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An Old Canoe




Dark Star
Jan. 2, 1970
Fillmore East (Late Show)

I think what I love most about this is that it's a DP4 style "Dark Star", which was very much a 1970 thing, but it's still attached to the psychedelic Live/Dead suite of St. Stephen, The Eleven and Turn on Your Lovelight. The whole sequence is very nice: old school Dead with a sophisticated bend that foreshadows the 70s. Ironic that they kick off this decade that would see so much change with a reliable stalwart sequence of the 60s (Eleven would soon be retired, within the spring I think). The Star itself is, as I intimated above, akin to 2-13-70 and has a bit of a "formula" in the music to sparse noise to pleasant rebuild to second verse thing, but it's done incredibly well here and sustains for 30 minutes, which always makes for a good time. A great "Dark Star" from the era when they were at their best.
Dark Star
Sept. 21, 1972
The Spectrum

It is abundantly clear to me that as far as post '71 Dark Stars go, this one is just about the best there is and has no obvious rival that I've heard yet. It is *far* superior to the famed Veneta one from a month prior and has so much more melodicism and methodical (yet improvised) madness throughout. 37 minutes is a really intimidating runtime for any track, even for a Head like me, but somehow this half hour and change just evaporates when I listen to this masterpiece. It manages to have all the "sections" that make a good DS - the opening melodicism that's true to the song with the "first verse", a period of chaos and discord that sounds like it's about to devolve into feedback, and a really sublime moment of upbeat musical beauty. And on that last beat, I definitely disagree with some of the comments here that the MLB jam is its own track. On both this and the DP14 "Playin'", this part of the jam is just that: part of the jam that makes up the entire track. It's where they ended up from their exploration on "Dark Star", not a dedicated track of its own that they're switching gears to. I'm not one to be basic, but the transition from a massive "Dark Star" into a powerful "Morning Dew" is incredibly satisfying and another jewel in this Star's crown that makes it superior to Veneta. I tend to be an early-era Head and prefer my Stars from 68 - 70, so maybe something about this one resonates because of its tightness and melodicism, but this one is just it for me and actually boasts an improvement from the Primal era by giving us a more sophisticated Dead (rather than the typical PITB loose noodling that's so common in this 72 era).
Playin' In The Band
Dec. 2, 1973
Music Hall

Absolutely adore this PITB, which I would count all the way until they start "He's Gone" as one piece. Recalls all that Feedback discordant stuff they specialized in during the acid test days, but incorporating the Europe 72 era refine. It's a lovely mix and one of the greatest GD moments of all time. DP14 is the shit.
Easy Wind
Dec. 12, 1969
Thelma Theater

It's insane how good Easy Wind could be live, and this is my favorite version. It's a shame that Pigpen would soon be doing more lukewarm covers as the songwriters stopped finding vehicles for him, because a song like this is a massive level up on anything Pigpen had sang before. It's got that blues-channeling he does so well, but with the developed songwriting of Garcia/Hunter. Anyway, this one reaches fantastic heights and grooves consistently throughout.
The Other One
March 2, 1969
Fillmore West

2/27 comes close for Garcia's guitar work in that one, but this is overall the best TIFTOO from the Live/Dead run. The explosion into the main section from drums is one of the most discordantly electric Dead moments I've ever heard!