6/5-8, 1969
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Grateful Dead bootleg reviews - 6/5 through 6/8 1969

 

F. West The Complete Concerts reviewLive Dead review

F. West
June '69

Aoxomoxoa reviewF. East - Grateful Dead review

 
Grateful Dead bootleg reviews - 6/5 through 6/8 1969

The Grateful Dead
The Other 1969 run at the Fillmore West: June 1969

There's some good reason that these shows don't generate as much buzz as their February - March brothers: shows are incomplete, possibly missing; it seems Jerry was too high for at least one set; guests abound. The recordings that do exist aren't so great in sound quality. One could not say this is the Dead at their most sublime or powerful. And yet: these casual, semi-professional shows are probably a lot closer to the average fan's idea of the band at the time. These aren't shows for the ages, for the masses; these are shows for the devoted fans -- the Grateful Dead who might have played your house party, gone to a larger stage. Save THE FILLMORE WEST box set for your cold winter nights; this music is for warm June evenings, hanging out with friends.

Musically, June 1969 was another time of change for the band, as songs like "Green Green Grass" showed their developing interest in simpler music. Yet they had not given up on their more complex compositions -- "Doin' That Rag" and "Cosmic Charlie" were still in the rotation, and "Mountains of the Moon" had not yet been shelved. "China Cat Sunflower" and "I Know You Rider" had not yet met, let alone married.

6/5/69 | 6/6/69 | 6/7/69 | 6/8/69

6/05/69 Fillmore West

Set 2: China Cat Sunflower > Sitting On Top Of The World > Dark Star > St. Stephen > The Eleven > Lovelight

Early show: "Morning Dew" shows Garcia's ability to mumble through forgotten lines wasn't a later development. "Me and My Uncle" shows some real enthusiasm; "Doin' That Rag" has some decent jamming, and the boys manage the vocal harmony challenges fairly well. "He Was a Friend" finds a groove that develops nicely, though the song shows its usual strain on their harmonies. "Hard to Handle" is sluggish despite Pigpen's enthusiastic lead, and "Cosmic Charlie" is more bluster than charm. All in all, a nice sequence, but more a display of why the band stopped playing these pieces than showcases.

But what am I saying? When have most of us even heard these songs in concert, and how long has it been for those who did? If 6/05's first show is rather polite one in both performance and audience response, the drummers do put some life into the "Other One" drum break, and the band responds in kind. Even better is the "Cryptical" reprise, which finds them unwilling to leave the stage without turning just a few more corners. That's the Grateful Dead we look for!

"China Cat Sunflower" into "Sitting On Top of the World" sounds even more awkward than it looks on paper; in another month "China Cat" would find a more suitable dance partner. Jerry hasn't yet found quite the right vocal delivery, but it's almost there. "Top of the World" is tight and well-played, but that's about it.

After that, to borrow Blair Jackson's phrase, they play the LIVE DEAD sequence. "Dark Star" shows them still very much in the same mold, and "St. Stephen" continues this (as if that were a bad thing); I miss the feedback on the transition which makes 2/27's renditions so distinctive. 6/5's "Stephen" also has great moments, most memorably the glockenspiel on the quiet section (much louder than on LIVE DEAD) and Bobby's affirming comment following the "One man gathers" line.

If anything defines the peak of psychedelic Dead, it's probably "The Eleven" -- a rolling surge of sonic energy the band dished up from January 1968 through 1969, suddenly declining in early 1970. By the time it appeared in the legendary Fillmore East shows of February 13 & 14 it was just about done, and only rarely heard again. Here, as in THE FILLMORE WEST shows, it is still vital: a wild and tawny segment that highlights the band's synchronicity, banishing the mundane songs of the first set to warm-up territory. Even "Dark Star" didn't capture this; as the band turns a sharp corner to "Lovelight," we could easily have taken a lot more.

-- but this *is* "Lovelight" -- and a 1969 one at that -- so the band just as quickly wipes our memories of "The Eleven" as that song did to the first set. Pigpen hardly has time to take us through a set of lyrics before the band storms off on another jam. They hardly seem able to help themselves; no sooner do they bring it down before another one emerges (possibly Pig was busy elsewhere?). Someone is rather fond of adding a bit of feedback to the transitions & doing a very good job of it -- definitely enhances the excitement. Then it's down to the drums and Pigpen, with Bobby and the boys doing excellent vocal backups. Sadly, a reel change interrupts just how this all develops; when the next reel begins, Pigpen is wrapping up his, um, rap. On the plus side, we're just in time to hear about the "black knitties" that bring the band to the next explosive transition, so it's hard to complain too much.

Then it's time for Pig to advise the young men in the audience ("you wit' your glasses on, all of you") in the finer points of masculine joy; this sounds convincingly spontaneous and fresh. While we might question his claim to having received this advice from his mother, there is no doubting his total control of both audience and band ("What do you think about that, Bobby?") for long stretches here. One of the best "Lovelight" performances I've heard; when the band finally plays the finale, it's like Dale Earnhart zooming past the checkered flag.

6/5/69 | 6/6/69 | 6/7/69 | 6/8/69

6/06/69 Fillmore West
Smokestack Lightning, Green Green Grass Of Home, Me & My Uncle, Beat It On Down The Line, Lovelight

Wow! Just a single disc, but we're immediately dropped into swampy Pigpen territory with a 13-minute "Smokestack Lightning" that transcends its tentative start. According to DEADLISTS, this is Elvin Bishop on guitar, and not Jerry. It must be said that he fits in rather well -- so much like Jerry, in fact, that I'll just have to take DEADLISTS' word for this. Pig brings it down to a near-whisper before his harmonica [and whoever's guitar] bring things back up. Soon, Bobby's making feedback noises and TC is not far behind. By the end, they've slowed down to raunchy sleaze; anarchic blues at its best, you might say. I'd just say I have a new favorite rendition of this song.

After that, Phil's announcement that the band is "depleted" comes as no surprise, and "Green Green Grass of Home" is a welcome rest for both band and audience; "Me and My Uncle" similarly marks time until something more interesting happens. This proves to be Elvin Bishop, whose high-voltage singing on "Checking Up On My Baby" must have startled most of the audience out of their boots. A short "Beat It On Down the Line" follows, and it sounds pretty clear that Elvin is still present (DEADBASE X, for instance, notes him only for the previous song). At any rate, there's some pretty exciting guitar going on, and an unfamiliar voice seems to be, um, helping out ;-)

DEADBASE X lists the "Live Dead" sequence next, but my singleton disc follows DEADLISTS, as they clearly launch "Lovelight" out of nothing, from tentative chords to the full band joining in. Showing no hurry, it's more a matter of letting things happen than making them happen; it comes across as something they play every night, and play well. With 45 minutes to go, this is probably the best attitude to take; audience participation is almost a certainty :-)

Sure enough, eleven minutes in, Pigpen starts to talk about love, and we begin a long session of Pig bringing the band up and down with his usual authority. He sings; he talks, he whispers; he exhorts. Jerry responds with his slide guitar. "Now wait a minute" becomes the evening's mantra, signalling the next chapter of Pigpen's febrile imagination. For a 45-minute performance, this is remarkably cohesive -- not, perhaps, hitting the heights of more concise performances, but nonetheless a solid demonstration of their musical might.Viva la Pigpen!

6/5/69 | 6/6/69 | 6/7/69 | 6/8/69

6/07/69 Fillmore West
Dire Wolf, Dupree's Diamond Blues, Mountains Of The Moon, Dark Star? > St. Stephen > The Eleven > Sitting On Top Of The World > Cold Rain & Snow > Doin' That Rag, Me & My Uncle, Lovelight*

*with Janis Joplin

6/07 is definitely the standout show from this run, and right from the get-go: "Dire Wolf" kicks off the set in its first-known appearance. Audience response is amusingly polite, and the band seems uncertain what to do with this undeniably unpsychedelic music. Jerry plows right on with "Dupree's Diamond Blues" -- featuring some 12-string guitar, from the sound of it -- and this goes over a little better. "Mountains of the Moon" follows immediately, making for a nice triple acoustic medley.

But wait -- that's not all; "Mountains" proves to be just the last of three appetizers before the main course, with "Dark Star" the first stop. While there isn't much to distinguish this from most '69 Stars, it's still a '69 Star, and a good one at that: plenty of peaks and valleys, with Jerry's strong leads a highlight throughout.

"St. Stephen" continues the ride; no explosion in the quiet part, but otherwise right out of the LIVE DEAD bag with no problems. The songs fly by like stops on a train ride: "The Eleven" - "Top of the World" - "Cold Rain"; only "Doin' That Rag" finally gives the audience (and us) a chance to collect our first breath since the show began. The transition from "The Eleven" to "Top of the World" may even have surprised the band; having heard it a dozen times, I'm still not sure how they did it.

- Except that, as we have it, that's pretty much the show; the only other extant performances are "Me and My Uncle" and a "Lovelight" that is either marred or highlighted by Janis Joplin joining in (depending on your perspective). This wasn't the last time this would happen, but it's clear Janis has no real familiarity with the band's arrangement, so her contributions are necessarily general; her appearance does not bring this performance closer to anyone's idea of a definitive one. Still, it *is* JANIS, after all, and a true reflection of the band's relationships: with Janis, the Fillmore West and its audience; my guess is that Pigpen pulled her onstage and they all just had some fun. And that seems to be what 6/07 is really all about.

Justifiably popular in the 'favorites' section of the Taper's Compendium, 6/07 is kind of like seeing your best friend's band play at the local music festival -- they may not be the best-ever, but you still like to see them get recognized. Sure, it's notable mainly for Janis joining Pigpen during "Lovelight", but so what? The energy is good throughout, the setlist is nice, and the sound quality is pretty good for its age. All things considered, 6/07 is a strong candidate for one of the 10 essential shows of 1969.

6/5/69 | 6/6/69 | 6/7/69 | 6/8/69

6/08/69 Fillmore West
One - Intro, Dancing In The Street,> He Was A Friend Of Mine, > China Cat Sunflower > Jam > New Potato Caboose, Me And My Uncle 
 
Two - Turn On Your Love Light, The Things I Used To Do, Who's Lovin' You Tonight, Cryptical Envelopment  > Drums > The Other One > Cosmic Charlie 

"Dancin' in the Streets" immediately gives us a solid dozen minutes of primal Dead, marred only by a strange lapse in tempo on the return (tired already, boys?). "He Was a Friend of Mine" is just as good as it was on 6/05 -- a close contest -- and the transition to "China Cat" is so smart & snappy that I wonder why they didn't do it more often (DEADBASE lists only two others: 5/24 and 11/01) The outro jam is full of enthusiasm, though not very long. It's hard to complain, though, when it's "New Potato Caboose" they're cutting to; if this had happened in 1989 instead of 1969, the crowd roar would have been deafening. This is the very last known performance of this song according to DEADBASE, and contains a very interesting Phil solo. Afterward, Jerry tells us they have to split, and using "Me & My Uncle" as a closer shows how casually they regarded their early sets.

If we were to consider these recordings for a compilation release (like DICK'S PICK #7, or STEPPIN' OUT), this last disc wouldn't really matter; Jerry doesn't appear until the final medley, and Pigpen doesn't seem to be there at all. Perhaps this was in fact the night Jerry was too dosed to play. Whatever the reason, the resulting music strongly suggests a band filling out an obligation: songs go on and on, stretched to fill out time, when they aren't slow to begin with.

Not that it's all bad: "Lovelight" has spirited singing by Mike Ceballos, and whoever is playing lead doesn't exactly depart from Jerry's style. Someone is playing a very lively conga (Pigpen?), and the jam that follows sounds a lot like .... well, like their usual jam but minus Jerry's solo and Pig's rap. No doubt this was a little more interesting in person ;-) As it is, Mike C comes back out to add another verse, and the substitute guitarist puts in a little more activity. All you guitarists out there who thought you might like to fill in for Jerry sometime can hear the result here. I'll admit it: as I checked the timer and saw that there was another 20 minutes of this, I moved on to the next track.

Elvin Bishop's blues songs are fine, though they don't suggest anything like a Dead concert. "The Other One" finally brings the vaunted Jerome Garcia to the stage, and the result still hits all the right marks. While the jam seems to run out a little sooner than usual, the band whips up a jaunty "Cosmic Charley" that makes for a good finish. Hey, they can't all be 'best-ever' performances!

As for that DP-style compilation: I'd expect it would include 6/5's "Other One" suite and "Lovelight"; 6/06's first two or three songs (and maybe one or both of Elvin's songs), 6/08's first set and "Cosmic Charley", and all of 6/07's 69-minute medley. space permitting, I supppose I'd add Janis' "Lovelight" as filler. Why not; I'll bet Pigpen and Janis would've wanted it that way :-)

Ramble On Joe

Review of the Grateful Dead's concert performance at the Fillmore West in San Francisco, CA on 6/5/69 through 6/8/69.
Grateful Dead bootleg reviews - 6/5 through 6/8 1969

 

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