Ron "Pigpen" McKernan - vocals, harmonica, organ; Jerry Garcia - guitar, vocals; Bob Weir - guitar, vocals; Phil Lesh - bass, vocals; Bill Kruetzmann - drums
Few 1967 Grateful Dead recordings survive and even fewer remain from early in the year, prior to the "Summer Of Love," when San Francisco would receive a mass influx of young people and its music and social scene would gain international media attention. These two Grateful Dead sets, which bookended a set by Chuck Berry, occurred the night after the band's debut album was released. Their local popularity had steadily been increasing and with their first album fresh on the streets, these shows had a celebratory atmosphere, no doubt in part due to being surrounded by friends and family.
Unlike almost any other time in their career, their studio recordings for their first album were a fairly accurate representation of what they were doing on stage. Many of the songs on the album, as well as this show, are amphetamine-fueled jug band numbers played on electric instruments. At this stage, Pigpen and Garcia clearly dominated the bands sound, with Lesh and Kruetzmann providing a propulsive bottom end. What they lacked in original material, they more than made up for in creativity and youthful energy.
The pre-Chuck Berry first set contains only two numbers from their album, the apocalyptic "Morning Dew" and the hyperdrive jug band number sung by Weir, "Beat It On Down The Line." Both of these are close to the album interpretations. The remainder of the set contains primal versions of songs that would remain in the band's live repertoire for years to come. Garcia tackles "He Was A Friend Of Mine," a song then having great relevance to the JFK assassination. Bob Weir takes lead vocal duties on John Phillips' "Me And My Uncle" to open the set and on a version of Martha & The Vandellas' "Dancin' In The Streets," that hints at the freeform jamming they were already quite capable of, to close the set. The rest feature Pigpen leading the band on down and dirty blues numbers. Both "Next Time You See Me" and "Hurts Me Too" are strong early renditions, but it's the version of "Smokestack Lightning" that really cooks and brings out the best from all concerned.
© 2019 CV.org. All rights reserved.