It’s Friday, I’m in love…

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Hey, guys. I know it’s not Friday. It’s Monday. This blogpost and associated playlist were ready to go a few weeks ago. But life happened.

Back when I started this playlist project, I mentioned an earlier one. When my best friend and I were getting reacquainted, I sent her a mix cd in the mail every week for an entire year. 52 actual cds (with a fun-flavored pack of gum each package). I had pre-boyfriend game back then that puts my real-boyfriend game and especially my husband game to shame.

There’s part of me that wants to quit with this one. Symmetry or whatever. 52 of those when I was still cool. 52 of these now that I’m not anymore.

Maybe I should make a Spotify playlist for each of the original cds for posterity sake. (I might.) And maybe I should just keep going. Because there’s always music to hear and share – more literally every day.

This time, it’s new and old. A new Sun Kill Moon track leads into some older slowcore.  There’s a new Record Store Day single from The War on Drugs. There’s also new stuff from Real Estate, Amber Coffman (x-Dirty Projectors), the Shins, the Buckingham/McVie Experience, Paramore, Lana + The Weeknd, Frank Ocean, Shabazz Palaces, Kendrick, Circa Waves, and Waxahatchee.

Fwiw, that’s the first time that Circa Waves and Kendrick were mentioned in the same sentence.

Have great weeks.

The header image is by Mark Lovejoy (@marklovejoy on Ello). Thanks to him.

More soon. Really, I’m working on stuff besides playlists. But there will be a hiatus for personal reasons.

JF

 

Grateful Dead Monthly: Barton Hall – Ithaca, NY 5/8/77

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On May 8, 1977, the Grateful Dead played probably its best show ever at Cornell University’s Barton Hall in Ithaca, New York.

Built in 1914-15 as a drill hall for the Department of Military Science, Barton Hall was, and still is, a campus fixture. It was used primarily as a field house, but by the 1970s it was also used a concert venue.

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For this particular Sunday night concert in 1977, student tickets were $6.50.

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Public tickets were a dollar more, $7.50.

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So I said that this is probably the best Dead show. “Probably” is waffle-y, but with good reason. Picking just one from more than 2,300 shows is a highly subjective endeavor. What makes a show the best? Performance? Song selection? Era? Sound quality? Some combination of those factors? Sure, but how you weigh those factors depends on a lot of personal preferences. Some folks dig Pigpen rants. Some folks dig Brent Myland keyboards. Other folks dig other stuff.

I’m a Touchhead, a GD fan who discovered the band when they had a Top 40 hit – 1987’s Touch of Grey. My first show was 4/13/88. Since then, even before then, I have listened to plenty. I’ve listened to a lot more than I attended, tbh, but I’ve listened intently. So I feel like I have a modicum of credibility to wax a bit about what will always be my favorite band.

There are a handful of shows that most Deadheads would consider among the best. When the GDC gang, of which I’m fortunate to be a member, made a list of the Top 100 shows on the Live Music Archive, we decided to leave out the usual suspects – all of the official releases at that time, but also well-knowns/well-loveds like 2/18/71, 4/29/71, 8/27/72, 6/10/73, and, of course, 5/8/77. Our journey was planned for un- or under-explored places on the Dead map, so we avoided places that we had visited enough times that their setlists were as familiar as hometown streets.

OM has made the case for Cornell, and I don’t have much to add to his argument. I would only echo his point that the best shows are the best for many reasons, but one of those (maybe the most important of those) is the amazing culture of tape-trading that surrounded the Dead for most of its 40 years.

During the primal/psychadelic ballroom era in the late-60s, Owsley “Bear” Stanley, the band’s first sound engineer, began recording shows from his mixing or sound board.  After the October 1974 farewell shows, Bear passed the torch to Dan Healy, who helped establish a “tapers section,” where audience members could make their own recordings. (Sometimes, he gave tapers access to the soundboard, which resulted in recordings with much better sound quality than those produced from ambient microphones directed at the stage.)

Eventually, copies of both soundboard and audience recordings passed from head to head – older heads, who had been at some of the great nights in Dead history, as well as younger heads like me, who wanted a connection to those nights. A audience recording of 5/8/77 by famed taper Jerry Moore reached GD vault guy Dick Latvala a few weeks later. His notes from initial listens were ebullient, and helped establish that show as one to hear:

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Dick said, “over-all, I haven’t heard a finer show.” Rick Koh, who was there and who’s on a regular GD email chain with a bunch of us, once quipped, “How could it be the best show ever if they didn’t play Dark Star?” Yeah, it’s pretty subjective. To lend some objectivity to task of gauging 5/8/77’s quality, let’s talk about the best-show factors that I mentioned above.

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(Photo: Lawrence Reichman)

Performance-wise, the band is the loose-but-tight that characterized much of its work in 1977. The song selection is largely older. The first set, with the exception of Lazy Lightning > Supplication, a duo from Bob Weir’s side project Kingfish, looks like one from 1973. But the songs have a new vitality. I’d chalk up that aspect to Jerry Garcia. He’s in rich form here, both on guitar and vocals. Slower numbers like They Love Each Other and Row Jimmy burn, and Morning Dew glows then ignites at the end. And the St. Stephen > Not Fade Away > St. Stephen sandwich is super gooey. (NFA is part of why I’m married to my best friend. True story: LIRNFA are six important letters for us.) Also notable: Donna Godchaux adds more than she detracts, which was not always the case pre-retirement. My view is that her partnership with Maria Muldaur in Jerry’s contemporaneous solo band helped her find a space in a group setting like this.

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(Photo: David Kwan)

Then there are the newer songs. First, the aforementioned Lazy Lightning > Supplication, which features an excellent jam in the segue. Second, the reworked, disco-fied Dancing in the Street – a Motown chestnut that the band absolutely killed in ’69-70 (check out the classic version from 5/6/70, which is my go-to), but dropped – from the then-recently recorded Terrapin Station that closes the first set. Fantastic version. Third, the new duo of Scarlet Begonias > Fire on the Mountain – the former from 1974’s Mars Hotel record, and the latter from TS. This is the highlight of the show for me. Listen to bassist Phil Lesh dropping bombs at the beginning of Scarlet, wow. And, as my brother and GDC teammate noted on text yesterday, “I usually think the transition jam makes Scarlet Fire, but Cornell is all tail.” Translation: The heat comes not in the middle, but at the end. Fourth, Bobby’s amazing Estimated Prophet, also from TS, which itself in this era usually opened a duo with the older Eyes of the World, but here soars on its own.

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(Photo: Lawrence Reichman)

As OM mentioned in his piece, many of us encountered this show via tape-trading. I think that my first copy (part of it, anyway?) came from an n-th generation cassette borrowed from a cool East-Coast frat bro. (Hey, Pete, hope you’re well.) Through the hiss of that many dubs, I could still tell that this one was special. Maybe I had the Jerry Moore recording; maybe I had something else. That brings us to sound quality. And that’s another story.

Among Healy’s sound crew was Betty Cantor-Jackson.

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Betty had been with the band for years, and she was appreciated, particularly by bassist Phil Lesh, for her great ear in mixing at venues. She was also appreciated for her own recordings, the so-called “Betty Boards” – 350+ reels of tape from shows between 1971 and 1980. When Betty left, she took those tape reels with her, and a big piece of Dead history, including 5/8/77, disappeared. (If LN could afford A-list talent, that last sentence would feature Cate Blanchett reprising her voice-over from the start of Fellowship of the Ring. The ring, friends, is 5/8/77.)

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That piece of history disappeared until 1986. Apparently, that year, Betty lost her home and moved her possessions into a storage unit. When she couldn’t make payments on the unit, its contents were sold at auction. Somebody bought the tape reels, which like other recordings, were copied and traded – thanks largely to Rob Eaton, guitarist for GD cover-band Dark Star Orchestra. (Here is an excellent Relix article on that.) Many ended up on the Archive. At some point in the last year or so, the Betty Boards themselves ended up in the vault. Long-time GD archivist David Lemieux and engineer Jeffrey Norman did their magic, and now 5/8/77 is an official release. That show, along with 5/5, 5/7, and 5/9, is part of the May 1977: Get Shown the Light box set. (All four shows are truly legendary.) Here is what’s become known as simply “Cornell” on Spotify:

And here is Cornell as recorded by Jerry Moore.

And here is the “freshly remastered Betty Board with AUD splices, by Rob Eaton.” This copy, according to ECM, has been download 556,000+ times. (Yes, there are still ways to download shows from the Archive. Email me for instructions: jafreitag@gmail.com).

And here is the Pitchfork review of the new box set. It’s insightful and better-written than this post, for sure.

In GD posts, I try to troll the comments in the Archive for pithy stuff, but I didn’t for this show. Cornell speaks for itself. Is it the best show ever? Idk. I’m a music snob with a documented aversion to popular music. If I were to pick only one GD show to take to a desert island, would it be 5/8/77? I might go with 8/27/72 – three sets, all the goodness of that year and that Bird Song. I might pick 2/18/71 for the debuts. I might pick 4/29/71 for the Alligator Jam, which is what hooked me. I even might pick the Watkins Glen Soundcheck Jam, for that matter.

Shit. I’d pick 5/8. It’s the best. It is.

So, yeah, btw. If you were wondering, GD Weekly from last year has morphed into GD Monthly. (I was gonna run out of stuff to cover at that pace, anyway.) Talk atcha about the Good Old Grateful Dead in June.

More soon.

JF

It’s Friday, I’m in love…

@karinkarst

Hey, guys. How’s stuff?

Here’s the weekly 45. This one came together sorta by accident.

Have you ever wondered how these playlists are compiled? Want a behind the scenes look? Follow me on Spotify, then check out my playlists. There’s a folder called IFIILO. The ones in there are done, and either posted here or ready to be. Above that folder, you’ll see a lot of others titled IFIILO with numbers. Those are works in progress. I usually have around five going.

I listen to music all the time. On commutes, at work, at home. When I find something good, I’ll dump it into a playlist. I usually have a mental note about genres or themes/styles. Like this: #51 is going to have a rock-ish beginning and end with an electronica/dance middle section that segues into some hip-hop. Etc.

Sources? I run thru the Independent Music Monday playlist from the folks at Drowned in Sound every week. That one’s awesome, and pretty Brit. I run thru whatever Spotify’s algorithm puts on my Release Radar. I usually, but not always, run thru my Discover Weekly there. I hit Pitchfork’s Best New Tracks – great, but not as current or populated as it could be. (Hey, P4k, hmu. I’d be excited to update for you.) I used to follow a few other weeklies, but they weren’t current. Oh, and I try to get to Warp Records’ Selections playlist for beat-centric, EDM/IDM material.

And then there’s all the older stuff that I know and rediscover, or just stumble across. A good example here is the Blur track, “No Monsters in Me.” It’s on the reissue of their 1995 masterpiece The Great Escape because it was recorded during those sessions. It’s kinda too grungy for sneery TGE, but too sneery for the self-titled grungy follow-up. (That’s what’s neat about reissues. The leftovers are often interesting and transitional. And, fyi, there will be plenty of Blur in the next few weeks because I’ve mined all the reissues for gems. Fwiw, the last two records aren’t that great.)

The Blur track needed something similar after it. Smashing Pumpkins? I tried “Quiet,” but it wasn’t quite right. Maybe Elastica? Damo used to date Justine? Perfect. Elastica into Veruca Salt? Sure. And then into some new Shoegaze. And so on.

My point is the “by accident” part. This playlist was supposed to have that rock-ish end, right? There’s only one parameter that I try to obey – 45 tracks. This one started tonight around 70. I moved some tracks, and deleted others, but it was still around 60. The rock-ish end happened to be 15 tracks, so it got cut and dropped into next week’s playlist. Which is currently at 100 tracks. Work to do there. Anyway.

This is a mixed bag. New Sun Kil Moon, The War on Drugs (whoa, an 11-minute Record Store Day release), Real Estate, Amber Coffman (x-Dirty Projectors), Phoenix (!!), Lindsey & Christine (yeah, those ones), Frank Ocean (yeah, that one), Shabazz Palaces, Kendrick, Car Seat Headrest, Circa Waves, Diet Cigs, and Waxahatchee. And some older stuff, natch.

The header image is by @karinkarst on Ello. You should check out Ello. It’s a cool site for visual art, and one of my team members is regularly featured there. Featured, as in I sometimes get emails from Ello with their best stuff, and hers is there. Super cool.

Have great weekends.

More soon,

JF

It’s Friday, I’m in love…

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Hey, guys.

This is #50. I wanted to do something special to mark a half-century (plus a couple) of these playlists. So, as promised, here’s a throwback with material that mostly predates me.

Why this?

Because of a guy from Alabama named John Brooks McLemore. He’s the subject of a new podcast from the This American Life and Serial folks called S-Town or Shit-Town. (That was what JBM called his hometown of Woodstock, AL.) The podcast is fascinating, and well worth your attention for its seven-plus hours. The main speaker is Brian Reed, who works at TAL. He and his staff chose a song by the Zombies, “A Rose for Emily,” to outro each episode. That was my inspiration, and last song here, before the usual YLT.

JBL was born in ’66, at the beginning of the so-called psychedelic era, so there are 66 tracks. (Actually, 67. But Dylan’s “Jet Pilot” is basically a demo of “Tombstone Blues.” Fwiw, the typical run-time for these playlists is around 3:15 for 45 tracks. This one is 3:14. Songs were shorter then.) There are some big names and some little names, all collected loosely under the label “psych-rock.” Roughly, this is music from the mid-late ’60s, with a few tracks from the early ’70s. A lot of it has (what seems to me) the signature wiggy guitar and/or organ sound from that period.

Complilations of material are common. (The Graduate and The Big Chill soundtracks are two well-known examples.) But the best, and most comprehensive, is Nuggets, lovingly assembled in 1972 by Jac Holzman and Lenny Kaye, who would later join the Patti Smith Group. Nuggets was originally a double-album, but it became a four-disc set in 1998. That set isn’t on Spotify, but somebody made a playlist with most of the songs. I raided that, for sure, but I also asked for help. So a special thanks to LN alum Ed Martin and our musicologist pal Darryl Norsen.

This week’s header image is by @almasolderlind from Ello. Thanks for that, too.

Oh, and an update: There may be some new non-playlist content in the proverbial works here at LN.

From me, not fan-fave OM. Smh. He’s now on “indefinite sabbatical,” per the Slack message that I got this morning when I settled into the morning at the office. Apparently, Turks & Caicos has a university (alt-TCU?) that “needs” an adjunct in music blog theory. And they’re willing to pay in the mid-six figures. Not tenure-track, but still. Damn. And, yeah, in case you were wondering, this gig was the subject of those phone calls from a few weeks ago. Travel safe, dude. Send a postcard or something. We’ll hold down the fort. And by we, I mean me.

Anyway. I’m considering a reboot of the award-winning “Jazz Is…” series, and a debut of “The Classical,” a monthly (hopefully?) thing about, uh, classical music. I’m also in talks about a punk monthly and something about the Grateful Dead and/or Phish. Stay tuned.

More soon. (It’ll pry be another eclectic playlist. Sorry.)

JF

It’s Friday, I’m in love…

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Hey, guys.

Hope you all had good M-F’s. Here’s the usual 45 for your S-S’s.

The highlight is the new Feist track, featuring Jarvis Cocker (Pulp) – amazing, as you might expect. Also new Spoon and Shins, new Kendrick and Drake, that Julia Michaels song, and a tautologic single from Woods.

The rest is a mix of older stuff, including a rock-ish segment toward the beginning that ends with a tiny preview of next week’s vintage psych-rock explosion. Yep. If you dig ’60s music and know your Nuggets from your Moby Grapes, stay tuned.

Header image: Guido Chiabrera (@guidochiabrera on Ello). Really like that. Probably should’ve saved it for an all-glitch playlist. Or a playlist of video game music for my only teenage kid. Oh, well.

Have super-duper weekends.

More soon.

JF

It’s Friday, I’m in love…

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Hey, guys.

Here’s this week’s playlist. Typically eclectic. Old stuff by Wire Train, George, Santana, The Byrds, The Decemberists, Tortoise, Talking Heads, the Mac, and Malkmus. New stuff by Dan Auerbach, St. Et., Future, Los Camps!, Tennis, London Grammar, Bing & Ruth, Noveller, and Slowdive, as well as a cool new version of the latest Shins single, “Name for You.” And there’s even a jazzy middle section – from Bill (Evans) to Billie (Holiday) – to soundtrack your egg coloring.

The printemps-y header image is by Alex McLaren (@alexmclaren on Ello).

Have great weekends. Happy Holidays to those of you celebrating religiously.

More soon.

JF

It’s Friday, I’m in love…

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Hey, guys. Welcome to the weekend. Here’s a playlist. A little longer this time, but whatever. I just couldn’t cram enough goodness into 45 tracks. After finishing some of these lists, I think, “eh, that’s fine.” Others, I think, “that’s awesome.” This one is one of the latter.

Oodles of freshness. Check out “The French Press” from Oz’ Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – my fave track of 2017, so far. There’s new Flasher, Chazzy Belt, Earthen Sea, Goldfrapp, Clark, the New Pornographers, and Gorillaz. There’s new Kendrick and his wff Drake. There’s new ANOHI, Kelly Lee Owens, Half Waif, Peter Silberman (the Antlers), and Mikal Cronin. There’s new Whitney, Laura Marling, Aimee Mann, and Lorde. Oh, and what?! A brand-spankin’ thing by Toronto’s 40-something superstars, and the greatest fn band in the world, BSS. Yeah, they’re back. And just in time b/c we need them now more than ever.

There’s also old Blur, Los Camps!, Stereolab, Neil, and Ricky Nelson (one of my mom’s go-to songs). Yo La Tengo appears in the list itself with a mid-90s classic, which means the Cure take the anchor spot.

This week’s header image and playlist cover is by @nicolameda on Ello.

All good stuff. Enjoy! And please share on your social network(s) of choice.

More soon.

JF