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.
More Dead on Arthur after the jump …