We have a fun weekend planned visiting friends in Rochester but first I have this first of two runs to contend with this morning, this one being a long 22k haul out to Fort Erie and back. My listening pleasure for two plus hours of pavement pounding is the ‘Dick’s Picks Vol.8‘ by the Grateful Dead.
Once again, Dick picks a great one. Harpur College, May 2nd, 1970 is consistently ranked by Deadheads as one of the band’s best shows ever, and it’s easy to hear why.
This concert was held after the Dead had recorded their breakthrough album, ‘Workingman’s Dead‘, but a month before it was released. One can imagine the surprise of the audience when the group broke out acoustic guitars and played a first set in what we would now call an “unplugged” format, introducing then-unreleased songs like ‘Friend of the Devil‘, ‘Dire Wolf‘, ‘Uncle John’s Band‘, sometimes backed by New Riders of the Purple Sage members David Nelson and John Dawson. This popular bootleg then showcases the band as they begin to rein in their experimental tendencies and overtly acknowledge their debt to old-time blues and folk.
Personally, it’s a great way to slip into an easy-going, carefree pace down the Friendship Trail and Edgemere Lane to Waverly Beach until the suck starts to slowly seep in.
But that hour of wonderful music is only the beginning, and the Dead prove just as inspired when they plug in and launch into their more familiar mixture of updated R&B (James Brown‘s ‘It’s a Man’s World‘, ‘Dancing in the Street‘) and expansive psychedelia (‘St. Stephen‘, ‘The Other One‘) – all of which are stretched to their gills and featuring Pigpen’s coarse vocals and Garcia’s bold guitar work. ‘Viola Lee Blues‘ is also captivating and definitely more motivating once ‘ol Thunder n’ Lightning are fatigued. Just the mind of amped up drive I need to get home.
But beyond all that, it’s amazing to hear the band this engaged, joking with the audience and among themselves, seeming far more enthusiastic and spontaneous than they were later in their career. This is an album for people who wonder why Deadheads collect tapes, and also for Deadheads who have worn out their tapes of one of their favorites.
Decent run this morning, nice cool breeze without too much difficult headwind. and with that, Phase One of today’s “Kenya Day” is in the bag.