June 1, 2017

The Audience-Tape Dark Stars 1970-1972 (Guest Post)

BY NICK J.

Some of the best Dark Stars of the early ‘70s exist only on audience tapes, from good to poor quality. They’re often underrated, and heard less than the pristine-sounding Dark Stars on board tapes, so I decided to give them their own post.
Contributor Nick wrote some reviews of the audience-only Dark Stars of 1970 & 1972 for the old Transitive Axis forum, which I’m re-posting here with my comments.
Of the previous audience-tape Dark Stars, I reviewed 11/22/68 here - http://deadessays.blogspot.com/2009/08/dark-star-1968.html  1969 Dark Stars will be covered in a future post.

1970

2/8/70 Fillmore West

LIA:
A very good AUD tape for the year, clear and balanced.
Dark Star starts cautiously, delicately – the opening jam is calm and restrained, with a very similar feel to the 2/13 version. The verse comes around 6:30, then we’re cast out into open space – gongs, cymbals, volume swells, swirls of feedback, bass squonks and pops. It’s a lengthy space, very percussive and abstract, the Dead painting a sonic picture. Garcia starts a tentative melody at 14 minutes, and the band slowly brings a groove back in. There’s a brief Other One jam as the music gets more upbeat. It sounds like they’re building up to a theme, with marching bass lines and Garcia repeating a lyrical melody, but at 21:20 Garcia returns to the ‘bright star’ theme to signal the return to the verse. He sounds like he’s about to sing the verse, when the SBD starts at 22:35, just as the band throws in a last-minute Feelin’ Groovy (as they would again on 2/14). This is similar to 2/13 but stays slow and relaxed, and Garcia niftily pops back to the Dark Star riff to finish the song.
This Dark Star has a long and excellent space; the jam is relaxed and takes a while to build, and doesn’t get to the blazing heights some other early-'70 Stars reach. It kept reminding me of 2/13/70 but without the same meditative melodic grace.

I should mention the Dark Star played a few days later, 2/11/70 at the Fillmore East. The SBD tape has a minute-long cut in Dark Star (starting 7 minutes in), but the AUD tape is complete.
It’s one of the best-sounding AUD tapes from the Fillmore East, more thunderous than the SBD. (It’s not as clear as the 2/8 tape, being a bit boomy, but pretty good for the usually dire-sounding Fillmore East.) The mix is quite different and more balanced than the SBD – the guest players are very clear in the mix, and are better heard on the AUD. The SBD mix is very unbalanced, with Weir louder than everyone and the guest guitarists stuck in the back so they can’t be heard well, making it sound lopsided, but in the AUD they’re up-front with the Dead and you get a much better sense of the full band interactions.


4/24/70 Denver
http://www.archive.org/details/gd70-04-24.aud.remaster.sirmick.27205.sbeok.shnf  

The sound isn't terrible on this one, not bad at all if the November Capitol Theater tapes don't bother you. This show features the last full-blown Eleven they did, and sadly there's some tantalizing jamming that is missing from the master we have.

After the intro riff, Jerry enters with some ripples of feedback and doesn't get down to business until about 55 seconds in. He feels a little tentative at first, but after a minute he really opens up and the jam gets considerably more depth to it. Jerry's tearing it up here, dodging and darting around the main theme and digressing into several cool little jams. Billy enters on cymbals at the climax of a particularly powerful little passage at 3:27, and it just goes on beautifully from there. Vocals at 6:34.

Space begins with some mournful guitar chiming, and various sounds slowly and carefully entering to fill in the void as the gong slooowly growls to life. Not a real heavy deep space vibe in here, though not particularly disjointed either. Jerry starts moving back out at 11:05 and at 12:15 everyone's snapped out of it and Jerry gets it rolling again. Phil immediately teases Feelin’ Groovy, but then takes off after Jerry, only for Bobby to pick it up for a full-fledged FG jam at 13:00, which doesn't go much of anywhere, and in under a minute they choose option B, Tighten Up.* Much better: this one really rolls across hills and valleys, with some cool twists (dig what happens around 15:50, then again after 16 min when Jerry hits a peak and keeps flying forward). I wish I was sitting on the front porch in July watching the fireflies, hearing this. This is a really, really beautiful Tighten Up jam!

Around 17:40, this glory of a jam disperses and they hit a crossroad; without coming up for air, Jerry picks a new path and the others follow. It starts tilting back towards Feelin’ Groovy, and at 19:25 Bob clearly starts it again but pulls up short, and by 20 minutes they're back in the realm of the Dark Star theme, but they've got plenty more to say and dance circles around the theme, building in intensity as they do. Jer's really wailing and peaks around 22:00-22:20, falling right down into the DS theme riff and into the second verse at 23:00. A fantastic spring 1970 Dark Star (not that there were many of them!), with Jerry particularly pushing himself audibly and reaping some huge rewards as a result.

* Now known as the “Soulful Strut” jam. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yX1XSOzDPik

LIA:
A poor, buzzy, distant recording, not easy listening, though the vocals & electric guitars are fairly clear.
Dark Star fades into being. Garcia comes in after the intro with a sigh of feedback. The opening jam starts out deliberately paced, but steadily becomes more energetic. Garcia really steps out, his playing narcotic and droney - the entranced audience claps as he starts the verse! Some quick strumming drops suddenly into a quiet space. Church bells toll, windchimes rustle - we enter a mysterious, enchanting dreamland - the atmosphere thickens with Garcia's violin-like swells, tense pauses, lingering feedback notes. The audience is silent. Finally, Garcia starts up a swirling Sputnik jam that takes the band back to musical ground. Lesh & Weir fall into the Feelin' Groovy riff, and the mood becomes lighter. But after a couple passes, they switch to the Soulful Strut chords, and really dig in here, developing a long dynamic jam with a very lyrical Garcia lead. Once this ends, they pause, searching for a new theme - Garcia starts playing chords, a sign that he's very excited. The chordal riffing heads into ANOTHER Feelin' Groovy jam - they're in no hurry to get back to the verse, the music is carrying the band now. The jam explodes, and Garcia rips into the Dark Star riff with incendiary soloing as hot as anything you'll hear from 1970. The crowd cheers as they abruptly settle back into the verse. The transition inevitably goes into a charged St Stephen, to the crowd's great delight.
An excellent must-hear Dark Star – and sadly, the only one that survives from April ’70.

*

5/8/70 Delhi, NY
http://www.archive.org/details/gd70-05-08.aud.miller.32056.sbeok.flacf  

Don't let the Miller gold standard fool you here. This one sounds really bad.* Supposedly this intrepid taper had his gear stuck right up onstage next to Phil's bass amp. Ever wonder what it would feel like to be a fly stuck to an amp at a Dead show? I've attempted a couple close listens to this before, but now that I’m this far down my 1970 rabbit hole, the only choice is to pour a tall drink, tape the headphones to my head, and turn it way up. Here goes… 

Yowch! The tape cuts in as they're pounding out these chords that come blazing out like fireballs, and the effect is totally disorienting. It's like you're listening from inside the sun. Like the intro to the Beatles' "It's All Too Much" at 10 times the intensity. At 40 seconds in Jerry becomes apparent, playing the Dark Star riff, and the verse comes at 1:13. They probably hadn't done more than 4-5 minutes of playing prior to this, but it sounds like it's already a pretty heavy groove with a more triumphant feel than the usual 1970 pre-verse Dark Star jam.

The gongs come roaring up as they the guitarists continue the DS riffing, and by 2:45 they've started the haze. It's like an ocean roar here, with various recognizable sounds appearing and vanishing like boulders in the mist. Again, totally disorienting. The gong roar climaxes and subsides into feedback to big applause at 3:55, and Phil and Jerry start getting furry. For all I know, a sbd tape might reveal that this is a fairly uneventful, run-of-the-mill Dark Star space. But here it's like being caught in the middle of a thunderstorm.

At 7:30 Jerry starts the swim back to known waters, but it takes a while for everyone to pull it together. By 8:45, Bob's started his usual two-chord vamp as Jerry lazily loops around over the top. The build-up is getting more persistent and intense, and Jerry contributes to the tension considerably by dragging himself across the groove; cool effect, actually. At 10:50 he quits it and joins the rest for what eventually becomes a Tighten Up jam that continues building in intensity (dig that little climax he hits around 13:30!) until it sounds like it's really smoking. The sound quality's clearly clogging up a lot of what's going on in here, but this sounds like it's really wonderful stuff. Then at 16:05, they triumphantly drop into Feelin’ Groovy! It's finished around 17:30ish, and Phil and Jerry seem to pause and hover, deciding where to go next. Around 18 min, Phil neatly sets up a return to the second verse, but right over the Dark Star bassline, Jerry seemlessly starts playing the Dancin’ intro riff, and off they go! Whoa. Any 1970 fan owes it to themselves to hear this.

* I can't even really talk about how "bad" the sound is -- the music is still recognizably the Dead, of course, but it's so distorted and fried that it crosses over into a new realm of abstraction beyond just a crappy aud tape. The closest comparison I can think of is some other extreme lo-fi feedback psych like Les Rallizes Denudes (Japanese psych band). I was totally sucked in at first, blown away by the space and feedback, and then as my ears adjusted to the sound, I found myself loving the music but wondering what I was missing: how hard was everyone really playing? What exactly are the drummers up to? (they're felt more than heard throughout most of this) Is this really as good as it seems to be? I guess the world may never know.

LIA:  
This could be one of the best shows of the year, and our intrepid taper stuck his mike up onstage right in front of the amps. The band's volume overwhelmed his poor equipment, the music surrounded by crackling distortion. (Even in the moments of silence, there's still a loud whine & rumble from the tape - like a dictation machine! If only Weir had told him to move back!)
Sonically extreme, it's like having all the amps turned up to 11 in a wall of distortion, in which we can only make out a fraction of the sound.

It starts with a bang, blasting chords and metallic noise – the first twenty seconds of this is one of my favorite Dead passages ever. Most of the intro jam must be missing, since it quickly settles down into the Dark Star riff and verse. The crowd applauds after the verse, and the band gets sucked into a lengthy, bizarre space: vibrating bass, crashing gongs (more applause). Finally Garcia starts leading the way out with a bright, spooky arpeggio as the others keep clanging, and finds a tendril of melody (more applause). A two-chord groove steadily builds up to a slow, sultry Soulful Strut. This gradually rises to more of a frenzy, but it’s hard to hear the beauty here as the clatter increases. It settles down into a calm Feelin’ Groovy jam (with cowbell, and more applause when it finishes). After a pause, they burst into Dancin’ instead of returning to the verse.

Considering the distorted sonics, the Dark Star itself is not unusually adventurous, but it's very smoothly done with all the sections flowing naturally, the Feelin' Groovy is a very relaxing finish, and the jump to Dancin’ is a nice surprise (to be repeated on 11/8). As Nick noticed, there's a particularly triumphant feeling to the playing tonight, and the audience is digging it, applauding periodically throughout the jams. Highly recommended for those with strong ears.

*

6/24/70 Capitol Theater, Port Chester
https://archive.org/details/gd_nrps70-06-24.aud.pcrp5.23062.sbeok.flacf (late electric set)

From the full show review -

Did Jerry ever actually mention Dark Star from the stage before? He silences some impatient clappers with "uh, we have a little bit of technical preparation, Mickey has to get his gongs all together, we're gonna do Dark Star. [applause and some quick Mountain Jam noodling] So there'll be a minute or two of respectful silence while Mickey fiddles aimlessly around the stage." He sounds like he's all one big silly grin. Phil whispers "ssssilence… silence for Mickey…" and, amazingly, the crowd simmers right down -- and this is actually an incredible little aud tape moment. Listen to how pumped and buzzing with anticipation the room sounds! Someone even hollers "can't wait!" Evidently neither can Phil, who is rarin' to go and eagerly nudging at the DS riff, but of course someone's gotta yell "you suck!" (to the band? to someone else?), to which Pig drawls, "at least we (he?) sucks something good."

Dark Star begins with a POOF of flame and skips right along: this is a peppy, bouncy Dark Star tonight, with Phil definitely driving it along with his feet barely touching the floor. There's another priceless aud moment as a kindred spirit right next to the mics has his mind quietly blown open and solemnly intones "oh my god," as the gongs roar in the post-verse space. Phil makes his way for Attics fairly quickly, but Jerry thankfully lets the open void roar for a minute more before making the shift. As they finally set the groove for Attics, our neighbor can be heard muttering a life-affirming "whoa…whoa." This Attics sounds a tad shakier than the early show version, but given the placement you couldn't possibly complain. Right on cue, Jerry winds it back to Dark Star for about three minutes of DS theme jamming, then a soulful little Tighten Up jam complete with another big POOF of flames as they near the climax; Jerry tips it back towards Dark Star variations and lets off one perfect fast little spiraling run just before Bob starts the Feelin’ Groovy jam, but Jerry cuts in after 30 seconds with some big A chords to start the still-unfinished Sugar Magnolia, then again back into Dark Star without missing a beat. As much as these quick segues preempt any long jamming, it's amazing how absolutely effortless they are -- Jerry's timing is really impeccable.

As the 2nd verse winds down, our blissed out friend is heard one last time: "yeah yeah! oh noooo!," and then as St. Stephen starts, "yeah! yeah! my god!"

LIA:
A clear recording, and a rowdy Port Chester audience. This Dark Star is very bright, happy and bouncy. After an earlier feint, the verse comes around 6:15, with onstage pyrotechnics. (You can hear the poof of flame in the verse at “while we can,” and the audience whoops in delight.) A short but luscious two-minute space with crashing gongs and volume swells quickly glides into a majestic Attics intro, which Garcia draws out.
The audience applauds once they settle into Attics (probably just at the transition, I think, not because they recognized it from the early show). But the band’s uncertain about the speed, and starts Attics too fast. (Notable moment: a girl’s cry after “when I had no wings to fly.”)
Garcia goes right into the lilting Dark Star riff once Attics finishes, and they dig into a soaring, intense Dark Star jam for a few minutes, which turns the corner into a smooth, relaxed Soulful Strut. Garcia climaxes it with a repeated note (and another fire-bang), then the band heads into a short Feelin’ Groovy, but Garcia doesn’t want to engage, and instead he quickly transforms it into the Sugar Magnolia intro chords.
Sugar Magnolia isn’t finished, just a couple quick verses, then we’re plunged right back into Dark Star jamming without a pause. But before long we’re taken back to the second verse – the audience applauds, goes nuts in the outro, and greets St. Stephen with joy.

One of the most unique Dark Stars, a joyful thrill-ride. While it’s remarkable for the rapid swerves in & out of two new songs (which cut short any extended jam), the Dark Star pieces themselves are uplifting and expertly played – the band’s flying at a peak.

*

9/17/70 Fillmore East
http://www.archive.org/details/gd70-09-17.aud.remaster.sirmick.27591.sbeok.shnf  
http://www.archive.org/details/gd1970-09-17.partial.aud.weinberg.33826.flac16  

There are two aud masters of this, both pretty raggedy, Jack Toner's and Marty Weinberg's. 27591 (Toner/Sirmick) is a touch slower than 33826 (Weinberg/GEMS). I'm not great at spotting speed problems, but compared to the 9/19/70 sbd, it feels like 33826 runs fast. It's hard for me to be sure (deadlists' time for this Dark Star is 27:10; the Toner (27951) is 26:15 and the Weinberg (33826) is 25:03; and to make matters worse, the GEMS transfer claims that it's speed corrected!). The Weinberg sounds a little clearer and slightly less "swampy," but I'm going with the Toner aud anyway, which sounds to my ear like the right speed.

Anyway: Some audience requests before this kicks off; the crowd is present, but as a kind of lively ambient buzz at first, not at all distracting from the music. Pretty typical upbeat Dark Star jamming for the time, nothing unusual until at 1:50 Jerry suddenly hits a note that sustains and fades away slowly, and everything seems to flip in on itself, only to right itself a minute later. Whoa. Drums audible at 2:40. At 3 minutes, Jerry returns to the DS theme, defers for a bit, then sings the verse at 4:16. "Nightfall of diamonds" gently shatters into a flurry of windchimes and jabs from the guitarists, about to fade off into the velvet haze, but Jerry cuts it off quick with these sudden whoops of feedback, followed by a round of applause from the audience. A pause, then at 6:25 Jerry and the gong start going at it and we're in it deeeep after a minute (it's worth noting that from this point on, all crowd chatter ceases and the audience sounds completely focused and keyed in). Totally beautiful. After a bit, something that sounds like a toy siren joins in, but it's not enough to disrupt the meditative space vibe, and the gong comes roaring back around 9:35 amidst the growing feedback drone. Very nice indeed.

At 10:20 Jerry starts his "we're done with space" riff/arpeggio, but Bobby and the drummers aren't quite there yet, and after a minute of push-pull they're all on the same page and headed towards the theme jam (another appreciative wave of applause as they hit this new groove). Jerry dances around the Dark Star theme but never states it, playing with amazing clarity and elegance, long and slow and intense. Dig how hard he's shredding those single notes around 14:45. He's in no rush and is really milking all he can out of this, finally explicitly stating a Dark Star riff at 16:45. Bobby, naturally, takes this opportunity to kick the tempo up for a Tighten Up jam, which everyone is happy to jump right into. Nice! They just sit in it for a while, nothing really mindblowing, but a totally pleasant space to float around in, until around 22 minutes when they move out of it and contemplate what to do next (another appreciative round of applause); instead of immediately diving back to the DS theme, they hesitate, and then everyone drops out to let Jerry chord away completely by himself, a little stark but really pretty: percussion and Phil join for a unique little jam, low key and beautiful and really pretty cool. This moves me more than the Tighten Up jam, actually. But Toner's tape cuts at 24:04 and we skip to what appears to be the climax of this jam, which quickly goes back to the verse at 25:05. And out they go to St. Stephen.

Upon latest listen, I didn't find this one to be particularly rowdier or more energetic compared with others from the fall -- but the boys definitely get deep in a couple grooves after they get the first verse out the way and all sound very happy to take their time and explore rather than quickly move through the progression of jams. The Tighten Up jam and the little jam that follows are particularly nice surprises. The quality makes it hard for me to rank this up against other great 1970 versions, but this a prime example of the band taking the post-Tom Constanten 1970 "arrangement" of Dark Star to its limits and starting to look for some new spaces to explore. If the sound's not an obstacle to you, there's lots to be moved by in here.

LIA:
Both AUD tapes sound about the same: fair but not great recording quality for the year, with a relatively polite audience.
Dark Star starts from a barrage of audience requests. Garcia’s playing is especially sensitive, bright and beautiful. Percussion taps in the Dark Star theme, and the verse comes at 4:20. They drop into a long five-minute space, spare and ominous, with frightened feedback squeals, gongs, chimes, and ghostly whines. (The audience claps appreciatively.) Garcia introduces the Sputnik arpeggio at 10:20, and a minute later the band returns to a pretty melodic theme, creating a huge sense of relief as the audience applauds. A nice soaring jam follows; drums steal in and they burst into a thundering, percussive Soulful Strut jam, gaining momentum as they explore it for several minutes. As it concludes, the band rumbles on as Garcia steps out for a minute, getting more cheers. Then they settle down with drifting, haunting melancholy chords, winding up with a quiet, soothing melody. Garcia returns to the Dark Star riff at 24:10, and the crowd claps along. After Dark Star, of course comes St Stephen, to audience ecstasy.

This Star tends to be underrated due to the quality, but it’s easier to listen to than some of the others here. An outstanding version, rivalling the beloved 9/19 Star but taking very different paths and covering a wide emotional range from scary feedback to lovely melodies to Latin beats, all skillfully tied together.

*

10/11/70 Wayne, NJ
http://www.archive.org/details/gd70-10-11.aud.cotsman.9500.sbeok.shnf  

A pretty rough aud recording is all we've got. It sounds relatively up close without much crowd noise, just muddy as hell. I didn't have much trouble getting comfortable after a little bit and enjoying this, though. You may feel very differently. Anyway:

The tape cuts in 2-3 minutes (I'm guessing) into Dark Star, with the taper adjusting his mics in the opening seconds. Drums are audible in addition to Mickey's guiro, and become particularly forward by 1:45, with the band already nearing high flight. It's a noticeably more energetic jam than either of the pre-verse jams at the Capitol, or 9/19 at the Fillmore East -- 9/17 probably comes the closest in intensity, but my memory is that this one is rowdier than that. Bob and Phil are pushing harder than usual, and Jerry is wailing more than calmly noodling. I'm totally sucked in by this, which is pretty impressive given the hairy quality of the recording. They're cookin'. Jerry hints at the DS theme at 2:18, then swims back out for more exploratory soloing, hitting the theme for real at 3:28; first verse at 4:07. An audible but quiet conversation near the mics (the tapers?) starts during the vocals and continues intermittently until the end, but there's no other crowd noise or intrusion. It doesn't bother me.

As they move out from the verse, there's some prominent tambourine and Phil pushes his way around before they fade into the gong space, which takes center stage at 5:50. Within less than a minute, though, it's the guitars that are leading the attack, alternating feedback stabs with the gong. I totally dig this: there's a real forward drive to this, unlike either the hazy ambience of 11/5 or the disjointed spaciness of 11/8 or 9/17. Starting around 9 minutes, someone's playing this kind of Japanese koto sounding sound; I can't tell for sure if it's Jerry, but I assume it is. It's a pretty cool effect, though. At 10:30, Phil comes thundering in, and it gets even more intense; this is really cool, like no other "space" I can think of, way more energetic than either of the Capitol spaces, though there's not really a "climax" and it never really gets too hairy with the noise or feedback. At 12:30 Jerry pulls out and starts DS noodling again, and within a minute he's pulled the rest with him, and they're immediately cooking again with an energy that again feels much higher than most other 1970 Dark Stars (though it's Phil and Jerry who are dominating the "mix" here, so it's hard to be sure). They bustle along, and at 15:30-45 Phil tries to lead it into Feelin' Groovy, but Jerry assertively restates the DS theme, and by 16:30 it's like they're floating on the moon: are they doing the second verse? what's going on here? It's cool how the bottom just dropped out of this pretty heavy jam. After a minute they push off in another direction, with Jerry initially sounding unsure where to take it; by 18 minutes he's back at the DS theme, but thankfully takes a minute to dig around before the second verse, which comes at 18:55. The usual ending, and off into St. Stephen (love the stoned and satisfied "ha ha!"s from the tapers as Stephen starts).

If fall 1970 board tapes somehow ever turn up, my guess is that 10/11 would be rewarded with a major status upgrade. This was a total smoker, though the poor sound means that most heads won't ever be hearing it. Given the proto-1971 vibe and rareness of Dark Star this tour, I wonder what was in the air that night to bring out a version like this. Of the five available Dark Stars played that fall, I think this is the rawest and most energetic.

LIA:
This is a poor tin-can AUD tape even by 1970 standards, a harsh, tinny horror complete with obtrusive audience chatter.
The Dark Star is very energetic tonight. The beginning is lost in a tapecut, so the Star comes fading in as they jam on the theme. The music is upbeat, the band revved-up, the drums very active - it sounds like we're already in the middle of the Star, as the band quests for a climax. Garcia tries to bottle the energy back up in the Dark Star theme, and they settle down for the verse. After the verse, gong crashes drop us into a tense space, which sounds a bit like a horror soundtrack...percussive string scrapings, cymbal splashes, feedback hums, hanging dissonant chords... Eventually Garcia starts slowly plucking his strings, so he sounds like a koto! The space turns into demented Japanese ghost-chamber music, the notes twangy and shimmering. (This gets the chatty audience to shut up!) Lesh storms in with a dense thundering drone, and electricity surges through the music. Garcia flashes like metallic lightning into a Sputnik jam, wah-bending his lines. The madness over, he switches to his usual tone (signaling the others that the 'space' is over) and they slowly ease into a regular melodic Dark Star jam. This builds gradually - it doesn't hit the heights of ecstasy like some other Stars, but it's satisfying and very rhythmic. The music become bright and happy-sounding, driven forward by the rhythm. Caught up in the mood, Lesh hints at Feelin' Groovy, but Garcia swerves back into the Dark Star theme instead, and the band quiets down for a slow reentry to the verse. The jam-ending is different than usual - Garcia prolongs it, drifting on trebly chords a while before he starts the verse. Dark Star segues into St Stephen, overjoying the crowd.
A wild ride, but not an easy listen; I agree with Nick’s thoughts on this one.

*

10/17/70 Cleveland

The sound on this is probably what you expect: not great, but not horrible either. Someone next to the mic comments, "they sound really good" as Dark Star kicks off. They do indeed start off sounding really good, Jerry dipping and cruising about, everyone sounding energetic and ready to take it somewhere special. Jerry sounds like he's starting to take it up a notch, when -- gah! -- there's a cut/crossfade at 3:12 that boots us ahead to just after the first verse. It could be that there isn't more than a minute missing -- the 9/17, 10/11, and 11/5 Dark Stars all hit the first verse around 4 minutes in, whereas 9/19 and 11/8 both have over 6 minutes of pre-verse music. So who knows? My bet would be that they played for another 2 minutes at least.  

The post-verse space takes it down as low as usual, with gongs and the usual scratchy ambiance. The crowd is pin-drop silent for this. At 5:20ish Jerry scrapes out some quiet whale sounds and at 5:30 the audience breaks into applause as some bass rumbling spreads out. Did some bandmembers leave the stage during this "space" section? Phil sends out a wave of bass feedback, then it's back to quietness with Jerry playing arpeggios to himself. At 7:35 another feedback wave from Phil, and they start peeking their heads into the daylight at about 8 min. At 8:45ish Jerry starts off on a slow, delicate melodic path, joined by glockenspiel at 10 minutes. Phil strums away under this, and Bob joins in at 10:30 with that two-chord progression that usually leads back into the DS theme jamming. Very still, very pretty vibe here. A little after 11 minutes, Jerry starts "the climb" back up the trail, still very slow and deliberate -- this kinda slipped past me the first time I listened, but the second time around I found it quite lovely, though very low-key. At 12:05 he pulls the cork out and the triplets come pouring out, but he reins himself back in quickly. At 13:19 he lands back in the DS theme, but takes off down another path again. By 14:30 the jam is running at a similar pace to Feelin' Groovy, but definitely doesn't sound like any distinct theme, though Jerry re-routes the jam with another flurry of arpeggios, and by 16:20ish it sounds to me like he's taking a roundabout way back to the DS theme.

At 17:10 or so they return to DS for the second verse (right as a woman near the mic says something like "let's split"??), and there's a second cut/crossfade at 17:42 right into the second verse -- this one sounds like it's only a couple seconds, nothing big. Second verse and the usual outro into Stephen. Not a huge audience response at the transition…

Pleasant enough, but with that big chunk missing from the pre-verse jam, we're ultimately left with a quite nice but pretty mellow Dark Star that only seems to hint at the depths that contemporary versions come closer to. This one may unfortunately take the back seat among the fall 1970 Dark Stars: the rest all just had more going on. 10/17 is by no means an unsatisfying version, just not as satisfying as the rest (all of which, to be fair, are pretty incredible versions).

LIA:
I wrote a lengthy review of the Dark Star here:
The sound in general is comparable to other AUDs of the time, like the Port Chesters or 10/10/70.
The 10/17/70 Star is very similar to the 10/11/70 Star - not surprisingly! - though that one had some more energy in it. This one struck me as being very careful and deliberate. (And I believe the space has the same quacking-duck sound that's in the 11/8/70 Dark Star, along with the glockenspiel.)
It's great how the audience stays perfectly quiet during the space. (Well, there is one point where they can't help themselves and applaud.) I imagine them silent at the outro because they're holding their breath...they explode when Stephen comes.
Another similarity to the 10/11 Star is that there isn't a familiar thematic jam after the space (unlike most 1970 Stars). Although Lesh & Weir hint at them mightily, Garcia doesn't take the bait – sometimes he wanted to try something different.

I feel like Nick may have underrated this Dark Star. I think on the first go-round, its similarity to the nearby Stars kind of jumps out, along with the lack of a big climactic theme-jam or really hot moments. The rewards in this Dark Star are a bit more subtle, though – it’s a more introverted version. (And it’s interesting how it matches the relatively subdued audience.) Now I think it’s pretty great, only let down perhaps by the jam kind of petering out in the last few minutes, and perhaps by comparison with how wild 10/11 was. But from roughly 8:30 to 11:30 is gold – about as lovely as any Star.

*

11/5/70 Capitol Theater, Port Chester
http://www.archive.org/details/gd70-11-05.aud.warner.17182.sbeok.shnf  

Compared to 10/11, the sound on this is a real treat. We're still in the lost world of fall 1970, though, so don't expect pristine quality. Unlike the other shows this weekend, Ken Lee's balcony tape is the only source for this show. I recommend 17182 (maybe for sentimental reasons, since this is the copy I've always had) to the remaster 30115, which has less hiss, but sounds muddier. (The timings are identical.)

I like 11/5 as a show, though it doesn't really compare to 11/6 or 11/8 since it's shorter and missing the acoustic set. But compared to 11/8, I think this Dark Star is the better choice. This is kind of remarkable, given that 11/8 is so famous for the uniqueness of its post-space jamming, while 11/5 follows the standard 1970 Dark Star format (DS>verse>space>theme jam>DS>verse>Stephen) and is a little on the short side for the year (21 min). But every second counts in this one.

The Other One ends as usual, but Jerry quickly adds another dramatic, minor chord with an ominous feel, signaling something different is coming up. And so it is. This Dark Star jam is pure simplicity. Jerry is at his most pared down here: clear, simple lines, with elegant simple variations. He starts off simply playing a little variation on the DS riff, and slowly opens up. Beautiful. Billy joins Mickey after less than a minute (right as Jerry starts really soloing, actually), giving just the right extra pep to this first jam, a little less dreamy than, say, 9/19. Sometimes you can tell when Jerry's aching to get to the spooky stuff, but here he's super focused and super calm, not rushing and not pushing for anything far out. Vocals come early at 4:37. I dig the appreciative "woo!" from one lone audience member, reminding us how quiet the crowd is!

The core of this version is the deep space exploration following the verse: they don't just drop the bottom out, like many others do, as much as they ease into near silence and slowly fade back into a haze at 6:20ish. Gongs slowly rippling outwards, feedback rumbles, electric wrinkles creasing the crowd's collective mind. This may be "boring" if you're not tuned into this particular deep space wavelength; me, I'm transfixed by this, as it sounds like everyone else in the theater was. Quietly breathtaking -- when Jerry's guitar finally returns to clear view at 11:46, you can almost hear the collective exhalation from the audience. No hoots or cries, just a great big "aaaaaahhh." A couple minutes of more melodic "space," back to the DS theme jam (at 13:53), a little Feelin’ Groovy jam at 16:30-18:00, and a perfect dovetail back into the DS theme (seriously: Jerry hits this one note that sustains into feedback and Phil hits the DS riff just as it breaks up -- perfect). If it doesn't look impressive on paper, that's because it isn't, but the whole thing is note perfect in every way. This doesn't come close to the towering heights of a 2/13/70 and it doesn't seem to be trying to. It's like they're cleaning the air and sanctifying the room for the weekend's ritual to come.

In terms of mood, it felt a lot like the 10/17 Dark Star to me. I like this Dark Star probably more than the 11/8 version. What 11/5 lacks in “hotness” it makes up for in crystalline, almost monastic beauty.

LIA:
A somewhat muddy tape with some distracting bass distortion, but the music is mostly clear and up-front, and the audience keeps quiet. (Avoid the SirMick remaster, it makes the bass worse.)
As the Other One ends, instead of segueing into Cryptical, after a pause the band heads straight into Dark Star. The Star starts straightforwardly without much out of the ordinary, getting to the verse at 4:40. But from there they launch into deep space, from silence slowly building layers of sound until they've created a psychedelic dreamscape to journey through. Around the 10-minute point they enter some spooky feedback – great extended feedback howls at 10:30. Bits of melody start to emerge under the feedback at 11:40, and slowly and delicately, they feel their way back to solid melody. (The audience is perfectly silent in rapture, though it’s hard to tell whether one whistle is coming from the band or the audience.) Thick chords at 13:30 form a gorgeous protracted reentry into a Dark Star jam. The jamming is smooth, unhurried, and at 16:30 Feelin' Groovy casts its spell for a while, then there's a great, beautifully timed transition back to the main theme. After the Star, what else but St Stephen? The audience was very quiet all through Dark Star, and are happy to greet St Stephen.
This is a standard 1970-style Dark Star, mainly standing out for the big space, but as Nick says it’s all perfectly played.

*

11/8/70 Capitol Theater, Port Chester
http://www.archive.org/details/gd1970-11-08.aud.weiner.28609.sbeok.shnf  
(There are 9 different versions of this show at the Archive! I don't vouch that this one is best, but it's the one I've got.)

To generalize among the fall ’70 Dark Stars, if 11/5, 10/17 and 9/19 are the mellow cosmic drifters, and 10/11 and 9/17 are the rowdy feedback rockers, then 11/8 is kind of the odd man out (combining the feedback with the cosmic drift).

The Truckin’ reprise fades to a close and Jerry and Phil quietly start Dark Star right on cue. They sound like they're feeling each other out a little more in this one at first, throwing out little ideas at each other -- at 2 minutes, Bob throws in some new, minor chords, giving a really lovely, melancholic feel to this. The guiro in the background sounds less like it's driving anything, and is just kind of keeping quiet time (some cymbals start being audible around 4:45, and that glockenspiel is tapped a couple times in there); there's a more "exploratory" feel to this right off, of not quite knowing where they want to go with this one, unlike the zen calm of 11/5. At 5:45 Jer starts back towards the theme, with the glockenspiel complementing him in the background. Verse at 6:37. The fall into space finds them sounding a little more antsy; more rippling haze of gongs that's interrupted with some bird calls (!?) at 9:09, prompting chuckling from the crowd and someone (Bobby?) quietly smirking, "hey, this is serious" (I guess; it's hard to make this out), laughter/catcalling/shushing from the crowd, then back to the gong space, but this time interrupted by occasional individual commotion, which kinda kills the buzz for me, personally. As a result, the space is more jumpy and creepy than 11/5's, building to a more intense feedback peak; that glockenspiel is still in the mix at 14:30ish as they start to regroup then pull apart again.

I'm 95% sure that it's a glockenspiel, by the way (that mini-xylophone used in marching bands), not a xylophone or vibraphone (both of which would also have been considerably more troublesome to haul around on tour). It's the same thing that's played during the "lady finger" bridge in St. Stephen.

At 15:30, Jerry(?) starts this pulsing sound on his guitar that gets louder for almost 30 seconds (kinda cool), signaling a move to something new. Then, at 16:12, he quietly begins the Main Ten theme, which everyone picks up on slowly -- Jerry plays it pretty straight, with Phil and Bob weaving little variations around him, and all three begin opening up the sound, then pull back all together to the basic theme at 19:30. Totally hypnotic and beautiful, simple and dark. They noodle with the theme for a bit, but by 21:00 Jerry is off in another direction. Bob introduces a new theme (like Tighten Up, but it sounds a little different to me) at 22:00ish, which builds nicely, Jerry hinting back to DS occasionally but enjoying this new thing; the drummers are getting excited, Phil finally hints at the Dancin' bassline, the drummers do their fill, and bam: Dancin'.

While 11/8 may get the crown from most for its unique second half, it still feels maybe a little "tentative" to me -- even though there's certainly a particular hypnotic beauty to it, it feels like they never really get into high gear until the very end. While 11/5 is a totally textbook 1970 Dark Star (in form), it's the more enjoyable jam for me. I assume I'll be in the minority on this one.  

Not to end on a sad note, but they apparently also played Dark Star again on 11/13 in Brooklyn, but no tape is known to exist. I wonder if it will ever emerge? Not holding my breath, but the appearance of the 10/17 aud does give me pause to wonder...

LIA:
Excellent sound, the band is clear and right up-front.
A prime Truckin' with a heavy ending jam dwindles down to a fingerpicking whisper, and Dark Star sneaks up underneath the audience cheers. (There’s some annoying audience chat during the intro on Weinberg's tape – not everyone in the Capitol was paying attention. Lee's tape is more clear.) The quiet, graceful intro jam is outstanding, contemplative and unusually deep – there’s a lovely transition to the Dark Star theme, with glockenspiel. A solemn verse drops into menacing, minimal gong space, interrupted by some random noises and restless crowd whoops, even quacking (this is more of a noisy audience-interaction space than 11/5). The band patiently drifts into alarming squalls of feedback and metallic rumbles, and stay in the heavy feedback zone for several minutes – foghorn-like bass drones, sirens and glockenspiel pull us out into the shimmering void. A drum pulse starts up, Garcia pulls the Main Ten out of nowhere as the cymbals rattle, and the others join him. (They'd played it just a couple days before, during the 11/6 Good Lovin'.) The droning, mystical theme fits perfectly, floating like a ship on a dark rainy sea. They quiet down, the drums pound harder, and gradually they shift to an exploratory jam. It slowly unwinds into the music of the spheres, the band hovering in a breathtaking, beautiful realm of pure melody. The guitar interplay is amazing here – not returning to Dark Star, they unconsciously find their way to Dancing in the Streets, Lesh steadily pushing them into the song; for a couple minutes they’re playing both songs entwined at once. 

I agree with Nick that 11/5 is a perfect textbook 1970 Dark Star, but 11/8 takes us on quite an amazing journey that goes so much further. I don’t hear it as tentative so much as in a state of grace, receptive and flowing. While they never get back to the usual Dark Star jam after space, they make up for it with new creative explorations, traveling mysterious fields of splendor rarely found in any Dead show.

*

We now jump to fall 1972, for the last two Dark Stars of this period that only survive on audience tapes.

1972

10/23/72 Milwaukee
http://archive.org/details/gd1972-10-23.sonyecm250.unknown.miller.98958.sbeok.flac16 

The aud tape by the "legendary local taper" isn't too great. There's about 12 minutes of pre-verse jam and all of it was like listening to the band playing through a block of ice -- in a cruel ironic twist, the usual overly bottom-heavy fall ‘72 sbd is flipped here for a shimmery puddle of sound with lots of hall reverb. The audience is pretty quiet; even the applause at the start of Dark Star sounds respectfully restrained. I can usually adjust myself well to these, but I had trouble engaging with the first half of this one. Was it the fact that not much was happening onstage? Was it the recording? (A second listen brought out new dimensions that weren’t evident before, and it was better than I first gave it credit for.)

Post-verse, though, I do have something to say. Rather than jumping right into the void as they do on 11/19/72, the jamming continues in the same direction after the verse, starting to stretch very, very tentatively. They're taking their sweet time getting to the edge tonight. At some point (a little before 17 minutes) it sounds like Keith takes a pretty long solo with his wah pedal in full effect; listening back, it's not really clear if he's covering for Jerry breaking a string or what, but Jerry seems to vanish for a couple minutes. Rather than shift directions, the band keeps moving towards a Tiger jam while Keith is upfront, and a little after 19 minutes Jerry becomes audible to me again.

The aud source changes right about here, and that may have something to do with how I feel about the last 10 minutes of this. They finally get to the big ol' Tiger jam, which really gets nice and hairy around 24-25 minutes. Nice! Here, the sound quality becomes almost an enhancement in a way -- on headphones this whole segment really has a scary, lost-in-a-snowstorm feel, kind of like listening to Albert Ayler. The crowd seems to dig it, or at least be stunned into submission. Then the band stays floating for the remaining 2-3 minutes, which is really beautiful: Jerry and Phil both seem perfectly content to savor the aftermath rather than charge into something new. They bring it down nicely right into... Half Step? Hmm, okay. Kind of a jarring shift, but a smooth transition nevertheless.

This one wasn't on my radar as a big jam, but at 28-1/2 minutes it's no slouch. And it's interesting that the whole second half of it is essentially one unified jam rather than the more discrete pieces I've come to expect (perhaps inaccurately?) from later ‘72 Stars. There’s not a lot going on in the pre-verse jam to get excited over. The post-verse jam was better -- it definitely took its sweet time getting there, but the Tiger finale and following space made it worth the wait for me. Listening a second time, the post-verse jam seemed even more remarkable this time around, and the slow Tiger build is excellent, but I think the final few minutes are the best part of this one -- really powerful stuff.

This is the rare example of a ‘72 Dark Star that feels like a wholly unified, almost composed piece of music -- 8/27 is another one, I think, that works along this same line of very focused, purposeful playing (albeit more powerfully). I really like how Keith's "solo" is integrated almost seamlessly into the greater flow of this jam -- it's very different from the more typical Keith/Phil/Billy "jazz jam" that pops up in several ‘72 Stars.

A sbd tape would probably cast a whole different light on this, and if one ever appears, I'll probably change my take on it -- but as it stands right now, this is a "specialists only" Dark Star and not something I'm going to champion as particularly important for 1972. Still, the deep space heads out there may want to spend some time floating around in the back end of this one.

LIA:
I liked this AUD. Not the quality, no – it sounds like the taper's equipment was OK, he was just distant from the band so it's all swathed in echo. But the effect! The music sounds smoky, mysterious, evocative, as if being channeled from another dimension. It reminded me of the 11/22/68 AUD, where you also feel that amazing things are being played just out of hearing.
All the instruments are fairly clear and audible, though - it's significantly better than the older copy. The Dark Star is (not surprisingly) similar in feel to 10/18/72. That one perhaps has more variety, and breaks up into themed sections at the end, whereas this one doesn't. Rather than moving to upbeat themes to conclude the jam, this Star is less jaunty, more intense, and turns to melancholy.

Unlike Nick, I thought the pre-verse jam was really good (though I can immerse myself in these AUDs pretty easily). There's no 'space' after the verse, hardly even a pause, they just keep playing the jam where it left off. When Garcia steps out for a few minutes and Keith takes a solo, the atmosphere becomes super-jazzy – when he returns, Garcia takes the new mood and escalates it with more frenetic playing.
(There's a source change at 19 minutes, right after Garcia returns, which sounds just a bit worse but it's not too noticeable.)
There's a long, slow lead-in to the Tiger, which finally bursts at 24 minutes. The exit from the Tiger is awesome and unusual as Garcia hangs onto an extended beam of feedback while Weir strums. The last few minutes are eerily beautiful: Garcia plays gorgeous melodies in delicate violin-like volume swells, which Lesh & Weir accompany with feedback and cello sounds like some strange orchestra. This is true tears & goosebumps territory (it's a bit reminiscent of the 10/11/70 space, though more elegant). The final moment, when they stop on a last resolving note & let it slowly fade for a few seconds, before jauntily starting Half-Step, is one of the most amazing endings to any Dark Star, ever.

Perhaps Morning Dew or Stella Blue would have been more mood-appropriate segues, but I think the jarring contrast worked.
The audience reminded me of a respectful Pink Floyd audience, being quiet throughout & politely clapping at just the right moments.
So I'd call this a highly recommended Dark Star, particularly in its final phase. If this were in SBD, it would be known as one of the giants. But due to the AUD quality, only connoisseurs and fanatics will ever hear it!

*
(This version patches the cut in Bear's tape with another AUD.)

By virtue of being aud-only, this is the unheralded Dark Star of the year, but it may be in the top 5 of ‘72? (OK, maybe the top 7? That's still saying a hell of a lot.) Bear's recording is superb (hissy, though), far more pleasing than a lot of the lopsided fall ‘72 boards. The pre-verse jams are wonderful, and as quietly and intensely focused as the best of the best, though maybe not as expansively glorious as some. It seems like they're mining the same knotty, cerebral vein as the 11/17 Other One. Keith is MIA at first, but appears after a bit and remains extremely active throughout, sounding at first like a demented cocktail pianist (Liberace on acid?), before hitting his wahwah and adding to the smokey, spacey texture. After the verse, Jerry introduces the space with some nice volume swells, and they build an intricately constructed atonal jam that again equals some of the sound sculptures of Europe ‘72. The thing climaxes in a shredding Tiger, then Phil earns his MVP with a perfectly timed jump into his Philo Stomp solo/jam. This is the best this jam got, sounding like a fully developed song, with Phil keeping it tasteful and Jerry keeping up right at his heels. They break off into a faster country-ish jam at NFA tempo, similar to the 9/21 Star before Phil again earns the extra stars and introduces a very fast Feelin' Groovy jam. Jerry then walks it right down into a perfectly played segue into Dew.  

This is a mother of a Dark Star. This being ‘72 (Dark Star's best year), there are those other top-tier versions that just go that extra bit furthur than this, but this one still belongs at the same exalted heights of the most well-known classics.

LIA:
Bear knew how to record a good AUD. The levels are just right, and this is easier to listen to than any of the previous tapes.
Garcia's in interstellar 'searchlight casting' mode from the start (check out the audience cheering a tasty note at :50 – someone groans after a deep Garcia passage at 2:13).
Keith isn't missing at the start, he's just in Weir's sonic range, so harder to hear – after a few minutes he starts standing out more. The band is in full-on jazzy mode in this intro jam (aided by Bill's light drumming).
It gradually gets more intense – there's a great moment after 6:30 where they simultaneously drop into quiet arpeggios, to the crowd's delight. From here it gets spacier – Garcia brings out the volume swells at 8 minutes for a lovely passage, the band playing gentle chimes with him.
By 9:30 Keith has turned on his wah, adding a new texture. The jam is rapid and loose but unhurried – they're staying in the zone of pure improv.
The patch is from 11:20-12:55, during which they transition back to the Dark Star theme, a fine segue which thrills the crowd.

The post-verse space starts at 15 minutes, and here is where this Star breaks loose from the pack. It's very atmospheric and foreboding – wispy trails of feedback, Bill rattles and splashes, Phil plays unresolved notes, Keith makes abstract wah-swirls. They take their time with this, slowly turning up the tension, not starting the spiral into a Tiger until 20 minutes.
The Tiger noisily crashes and clatters, and unwinds in atonal randomness after a couple minutes – but the tenseness continues, and the mood stays ugly. They wander atonally for a couple minutes – Keith really standing out here. The playing gets brutish (Phil distorts at 24 minutes), and then Garcia descends into ANOTHER Tiger, even louder & wilder than the last, finally settling in a beautiful climax of Phil & Keith chords which segues perfectly into a satisfying Philo Stomp – one of the most amazing moments in a '72 Dark Star (and there was no shortage of amazing moments in those). The crowd is blown away.
After a couple rounds the Philo Stomp dissolves into a loose, frisky jam - the guitarists hint at turning it into a countryish direction (a la 9/21/72), but things come to a pause.
There's no thought of segueing into another song; they just keep the improv going. Garcia whips out some fast lines & they start an uptempo jam that quickly heats up, like a Cumberland gone awry. Phil starts a fast-paced Feelin' Groovy line, soon joined by the others (this must be the fastest version, even faster than 4/14/72). It's funny to hear Garcia playing this so rapidly; they really stomp on it here – but it comes to an end.
Garcia slows down and signals Morning Dew with a repeated D chord, and the band settles down to prepare the segue to a mournful Dew.

This Star is certainly one of the top versions of the year (or ever) – if anything, perhaps Nick underrates how deep it goes. They're very tight and focused here – this Star's a great example of "Dead telepathy." There are certainly brighter, happier, prettier, or spacier Stars from the year – but few are darker than this one.
The ABB were to have been with the Dead on this tour, but canceled – Berry Oakley had died a couple days earlier. That may be reflected in the jam here... On the other hand, the Dead's jams had a dark & surly vibe for the whole next month as well – it could be just the zone they were in.

The next audience-tape-only Dark Stars would come in January 1979, reviewed here: 

6 comments:

  1. It's sad that you're posting more of my writing than I am ;) I still stand by 'em, though. fwiw, some of these were written as quick forum posts, others as parts of longer reviews, so pardon the inconsistency.

    I'm with you on the 2/11/70 aud tape, btw -- the sbd never really did it for me and I always secretly felt it was a pretty overrated jam until I heard the full aud tape. I really do owe the 10/23/72 tape another serious listen, though.

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    1. The reviews were taken from hither and yon, but I think I was able to compile them into an organized discussion.

      It is hard to judge the 2/11/70 jam by the SBD tape since Green & Allman sound like they're playing in a closet backstage during the Dark Star! Surprisingly, I don't think anyone's made a matrix yet.

      Sad fact: two-thirds of the SBD Dark Stars in 1970 are from Jan & Feb alone. Most of these are great, but I think the playing in Dark Star became more dense, textured & farther-out later in the year.

      One surprise for me was that you felt the 11/8/70 Dark Star was overrated. I flipped out over it and since posting this, have been listening to it daily...I guess it hits my buttons. Usually you like the more laid-back Dark Stars while I prefer ones with more energy & fireworks. But something about the "hypnotic beauty" here, as you put it, seems just right - the beginning and end have an intricate, trancelike meditative quality that stands out for me; throw in a wild feedback space, rare thematic jam, and unusual segue, and we get magic!

      But probably the biggest reason I posted this collection of reviews was to get the 10/23/72 Dark Star on here.

      Delete
    2. well, I certainly owe 11/8/70 a reevaluation. I'd listened to 11/5 and 11/8 plenty of times before, but when I wrote these reviews I think I was listening to most of these 1970 Dark Stars in one or two sittings, so that inevitably colors my response. I'm always happy for an excuse to do some more back-to-back listening!

      Delete
  2. Your comments about the sound at the Fillmore East is extremely inaccurate. While the audience tapes you have heard may be of poor quality I can assure you as someone who was at the Fillmore East about 10 times between 1969 and 1971 that it was the best sounding concert hall I ever heard rock & roll shows at.

    Were you ever able to attend shows there or what sources do you know to say the sound was of a lessor nature?

    You do write a very entertaining blog so I'm not attacking you just correcting you.

    Captain Al

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    1. My writing was unclear; I meant that most of the Dead audience tapes from the Fillmore East sound poor. I know it was a great-sounding venue.
      A few Fillmore audience tapes stand out with clear sound (for instance Jim Cooper made some very good recordings there in 1970), but more tapes are of lesser quality and not easy to listen to. This wouldn't matter so much if it weren't that several of the Dead's best shows there only exist on the worst-sounding audience tapes.
      This could be due to cheap/inadequate taping equipment in those days, or tapers having to hide microphones to avoid being busted, or being in the back surrounded by noisy people, etc.

      Delete
  3. I tried taping shows back around 1969'-70' and they were all unlistenable due to the low technical quality of the various cassette recorders and microphones back then. Any audience recordings that do sound good from back then were either with good microphones and reel to reel recorders (and the recording likely okayed by the band) or a wonderful freak of nature.

    My only problem with the Fillmore East was the light shows were so good I often forgot to watch the musical act while getting caught up in watching the light show.

    Captain Al

    ReplyDelete