Friday, December 8, 2017

Deadhead Born In the Aftermath of an Unspeakable Tragedy

Remember, this is just a football game, no matter who wins or loses. An unspeakable tragedy confirmed to us by ABC News in New York City. John Lennon, outside of his apartment building on the West Side of New York City. The most famous of perhaps all the Beatles, was shot twice in the back and rushed to Roosevelt Hospital. Dead on arrival. Hard to go back to the game after that news flash.
Howard Cosell, Monday Night Football, December 8, 1980

Millions of Americans found out about the murder of a beloved Beatle as they watched a Monday Night Football contest between the Miami Dolphins and the New England Patriots. Violence in America had no limits. Four months after Lennon was murdered in the city he loved, President Ronald Reagan was shot and nearly killed in the nation’s capital. Car and motorcycle accidents, plane crashes, and drug overdoses have tragically claimed the lives of talented rock stars, but the random act of a lunatic targeting a legend sent shock waves through the world of music.

 A year earlier in Cincinnati, eleven fans were trampled to death by a surging crowd trying to get into a general admission concert to see The Who. Neil Young was singing, “Hey hey, my my, rock and roll will never die.” While this axiom was true, rock and roll had seen better days.
In 2012, Rolling Stone published a list of the Top 500 albums of all time. These lists are overblown. How can you calculate what the 343rd best album is, and who cares? Ranking more than one hundred albums is superfluous. The golden age of great albums began with Bringing It All Back Home in 1965, and ended in 1980 with London Calling by The Clash. Excluding compilations, if you break down the top fifty albums on the list and group them in five-year spans, 1965 to 1970 produced nineteen of the top fifty, 1971 to 1975 accounted for thirteen of the elite albums, and 1976 to 1980 had four selections on the list. Over the next six years, starting in 1981, only Michael Jackson’s Thriller made the top fifty. There are lots of reasons for this decline, including MTV, which debuted on August 1, 1981 (Jerry Garcia’s 39th birthday). Making a fetching music video became an easier road to popularity than creating an entire album. Madonna, Michael Jackson, and several one-hit wonders thrived in this video format, as new wave and musical simplicity became the craze of the day. Dylan was with Jesus, and The Who, Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, and Led Zeppelin were fading after their domination of the ’70s. And with the assassination of Lennon, George Harrison and other icons decided to take a break from the music business.
  In these culturally depraved times, the Grateful Dead road show became an irresistible option for those craving an authentic music adventure—a traveling caravan of hedonistic freaks pulling together as a community—a throwback to the Haight-Ashbury days. During the ’80s, I saw 150 Grateful Dead shows and 50 Jerry Garcia Band shows, and towards the end of the decade, I found my way to 50 Dylan concerts. As a witness to what transpired between Dylan and the Dead later in the decade, and as a case study on how an obsessive rock fan finds himself on tour with the Grateful Dead, here’s my story.

When John Lennon was gunned down on the outskirts of Central Park, I was a rebellious seventeen-year-old teenager watching Monday Night Football. Howard Cosell broke news of the unspeakable tragedy. Cosell and Lennon, the heroes and voices of my childhood, would be forever tangled in a historical nightmare.

When I was in third grade, I had to do a presentation in front of my peers. I chose to imitate a Howard Cosell Talking Sports newsflash, which he used to broadcast on 77 WABC radio in New York. More than any other announcer, Cosell’s honking Brooklyn accent and his fancy vocabulary became part of the big event. It’s hard to think of Muhammed Ali in his prime without Cosell being part of the soundtrack. And prior to the night of December 8, 1980, his most famous call was “Down goes Frazier! Down goes Frazier! Down goes Frazier!” as George Foreman pummeled Joe Frazier in a shocking upset to win the Heavyweight Championship of the World. I also felt an affinity for Cosell because we shared the same name. There weren’t many famous Howards scoring touchdowns or singing hit songs on the radio.

My older cousins turned me on to the Beatles when I was six. Until that time, my three favorite albums from my father’s collection were West Side Story, Fiddler on the Roof, and Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass Greatest Hits. My father bought Let It Be for me, and I disappeared into my room and listened to nothing but that album and some AM radio for at least a year. My cousins were Beatles fanatics, and above all, they preached the virtues of Lennon.
On the night John was murdered, I was sitting on a sofa in the basement of my parents’ house in the suburban town of Nanuet, New York. Hearing Cosell broadcast those words was a deathblow to any remaining youthful innocence inside me. I was a chronic class-cutting, pot-smoking kid, and then I decided to go all the way and drop out of high school. I went to a community college to get my GED, but I didn’t believe in academic or religious institutions. The only thing I believed in was the world of song, and soon that would lead me to Jerry Garcia.

My friend Doug was the only cat I knew who had a passion for music that was equal to mine. We devoured every classic and progressive rock album out there. We knew every lyric, lick, and subtle nuance of every album by bands such as The Who, Rolling Stones, Doors, Beatles, Yes, ELO, ELP, Jethro Tull, Santana, Pink Floyd, etc.…We knew Dylan’s greatest hits, but there wasn’t enough jamming on the surface for us to explore any further. As for the Grateful Dead, we admired their Skeletons in the Closet compilation and American Beauty, but lack of overwhelming lead guitar kept us from going further down that road.

After spending the summer of 1980 at a Jewish sleepaway camp, Doug returned home a devout Deadhead, and Jerry Garcia was the Messiah. The idea of putting Garcia in the same class as Clapton, Hendrix, or the emerging guitar god Eddie Van Halen seemed ludicrous. Doug tried to steer me into his camp, but I didn’t initially get it. Listening to the Grateful Dead is like trying to learn a new language—some pick it up quickly and run with it; for others, there’s a learning curve before it overtakes them, and some folks slam the door shut on the Dead. I held out hope. If Garcia could overwhelm a music lover like my charismatic friend, there had to be merit in the music, somewhere, and that intrigued me.

My Grateful Dead revelation occurred seven weeks after Lennon’s death, on January 24, 1981. I remember the date because on that night, I witnessed hockey history at the Nassau Coliseum. Mike Bossy, the young French Canadian star of my favorite hockey team, the New York Islanders, scored two goals in the last five minutes of the game to become the second player in NHL history to score fifty goals in the first fifty games of a season. The thrilling event paled in comparison to the ride home. The driver, Seymour, my friend Scott’s brother, popped Europe ’72 into his tape deck and turned the volume up full blast. I don’t know if it was the dopamine high of the thrilling sports spectacle or the potent bone we smoked on the way home, but I salivated in stunned silence as I experienced the true majestic sweep of the Grateful Dead for the first time.

 “Cumberland Blues” blasted away—electrified, psychedelic hillbilly music. An arcane world emerged. “Jack Straw” from Wichita was on the run from sea to shining sea. The hypnotic, jazzy jamming of “China Cat Sunflower” was surreal and seductive, unlike any music I’d ever heard. “The news is out all over town,” crooned Garcia in a sad, smooth tone that paid tribute to Hank Williams but was pure Jerry in style. Pigpen hammered the blues with “It Hurst Me Too.” I don’t think I’d ever heard Hank Williams or Elmore James before. A door to another world opened. Instantly, I felt linked to an alternate musical reality.

Hearing “Ramble on Rose” put me over the edge—fascinating lyrics and alliteration placed upon a plush melody and delivered with deliberate ragtime flavor. Garcia’s pitch-perfect-voice connected characters, real and imagined, from different times and places: Jack the Ripper, Billy Sunday, Mary Shelly, Mojo Hand, Crazy Otto, Frankenstein, New York City, Jericho. It was a beautifully crafted song with a searing guitar solo. The following day I rode my bicycle to Tapesville USA, a record shop located in front of the Nanuet Mall, and purchased Europe ’72. Within a few weeks, I’d purchased every Dead record in the bin.

 I still had to overcome the Jerry Garcia is the greatest guitarist hurdle. I saw my first show at Madison Square Garden on March 9, 1981. The band endeared themselves to me by playing “Ramble on Rose” as the fourth song of the night. The Garden roared in unison when Garcia sang, “Just like New York City,” and Jerry’s guitar roared out a scathing, yet lyrically beautiful, guitar solo. I recognized most of the songs, but I lost my focus during the long, spacey jams, like the one connecting “Estimated Prophet” to “Uncle John’s Band.” Grateful Dead appreciation is an acquired taste that takes patience and the willingness to approach listening to music differently. A few months after my Dead debut, I scored a copy of the MSG show and realized it was a spectacular show. I was there, but not really.

My first bootleg tape was a ninety-minute BASF cassette of highlights from a show at Raceway Park, Englishtown, New Jersey, on September 3, 1977. My Garcia is god epiphany arrived when I heard “Mississippi Half Step Uptown Toodeloo.” The dynamic energy of the performance was superior to the truncated studio track. The between-verse guitar solos sparkled, but there was a long, masterful musical segment prior to the band singing the “Across the Rio Grande” bridge. Phil’s bass rumbled as the band paved the way for a two-tiered climax from Garcia. And then the Dead created something that had never existed before. Godchaux tinkled his keyboards in a manner that pleased Garcia. Jerry tweeted back like a singing robin. Everybody in the band was listening and slowly contributing. Things got heated, and before there was another soaring crescendo, the band wisely eased into the “Rio Grande” chorus—no need to be redundant. This was a distinctive masterpiece that could never be duplicated.

A few weeks later, Doug turned me on to the Cornell tape, the legendary show from 5-8-77. An extraordinary half-hour Scarlet > Fire kicks off the second set. Everything is sublime: inviting rhythm and tempo, expressive singing by Garcia, intricate improvisation by all involved. The music played the band. The segue between “Scarlet Begonias” and “Fire on the Mountain” separated the Dead from any other band I’d heard. They channeled strange alchemy and seemingly suspended time by dabbling in both songs—coming and going in the present moment. And few instrumentals in the band’s history match the burning intensity of the last solo in “Fire,” or the colossal jam in “Morning Dew.”

Bootleg tapes like Englishtown and Cornell, as well as many other shows from 1969-1977, represent the Grateful Dead’s finest music. Bob Dylan is an outstanding live performer; however, you don’t have to listen to bootlegged performances to understand and measure his greatness. Although, sampling his unreleased live material is highly recommended because Dylan’s songs tend to evolve and change form as he plays them through the years. To truly understand the Grateful Dead—what they do, and what they are capable of—listening to their shows is essential.

                                                      A TALE OF TWISTED FATE

Monday, November 6, 2017

Colgate, Rochester and Binghamton: 40th Anniversary of Three Iconic Grateful Dead Shows

Excerpt from Grateful Dead 1977: The Rise of Terrapin Nation

            After their Toronto adventure, the Dead breezed into the middle of New York State and landed in Hamilton, one of the friendliest towns in America according to Forbes Magazine. Hamilton, which is 104 miles west of Albany, is home to one of the premier liberal arts schools in the country, Colgate University. The similarities between Colgate and Cornell were striking. A memorable evening was blowing in the wind on 11-4-77, which happened to be my fourteenth birthday. I had just discovered Led Zeppelin, and the Grateful Dead was a complete mystery to me. Although, any Deadhead takes great pride in a legendary show on their birthday, whether they were there or not.

            The Colgate affair begins with “Bertha” fireworks—sly, rapid-fire guitar phrasing. Garcia’s full of creative impulse as he later sparks “Brown-Eyed Women” with similar phrasing. Some nights Garcia finds a groove, or certain style of playing, a motif that’s unique to that show and that show only. Garcia’s fingers are flying in Colgate. Just when you think he’s finished a passage, he sneaks in a quick run. Jerry also treats us to some wonderful vocal embellishments during “Dupree’s Diamond Blues.”
            Some of the finest group efforts since May are featured on 11-4-77. The set-ending “Let it Grow” is phenomenal, right up there with the one from DeKalb five nights earlier. After Weir bellows, “Rise and fall,” Keith steps up to lead the instrumental. The sonic landscape is elegant and jazzy as Garcia smoothly connects the dots in a vacuum of high-velocity picking and strumming. Weir, Lesh, and the rhythm devils shift gears precisely, and Garcia and Godchaux have all the answers. This jam doesn’t explode like DeKalb. It’s an improbably fluid display of elaborate improvisation. And the outro jam is the longest of any ‘77 version—The Boys are hot, and Jerry noodles on until “Let It Grow” recedes into its final signature line.
            Was 1977 the end or beginning of an era for the Grateful Dead, or both? They were moving towards the future with an arsenal of originals that would define them, but they were peaking as band, they would never consistently sound this awesome again, and they would never have this much fun again, with each other, and the audience. When they take the stage for act two, Lesh introduces his mates as the Jones Gang. MC Phil saves his best roast for Weir, “In center stage, ladies and gentleman, a star whose name has gone behind him, even on to the farthest galaxies (diabolical laughter), Bob Jones!”
            “Samson and Delilah” roars out of the gates. Pumped by his fabulous intro, Weir’s vocals are ferocious, and the band causes quite a racket. Following the final “Tear this old building down,” Garcia’s guitar saws its way into the first  “Cold Rain and Snow” of the year. A traditional folk number that appears on the debut Grateful Dead album of 1967, “Cold Rain and Snow” is one of those tunes with the Dead’s trademark magnetic groove. You can hear the excitement of the moment in Jerry’s voice, and the band’s demonstrative playing as they try to channel the energy into the soothing aura of the song. Many a ‘77 second set could have benefitted greatly from a sprinkling of “Cold Rain and Snow.”
            The weirdness begins in Cotterell Gym with a “Playin’ in the Band” stomp. The roulette wheel spins—where and when she will stop, nobody knows. Deep inside the beast, Weir introduces some “Eyes of the World” chords and Garcia peels off some “Eyes” licks, but it sounds like this thing will swing into “Uncle John’s Band.” But the “Eyes” seed has been sown, and Garcia latches onto it. Yes! They’re storming into “Eyes.” This is the type of ingenuity that has been lacking through most of October.

            “Eyes” whips ahead at a terrific tempo as an amused Garcia riffs this way and that way before breaking into piercing leads. Weir strikes up some interesting-sounding chord progressions that aren’t synching with what Garcia’s doing, but the clash of rhythm and pitch sounds brilliant and gives this “Eyes” a unique tension. Garcia unravels a tasty intro before things settle into a hyped groove. Any instant now, Garcia’s going to sing the opening verse, but it appears he’s transfixed by the rolling rhythm, so he decides to reel off another cascading solo, and eventually he ducks back into the chord motif. The delirious crowd roars approval that can clearly be heard on the soundboard tapes. After Donna, Bobby, and Jerry harmonize the opening chorus, the band storms ahead—a shuffling staccato beat. This is loony tunes, Wile E. Coyote is chasing the Road Runner. Garcia’s solos are aggressive, and there’s no indecision as he channels the muse that only he has access to. At the end of the first solo, Garcia introduces the repetitive taunting licks that I so admire. For the most part I prefer an “Eyes” with a slower tempo, but this is an extraordinary display, a standout in a year of excellence.
            Garcia’s still breathing fire as “Eyes” finds its way to “Estimated Prophet” through the back door. Every once in a while you have to shake things up by reversing the natural order. The melancholy wah-wah wailing of the post-verse “Estimated” jam works its way into a wicked, wicked, “The Other One.” Phil bombs as Jerry shreds, and each lap is more intense. There’s no putting on airs or teasing, just primal Grateful Dead. This is a freaking hand grenade. The sonic spirals tighten with each pass, the heat of their psychedelic past intertwines with their powerful professionalism—1969 comes face-to-face with 1977. The spectacular jam culminates with the opening verse, “Spanish lady come to me she lays on me this rose.” A drum solo follows. Everything you ever need to hear in “The Other One” occurs in one jam with one verse. Scintillating.
            “Iko Iko” materializes out of drums. It’s the most complete and best rendition of the year, and by the ‘80s, it will blossom into one of the band’s beloved tunes. The segue into “Stella Blue” flows like a river to the sea, and Garcia frames the magic with a unique opening “Stella” solo. Jerry has to get in his introspective ballad, and this fits the bill. Garcia moans a final “Stella Blue-uwhew” and scurries off into a high-frequency solo that eventually dips back into “Playin’ in the Band.” This is such a fulfilling loop that you can forget how it all began. The “Playin’” space is sparse, but the jam after they reprise the last verse is insane; everybody in the gym is rocked and rolled to the cores of their souls. “Johnny B. Goode” bids goodnight to Hamilton, New York.
            It must have been an amazing two-hour ride for the musicians, and those wise enough to be following them to the next gig at the War Memorial Auditorium in Rochester, a Grateful Dead stronghold. Between 1973 and 1985, this auditorium hosted ten Dead shows. Sitting near the southern shore of Lake Ontario, Rochester is the third-largest city in New York State, and there are many fine institutions of higher learning in the area, which equals more Deadhead conversions. Between 1982 and 1985 I witnessed five smoking Dead shows in the War Memorial. I can’t explain the appeal of seeing the Dead in Rochester, but I’m glad I was there. There was raw energy in that building—Rochester sparked the Dead and the Dead breathed life into Rochester. Those who were there on 11-5-77 were treated to a memorable show, although it wasn’t as brilliant, start to finish, as Colgate was.
            When the Grateful Dead take the stage in Rochester, the crowd surges to greet them, and Weir promptly asks them to take a step back before the band busts into “New Minglewood Blues.” Real pandemonium kicks in when the crowd hears “Mississippi Half Step,” the first one of the tour. You can tell the band’s pumped, the vocals and between-verse solos are crisp. The pre-“Rio Grande” jam is an escalating stream of jubilation—pure aural gratification that’s reminiscent of the Boston Garden “Half Step” on 5-7-77. Phil’s bass registers readings on the Richter scale. This is a tidal wave of sound—the band surfs with Garcia as he improbably finds creative paths to extend the momentum and forward movement of the jam without changing course. When the wave crashes and all that’s left is the pretty whisper of the “Rio Grande” melody, the audience rejoices. The final instrumental is shorter, but it’s cut from the same cloth as the previous one. To borrow a ‘77 Weir catchphrase, “Ladies and gentleman, I think we have ourselves a winner. Everything is just exactly perfect.”
            “Looks Like Rain” is a soothing selection in the aftermath of “Half Step,” although the crowd’s still surging towards the stage, prompting another short rendition of “Take a Step Back.” A concerned Garcia makes this dire proclamation:
            “The people up front are getting smashed horribly again. If everybody on the floor can sort of try to move back, that would be helpful. It’s hard for us to get off seeing smashed human bodies up here. You know what I mean? Give us a little mercy.”
            A perky “Dire Wolf” takes flight, and pretty soon everybody in the War Memorial is singing, “Don’t murder me. I beg of you don’t murder me. Plea—ease, don’t murder me.” Surging crowds and rowdy group behavior were nothing unusual back in 1977, whether you were at a Grateful Dead concert, a night club, or a baseball game. After nine people were trampled to death trying to get into a Who concert in Cincinnati in 1979, things slowly changed. Out-of-control mobs became frowned upon.
            Mama Tried > Big River follows. This pairing of electrified Merle Haggard and Johnny Cash did little to settle down the hyped crowd. A stinging solo with a nasty bite concludes “Big River.” Jerry belts out a soulful “Candyman” that’s followed by “Jack Straw.” It’s great to hear “Straw” anytime, but it always seems to be at its best late in the set, and this smoking version validates that claim. The set closes with a “Deal” that’s as provocative as can be. Down the road, Garcia added a solo to “Deal” that made it a tour de force set closer.
            Set two starts with fiddle-faddle from Phil that winds into a slow march, and an unprecedented third plea to take a step back. Phil takes the honor of leading his mates into a leisurely paced “Eyes of the World.” Who is this band? Last night’s “Eyes of the World” was a speeding bullet, as was this opening set. It’s a welcome change of pace, and that’s what makes the Grateful Dead the best at what they do, because they’re the only ones who do what they do. My apologies to Bill Graham for mangling his iconic characterization of the band.
            A fine “Eyes” bolts into “Samson and Delilah.” However, there’s no reason to get excited. Garcia’s determined to keep things mellow. His ensuing selections are “It Must Have Been the Roses,” “He’s Gone,” and “Black Peter.” The jamming highlights of this set occur during Weir tunes. There’s a sparkling climax to the second solo of “The Other One,” and the entire band goes bonkers during a vivacious serving of “Sugar Magnolia.”
            The 11-4-77 Colgate show was released as Volume 12 in the Dave’s Picks series in 2014. And 11-5-77 Rochester was released as Volume 34 in the Dick’s Pick’s series in 2005. No series has yet to claim the finale of this three-set run in Binghamton’s Broom County Arena, a show revered by many Dead aficionados. A two-and-a-half-hour car ride southeast of Rochester, Binghamton is situated near the border of Pennsylvania. The two biggest institutions in town were IBM, and the State University of New York at Binghamton. No matter how far these college towns were from New York City, the enthusiasm of these adoring collegiate crowds turned the Grateful Dead on as if they were playing a friendly facsimile of Madison Square Garden.
            Amidst a thunderous ovation and a thick cloud of marijuana smoke, the ceremony begins with “Mississippi Half Step.” After such a phenomenal performance the night before, the band can’t resist the temptation of playing it again. As the Dead rolled into the ‘80s, it was pretty much an unofficial rule that songs were never repeated at successive shows. Throughout their career they always mixed up set lists and made shows as distinctive as possible with their improvisation, but soon they would take that concept to another level. Although, I can’t imagine that anyone in Binghamton was bummed because they had played “Half Step” the night before, or that anyone in Rochester was stressed over the fact that “Eyes of the World” and “The Other One” had been played the night before in Colgate.
            Guess what? New York hipsters received another brilliant “Half Step.” It’s hell to rank these things, but this is what I choose to do. I’ll give the Rochester “Half Step” the nod over Binghamton by a split-hair decision. The Binghamton jams have fierce, high-pitched fanning crescendos from Garcia. The Rochester version is a cascading scale thriller without any superfluous fanning. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, listen to these gems and compare them. Whatever you conclude, you will be better off for performing this exercise.
            “Jack Straw” follows in the footsteps of “Half Step.” The essence of the song comes to life—the rhythmic flow is breathtaking, and the group harmonizes with a soulful feeling. Bobby hollers, “You keep us on the run,” and the fuse is lit, a cannonball of sound is fired with signature Binghamton high-pitch fanning to close out the affair. Those crazy New York kids have to be warned again about rushing the stage. The heat of the moment is captured in a tipsy “Tennessee Jed.” There’s extra fire in Garcia’s singing and the guitar licks that accentuate Hunter’s lyrics. Garcia winds the solo up, stutter-steps his way to the peak, and hits all the notes that make you want to yodel and yell, “Yeee-hahh!”
            Mexicali Blues > Me and My Uncle is absurdly exciting. For years to come, Me and My Uncle > Mexicali Blues would be a less than thrilling staple of the live rotation. I think they got it right in Binghamton. This outlaw partnership sounds better in reverse. A plaintive “Friend of the Devil” is next. After six songs, 11-6-77 has traveled all across Weird America…Mississippi, southern sky, Rio Grande, Texas, Detroit Lightning, Santa Fe, Great Northern, Cheyenne, Tulsa, Wichita, Tucson, Bakersfield, South Colorado, West Texas, Santa Fe (again), Denver, Reno, Utah, Chino, Cherokee. By adding the tales of “New Minglewood Blues,” “Dupree’s Diamond Blues,” “Passenger,” and “Dire Wolf,” you have the makings of a soundtrack for a classic Western movie. “The Music Never Stopped” rockets the set to a screaming conclusion. The build-up jam is unreal here, and then all speed limits are exceeded as the band batters Binghamton into a state of sweaty elation.
            An audience recording of the first set of 11-6-77 was amongst my first dozen bootlegs. The audience contributions complement the fiery music. For every noteworthy highlight, someone let out a heartfelt yodel or yelp that accented the moment. This audience tape is a prime example of how the fans were, to some extent, musical collaborators inspiring the Grateful Dead. Many years later when I got the soundboards of this show, it took me a while to assimilate to the pristine sound minus the audience energy. These soundboards were also my first exposure to the second set of 11-6-77. I wasn’t overly impressed with the second set, although I hadn’t listened to it all that much. As I revisited tour ‘77 for this book, I eagerly anticipated hearing part two of Binghamton again.
            On Sunday night, Weir ignites the second set with a biblical favorite, “Samson and Delilah,” and then Donna sings her spiritual number, “Sunrise.” There’s a conscious attempt to slow down the tempo of “Scarlet Begonias.” Everything sounds fine until Jerry forgets a verse, but redeems himself with a searing solo. The music is sparse and trippy as the Scarlet > Fire terrain is navigated. It sounds as if the ghosts of Cornell past have entered the Broome County Arena. The sound of Garcia’s guitar has a dreamy glow as “Scarlet” spins forward. Yet there’s no magic in the transition. Cornell is immortal for a reason. Garcia makes this a memorable “Fire on the Mountain” thanks to a blistering between-verse solo.
            A standalone “Good Lovin’” builds a bridge to the big jam, which commences with “St. Stephen.” A smooth run through this revered tune morphs into a jam that gets spacey before segueing into drums. If this were May, I would be thrilled with these developments; but after hearing the jams of the uninterrupted “Stephens” from SMU, DeKalb, and Toronto, this is a little disappointing. Post drums begins with a concise Not Fade Away > Wharf Rat > St. Stephen Reprise, which rolls into the surprise highlight of the set, “Truckin’.”
            The post “Truckin’” jam spirals to its usual crescendo and mysteriously dissolves. The music slowly rises and the band stops, and then they only play in short bursts to accentuate Garcia’s soloing, which takes on a Jimmy Page-like tone. It’s a very cool and abnormal Grateful Dead moment. Pretty soon, Lesh and the drummers are hammering away as the “Truckin’” monster revs up for one last thrashing—an amalgamation of blues, acid rock, and heavy metal to end the last East Coast set of ‘77. A “Johnny B. Goode” encore is the only choice that makes sense at this point. Surprisingly, “Terrapin Station” wasn’t played at any of the last three shows.
            Colgate, Rochester, and Binghamton are up there with any successive three-night stand the Dead put on. They left behind a trail of inspiration for those who were there, and those who would listen to the tapes in the future. Friends told friends, students told students, and the Grateful Dead continued to play on college campuses year after year, especially in their favorite breeding ground, New York. They played in Syracuse, Utica, Niagara Falls, Buffalo, Ithaca, Glens Falls, Troy, Albany, Saratoga Springs, Lake Placid, Rochester, and Binghamton. Although some of these venues weren’t on campuses, they were in centrally located areas where the collegiate Deadheads could converge. The Grateful Dead and Jerry Garcia Band were inspiring a new generation of Deadheads, a flock of devotees more rabid than their predecessors. Terrapin Nation was on the rise, and central New York was a fanatical hub.

                            GRATEFUL DEAD 1977: THE RISE OF TERRAPIN NATION 


  In honor of the anniversary of Music Mountain, here’s chapter two from my latest work, The Grateful Pilgrimage: Time Travel with the Dea...