Welcome back to the third installment of “The Unofficial 31 Days of Dead.” The past two years were so much fun that I decided to do it again. The idea for these compilations came about after dead.net ran its “30 Days of Dead” in November 2010. While the Deadhead community at large was no doubt thrilled to receive previously unreleased tracks from the band’s vast archives, many of us were hoping for just a bit…more. Hey, we are Deadheads – we are always hoping for more! Therefore, I thought it might be fun to keep the music flowing by selecting my own daily picks. The month of December seemed more than appropriate since New Year’s Eve celebrations were such a big part of the Grateful Dead. Let’s think of these daily picks as an advent calendar leading up to New Year’s Eve. Unlike the “Official 30 Days of Dead,” there is no contest here. Instead, the prize is the music and the winner is the listener.
[Artwork by Brian Levine]
2/9/73 Maple Pavilion, Stanford University, Palo Alto, CA
An older and wiser Deadhead once told me that if I didn’t like El Paso then I didn’t “get” the Grateful Dead. Being young and insolent, I of course laughed at such a ridiculous statement. He looked at me with pity and silently walked away.
After years of skipping over El Paso on tapes I came across this version from Stanford ’73. The show is well-known for the debut of many new songs – Sunshine, TLEO, Eyes, Row Jimmy, etc. I have listened to it countless times but never once paid any attention to El Paso. I figured I may as well give it a go “just in case.” I must confess that I was not expecting much as I cued it up. However, not more than three seconds into it and Jerry’s relentless noodling has me completely mesmerized. It’s one of those cosmic moments that leave you wondering whether Jerry is playing too many notes! Among this flurry of notes is what appears to be a few errand notes that are played off scale. This subtle hint of spaciness threatens to take things in a completely different direction if it is not contained soon. Sensing this, Weir immediately steps up to the microphone to bring things back to reality by jumping into the first verse.
Garcia’s playing is stellar but the game ball goes to Bill Kreutzmann who is truly a monster on the drum kit.His playing is very jazzy and aggressive – very similar to his style on Playin’ in the Band circa 1972-74. Oddly enough, it works brilliantly! The listener feels as if he is galloping on a psychedelic horse. And then like a thrilling amusement park ride the fun ends all too soon. With a crazy grin plastered on my face, I must have pressed the replay button at least a dozen times knowing that I “got it.” I’m a believer. El Paso for lyfe.
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