The week before Christmas was usually a quiet week for the Grateful Dead, as they needed their rest, too, before the big annual New Year’s festivities, which often ran the entire week from December 26-January 1. However, there were certainly some memorable shows played during the week of December 18-December 24.
In 1968, the band ventured down to LA for two shows at the Shrine on December 20 and 21. Although not as first-cabin as the August 23 and 24, 1968 shows at the same venue, these December concerts are very solid, as evidenced by this version of Alligator from 12/21/68. Just as the shows might be a notch down from the August performances, so too are the tapes. Whereas the August shows were recorded onto 1” 8-track tape running at 15 ips, the December shows were only recorded to cassette. Although not ideal, it certainly is nothing to lament, for there are times when we should feel very fortunate that Bear had the wherewithal to hit the “record” button amidst all of his other duties, regardless of the format to which he decided to record.
In 1969, three shows were played at the Fillmore West on December 19-21, with the first show featuring the very first acoustic set (well, it was just Bobby and Jerry), a four song set featuring Monkey and the Engineer, Little Sadie, “Long Black Limousine,” and “I’ve Been All Around This World.” This little interlude to open the show, of course, was followed by a full-blown electric night of music with a typically hot late-1969 performance, including this version of Good Lovin’, as were the next two nights (neither of which featured acoustic sets). Like much of 1969, the shows were recorded to 7” reel-to-reel tapes, recorded at 7.5 ips, wonderful documents that hold up very well almost 40 years later.
1970 saw a few shows just prior to the holiday break, specifically Pepperland in San Rafael (take a look at the “Litchfield’s” sign on the east side of 101 when you’re traveling north up the highway through San Rafael, California; that’s Pepperland) and Sacramento, neither of which exist in the vault, followed the big Bear benefit on 12/23/70 at Winterland. A short show, but a hot one.
1973, of course, saw the two huge shows in Tampa on December 18 and 19, the second of which makes up Dick’s Picks Vol. 1. As good as the music was on December 18, I’d be remiss if I didn’t play the Here Comes Sunshine from 12/19/73, the very same song that is the very start of the Dick’s Picks series. Dick, this one’s for you. Also, one of the most frequent queries we get is about the fade at the end of “Half-Step” on Dick’s Picks Vol. 1, so here is the end of that jam into Me and Bobby McGee from 12/19/73.
Another great run of shows during the week of December 18-24 was in 1978, which unfortunately do not exist in the vault. The last shows in the Grateful Dead’s performing career to have been played during this week were on December 18 and 19, 1993 and 1994 in Oakland and Los Angeles, respectively, both runs existing in those typically stellar Healy/Cutler PA DATs, as evidenced by this Days Between from 12/19/94 at the Sports Arena in LA.
Check back next week when we’ll take a look (and listen…) to some of the recorded moments during the magical Grateful Dead week of 12/25 to 12/31. Feel free to get in touch with questions or comments, or if there is any particular show about which you’re curious of the vault source (if any), don’t hesitate to ask. We’ll try to address your curiosity in future entries, date-appropriate, of course.
vault [at] dead.net