Thursday, April 17, 2008

A Bay Area Bluegrass Bonanza

Halfway through April and the snow has not gone away ... in fact it's not only not all melted and still very much covering the ground -- it was snowing again this morning!! Well, a light snowfall, not even a dusting... but it was 11° (-12 C) when I was makin' coffee earlier around 6 ... and now a couple hours later: -4 (about -20 C.) Seriously? It's dropped 15 degrees?!?! Did I mention that it's mid-April? We all know that, right, that we're now more than halfway to May? This is still winter. But it's technically most definitely not winter. -4° right now!! This is winter. No, it's Spring. Totally it's winter. No, wait... Spring. Winter. Rabbit Season. Duck Season. Rabbit Season. Duck Season. Bluegrass season...

Jerry Garcia on banjo trippy designGreat American String Band

June 13, 1974

Keystone, Berkeley, California

Jerry Garcia -- banjo, vocals
David Grisman -- mandolin, vocals
David Nichtern -- guitar, vocals
Richard Greene -- fiddle
Buell Neidlinger -- bass

1st Set:
Colored Aristocracy, Cedar Hill, I'll Be A Gambler If You Deal The Cards,
My Plastic Banana Is Not Stupid, Moonlight Waltz, Swing '42, Methodist Preacher,
Limehouse Blues

2nd Set: Bud's Bounceª, Dawg's Bull, Russian Lullaby, Virgin's Lamentª,
Swing '42ª, Drink Up And Go Home, Dawg's Rag

ª with Bob Gurland on mouth trumpet

This lineup of musicians is so very similar to the more well-known band who debuted a year and a few months before this -- Old & In The Way. But some changes have been made including John Kahn out and in his place on bass is Buell Neidlinger a.k.a. "Flame Bombadine." Nichtern is in for Peter Rowan on guitar. And lastly Richard Greene is returning to play again with Garcia & Grisman; Greene was the fiddle player for O&ITW for about the first half of their existence before Vassar Clements came in.

There weren't many shows with this bunch of guys, in fact this is just the
fifth in less than two months... the fifth and final show for his group calling themselves the Great American String Band.

Colored Aristocracy may be the first song of the night but Grisman's Cedar Hill is definitely the song that gets the people in the Keystone excited for what's to come. I'll Be A Gambler is more of the same, very upbeat and probably makin' a lot of lucky ones on this night want to get up and do some dancin'. Might not be the Grateful Dead... but it still rocks... well, in the way this type of music can.

Now I'm no bluegrass afficionado by any means but as the band works their way through the rest of the set, they are demonstrating all around some beautiful ability to handle these instruments in a way that would make Bill Monroe quite pleased, I'm sure.

Methodist Preacher is my favorite of the first half of the show. For several minutes it's just Greene on fiddle and Grisman on mandolin, working to let the "rhythm generate for awhile." Minutes of that magic goes by before the rest of the band starts in to help finish up the song. Holy Appalachian Stomp, Jed Clampett, the crowd sure gets into this one!!! Whew!!! Oh yeah!

In the second set we finally get to hear Jerry sing. While he's been playin' the heck out of that banjo of his, the few songs with vocals so far have gone to Nichtern. Jerry's in the band but this ain't a Garcia-led show by any means. My ultimate highlight of the show comes compliments of Jerry in his second ever playing of Irving Berlin's Russian Lullaby. Richard Greene helped out on this when it was recorded in the studio for inclusion on Jerry's second studio album -- Compliments -- which had just been released the same month as this show. Twas just twenty-four hours before in the same bar by the same band that the song was debuted and here they are again with "Spud Boy," "Irving Garcia," giving it another go. Second ever playing? Beautiful! And at just over eight minutes it's the longest tune of the night to this point -- finally, a little room to just play... well, then again, considering there have been instrumentals performed, there's been plenty of room to play but, you know, there's just more of it in this song.

Grisman is actually the primary guy here, although Nichtern, sounding beautifully like Jerry on acoustic guitar, has his time to shine as does Greene on fiddle... while Jerry's part is actually not very big at all! Sort of ironic? I mean, Russian Lullaby is on his LP and he'd go on to perform it almost 150 times all the way up into the summer of 1994, and here he is singing it but his banjo playing is never a significant part of the music. One more interesting note about this 2nd ever playing -- it would be more than a year before he'd play it again, not until the show right before the JGB would head east for their big East Coast tour in the Fall of '75. Kind of a long time to sit on the shelf between this playing and all the rest. Neat stuff, huh? Yeah, I knew you'd think so.

Django Reinhardt's Swing '42 sees a return engagement in the 2nd Set, yes, repeated in the same show. The reason for this -- they wanted to do a version with guest Bob Gurland who had appeared on Bud's Bounce to open the set as well as Virgin's Lament right before this. Gurland, when he's out there and playin', adds an interesting horn sound to make the songs he joins in on a bit different than the rest. And while Set 1 was comprised of a bunch of quick numbers, at over ten minutes here we have another rambler, even more so than Russian Lullaby... more space to just play which I'm sure many Deadheads appreciate. I sure do.

Jerry sings once more and leads the way on not quite the last song but Drink Up And Go Home sure woulda been a great tune for the encore. Something else was probably played last, after Dawg's Rag -- the recording quickly fades away with a few notes of tuning heard. Judging from the night before, there most likely was something else to close out the show but odds are it's nowhere to be found in existence today. Oh well. Still, despite the very end probably missing, this is a great listen... and it's the end of an era for Jerry. Unless I'm mistaken there wouldn't be another Garcia-Grisman pairing for over 16 years, not until early December in 1990. Did Jer, in a live setting like this, play the banjo in all that time or did it just lay dormant? Thankfully, eventually, the time came when the two would join together again giving us more tunes both old and new. It took awhile but perhaps that makes this old stuff (and the later years Garcia-Grisman) even more special than if it had been taking place all along.

Master Soundboard ? > ??? > CD

Sound Quality: hissy during the quiet moments only
(in between songs) but sounds great when the music's a playin'!



GASB 6/13/74 Keystone Berkeley - Part 1
Part 2 - Keystone Berkeley 6/13/74
6-13-74 aka 06-13-74 aka 6/13/74 aka 06/13/74 aka 74-06-13 320 kbps mp3 download and setlist


Timmy said...

A rarity, yes... But more than that, this is a great moment in American musical history. Thanx very muchas Garcias....

jointathan said...

This may not have been the best bluegrass band ever, but even if I wasn't a deadhead I'm sure I'd be diggin' it. We know that Garcia didn't like the amplification options for acoustic at the time, but it's a curiosity that he didn't have an outside acoustic outlet (other than the duet with Kahn) for so many years. Anyway, thanks for making this recording so easily available for the world. Peace.

lenny said...

always great to catch garcia/grisman tackle some unfamiliar tunes (to dead-centric fans anyway)

a sincere THANK YOU

one says one number and the other another
but they were set at the same time. Hmmm...

Calvin and Hobbes in the snow -- animated