Grateful Dead

June 20 - June 26, 2011

Tapers Section By David Lemieux

Road Trips Stops at Big Rock Pow Wow 1969!

The winter and spring of 1969 was a particularly exciting time for the Grateful Dead. They were finishing up their long-awaited third album, Aoxomoxoa, and playing with a passionate intensity unequaled in their nearly five years together. The group’s epic Fillmore West run at the end of February gave us most of their masterpiece, Live Dead — not to mention the gargantuan, out-of-print, 10-CD Fillmore West 1969: The Complete Recordings (and the superb 3-CD compilation from those shows). This is the era when “Dark Star” really blasted off into space, when tunes like “St. Stephen” and “The Eleven” were peaking (along with the audience!), and just about every night was a wild adventure for both the crowd and the band. The Dead played 146 shows that year—the most of any year—criss-crossing the country a couple of times and playing all sorts of interesting and far-flung destinations, blowing minds at every bend in the road.

Without a doubt one the coolest places the Dead played that year was the Seminole Indian Reservation in Hollywood, Florida, just north of Miami, at a rock festival known as the Big Rock Pow Wow, May 23-25, 1969. The Dead headlined the first two days of the festival, and their complete sets from the Pow Wow, recorded by the Dead’s inimitable soundman in that era—Owsley “Bear” Stanley—are spread across the three discs that constitute Road Trips Vol. 4, No. 1. Whoo-hoo! Unlike some of the other huge festivals held during 1969, the Big Rock Pow Wow was a fairly low-key affair—it attracted just a few thousand folks, mostly locals, many of whom camped in the woods and meadows of the sprawling reservation grounds and convened each afternoon and evening for ten or more hours of music featuring the likes of Johnny Winter, Muddy Waters, Joe South, The Youngbloods, Sweetwater, Aum, NRBQ, Rhinoceros and a handful of South Florida favorites. There was Seminole dancing and chants onstage and off—and the adjacent restored Seminole village was bustling with native crafts-makers (and sellers), as well as various hippie merchants peddling their wares. Because the festival took place on Seminole land, there were no police or conventional security. Timothy Leary’s “people” were somehow involved in putting on the event and Dr. Tim wandered the grounds and occasionally spoke from the stage. “Orange sunshine” acid was everywhere.

The Dead provided their own very psychedelic soundtrack for the weekend with two fiery sets that show the group at their exploratory best. The first show was built around what would become known as the Live Dead sequence: “Dark Star” > “St. Stephen” > “The Eleven” > “Turn On Your Lovelight,” each piece jammed powerfully and with purpose, flowing like electric lava—bubbling and spurting and occasionally exploding as it erupts out of the speakers and into the crowd. There are all sorts of fascinating twists and turns in the jams (including a couple prompted by Garcia breaking strings!) and the “Lovelight” has Pigpen leading the charge for a very funky half-hour rock’n’soul romp. Also notable from the first show is a superb “Morning Dew” (which appears on Disc 3 due to the timing limitations of the CD format)...

The next night (beginning Disc 2 here) the Dead open with another excursion through “Lovelight,” but as you might expect, this one has its own unique feeling—same song, different vibe. From there it’s a tour through some of the other chestnuts of the era, including the then-new “Doin’ That Rag,” the wonderful ballad “He Was a Friend of Mine,” which eases into “China Cat Sunflower,” followed by another slammin’ “Eleven,” before arriving at a haunting and potent “Death Don’t Have No Mercy.” What a rollercoaster! The reminder of the second show (on Disc 3) includes “Alligator”—appropriate for what is most definitely alligator-country!—a drum duel with Mickey and Bill calling on the native spirits, and a version of “St. Stephen” that begins unlike any other version from this era… and ends in eerie feedback before a final “We Bid You Goodnight.” Saturday evening reportedly ended with Timothy Leary requesting that all stage lights be turned off and then speaking quietly to the dazed and buzzed crowd about the light show going on in the sky above—planets and constellations and shooting stars. Ya gotta love the ’60s!

Road Trips Vol 4. No 1—Big Rock Pow Wow 1969 is yet another sonic gem from Bear’s reel to reel master tapes, and mastered to HDCD specs by Jeffrey Norman for maximum fidelity and punch. As always, it includes a beautifully designed booklet with period photos and an essay about the shows. There’s some pretty amusing stage patter you won’t want to miss, too. We think it’s one of our best releases yet, but judge for yourself: You can get more info and order this latest Road Trips by going here.

- Blair Jackson


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Joined: Jun 4 2007
ok, what's going on here?

Something looks to have gotten shuffled a bit.

Joined: Feb 10 2008

You know, that Promised Land is not all that bad really. Ive heard wors versions from decent bands. Just goes to show you how talented this band is.

grateful_vince's picture
Joined: Jun 8 2010

stoltzfus - to add to your list of out-of-this-world versions of Disco Dancin' - I'd add to your list 5/15/77 and 10/11/77 - Two outrageous, funky-as-hell jams there

"What we do is as American as lynch mobs." - Jerome Garcia

Joined: Jul 9 2008
Laughing Like Crazy!

I had always heard about this show but for whatever reason never thought to listen to it when on archive. I wonder if that's how the Grateful Dead sounds to non-deadheads who think they suck.

lamagonzo (not verified)
Last Harrah for the Aud/Kaiser

Very laid back Little Light. God I loved that place!

Joined: Nov 7 2010
Some funny stories...

in the "shows" section for 4/1/80. Especially the guy who wandered in a bit late and stoned and hadn't seen the stage yet and turns to his buddy to say "God they sound like sh*t tonight!" (Reply: "You idiot! Jerry's playing drums!")

Wish Phil had gotten more time to stretch out into a guitar solo.

bruno14's picture
Joined: Sep 18 2007
Dancin' and '78

I know that some disagree but I really like the 9-76 Dancin's on DP 20. Many call it disco but it sounds like shuffle to me (maybe because I more or less missed disco by living out of range of pop radio and at least some of its influence).

And I like a lot of 78 shows right through the year though there were more and more train wrecks as time went by. I saw a few very good shows that year.

But I know I am in a minority.

dstache's picture
Joined: Sep 10 2007

Add it to the long list of shows which do not circulate on SBD. I have this on AUD but haven't gotten around to it, mainly because it isn't supposed to be a great AUD. If you aren't going to release it yourself, please lend the master reel to Charlie Miller so people can enjoy this show. You might as well lend him 5/12/77 too.

I consider early 78 (the January California shows + the Oregon one-off + the 6 Jan/Feb midwest dates) to be just as good if not better than Fall 77. While I think that you can sense signs of trouble entering the music in Fall 77, to me it isn't until spring 78 where it becomes clear that there is a problem with a certain someone.

Joined: Jan 13 2010
disco Dancin song structure for lyrics is lame, BUT...

the jams they played with that arrangement are stratospheric.


others certainly exist. which would you list?

Joined: Nov 12 2007
Mickey starts out on vocals

Mickey starts out on vocals but it is obvious to all that he doesn't know the words. Bobby basically helps him sing it.


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