By now, you’ve probably heard of the New Jersey born indie-psych band Real Estate—whether it be through the various videos and statements I’ve posted supporting them, the Pithfork-sized buzz that follows them around or the house music leaving Phish’s performance at DCU Center on November 27, 2010 (listen to “Suburban Dogs” here). But, it’s less likely that you’ve delved some of their side-projects. So allow me to introduce to you, Alex Bleeker and The Freaks.
(Photo by Francis Chung)
Alex Bleeker plays bass in Real Estate, but in his side project Alex Bleeker and the Freaks, he is the principal songwriter and rhythm guitarist. The band features a rotating cast of supporting musicians that often includes members of Real Estate, or other closely-related groups. Departing from the indie-psych sound in his primary outfit, Bleeker takes the Freaks into fuzzed out Crazyhorse-ish, Grateful Dead-esque terriroty. As he told me in a recent interview for Jambands.com:
“I think I’m the member of Real Estate that has the biggest jam background. So probably my side project, just by nature of the fact that I’m the lead songwriter, is going to be the most jammy, in a way…I’ve said in multiple other interviews that some of the first psychedelic and most experimental music I’ve ever heard were spacey jams at live Phish shows that taught me to open my ears and be patient and listen to music like that.”
Stream the opening track on The Freaks’ album “Summer” > “Epilogue” (yes, he records studio segues) along with Bleeker’s homage to the Dead, “Dead On,” below. Also, check out a live video of the Freaks performing the above mentioned segue at a show in their home state of New Jersey.
Today marks the 41 year anniversary Miles Davis’ run of shows alongside the Dead at the Fillmore West. The series of performances, curated by Bill Graham, began on April 9, 1970 and continued for the next three nights. April 1970 also coincided with the release of ‘Bitches Brew,” an album that would go on to change music for all time to come. These shows offer a glimpse of Miles’ Quintet during this revolutionary period, and also the influence the music would have on the Grateful Dead in the following years.
It’s my pleasure to be able to share with you a pristine SBD recording of The Miles Davis Quintet’s set from April 9, 1970. This set, capturing groundbreaking early versions of songs such as “Miles Runs the Voodoo Down,” “Spanish Key,” and “Bitches Brew,” is a must-hear for any Miles fan. If I’m not mistaken, we likely owe thanks to Bear Owsley for this recording. I hope you enjoy this as much as I do.
44 years ago today, a historically significant concert took place at the Winterland Arena in San Francisco. For the first time, legendary concert promoter Bill Graham welcomed Chuck Berry to the Bay Area to share a bill with the Grateful Dead. At the time, Berry was relatively unknown to much of the hippie generation, but with concerts such as these he was able to revive his career and went on to play many more shows hosted by Graham. This was also one day after the Dead had released their debut album, The Grateful Dead.
Poster by Wes Wilson
Berry’s set is surely something worth hearing (you can stream it over at Wolfgang’s Vault), but most of our attention is turned toward the Dead’s performance. On this night, the Dead performed an early and a late set with Berry’s set placed in between. In the first, it’s Pigpen’s band we’re hearing with uptempo blues classics like “Smokestack” and “It Hurts Me too.” It closes with “Dancing in the Streets offering a brief glimpse into the band’s psychedelic side.
In the second, that side fully takes over, and the Dead deliver a scorching set of music from start to finish including the highlight version of “The Same Thing” featured on the So Many Roads box set. It’s a perfect piece of musical history, marking a transitional phase in the Dead’s career. Six months after this show, the band’s sound would undergo radical changes. This is one of few recordings from this time, and a show that every Dead fan should hear.
As you may already know, over the weekend Owsley “Bear” Stanley was killed in a car accident. Word of Bear’s death hit the community hard and has stirred an overwhelming response from the many people he had touched throughout his life.
Bear & Jerry
At the opening of last night’s Furthur show, Phil commented:
“We lost a good friend, more than just family. In Bear’s honor, I did something I haven’t done in years, I ate a steak, raw“
Bob Weir also shared some words on his Facebook wall yesterday:
“A mind like Bear’s appears very rarely, and it’s been my privilege and honor to have known and loved two such minds- Jerry and Bear. I always laugh when I think about what Jerry once said about Bear: There’s nothing wrong with Bear that several billion fewer brain cells wouldn’t fix…I am eternally grateful for all of the gifts that Bear brought to the scene and to the music…Fare you well; I love you more than words can tell.“
It would be nearly impossible to describe the effect Bear had on music and culture, and I won’t even begin to try (for that type of thing check out Jambands.com’s terrific obituary). Instead, we’ll honor Bear the way we know best—by sharing one of the recordings he made, of the music he loved. RIP Bear. The world has lost a true sonic and psychedelic visionary.
“He’s Gone” -> ‘The Other One” (9.28.72)
In the book Dark Star by Robert Greenfield , Bear recalls his first experience with the Dead:
“In December ’65, I really heard the Grateful Dead for the first time. It was at the Fillmore the night before the Muir Beach Acid Test. I was standing in the hall and they were playing and they scared me to death. Garcia’s guitar terrified me. I have never before heard that much power. That much thought. That much emotion.“
Lately, we’ve been revisiting classic tapes in an attempt to shed some light on this bygone era. Today, we turn our attention to one of the best known tape traders who provided us with so many great recordings bearing his own name—Dick Latvala.
Dick's Pick Vol. 14
Over the weekend, I read a great piece on Dick that pushed me to write this post that I have had on my list of ideas for some time now. While there are 36 Dick’s Picks in total, only 14 of those were chosen by Mr. Latvala himself. Before Dick passed away in 1999, he released one final Dick’s Pick—volume 14—that captured two of his favorite performances in pristine form, as was always his way. Afterwards, the reins were passed down to David Lemieux, who released the remaining 22 and serves as the Dead’s archivist to this day. In this special edition of From the Vault, we look back on the two performances captured on DP14 in an effort to share with people these shows that Dick held so dear to his heart.
Dick in the Vault '94
The shows that I am speaking of are November 30th and December 2nd 1973—the year that Dick referred to as “the most prolific and exciting year in G.D. history.” I would tend to agree, with fall/December being, arguably, the best time of that year. These two performances bookended a three-night run at Boston Music Hall, and together capture some of the finest playing of the entire tour, and of the year for that matter.
Both performances have something in common, and something that Dick felt was the ultimate indicator of a good show—blistering versions of “Playin’ in the Band.” By this point in the year, the band had fully realized their transition toward a new sound that departed from the jazz-inspired playing that defines the summer of ’73. This style, that emerged early on during the fall tour, showed the band coming together with a tightness that allowed them to explore their jams with a greater depth. The band can be heard weaving in and out of themes, and variations of them, with more fluidity, thus making the greatness that is fall ’73.
Boston Music Hall 1973
Constantly riding a creative wave, the band delivered some of their peak performances during this period such as the must-hear shows from 10.19.73 and 10.25.73, along with several others. It’s no surprise that the first Dick’s Picks release (12.19.73) was taken from this period—as Dick has said “I could stay in the winter of ’73 forever.” Apparently, according to Dick, it was the version of “Here Comes Sunshine” that persuaded him to choose 12.19.73, over other shows from the period, for the first release. But before Dick was done, he made sure to revisit his favorite period in the Dead’s career one last time.
The first set on November 30th opens with a powerful version of “Morning Dew,” and closes with a long and unique version of “Playin’ in the Band.” During the entire second set the band is on fire, but highlights come in the form of the “Weather Report Suite” that flows into the “Dark Star” jam and then into “Eyes of the World.”
“WRS” > “Dark Star” > “Eyes of the World” (11.30.73)
For the show on December 2nd, we turn to a page from Dick’s handwritten notes. One of the comments reads:
“After hearing it, it ranks high on my all time favorite list of jams. I’m talking about the 2nd set, which is one of the Dead’s more finer moments. These mindblowing shows happen during every year and this was one of the heaviest for 1973.”
He continues to write:
“Every part of the closing jam is fantastic, but the “jam” section before “He’s Gone,” contains so many thrills that it is unbelievable…This show definitely deserves my highest award”
“Playin’ in the Band” > “Mind Left Body Jam” > “He’s Gone” > “Truckin’” > “Nobody’s Jam” (12.2.73)
Dick's Handwritten Notes
One of the goals in writing these articles is to try and bring attention toward specific, individual shows. That was one of Dick’s goals in releasing the Dick’s Picks series, and was something he talked about in interviews. While the various online resources are great, they are somewhat of a mixed blessing in that the importance of a single show can often become lost. So, “take a step back,” and when you download these shows, give each one a full and honest listen. That’s the way Dick would have wanted it. As Dick’s son Rich Latvala said:
“He felt that online trading and exchanging digital files really removed the personal element in tape trading. That was the most appalling thing he could imagine happening. One of the major elements in tape trading for him was sharing the music personally, discussing it one on one, discovering new things together, and just talking to other people about it… He abhorred the idea that you would just download the music and never talk about anyone with it.”
Buried beneath Jerry Garcia’s endless side projects, guest appearances and solo endeavors is the rarely mentioned Legion of Mary. The LOM lineup consisted of Merl Saunders, JGB bassist John Kahn, Martin Fierro on sax and flute along with Ronnie Tutt on drums (who replaced Paul Humphrey in early ’75). The band was short lived—lasting only from July of ’74 to July ’75—but during the time it lasted the Legion of Mary was a rare force, blending the sounds of jazz, rock and R&B with a touch of psychedelia.
To put things in context, Legion of Mary was in action during a rare downtime in the Dead’s career. Following the famous October 1974 performances by the Dead at the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco (immortalized in The Grateful Dead Movie), the band went on a short hiatus, performing only 4 concerts together in 1975. During the hiatus, Jerry worked on the movie relentlessly while also recording Blues for Allah and performing around the Bay Area with Legion of Mary.
Jerry Garcia Collection 1: Legion of Mary
The LOM shows contain some of Jerry’s finest playing in the form of long, jazz-inspired improvisations that are stunningly beautiful. Also, a number of these shows were captured by the legendary taping team of Badbob Menke and Louis Falanga who would famously get their mics on stage with the band (literally). There was only one official release by LOM in the form of Legion of Mary: The Jerry Garcia Collection, Vol. 1, but if you seek them out there are some amazing audience recordings that I highly recommend.
I’ll help you begin your search with my personal favorite LOM show recorded by the Menke/Falanga taping team. This one comes from the Keystone in Berkeley, CA on 5.22.75 and features one of my all-time favorite jazz numbers, Freddie Hubbard’s “Little Sunflower” (also recorded by Milt Jackson, which I also highly recommend). If you like audience recordings, you’ll want to check this one out.
It seems as though some people are placed on this earth to fulfill a specific purpose. Often, once their purpose has been fulfilled they are taken from us, serving a nearly prophetic role. Jerry Garcia is one of those people, and it was on this day, 14 years ago, that he was taken from us. Jerry has had a lasting effect on countless people, bringing joy to their lives through his music. Unable to fit within the normal grain of life, Jerry chose to live an introverted life focused mainly around his art and music. However, this was made difficult for him by the massive number of Deadheads who looked to Jerry as their leader. As Bob Weir said after scattering Jerry’s ashes into the Ganges River in India, “May you have peace, Jerry, and travel to the stars.” Below is a quote from Bob Dylan that sums things up quite well:
“There’s no way to measure his greatness or magnitude as a person or as a player. I don’t think eulogizing will do him justice. He was that great – much more than a superb musician with an uncanny ear and dexterity. He is the very spirit personified of whatever is muddy river country at its core and screams up into the spheres. He really had no equal. To me he wasn’t only a musician and friend, he was more like a big brother who taught and showed me more than he’ll ever know. There are a lot of spaces and advances between the Carter Family, Buddy Holly and, say, Ornette Coleman, a lot of universes, but he filled them all without being a member of any school. His playing was moody, awesome, sophisticated, hypnotic and subtle. There’s no way to convey the loss. It just digs down really deep.”
We have chosen 10 extraordinary Dead moments to celebrate this day (big thanks to Dominic!). Each highlights a different period in Jerry’s career. There are also a number of other Jerry related downloads and videos below. By listening to his music, we keep the spirit of Jerry alive.
10 Extraordinary Grateful Dead Moments
1. 1969-02-22 – Mountains Of The Moon> Dark Star> Cryptical Envelopment> Drums> The Other One> Cryptical Envelopment
Listen to the second part of Cryptical Envelopment:
2. 1970-06-24 – Darkstar>Attics of My Life>Dark star>Sugar Magnolia>Darkstar>St. Stephen>China Cat>I know You Rider
Listen to the intro to this epic Darkstar:
3. 1971-04-29 – The Alligator>Drums>Jam>GDTRDB>Cold Rain & Snow
Listen to the Jam in between Drums and GDTRFB:
4. 1972-12-31 – Truckin>The Other One>Morning Dew
Listen to The Other One:
5. 1973-03-24 – Playin’ in the Band
Listen to Playin’ in the Band:
6. 1973-09-07 – Eyes of the World
Listen to Eyes of the World:
7. 1977-05-09 – Comes a Time
Listen to Comes a Time:
8. 1977-12-27 – Estimated Prophet
Listen to the Estimated Prophet:
9. 1982-09-21 – China Cat Sunflower>I Know You Rider
For anyone scratching their heads when hearing the name ‘Dick Latvala’, he was the tape archivist for the Grateful Dead and creator of the “Dick’s Picks” series that, in 1993, began releasing high-quality live Grateful Dead performances. Today is the 10th year anniversary of Dick’s death, so it is only appropriate that we examine his impact and significance on the Dead and their fans.
Though Dick had only seen the Grateful Dead mostly in 1966 and 1967, he was an avid tape collector and was hired in 1985 to be the Dead’s official archivist. In 1996, when asked why he was chosen amongst the many people collecting live Grateful Dead recordings, Dick stated, “I got hired because I cared, and still, when I go in the Vault, I’m like a kid in Candyland. It takes my breath away.”
As the Dead’s career began winding down in the early 90’s, Dick thought it would be a great idea to release official recordings of the their best concerts.
Dick was thought to have fantastic taste on differentiating a great show from a mediocre one. Thus, in 1993, the show from 12/19/73 Curtis Hixon Hall, Florida, was released under the name “Dick’s Picks Vol. 1”. While there are 36 official “Dick’s Picks”, only the first 14 were selected by Dick himself. Moreover, while Dick was the leader in selecting which show would be chosen as a Dick’s Pick, Dick typically would ask for fans suggestions through the dead.net website.
Following the release the Dick’s Picks 2, Dick was interviewed about what makes the Grateful Dead such a special band, and came up with this answer:
“That’s what the Grateful Dead experience is for me: music that moves people as powerfully as they can be moved. Each person expresses it in a different fashion – some twirl around, some sit still as a rock. I’m the still-as-a-rock type. But everyone’s way of expressing it is just dandy, and that’s what it’s all about. I thought I was as hardcore as it gets – that no one could be as hardcore as me. But now there are thousands. Everyone in the building! This is energy in its highest form, in a group format. It’s better than sex, man. You can quote me on that.”
This statement shines light on what motivated Dick to be so altruistic. He collected endless Grateful Dead shows starting so he could share his euphoric experiences with the rest of the world, as they too could share in his feelings. He thought the Grateful Dead were life-changing and wanted each and everyone to be able to have the opportunity to bask in the glory of a Dead show.
Dick’s favorite tunes were “The Other One” and “Dark Star”, though he saw “Playing in the Band” as the ultimate indicator for a good show. At the end of the day however, Dick just loved the Dead regardless of song: “Every song has value. I’m for all the tunes – I never wanted to hear anything specific. All I wanted was for them to play it well.”
Dick's Picks 16
With every ‘Pick’, Dick opened his heart and soul to everyone as each one bore great significance to his life, as he was a very spiritual man. From a musical perspective, Dick was nothing short of a visionary. It takes time, effort, devotion, and critical listening to find those shows that have the power to effect people in the way they did for Dick. After all, as many know, Dead shows were not just about the music, and there was something much larger than the band itself, perhaps on a cosmic level. The power of the Deads music exceeds the norm of musical output, and Dicks Pick’s will continue to make that message clear.
Following a heart attack and subsequent death in 1999 at age 56, the Dick’s Picks series was handed over to David Lemieux, who who release another 22 DP. In memory of Dick, the Grateful Dead selected two of Dick’s favorite shows, 9/3/77 and 11/8/69, and released them as Dick’s Picks 15 and 16. To commemorate the man even more, it has been noted that the name “Latvala” (Dick’s last name) can be seen in different places of the Dick’s Picks album art.
Dick truly felt the Deads music in his soul, and saw their music as possessing spiritual potential. He knew how important it was do document this type of music that was having such a great influence in the Bay area in the 60’s, and soon enough, all over the world. Dick wanted people to be able to access the music themselves so they too could feel this spiritual climax. He knew that people will need to hear this music long into the future. Dick was truly the vehicle for that, the engine if you will. We thank him for all he has done. Dick – a great man and a true hero.
For audio interviews, pictures, letters, and hand-written setlists, please visit Dick Latvala.com
Listen to The Other One from 1978-10-21 at the Winterland.
67 years ago today, Jerome “Jerry” John Garcia was born. Although his life was cut short at 53, Jerry will forever remain one of the most important figures in both musical and American cultural history. His work has had a lasting impact on a subculture that cherishes him like no other. Jerry is a cultural icon, as well as one of the greatest and most innovative guitarists to ever live. A man who never wanted to lead a single person wound up leading an entire movement, capturing the hearts and minds of countless followers. Almost 50 years ago, Jerry began making music, and until this day, the music has never stopped.
Jerry met Robert Hunter in 1960, and along with Dave Nelson (New Riders of the Purple Sage), they started a band called the Zodiacs. Performing mostly bluegrass and traditional folk numbers, Jerry would go on to join at least 3 other bands: The Thunder Mountain Tub Thumpers, The Wildwood Boys and the Black Mountain Boys. After meeting Bob Weir in 1963, Jerry formed Mother McCree’s Uptown Jug Champions. With the addition of Phil Lesh and Ron “Pigpen” McKernan, the band would become the Warlocks until finally settling on the Grateful Dead, a phrase from the Egyptian Book of the Dead. When the band began experimenting with electric instruments, they drew heavy criticism from the beatnik crowd, however, Jerry clearly saw the potential in the electric guitar and pursued it endearingly.
“I’m shopping around for something to do that no one will like.”
Using a combination of banjo picking techniques, and downhome style playing, Jerry created one of the most unique sounds yet to be heard on the guitar. In the Grateful Dead’s early years, heavy traces of Rolling Stones’ influence can be heard. As the band progressed, explored and experimented further, musically and otherwise, Jerry began to develop a unique style. Jerry’s guitar playing is unmistakable. Anyone who knows Jerry’s playing can pick out his trademark triple-pull-offs or mutron III envelope filter. His powerful lead lines are instantly identifiable, and are the driving force behind so many of the Dead’s live jams.
“And as far as I’m concerned, it’s like I say, drugs are not the problem. Other stuff is the problem.”
Jerry’s love for music extended well beyond the Dead. Jerry was constantly performing in one way or another whether it be in the Jerry Garcia Band, New Riders of the Purple Sage, Old and in the Way, with Merl Saunders or with David Grisman. In each side project Jerry played a different role. In the New Riders, Jerry played pedal steel. They would open for the Dead, and so Jerry would play in two bands on the same night. The day the Dead would come off the road, Jerry would be in a bar performing with one of his side projects.
Today, we celebrate the life of Jerry Garcia who has had such an impact on so many music lovers. Even though his life was cut short, his music has remained timeless, inspiring bands and followers alike. Many will agree that Jerry was cut from a fabric that is rarely seen in this world. His legacy will live on through the countless deadheads that cherish his every note, and through his impact in the world of music. Happy Birthday Jerry.
From the land of the midnight sun
where the ice blue roses grow
‘long those roads of gold and silver snow
Howlin’ wide or moaning low
So many roads I know
So many roads to ease my soul
Grateful Dead, So Many Roads
To celebrate Jerry’s music, here is a show from the Filmore East from May 15th, 1970. One of my favourite shows. This show really flaunts Jerry’s ability as a guitarist and that’s why I have chosen it. I’ve also included the February 18th, 1971 show from the Capitol Theatre. Both of these shows have incredible Darkstars, among many others. Enjoy both of these gems on this special day in history.
On this day in 1966, three important events took place which had a large impact on musical history.
In Manchester, England three young English lads, Ginger Baker, Jack Bruce and Eric Clapton, would perform their live debut as Cream at The Twisted Wheel. After leaving the Yardbirds, Clapton joined Cream. It was his tenure in Cream that would propel him to stardom, and truly allow him to exhibit his guitar talent. Cream’s early crossroads jams are also considered to be some of the first extended rock jams. The band would leave the stage as Clapton would solo for twenty minutes by himself, to the extreme delight of the crowd. It was with Cream that Clapton made his US debut, performing nine shows at the RKO Theatre in March of 1967. In October of 1968, the band broke up, performing a final show at the Forum in LA. Some of the songs from this show were released on their final CD “Goodbye”. The music Cream created during their short period of time together is some of the finest rock music ever made. Below I have posted the link to the download for Cream’s show from Detroit on October 15, 1967. Download the show, and watch this video of Cream performing the Robert Johnson song Crossroads:
Also on this day, The Grateful Dead would leave the United States for the first time, venturing to Vancouver, BC, Canada. In Vancouver, the Dead would play three shows at the P.N.E. Garden Auditorium. These shows are classic ’66 Dead, with amazing sound quality. The Dead clearly are not well known in Canada, as it sounds like there are very few people in the audience. Or perhaps just very few clapping. When they are announced, no one claps and Phil says “Our fame has proceeded us”. This show is a true testament to Pigpen’s abilities as a front-man. He truly was great, and this show personifies his greatness. I have posted the links to the SBDs for the shows in Vancouver from the 29th and 30th (the 31st is hard to find). Enjoy these classic shows from 1966 marking the Dead’s first trip to Canada.
In addition, today marks the 43rd anniversary of Bob Dylan’s famous motorcycle accident. The accident, which occurred near his home in Woodstock, NY, is not musically significant itself, however the events that unfolded as a result are. After the crash, amidst a great deal of speculation, Bob Dylan went in seclusion for a number of months. During this period he created a number of recordings, however, it was not until 1975 that these recordings were released as Bob Dylan and The Band’s “The Basement Tapes” (a possible phish musical costume). This is some of Bob Dylan’s finest work, working with the Band prior to their debut “Music from Big Pink” in 1968. Posted below is a show with Dylan and The Band from the Forum in LA from February 14, 1974. This show is full of Dylan and The Band classics, such as Lay Lady Lay, Up on Cripple Creak and The Shape I’m In. Enjoy these moments from this day in ’66.