Monday, April 13, 2020

Dead Detectives - Exploring 36 From the Vault cassettes

From @36ftv twitter page

We all have been really enjoying the 36 from the Vault (@36ftv) podcast, especially Dick’s 5 & 6 with Brent steering the organ helm. I got to looking at @36ftv twitter page and noticed their banner is a picture of part of someone’s Grateful Dead bootleg collection. A classic image in any Deadhead's home but I wanted to understand more about why that image. Who’s collection? Why those tapes? What do they tell us about the person? Are they Stephen or Rob’s? Maybe someone over at Osiris Media like Brian Brinkman, Matt Dwyer or RJ Bee. Of course, it could be just a Google image.

The first thing that jumps out is that all the tapes seem to have J-cards, mostly being factory blanks but three might be hand-designed. I myself went thru a phase where I created my own J-cards with Calvin & Hobbes images. I also remember buying a box of 20 high-quality cards at a head shop in Philly, each with a different colored band member photo. Those were used on my favorite tapes. Majority of my tapes did use the generic J-card but I would draw different Dead logos and fonts. I also noticed the handwriting on all of the tapes seems different, except one show, 6-21-89, which is the only complete show.   So, either they were deep into tape trading or had a bunch of friends who would give them tapes. Definitely more into the music than the aesthetic of tape covers. A little aside, I remember the first time I ever saw a Grateful Dead bootleg. I was going on a summer hockey trip in ‘85 with a team and one of the player’s mom sent me his tape collection because this guy was meeting us from somewhere else.  I got the package and opened it up and it was filled with only Dead bootlegs. At 15 I had ever heard of the Dead, outside Truckin’ on the radio, and was totally bewildered by the mass of tapes, but by the summer 86 had ten bootlegs myself.

In looking over the shows, I assume this person got into the Dead in the early 90’s. The collection leans heavily on the 80s (9 sets) and 90s (4 sets), with the 70s (2 sets) and 60s (1 set) very sparsely represented. I understand this maybe only a small snapshot of the total collection but the person taking the image decided to photo these shows. None of the shows are the big classic, such as Cornell, Englishtown, Fillmores, Greeks or Alpine Valleys that you might see in a collection during this time. Something we can tell by a collection is where the person is regionally from by seeing the shows. Often people get copies of shows they went to or they get shows that are in circulation in the region. The set of shows is a mix of years and places. There is a hint they might be from the Midwest with a couple Michigan shows but the Spectrum and Omni 1995 shows are throwing me off. My guess is this photo is from Rob or someone from Osiris. It doesn't look like collection from a guy from Minneapolis.

You showed me yours, I'll show you mine.

Note: Over the years my tape collection as significantly been reduced because of the ease of getting better quality shows online, moving, and my wife rolling her eyes at my shelves of tapes that I only occasionally toss into the NAK. There is something comforting seeing a group of tapes.  Of course, who knew you could create an art exhibit that looks like my old den

Note 2: I do remember my first 3 bootlegs that I got from a friend's older brother.  The first was labeled the Make Believe Ballroom, which ended up to be 8-13-75 Great American Music Hall. The second was the 10-11-1983 MSG with the last  time St. Stephen had played and the third was a Red Rocks show (9-7-1985) that was of poor quality but had Dear Mr. Fantasy.

Because I am sitting around the house all day working, I thought it would be fun to check out the @36ftv shows. Here is what I thought.

Oakland Coliseum Arena, Oakland CA, 12-31-1987, Set 1 & 3

Set 1: Tuning, Bertha -> The Promised Land, Cold Rain and Snow ->Little Red Rooster, When Push Comes To Shove, When I Paint My Masterpiece, Bird Song, The Music Never Stopped

Set 3: Crowd/Tuning, Man Smart (Woman Smarter), Iko Iko, Banana Boat Song (Day-O) ->Do You Wanna Dance? ->Knockin' On Heaven's Door

Classic 1987 show with the band in great form in a year that breathed new life into the band. NYE shows were hit or miss throughout the Dead’s career but the band seemed especially up for this show, maybe it was because it was being simulcasted on pay-per-view. The cassette only has Set 1 and Set 3. Set 1 is a standard set but Bird Song is definitely the standout with a short but rocking Music Never Stopped to end the set. The Set 3 filler was probably added to include the last 4 songs with The Neville Brothers. Iko Iko, Banana Boat Song (Day-O), Do You Wanna Dance? are fun but standard. Knockin' On Heaven's Door is the highlight with some beautiful soloing by Jerry, great backing vocals from the Nevilles, especially Aaron.  The cassette doesn’t have Set 2 with a smoking Uncle John’s > Terrapin and a truly cosmic and trippy version of the Other One. If you want to watch the whole show check out the video "Ticket To New Year's.", including a set break with Tom Davis and Jerry cooking, Mickey as Spock mind melting Jerry’s Santa Claus and Q&A with fans and the band.

Rating of show: B+

New Haven Veterans Memorial Coliseum, New Haven, CT 4-23-1983, Set 2

Set 2: Scarlet Begonias-> Fire On The Mountain, Lost Sailor-> Saint Of Circumstance-> Drums-> The Other One-> Wharf Rat-> Throwing Stones-> Not Fade Away, E: One More Saturday Night-> E: Brokedown Palace

The band was rippin’ in Spring and Fall of 83. New Haven always seemed to have great energy even though it was famous for having a horrible cop scene. This second set is a classic textbook Dead show in the 80s. I love this version of Scarlet-Fire. It has a really nice energy to the jam and the flow into Fire.  Phil is very large in the mix and is dropping little bombs throughout which help give a very funky version of Fire. Lost Sailor > Saint is a nice version for the time, but the Other One blows the roof off with its blistering opening jam into a solid version of Wharf Rat.  Highlights off the first set would be a fantastic Lazy lightning and a nice Tennessee Jed.

Rating of show: A-

The Spectrum, Philadelphia, PA 3-17-95 Set 1

Set 1:  Here Comes Sunshine, Wang Dang Doodle, Peggy-O, Queen Jane Approximately, Lazy River Road, Eternity*, Loose Lucy

I have been to a bunch of outstanding Spectrum shows and the Dead always played well there. This is not the case with this show.  There is not much to say about the 1st set. I usually love Peggy-O but Jerry is not on his game.  The second fares slightly better. One good thing that came from listening to this is I found audio of the band’s practice of Here Comes Sunshine, which doesn’t come off in the show.  Phil is extremely eager to practice the song and tries to corral the band “I want to do it in Philadelphia Man!”  Phil: “What is the major stumbling block for you guys…” Jerry “Major stumbling block is not knowing it.”

Rating of show: C

Brendan Byrne Arena, East Rutherford, NJ 3-30-1988, Set 1

Set: Bertha -> Greatest Story Ever Told, Hey Pocky Away, West L.A. Fadeaway, Queen Jane Approximately, Big Railroad Blues, Cassidy -> Don't Ease Me In

The 1st night of a 3-night run at the Meadowlands, Brendan Byrne. I always like the shows at the arena but this is definitely the less favorite of the 3 nights.  So, as you can expect the first set takes a little bit to get going and really the show doesn’t get interesting til the second set, though I do like Brent’s playing and singing. The 1st set highlight would be Berta>Greatest>Hey Pocky Way.  Check out the second set for the unique Uncle John’s into a short Playin’ back to UJB. The real highlight is a unique version of Morning Dew and a worth hearing Lovelight.

Go check out the much better shows on March 31 (Sugaree, Scarlet>Fire, Dear Mr. Fantasy) and 4/1 (To Lay Me Down, Ballad of a Thin Man, 2nd Set) and the band sounds fantastic all around.

Rating of show: B- 

Shoreline Amphitheatre, Mountainview, CA 6-21-1989, Set 1

Set 1: Hideaway, Touch of Grey, Minglewood Blues, Ramble On Rose, Box Of Rain, Dire Wolf, When I Paint My Masterpiece, Row Jimmy, Cassidy, Deal 

A Summer Solstice show and solid representation of Summer '89 that was a national FM radio broadcast and how I got my copy. This is a case where the first set outshines the second. Touch of Grey kicks this off and goes into a rippin’ Minglewood with hot Brent organ playing. An always fun moment in the show is when the crowd starts chanting "We want Phil" at the end of Ramble of Rose and they actually go into Box of Rain. The highlight of the show is the Row Jimmy with some transcending playing by Jerry and nice backing vocals. This is a set with an above average Deal that jams out hard and has a killer ending. The second set is marred with Clarence Clemons, who seems kind of out of sync most of the time.

Rating of show: Solid A first set, overall B+ 

Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, Oakland, CA 12-15-1986, Set ?

Set 1: Touch Of Grey, C C Rider, When Push Comes To Shove, Beat It On Down The Line, Greatest Story Ever Told, Loser, Cassidy, Althea, My Brother Esau, Candyman, Let It Grow

Set 2: Iko Iko, Looks Like Rain, Black Muddy River, Playing In The Band, Terrapin Station, Drums, Space, Truckin', Wharf Rat, Playing In The Band, Good Lovin', Encore: Johnny B. Goode

Not sure if this is set 1 or 2 but let’s assume it is the first set because it is the first show after a five-month hiatus due to Jerry's coma.  The crowd goes nuts after the first notes of Touch of Grey and is ecstatic at the end during “We will get by, we will survive!” That is worth the having and listening to the tape.  For being off, the band sound great.  Other highlights are When Push Comes to Shove and Althea.  In the second set the Terrapin in a Playin sandwich set is a pleasant surprise.

Rating of show: B but A worth of love and enthusiasm

Autzen Stadium, University of Oregon, Eugene, OR 6-23-90, Set 1

Set 1: Feel Like A Stranger-> West L.A. Fadeaway, Me & My Uncle, Cumberland Blues, Far From Me, They Love Each Other, Cassidy, Tennessee Jed, Promised Land

Summer 1990 tour and the Dead made a two-day stop in Eugene with Little Feat opening. I have always said that the Dead played fantastic shows in Oregon, a home of many of the crew and their friends.  This show is a great example.  The first set start off strong with the a very lively Stranger followed by West LA.  Far from Me is Brent at his best and this version is unique. Another big Phil show and I think this might be the best 1990 show. Second is definitely worth a listen.

Rating of show: A-

The Omni, Atlanta, GA, 3-30-95, Set 2

Set 2: Beer Barrel Polka Tuning, China Cat Sunflower-> I Know You Rider-> Looks Like Rain, Samba In The Rain, He's Gone-> That Would Be Something-> Drums-> Space-> Visions Of Johanna-> Throwing Stones-> Turn On Your Love Light, E: Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds

I had never listened to this show before but it seems like a better than normal 1995. It is the last in a four-show run at the Omni.  You can totally hear the difference in the sound having only Vince on keys. I had seen the Oakland Mardi Gras shows in February which were fun.  Some solid Jerry tunes and moments including Loose Lucy, Visions of Johanna and Lucy In the Sky with Diamonds. Weird cover of McCartney’s That Would Be Something.

Rating of show: B

Avalon Ballroom, San Francisco, 1968

Set: Dark Star > St Stephen > The Eleven > Death Don't Have No Mercy, Cryptical Envelopment > Drums > Other One > Cryptical Envelopment > New Potato Caboose > Jam > Drums > Jam > Feedback

Since we don’t know exactly which of the couple shows the Dead played the Avalon in 1968, I picked 10/12/68.  This is a surprisingly great show with a funny intro to Dark Star by Bobby as “an elemental foxtrot and ladies choice.” I think the highlight is the St. Stephen >Eleven.  This is a great example of an early psychedelic show.

Rating of show: B+

Shoreline Amphitheatre, Mountainview, CA 9-29-89 set 1

Set 1: Let The Good Times Roll, Feel Like A Stranger, Franklin's Tower, Wang Dang Doodle, Jack A Roe, Stuck Inside a Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again, We Can Run, Bird Song, Promised Land 

Wow! If you love Brent this is a show for you.  Classic late eighties show and the band sounding festive and great. I always love Let the Good Times Roll as a Set 1 starter and it rolls right into a stronger Stranger>Franklin’s.  That’s enough for me but we get a rare Jack-a-Roe. Overall a very solid first set.  The real is highlight of this show is in the second set with the breakout of Death Don’t Have No Mercy, which had not been played since the 1970.  Jerry’s solo is insane on the song, along with the Jerry, Bobby and Brent’s vocals that can rip your heart out.

Rating of show: B+

The Palace, Auburn Hills, MI, 3-24-92 Set 2

Set 2: China Cat Sunflower>I Know You Rider, Saint of Circumstance >Foolish Heart>Drums>Space>I Need A Miracle, Stella Blue, Throwing Stones, Not Fade Away, The Weight

From the moments you hear the music and the piano, you know Bruce is playing at this show. This is the last official show Bruce played in the line-up. I know most people don’t like Vince but when Bruce also played with him, they are a great pair. I think this was a great version of the band.  Overall a pretty solid second set. The highlight is the Weight, especially with Bruce. I think you would rather have the first set with the Weight as a filler. 

Rating of show: B but worth to hear Bruce play those keys.

Portland ME Cumberland County Civic Center 9-17-82 set 1

Set 1: Bertha -> The Promised Land, Candyman -> C C Rider, Althea, Me And My Uncle -> Big River, Dupree's Diamond Blues, It's All Over Now, West L.A. Fadeaway, Throwing Stones -> Deal

I think 1981 and 1982 are totally underrated and this show absolutely shows you why.  These shows were chuck full of songs and I thought the band had a little of energy (probably the coke) that you can feel the crowd vibing off.  You really should listen to the whole show but highlights in the 1st are Dupree's Diamond Blues, It's All Over Now, West L.A. Fadeaway, Deal.

Rating of show: B+

Hampton Coliseum, Hampton, VA 5-1-81 Set 1

Set 1: Alabama Getaway-> Promised Land, Friend Of The Devil-> Me & My Uncle-> Big River, Althea-> Little Red Rooster, Tennessee Jed-> Let It Grow-> Deal

I think the most underrated year in the Dead’s history is 1981.  This is not the best example but still a great show. The highlights are Let It Grow > Deal (with a scorching solo) and the second set has a great Stranger and He’s Gone.

Rating of show: B

Shoreline Amphitheatre, Mountainview, CA 6-21-1989, Set 2

Set: Scarlet Begonias-> Hell In A Bucket*, Ship of Fools*, Estimated Prophet*-> Eyes Of The World*-> Drums-> Jam-> Truckin'*-> The Other One*-> Morning Dew*-> Turn On Your Love Light*, E: Brokedown Palace

See notes above

Rating of show: C+

Lusk Field House - State University Of New York, Cortland, NY, 4-18-71 Set ?

Set: Cold Rain & Snow, Me & My Uncle, Bertha, Me And Bobby McGee, Next Time You See Me, China Cat Sunflower-> I Know You Rider, Casey Jones. Sugar Magnolia, Second That Emotion, Truckin', Hard To Handle, Loser, Playin' In The Band, Around & Around, Good Lovin'-> Drums-> Good Lovin', Uncle John’s Band

I love 1971 and had not heard this show, probably because it had been buried with all the great recordings in 71, especially the Fall shows, Hill Aud. shows and the Princeton University show from the night before. This show like others this year are more focused on the country and rock songs and this set never gets to get too far out there.  It is straight ahead rocking music.  The highlights are Cold Rain & Snow, Sugar Mags, but the real standout is Good Lovin’.  Yes, you heard it Good Lovin, a 20+ minute version!  First, I always liked Pigpen’s take on the song more than Bobby. Billy’s drum solo is totally in the pocket and a great long solo. The jam coming out is fantastic with a fun Pigpen rap.  When I first saw the setlist I was excited to hear Second that Emotion, but this is a very uninspired version and really the Dead never did it as well as the JGB versions.

Rating of show: B+

Hill Auditorium, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI  12-15-71

Being a Michigan Grad, I have dreamed about seeing the Dead in the Hill Auditorium. These shows are legendary in Ann Arbor but also with tape traders because of the high-quality of the recording and performance.  In comparison to the SUNY Cortland show, the band is firing on all cylinders and is mostly likely due to the newly added Keith.  The show starts off with Sam Cutler, sounding like a 1977 Malcolm McLaren, trying to introduce the band individually while they ignore him tuning their guitars.  Nothing like the best introduction ever of a band by Bill Graham on August 13, 1975 at the Great American Music Hall. Not much to say about the show but the whole thing is great. Maybe one of the best Brokedowns!

Rating of show: A

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