February 1973: A Mystical Grateful Dead Show and the Dawning of a New Era.
By Taylor Coble, aka quinn76
“You can’t hop the freights anymore but you can chase the Grateful Dead around. You can have all your tires blow out in some weird town in the Midwest and you can get hell from strangers. You can have something that lasts throughout your life as an adventure, the times you took chances… If we’re providing some margin of that possibility, then that’s great.”—Jerry Garcia
The middle of winter in Wisconsin hardly seems like a setting conducive for spirited dancing to inspirational music. But on the 15th of February 1973, at the Dane County Coliseum, some type of magic took shape. It was the Grateful Dead’s first of eight shows they played during their brief tour of the Midwest, and it marked the birth of a new era for the band. One reviewer summed up the event: “They were ready for this tour. All those breakouts in the Stanford show…[were] all the fuel this band needed to blow everyone's mind in a whole new way.” Indeed, many have dubbed this show a “mindmelt,” and one recent listener admitted that it’s “forever burned in my ears.”
In hindsight, it seems random that the Dead would deliver a scorcher amidst a freezing winter, as one reviewer noted: “Ask yourself: why, in the middle of nowhere, during the bleakest part of the year?” 
But those familiar with the Dead know they can work wonders. Six days earlier they had escaped disaster when all tweeters in their proto-“wall of sound” system were blown in the first three seconds at the Stanford University show. Undaunted, the band and crew soldiered through the concert in makeshift fashion, and soon headed east for a tour of the Corn Belt. The trek from California sand to Wisconsin snow seemed to only enhance their synergistic sensibilities on the stage…
The performance the Dead put on in Madison took on a special character of its own. Its spot in Grateful Dead lore was cast long ago, as one reviewer remembers: “As far as 2-15-73 is concerned, I still believe it is the epitome of the Grateful Dead.” Another poses the rhetorical question: “[I’ll] still take 2/15/73 Madison over any other. You can't really go wrong with Feb. '73 though, can you?” But all accolades aside, this show is not without its warts. Even the best audio source currently available (see link below) is still marred with some sonic inferiority when compared to other shows of the year. Tape clips and brief dropouts hamper some tracks, as well as pedestrian performances of a few songs. Moreover, this show is not graced with the “Betty Board” seal, as the Terrapin Station BBS does not cite the show as having been recorded and mixed by the famed sound engineer, Betty Cantor-Jackson. 
Nevertheless, this show certainly holds its own compared to any on the tour, and—arguably—to any of the year!
A Curious Concert
Despite being a known show, it’s shrouded in mystery. For one thing, the original two-track reels have been missing from the vault for many years. Even the sound-check songs that were played are disputed. A reputable source like DeadBase Online Search lists Loose Lucy, Jack Straw, Box Of Rain and Uncle John’s Band; while DeadBase IX
lists only Loose Lucy and Jack Straw (although it added Box of Rain and Uncle John’s Band in the X edition). To further compound the enigma, Deadlists notes only Jack Straw and Box of Rain as the “questionable” sound-check songs, saying “there is no corroborative evidence” for this. Likewise, the soundboard source for this show on The Archive (shnid 1580) includes a two song sound-check with Jack Straw & Box of Rain only. But The DeadHeads Taping Compendium
is void of a sound-check altogether!
This Madison date is also wrapped in the mystique of being a well-known and lauded show, yet seldom making current short lists of the all time greats. Apparently, it was the most downloaded show on the Internet Archive for a time, but that version (along with over 150 written reviews) mysteriously vanished without a trace in 2010. 
Since then, it has had a sluggish recovery. The latest source was uploaded on the archive in April of 2013, but has largely gone unnoticed. It seems strange. While it does receive attention on torrent sites like Etree and Lossless Legs, it pales in comparison to many other shows. However, when the Madison show is mentioned in conversation, the printed word or cyberspace, it garners attention: “my first bootleg cassette;” “a desert island show for me;” “the first Dead show I’d ever heard!” and “this is one for the ages.” But simple research reveals it receives lighter traffic in downloads, written reviews, and recent forum discussions.
Even when sticking to 1973, the date seems to get lost in the shuffle of other flagship dates: 5/26, 6/10, 6/22, 7/27, 10/19, 11/11, 11/17, 11/30, 12/2 and 12/19 serve as examples. One possible explanation is that many of the aforementioned dates have seen commercial release over the past few years. Some listeners favor hard copies with liner notes and pristine sound quality, while others simply obtain what is commercially available, putting the 2/15 date at a disadvantage. Of course, some folks don’t acquire official releases on principle, while others don’t hear those dates since the streams of those shows are pulled from the Archive. Still, 2/15 would probably benefit from the “hype” and attention that official releases receive, and therefore be on the radar for more people. But since it’s MIA in “the vault,” the likelihood of that happening is slim to nil. But lingering questions persist…
Has this show become something of an old forgotten chestnut? Could it really be a sleeper show, a clandestine dark horse that emerged from a dreary month in 1973? Whatever the case, there’s a certain mystical charm about it that’s elusive; it defies clear explanation, yet beckons curiosity, and invites deep inquiry. No matter, this show deserves the full treatment of an annotated review, and to be firmly placed in its rightful historical context amongst the colossal catalog of live Grateful Dead music.
A Busy Year
It is important to note that 1973 was a watershed year for the band on many levels. For one, it was the first year devoid of any appearance from Ron “Pigpen” McKernan, as he finally succumbed to his long-standing ill health in early March. A week later the Dead headlined their very first arena run; 
and in February they introduced a slew of original Jerry songs. This year would also find the Dead revisiting thematic jams, such as the “Mind Left Body Jam” and the nameless “6/8 riff” that had been broached in the previous year. It wasn’t until 1973, however, that these were fully realized and given the full treatment in performance. 
The “Spanish Jam” returned briefly in 1973 as well, having lain dormant since 1970. Nobody’s Fault But Mine now featured vocals by Jerry—the last one in that format being from 1966! The “Feelin’ Groovy Jam” was incorporated into the transitional jam of China Cat Sunflower into I Know You Rider. Moreover, 1973 had the last of the Bird Songs of the 70s, and the only Here Comes Sunshine versions of the 70s (save one lone performance in the following year). 
1973 also produced an increased number of quality audience source recordings of shows when compared to the last two years; and it also witnessed the birth of the first Grateful Dead fliers and fanzines: Dead in Words, In Concert
and The Tape Exchange
, which helped to spark tape trading among “Dead Freaks” or “DeadHeads.”
The band launched their own record label, Grateful Dead Records, and released Wake of the Flood
, their first proper studio album in three years. In May they played three three-set shows (and once again in June), and in July they also played at the largest music festival in their career. Furthermore, the Dead gave a one-time tour in September with an added brass section! 
Clearly, 1973 was a busy year, but the Madison concert in February predates all of these events.
The show encapsulates the sound of the Midwest tour in February of 1973, and offers a glimpse into the vast ocean of sound that would come to define the year. Indeed, one attendee of the show commented on the Dead’s sound, and how it “seemed like the beginning of the new era.” This period has been musically characterized as laid-back and sophisticated, with words like “jazzy,” “breezy” and “honey” assigned to it. The year is known to feature steady-paced shows with predictable first sets and exploratory second sets. The band’s previous year was arguably their best yet, and now they were entering a peak of dynamic and lithe musicianship.
The Sound of Early ‘73
1973 marked a period where the band could execute a variety of styles within a single show, and sometimes within a single jam. Their daring seemingly knew no bounds, and one idiom or vamp might fearlessly turn on a dime into an entirely different musical direction. Of course, this exploratory nature didn’t always lend itself to accessible, toe-tapping music, but the rewarding element of mystery and surprise kept things fresh and exciting. The Dead hardly left a stone unturned, probing for discoveries and blazing new trails with nearly every show. The shows themselves were longer in length (“epic three and a half hour Dali paintings,” wrote a listener), and the band’s ever increasing musical arsenal allowed them to introduce more variety than ever before. The level of energy and intensity in their playing of the previous year was replaced by more precision, sophistication, and jazzy ensemble playing—all done in a mellow vibe that sometimes bordered on the polite. The Madison show serves as a quintessential archetype for the beginning of this period.
Before embarking upon their February tour of ‘73, The Grateful Dead had taken the prior month off from touring, allowing for woodshedding, writing and the rehearsing of seven original songs: Here Comes Sunshine, Row Jimmy, China Doll, They Love Each Other, Loose Lucy, Eyes of the World and Wave That Flag. The latter tune eventually morphed into what became known as U.S. Blues, once puckish lyrics like “Trap the cat, bell the rat” were dropped. During an interview in 1973, Jerry Garcia said of the songs: “The tunes that me and Robert Hunter wrote are the best we've ever written…They're a little more sophisticated in terms of structure than our other ones.” 
The Grateful Dead would competently play them all for the second time ever at the Madison show.
“It could be that music is one of those things left that isn’t completely devoid of meaning”—Jerry Garcia
The first set in 1973 displayed the band’s shorter song writing efforts, often tinged with a countrified Americana flavor with ditties like Tennessee Jed and Brown Eyed Women. Like virtually every Grateful Dead show since 1970, the first set is something of a “warm-up” for the second set, but the music played this night in Madison is “warm” in the most positive sense of the word.
NOTE: This review is based upon the current Matrix source on The Archive by dusborne:
Soundboard (shnid:1580): MR > D Latvala Reels @ 3 3/4 ips > DBX Reels @ 7 1/2 ips > PCM > DAT > CD and Audience (shnid:124195). 
It’s evident from the opening that the boys came to warm people up with some impassioned playing. This rendering carries an extra dash of raunchy that beckons the hips to sway once heard. The first few seconds of the song are clipped, but it hardly matters as one is swept away with the story of lust and infidelity that warns: “don’t shake the tree when the fruit ain’t ripe.” Well, it sure sounds ripe and ready here! The tempo of the tune was sped up considerably the following year, but the less frantic and slower groove here contains a better flow.
Beat It On Down The Line:
Twelve beats kick off a jouncy version of Jesse Fuller’s classic that features spirited vocal harmonies, compliments of Bob Weir and Donna Godchaux. Following the song, Bobby assures the crowd that they’re making sure “everything is plugged into everything right.”
A gusty version that sways with ease. Jerry’s twang-induced vocal accentuates the lyrical references to prohibition, the depression, and a family scraping to get by in “Bigfoot County.” This touching yarn of “Jack and Delilah Jones” is a classic Grateful Dead American folk tale that remained a beloved staple, and this polished performance shines.
This rendering of the first collaboration between Bob Weir and lyricist John Barlow is delivered in typical ’73 fashion. Phil Lesh’s bass plucking trots steadily alongside his energized backing vocals that sound particularly robust in the mix. Keith Godchaux’s well placed ivory tinkling adds the perfect touch above Bobby’s quasi croon. Tonight Bobby sings the final line: “And he made me trade the gallows for the Mexicali blues,” before altering the lyric to: “Now I spend my lifetime running with the Mexicali blues” later in the year.
This has to be one of the definitive versions of the year. It plays with extra swagger as Jerry gives full honky-tonk treatment to the hayseed tale. Jerry’s grit-laden ending solo really picks and bends a garish note, and the audible crowd shows their rowdy appreciation. Lyricist Robert Hunter later said he wrote the words for the tune while “topped up on vino tinto
.” It sounds as if Jerry is in harmony with that state of mind on this number, and it works amusingly well.
Looks Like Rain:
A flush rendering of Bobby’s sappy, yet heartfelt love song failed to be met with the same reception as the previous tune. The perpetual crowd chatter suggests they were impatient with a love ballad or still in a rowdy mood. The original soundboard source here was hampered by a painful glitch in the middle of Jerry’s solo, but here the wound is dressed nicely with artful crossfading. This version sounds standard for the time, as Bobby belts out the ending cadence with moderate conviction.
Box of Rain:
This beloved tune helps to gain the momentum again. Phil sounds happy to be singing what once was a somber lament for his late father. Like nearly all versions of this song, it’s emotive and touching. The crowd cheers and Phil bellows his usual “Thank-you!” following the last note. During tuning, a crowd member curiously requests “Willie & the Hand Jive,” a song the band had never played before (although they would 13 years later!). 
This is a captivating version of the song, thanks in part to Jerry’s aptly placed slide runs. This reading is played more up-tempo than what it later would become. This version, along with the one played on the 28th, make for essential early versions. During an interview in the mid 70s, on recording the song, Jerry said: “I loved it. Nobody else liked it very much.” It’s sure hard not to like it here.
Unlike Row Jimmy, this song plays at a slower tempo in this earlier incarnation. According to Bobby, the song was inspired by Steinbeck’s Of Mice And Men
, and this ballad was written in the “troubadour tradition.” It’s laden with amiable, concentrated vocal harmonies, but this narrative song sounds a trifle phoned-in on this night.
China Cat Sunflower->I Know You Rider:
This is a stupendous showcase, like virtually every one played in 1973. The “Feelin’ Groovy Jam” that graces the transitional jam out of “China Cat” would not be in the fold for another month, but nevertheless the jamming here is very sprightly and inspired. The band is firing on all cylinders with concentrated syncopation, and Jerry’s needlepoint licks make sitting still nearly impossible. He even quotes the “Mountain Jam” for a brief spell commencing around the 6:15 mark. The “Rider” counterpart is equally salient, and concludes the suite in stunning fashion.
Me and My Uncle:
Here is a rollicking telling of the familiar story of mayhem and misfortune. This version of the tune—a song they played more than any other in their canon—includes the rarely sung altered lyric “I grabbed a bottle, cracked him in the jaw” instead of the usual “I shot him down lord, he never saw.” This is likely closer to the way John Phillips had originally penned it. 
The boys launch into a competent rendering of the barnstormer about a “troublesome dame” that often was slated as the first set opener when played. Here, however, it mixes well in the first set shuffle with a fitting “Bakersfield era” hue to it. Jerry has a slight vocal hiccup on the opening verse, but hardly a blemish is noticed, and Jerry and crew bring it home before embarking on a beast (see next tune).
Playin’ In The Band:
For some, this is when the show begins to really catch fire. All versions of this song performed in February of ‘73 are superlative, but this one is truly unique. Spanning only 15 minutes, this “Playin’” is kept on a shorter leash for the era, but not a note is wasted. It’s reminiscent of the more energetic, compact versions offered during the European tour the previous year, but it’s infused with more measured and thoughtful directions. Jerry seems to place his notes and voiced phrases with careful lyrical expression. At the 2:55 mark, he employs his familiar “underwater” tone, exploring various peaks and valleys before arriving at a segment described by a reviewer as a “wonderful, spooky jam.” Commencing at 7:10, Jerry plays a repeating lick for 20 seconds before the pseudo theme dissolves into an impressionistic jazz wash with Keith and Billy banging, and Phil deftly milking his bass. At 11:55, the band journeys into an almost quiet, spacey abyss for a moment before Jerry hints the telltale notes to bring them back home… but hold your horses! Jerry then mysteriously drops out for a few seconds, before returning in earnest with a swirling flurry of dreamy, delicate notes that seemingly dance off his fret-board effortlessly. The band then transits back into the chorus (even Donna’s passionate cries from stage left aren’t too jarring here), and the song ends before a transfixed crowd. Donna offers the rare “Thank-you!”
Instead of retiring the first set after “Playin’,” the band charge ahead into a galloping version of the song about the doomed railroad engineer. Although this crowd pleaser had been in rotation for over three years at this point, the tune seems to have reached a certain maturity in ’73 that suited the song’s ending cadence exceptionally well. At one point it sounds like Jerry belts “and you know that notion just cost my mind,” in lieu of “just crossed my mind.” The soundboard source cuts in the matrix version around the 4:40 mark, allowing the listener to experience the lone audience source for the remaining minute. The crowd is simply swept along in the rousing crescendo! When the dust settles, Bobby announces his usual “we’re gonna take a short break…” spiel to a keyed-up crowd. Indeed, a break is needed after such a cracking first set…
The second set in 1973 offered more jam oriented songs like the Other One, or (in this case) Dark Star, that served as vehicles for improvisation and unpredictable jams that were unique to that particular performance. Songs might segue into one another, often providing segments of inspired music that could go on for an hour or more without a single break. Such music was not always for the faint of heart or timid of mind. This second set, which one reviewer calls a “mindmelting opus,” commences with an out of the box reading of one of the Dead’s most inspired songs of 1973.
Here Comes Sunshine:
This is only the second performance, and yet it stands out as one of the best versions of the year. The band plays with a deft confidence as if the song has been in rotation for years. It’s not without spots of dubious vocal harmonies, but they are more than made up for by Jerry’s pointed chops that seem to fly from his Stratocaster (“Alligator”) and pierce the sky! Later versions of this tune would become longer, more exploratory, and even better, but none more sharp and focused. It’s baffling as to why the tune was not a permanent fixture in the repertoire after 1973, but it only adds to the grand allure of this epic year.
This song suffers from an inferiority complex, having the unfortunate slot of coming after the previous number. The momentum naturally loses ground for a spell. Nevertheless, Jerry’s showers of Spanish tinged guitar licks that squirm in between Bobby’s vocals work a dazzling effect, and ultimately save this song from an otherwise ill fate. 
You Ain’t Woman Enough:
Donna takes the mic for a solo venture with the debut offering of a song that proved to have only a brief sojourn in the band’s setlists. While that hasn’t received many complaints, this one’s as good a version as any, and the “cat caught under the rocking chair” screeching is null in this tune. In other words, it’s a tolerable listen, and even Loretta Lynn herself might think so. One reviewer of the show commented: “I fell out of my chair when I saw Coal Miners Daughter - ‘hey...hey...that's a Donna song.’”
They Love Each Other:
Always a highlight in ’73, this jaunty version is decked with the bounce and inflection that would come to typify the tune for its brief life in this incarnation. (This arrangement—including the short bridge—was dropped after ’73, sans one lone performance the following year.) Billy’s shuffle beat and Keith’s bawdyhouse banging help make this number a true delight.
Although ubiquitous, this Johnny Cash cover has seldom seen a dull performance. 
This version is colored with Bobby’s boisterous vocal delivery and Jerry’s rocking and riveting solos that keep energy levels high. Billy drives the chariot with a rolling, resonating beat, and Keith’s jangling barrelhouse polka chops pepper the song to near perfection! What comes next in the show is a piece of music that holds a special place in the hearts (and ears) of many deadheads…
Dark Star in 1973
The Dark Stars of 1973 would take on a slightly different character than before. They are marked by an introspective, laid-back guise that is spellbinding and hypnotic in nature. They’re so fluid and languid that many listeners find them more compelling over time, as new discoveries are unlocked with each new listen. Lacking the intensity of the ones played the year before, these Dark Stars are of the roll up your sleeves, get comfortable, and settle in for a while kind of approach. They’re decidedly not the pell-mell kind of the days of yore! Rather, these controlled and cerebral pieces offer various subtle motifs that invite the patient and concentrated listener. What could be misconstrued as laziness or apprehension in their playing is usually careful attention paid to their lyrical craft in slower and measured tones—there’s no need to rush a good thing!
These versions don’t always trigger instant gratification. They can be longwinded, brooding, and banal in places. They’re a bit more esoteric and may call for an acquired taste. One listener lamented that they’re “rudderless” and “behave like a balloon untethered – bouncy, jammy, and no real guts.” Another listener succumbed to bewilderment, admitting: “Over time, I’ve become less enchanted.” Indeed, they’re challenging for some, and can require a conscious effort to become involved in the music. 
But like watching a caterpillar become a butterfly, the listener can be rewarded with deeper appreciation and comprehension of the sophisticated, dynamic, and accomplished musical unit the Dead had become. It’s as if the band were now capable of achieving sonic heights of unlimited proportions, and they were fully cognizant of it. Now they were asking their audience to enter that realm with them—and there was no turning back!
“No other Grateful Dead date has as much personal experience and history associated with it as 2/15/73. It's soothing, ethereal, lyrical, and--to me--it's absolutely dripping with ghosts.”—anonymous reviewer
After a few odd seconds of instrument tuning and crowd chatter, the familiar opening notes of a nearly worshiped tune commences, and “its gravitational effect” on this night, writes one reviewer, “is rather profound.” Indeed, the first Dark star of 1973 is unleashed, and like all Dark Stars, it becomes its own unique beast with each unfolding second. The first four minutes finds the band in a consummate gel that allows each member to explore individual avenues, while never veering too far from the safety of the structure. Jerry begins tinkering for melodies like narrow paths leading to a vast forest of discovery. He delivers rousing, yet elegant notes that weave between the hesitant and authoritative, and a dreamy soundscape ensues. Phil intermittently drops jittery bass flourishes, while Billy throws in crescendoing cymbal rushes.
Around the 4:30 mark, Jerry fluctuates his volume, creating a forlorn, weeping effect that cascades and shifts into a hushed segment that steadily glides for three and a half minutes. The sound takes on a gentle and mysterious character, and out of the mist Jerry sprinkles a light flurry of delicate notes that rise and then fizzle back into an abyss. Just before the 9-minute mark, Billy picks up the pace with pouncing thumps on the toms and hasty taps on the cymbals. Phil replies with jaunty bass plucking, Keith answers by dancing along the ivories, and Jerry emerges with signaling notes that tug the band into the changes leading to the verse. They pass through a fast-paced, bouncy little jam, teasing the theme before gradually re-entering it.
Jerry sings the verse with robust, yet gentle vocal clarity before emitting a beautiful, yet harrowing “wah” sound that fades into the stratosphere… It’s as if time freezes in the moment. The sound is reduced to a trickle before Phil steps into the spotlight at the 15-minute mark to commence a bass solo that ensues for the next three and a half minutes. 
Phil takes his time, seemingly choosing his “thunderclaps” with care. His quadrophonic bass (“the Godfather”) had a separate signal for each string, and this segment really underscores the effect. One witness remembered: “Each string hit a different part of the hall.” (Listening with headphones gives the illusion that there are two bass players on stage, playing back and forth to each other in a playful call and response mode.) Phil’s playing runs the gamut of delicate, to jaunty, to funky, to rock tinged. At the 17:55 mark, the crowd becomes animated and claps in unison as they’re swept into the “Phil zone.” Jerry gently tiptoes into the mix at 18:22, playing sweet and emotive notes that carry a near lullaby spirit. Billy steps in to provide a light backing-beat, and the next minute provides one of the most unique and blissful hallmark Grateful Dead moments. This example encapsulates the best of what 1973 had to offer! One reviewer commented: “Whatever was going on in my life was always helped along by having this.” Taken as a whole, this Dark Star may not be deemed the best of the year, but it certainly can be called the prettiest. 
Eyes of the World:
Following this musical passage, Phil hints at “Eyes,” and Jerry mirrors his mentality by introducing the opening chords. The crowd applauds as the song emerges; Billy steps in to keep time on the kit, Bob enters to add splashes of jazzy chord structure, and Keith joins to lightly sprinkle punctuation on the eighty-eight. By now the band is fully galvanized as they sustain a tight opening furrow that lasts two minutes. Phil is completely in his element here, providing potent rhythmic and contrapuntal lines that bounce above and beneath his band mates. One can hear the joy bounce off his strings! Jerry steps up to the mic to deliver the opening lyrics that seemingly roll off his tongue with ease. No flubbed lyrics tonight! Jerry then paces a few extra measures before launching into his first solo, emitting showers of sprightly notes that emphasize the nimble playing that characterized the year. The sound is simply seductive, and fortunately the second solo is equally engrossing. Following the final vocal chorus, the band glides into a three-minute vamp with Jerry and Keith in playful conversation. Phil provides thundering plucks of punctuation, before Jerry emerges at full helm at the 14-minute mark. Thirty seconds later Jerry is swirling in colors of sound that rise and descend in rapid succession. The soundboard source abruptly cuts to the audience source at 15:10, lasting for the next 90 seconds, while each member increasingly stretches out while keeping the cohesion. Jerry wades through the structure, carving out various paths of discovery without fully committing to any of them. His notes ebb and flow in dexterity before the minor key “7/8 theme” emerges. Phil initiates what would become the signature riff, but the others seem reluctant to follow. (This was its first appearance; it had not been present in the February 9 debut.) The band carries on for another minute before Phil nudges them again, this time coaxing Jerry to follow. They lock in unison for several measures before Jerry charges ahead with a punctuated minor chord change, switching the landscape from sunny to gloomy. The change works a dramatic effect, and the band channel the mood for a spell before gracefully sliding into a somber China Doll, to great applause.
The second performance of this song finds Jerry’s soft, reedy voice filled with emotion as he nearly whispers, “a pistol shot at nine o’clock” (“five o’clock” became the standard). The reflective lullaby unfolds in a near perfect reading that tugs at the heartstrings of the listener. It caps the ending of a continuous 45-minute segment of music splendidly. Lyricist Robert Hunter called the tune “eerie,” but “very beautiful the way Jerry handles it.” 
The pace considerably quickens with this number, but it’s a letdown coming after the wondrous triad they’d just laid down. A show of this era seems hardly complete, however, without a sprinkling of cowboy songs (El Paso & MAMU in the first set), and at least one Chuck Berry injection! This rendition is pedestrian for the era, but is still met with crowd clamor.
This version is sweet and competent, but this tune would only get better with age, perhaps peaking in 1977. Still, Jerry sings and plays the git-fiddle with heart here, and the result is still nothing short of wonderful. It was unusual for this song to be played so late in the second set; in fact, this is the only version in this period (or perhaps ever) to be played after the big jam, as one of the last songs of the show. 
This tune, the second most played of their career, often sounds like an exhausted afterthought in concert, but here it sounds focused and downright jubilant! Thankfully, the often overblown cathartic vocal release from Bobby and Donna is kept to a relative minimum during the “sunshine daydream” epilogue. Cherry pickers can choose this one with confidence!
Uncle John’s Band:
The first encore is a “buck dancer’s choice” that carries a nice lilt and swing. This version is decorated by Keith’s catchy rhythmic fills, and finds the band in a harmonious vocal spirit that delivers with every line. The tune trots along agreeably, allowing the players (and the crowd) breathing room before they dole out another rocker.
One More Saturday Night:
The second song of the encore contains a cut near the end, leaving a minute of the sole audience source that showcases the crowd stampeding to the crackling energy. The band brings it to a ballistic ending before Bobby bellows “Thank-you and Goodnight!” The audience source ensues for another 90 seconds of documented crowd noise, before the house music fades in with Bob Dylan’s “Rainy Day Women.” It plays for a few seconds, and then silence falls on the ears…..
If you’ve never listened to the Madison show, it’s time for that to be remedied! If you have, perhaps it’s time to re-listen. The show can be found here:
“There's something to be said for being able to record an experience you've liked, or being able to obtain a recording of it.”—Jerry Garcia
2/15/73 has garnered allusions to contrasting temperatures, which seems to enhance the rapture surrounding the show. One reviewer called it “a heat wave in the frozen tundra,” while one attendee complained of “cold feet” from standing “about 40 feet from the stage on the tarp covering the ice rink,” but otherwise enjoyed the show. Another recounts how the music was on fire, and that “the hall melted.” Other attendees remembered the chilly elements, how it was a “dreary day,” but “hearing the echo of Jerry’s guitar” around the hockey arena, how the energy was “positive” since the band was “communicating well.” Another described the show as “stoney and lovely – like curling up in front of a warm hearth,” while another exclaimed, “it was my very first Dead show” and “it certainly got me hooked.” The biting cold of the Wisconsin winter made one attendee of the show “sick as a dog,” and another recounted meeting his future wife at the show, but also ruefully remembered “catching strep.” Perhaps it would have been too fitting if the Dead had opened the show with Cold Rain and Snow… 
Over the years, many listeners have waxed ecstatic about the Madison show, especially concerning the Dark Star->Eyes of the World->China Doll segment. This “trifecta masterpiece” has made appearances on various lists like “The best jam segments” and “Best versions” lists through the years. Well known examples include former GD archivist Dick Latvala, who called the Dark Star->Eyes “superb” and rated the show as a top ten of the year. Nick Paumgarten, writer of the “DeadHead” article featured in The New Yorker
, included the Madison date on his “Nick’s Picks” list. He specifically mentions the Dark Star->Eyes as putting this show on his “life raft.” “It summons up an exploratory time,” he goes on to say, and likens the transitional piece between the two songs to “a psalm.” The Grateful Dead Clubhouse Projects website didn’t include it in their “top 31 jam segments,” but listed it in their “honorable mention” shortlist. Moreover, they did include it among the “25 Greatest Shows in Grateful Dead History” list. Relix Magazine
in 1993 included 2/15/73 for its top ten list of all-time Dark Stars. The website rec.music.gdead offers much praise by listeners: “truly remarkable to say the very least;” “left a life long impression on me. That's for sure;” “my sanctuary in good times and bad;” and “emblematic of what I love about the Grateful Dead.”
Many books also highlight the Madison show. Several DeadBase
editions’ “Favorite Tapes” section ranked 2/15/73 near the top out of 250 shows listed (it was ranked 17th in the IX edition, but dropped to 24th place in DeadBase X
). Author Eric Wybenga in Dead To The Core
selected 2/15/73 for a written review, citing the Dark Star->Eyes combo as the “highlight” and calling the transitional jam between Phil and Jerry “among the Dead’s most beautiful passages.” Blair Jackson in Goin’ Down The Road
sites the Madison show under “The Best of the Dead” section, adding that 1973 “gets off to an auspicious start.” The American Book of the Dead
lists the Eyes from 2/15/73 as a highlight, while Skeleton Key
lists the Eyes twice: one under the “The Kills” heading, which includes tapes of “the most unrelenting performances,” and under the “Starter Tape” heading, essentially calling it a quintessential show for a newbie, adding that the Dark Star->Eyes->China Doll “is hard not to like.”
But the Madison show hasn’t always fared so well. Online forums like the Lost Sailor’s Pub didn’t always sing its praises. Some listeners offered mixed reviews, and a “Best shows from‘73,’74, and ‘75” list didn’t include 2/15/73. One prolific commentator on The Archive called Nick’s Picks selection of 2/15/73 “especially odd,” and neither Dark Star nor Eyes made the top ten list for best versions on the Headyversion website. (Dark Star doesn’t even crack the top fifteen.) The Grateful Dead Listening Guide website does not include the Madison show in selected reviews, or in any of the “Listening Trails” sub-headings like“Best Dead Shows” or “Unsung Heroes.” Long time tape trader and show reviewer Matt Vernon wrote that he “didn't find this show very exciting for 73” (although he did mention the PITB and HCS in favor, and said the DS contained a “nice rolling jam”).
The show has been miserably underrepresented on the airwaves. Flagship broadcasts like the Grateful Dead Hour, the Tapers Section, the Jam Of The Week, Thirty Days of the Dead, the “Unofficial 31 Days of the Dead” and Shakedown Stream have not featured music from the Madison show. 
XM Dead channel has played the show (at least in part), and a local radio show dubbed “The Music Never Stops” out of Los Angeles did air most of the show in 2006. It’s possible other local stations have done the same through the years, but documentation of such broadcasts is shoddy. It is probable 2/15/73 has seldom been represented via radio because the reels are not in the vault. However, a segment of the 2/19/73 show missing from the vault (according to present GD archivist David Lemieux) was aired on the Tapers Section broadcast, so obviously exceptions can be made.
“But sometimes you want to reach for old faithful [2/15/73].”—Anonymous reviewer
In the final analysis, it seems many traders had the Madison show on cassette (ye olde Maxell UD or XL-II) eons ago, and its importance has faded to a degree due in no small part to an abundance of high-quality sbds of shows (many in the vault) surfacing since the 90s. No doubt, 2/15/73 saw heavy circulation pre-internet, and many folks had cut their Grateful Dead teeth on it. It was in circulation since at least the early 80s, as some traders specifically cited 1981 and 1982. And while it is still a regarded show in 2014, its reverence is seemingly rooted in nostalgia as much as in the actual music. One writer confessed “I haven’t listened to it in many moons.” Countless others have mirrored that sentiment: “I used to have this show on cassette and it was always my favorite;” “Having lost my cassette collection many years ago, I have always yearned to hear this one again;” and finally, “Dusted off some old tapes...this was the first show I put on…I couldn’t [have] picked a better show. One of the best in my collection.” And countless others…
It’s likely that some more recent listeners haven’t “discovered” 2/15/73. After all, it currently offers few reviews on the archive, it is not in the vault or commercially available, its sonics are inferior to other shows of the year, and those who favor downloading based on traffic might pass it over. That could be misguided judgment or glaring oversight by some: “I had no idea that anything this good even existed,” wrote one. Another trader confessed: “I've had the tapes of the show for years. Just noticed them last night, I don't know if I ever paid attention to them before.”
Curiously, publications that put 2/15/73 on “lists” tend to be from the 90s, and many reviewers who praise the show discovered it in the 80s. It is evident that a comparatively smaller amount of recognition exists post 2000, and particularly in the last five years. However, two recent reviews stated: “It’s one that used to be readily available, and is well worth seeking out,” and “[I] urge all who have managed to escape hearing this one to throw on some high-quality headphones and dedicate a relaxed hour to hear the mind-bending jam sequence featured in this 2nd set.” In any case, it’s a great show that serves as an aural holograph of a cherished era in the Dead’s 30-year history. It is one of those nights that one listener called “ an embarrassment of riches!”
BOOKS (listed in order of reference use): The DeadHead’s Taping Compendium, 1959-1974; DeadBase IX; Dead To The Core; Relix, The Book; Skeleton Key; Goin’ Down The Road; The American Book of The Dead; What A Long, Strange Trip; Aces Back To Back; Garcia: An American Life
WEB PUBLICATIONS: (listed in order of reference use): The Archive; Dead.Net; rec.music.gdead; Grateful Dead Lyric and Song Finder (Whitegum); David Dodd’s Annotated Grateful Dead Lyrics; headyversion; gratefuldeadprojects; Steve Hoffman Music Forums; Deadlists; The Setlist Program; DeadBase Online Search; The Well; The Grateful Dead Guide; The Grateful Dead Listening Guide; Lossless Legs; Etree; “Nick’s Picks” and “DeadHead” from The New Yorker
; Lost Sailor’s Pub; Grateful Dead Music Forum; musicneverstopped.blogspot; bornagaindeadhead.blogspot
 The Dead seem to have been drawn to the snow and freezing winters: they frequently toured the Midwest in the winter months (Feb '69, March '71, Feb '73, Feb '78, Jan/Feb '79, Feb/March '81…). The Dane County Coliseum would see some more fine shows, including 10/25/73 (the famous feedback-freakout Dark Star) and 2/3/78.
 For a complete list of the Betty Boards, click here: http://taperssection.com/index.php?topic=181.0
 There is some confusion & discrepant information about just when the old source disappeared: some people later said it was taken down in 2008, others that it vanished in 2006. In fact, it was still regularly being linked in Archive forum posts as available through 2009. For a long time in the preceding years, it was the “featured show” on the Archive homepage, probably accounting for its being the most-downloaded show. (Note that streams count as “downloads.”) As of mid-2008 it had almost 600,000 downloads, and one commenter in December 2008 said it had been downloaded 6000 times that month. The page that disappeared was the exact same Hall source that’s currently up: http://www.archive.org/details/gd73-02-15.sbd.hall.1580.sbeok.shnf
Its last known availability was in February 2010. The replacement page was uploaded in June 2010, and people were surprised to find that the show had even been down, and perplexed that all the years of reviews for it were gone. One reviewer on The Archive lamented: “Did the Archive really deep-six all the comments associated with the other file? That's pretty effed up.”
If anyone has access to the former written reviews, or has a comment they’d care to share, please don’t be a stranger.
 The Dead played three nights at New York’s Nassau Coliseum on the 15th, 16th & 19th. It resulted in the most drug busts on record up to that time, as law enforcement began to target Deadheads at shows. The band vowed never to play there again, but of course they did—39 more times!
 To illustrate this point, compare the “6/8 riff” played on 12/31/72 vs. 6/24/73. The 12/31/72 riff commences at the beginning of the Other One reprise (track 22), found here: https://archive.org/details/gd72-12-31.prefm.vernon.20559.sbeok.shnf . A more defined version is contained within the Dark Star (commencing at the 6:38 mark) from the 6/24/73 Show. Listen to it here: https://archive.org/details/gd1973-06-24.sbd.miller.99852.sbeok.flac16
For a study in the development of the “Mind Left Body Jam,” the Dark Star of 4/8/72 vs. the Dark Star of 10/19/73 offers a clear difference. The 4/8/72 has been pulled from The Archive due to commercial release. However, it can be heard commencing around the 28:00 mark on both the Steppin’ Out with the Grateful Dead – England ‘72 and the Europe '72: The Complete Recordings sources. A more defined version can be found coming out of Dark Star on the 10/19/73 show, but it’s also pulled from The Archive, as it’s been commercially released as Dick’s Picks Volume 19. The track is labeled as the “Mind Left Body Jam” on the release, but it doesn’t go into the familiar four-chord structure until the 1:19 mark is reached.
 The tune saw a revival 18 years later, with 33 versions played between 1992-1995. Author Stephen Peters said that they “were as good if not better than the original,” although this notion seems likely to be in the minority.
 Cameron Crowe, “The Grateful Dead Flee Big Business,” Circus, October 1973.
 The soundcheck is not included in the matrix, but is on the soundboard source. Though it’s rare for us to have a soundcheck on tape, this one is not notable. The mix gets adjusted while the Dead play Jack Straw; then they run through two incomplete renditions of Box of Rain, both broken off. There is barely any band banter.
 Willie and the Hand Jive had been in the NRPS repertoire since 1971; in fact they would play a fine version in the 3/18/73 Felt Forum show where Garcia, Weir & Godchaux guested:
 The original line in Me & My Uncle went: “I took a bottle, cracked him on the jaw.” See this page for a listing of the times Weir sang this variant: http://deadpieshop.wordpress.com/
Weir actually made a number of lyrical improvements in this song – see the comparisons:
 Incidentally on this night, Country singer Marty Robbins (writer of El Paso) did not suffer an ill fate either, as he slammed his racecar into a wall, narrowly escaping major injury. Richard Petty won his fourth Daytona 500.
 The Dead took their arrangement for Big River from Merle Haggard’s “Workin’ Man Blues,” recasting it in Bakersfield style: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fbEstJ98TcM
 The Dark Star played on 12/6/73 is the paragon of this topic. Mellow, wandering, morose and spanning upwards of 45 minutes, it garners much scorn and praise, and is probably the most divisive Star there is. Read dissenting comments here:
and here: http://deadessays.blogspot.com/2011/06/dark-star-12673-guest-post.html
 Another notable Dark Star from this year that ends with a bass solo is 9/11/73, which takes a different approach: Phil’s solo is raw and chunky, and it sounds like he's about to go into a Philo Stomp, but never goes there. Instead, he heads for feedback! Even better, he's not unaccompanied - throughout you can hear Jerry making ghostly noises behind him.
 The next Dark Star, on 2/22/73, is also quite interesting - it's only about 13 minutes long, the shortest Star since '71; nonetheless it doesn't feel rushed. Jerry's sharp and on-point in the opening jam, and there's a great haunting Phil/Jerry duet after the verse. It's a good Star for those who don't like the long meandering '73 Stars - they don't get sidetracked into a Phil solo, there's no long wandering through space, and the Tiger jam is saved until literally the last minute. Also, it's really beautiful.
 Astonishingly, Dark Star>Eyes>China Doll was only played four times, all in 1973. A brief exploration is here:
 While the Dead’s second-set “architecture” was already standard, occasionally in this tour a “first-set” type song would appear towards the end, between the big suite and the final rocker: see 2/26/73 & 3/15/73 for other examples.
 Other copies on the Archive include:
https://archive.org/details/gd1973-02-15.sbd.hall.1580.shnf - the standard SBD copy (with soundcheck; no AUD patches)
https://archive.org/details/gd1973-02-15.aud.partial.124195.flac - audience tape
https://archive.org/details/gd1973-02-15.112812.sbd.arf.flac16 - an alternative SBD (in mono; no soundcheck; encore from AUD tape)
Ironically, this last source is not visible in Archive listings – though the page still exists, it’s vanished from the Archive search results. This occasionally happens to random shows (for instance, one of the 11/17/72 copies has also dropped out of sight recently).
 According to The Old Farmer’s Almanac, the mean temperature in Madison that night was 16°F. The temperature low dropped to -13°F within 36 hours after the Dead had left for their next show in St. Paul.
 This is according to their database search. As aforementioned, 2/15/73 has enjoyed some radio play, but very little documentation of it could be extracted after much digging. I welcome anyone to chime in with more examples.