Neville Brothers who joined the Dead for the most of the second set. Of the several times they collaborated together, this one is my favorite.

The Cajun-flavored trifecta of “Iko > Day-O > Women” is one giant party, but it is the stunning version of “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” that floats out of “Space” (complete with the soulful croons of the Nevilles) that makes this one a keeper. It was the band’s debut performance of “Knockin’” without Dylan, and it is the only time that it was not played as an encore which only adds to the specialness of it. The band must have liked their performance this evening because they invited the Neville Brothers back for their New Year’s Eve show that same year. While the NYE performance was fun, it did not rise to the level of Pittsburgh. As so often is the case, lightning never strikes twice. Therefore, even though it may have been more appropriate to use the material from New Year’s Eve 1987, I went with this one. The other reason I selected Pittsburgh is because for years it only circulated as an audience recording. In August 2017, audio guru Charlie Miller unearthed the first soundboard recording of it, which is an “Ultra Matrix Soundboard” originally taped by longtime GD sound man Dan Healy. I was so excited about this that I couldn’t wait another year to feature it. However, I did provide a link to the YouTube video of the NYE performance, since one does not exist for Pittsburgh.

I hope you enjoyed this year’s edition of the 31 Days of Dead. Please forward any requests or comments to me at 31daysofdead@gmail.com. In addition, I invite you to follow me on Instagram @31daysofdead. Wishing you all the best in the New Year!

 Download today’s bonus material HERE.

Stream Iko Iko on relisten.net HERE, Day-O HERE, Women Are Smarter HERE, and Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door HERE.

Stream the whole show on archive.org HERE. And stream the aforementioned NYE video on YouTube HERE.

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#newyearseve #ikoiko #heynow #dayo #daylightcomeandmewannagohome #womenaresmarter #thatsright #gratefuldead #nevillebrothers #07061987 #pittsburgh #jerrygarcia #bobweir #phillesh #billkreutzmann #mickeyhart #brentmydland #31daysofdead #linernotesmusicblog

31 Days of Dead 2017 – Day #31: “Touch of Grey” – Hartford, CT 3/27/87

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December 31 

Touch Of Grey

3/27/87 – Hartford Civic Center – Hartford, CT

I started this year’s project with the first performance of “Terrapin Station” to commemorate the 40-year anniversary of that album as well as the entire legendary touring year of 1977. Another big anniversary that received less attention was the 30-year anniversary of the band’s only Top 10 album, In The Dark. Released on July 6, 1987, the album included the band’s only top 40 single, “Touch of Grey” which peaked at #9 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts. The anthem-like song with the chorus, “I will get by, I will survive” embodied Jerry Garcia’s triumphant return after surviving a diabetic coma the previous year. It seemed appropriate to book-end “Touch of Grey” with “Terrapin Station” to frame this year’s edition of the Unofficial 31 Days of Dead. This version from Hartford is about as good as this song gets.

[Hey, guys. It’s JF. I just wanted to remind you at the end of this fantastic voyage that every single word of every single post of the 31 Days project was written by ECM. I didn’t edit anything – didn’t need to because he’s a great writer. I’ll save the big thanks for later, but for now … we did it. We got by, we survived.]

Download today’s track HERE.

Stream today’s track on relisten.net HERE.

And stream the whole show on archive.org HERE.

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Grateful Dead in Concert | Hartford CT | 26 March 1987

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#touchofgrey #wewillgetby #wewillsurvive #inthedark #gratefuldead #03271987 #hartford #jerrygarcia #bobweir #phillesh #billkreutzmann #mickeyhart #brentmydland #31daysofdead #linernotesmusicblog

31 Days of Dead 2017 – Day #30: “Sugar Magnolia” – Barcelona, Spain 10/19/81

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December 30 

Sugar Magnolia

10/19/81 – Sports Palace – Barcelona, Spain

Winding up their ’81 European Tour in Barcelona, the Dead pull all the stops out for this super-charged version of “Sugar Magnolia.” The climax is an adrenaline rush of thrashing, white hot distorto-guitars and pounding rhythm. Insane!

Download today’s track HERE.

Stream today’s track on relisten.net HERE , and on YouTube HERE.

And stream the whole show on archive.org HERE.

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Jerry Bobby

#sugarmagnolia #sunshinedaydream #thrashing #distortion #tourending #10191981 #barcelona #spain #gratefuldead #jerrygarcia #bobweir #phillesh #billkreutzmann #brentmydland #31daysofdead #linernotesmusicblog