1970 is one of my favorite Dead years, and it is THE year of the audience tape - I think more shows survive on audience-only recordings from this year than any other, thanks to the release of Live Dead, and many shows being played in New York and northeastern colleges where a deadhead scene sprouted and a taping scene would quickly grow. Most of them are great shows - sadly, the same is not true of the recordings....BUT, some should not be missed, and here's some pointers to a few of the big ones:
11-8-70 is perhaps the most famous audience tape of the year, practically the entire show a highlight, from the oldies medleys to the Garcia ballads to the classic Dark Star>Dancin' in the Streets -
- but fewer people talk about the shows from the 5th & 6th. This is a sad oversight! The recordings are almost as good, and the shows are incredible.
11-5-70 is just wonderful, super jamming, with a set that goes like this: Truckin>Other One>Dark Star>St Stephen>Not Fade Away>Goin Down the Road (with Pig playing harmonica)>Not Fade Away>Lovelight. Yes, one of the last shows where they played The Other One and Dark Star back-to-back! Check out the reviews here:
11-6-70 is awesome - the second set goes like this: Good Lovin>Main Ten jam>Good Lovin>Alligator>JAM>Not Fade Away>Goin Down the Road>Not Fade Away>CAUTION!>Lovelight. Lots of Pigpen here, and it's so good it's unreal -
From the September Fillmore East run, 9-17-70 often gets left behind because the Fillmore crew apparently didn't tape this one, so we just have one audience recording - fortunately it's a good one for the Fillmore (which usually did not produce good aud tapes, in fact most sound horrible). Nice acoustic set, and a classic second set of Dark Star w/ a Tighten Up jam>St Stephen>Good Lovin' -
6-24-70 is also another special show from the Capitol Theater. After STARTING the late set with a Not Fade Away>Easy Wind, they go into Dark Star>Attics>Dark Star>Sugar Magnolia>Dark Star>St Stephen>China>Rider, which is played perfectly.
From early in the year, the late show on 3-21-70 is also particularly sweet. The audience is extremely rowdy, but thankfully, this is one of the best-sounding aud tapes of the year, as the band plays everything wonderfully.
They start out with a great Dancin' in the Streets and Easy Wind; the crowd gets very unruly in the acoustic set. Check out the Not Fade Away (with St Stephen and China Cat jams), and the Midnight Hour!
The early show is also nice and mellow, with an unusual setlist that includes Walkin' the Dog, a standalone Death Don't, and the surprising medley He Was a Friend of Mine>Viola Lee>The Seven>Cumberland Blues.
Aside from these obvious highlights, I'd also like to point out a few lesser-known tapes.
2-11-70 is actually one of the more famous shows of course; but for years many people didn't realize there was also an audience recording of this show - although it's long been available, apparently it didn't circulate too widely, since there was already a soundboard. It first appeared as a patch in the Dark Star; finally this year the whole tape finally turned up on the Archive, and turned out to be perhaps the best Fillmore East audience recording. This show has one of the first great Not Fade Aways, and of course the big jam in which all the guests can clearly be heard:
The Fillmore West shows of the year are generally not as exciting as the Fillmore East shows (aside from some extraordinary moments in the April and June runs, and the unique Eleven>Caution jam from 2-5-70) - but I think 2-8-70 is a very fine show. The circulating soundboard portion catches the end of Dark Star to the middle of Lovelight, but the aud tape sounds quite good and has it all; it's a typically lovely Star from early '70. (The whole SBD might be in the vault, since they used Smokestack on the box set.) http://www.archive.org/details/gd70-02-08.sbd-aud.cotsman.19152.sbeok.shnf
The Fillmore West shows of August 18 & 19 were also caught on audience recordings which are OK for the time but not outstanding; the shows are decent, I'd probably give the edge to 8-18 due to the Man's World, Dancing, and the acoustic set, but the second night is comparable, with David Crosby playing.
3-7-70 is a strong, high-energy show; if you haven't heard of it, it's because it's a noisy, incomplete aud tape with some terrible cuts - either the taper just didn't bring enough tape, or he was too wiped out to change the reels! (A lot of 1970 recordings suffer from this problem - some sadly cut out before the electric set even starts.) But although it's just an incomplete portion of a jam, I highly recommend you listen to just the five mind-blowing minutes of Not Fade Away here!
6-13-70 is a joyous, high-energy show, perhaps the earliest tape where the audience recording sounds better than the soundboard! I really like the sound on this one - unfortunately, only the SBD is available on the Archive, but if you can find the aud version, check it out.
10-23-70 is another great audience recording from the fall, with really deep sound; I don't think the show is too remarkable, but it does have one of the earliest Goin' Down the Roads. (The only surviving earlier ones were October 10 & 11 - the 10th just an instrumental part - but those are very poor recordings.)
11-20-70 is also one of the better audience recordings, with the band loud and clear; the show is strong, but the real treat comes at the end when Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady join the band for a series of rocking jams that are well worth hearing!
12-28-70 is basically just like an early '71 show and is a much-praised AUD - the show's not that strong, but Pigpen has a couple highlights with Smokestack Lightning and Good Lovin'.
While I'm at it, I'll also say a few words about inferior-sounding shows that I happen to like...
4-24-70 is a recording that will definitely tax the ears of most people; in addition, the end-of-show jam is horribly lost as the reel runs out. But those who can tune their ears will be rewarded by one of the strongest Dark Stars of the year, and the last Eleven -
Only masochists can endure 5-8-70....the taper apparently put his mic on stage, in front of the bass amp, so it is horribly distorted and you have to "imagine" the music. Nevertheless - what a setlist! - Dark Star>Dancing, Good Lovin' - this was clearly one of the best shows. (5-3-70 might have been an interesting show too, but the recording is an atrocity.)
5-7-70 is much more listenable, but is still a tinny/muddy-sounding tape recorded inside a gym. Stomping show, though, full of wonders for those with patient ears, including a stretched-out magical Lovelight with several intertwined thematic jams, as they often did that year.
I mentioned the poor-sounding audience tapes usually made in the Fillmore East, and the July run provides three good examples. 7-11-70 seems like a great show, with an extended Not Fade Away and Viola Lee that seem to go on forever, but is unfortunately buried beneath a noisy crowd and distant echo. 7-12-70 is one of my favorite shows of the year; though the recording is equally lousy, the Man's World and Other One>Uncle>Other One>Dancing are especially tremendous. 7-10-70 does sound slightly better, and shows the band going nuts with medleys: Alligator>drums>Other One>Attics of My Life>Other One>Cryptical>Cosmic Charlie, then a Good Lovin'>China>Rider>Good Lovin'!
11-11-70 is a wild, long show, with the first La Bamba in Good Lovin (I don't think they repeated this for 17 years!), and an hour-long series of jams with Jack Casady & Jorma Kaukonen; unfortunately the recording is pretty poor.
11-29-70 is not such a bad recording although it doesn't really soothe the ears either, I'd say above-average for 1970 with a loud, energetic band. It's a strong show, and particularly worth checking out for the 20-minute Good Lovin with a Pigpen rap, one of the first ones that showed where they would take this tune in 1971.
And with November, this era of the audience tape comes to an end....the band started taping themselves again in December in their California shows (where there weren't as many tapers as in the east), and in 1971 audience tapes become rather scarce, and mostly of really bad quality; the situation would stay that way until 1973. Interestingly, by December '70 their "1971 sound" was well in place, with sets composed mostly of short rocking songs and not much improvisation outside of The Other One and Good Lovin.....but that's another story.......
Finally, I'll mention some other Fillmore West shows where the soundboard reels are badly cut or missing pieces, and we're fortunate to have complete audience tapes for those shows! 4-12-70 in particular is an exceptional recording of a great show. The Archive copies are patched together from the SBD and AUD sources - the full audience tapes are not on the Archive.
http://www.archive.org/details/gd70-04-09.sbd.hanno.6157.sbeok.shnf (SBD is the first 8 tracks)
http://www.archive.org/details/gd70-04-12.sbd.kaplan.3820.sbeok.shnf (only 7 tracks from AUD)
http://www.archive.org/details/gd1970-06-05.sbd.bunjes-evans.28653.flac16 (AUD patches here & there)
Although early audience tapes might be disappointingly few and poor-quality compared to later years, we should remember that taping was not easy in those days - most tapers did not have good equipment, and the band was not taper-friendly at all. One old taper says, "In those days, audience taping was a clandestine affair, attempted with really piss poor equipment smuggled in backpacks or under coats--and often the mics were kept hidden in the same places. Fingers felt the cassettes or reels for time (watches helped), and there was no taper section, so what you heard was what you got." Taping could be risky, too! On the 5-16-70 recording we can hear Sam Cutler shutting the tapers down; and during the 12-31-70 show, the band directed a spotlight to a microphone:
"There's bootleggers among us! Let's find out who these people are - follow the cords from those microphones folks - turn that spotlight out there on that microphone - aha, it's going down - Underground Records, Incorporated - find this one for $10 - you oughta put it in a brown paper bag." (As a result, the tapers only got the first few songs of the show - they probably had to turn over the reel in their deck.)
Of course the band's attitudes were inconsistent - everyone remembers the moment during 8-6-71 when Weir helpfully tells the tapers to move back in order to get a better recording! But that was an unusual exception.
This is one story (from the new 3/19/73 first-set AUD) that helps explain why there aren't more good AUDs from the early years:"This was recorded by Dan H. using Adam G.'s microphone. Dan was very close to stage. About halfway through the show,one of the band members (I believe Bobby or Phil) pointed to Dan and a member of the Dead's crew came into the audience, grabbed the mic and cut the cord. He would only give the mic back if Dan handed over the tapes. Dan handed him all his blanks and what was in the machine at the time, as well as one or two with music on them. He managed to keep this one and the NRPS opener."
There are lots of stories from '70-74 of the Dead's crew stopping every recording they saw - cutting cords, confiscating tapes, smashing tapedecks, etc. Bear was very hostile to tapers, and the rest of the crew shared his attitude. As he said, "I wasn't in favor of tapers....I didn't tolerate it. [The first time] was in '69, we caught a guy in the Hollywood Palladium with a reel-to-reel tape recorder, and we said, 'That's not cool, you don't have permission to do that.' We confiscated the tapes."
A couple more examples, from later years:
Les Kippel, at Waterbury 9/23/72: "We were in the hotel room listening to our tape, when there was a knock at the door and Owsley barged in. He ran over to the tape machine - 'You cannot record the shows!' And he took the tape out of the machine and barged out of the room."
Rob Bertrando, at Santa Barbara 5/25/74: "My machine & tapes were confiscated, so no good tapes remain of that show. Ramrod came off the stage, ran to the mikes, and held a knife to the cables saying, 'Turn over the equipment or I cut your cords.'"
Jerry Moore was also busted at the Boston 6/28/74 show but managed to switch reels in the argument and handed over some blank reels - this was a trick the experienced tapers learned. Les Kippel was one taper who was organized enough to have separate people bring the tapedeck, microphones, and tapes: "We'd sit in a cluster, and friends would always protect the person who was taping.... If an usher or crew member started approaching us, we'd immediately yank the tape out and put in a phony tape. Usually the only thing they'd do was take the tape, cut the microphone cable, or take the batteries."
So in the pre-'74 days it's worth remembering that for every AUD we have, there were probably two or three more attempts that either failed, got busted, or turned out to be such poor quality they were hardly worth hearing - or, worse, were made by tapers who never traded or copied their tapes. Until after '72 or so, the idea of finding "Dead traders" was pretty much science-fiction for most people, so a lot of early tapes disappeared since they couldn't be distributed. What we have are a few lucky survivals, and it's no coincidence that most of the well-circulated AUDs were made by just a few people who happened to be at the center of some trading ring.