Monday, November 29, 2010

Monday Dead - RTBE Personal Favorites Edition: 8-16-91 Shoreline, CA

So I wanted to wrap up the year, and possibly the whole Monday Dead series, with a comprehensive "Best of" series of posts, but I realized quite a while back that this would be impossible.  Besides getting me more into this band then I have been in years, the Monday postings have made me realize just how amazing this group is and how many special nights remain out there for even committed (Commit-able?) fans (myself included) to still unearth with glorious results.   

So what I am going to do is post a month's worth of shows that mean something special to me; we will call it Rock The Body Electric Personal Favorites Edition.  They are the nights in the bands history I reach for the most and have a special chamber reserved in me old grizzled heart for one reason or another.  I was at none of these shows, so it is only the recordings that matter to me, not the vibe or weather, but more likely who gave me the tape (yes tapes) and/or when I heard it and where.  I think all the shows presented this month are great for various reasons and I will try to touch on them all, feel free to comment with your personal favorites.  The last Monday in December I will try to post a list of the "must have" shows from each era so newer fans can at least have a solid foundation and Dead Heads can yell at me for leaving classics off of it....anyway, why not start at the beginning?

My first tape... 8-16-1991 Shoreline Amphitheater,
Click that link or Stream the show right C'here: 

You are always going to remember your first...tape, and it is pretty glorious show at that, not one of the "classics" by most peoples judgment, yet 8-16-91 cooks and got me into this band proper. So sometime in the spring of my freshman year in college a friend thought I might dig on this tape...Until then I had never listened to the Dead, I grew up on Metal/Hardcore-Punk and Hip-Hop, with splashes of noise rock, Jimi, Industrial, Primus, oddball pop and a whole heaping of Irish Folk (Thanks Pops).  After chatting with Mattie B one night over cold beverages and explaining my range of musical tastes, he (wisely) thought I would dig on the Dead, and this was the first tape he gave to me out of his vast collection.  I still can remember the cover with it's green/purple/white swirls and the black ink on the jacket, but what I remember even more was hearing those loose ass bass strums first kick in from Phil on the opening "Jack Straw".
The strings sound so loose when he comes in you think they are going to flap off...I can't find this anywhere today, but at the time I did some research and I think he was trying out some new green bass, and then ditched it post song, either way I was hooked by something unique and kept on going.  Not sure if there is any correlation, but to this day I would say "Jack Straw" is still one of my top 5 tunes from the fellas.  This first set is surprisingly energetic, at the time had I been given a "classic" recording of the band that was slower paced I doubt it would have stuck, but the "Bertha" from this opening night in the August Shoreline run has speed and grace, thanks predominately to the majestic piano runs of Bruce Hornsby.
Listening now it is easy to hear the piano player inspiring the fellas to take different angles while attacking older classics like "Bertha", Garcia particularly, but when I first heard it I was impressed by the interplay and the crescendos plain and simple.  Bruce's impact on the Band was huge and kept them active, I often wondered what would have happened to the group as a whole and Garcia personally had he joined the group full time?

"It's All Over Now" which can sometimes fell like a throw away, is shining here with the grand piano taking the center stage and urging the group to follow.  This rendition of "Desolation Row" was pretty eye opening as I was not yet a Dylan fan (shocking!) and had never heard the song, while it wasn't monumental in it's playing it is the Bobby version I have always liked best, and got me curious about that Zimemrman kid...
Photo from Minkin is the next night of this stand in 91.
The electric runs of "Desolation Row" stood out as did all the words and references, but the freakiness of the next song was just as important.  The uber rare first set "Dark Star" shone on this hot day for the first time since 11-15-1971 and they tell me that is over 1,307  The cosmic wandering here was shocking to those in attendance and my ears when I first heard it, I can't say for certain, but it was tracks like this that really got me listening and appreciating free jazz going forward.  The trippy misplaced guitar of Bobby blaring into the sweet and melodious Bruce/Jerry interplay over the funky strut that the drummers drop add up to a succulent treat.  This version was an event for both the band and myself...don't they always play this song in the first set?!?!  The fluttering exit directly into the rocking "Promised Land" rev's things back up and shows the range of the band, especially to a neophyte...and that was just set 1.

My tape at the time had the highlight of the second set on the end of side B, I am talking about the amazing opening run of "Scarlett Begonias>Victim Or The Crime>Fire On The Mountain".  I can't be certain (well I can ask him but not sure if he would remember) but I think Matt gave me this tape/show in particular because of this run and specifically "Victim Or The Crime", before we get to that though we get a short, upbeat version of "Scarlett" that still has some odd guitar riffs emanating from Weir and powerful vocals from Garcia.  Then while everyone was expecting the reggae sunshine of "Fire On The Mountain" the Dead throw a dark and deadly curve ball with "Victim Or The Crime" which Hornsby eases the band into.  Easily the eeriest song in the Dead's catalog (and one fans either love or hate) the dark tones stand in stark contrast to the positive vibes surrounding it, but I think that is why it succeeds so winningly and one of the reasons I started to really dig the band.  I understood while listening to this for the first time that it wasn't all hippy-dippy love and there was deeper meaning there, the fact that they could address it that openly was exciting and more akin to what I was used to.      
I loved the call back to "Darkstar" (I know the lyric is Dark side, but I swear he says Dark Star here) and the other worldliness of the track instantly thinking a good metal/hardcore cover could be made of this one.  It still remains my favorite version of this song.  The twist back to the upbeat comes out with the wah wah of Jerry and plucky rhythm of "Fire On the Mountain", saving the wandering brains of tripping fans on that night.   Piano features heavily again as Bruce bangs and smiles on the ivories.  A kaleidoscope of partying sounds makes up this punchy tune tonight while heads get bobbing...hey was that a bizarre bass run from Phil around 9 minutes or something else entirely?!?  
After that came a tape switch and while the upbeat keyboard based "Trucking" isn't particularly memorable or exciting it did give me a glimpse into one of the groups signature numbers and the epic nature of certain lyrics.  What I did find fascinating was the "Drums>Space" I am not sure why but I can still remember sitting in my dorm room overlooking Washington Sq Park on a sunshine filled spring day and hearing this combo, I was fascinated by it, much like the "Dark Star".  That a band could noodle and experiment like that was eye opening, I confess I am often bored with "Drums>Space" and will skip it most shows for some reason this one got me from the start.  Listening back to it today the Drum section is nothing really special until maybe the end couple of minutes and the Space has it's freaky moments, but the word that keeps coming to mind is overindulgent...I know I wasn't high back in freshman year, but my mind must have been somewhere else entirely.

Anyway...umm when they come back into the out of nowhere "Playing In the Band Reprise" that is still really triumphant and a neat twist.  No idea where this came from, but it is a blast of music before my first experience of a Jerry ballad with "Standing on the Moon".  Quite affecting this version like later all later day ballads have the rasp I love while I feel Jerry makes this song his personal own...the back porch line allows me to picture him just lounging and I like that.  "Good Loving" (with "LaBamba" intro Tease) and  "US Blues" are fine but didn't do much to impress me then or now, however all in all I was hooked by this fine show...

More great shows flowed out from all directions and from all the eras of the Dead's playing, but as I said in the beginning, you always remember your first, What was yours?          

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