So with the start of August my thoughts instantly turn towards upstate New York, and more specifically the historic town of Saratoga.
While the town has history, a vibrant live arts scene, and personal favorite establishments, the main draw (outside of visiting family of course) is the track.
Churchill Downs, I will take the SPA. For those who have never been and only associate horse racing with dirty OTB's, picture spending a relaxing afternoon in a state park that just happens to have horses running by every half hour.
I will be returning for the 141st running of The Travers Stakes this year (I think that makes it 10 years in a row for The Travers, but I will have to double check that with friends...) on the 28th, but until then I thought I would combine my love of Saratoga, with The Grateful Dead's love of the same town.
SPAC is in and of itself a wonder. A natural amphitheater in a serene park, how many other venues today have full blown trees for you to lay under while listening to music? While recently the designs and ideas have been lacking (not enough bathrooms, HORRIFIC beer garden) the venue has an aura surrounding it, that cookie cutter establishments can't hold a candle to.
before and after the night of music.
June 6th 1983:
There are a few versions of this show on the archive (all AUD recordings) but I feel this one is the best. While others have more crowd noise, this seems to be the superior recording of the band, if it does have Brent a little high throughout and Jerry drops a bit low at points. Overall though it's very listenable and for the quality of what you get it is completely worth it.
I won't spend too much time on the first set. It has a couple of standout moments, the "Mexicali Blues>Big River" flashes with dexterity from the boys and "Birdsong" really gains steam at the end with Jerry a'blaze on the fretboard. There are some blown amps and Bobby botching lyrics in "Jack Straw" and "Hell In A Bucket", weird effects blare out during "Althea" but the set manages to end on a high note with a really pumping "Deal" finding Jerry howling and the Rhythm Devils moving and grooving, getting primed for the mega second set to come.
that again can fall into the category of All Time Greats. The drums continue where they left off with the duo of Hart and Kreutzmann playing like smoke engulfing a room, grabbing the MVP crown this night; leading tunes at times while constantly supporting.
A long and winding "Playing in the Band" comes bounding out with bopping energy next as the band rides the wave of good feelings. Phil gets things marching behind Bobby and Brent's lyrical intro before the band veers down more abstract roads about 4 and half minutes in, then get downright foreboding at the 11 minute mark. The exploratory playing stays in the air, getting caught in the SPAC trees awhile before giving way to some cool riffing around 17 minutes that eases into the drummers solos and then melting tripping minds as a full band with "Space". They end the experiments the best way they know how via an enchanted "The Wheel>Playing In the Band Reprise" under thunder and lighting that just happened to be booming. I particularly love the ease with which this version of "The Wheel" oozes out, and it is one of my personal favorites.
An incredible set is about to get even better. When you ask DeadHeads about the group and SPAC, you usually get a one word answer "Dew". The "Morning Dew" that comes in next is what really puts this show on the map and in discussions of all-time best versions.
The relatively new "Throwing Stones" tries to follow up that monster and simply can't. Jerry continues to play with a fuzzed out tone, that clashes with Weirs strums (This was not a good night for Bobby). "Not Fade Away" has Phil super loud in the mix with his fine runs getting the crowd excited as the band plays the staple with power before segueing into a speedy version of "Touch of Grey" to end the huge set on a positive note.
The band then starts a SPAC tradition with a rare double encore, this one is the loud party duo of "Don't Ease Me In> One More Saturday Night" weaving one more twist into an already epic night. While as a complete show I do find myself going back to the Lake Placid show as their best in 1983, the high points presented on this night, especially the Dew, are just astonishing. Those fans in attendance (and there was a lot of them as it looks like this show broke SPAC's attendance record) witnessed a night in the Grateful Dead's history that is still talked about, listened too, and cherished. Enjoy the show.
-Unrelated Side Note- Happy Birthday Sister!-