Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The Grateful Dead Marin Veterans Memorial Auditorium 3/28/-4/1/84

I first got interested in spring 1984 after reading reviews for the Niagara Falls show and the use of delay effects on the vocals, most notably during the Black Peter. Many of the reviews of the show for the archive recording are actually worth the read (this is not always the case haha) and give a nice sampling of tour stories. Check out the Niagara Falls recording here. It actually took me at least a year from reading those reviews to actually listening to the show as I was very focused on soundboard recordings at the time. I had the audience recording breakthrough, as I imagine many Dead fans have, listening to the stunning Ken and Judy Lee Capitol theater recordings from 1970. As these things go, one good show begets another listen so I checked out the Rochester show. I then found a neat snippet of fan shot footage of the lot scene for those two nights (check it out here). All of a sudden I was hooked on Fall 1984 and decided to try and listen to all of it. Most of the audience recordings from this time are pretty delightful to listen to which is awesome considering how few soundboards circulate from 1984. Since my listening path for spring 1984 started organically I listened to a good chunk of April before backtracking to the start of tour, the Rex Foundation Benefit shows at the Marin Veterans Memorial Auditorium.

I always like to include album artwork with my shows so I have a visual to associate with each recording. Sometimes I use the stub, a backstage pass or a poster from the show. Pulling images from this run led me to the excellent write up of the venue from Jerry's Brokedown Palaces blog (here). It turns out the venue was one Frank Loyd Wright's last designs. I always love to imagine how the setting affected the show and I can only imagine how music performed in such a thoughtfully planned out, unique and beautiful venue would've been enhanced for the fans and the band. With a capacity of under 2,000 this must've been an intimate run indeed.

beautiful audience recording from Da Weez 
 Set 1
Iko Iko, CC Rider, Loser, El Paso, West L.A. Fadeaway, Beat It On Down The Line, Candyman, Let It Grow

Set 2
Ain't No Lie, Hell In A Bucket, China Cat Sunflower>I Know You Rider, Playin' In The Band>Don't Need Love>Drums>Space>The Wheel>Truckin'>Spoonful>Around and Around>Johnny B. Goode  E: Touch Of Grey

The show and tour start out with a bang with the band swinging into a high energy Iko Iko. They're still shaking off the dust a bit but its clear from the jump that the band is in fine spirits and excited to play. It must've been a comfortable setting, right in their backyards. Lots of family and friends in the audience. The recording is gorgeous, with each member's contributions audible but not overpowering. The vocal interplay between Jerry and Brent is a delight to listen to. Normally I'd be a little irritated to have to get right into a C.C. Rider this early in the show but the extended intro jam is well played and gives further indication that the night is going to be pretty special. Excellent Hammond Organ work from Brent Mydland throughout. A strong C.C. Rider is followed up with an excellent Loser. My standards for this song are very high as its my favorite Grateful Dead song and this one certainly delivers. The impact of the band returning into the chorus after Jerry's main solo is especially impressive as are the licks he effortlessly throws over said chorus.

A well played El Paso leads the way towards a prolonged buildup to West L.A. Fadeaway. This to me is a quintessential 80's Dead tune and they nail this one with feeling. Beat it on Down the Line appears towards the end of set one a lot during Spring 1984 and this is one of many solid versions. At this point the Dead have played music in at least five different styles/ genres without jarring the audience. True masters of style. I love 83-84 era Candyman along with its siblings Sugaree and Friend of the Devil. Nice chugging, groovy (choogly a la thoughts on the dead) tune with lots of tasteful Brent playing. I really love his sound palate for 1984. It really makes the sound in my opinion. It's dark, brooding and spacey. An uptempo Let it Grow Signals the end of set one.

Set two gets a pretty unique start with the only electric performance of Oh Babe, It Ain't No Lie. It's well played and though mellower than you'd expect to start set two, definitely works. Bobby gets things warmed up in much more typical fashion with another 80's staple, Hell in a Bucket next. The energy stays high for a very well played China>Rider. They really nail pretty much everything they touch on 3/28. Playing in the Band is one of the bands first deeper excursions for the night. An interesting effect from this time period is a deep 'gonging' sound Brent uses. Check out a shakedown from 84 for a good example of this. He uses this effect quite well in this spacey but directed Playing jam. The band segues nicely into the first performance of the Brent tune I Don't Need Love. They will only play I don't Need Love 16 times between 1984-86. It's a pretty little tune very much in the cannon of Brent themes (heartbreak and loss, relationship troubles) that perhaps suffered due to its  consistent set 2 placement. I think this song may have found legs as a set 1 tune, in the Friend of the Devil/ Sugaree spot. It segues nicely into the nights drums>space segment.

1984 drums>space tend to have a pretty mellow drums segment, often utilizing world percussion, as opposed to attacking the kits hard. The drummers hang back for a minute while Jerry gets established for space. The space is sparse at first with effects drenched interplay between Jerry and Bobby. they pick up steam and intensify before drifting back into some gorgeous melodic interplay signaling the approach of the Wheel. I adore wheels from 83-84. Once again, Brent's sound palate in this era really sets the tone for beautifully plaintive, melodic yet somehow ominous performances of this beast. They don't settle in for long, launching into a spirited Truckin'>Spoonful>Around and Around>Johnny B. Goode to close out the second set. Very tight segue from Truckin' to Spoonful, which isn't usually my jam. It just proves how spot on they are tonight if Spoonful has me bopping along. A better than average Touch of Grey encore puts this great night in the books. I adore this show so much. To me it stands with the best of spring 84.


Another lovely audience tape from Da Weez 

 Set 1
Walkin' The Dog> Bertha> Promised Land, It Must Have Been The Roses, Little Red Rooster, Bird Song, My Brother Esau, Might As Well

Set 2
Shakedown Street, Estimated Prophet>Eyes Of The World>Drums>Space>Spanish Jam>The Other One>Wharf Rat>Sugar Magnolia
E: Day Job
Listen here

The second night starts with one of the seven Grateful dead performances  of Rufus Thomas's early 60's hit Walkin' the Dog. It leads off a medley that cruises through solid versions of Promised Land and Bertha. Once again the recording is phenomenal, taped by "Da Weez" using two Beyer M160 microphones and a Sennheiser 421. I've seldom met an It Must have Been the Roses I didn't like and this streak continues with 3/29's version. Lovely singing and soloing from Jerry all bright and close enough to touch on this Aud recording. Brent's keys and harmonies serve as a perfect counterpoint to Jerry's quavering but strong delivery. Next up, Bobby takes center stage for Little Red Rooster with appropriate swagger. When he sings the 'hounds begin to howl' line, the audience howls. Both times through. Pretty cool moment I wouldn't have caught if this was a soundboard recording. Much to my delight Brent takes a verse in this one. I'm not sure when exactly he starts doing this but the part definitely stays in for his remaining years with the band. Note to self: Future research topic. Bobby takes his slide solo of course. I have nothing else to add to this.

As a slide guitar palate cleanser, Jerry steps up next for a spacey Birdsong. This song ends up in the first set a good amount in 1984 and is a welcome addition. It was shelved from 1973-1980 (I can't fathom why) then stays in rotation till the end. Its a nice safe place to stretch out some jams in the first set. Jerry and Phil chase each other around quite nicely through some nimble runs with lovely rhythm work from Bobby supporting their excursions. The rhythm devils aren't sleeping on the job for this Birdsong either, driving the jam to its peak starting at the 7:00 mark. Another popular mid eighties first setter My Brother Esau slinks up next. I love the groove to this song and the 'shadowboxing the apocalypse, wandering the land' line. Really fun tune I wish had stayed around a bit longer. Jerry takes a really nice run after the first chorus. Might as Well grooves the first set to its conclusion.

As Jerry and the boys take their first experimental strums of Shakedown Street the audience erupts. You'd be excited too. The intro instrumental part is an opportunity to check out the 'space gong' Brent effect I keep muttering about. This Shakedown is a nice mid-tempo example with some jamming but they don't get too crazy. Estimated Prophet is next and is also played at would could be described as mellow pace. There is some nice jamming out of the 'glory' section around 5 minutes in. The Estimated jam builds nicely into a fairly uptempo Eyes of the World. Typically the faster Eyes don't do it for me but this one is pretty solid and flows nicely into a delay-drenched marimba drums segment. Billy and Mickey eventually wander throughout their playland, getting into some tom rhythms before going after everything in sight to peak the drums jam intensely. Space starts with some ominous woodwind-like guitar sounds from Saint Jerome with some delay keyboard interjections from Brent and feedback from Bobby.

Long before they head into Spanish jam, Jerry is already teasing The Other One. I feel like he just couldn't resist teasing that riff in space> jams. I always hear it very early on in the jam. In this case before another entire jam hahaha. This is one of three Spanish jams in 1984. While it was dropped from the catalog between 1976 and 1981, It does take the ride with them for most of their career, though a rarity after its resurrection, usually only played 2-3 times a year. I suspect that maybe Bobby started this one, hence the Jerry Other One licks a song early. He got vetoed! All speculation of course. The Spanish Jam theme develops its leviathan like pace, unwinding tendrils of psychedelia until Phil rumbles in with his trademark Other One bass run. It's a strong entry with nary a Jerry tease to be heard (he already done teased it a song ago!) and plenty of slick interplay before Bobby comes in with the Spanish lady verse. Brent is particularly strong throughout this section. Out of TOO comes crepuscular-favorite Wharf Rat, and what a lovely Wharf Rat it is! The sustained organ/ Jerry/ Brent harmony during 'I know that the life I'm living's no good' section gave me chills on my second listen. Nothing says set 2B like Sugar Mags so here it comes with the band locked in and groovin. I really dig Day Job, especially as an encore and double especially as it allegedly ruffled the feathers of the fanbase a bit. The Dead apparently really dug it in 1984 as well, playing it 19 times, usually to close out set 1 or in the encore spot. Night two of the run doesn't quite have the clout of night one but is no slouch either with some very solid, if somewhat mellow, playing across the board. 

Legendary GD taper Rango Keshavan's wonderful recording

 Set 1
Alabama Getaway-> Feel Like A Stranger, Dupree's Diamond Blues, Minglewood Blues, Dire Wolf, Hell In A Bucket-> Althea-> Looks Like Rain-> Deal

Set 2
Scarlet Begonias-> Fire On The Mountain-> Women Are Smarter, He's Gone-> Drums-> Blues For Allah Jam-> Throwing Stones-> Not Fade Away,
 E: It's All Over Now Baby Blue

Night three of the run starts with the standard early 80's opener Alabama Getaway. This tune gets played the most in 1980 with 51 versions. By 1984 its in steep decline with only 8 plays. This is a fun version with Jerry singing great (especially for 1984) and some nice Hammond lines from Brent. Phil is really grooving and pushing the energy nicely. It's great to hear him so clearly in this audience recording, this time Rango Keshavan using a Sony ECM-220T mic. I find he's often lost in 80's soundboards. I'm always excited for an early first set Feel Like a Stranger. Much like Bird Song as I discussed in the 3/29 review, Stranger is great place in the first set to get some solid improv time in. First though, I rate any Stranger first and foremost by Brent's delivery of the "It's gonna be a long, long, crazy, crazy night" line. Fairly standard delivery. Strong but not raging. It leads nicely into some fun Jerry/ Bobby interplay with Phil grooving hard again. Gotta love Dupree's from this era. Brent uses a very calliope/ carnival voice for his keys part. The New Haven 4/23/84 version of Dupree's has an even more pronounced Brent Circus feel. Minglewood drops with huge thundering bass from Phil. He's really destroying this first set. Next comes a big surprise for me from my favorite dead member: Brent does a scat solo during Minglewood! So fun and rockin'. He doesn't bust this out again on any of the other 84 shows.

Dire Wolf comes trotting in next and is a fun, melodic and upbeat rendition. I want to mention again that Phil sounds great but won't say it again in this review. I'll only point out if this changes. Jerry is just the right amount of ragged on the strong vocal lines ("but the cards were all the same"). The intro to Hell in a Bucket is nice and tight. It's an easy song to dismiss but when they're ripping like on 3/31 it'll probably be pretty hot. This one definitely is. Micky and Billy sound especially tight and are all over their kits. The setlist notes a segue into Althea. I assure you there is not a segue. Althea has a nice slow groove. This whole run is uncharacteristically slow for the time period in a very good way. They're taking their time and come off as relaxed. Althea is always a treat to me. While Robert Hunter wrote his songs in a voice meant to be taken as a narrator, I feel like he wrote Althea for Jerry specifically, to be told from his perspective. The conversation within has a very intimate feel. On to another intimate tune, Looks Like Rain. Another conversation between a man and woman, this time written by John Perry Barlow and sung by Bob Weir. It starts off sweetly and quietly and works up to a really nice peak. I love the Bobby and Donna duet era of this tune but this is a really nice post Donna version. Once again a segue is noted but they totally wrap up LLR before starting up the deal. This Deal rocks! Certainly not life changing or anything but I wouldn't kick it out of bed for ending my first set.

All the deadheads rejoice for Scarlet>Fire leads off set two! The band launches right into it with minimal opening noodling. Jerry sounds strong and confident vocally. His guitar work throughout the transition is very nice as well. The jam is constantly moving and he's definitely steering the ship. Some very interesting rhythmic grooves happen as the build into Fire on the Mountain really gets going. This is group improv at its finest. Everyone is contributing without stepping over each others lines. Ensemble jamming. Things quiet down a bit though before the segue with some really melodic Jerry. Then they build things back up before quieting down all over again. Phil then Jerry each throw out a Fire riff in with the rest of the band biting but no one rushing. Lots of subtle support from Brent. The final minute of Scarlet...just listen. So lovely. Then Jerry plays the line we've all been waiting for with the rhythm devils picking up the charge and the rest of the gang not far behind. Not too fast and not too slow, the perfect Fire groove once again showcases some wonderful ensemble jamming. This is the scarlet>Fire people go to XXX shows to catch. Just so on point. Fire on the Mountain I'm sure was non-stop high fives and hugs in the crowd. As with the Scarlet, the verses and chorus are strong and largely flub free. Every Jerry solo between is interesting and directed. Jerry 100% slays the dragon on the final solo/peak about 11 minutes in with some great Bobby support.

Without any time to smoke a butt, they launch into Man Smart (Women Smarter). Its delivered at a nice loping pace and is a fine cool down from the raging Scarlet>Fire without losing momentum. He's Gone starts off dreamy, reminiscent of how Wheels come out of Space in this time period. Nice Jerry work on the solo, lazy loping guitar with Brent doing some space gongs to compliment. Jerry continues to be the right amount of ragged, sounding especially sincere on this tune. The vocal interplay with Brent and Bobby on the "Nothing's gonna bring him back" section is wonderfully intimate on this recording using some delay effect to get weird towards its end. Drums starts out with some heavy tom rhythms before wandering into some delayed marimba noodling which sounds at times like water droplets plunking. As is normal, things get weirder and peak before drums trickles down into space. Jerry has the Close Encounters effect on with Brent making wind chime sounds behind him. Bobby soon joins in with some heavily processed effect and chases Jerry's lines around. Once again, things get weird and peak. And then get ever so much weirder. Really really deep space section. The Opening chords of Throwing Stones are expertly placed and come out of a truly beautiful and sparkling passage. Throwing Stones is a tune that really grew on me through time. I dismissed it as a standard 80's Bobby tune at first, but I love all the different sections and how they progress. The political lyrical content is still totally relevant even if every line doesn't necessarily age well. So many great individual and evocative lyrics. They stretch out the instrumental segment after the "we are on our own" passage nicely. You can tell all night the band just wanted to play. It's such a nice feeling to shine through the recording (Phil sounds great, I don't care what I said earlier about not mentioning it again). The very natural segue into Not Fade Away is not entirely a surprise but still always nice to hear. This is a pretty spicy version with a solid jam. You'd think things were wrapped up when they launch into the clap and chant segment but lo and behold, Micky and Billy decide to come back in and jam with the clappers! A magical live music moment to be sure. Baby Blue is a peaceful, serene way to wrap up a show and they launch into it without really pausing at the end of NFA.

This show really grew on me after the second listen. Lots of gold here for the deadhead willing to pan a bit.

 Listen Here

  Set 1
Jack Straw, Friend Of The Devil, Me And My Uncle>Mexicali Blues, Big Railroad Blues, Cassidy, Tennessee Jed, My Brother Esau>Don't Ease Me In

Set 2
Help On The Way>Slipknot!>Franklin's Tower>Samson And Delilah, Terrapin Station>Drums> Space>Morning Dew, I Need A Miracle>Goin' Down The Road Feeling Bad>Good Lovin'

E: Touch Of Grey

I love Jack Straw. So very much. Much of the symbolism and flavor of the Dead universe is on display here along with some terrific composition. There is tons of room for Jerry to get nasty and he does so all over this opener. The band and crowd seem ready to go and there's a terrific energy surge from the "you keep us on the run" line. My first introduction to this time in the Dead's career was listening to Lake Placid 1983. It was my first time hearing the 80's 'reggae' Friend of the Devil. I was fascinated and wanted to delve deeper. Here in the second song is a fine example of this interpretation of Friend of the Devil with great sparkling Brent play to keep the subtle groove moving. Next up the boys rip through a Me and My Uncle>Mexicali Blues. They are a well executed energy shift from the mellow shuffle of the FOTD. Jerry is on point and deftly lays bright and vibrant lines throughout Me and My Uncle. The drummers polka beat us right into Mexicali. The band doesn't really bother to catch their breath before launching into Big Railroad Blues. They seem quite fired up to wrap up a stellar 4 night run. This tune was played a good amount in the Pigpen era but got retired during Keith's tenure with the band. It was resurrected when Brent joined the line up. His Hammond and vocal harmonies are perfect for Big Railroad. More great Jerry playing throughout this one. He is red hot in the first set.

Cassidy is up next and always welcome in my book. I think it may be my favorite piece of Barlow writing. So poetic and evocative without being overly cheesily psychedelic. The instrumental interludes in between verses are quite lovely and they execute them perfectly on this night. Its a concise performance at just over 5 minutes though Jerry still manages to rip the peak apart. Tennessee Jed is the first real break in tempo in 4 songs. It's nice to catch your breath and chug through a classic dead groove. It's pretty standard though Jerry managed to rip this peak up as well. Sense a theme for the April Fools show? Jerry Jerry Jerry.  Up next is one of the two repeats of the run, My Brother Essau. I'm not complaining though, I'm a big fan. More lovely poetry from John Perry Barlow. Lots of room to take what you want from this tune and related to your life or experiences. The whole band is locked in nicely and I would describe the tempo as rollicking. Brent shines in a subtle way and Bobby delivers the vocals with conviction. Don't Ease Me In signals the end of set 1 with able playing on this Henry Thomas tune from the whole gang.

So yeah, folks get excited to hear the initial noodlings of Scarlet Begonias to start set 2 right? How about hearing the opening strains of Help on the Way? Electricity. Phil and Brent interweave quite nicely to get us off the ground while Micky and Billy play a driving beat that would've had me dancing. Help>Slip!>Frank to me is a defining segment to this band. Full of mystery and possibility yet a great version was not a given. Not by a long shot. After its debut and some amazing performances from 75-77 it was shelved until 1983. It was played only 9 times in 1984 and was shelved again from 87-89. They rip through Help and the Slipknot! section gets pretty far out there pretty quick with Jerry leading the way out into Space. The Rhythm Devils keep a steady driving beat throughout though. It's a full band commitment to swirling, with a moment of eye-of-the-hurricane-stillness, before the peak the eff out of the Slipknot! and locking back into the composition. God is Franklin's Tower triumphant! While the entire suite is uptempo its not so fast that the subtlety of interplay gets lost. While Jerry destroys set 1, he's not exactly napping during set 2. the second solo section around 4 minutes in has some especially brilliant guitar work from our tragic hero. Tight funky and fun, while this is hardly a best ever Franklin's, it is pretty great. It seems at the end like Micky and Billy don't want to let go of the groove as the rest of the band is winding down. As the final notes are floating out of Jerry and the strings, the rhythm devils start pounding out a brutal tom pattern known and loved. Wait...is tonight Sunday? It is! This my friends is a Franklin's>Sampson segue. Nasty nasty stuff. Ole Bobby steps up a delivers the first verse like the rock star he often is. Brent's Hammond playing drips with sustain and was probably vibrating the pretty little theater. After the chorus, Jerry doesn't want you to forget who's on all the tee shirts and shreds his 500th amazing solo of the night.

As is another theme for this entire run, the band takes no pause to smoke a butt at all before the opening gem-like notes of Terrapin are sending chills down my spine. Wow. What an incredible setlist. It's unbelievable to me they don't need a minute after that beefy segment. This is a band ripping it up like it's 1968. Ethereal, shimmering, all that is Terrapin. Vocals nailed, interludes noodled to the utmost. Just so much bliss. It's so lovely to hear this moment frozen in time. Please take notice of the perfection at the 6 minute mark as the play back into the composition before the "since the end was never told verse". At times during the Terrapin section, the heavy reverb overwhelms the audience mic a bit but I bet in the room it must've sounded pretty amazing. After this behemoth lurches to its monumental conclusion drums starts with some fiery standard drum kit soloing. Next meander takes us into some spacey marimba plunking from Micky with Billy playing the big drums. Things get weird, things get hectic, then things get spacey. The drummers don't exactly run off the stage but more so dwindle as Jerry comes out with the space invaders sound again. He is ripping through lines while Brent plays some swirling and appropriately spacey support. This is a very trace-inducing, dark and heavy Space segment. I suspect some heads were probably having to hold on to their seats for this one. Jerry picks a cleaner tone in the final three minutes and things get really interesting with lots of swirling sustained effects peaking and crashing behind his shimmering notes.

As the chaos resolves, Jerry boldly plays the opening riff of Morning Dew. Yet another chill-inducing moment from this night. Dew isn't played much in the early to mid 80's but 1984 is the biggest year for it with 12 performances. This version is powerful, stately and confident. All that one looks for when selecting a Dew. When it quiets down around the 7 minute mark, this band is at its most beautiful. I want a break, the audience had to have needed a break, after that soul shaking Dew. Nope. They rip right into Miracle. It's well placed though and shifts the energy from the brain goo-inducing Terrapin>Drums>Space>Dew segment to end of the show rock out mode. Rock out mode continues with Goin' down the road. Brent plays some nice exposition. The vocal harmonies sound great and everyone takes some time to rock out a bit. Another notable Jerry solo. They slide very casually into Good Lovin' to wrap up a pretty incredible set 2. It's as well played and high energy as the rest of the night. They Encore with a standard but well played Touch of Grey. I lucked out in not being in the dead scene for the whole "touchhead" phenomenon so hold no ill will against this tune.

The Golden Road Fanzine

The first time through these shows, night one and night four stuck out as the best. After going through them again for this post, night three really steps up quite a bit. To be sure though you can't go wrong checking out this entir run. There are clear and obvious highlights as well as subtle ones from each night. While there are boards for some of the nights, do yourself a favor and check out the top notch audience recordings I linked.

The Grateful Dead must've really enjoyed this venue. While it was quickly too small for Dead shows, Jerry did a few JGB shows, Kahn duo and JGAB shows throughout the 80's. Even more interestingly as Dead history goes, they recorded their most successful Album In the Dark there. Pieces of So Far (a fairly excellent Jerry directed 80's Grateful Dead Film) were also taped in the venue. Some of the best playing from the Grateful Dead in the 1980's occurred from summer of 1983 to the end of spring 1984. This run is from the very heart of that time period and stands as a shining example of this band at their best. In a time period many dismiss as mediocre and irrelevant to their legacy. In shows like this are where the Grateful Dead's legacy resides.

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