Friday, October 26, 2018

Crepuscular Digest #5

Grateful Dead Oregon County Fairgrounds 08/28/82
Simply Stunning Bob Wagner Audience Recording

The connection between Ken Kesey has been a point of endless fascination for me as a confluence of my own personal passions and a fascinating crux point of 1960's counterculture. I've written about it in previous posts here and here. Here's another Kesey Dead connection with the 10 year anniversary of the famous Venetta 1972 show. I think its not that useful a pursuit to try and nail down the Grateful Dead's best show ever, but Venetta 72 is a clear contender. Turns out the anniversary show is very hot as well. There's something about Oregon, something about Kesey and the Pranksters, that brings out the best in the Dead.

Lately I've been listening to a lot of audience recordings where you can barely hear Phil in the mix. This tape is beyond refreshing. The bass is so present, as is Brent's keys. Just a wonderful mix all around. They're definitely feeling it with a hot Bertha to start. Minglewood is super locked in and driving. Hearing Phil clearly makes this tune stand out much more than usual. Great run from Brent in the Minglewood, followed by an equally hot Jerry solo. Jed has a little more bounce than usual. Me and my Uncle is unusually hot. Big River too. It just seems like everything is a little to a lot hotter than usual. They finally slow it down a bit with Althea but its no less on point and groovy. It's only a quick moment to catch your breathe before a rockin' It's All Over Now gets the kids up and dancing again. The bounce of this show is so infectious. China Cat gets a huge reaction from the crowd (perhaps since the Ventta 72 version is so legendary) and rages straight through to I Know You Rider.

Keep Your Day Job starts the second set with a band continuing to sound super locked in. There is some great interplay between Brent and Jerry around 2:50 in. Brent is super funky on the Women Are Smarter intro. It's a brief version without segue. So far a very interesting song selection for  set 2. West LA Fadeaway continues the trend of unique set 2 song selection and also the trend of every tune from this show absolutely strutting. I'm a sucker for any Brent tune and this Far From Me sparkles. There's a brief pause before the band hops into a bubbly Playing in the Band. They waste no time in stretching and pulling the fabric of space-time with the jam. They collectively find a really creative space to occupy at 9 minutes in.

With how incredible this recording is, every moment of drums>space is special. To hear every aspect of what the bands was cooking up is such a gift. The jam out of space is absolute pure and unadulterated bliss. Once the opening notes of the Wheel start, so too do the chills. Just lovely. Just before they journey outside The Wheel, the whole band strikes upon a beautiful theme. After such a beautiful and delicate melody, The Other One (specifically Phil's bass) hits like an absolute brick. It stays powerful and commanding for its entirety and proceeds to hop comfortably into Truckin'. All of the segues in set 2 are really smooth. The Truckin' cooks much in the style of the rest of this show's hotness then takes a lovely downshift into Black Peter. A much needed release of energy. Jerry gives a command performance here drawing out the vocals and guitar lines to a powerful, mournful effect. A fun and unconventional show is wrapped up in fun and unconventional way: a Dupree's encore! Wow this is a great show. So glad to discover such a gem.

 The Disco Biscuits 05/07/04 The Palace Theater, Albany, NY
Plan C approved and gorgeous Chase Banna recording

As I've mentioned in previous posts (The Vanderbilt and Haymaker shows from 2002), I'm listening through all the Disco Biscuits shows I attended in order. Many of them have seriously imprinted memories or listening to the tape brings back a flood of them. When I hit play on this one, I had no memory whatsoever. Which is just bizarre. It was within days of my graduation from college. It was the first Disco Biscuits show I got to see in my home, the city of Albany.  Nothing. Nada. Oh well, maybe that's part of why I'm taking this listening journey. Trying to pin down a few more memories before they're lost to time.

Set 1
To start the night, longtime promoter and staple of the Albany music scene Greg Bell introduces the band and talks about their journey from the local bar gigs in town to the big stage of the Palace. The biscuits start with a bit of an atmospheric jam that seems to be heading towards Floes. Instead, they do a smart about face and drop into Little Lai. It's a sold but not really stretched out opener. To continue with the airy vibe set by the opening jam, Humuhumunukunukuapua'a is up next. I love the places that 2002-04 era Humu jams go (12/29/02 is the gold standard in my opinion). On this night they don't appear to be in a rush to get the ball rolling. It's a pretty confident move considering this is a much bigger room than they had played previously in the Albany area (Saratoga Winners and Northern Lights in the 2000's, Bogies and Valentine's throughout the late 90's).

The first hint of momentum comes at 6:30 into the Humu jam as an insistent four on the floor beat from drummer Dr Samuel Altman starts urging the rest of the band in a darker direction. They peak the jam and segue cleanly into 42. It's still a fairly new tune (just over a year old at this point) and I found it to not always seem comfortable for the band in this era. A lot of the earlier versions I've heard sound like they all had to try really hard. to get through the composition This version has them sounding very comfortable with Brownie offering some sweeping sound effects a la Keller Williams mouth flugel. The jam out of 42 returns to that nice airy and dark mode the Humu jam brought us to. I love the simple descending major scale right at the end that drops just perfectly into Spectacle. I was driving home on a lovely early fall day through the countryside southeast of Albany and the music exactly fit the mood.Wet and Jigsaw are standard offerings though the Jigsaw gets pretty deep.

Set 2
After a quick four count from guitarist Jon "The Barber" Gutwilig,  we're launched into a high energy I-Man. Interesting moments of tension and release starting at the 5 minute mark before dropping back into the composition. I love the melodic and dreamy quality at 8:20 just before dropping into a more brooding minor key jam. The build up is fairly mellow but the peak at 16 minutes is pretty gigantic. Next up we have some fun crowd participation and a nice lil peek into Barber's head with the "No Bull$hit!" chant before an absolutely savage drop into Save the Robots. There's extra mustard on all of the Robots composition. Vocals as well. At the 16 minute mark is where this show starts to get really interesting. Barber does this police scanner future robot chase vocal improv thing that I'd actually love to see more of from him. Shades of Akira. At 23 minutes intensity kicks up a big notch on the way towards the peak.

After robots a lost spunion wanders out onto the stage to Barber which leads to some of my favorite Barber stage banter of all time: "Ladies and gentleman, we're adding a new member to the band! Our new member of the band is....our new super cool member of the band is: Shark! Ladies and gentleman, shark! We;re gonna take shark backstage for some reprogramming! Please stay focused on the band thank you."

Eulogy is a nice cool-down from the fierce robots. It's well played with Magner in particular sparkling on piano. M.E.M.P.H.I.S. is up next (Brownie: "this one's for the dog!") and gets right into a dark and dirty jam with some restrained and perfect leads from Barber. Some of the most subtle and nuanced playing from this show come out of the first Memphis jam. The second jam has a similar groove but a completely different flavor. Killer bounce from Sammy on the drums. Some really lovely guitar and keyboard moments around 19 minutes in from Barber and Magner. The pre-segue last few minutes is exceptionally lovely. Wrapping up 42 was a nice way to finish out a very solid 2004 show. Brownie's banter at the end leads me to believe they had a really fun time playing. Who doesn't like a Nughuffer encore? Short story then right to business so they make curfew. They don't rush it though and there's some fine playing starting just under 10 minutes in.

That Random B

The Grateful Dead, once they started getting deeper into improvisational music in the late 60's, started creating suites of songs or songs that were often connected. They'd start a song, start stretching out and jamming, then slide into the beginning of another song. This is a really critical, foundational element of jam music as we know it today. Something the Grateful brought to popular music. China Cat Sunflower and I Know You Rider were early tunes in the repertoire who found each other and became a nearly inseparable pair.  Scarlet Begonias was around for 3 years before finding it's mate, Fire on the Mountain. Around that time Weir and Barlow wrote two more of these pairings. These were a little different though, as they were designed as a pair right from the start. It wasn't an organic, 'find your soulmate' kind of process.

Lazy lightning> Supplication is very similar to China>Rider  in that the first song is kind of lilting and rollicking while the second packs a big hit of energy. Great to build that jam out of Lightning and peak the intensity dropping into Supplication. Wooosh!  Lazy Lightning>Supplication was a staple from 1976-1978. The final years with Kieth and Donna Goddchaux. Once Brent Mydland joined the band in 1979, instances of performance dropped dramatically until it left rotation in 1984. Supplication manages to hold on for a few more years. Dropped in 1987 with a one off bust out in 1993.

This section is called the random B. Why? Well these songs pairings have an A>B format. Every now and then, the Grateful Dead would sneak a random B tune in where it didn't belong. The set list for 1976 Grateful Dead shows are possibly the most volatile in their career. There is an overall pattern to 1976 set list but there are many wild curveballs. Tunes you'd never expect in the first set or second set, odd pairings or sequences, etc. So it's not surprising we have a random B in 1976.

09-24-76 William and Mary College
Playing in the Band>Supplication>Playing in the Band

Playing in the Band is a song that became one of the prime jam vehicles for the Grateful Dead, stretch at first into 20 plus minute jams in 1972 then going into the 30-40 minute range by the end of its reign of awesomeness. It typically ended a set one once it settled into place. After the 1975 it's set placement became tenuous and ended up in set 2 at times. Between 1976-1978 the structure of Grateful Dead set lists began to solidify. Shorter tunes in a variety of American styles in the first set (maybe a bit of a longer or more jammy tune towards the end of the first set) with the second set comprised of the larger jam vehicles. By 1978 drums>space became a defined part of set 2, usually at it's mid-point. at this point, Playing in the Band was firmly a set 2 song. Often starting a second set or in the pre-drums>space section.

At the William and Mary show we find Playing in it's pre-hiatus position at the end of the first set. Here though we have a classic 1976 twist: They segue into supplication then back into the Playing in the Band Reprise! First of all, the Playing jam is quite lovely, similar in the style to the later era set 2 Playing's with a more thematic jam without going fully type 2 (in the parlance of Phish-dom). They hint at the Playing reprise but let the riff dangle and dissipate a bit. all of a sudden a different and familiar riff comes chugging out from Bobby's way. Jerry picks up on it and starts to embellish. It still seems 2 minutes in to Supplication that they may still go back into Playing but by 2:45 they fully bust out the Supplication. Kieth's piano especially shines during the verse. Jerry plays what I'd generally consider his outro solo for Supplication and the band shift gears back into the Playing in the Band reprise with some really inventive playing, especially in the first few minutes of the reprise.

12-04-90 Oakland Coliseum Arena
Eyes of the World>Saint of Circumstance

Lost Sailor>Saint of Circumstance is another Weir/Barlow penned pairing that follows a somewhat similar trajectory to Lightning>Supplication. It's got a bit of a different style though with Lost Sailor being a bit dark and eerie before the big energy upswing of Saint of Circumstance. The pairing debuted in 1979 and was played the most in 1980, with 29 instances. After that, fewer and fewer performances until it was dropped after 1986. Saint of circumstance survived the cut though! This part B lived on long after it's A was cut, being played at least once every year for the rest of the Grateful Dead's career.  Similar to Let it Grow which endured  after the rest of the Weather Report Suite was dropped.

First off, I have a love affair with D5Scott and Da Weez. What is this nonsense? They were Grateful Dead tapers starting in the early 80's and sticking around to the end. Some of their tapes, especially from 83-84 are just incredible. Of a similar quality to Oade brother tapes but without as much known about them. I've been working my way through the remaining Post-Brent 1990 tapes (the first five are reviewed here), finding hot performances and stunning audience tapes. This tape though might be my favorite of this era. There's just something about the sound and balance that's so immersive.

 Eyes of the World starts the second set and showcases stunning playing from all, with great playing from both Vince Welnick and Bruce Hornsby on keys. Vince's harmonies sound especially nice on the Eyes chorus. At 8:30 the band hit a gorgeous peak fueled by Garcia and Hornsby. At this point the jam downshifts a bit, while the groove and drive stay at a constant, leading into the last verse. The drummers are both hitting hard and getting tribal at around 11:30. With about a minute left Jerry starts building tension and Phil picks up on it, joining in. Ok, it's not the cleanest segue but once they lock into Saint, the audience goes absolutely crazy and the band is cooking. Ok, so there's also some flubs with the composition but damnit the energy is there! It's hot. Interestingly, the >Saint of Circumstance is only played 4 times in 1990 and it's all Vince era shows. Instances of performance are at a record low in the final years of Brent's tenure and its busted back out more once Vince takes over.

Holly Bowling 09/16/18 Cohoes Music Hall
Mountains on the Moon>Saint of Circumstance

Around the time I was checking out these Dead shows I was lucky enough to catch Holly Bowling at the lovely (and allegedly haunted!) Cohoes Music Hall. Holly plays solo piano interpretations of Grateful Dead and Phish songs. It seems on paper like something you'd only really need to see once but each time I've gotten to see her perform, its been even more stunning, intense and captivating. She's an incredible musician and her ability to improvise has only gotten better with her filling the piano bench for the band Ghost Light. Interestingly she related at the show that Ghost Light's name came from a Tommy Hamilton trios show at the Cohoes Music Hall. Very cool part of Capital District music history.The Cohoes Music Hall is allegedly haunted by the ghost of Vaudeville performer Eva Tanguay. There's a little shrine where offerings are left for her backstage and the venue maintains the tradition of leaving a ghost light on stage.

Mountains on the Moon is an incredible choice for solo piano. The Garcia melody was haunting, ringing through the 19th century theater. Jeffry Bowling's mapped projections perfectly complimented the mood. Her playing goes from plaintive to more intense as she wanders out from the Mountains theme. Slowly the familiar opening progression of Saint of Circumstance emerges triumphantly. I never would've thought putting these tunes together would work but its a tremendous pairing! This is truly a random B! A song retired before 70 and one debuted in 1979!There was a hole in my life I didn't know I had that got filled with Mountains>Saint!!! The entirety of Mrs. Bowling's performance is stunning and well worth a reflective listen.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

The Disco Biscuits 12/29/01, Roseland Ballroom: Guest post by Jay Cowit

With a fresh and stunning Rich Steele remaster of 12/29/01 recently released (download here!), Crepuscular Rays collaborator, brilliant musical mind and dear friend Jay Cowit was inspired to take a deep dive into his first outing with what would become one of his most enduring musical relationships.

I'd like to invite you to take this cosmic foray with Jay: 

The first song I ever saw the Disco Biscuits play was "Eulogy," a rootsy prog-rock continuity piece from one of their two rock operas. I thought 3 things:
         1) man, these dudes cannot sing.
         2) ok, they sound a little like phish/Moe./god street wine, so I can get down.
         3) holy shit. they're gonna jam everything huh?

But in the midst of those thoughts, I saw a crowd immediately hypnotized. Fascinated and open to an experience, I let the music of the evening wash over me, entrap me, feed me into something dark and strange. What came after Eulogy would stay with me for the rest of my life, and would become an intrinsic part of it. Friendships and lifelong memories born off those notes, cascading off the Roseland Ballroom years before it became a pit in the NYC ground. It was a true experience that shaped me. I've seen and loved the Disco Biscuits for 17 years, since that first song.

.....And ironically, I've never seen a "Eulogy" since.
 But that's the very point of this band, right?

"Eulogy," as a composition, starts slow and bluntly, not taking any chances. The song is a midway point in the Hot Air Balloon opera, a reflection point for its protagonist. Interestingly, the band repeatedly utilizes it at the start of shows, and while it’s rare to appear at all, its purpose as an introduction to the Disco Biscuits makes a lot of sense. Following its demure and winding opening, the song quickly moves into tight rhythmic bursts, back-dropping the soaring melody of Jon Gutwillig’s guitar. The structure, suddenly fugue like and alien, supports a reprise of the verse with rugged purpose, raising the volume and energy. Then, a dip into minor keys and slight quiet. What follows is the song’s greatest asset…a Technicolor glide through rustic landscapes as Gutwillig begins to jet-set around the fretboard, building a beautiful and steely conversation on top of the rhythmic power of Marc Brownstein, Aron Magner, and Sam Altman. Such power and speed, in the opener? It defies concert sense to the uninitiated. Even to jamband veterans, the speed at which the Disco Biscuits can reach heights is breathtaking. Altman, on drums, and Barber crash through forests, growing larger each measure. A peak guitar melody reprises at the end, perfectly enunciated by drums on the 16th notes, and a slight return to the soft beginnings of the song. Not a note of electronic music has been played.
7 minutes in felt a lot longer.

7-11” couldn’t be more different than the thoughtful Eulogy. Its big dumb hair metal/funk approach to a breakup song is probably as fun a track as the Biscuits have, and while it seems like a hastily arranged jigsaw puzzle of hooks and riffs, all of those hooks and riffs are catchy as hell. Its singsong chorus makes it easy to ignore how rough the vocals are, as the crowd helps a ton. The chorus is a metal rave up with “I’m gonna go out and jam” as the main refrain. For a 19 year old kid in the big city, at a jamband show…what could be better? The song moves to a robotic cluster bomb of “you can’t stop it” beats before instantly flexing to the traditional faux-reggae middle jam. In later years, the band would take this part out for rides, but in this version, it’s a tight run through high-school nightmare lyrics, followed by a brief respite to give room for a polka Magner piano solo. 

Back to the metal, and then to the first true jam of the evening. Part of the glory of “7-11” is how fast the jam becomes fast and fluid techno, in every year of its existence. It’s worth the wait of its sections to get there, and this is no exception. I had heard the band on tape, and heard their reputation, but this style of jamming was something I’d never experienced. I was still watching 4 dudes on stages (one wearing a hockey jersey), but suddenly they had become a robot techno machine. All frill had died instantly, the bass picked up a liquid-ish feel, and all lines started to wrap around each other. This was no 12-bar blues, no solo on top of chords. Every musician was contributing equally and all at once, but tastefully and…this is important…leaving tons of space. It’s what makes the jamming so amazing right away….it is focused like a laser, fast and complex…but the key is the dark silence in and among the four parts.

And the drums…god, those drums. Altman instantly played like no one I had ever witnessed. Perfect, unyielding, un-tempted by fills and turnarounds. It was revolutionary. It was ego-less. The whole band was jamming to a gestalt, working with each other, and as a unit. No one leads this improvisational section for 7 straight minutes. The crowd follows the energy, waving and wobbling with the speedy pace as the band quickens from techno to punk rage. It’s a ska fused soundscape of fierce eruptions as the band changes key at breakneck speed…maybe even getting faster.  Gutwillig comes to the front, but still repeating line after line, beautiful melody after beautiful melody…swirling all the while with Magner on synth. 

Altman pounds the beat into a full-on punk 1-step, as Gutwillig switches to power chords along with Brownie…suddenly the arrangement is filled with the epcot-synths of Magner, bringing in the conclusion of “Munchkin Invasion,” a frenetic race through a brief hyper-prog-rock section, followed instantly by a happy go lucky jam-rock refrain that talks about random names and…well, Munchkins.  It’s a furious ending to the jam, and completes the song started on a previous night of the run. We are only 20 minutes in.

Spacebirdmatingcall” is an absolute classic. I’m not saying that lightly. It’s one of the best compositions ever written by humans, and is probably 20-40 years ahead of its time. It combines all of the best parts of this band, in a song that could be played by nobody else. Its studio version was an early part of me loving the band, but the live versions from 2001 are blazing sound and fury. This night was no exception. Opting out of complex segues (and leaving that for set II), the band feels satisfied exploring the confines of the song itself, spinning out of conformity while repeatedly bringing the jam back to base in creative ways. The song itself is played like a torpedo, lush and spiritual while speeding along Altman’s rock-trance hybrid beat (one that his successor never truly figured out, even as Allen Aucoin played numerous killer “SBMC’s.”) The jam is centered around the same ideals as “7-11,” which is 4 rhythm parts playing in unison within the confines of a roughly electronic beat. The fact that the beat is focused on the kick drum played on all four beats lends a slight notion that this is house or trance, but really the music is jazzier and the lines around it springy. The forward playing of Gutwillig and Brownie propel the beat even as Altman keeps it simple and tough; the frontloading of grace notes at the tail end of a phrase give the beat a forward propulsion, even when Sammy isn’t playing four on the floor (~7:30 on the recording). Brownie and Gutwillig perfected this over the years, but none more than in 2001, where their work pays off even in the fastest of jams, which all still groove and pulse. Altman eventually becomes the lead player in the jam, spiking the playing with hard snare and open high hat work. Eventually Brownie comes back around to the bass line, and the band is in full rock epic mode…this is where the song is truly built for greatness…after a jam of techno-ish music that is danceable and smart, the song suddenly becomes a stadium rock closer….Gutwillig’s utterly insane but gorgeous composed lead line is distinctly him, his style and genius painted on the octave skipping taps of his playing. To the uninitiated, it seems like a random melody…until he repeats it note for note. A dip back into the verse/chorus before another glorious run through the lead melody ends the song, a journey within a single composition.

At this point, it’s clear the band will jam everything they play, and furiously rage most of the endings. To a rookie…this is starting to become a gift from heaven.

The second half of Set I is probably what truly made me a believer, at least from my memory of the moment. You learn a lot about a band you don’t know through their covers, and while it’s never the sticking point for me, sometimes it REALLY helps the process. We’ll get to that in a second. First, “The Very Moon” is a beautiful song, with a sweet intro that again takes as much from Genesis and Yes as Phish. The intro is a built in breathing point in any set, and certainly the 3 minutes it spends climbing the ladder to the song itself is certainly appreciated. The breakneck verse and chorus structure reveal smitten lyrics, part of the same rock opera as “Eulogy.” The jam begins over a blissfully quiet and quick set of major chords, but effectively wrapping the beat in 10, which is musically impressive and clever but even more amazing when you get lost in the jam and realizing it feels like the most familiar groove you’ve ever felt. This comes up later in the “House Dog Party Favor,” but it’s a true gift of the band: grooving odd time signatures like they’re nothing. It’s part of why they feel like techno in these sections even when they’re not playing anything close to it. “Moon” rides on in intensity, and then literally on Altman’s ride cymbals, speeding back up to the persistent 2001 style…Brownie and Barber hit on the return to theme seamlessly and easily, Magner picking up on piano with them. It’s a fortunate turn but one they hit so often in those years. 

No let up, no drop…the band screams across the finish line of the first jam, before the composed entrance to the “slow” dirty funk of the song’s second section. Altman is in take-no-prisoner mode, so the funk speeds a long. Gutwillig picks and pokes with a teasing line, as Brownie gradually slaps his way to the pocket. Magner is slow to join, but the moment gives a true sense of the Marc/Jon combo…feeding off each other in shards and strikes, constructing the complex matrix over Altman’s simplistic 2-step. It’s a tribal style, like Security-era Peter Gabriel. It’s not techno at all, but it grooves so hard that it plays as such. At around 17 minutes into the song, the band again deftly changes key mid-jam, a seamless maneuver that most bands could never pull off with such grace and secrecy. No let up, no drop…Altman begins to use the toms to build a wall of low end as the other three weave their way around the changes occurring. The band has returned to the hybrid rock beat and leaps in bounds over a single D chord progression, driving upwards and out. The pace quickens, while Gutwillig reaps a repeated soulful line, ridiculous and perfect among the clashy chaos. The line strays and saunters, while Magner fills up the void with mid-tone synths, 

Brownie moves to a major key progression, and Altman opens the hats…the sound builds, and builds…the movement of all four members in lock step as a furious flood of emotion and notes comes to bear…higher and higher, while Gutwillig moves to a fierce descending line…the bass fills the entire world….Altman attacks his snare….one final dragon piercing note from Jon…..and there it is:

Run Like Hell” is a Disco Biscuits song. At least the way they play it. It has a strong resemblance to an old Pink Floyd song from The Wall, for sure. But a song can have many spiritual owners, and one of them for “Run Like Hell” is Bisco. The fire and intensity of first seeing the band slam into the power chords and verse that make up the front part of the song will never be forgotten. I’ve never seen so many raised fists…the crowd was like a dancing army. The band could’ve asked them to go to war for them. I’d have loved to see it. A screaming frenzy of noise and energy gives way to the first jam (The Disco Biscuits usually improvise sections between the verses, and after the keyboard solo, before ending the song or jamming into something else), a short silky foray into psychedelic trance, utilizing some odd Magner synths to punctuate the dark vap trail of the electronic beats. The pace builds quick again tho…not much time left to experiment, although the then rookie author of this piece couldn’t believe the band in front of him was going to play another set after this. After all, they must’ve blown a hole in the earth, right? Crashed the stock market?  All of this thinking is bypassed as they again slam into the power chords of the second verse, raising all the fists again. The second jam starts dirty, with Gutwillig laying into distorted delay spikes while Magner does double duty, spinning a sweep pad single note among a clav-like backbone. This jam is more funky than anything so far, and darker. Brownie keeps the bass line lean and weird…and then with the ease of a veteran magician, calmly welcomes the crowd back to NYC and says hi, nearly 75 minutes into the set.:)  Having rushed slightly in jam 1 to get here…the band relaxes and starts deploying singular bursts of melodic treats, using the evil sounding robot progression to wind up the energy and tension. Altman is simplistic as ever, but forceful on the kick…the giant ball of sound keeps moving, even as the other members stay slow and deliberate. Remarkably, it’s Magner who pivots the synched unit to a more major feel, grabbing the middle of the whole, and setting up Gutwillig to fly again on top of the bazooka fire that is the rush of the ending. The pace never dampens, the energy never fades again. There is nowhere to run, nowhere to hide…no let up, no drop. The snare punctures the air while the suddenly gigantic guitar lead locks in, deftly smashing what’s left of civilization as the world crumbles.  Magner switches to organ, filling up the room like a choir of ecstasy fueled angels…the punk drums return, the bass swells….higher and higher…..

…And the power chords of the “Run Like Hell” ending crush Roseland Ballroom into a singularity.
-This was followed by an intermission.-

Set II begins in earnest with the most rock song of rock songs that the Disco Biscuits possess…the ZZ Top infused “M.E.M.P.H.I.S.” An ode to a southern road trip and a canine companion, this “M.E.M.P.H.I.S.” starts innocently enough, cruising the verses and chorus into a hip hop style beat  where Gutwillig lays low, Brownie sits on a malevolent single note phrase, and Magner runs ghost-like cues across the spectrum. The jam goes to dissonance before Brownie begins a bluesy take, gently nudging Barber to do the same. Magner continues the apparitions, until Altman’s steady beat drops to a single high hat rhythm, before breathlessly hitting back into the groove. The licks give way to a star-trekian synth lead, squaring deep in the spinal cord until Barber tags in to deliver a boisterous and cascading solo….the fury of swirling notes from all three melody players is a foreshadow of the chaos to come, but it provides it own epic scene here at the tail end of the jam.  A snare roll up fakes an ending, Barber now unloading all over the space provided…a second snare count up now, 4 lengthy measures long and leading to the triumphant return of the verse. “M.E.M.P.H.I.S.” is one of the songs in the catalogue that generally contains a second jam, moving into another song entirely…as is the case here. Often the feel reprises the first jam to a certain degree…but this jam entrance dissolves quickly, leading to spring-loaded Magner hits quietly tip toeing around a diminutive beat. Altman doesn’t wait long, though…he returns to his battle with the snare drum, punching out coordination for the unit, before dipping again. Spacey keyboard fills the atmosphere, with the bass nearly ambient. 

The high hat remains, tapping ever so slightly...constant but alive. Hopping. Hopping. Hopping.
A snare fill from Altman attempts to start the next song, but the other three continue the hopping. Up and down major scales, arpeggios of skill and grace. Ambient funk quiet as a mouse, but still holding down a groove that could make a statue sway. Hopping. Hopping.

The jam unfastens itself. Layers of composition enter one by one. A single guitar quarter note repeated. Then a wave of synth chords. A rimshot beat that continues to hop. “Crickets” manifests as if from a smoke filled dream. The band takes its time before descending into the single refrain, lamenting the hard end of our insect friends in the dark of the evening. The jam of a “Crickets” is a singular event in a life…no other music on earth is quite like it. It’s form is so simplistic yet nuanced beyond belief. It’s a happy hardcore techno beat, but that doesn’t nearly describe the complexity of the music above it. The jazzy layering of the guitar spliced with elevating synth notes, all rides above a fast motioning bass line. Brownie holds this jam more than any other, keeping pace with the flurry of his drummer, while providing the bedrock that his guitarist and keyboard to waterdance on.  His envelope filter turns his notes into balloons of imagination, propelling a rolling mechanism of physics and commotion. Magner and Barber are playing a billion notes in every direction, exploding out the sides of the giant avalanche machine….Brownie holds the fort like a laser blasting tank. His playing is beyond genre and description, providing a giant crater of deep end while his band mates blister the higher registers. At 5:45 into the recording, Gutwillig falls into a beautiful mid-range complimentary line to Brownie….a calm soldier seeing about the fray. The pace is faster, the drums take on a speed metal feel that doesn’t surrender. The guitar is a beautiful frozen moment in time…it erases to shared dissonance with Magner but returns as Brownie comes back to the planet on the root note. 

The phrase is echoed in everything Barber plays….and at the moment of utter insanity and next to the point of falling apart…the band miraculously changes key…holds for a moment…and then breaks into the major key finale of “Shelby Rose.”  Altman never breaks the pace, thrashing through the ending as Gutwillig hits the lead perfectly, and the band sings through the final chorus, before inverting the song and starting from it’s beginning immediately after. The moment happens so quick, but it’s huge and powerful and undeniable. This particular merging of the two songs is a seminal moment in the band’s history…it shows many veterans and rookies alike another impossible musical event that is now possible. It’s beyond a thorough understanding of what kind of practice or rehearsal or experience leads to a 5 minute moment like that…but undoubtedly there’s some luck and magic involved. And a lot of sweat from the band.

“Shelby Rose’s” speedy run-through is still a breather, saving us a raspy Brownie’s otherwise soulful crooning, and moving back to the modified jungle beat that is the staple of Shelby’s over the history of the band. Magner tries to calm things down by laying on Rhodes chords, while Brownie whittles a thoughtful line in the back. The beginning is liquid cool water, gradually lead by a slow Magner synth pad that slyly brings the jam from “Shelby” back into “Crickets,” although only the brilliant tracking of the recording might tell you that. It’s so smooth, even though you realize all at once that the jungle has perfectly morphed into fast ska-trance, and the major keys barely give away the ghost. This is the most gradual jam of the night, patience winning out until Altman begins the drum ascent back into a beat that is happy hardcore mixed with ska…but faster than either genre has ever produced. It transcends electronic music in every sense…no computer-made music could have this life and vitality, but more tangibly, the speed and morphing ability. The tempo is brilliantly absurd…and relies on inhuman snare work by Altman to drive the point home and keep it all from escaping down the side of the mountain. The cymbals balance the drive, the organ fills the gaps…and Gutwillig whips through a fierce matrix of notes over the top, each phrase hitting the energy higher. At the right moment, the lead line of the jam appears, adroitly nailed and putting an exclamation point on an exhibit of beauty, speed, and sadness the likes of which music hadn’t seen.

 “Crickets’” second jam, a funk extrapolation played at the thematic high speed of the evening, features some of the ghost noises Magner used at the start of the “M.E.M.P.H.I.S.” second jam, and a cocky Gutwillig riff takes hold of the groove and runs with it. Brownie would spend most of 2002 playing some incredible slap sections on his instrument…this jam was a good predecessor. It pumps the whole room, up through his dropout with Altman, which showcases the weird jazzy circus music of Magner and Gutwillig. The beat and purpose pick up from there, flirting in and out of the bass riff that cues the end of the jam. The band seems to be marching towards an end…but a second (absolutely brilliant) dropout sequence morphs the band into a psych rock moment, rotating the band further from home. The dissonance spreads into a slashing run towards home, using a rock beat to further the goalposts until again, Brownie hits the familiar notes….but wait….NOT DONE! A snare roll keeps a note sustained in the air, Gutwillig switching to a wah part while Magner uses the synth waves of the intro to construct one more jump from reality. At the end of this short burst, the bassline takes over, and the band moves, ever so gradually, into the final transition to the vocal refrain. To his credit, Brownie tries several times to jump back out…it is wonderfully clever. A slow, drippy take of the chorus ends the sequence, which hard stops to a moment of reflective silence, surrounded by a massive audience cheer.

The remainder of the set is indicative of the 2001 mindset: as a contrast to its 2.0 later years where full segue shows were the norm, early Disco Biscuits actually preferred playing a number of standalone songs per show. There’s an obvious confidence in being able to explore outside the realms of the composition even within a standalone format. “House Dog Party Favor,” thankfully, fits this mold perfectly. Effectively three huge sections in one song, the composition begins with the 6/8  hyper-space bar mitzvah crooning of a man institutionalized, dealing with the realities of his bondage. The song sways breezily through its composed classical mockups, interspersing the nonchalant “oh yeahs” with fugue like stops and stutters. The second section truly begins with a jaunt into 5/4, plugging a very quick proggy ELP like section before a drawn out jam in the rugged time signature. As with the first set’s “Moon” jam, the precision with which Altman and Brownie play in the odd time is mind-blowing. There is perceptible and skilled groove within the harder jamming circumstances, and the band shifts dynamically in a brilliant fashion. Altman’s consistency while playing small is a real commodity here, allowing Magner and Gutwillig to float on the surface of the water for extended periods of times to harness hooks and licks. Brownie  channels Phil Lesh in bouncing around the fretboard, keeping the 5/4 in place when Altman jazzes up his own take for a few moments. The band accrues bursts of energy as they start to move through the swinging jam…Gutwillig takes a moment to find a bearing, but eventually grabs on to the mountain and begins to not just climb, but jump. He leads into the main lick, as the band begins a pretentious but heartfelt counting sequence that’s usually a wonderful indicator of how trashed the band was/is, or how sharp they are that night....They nail it, for what it’s worth.

The verse and chorus that follow start to show signs of fatigue, but the end of the tale brings the third and most ferocious chapter of HDPF…the waltz. A marching cryptic techno bedrocks a 6/8 or ¾ jam that feels as electronic as anything that night…other than most electronic isn’t in 6/8. Magner lets loose here, summoning synth banshees that overload the synapses before falling back in line. Altman deftly switches from a techno beat to more of a rock…in some ways, it’s a harken to Rush. Gutwillig is barely noticeable until you realize he’s providing an entire middle landscape moving the opposite direction of Magner and Brownie…it’s a beautiful psychedelic ant-farm. Brownie controls the operation, always the threat of his returning to the gigantic and terrifying and familiar and perfect bass riff of “House Dog.” He threads this tension out, stamping on the buried remains singed by his melody players. Altman does not discard this energy, powering through the noise and fury of the night and holding steady. Magner jumps over the top, peaking his synth line early and often, pushing Gutwillig towards a final solo. The bass line returns, glorious and like home. Gutwillig doesn’t yield, pumping out his loudest notes of the nights to stand on top of the sound…until he slides his final note down back to the riff of the song, played hard and mean, while the band sings the final refrain.

The encore is more than quaint. This was a great lesson to learn, also…most bands don’t encore with two distinct 10 minute jams. In fact, pretty much no one does. Except the Disco Biscuits.
Little Lai” is rickety but fun, with the nod to the streets of New York City right outside. This version is played at a slightly slower tick than most of the show, although you can almost tell Altman wants to move quicker. The jam is a fun return to the hip hop style that would go on to dominate 2002. Altman’s beat is the most interesting candidate here, with the rest of the band playing sly support crew. It does still speak to the ego-less playing that characterizes their more dance-able playing…nobody is stepping on each other, they’re working in tandem. This tribal fusion continues for a while, providing perhaps the show’s most sustained funk moment. The jam stammers for a bit, trying to catch some lightning…Gutwillig provides with a nifty riff, although the song generally stays within the fence. Altman grows his presence, but stays on tempo and on track. Brownie plays some truly interesting phrases before heading back to the ascending bass riff that ends “Lai.” 

Perhaps it’s the slightly anti-climatic take on the old reliable Brownie standard that leads the band to fire up the burner one more time for another Marc chestnut, the warhorse “Bernstein and Chasnof,” although the quick count off points towards it being the original plan. “B&C” runs through its  jamband mocking lawyer nonsense raveup to get to some interesting and weird techno spots spliced into its composition. The bridge especially gets weird and danceable from the get-go, featuring some moog-like synth lines that couldn’t be sexier. The jam features an extended tease by Magner (of something I don’t recognize) that he began toying with in the “Lai” jam, which is picked up on by Brownie and Gutwillig. Altman keeps it straight, double kicking every so often to push the groove. The band is at its most evil circus at this point, splaying a lazy major key haunting over an increasingly threatening bass line. Psy-trance swirling in the air, the rhythm section hammers the floor while Magner swirls around the peripheral. Again, Gutwillig appears from nowhere while all the while commanding the middle of the spectrum. As the beat picks up the snare and grows in a controlled chaos, Brownie corners the pocket, laying down a throaty black web of bass. Gutwillig picks up on his movements, and then Magner…at the 8:00 mark, all three are in complete lockstep, composing the healthiest of hooks on the fly, in the midst of utter madness and rage. The mode shifts to major and the power infuses to the whole band. The whole band, at the end of their journey, stays with the plan. Tired, spent…they push on! The speed actually picks up, and the bassline returns to well worn territory. Gutwillig explodes in one final burst of thunder, shredding the top of the frets in a waterfall like effect, against Magner’s organ and piano. The lead line pierces the night in a speed-rush landslide, followed by the 6/8 coda that sees the fist pumps of the crowd in full display one last time. 
There are no spoken words after the show. No announcements…just a slide whistle somewhere in the random night. The band leaves the stage, heading to Philly to play 2 more shows over 2 nights.

“nothing, no splash, no flash and no sound
all that is left is my feet on the ground
Now I remember that life was a ball
When I was the person in search of it all

There's one in a million I'd be here today
There's one in a million that I get to stay
And if I ask my maker to see me through
When it seems there's nothing more that I can do”

The echoes of the amplifiers rang in Roseland, years before it ceased to exist. 17 years later, I still remember a lot of it. And like I said…it’s a part of me now.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Crepuscular Digest #4

Grateful Dead 03/30-4/01/80 The Capitol Theater, Passaic, NJ 

The rest of 1980 tends to get overshadowed, in my opinion, by the residencies/ acoustic sets at the Warfield and Radio City. They're great (I adore Reckoning) but  for a long time I figured that's all there was from 80. How wrong I was. The shows on either end of the residencies are very hot. Like 1979, I feel the lack of soundboards leads to the rest of 1980 being largely ignored by the masses.. Also like 79, there are tons of beautiful audience recordings like these to sink your teeth into, if you're willing to take the road less traveled.

Image titled Chris Goodspace Calise "East coast tour 1980"
Beautiful Barry Glassberg Audience Recording of 3/30/80 
The band comes out very hot with Alabama Getaway>Promised Land. Great crowd energy to start. They then pull a very interesting downshift so early in the show into a stately Peggy-O. The recording has a lovely balance of instruments, including more bass than usual which is great. You can hear the crowd but it adds atmosphere rather than distraction. Cassidy is very hot. Loser is appropriately haunting. The Garcia solo peaks with some deft playing. The power of this version lies in it's tasteful restraint. The rest of the set plays out just as well but I'll leave some mystery for the listener.

Usually a set with very few songs is a good indicator that a Disco Biscuits show is going to be good. This turns out to be true for this Grateful Dead second set. The set starts with Scarlet Begonias and the > section doesn't take long to get to soaring heights with the help of Brent Mydland's organ finesse. Jerry and Bobby's guitar interplay is crystal clear. The peak is monumental. So monstrous they flub a bit on the drop back into the composition. It doesn't take any shine off it however. Fire is very strong. Phil's bass sounds great in the mix and adds this amazing plodding dinosaur feel to the groove.

A quick pause and the band drops into a slinky Estimated Prophet. I mentioned the restraint in playing that made the loser so special. At 6:30 that same restraint makes the slide into the jam so interesting. Drums is strong and this rendering of Black Peter is especially good.  I found the show very enjoyable from top to bottom.

PS: John Belushi cartwheels on stage for the encore 

Poster/ program for the run
sennnheiser 421 mic audience recording transferred by Rob Eaton

The energy during band introductions and the Jack Straw opener is why I tend to prefer a good audience recording over a sterile soundboard. It paired perfectly with my morning coffee and drive into work, getting me stoked to tackle my day.  Brown Eyed Women, always a favorite of mine is quite lovely. Uptempo without the Ritalin feel the 80's often gets. There's a pretty intense interaction with an usher towards the end. Be forewarned. This is the first performance of Feel like a Stranger. The composition is appropriately shaky for the first go but the jam is wicked. Brent rips it on the synth tones.

The Lost Sailor is missing the second half and Saint of Circumstance is completely missing from the tape but no troubles since thy nail it the night before.  Terrapin is a decently magnificent as it often is. The really hot moment from this show for me is the jam out of Playing in the Band. It goes some really interesting places that remind you what a beast this was in 1972-74. 

Back to the Glassberg source for night 3 
 April fools!. The opening tune Promised Land,  featured guitarist Bob Weir on keyboards, keyboardist Brent Mydland and guitarist Jerry Garcia on drums, drummers Bill Kreutzmann on bass and Mickey Hart on rhythm guitar and vocals, and Phil Lesh on lead guitar (as per this jambase article) The GIF I found below is attributed to this show but that's definitely Billy on kit and not Brent so I'm not 100% sure who os where. The switch back to their standard instruments and proceed to blow the roof off with  a properly rearranged Promised land. The Me and My Uncle>big River has some extra swagger on top of the western swing groove. Friend of the Devil has a melodic and sweet solo from Garcia that really stands out. Jerry finishes up and Brent takes an equally sweet run.  It's all Over Now is especially long and very hot. Looks Like Rain is appropriately mournful and segues into a nice Deal to wrap the first set. The kick drum (I'm assuming Billy's) is especially present in the mix and driving.

Starting out set 2 is the second Feel Like a Stranger. This version is much more solid and at two minutes longer, gets taken out a bit further. Jerry Falsetto is still in full effect. The opening notes of China Cat Sunflower are really well received from the audience. Some excellent machine gun Jerry in the Rider solo. Estimated greats pretty deep then segues smoothly into He's gone. Great Banter at the begining of He's Gone: "I need a cigarette." "How about a joint?" I just had a joint, I need a cigarette". The proceeding big jam segment is a very satisfying and immersive sequence flowing through all the corners of the Grateful Dead's aural and spiritual universe. An unexpectedly beefy and groovin' Shakedown encore wraps up the show with a final squeeze of mustard. This run nicely samples what's so great about the nooks and crannies of 1980. Well worth the exploration!

The Disco Biscuits 8/11-12/03 Tussey Mountain Amphitheater, Boalsburg, PA 

 This was the end of a run of shows for Kieran, Michael, Mike, Crystal and I that started at the Amazura Ballroom in Queens, NY, then headed out to Waterloo Village in New Jersey and finally ended up at the Tussey Mountain Amphitheater in rural central Pennsylvania. The Amazura shows were at times great and at times fraught with tension as the band was visibly and audibly arguing on stage. The Waterloo village show in New Jersey was a festival set that we listened to from the parking lot. Only time I ever did that for the biscuits. Its in my Phantasy Tour stats but recently I've considered deleting it for ethical reasons.

During the northeast run of the summer 2003 tour, the Disco Biscuits integrated classical pieces in their sets. A lot of their early composition (especially Jon Gutwillig penned tunes) are essentially classical pieces with room to jam. So In the Hall of The Mountain King, Eine Kleine Nachtmusik and Peter's theme from Peter and the Wolf fit in really nicely. The culmination of this run is the Transmission Music Festival in Tennessee. By all accounts this was a magical event and one of the last truly small/fam biscuits events. For the day set on Saturday, the biscuits played a stripped down "acoustic" set up and played all the classical tunes they'd been playing throughout summer tour. This beautiful performance was immortalized on the Disco Biscuits first ever vinyl release.

Chase Banna Audience Recording
First of all, this was a really fun venue. It's a ski mountain in the winter and has go-karts, driving range and skate park in the summer. The lot scene was super chill. We had a blast enjoying the kind of summer fun that can only really be had in the time before the responsibilities of adulthood put a bit of damper on the easy and free feelings of youth.  On night one Keller Williams (the opener) sat in on Zepp's Whole Lotta Love. He really clicked with the Biscuits and it was a fun little departure from their usual. To satisfy the classic requirements of summer 03, the play Stone>Devil's Waltz (fakeout)>Waltz of the Flowers during set two.

Beautiful Jon Hatgis Aud
While night one was super fun with some great playing, night two is a real heater. This time Eine Kleine Nachmusik is interwoven throughout both sets to great effect in regard to energy flow and dynamic. I was really excited to hear it as an orchestra nerd. I played cello from third to sixth grade and double bass from Seventh into college. I always loved playing Mozart stuff. I think Metallica was the first band I really fell in love with and Mozart seemed pretty metal to me. The whole show is great but the segments of the second set get especially deep and awesome.

I had a good time at the shows and enjoyed the tapes but never really focused too much on them.  They had a nice breezy summer vibe to remind me of that lovely weekend in the middle of Nowhere, Pennsylvania with great friends and some light debauchery. Listening back to the tapes in 2018 as part of my 'all the biscuits shows I attending listening project', I think these shows are above average for 2003. I'd say night two is well above average for the entire 2002-2004 time period. It highlights the set construction of that time period. There are many little interlocking parts and sandwich's, spiced up with plenty of inverted and dyslexic segments. The setlists have a lot going on and a lot of songs compared to the 2018 Biscuits but the flow is definitely still there. I highly recommend rocking these tapes on a beautiful summer drive. You won't be disappointed.

Phil Lesh and Friends 7/2-3/99, The Warfield Theater, San Fransisco, CA

I'll admit it: I was wary of Phil and friends. When I first started seeing  post-Jerry Dead stuff, Warren Haynes was consistently the lead guitarist of Phil's bands (The Q) and I just didn't enjoy his interpretration of Grateful Dead music. I've since come around a great deal on Warren but still ended up preferring Bob Weir's post-dead projects more. Fast forward from the Lesh/ Hanyes days of early Phil and friends to 2018 and I'm falling hard for Steve Kimock. A link turns up for some decent video of the July 2001 run with Kimock on lead guitar before Warren Haynes joins the line-up. In spite of my Phil reservations, I'm mesmerized by a command performance driven by Bill Kruetzmann in fine form as the lone drummer. I love the Mickey/ Billy rhythm devils all out assault but its always a special treat to hear Billy alone carry it  like 1971-74. The rest of the line-up is rounded out by the Dave Nelson Band which gives a very unique twist to the sound. In 1999 Phil did a variety of 'Friends' line ups including most famously Trey Anastasio and Page McConnell of Phish. Here's the full line-up for the Warfield shows:

Bass: Phil Lesh
Drums:  Bill Kreutzmann
Guitar and vocals: David Nelson
Mookie Siegel: Keys
Barry Sless: guitar and pedal steel
Lead Guitar: Steve Kimock

Soundboard recording available for download

I watched the fan-shot video of 7/2 holding my son Rider while he slept. He was born on a few weeks previous and was still figuring out how to live. So I got to catch up on some music in the middle of the night for a few weeks hahaha. The Cryptical Envelopment is the first played by Dead members since 1985. The Other One that follows is as explosive at times as it is tasteful at other points. What keeps pulling me towards Kimock's music is so apparent in this performance: his understated and deliberate playing. He's so incredibly tasteful. The restraint  is what makes the notes he does play so weighty. The worst kind of jam music to me is 4-8 guys just blasting away at their instruments without any dynamic or nuance. This show it's clear that's not the musical experience we're getting

Several Dave Nelson songs find their way into this set and they fit surprisingly well. Fable of a Chosen One segues out of The Other One seamlessly and is a really cool tune. Lots of all-star line ups tend to fall flat in my opinion. While you can get a ton of great players together on stage, the chance of them finding real chemistry is slim. This run is oozing with chemistry. Another bias I have: Phil singing. I won't repeat any of the cliches but will go ahead and praise his vocal performance from these shows. I was prepared to cringe really hard for China Doll. It's a song that demands a strong yet nuanced delivery. Which he does really well here. David Nelson Band's Snake Bit segues back into The Other One>Cryptical in a satisfying tying up of loose ends.

Cumberland Blues is another showcase of Steve Kimock's tasteful and nuanced guitar work. The whole band is locked in and dynamic on Cumberland.  The meat of the show is the big segue way section in set 2: The Wizard's Son> The Wheel>Long Gone Sam>Dark Star>Morning Dew. As with the first set, classic Dead material is tastefully interspersed with Dave Nelson Band originals. The Wheel jam gets quite spacey, reminiscent at times of a 1973 Playing in the Band Jam. Spaciness leads very natural into the Dead's space odyssey, Dark Star. The segue from Dark Star into Morning Dew is especially ethereal and lovely. Chemistry, dynamics and tasteful restraint continue to be on display. Kimock. So much awesome. . On Dew Phil really blew me away vocally during the "I guess it doesn't matter anyway" section. The Box of Rain encore is worth mentioning since Dave Nelson plays the solo on the 1970 American Beauty studio album version which he does here as well.

Soundboard recording available for download
The second night starts with a pretty amusing joke from Phil. It goes on longer than expected but he actually has great timing/ pacing so its a nice little moment. Cold Rain and Snow has some intricate playing from Kimock, Lesh and Siegel as well as  a powerful jam. The Sugaree jam gets thoroughly deep into a furious peak which then cools down by nice keyboard runs from Siegel. Followed by solo runs from the rest of the players as well. The jam out of Uncle John's Band is a dreamlike, mesmerizing wander through the ether, taken back to the earth  by Dave Nelson Band's The Edge of the Wire. I'll admit I was concerned with Phil taking the lead vocal  when I saw Stella Blue on the setlist. Imagine my delight when I realized it was an instrumental version and a lovely one at that! Kimock's guitar playing the part of Garcia's vocals is an inspired choice. Wish You Were Here is the sort of tune that separates Phil projects from the rest of the post Jerry. He mines the larger 60's and beyond songbook on a nightly basis, while Bob stays within the boundaries of Deadlandia for the most part. The jam out gets really spacey and melodic then enters a roiling sea of ambient that ends before it should've in my opinion. Great spot for a segue. Help>Slip!>Frank is up next and gets super nasty three minutes into the Slipknot! jam and stays interesting all the way into Franklin's Tower. Some really fun, upbeat and melodic jamming throughout Franklin's with everyone contributing and listening to each other.

Set 2 starts to get really interesting around 13 minutes into Kick in the Head when Kruetzmann drops out and the jam gets spacey. He comes back in, adding direction to the space. It's clear we're heading towards Dark Star but no less fun with the knowing. It's especially neat that they decided to break up the two sections over the two nights. The transition from the jam into the composition is especially sweet and lovely. As is the transition into the always welcome Mountains on the Moon. This jam has a particularly ethereal feel carrying over from the Dark Star. The jam wanders back fully into a Dark Star theme at 9 minutes in. The right players in this line up do so much to paint a cohesive musical picture. This show is all about liquid smooth transitions. Without really noticing the segue I find myself grooving to Iko Iko. Lovely melodic jam then wooosh!, a Scarlet Begonias! I love how uniquely Phil puts together setlists for his band. It's so much more flexible than the last 17 or so years of Grateful Dead sets. Kimock really shines on the Scarlet>Fire transition. Sometimes I can't tell who is playing the lead but sometimes its so clear its him. Its great to hear Nelson on Ripple, as it is to hear him on Uncle John's Band and Box of rain as he contributed to the Recording of American Beauty and Workingman's Dead. He and the rest of the New Rider's were very much a part of that era and the wonderful sounds and songs it produced.

If you are perhaps a bit wary of Phil Lesh post-Garcia, as I was, I'd say this is a great little run to dive into. If you love Kimock as much as I am these days, these shows are terrific.

Steve Kimock with Phil and Friends 1999

Friday, July 27, 2018

Crown Point History

          The early history of the Lake Champlain region is marked by conflict between the French and English. Explorations by Verrazano and Cartier for the French and the Cabot’s for the English gave both sides claim to the Champlain Valley. The French gave this place the name “Pointe a la Chevelure” which designated the 2 points facing each other on either side of the lake (now known as Crown Point on the western shore and Chimney Point on the eastern shore).

           During King Williams War, the peninsula of Crown Point was used as a staging area for military campaigns. First by the French and Indians, who using Lake Champlain for transport, attacked and burned the settlement at Schenectady. In retaliation, British forces plan an invasion of Canada. British forces, commanded by Philip Schuyler used Crown Point as an advanced base in their attack on La Prairie, south of Montreal (Furness 1998).

           As early as the summer of 1700, the French established a trading post at the Pointe a la Chevelure for commerce between the French and the English.  Doubtless they built a simple fortification on the point, a blockhouse or fortified storehouse (Coolidge 1979).  At the resolve of queen Anne’s War , the Treaty of Utrecht was signed which established Split Rock (18 miles north of Crown Point) as the border between French and British territories. The French, in direct defiance of the treaty, built a small wooden stockade on Chimney Point known as fort de pieux (fort of posts). With French control of the area now established, the French government moved forward on plans for a more permanent and substantial fortification (Furness 1998).

           MM. de Beaucharnois and Hocquart recalled to his majesties attention, November 14, 1731 (when the fort had scarcely been completed) that it should only be a temporary establishment, and proposed to him construction of a redoubt “a machicoulis” of which the design was enclosed. This redoubt was contemplated as much for the safety of the post as to avoid the considerable expense to construct a regularly designed fort (Coolidge 1979).

      Chaussegros de Lery, The king’s engineer in New France, drew up plans and began construction on the new, stone fortification, this time on the western shore of the point in 1734. Construction of the fortification was completed in November of 1737. It was named Fort St. Frederic, in honor of the minister of the department de la marine, Frederic Maurepas. When the redoubt is finished the governor suggests a permanent garrison of 120. This redoubt became the citadel, the central stronghold of the post of St Frederic. A list of the French Commanders who served at Crown Point follows (Coolidge 1979).
                                        These Officers held the rank of Captain
Pierre Hertel de Montcour1
René Boucher de la Perriére
Claude Hertel de Beaulac2
Pierre-Jacques Payen de Noyan
1734, 1736
Daniel Migeon de la Gauchetiére
Pierre de Saint-Ours
Paul-Joseph Lemoyne de Longueil
François Duplessis Faber
Antoine-François Pècaudy de Contrecour
Paul Bécard de Grandville-Fonville
Charles le Gardeur de Croizille
Pierre Joseph de Céloron3
Charles de Sabrevois
Paul Louis Dazemard de Lusignan4
Ignace-Phillipe Aubert de Gaspé
Louis Herbin

       A quarry of limestone had been discovered nearby. Little by little the high, thick walls had risen, the redoubt had become the citadel- so solid that it was used for the storage of bombs and other war munitions’; within the enclosure of the Fort, a church and stone barracks for officers and men had been constructed (Coolidge 1979).

        A chapel occupied the bastion opposite the Guard House, serving the needs of the garrison and settlers alike. The Parish Records note French as well as Native American baptisms, marriages, and burials. Two interments took place within the chapel: Pierre St. Ours (1736) son of the Fort's Commander, and Genevieve leTendre, Madame Radisson (1740) (Furness 1998).

   The earliest map dates to 1737, the date of the forts completion, but it represents probably what was planned and not necessarily what was actually built. Shown within the south side of the fort is a single building labeled “powder magazine”. Visitors to the fort in later years mentioned the powder room as being in the citadel located at the other side of the fort (Feister 1999).
1737 French Map
       A stone windmill was built at government expense in 1740 to grind locally produced grain. It was located on the point of land south of the Fort where the Champlain Memorial now stands. Several cannon were mounted on its upper floor so it could serve as a defensive work. Judging from deLery's plans for this mill, it was almost identical to one still standing on Ille Perrot, near Montréal (Furness 1998).

                  In 1740 the War of Austrian Succession or King George’s War in North America Broke out between England and France and their ally Spain. Although most of the major campaigns took place in Europe, Canada and the West Indies, Fort St. Fredric served as the launching point for raids on English held territory in New York and New England.  In 1745, the French and their Native American allies raided the northern most English settlement in Saratoga established by the Schuyler family.  The raid destroyed the fort, 20 houses. A total of 30 settlers were killed.  The English rebuilt the fort.  The French raids continued in 1746 as far south as Albany where the Van Iverson Farm house, located across the Hudson River from the English fort in the city was burned and four members of the family were killed.  In 1747, the French once again attack the fort and settlement at Saratoga,  forcing the British and settlers to retreat to Albany.  In 1748, Peace between France and England was reestablished by the Treaty Aix-La-Chapelle where England returned Louisburg in Nova Scotia to France in return for receiving Madras in the Indies from France. 

      Two different British maps, versions of which are sometimes called “British Spy Maps", appear to be next in the map sequence. Both maps showed three buildings, a long one between two small ones, along the south side of the fort, and they are labeled “Store Houses” on the “PLAN OF FORT FREDERIC” version of the map. Important to the dating of these maps is the lack of a chapel in the nearby southwest bastion. Although the maps are regarded as generally unreliable as to scale, they do indicate what buildings were present in the fort’s interior. The maps date probably sometime prior to 1749, the date of the first map to show the chapel. Peter kalm, visited the fort in 1749, and mentioned the ‘well built little church' being located in the bastion where maps drawn after that date place the chapel (Fiester  1999).

pre-1750 British Spy Map

     A description of the Fort by Professor Peter Kalm as he saw it in 1749 sheds light on it's appearance at this time: “July 19th- Fort St. Frederic is a fortification on the southern extremity of Lake Champlain, situated on a neck of land, between that lake and the river which arises from the union of the River Woodcreek and lake St. Sacrament. The fort is built on a rock, consisting of black lime-slates, it is nearly quadrangular, has high and thick walls, made of the same limestone, of which there is a quarry about half a mile from the fort. On the eastern part of the fort is a high tower, which is proof against bomb shells, provided with very thick and substantial walls, and well stored with cannon from the bottom almost to the very top: the Gov. lives in the tower. In the terre-plein of the fort is a well built little church, and houses of stone for the officers and soldiers. There are sharp rocks on all sides towards the land, beyond cannon shot from the fort, and very near them….To the east of the Fort is a windmill built of stone, with very thick walls, and most of the flour that is wanted to supply the Fort is ground here. The windmill is so contrived as to serve the purpose of redoubt, and at the top are 5 or 6 small pieces of cannon” (Kalm 1972).

         When comparing the “British Spy Maps” with a map dated to 1749 or 1750, several changes have taken place in number and arrangement of buildings as well as the addition of the aforementioned chapel (Fiester 1999).
1949/50 map

At the dawn of the French and Indian War, in 1755, a meeting of colonial Governors at Alexandria, Virginia identified four main objectives for the coming military campaign: Fort Duquesne (PA), Fort Niagara (NY), Fort Beausejour (Nova Scotia) and Fort St. Frédéric. In response to escalating aggression by the British in their campaign against Fort St. Frédéric, the French began construction in October 1755 of Carillon (later called Fort Ticonderoga) to serve as a buffer between the British position of Fort William Henry at Lake George and Fort St. Frédéric. The new timber fortification was not completed until the fall of 1758.  (Furness 1998).

       The British, with the largest standing army every assembled in the Americas at the time, began their advance on Fort Saint Frederic with in initial ill-fated attempt on the Carillon. They were forced to withdraw and the then commander General James Abercromby was replaced by General Jeffry Amherst.

        A British force of 12,000 individuals continued to advance on French positions led by General Jeffry Amherst in 1759. The French, well aware of the huge forces mounting against them decided to withdraw from their positions in the Champlain valley to Isle aux Noix. The French forces, then numbering about 2300 in the valley were reduced to about 200. Civilians were evacuated and their homesteads were destroyed. The British attempt another siege at the Carillon, this time resulting in the French setting fire to the fort and retreating to Fort Saint Frederic. In July of 1759 General Amherst’s forces reached Fort Saint Frederic. Upon their arrival the French blew up the windmill and the redoubt and continued their retreat (Furness 1998).

 A discussion of the regimental history of the British army, written by Lawrence Xinakes, from this period follows and serves to further clarify British action and its effects on Crown Point.

1752 map, the last before the French withdraw and destroy the Redoubt. 

In 1731, Jeffry Amherst was enlisted as an ensign in the foot guards. He served in the Austrian Succession War (1740-1748) and years later in the European Theater during the French and Indian War (Seven Years War 1755-1763). General Pitt chose Amherst to lead the British assault on Louisbourg, Canada in 1758. Later, he became the Commander-In-Chief of British forces in the North American Theater. In 1759, Amherst planned a three-pronged attack into Canada. This consisted of a westward push up the Saint Lawrence to Quebec, a Northward invasion from Albany by ways of Lake George and Lake Champlain, and in West Niagara. All objects were completed and played a role in capturing and occupying Fort Ticonderoga (Fort Carillon) and Crown Point (Fort Saint Frederic). In 1760, Amherst captured Montreal. General Amherst was than appointed Governor-General of British North America, he held that post until 1763.

     General Amherst commanded several regiments while stationed at Crown Point. These included the 27th (Inniskilling), the 42nd (Black Watch), the 55th Regiment, and the 1st of foot 2nd Battalion of Royal Regiment among others.

     The Inniskilling was formed by General Zachariah Tiffin in 1689. The Inniskilling was designated 27th Regiment in 1751. During the French and Indian War, they served in the operations at Fort Ticonderoga and Crown Point, and afterwards Montreal. In 1761, the 27th was removed to Nova Scotia and engaged in the Capture of Martinique and Grenada and Havana, Cuba, after the West Indies, the 27th Regiment went to New York and than back to Canada, where it served until 1767.

    Dubbed the Black Watch, the 42nd Highland Regiment of Foot was formed in 1739 by John, The Earl of Crawford. In 1758, the 42nd lost over half of the regiment during the 1st battle of Fort Ticonderoga (Fort Carillon). In 1759, they saw action at the 2nd battle of Ticonderoga and in 1760, the surrender by the French Governor of Canada in Montreal. They were then sent to the West Indies where they saw action in campaigns in Havana, Martinique and Guadeloupe. In 1763, they went to relieve Fort Pitt (now Pittsburgh)a and helped to put down the Pontiac rebellion.

    In 1755, the 57th Regiment (55th Regiment) was formed in Stirling (Scotland) and George Perry was appointed as Colonel. The 57th officially became the 55th Regiment in 1757 by removing two corps from its line. They also fought in the first battle of Ticonderoga and had many casualties including their commander, General Howe. Under the direction of General Amherst, the 55th was engaged in the second battle of Ticonderoga, Crown Point and other operations in 1759. Like the 27th and 42nd, the 55th Regiment was stationed at Crown Point in the winter of 1759-1760. In 1760, they saw combat at Isle-Aux-Noix and Montreal. They were sent to Florida at the end of the French and Indian War to bring regiments who were there to strength.

    1st of Foot 2nd battalion of the Royal Regiment was formed in 1633 by John Hepburn. In 1757, the 1st Foot commanded by John Campbell and other regiments were ordered to North America and landed in Halifax, Nova Scotia for preparation on an attack of Louisbourg, Cape Breton Island. Due to the Royal navy not being able to secure the surrounding areas, the attack on Louisbourg was put on hold until 1758. Under General Amherst, the attack on Cape Breton commenced on June 8, 1758. The British bombarded the fortified city of Louisbourg for nearly 2 months. On July 25 1758, Louisbourg surrendered. In 1759, 1st of foot was involved with the 2nd Battle of Ticonderoga and Crown Point (Fort Saint Frederic). They helped to erect the British fort at Crown Point. Later that year they were ordered to New Jersey for the winter. In 1760, the 1st was summoned to the Carolinas, to subdue the attacks on settlers by the Cherokee. When peace was declared, the regiment went back to England.

                 Amherst, noting the strategic position the fort held began constructing new fortifications at the site in order to secure his position in the valley. The Grenadiers redoubt became a focal point in reinvigorating the defensive positions at Crown Point. The Redoubt occupied almost the entire point of land where the windmill had stood (Huey 1995).

1759 map showing British improvements

     Clockwise around the interior from the entrance were a Guard House, the well and Well House, the Officers Barracks, the King's Bastion (or flag bastion) the Soldiers Barracks, the Magazine, the wood-framed Armory, and the brick-fronted New Officers Barracks. The barracks were laid out as multiple units of four rooms (two upstairs, two down, with central entrance hallways containing stairs) joined end-to-end. Twenty enlisted men shared a room; the number of officers sharing quarters was determined by rank. Bomb-Proof rooms were located within the rampart around the inside perimeter. Used for storage of supplies and provisions, they could also provide shelter in case of bombardment. Three smaller forts, the Grenadier Redoubt, the Light Infantry Redoubt and Gage's Redoubt, mounted ten cannon each and protected the main fort at a distance of five hundred yards. Two and a half miles south of Fort Crown Point, a line of three blockhouses across the base of the peninsula provided a first line of defense against land attack (Furness 1998). 

1774 Montressor map showing position of Grenadiers Redoubt at the location of the French windmill
 The 10 years after The French and Indian conflict proved to be fairly quiet. This period is marked by the settlement of outlying areas by British civilians. A small town was founded and including many of the typical businesses of the time. The fort fell into disrepair since the British government was hesitant to spend money for fortifications during peace time (Furness 1998).

        The British Fortress burned accidentally in 1773 and in 1774 it was proposed to enlarge the Grenadiers Redoubt to replace the recently burned fortress (Huey 1995).  

          Early in the American Revolution both Ticonderoga and Crown Point Fell under control of the Americans due to campaigns led by Benedict Arnold and Ethan Allen. In 1775 work began salvaging what could be salvaged from the fire. After several failed campaigns and the ravages of smallpox took their toll, the American Army’s general officers made the decision to move the troops to Mount Independence and the sick and wounded to Fort George. When the British arrived in 1776 they found the Fort Largely abandoned (Furness 1998).

      From 1783-1784 Crown Point was occupied, except during the winter, by British troops. Their fleet continued regular patrols the lake. In 1778/79 Major Christopher Carleton staged a series of raids on American Settlers in the valley, and a number of prisoners were carried to Canada. Under the terms of the Treaty of Paris which ended the war, the British abandoned their position at Crown Point and withdrew to Canada (Furness 1998). 

     After the American Revolution, the property on which the Fort resides changed hands several times and was once held by Union College of Schenectady. Once peace was established and commerce grew on Lake Champlain, the need for a lighthouse at the point became evident. In 1853 Major William D. Fraser reiterated the need for a lighthouse at Crown Point, stating that those best acquainted with navigation on Lake Champlain felt a light to guide vessels through the narrow, one-half mile channel between Crown Point and Chimney Point was needed more than at any other point on the lake. In 1858 an octangular lighthouse 55 feet tall with a domestic dwelling attached to serve the lighthouse keeper was constructed. This structure served its purpose for 50 years. In 1909, in order to celebrate the tri-centennial of Champlain’s discovery, the existing lighthouse was modified into a monument. This monumental revamp included Doric columns and a bust by Rodin. A skeletal structure was erected near the water in order to take over the functional role of the lighthouse (Clifford 1999).   

Clifford, George
            1999     Lake Champlain Lighthouses. Clinton County Historical Association. 

Coolidge, Guy O.
           1938      The French Occupation of the Champlain Valley from 1609 to 1759. Harbor Hill Books, 
                          Harrison, NY. [1979 reprint]. 
Feister, Lois M.
            1999      Archaeological Investigations at the Oven Ruins in the French Fort at Crown Point State Historic
                          Site, Essex County, New York. New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation,
                          Bureau of Historic Sites, Peebles Island, Waterford, NY.  

Furness, Gregory T.
           1997     Crown Point (Pointe a la Chevelure) An Outline History, American Historic Lakes, Lake Champlain
                         and Lake George Historical Site, South Hero, Vermont.

Huey, Paul R.
            1995     Preliminary Report on Rescue Excavations Near the Champlain Memorial Lighthouse and Site of
                        Grenadiers Redoubt at Crown Point, 1978. New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic   
                        Preservation, Bureau of Historic Sites, Peebles Island, Waterford, NY.

 Kalm, Peter
           1972       Travels into North America, Translated by John Reinhold Forster. The Imprint Society, Barre, Mass.