Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Labor Day Grateful Dead 9-3-1967 Rio Nido, CA

Hope everyone had a relaxing Labor Day weekend and to ease back into this short work week we are going to travel far back to the Labor Day weekend of 1967 which closed the highly adventurous Summer of Love and cemented The Grateful Dead as "A Happening, Man"!

Lets kick September Dead style off right as that show in Rio Nido, CA turned out to become a pretty righteous one in the Dead's history, listen to 9-3-1967 or stream it below, this is not a show to be missed:

I know this show is coming a day late in our Monday series, but you will certainly forgive the holiday tardiness when you are 10 minutes into the simply epic "Midnight Hour" that opens this.  At that point we are about as far from the Steve Cropper/Wilson Pickett tune as you can go and still call the it a cover, but I am getting slightly ahead of myself,  9-3-1967 really is a high point from the Dead's early days and they knew it. When the band re-mastered and released their Self titled first album they added the "Viola Lee Blues" from this night as a bonus track...there was magic in the air at the Dance Hall in Rio Nido, California.     

Like most relics from days gone by their is a bit of wear and tear on the recording, but considering the year and technology the damage is negligible, in fact as the show progresses the sound ebbs and flows but the playing would be worth listening to had the show been broadcast through a muffler of a Ford Fairlane.
 (Ok Maybe not that kind of muffler...snapperhead!)

The version of "In The Midnight Hour" that opens this recording was probably from later in the show, or possibly even the next night, but when Phil Lesh complied his Fallout From The Phil Zone he handpicked this exact version to be on the disk and he is pretty sure it comes from this night, so the good people at the Archive have it for us check out...and it is a WHOPPER.  Clocking in at over a half hour and not boring once throughout it is a stunning work from the band; longevity doesn't always equal succes with the group but on those special nights when you wished the group would just let it all hang out and never stop...well you get that right from the jump here.
 After Pigpen (who is top-notch all show) gets the jam a-goin' with his slapdash blues vocals the group begins the adventure experimenting with the musical conversations to each other.  Phil in particular is vibrant with his bass lines weaving in and out of Garcia while he keeps the dancing psychedelic groove bumpin'.  Bobby's strums are flared out and around the 13 minute mark things are completely out there and flying.  In what would become a successful them this night, the structure of the cover tune would be wrapped up quickly and then the great wide sonic open would lay before them allowing the quintet to dabble like painters.  When they get back around to the vocals Pig has some fun trying to get the crowd up and jivin', he even gets on young Bobby Weir telling him to take a break from his guitar and dance with a fancy lady.  I haven't thought too much about my favorite version of the fellas covering this song, but I am guessing I will be hard pressed to unearth a better one then this.

Next comes "Dancing In the Streets", another soul cover from the cosmic cowboys and we follow the same pattern, all though this cover was a little newer to them and the original song part gets a bit of a butchering (with some wobbly sound to boot) but once they toss of the shackles of structure the night opens up with Jerry and Bobby playing in multiple directions while the groove is locked with Pig Phil and Billy holding down the rhythm (Mickey wouldn't join the fellas until later in the month).  What starts off a bit shaky works really well in the spacey realm that the Dead were so comfortable in.           

After some extended playing we dig in for soulful blues with a compact and powerful workout of the classic "It Hurts Me Too" from Tampa Red.  Pigpen is again in his element taking the mic and making us feel with his words and harmonica playing that was missed after he passed, but it is Jerry's cutting lines that hit home and set the tone with their weeping power.  This is a cover the Dead always did justice too no matter when in their career they chose to play it, but it sounds a bit different then the original, which has a more buoyant and uplifting musical shuffle.

Both great versions and another killer cover (notice a trend today?) scoots it's way into your ears, the traditional "Cold Rain and Snow" .  I love the amped up fire of 1960's versions of this classic as it's energy is tight and the playing always seems crisp in front of Pig's high pitched organ runs and Phil's dropping bass notes; this version is a winner.  Another Pigpen fronted cover came up next with the walking blues of "Good Morning Little School Girl" focusing on Phil's dynamite playing the slight rhythm strums of Bobby and the squirrely Garcia riff runs that transform into feedback blasts with ease.  This is a cool daddy-o version with the band completely in sync with one another and when Jerry teases us via those ripping blasts he is hinting at a monster that is about to arise next...unfortunately when "Schoolgirl" seems to be peaking we get our audio nuts cut when the tape ends...ouch, blue ears.
It is unfortunate considering the quality of the playing being expressed on this night, but the end of "Schoolgirl" and "Viola Lee Blues" which is mega-highlight has it's beginning and end snipped, but we can't focus on what we don't have we can only showcase what is here and it is glorious....

As the tape fades back in we hear the boys ending a verse and Jerry is instantly off and riffing with support from a game Weir and Pigpen.  Phil seems to be out on his own wavelength with Billy just slapping the shit out of the snare to march the tune up hill.  "Viola Lee" was the song the Dead really started it's jamming ways on, it would take the Noah Lewis original and bring it to places I doubt the jug band musician could have even imagined.  It sounds like Phil and Jerry really get into things around the 7 minute mark with the band digging in and furiously exploring different avenues as Kreutzmann keeps it fast and pulsing.  Jerry and Billy both flash fire in a guitar snare duet around the 9 minute mark and the whole group is off again with the night as their sonic oyster; willing to go anywhere and they do.

Things get climatic at the 15 minute mark as the band builds to the inevitable crescendo and explode...back into the structure of the jug band original at 16:20. Then the groove starts up again with everyone building while Jerry runs full steam ahead until once again we hit the vocals to close things out, and while the tape is cut slightly it can't take away from the other worldly playing that just took place. 
 For a band that was closer to simple blues and folk then anything else at the start of the year to have this cataclysmic explosion of experimentation is amazing and it would serve notice to everyone else that they were the premier psychedelic band on the scene...well for the next 25+ years.     

"Big Bossman" acts as set breather with a simple shuffle letting the boys and crowd ease down from the tripped out highs they just heard.  Then a sleepy "Alligator" rears up and slinks onto the stage....it takes the group only a few minutes to rev the energy in the dance hall back up and get the night flying again.  3:41 in the funky strumming of Bobby works wonderfully with the lead high pitched notes of Jerry moaning along while Phil and Billy take no prisoners on the low end.  Bobby keeps at it, turned up loud in the forefront laying an R&B foundation that the others can vibe around...in the speakers it sounds really crisp serving as a reminder that Weir was vital for the band even when he wasn't singing.
7 minutes in the band is peaking yet again on this amazing evening, hitting out in all different directions but maintaining it's center.  The complete package is being expressed as the band can solo on their own while remaining a consistent force blowing minds with their power and electricity, everyone in their own space yet flowing communally...uber-impressive.  At 10 minutes in you can't help but smile as they are locked and loaded, hunting for bear. You can tell they don't want the magic to stop, and luckily for us we have these amazing shows so it never will... what a tune, what a night, what a show!!!

As legend has it Robert Hunter who had been friends with Garcia for years, and had written the lyrics to "China Cat Sunflower/The Eleven/Alligator" and others already, was in attendance this night in Rio Nido (one of the supposedly 25 people who were).  Legend continues that this impressive night of music moved him like never before with the group.  It is said that after this night he decided that his future was tied to the boys and he would devote the next 30+ years to being a member of the band who just never took the stage with them, even going so far as to write the first verse of "Dark Star" that weekend.

Whatever the case may be, it is hard to deny the power of this show, perhaps the true highlight of 60's Grateful Dead musical prowess and fittingly it occurred on the final weekend of the Summer of Love...A Labor Day of Love?  Nah, I won't get that cheesy, just enjoy the Show.       

(Edit: after I wrote this up this weekend, I found a fantastic review today of the same show from the wonderful website Dead Listening, you can give that a read as well...I should have saved myself some time and just posted that one, even more thoughts on a historic night.)   

1 comment:

  1. I absolutely love this show. If anyone asked me what my absolute favorite live Dead song was it would have to be the "Midnight Hour" from this show.