August 12, 2009

A Half-Hour of Heaven in an Off-Kilter Show

8/30/69 is one of those overlooked shows from summer '69 that catches the Dead feeling their way from one style to another. The start of the show is very uneven as they try to get it together - but suddenly they achieve grace in an outstanding Dark Star, one of my favorites of '69 - very sweet and majestic and creative - Jerry starts it with delicious feedback and it just climbs from there.
They do get rather loose as they near the end - but when they get into St Stephen, they come completely unhinged as Jerry stops playing - I think this must be the only Stephen where he doesn't play the solo, but instead just gives peals of feedback where the solo should be!
In spite of this, the rest of the band barrels on into The Eleven, and plays most of it without him! Certainly a unique bare-bones Eleven. Finally he gets his guitar working again, but only plays a little bit before they decide to give up, and it's time for a drum solo!
Finally they confuse the patient audience by finishing with an early, tentative High Time.
This show also features one of the early Easy Winds with a different feel, when they were still learning how to handle the time changes, and one of the strange early transitions from China Cat Sunflower to Doin' That Rag....

Some of the other comments on the Star: "A quiet noodly start gets to verse 1 pretty quickly, then gets really wonderful with a long section of jingly bells, wind-like cymbals, tweets, screetchs, and other jungle-like sounds. Some very melodic sustained feedback where Jerry sounds like a cello gives way to a series of very structured chord sequences and jamming that is like a collection of mini-songs."
"very psychedelic, very patient, very proper. They really caress and nurture this one. The opening jam slowly unfolds up to one of those "whirls" that opens a spiral-vortex hole in space-time, and out pours the first verse. The crowd is totally dialed into it; it is rare to hear such a clear and respectful silence. The post-verse jam is deliciously interstellar. The transitional jam is burning until Jerry breaks a string; then we get to hear some unusually great leads from TC (he's really on point for this show). Jerry's return is one of those classicly chaotic and focused Dead moments."
(This also has Weir playing the Tighten Up chords while Garcia changes a string - this theme would become very common in 1970 Dark Stars, but we don't get a full-band version until 10/25/69.)


  1. I was very surprised to have you declare this Dark Star one of your favorites of 69' and was wondering what in particular intrigues you about this version,I will give you a quick review of my take upon listening to it.

    Nice feedback open ->a mellow stinging,single note run with nice Phil accompaniment is interesting,but turns into an ordinary jam -> repetitive Jer leads over a quiet band ->4:00 soft full band space ->6:00 sort of real slow spanish jam feel morphs into some pretty,soft Jer runs ->1st verse ->quiet space ->11:15 quivering space guitars,Theremin sounding ->ringing,tightly wound guitars,gongs,cymbals and swirling sinister organ ->13:30 loopy,minimal space ->16:00 Jer plays sharp leads over swelling cymbals,nice organ,slight hint of soul in Jer's tone and approach around 17:00 ->20:00 it's all downhill from here.

    I'm not being contentious LIA,just really curious as to what you hear in this one.

  2. I don't have much time at the moment to do justice to your question. This was one of my oldest posts, so I didn't describe the Dark Star very fully!
    One reason this Dark Star stood out to me was because the rest of the show was such a mess, and yet here they play with such grace & drama.
    The tone is set right away, as Garcia sails into feedback right after the opening notes, then plays one note over & over for the next minute, as if inducing a trance.
    Constanten is clear & prominent in the mix, swirling nicely around Garcia, and the band & drummers are working well together. The opening jam is relaxed & flowing - they can raise up the tension or ease off at a breath. The space is excellent, very patient - they are not rushing. Garcia's "climb" out of space around 16min is very good.
    You're right that after 20min they run into some trouble. Garcia breaks a string & drops out for a couple minutes - Weir starts the Tighten Up/Beginnings sequence, which the others join. Surprisingly, Garcia incorporates his tuning-up into the music when he returns! But after that, the focus is lost somewhat & the playing is more strident, though I still like the last few minutes.

    1. Thanks for taking the time to reply,and all your points are well taken.