Thursday, May 30, 2019

Tangled Up in JGB





During a savage eight-day stretch in the spring of 1983, I saw ten Jerry Garcia Band shows. After rocking past the midnight hour, my companions and I drove back home every night. I was a twenty-year-old squatter in my folks’ house, but they didn’t seem to mind. Living on the road is hard traveling. Truckin’ back to your parents’ house after every gig is pure lunacy.
My descent into JGB madness began at the Bushnell Auditorium in Hartford, Connecticut on May 29. The following night, we were back at the Bushnell, courtesy of Doug, who was driving his mom's yellow Coup de Ville Cadillac. We were joined by Bob the pirate, who was now known as “No Name Bob,” a nickname he earned after he lent Doug a batch of sloppy boots: songs were misidentified, misspelled, and listed out of order, performance dates were incorrect, vague, or nonexistent. “No Name Bob” was born.
The prospects seemed bleak for our ticketless trio. Saturday night, desperation and depression deepened around the Bushnell. There were no scalpers in sight—just Deadheads praying for the elusive miracle ticket. Suddenly, a door on the side of the theatre swung open. There stood a smiling freak, and behind him, a stairway to ecstasy. A bunch of us scampered up the carpeted steps like rats making a late-night raid on Taco Bell. Presto! We were dancing in the Bushnell balcony as Jerry ripped into “Mystery Train.” Doug charged into a high-stepping, elbow-flapping polka dance. Nobody loves a “Mystery Train” bound for glory more than Doug. “No Name Bob” smirked in admiration, for he’d never had the pleasure of witnessing Doug under Jerry’s spell.
The Bushnell shows whetted my appetite for the next tour destination—Jerry off-Broadway. Anticipation boiled inside the Roseland Ballroom. On the last day of May, New York City was juiced for a heaping dose of Garcia. Smoke billowed through the ballroom—that exotic, aromatic mix of hash, ganja and cigarettes. A huddled mass of hippies gathered close to the stage. The spacious ballroom floor was surrounded by carpeted walkways and lobbies, and long, sleek bars from which there was a golden glimpse of the stage. Wherever one lingered or roamed, cocktail access was a cinch.
The Bearded One appeared on stage in a red T-shirt instead of his customary black—Summertime Santa. Garcia’s belly expansion was obvious, bordering on obscene. He seemed to be adding ten pounds to his overburdened torso per tour. Melvin Seals, and the new backup singers Dee Dee Dickerson and Jacklyn La Branch were super-sized as well. This was a band that preferred a Grand Slam breakfast at Denny’s over an aerobic session in Gold’s Gym.
Jerry set sail with “Rhapsody in Red,” its rhythm and chord structure similar to “Let It Rock,” its slick jazz lick jutting free—a deedle dee dee, a deedle dee diedle… a deedle dee dee, a deedle dee diedle. Brightness vibrated from the furious jam, ideas exploding inside a rhythm and blues container. Fortified by funky organ-grinding, “They Love Each Other” playfully bounced in the second spot. Garcia ignited a two-tier jam: round one, a reconnaissance mission; round two, a searing solo that had the cosmopolitan hipsters howling their approval. Garcia was en fuego, and his boisterous devotees knew it. Matters of the heart ruled this set. Garcia blew the roof off the Roseland with diabolical fret work during “That’s What Love Will Make You Do.” The remainder of the gig was easy like Sunday morning, featuring a “Mississippi Moon” that made bikers weep. Jerry’s tone was angelic:
“Honey, lay down bee-side meeeee; angels rock us to sleeeep.”
I reconvened with Doug at the Roseland bar after the show. The NBA Finals flashed on a TV that dangled down by the single malt scotches. Doug’s favorite athlete, Philadelphia 76ers Dr. J, was about to bury the Lakers. Dribbling near the right baseline, the Doctor charged to the basket and soared to the sky. Laker defenders guarded the hoop, forcing the airborne doctor behind the basket. Defying the laws of gravity and comprehension, Julius reappeared on the other side of the basket. And, with a casual flip of the wrist, the ball rolled from his fingertips, kissed the backboard and swished into the net—apple pie à la mode—impossible, but true. Philly had won the NBA Championship. Mere moments after “The Drive,” a gaggle of security guards had to break up a ruckus between two lanky, but rather violent, hippies, and a few of their associates. The gladiators left behind a trail of blood. It was a grotesque conclusion to a righteous evening.
Back in the black T-shirt for night two of the Roseland rendezvous, Garcia crooned his mission statement: “I’ll take a melody and see what I can do about it; I’ll take a simple C to G and feel brand new about it.” During “The Harder They Come,” it felt like I was being checked into the boards of a hockey rink. The temperament of the performance reflected the international chaos of the times. Soviet-American tensions were peaking, Central America was a cauldron of revolution (who can ever forget the Sandinistas?), and the Middle East was the Middle East—no peace.
“Gomorrah,” was an appropriate choice for a Hell’s Kitchen dance floor brimming with whacked-out freaks gyrating to JGB—let the depravity and debauchery run wild. Neighborhoods west of the Roseland were being terrorized by sadistic Irish mobsters. The Westies instilled fear by ruthlessly chopping up their lifeless victims and stuffing them in Hefty bags before depositing them in the East River. Pimps, hustlers, whores and dealers saturated Times Square, and squadrons of desperados loitered around the neon-lit sex shops. When Jerry sang, “Blew the city off the map, nothing left but fire,” it sure sounded like prophecy. And, to some extent, it was. The West Side of Manhattan circa 1983 has been eviscerated. There’s nothing left but clean-cut capitalism and grimy greed.
In the second half of the show, Garcia bullied four epic songs. If there was a gadget that could tally guitar notes played per minute, the device would have blown up. “Don’t Let Go” featured a twenty-minute instrumental during which I chain-smoked three Marlboros. Gripping and terrifying, it was commensurate to navigating through turbulent oceans on a starless night. Edgar Allan Poe would have approved. It was a dark and stormy night, wasn’t it?
The crowd rejoiced for “Dear Prudence.” It came off as a tribute to Lennon because we were only two and a half years, and less than one mile, away from where John inhaled his last earthly breath. Garcia was the transformer, exploring layer after layer of a tune that’s simply fetching, and quite strange in an elegant way. The solo was outstanding, landing just short of the great Cape Cod “Prudence” three nights earlier. “Deal” was a bloodbath! Garcia sang the song as if he was discarding a bag of chicken bones, but the jam was an act of acrimonious aggression. Garcia’s notes swarmed like agitated hornets around the Jack Hammer bass and raging drums. When the set was over, it felt like the Roseland had been ransacked and simultaneously healed—a mass exorcism. With polarizing performances on successive nights, Jerry’s mosaic art mirrored the passion and heat out on the streets of Manhattan.
Even the Lord needed a day of rest, and so did JGB and the nuts that followed them.

The tour resumed in Passaic, New Jersey, on June 3, 1983. While I was sucking brew out of a pint in a seedy watering hole by the Capitol Theatre, a vaguely familiar face approached and asked me if I needed doses. I wasn’t in the market, but Doug was. The freewheeling acid guy, who I think I knew from community college, looked like the Court Jester of Passaic, with his three-pronged joker hat and tie-dye sweatpants. He handed me a vial of LSD and instructed me to dose my buddy in the bathroom, $5 per drop. In the stall, I handed Doug the vial. He proceeded to dispense three or four drops on his outstretched tongue. Things were going to get real weird, real quick.
The healthy crimson hue vanished from Doug’s mug. Beads of sweat rolled down his pale cheeks. Probing waves of the mega-dose zapped his brain and rattled his eyes. We fled the bar and stood on the street corner. Doug’s arms and legs flailed wildly as he babbled gibberish. As nightfall descended upon Passaic, we had issues. How was I going to explain this to his dad, Herb? When Doug jumped into my Chevy that afternoon his future was bound for glory. The pride and joy of the his clan, Doug was the heir apparent to his father’s law practice. I had great respect for Herb and his wife Gloria. Though Herb never touched a drink or smoked, he had a zany wit and a fiery passion for life, which he had passed on to Doug. Herb also had a terrible temper; I could never explain to the old man why his son was being returned home a comatose vegetable, unfit to tie his own shoes.
My other concern was the nature of the environment we found ourselves in. Nighttime in Passaic was not conducive to psychotic episodes. What type of city was Passaic in the early ‘80s? The summer before, I’d pulled into Passaic for a JGB gig and found a spot a few blocks from the Capitol. Prior to parallel parking, I discharged Laurie and Tracy, hippie goddesses, from my maroon Caprice and told them to meet me in front of the Cap. A cop stopped the ladies, asked me to roll down my window and hollered, “What? Are you fuckin’ nuts? Letting theeeese girls walk by themselves, in this neighborhood!? Are you fuckin’ nuts?!? And if you don’t move your car, you’ll be lucky to have a fuckin’ steering wheel left!”
So, there I was, on the hostile asphalt of Passaic, trying to find a sanctuary to nurse Doug back to sanity. I tried to lure Doug into the theatre, but his heart was pounding for the emergency room. After the ER doctor examined Doug, he assured us we had nothing to fear but fear itself. The good doc went back to treating emergency room causalities. We went to see the Captain.
There were two shows that night. We missed the early one and were tardy for the late show. My buddy proved to be a resilient son of a bitch. He was getting off on “Love in the Afternoon.” Psychedelics stroked the sweet part of his brain as the calypso riffs rolled from Jerry’s guitar. I was almost jealous. I’d twice missed my first live “Cats Under the Stars.” What I missed was irrelevant. I was eternally thankful to be rolling up to his Doug's house with their pride and joy intact.
Doug weathered the mega-dosing, and after a few hours of psychotic sleep, we were back on the trail of the Great Garcia. This time we were joined by my other primetime touring accomplice, Perry. I’d met Perry in tenth grade during my brief stint in Mr. Murphy’s geometry class. Perry was a soft-spoken, blonde-haired Norwegian who wore a cappuccino-colored corduroy jacket and smoked Parliaments. We crossed paths again a few years later at Rockland Community College and experienced our first Jerry shows together at the Capitol Theatre in ’81. Perry was coming into his own as the lead guitarist of the Roadrunners. They played a whole lotta Dead and mixed in some Clapton, Hendrix, Dylan, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Little Feat, and CCR. They didn’t have a distinctive voice at first, but inspired by Jerry, Perry’s riffs and licks blossomed. The Roadrunners rapidly found their niche as a roadhouse jam band, becoming popular in the pubs and saloons of New City, Nanuet, Spring Valley, and Pearl River.
The day following his LSD meltdown, Doug was tearing north on the endlessly winding Taconic Parkway in his Coupe DeVille. I was riding shotgun, and Perry lounged in the back. When you’re in the thick of a hedonistic marathon like this, the actual day of the week becomes meaningless. Still, it was Saturday night, and we were working our way back to JGB at The Chance in Poughkeepsie. As we drove through historic Poughkeepsie and admired the Hudson River to our west, I sensed the presence of Colonial America. I half expected to see Patrick Henry on horseback galloping through the cobblestone streets.
The Chance was a divine gathering nest for a JGB gig. Opened for business as the Dutchess Theatre in 1912, this red brick building resembled just about any old country barn and had a 900-person capacity. Closed from 1945–1970, it reopened as Frivolous Sal’s Last Chance Saloon before officially being known as The Chance in 1980. The charming Chance was a tiny ballroom, theatre, and bar rolled into one. Such were the allures of a JGB tour. This front-porch atmosphere was unattainable at Grateful Dead shows.
With a long night and two shows ahead of us, Doug abstained from anything stronger than a few bong hits. He moved close to the stage and waited, anxiously, until the sweet twangs rang from Garcia’s guitar. Perry and I met up with his older brother Stan and his friend Johnny at the bar. With a can of Budweiser occupying one hand, I kept my other hand free to juggle joints, cigarettes, and bullets of blow. When the red velvet drape was raised, the band was already playing “Cats Under The Stars.” Smiling wildly and wearing sunglasses, Garcia began to croon. A pleasantly pungent plume of marijuana smoke billowed through the Chance.
“Hey, Howie-baby!” shouted Stan. “Someone forgot to tell Jerry he’s at the Chance. He still thinks he’s at Coney Island, sunbathing.” An eruption of laughter followed, and nobody chuckled harder than the messenger. Eight years older than Perry, Stan was built like a harpooner—broad, noble shoulders with a sloped stomach solid as granite. Grinning, Stan pivoted towards me and showed me how to wail air guitar left-handed.
With his knees slightly bent, Stan assumed a sturdy stance, arms opened wide, palms out, like a magician who had just plucked a rabbit from a bowl of chili. His expression turned serious as he peeked at his fingers as they slid across an imaginary fret board. Confidently strumming away with a bottle of Bud in his right hand, Stan was amused by his own antics. Suddenly turning towards his best pal, Johnny, Stan the Man went through the same shtick all over again. Digging the groove all night long, Johnny was a lumbering figure with thick brown hair compressed like a Brillo pad. Although he had a bouncer’s build, Johnny B. Goode had the goofy vibe of a Merry Prankster. Peeling twenties from his cash wad, Johnny financed our Budweiser pipeline. He had recently picked the winning numbers in the New York State Lottery; however, he had the misfortune of having to share the $4,000,000 jackpot with six other winners. After taxes, his cut was about $20,000 a year for twenty years.
When the curtain was hoisted for the late show, JGB rocked “Rhapsody in Red.” “Sugaree” was delightful to see; Garcia came off like a thousand turkeys gobbling in unison. Every show on this tour had its shining moments. The “Midnight Moonlight” encore had us prancing about like Russian Cossack dancers.
After partying with reckless abandon for the duration of two shows, Perry and I were sleeping soundly on the ride home as Doug drove south on the Taconic Parkway. We were all awoken by the screeching sound of steel scraping steel. Doug instinctively tugged the wheel to his left, steering us off the guard rail and separating us from a gruesome tragedy in Hopewell Junction. Once again we’d danced with death. If it wasn’t for a simple flick of the wrist, our Grateful odyssey would have been terminated.
There was a small dent on the yellow Coup de Ville—not the type of damage that would prevent Doug from driving to Upper Darby, Pennsylvania, for two shows at the Tower Theatre the following night. Enough was never enough—we had to keep on chasing lightning. A state trooper ticketed Doug for speeding on the New Jersey Turnpike. By the time we found the Tower Theatre and parked, we knew that the early show had begun. We sprinted a 100-yard dash to the theatre door in personal best times. For the third time on this tour we missed “Cats Under the Stars.” I guess it just wasn’t in the stars. JGB was wrapping up “They Love Each Other” as we strutted down the carpeted aisle. Garcia rewarded our tenacity with the only “Let It Rock” of the tour, a tremendous version with a pair of furious solos. That one “Let It Rock” made all the sacrifice worthwhile.
As for how Doug explained away the dent on the Coupe, I would find that out fifteen years later, at his wedding. During the best man’s toast, Doug’s younger brother, Eric, asked me to stand up and testify. In front of the entire Schmell clan, I was asked to swear that we actually hit a deer that night coming back from the Garcia show. I proceeded to perjure myself and kept the myth alive. Herb was laughing so hard his yarmulke almost dislodged from his head. 
This tale was adopted from Positively Garcia: Reflections of the JGB 
Howard Weiner's new book: Deadology: The 33 Essential Dates of Grateful Dead History





Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Eleven Elite Sugarees




Based on group synergy and aural ecstasy, I’ve ranked the best “Sugarees” from ’77 in their own group. There’s a pure executional brilliance on display as “Sugaree” emerged into a blockbuster performance in ’77.  The “Suagree” mojo appeared here and there in the years that followed, but these “Sugarees” are distinctive.
Top Five from 1977
1) 5-19-77 Fox Theatre: The fabled Fox “Sugaree,” comes on the heels of a “Promised Land” opener. There’s a slight shake to the velvety tone of Jerry’s voice. Garcia’s just walking the dog as he glides into jam one. The music’s unified, and a positive tension quickly builds. At the same time, the band’s playing it cool and bursting at the seams. Garcia’s guitar suddenly snatches a loud, soulful feeling. Somehow everyone on the stage can sense that a transcendent moment is imminent, but it won’t happen during this jam.
            Garcia croons the “You thought you was the cool fool” verse and passes the baton to Keith, who opens jam two. Sorry to interrupt Keith…here comes Jerry! Guitar licks fly as Phil rumbles, Weir strums, and the drummers bash. It’s getting intense, and suddenly, Garcia opens the door to a new realm of madness. It sounds like a million bluebirds are singing inside the funnel of a cyclone. The cohesiveness is remarkable. Garcia pulls the trigger and the band bites the bullet. If there was any means of measuring the sound, the Grateful Dead would be breaking world records for velocity and intensity. The band reaches the highest level they can, and they sustain it for as long as they can without giving an inch. The Fox roars, and Garcia sweetly sings, “You know in spite of all you gave, you still have to stand out in the pouring rain.”
            To be or not to be, that’s the question as Garcia steps in for his final licks. It begins insignificantly, as if the band might offer some nice atmospheric music before heading for an exit ramp. However, Garcia strums some choppy chords and the band is alert, aware that Jerry might go for the jugular at any moment. This jam escalates. Suddenly Garcia’s in beast mode and Billy, Mickey, Bobby, Keith, and Phil fan along on the same frenzied frequency. It’s a breathtaking sequence, and wisely, they simultaneously pull the plug to avoid coming off as overindulgent. As they reach the end of the line in synchronicity, Keith takes one last swipe at his piano, and the rebellious jam obediently drops back into the last verse. Incomparable perfection!
2) 5-28-77 Hartford: On the final stop of their legendary May tour, the Grateful Dead rampaged through a Bertha > Good Lovin’ opener. In lieu of tuning up, they segued right into “Sugaree” as if this was a holy mission. For those Deadheads in attendance who hadn’t seen the New Haven show, “Sugaree” was probably still an enchanting seven-minute song. “Sugaree” had undergone an astounding metamorphosis—a lovely tune was now a tour de force that would be worshipped evermore.
            Garcia rolls into the first solo and discovers a big, juicy note that pleases him, so he fixates on it, repeating it seven times, lovingly bending his guitar string in the same manner. It’s a beautiful moment, something that will capture your attention with every listen. Then Garcia starts racing through scales, his fingers tapping strings as if he’s Hunter Thompson pounding typewriter keys on mescaline. Chez Garcia tosses a psychedelic salad here as he effectively mixes fanning, strumming, and picking, and reins the jam in before it gets out of hand.
            Smooth piano rolls set jam two in motion. Keith’s intro’s longer than usual. When Garcia joins the fray, a wall of sound thunders—the collective will of the band guides the journey. The typical “Sugaree” funnel develops, and the band savors it as they inch forward at warped speeds. The music blurs forward, lurching and snatching simultaneously, and Garcia accents the jam with sharp hiccups and burps. This may be longer than any other “Sugaree” solo, but it’s never overstated. After the second jam, this Hartford version holds a slight edge over the one from the Fox.
            An attempt at another wild crescendo probably would have flopped, so the band eases into the third jam with some nice bass from Phil. However, Garcia’s in no mood to mail anything in. His noodling develops into a substantial solo without any fireworks, just pretty picking that’s focused. Garcia sings the final verse, and there’s a quick, climactic flourish before the final chorus—an exclamation point to the epic Hartford “Sugaree.”

3. 5-5-77 New Haven: “Sugaree” is the second song of the evening, and Garcia does his best to incite a riot. Something’s burning as the band gets pushy with the first instrumental. The solo escalates like a panic attack, and then dashes off to a fanning crescendo. This “Sugaree” is the embodiment of the powerhouse ‘77 sound—it will obliterate anything in its path.
Keith leads the way into solo two with a series of spicy piano runs. Phil’s bass bombs raise the tension as Jerry’s sharp twangs become the focal point. All lights are green—the music soars—torrents of compressed wildness are unleashed. The band rides an explosive and dangerous surge, yet they have control and power over the beast. Symphonic waves fill the coliseum. The pressure cooker jam advances logically until, stunningly, the plug is pulled, and Keith accents the moment with a brilliantly timed piano sweep. Back in the beautiful ballad Garcia sings, “You know in spite of all you gave, you still have to stand out in the pouring rain.” 
 Accomplishing all of their objectives with two blockbuster jams, the third solo is serene. Phil thuds some lead bass as soft piano and light guitar strokes gently swirl and float. 
4) 3-18-77 Winterland: There’s a whole lotta soulful picking in the first two solos. It’s compelling and satisfying, yet this never kicks in to typical “Sugaree” overdrive. Everything about the third solo’s wonderfully unique—the individual chords that Weir strikes throughout—the rich, almost comical sound of Phil’s bass—the banjo-like sounds of Jerry’s guitar as he strikes up an interesting conversation with Keith. After a gripping jazz moment, the “oom-pah” of Phil’s bass leads back to the final verse. Measured brilliance. Only in the Winterland!
5) 4-29-77 Palladium: Set two features a gripping “Sugaree” with major momentum shifts. Each succeeding solo is hotter than the one that precedes it, which makes this outstanding third solo one of the best of a legendary year for “Sugaree.”
The best of the rest
 Here are six rebellious “Sugarees.” When Garcia was in the zone, some of these jams reached and eclipsed ’77 peaks. Although, the seemingly easy group synergy of ’77 never re-emerged. I apologize to fans of ’78 and ’79 “Sugarees,” but Bob Weir’s slide guitar experimentations destroyed potentially great versions. I’m not a Weir disparager, but his slide work slashed into Garcia’s space and often killed the momentum, and made it difficult to follow Garcia’s creative advances.

1) 10-17-83 Lake Placid: Pumped to play in Olympic Center, the Dead came out blazing with “Sugaree.” Garcia seems particularly fired up as he steps into the opening solo. The next jam starts off hot, and after Jerry moves through several phases, nothing but molten lava pours out of his Tiger. The band’s doing their thing, but Garcia isn’t waiting for any cues as he breaks out the full assortment of quick-picking runs in his “Sugaree” arsenal. Garcia shifts into Beast Mode with petrified chord fanning and a sneaky/ornery run before singing, “You know in spite of all you gave. You still have to stand out in the pouring rain.”
            This would have been a great “Sugaree” even if Garcia mailed in the third solo. But Garcia was an American hero in an enchanted venue. There’s no hesitation or deception as Garcia attacks with the galloping chord > peeling onion lick motif. Garcia’s gone mad. There’s more guitar soloing in the Lake Placid “Sugaree” than any of the epic ’77 versions. The reason I give the nod of best “Sugaree” to 5-19-77 Fox Theatre or 5-28-77 Hartford is that on those occasions, the band is discovering how far they can go with “Sugaree,” blowing away any preconceived notions of the song. And the ’77 jams are crafted in a sophisticated manner where the band is improvising and clicking as one. On 10-17-83 Garcia is possessed, and clearly the most inspired musician in the band, and it’s a beautiful thing. If you place this masterpiece alongside the 10-12-83 Help > Slipknot! > Franklin’s (MSG) and the 10-14-83 Scarlet > Fire (Hartford), you’re looking at one of the special weeks in Dead history.
2) 9-6-80 Lewiston State Fairgrounds: In the city were Ali “shook up the world,” again, by knocking out Sonny Liston with a phantom punch in the first round, the Grateful Dead shook up those at the State Fairgrounds with a five-alarm “Sugaree” following an Alabama Getaway > Greatest Story opener. Jerry comes out swinging in the first solo. A substantial run is followed by the best Weir slide guitar in any “Sugaree.” Instead of clashing with Jerry, here he compliments him with a fine flourish to end jam one.
            Jam two is the end of innocence. It commences with playful ping-pong between Jerry and Brent. Garcia rips into some high voltage leads and the rout is on. It’s as intense as “Sugaree” can get. A bull stampede transitions into a Chernobyl meltdown as Phil’s seismic pounding can’t contain the madness. Jerry has one of those moments where he expands the improbable. This maybe the most impressive “Sugaree” jam. It’s definitely the scariest. The third jam is dreamy and brief.
3) 6-21-80 Anchorage, Alaska: The Anchorage “Sugaree” rumbles and rambles like the one from Lewiston. For years I’ve confused the two, yet the jam sequences are vastly different. 6-21-80 begins with “Sugaree.” A lean lyrical opening solo is followed by a spirited intro for jam two. Brent’s the catalyst and Jerry responds by stepping on the gas. There’s a gripping sweep to this segment which doesn’t overstay its welcome. High-velocity picking ignites the last jam. This “Sugaree” flows very organically, the jams materialize like a preordained rhapsody. Phil and the and the band drive the last part of jam three as Anchorage gets shaken down to the very marrow, evoking memories of the Anchorage earthquake of 1964.
4) 3-25-85 Springfield: This “Sugaree” benefited from the hot “Jack Straw” that preceded it. A determined surge permeates the first two solos, and the searing run at the end of jam two hints at Garcia’s intentions. Jerry’s scratchy voice doesn’t have much bark, but his leads inspire the as solo three ascends. Garcia breaks the jam down, but he’s just playing with the listener. His repetitive leads regenerate and charge ahead full steam. And there’s no chance this can get boring as his guitar velocity mathematically escalates with slight scale variations—skittle-skattle-squared! It’s mad dash—clinically insane—on and on, faster and faster—a stunning hypersonic collage of sound.
5) 6-17-82 New Haven Coliseum: There are several outstanding JGB “Sugarees” deserving of elite status, but I chose this one to represent the pack. The night after a legendary performance at Music Mountain, Jerry, Kahn, Seals, Kreutzmann and crew rolled into the New Haven and unloaded a major presentation of “Sugaree” to kick-off the festivities. There are JGB versions with more impressive solos, but collectively, this “Sugaree” is a masterful showcase. Garcia mixes mathematical precision with extra desire and hustle. There’s an unusual intro solo before Jerry sings the first verse, and each succeeding solo becomes hotter and longer. In each jam, Garcia reaches a logical ending point but decides to add a fiery bonus round. The congruency of this version is stunning, and the last jam unfolds like a high-flying trapeze act.
6) 4-12-82 Nassau Coliseum: Here’s to the wizardry inside a subdued “Sugaree.” This is song two of the second set. As usual, the band loosened up with the first solo, and Garcia rallied with impressive virtuosity towards the end of the second solo. To solo or not to solo? That was the question facing Garcia, and those hardcore Deadheads who obsessed over the tapes. I haven’t done any official research on the topic, but I’ll estimate that Jerry skipped playing a third solo of any substance 75 percent of the time in ’82. A two-solo “Sugaree” isn’t necessarily better than one where Garcia strikes three times, but more usually equals better with Jerry.
            Solo three materializes softly as Garcia repetitively chord-fans at a low volume against mesmerizing keyboards from Brent. There’s a sizzling/bubbling undercurrent to the sound. The rest of the band deftly mirrors Garcia as they incrementally increase volume, tempo, and intensity. This instrumental has a relaxed, masterful vibe that reminds me of the 3-18-77 Winterland “Sugaree.” As the solo rolls on, Garcia breaks out of the controlled fanning mode and delivers a resounding finale, turning this “Sugaree” into a jamming jubilee. 
Other noteworthy JGB Sugarees: 12-21-79 Keystone, Palo Alto, 2-20-80 U Mass, 2-5-81 Lehigh, 5-29-83 Bushnell
Other Noteworthy GD Sugarees: Almost all ’77 versions, 10-15-76 Shrine, 7-1-79 Seattle, 9-2-80 Rochester, 3-14-81 Hartford, 10-10-81 Bremen, 4-23-84 New Haven 



GD 9-15-82

  9-15-82 Cap Centre was my eleventh Dead show. Earlier in the year I was fortunate to see the spectacular 4-6-82 Philly and 8-7-82 Alpine...