Heavy "Primal Dead" from October 12, 1968


In keeping with the Grateful Dead thread that happily resurfaces every so often here on Arthur, I’m offering up one of the heaviest bootlegs in my collection: A soundboard recording of October 12, 1968 at the Avalon Ballroom in San Francisco. It’s a show that came up in our “Listen to the Dead” story from 2005, and it’s my favorite single-disc representation of how monstrously weird this band used to be. Legendary taper Dick “Picks” Latvala is quoted on Deadlists saying that this is among his favorite performances, calling it “primal Dead.”

It’s a short show by Dead standards — just about 80 minutes — comprised entirely of CRUSHING jams. No folky “Sugar Magnolia” sing-a-long first set, not much noodly Phish bullshit and almost no sign of the gentle rainbow twirly groovin’ bear nonsense. Instead it’s near ambient passages that slowly gather speed and intensity before exploding into massive psychedelic earthquakes of rhythm that leave aftershocks of cosmic guitar lines shimmering through the air. This is the fearsome and messy STEAL YOUR FACE sound that people who compare the Dead to Royal Trux or Comets on Fire are talking about. A Dead show where you can see why Greg Ginn and the Black Flag dudes were into these guys.

Check the annotated setlist below. FYI the “>” is taper shorthand for songs joined together by “a defined jam or contiguous transition” so you get the idea how loose things get:

Set One (1) [0:23] % (2) [0:37] ; Dark Star [14:53] > Saint Stephen [4:51] > The Eleven [9:58] > Death Don’t Have No Mercy [7:#52] ; (3) [0:31]

Set Two Cryptical Envelopment [#1:28] > Drums [0:10] > The Other One [7:08] > Cryptical Envelopment [8:30] > New Potato Caboose [3:28] > Jam [3:11] > Drums (4) [1:35] > Jam (5) [7:12] > Feedback [7:15#]

A couple notes: Some Deadheads like to talk about how maybe Jimi Hendrix was hanging out in the wings during the show. As rumor has it he snubbed the band’s invite to check ’em out the night before — there was this girl and she had some acid and yadda yadda — and so they failed to invite him on to jam or something. Who knows if it’s true, but like the shows these guys played with the Allman Bros later in the ’70s, it’s fun to imagine such a ridiculous gathering of guitar avatars in one place.

People also complain about somebody who is just cold goin’ bananas with some kinda wood-stick percussion thing on “Dark Star,” all “ritzy-rit-ritzy-rit” outta rhythm with the rest of the band from time to time. Whoever it is walks up to a mic at some point and it gets really annoying in the front of your speakers for about 25 seconds but then it fades out, so just chill about that. It’s also a show where beloved keyboard slob Pigpen is not on stage — probably off getting wasted with Janis or something. Good for him!

You can stream the show over at Archive.org, or download it by clicking below.

The Grateful Dead – Avalon Ballroom, San Francisco, CA – 1968-10-12 (320kbps)

More Dead on Arthur after the jump …

Drone artist Greg Davis’ massive Dead mix
Headneck Bonanza: Doug Sahm live in 1972 with Leon Russell and the Dead
New Riders’ Marmaduke, RIP
Listen to the Dead: An Arthur primer featuring Ethan Miller, Animal Collective’s Geologist, Erik Davis and more
• Uncle Skullfucker’s Band: Daniel Chamberlin explains the discreet charm of the Grateful Dead

12 thoughts on “Heavy "Primal Dead" from October 12, 1968

  1. Having brews on the porch just now, broadcasting “Hung Bunny” off the Melvins’ churning 1992 beast, Lysol: Two Pacificos down and it sounds just like the distortion-heavy “Feedback” at the end of this set, or at least until the vocals come in. YES.

  2. Thanks for this show. Fucking awesome. Who let that guy with the wood stick instrument thingy get so close to the mic?? I was cracking up so hard, it gets so loud!!

  3. Gotta be Mickey Hart with the wood-stick… it shows up on a lot of primal Dark Stars… including the great Dick’s Picks #4 (2/13-14/70, Fillmore East)…

  4. Actually, the rest of the band were trying to kick Pigpen and Bob Weir out of the band in late 68, the other four did numerous shows as “Mickey and the Hartbeats” in October. Phil’s friend Tom Constanten joined at the end of 68 and they decided they should record a live album with a new multitrack that had just been released so they could offset the costs of recording Anthem of the Sun…….and the rest is history!

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  6. Thank you so much for this! This is such a legendary performance that I might have missed out on about it if it wasn’t for your post! The best thing about the Dead is their philosophy about music – it’s meant to be shared!

  7. While it’s true that there were discussions about dumping Bobby & Pigpen during this time, Pigpen was not “probably off getting wasted with Janis.” His good-time-friend / part-time-lover Veronica had just experienced a stroke and he was at her bedside in the hospital.

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