Saturday, January 7, 2017

Inching Your Way Through Dead Dreams

I got a message on Friday while I was at work and another Saturday afternoon after I got home from bowling with IdaLena. Both were a surprise considering who they were from. George, with whom I message regularly, sent one about a missing Grateful Dead show that suddenly had a reward attached to its discovery. Not so strange that it came from George, but the subject was strange. The call came from Wendy’s uncle, John, regarding the same subject. That was strange in that I don’t think I’ve ever had him call me in the last 25 years of knowing him. He’s cool. We like a lot of the same music, but we aren’t really on speed dial with each other.

The best thing about all that was the subject matter. The Grateful Dead played a show with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra in March, 1970. The show is in Deadbase, but it is not highlighted. You see, whenever I get a copy of a show, I highlight in my Deadbase that I have it. That show, as well as many other shows from the primal days of the Dead, stubbornly remains lost in the mists of time or have such bad recordings that they’re not really worth the acquisition.

 Many of you know that I am a pretty big Deadhead. I have thousands of CDs hanging around the house from show after show throughout their thirty year career as the Grateful Dead. Then there are thousands more with side projects and subsequent incarnations. Of course, there are many other tape-friendly bands who have a scattering of disks in the house. This is all to the chagrin of my wife. “Don’t you think you’re a bit obsessed? How much music do you really need?” Some of my fellow Deadheads have surely heard the same refrain over and over.

So, of course, when George and John saw the article about the missing Dead show, they called me. Obviously I just had to have it in my vast collection. Unfortunately, the answer is no. There is a pretty good possibility that the show does not exist on tape anywhere. The guys at the vault claim they do not have it. Bear, the Dead’s soundman who taped many of their shows, was not there that night, and the BPO frowned upon taping.

Deadheads are a persistent and creative bunch. There is a possibility that someone snuck some equipment in, and that there are some unmarked tapes in an attic or storage unit, However, the show was a last minute thing. The likelihood of pulling off a stealth taping seem remote. Michael Caputo believes there is one out there. I fervently hope there is, too. It’s almost like the Holy Grail of shows right now, the infamous Cornell show notwithstanding (at least a crispy vault copy for that ‘77 gem.)

All this talk about a missing show that we need to hear had me flipping through my Deadbase pages. What other shows are out there that we need to hear good, clear copies of? Obviously, the acoustic shows from the 1970 run would be high on my list. There are some out there, but there are still some non-highlighted shows on my pages. Any of the Bobby Ace shows from the “breakup” would be nice, too.

In my Deadbase X, there is a notation on July 10, 1969 that says “this show was discovered as Deadbase X was going to press and will be included as ‘official’ in future editions.” This was the same day as the Playboy After Dark performance. Supposedly, it was at Gallagher Estate in Norwalk, Connecticut, and was a Hell’s Angel party. I would like to know more about this show. According to Deadlists, it is not even included in their database. Did this show actually happen? Is it simply a mislabelled show? There is no longer a listing on Deadbase, so I guess it didn’t actually happen. An explanation would be nice, of course.

Another show which apparently doesn’t exist, but would be a fantastic historical addition to the vault would be Mickey Hart’s first show with the band at the Straight Theater in September 1967. Deadlists say there are no known tapes in circulation. The Haight street festival show on the flatbed in March 1968 would be another treasure. All sources have the taper running out of batteries before the end of the show. The setlist is incomplete, but there are some “I remember them playing this song” moments.

SImply put, what we need here is a time machine. We need the Doctor to swing by with the TARDIS and drop some of us off at various concerts in the past. Heck, we could even relive some of our favorite shows. Recordings, even live ones, can only catch so much of the magic. You need to really be there. I would love to live some of those shows all over again. And catch some ones that I missed.

Thinking about these shows has been fun. I’ve got the music rolling as I write this. Freedom Hall from 1993 is playing. Sometimes it’s hard to tell whether I’m spending more time typing or more time singing along. Or tapping along, if you really must know. I’ll pick the shows to listen to randomly. Maybe next will be something from Europe 72? Or maybe a primal Dead show from 1967? At any rate, the house will be rocking and we’ll be enjoying ourselves. And it would be that much more fun to be grooving along to the Dead and the BPO jamming together.

Craig Bacon says the current Doctor looks an awful lot like Peter Capaldi, who plays guitar. He’s sure the Doctor would be more than happy to take him to a couple Grateful Dead shows in the past.