One of the most intriguing short tours in Grateful Dead history took place in the first two weeks of December, 1971, and featured the return of Pigpen, who had been resting himself the previous couple of months, allowing Keith to work his way into the band’s sound on the October, 1971 tour. The short December run included many shows Dead Heads can merely refer to by name and be greeted with a smile: Felt Forum; Ann Arbor; Boston Music Hall; Fox Theatre. Unfortunately, the vault doesn’t contain all of the shows from this tour, but what is there includes some of the best material, including the terrific “Run Run Rudolph”, heard here from 12/4/71 in New York. There were also a few surprises on this little tour, including the return of “Smokestack Lightning” and the only performance of “Muddy Water,”, heard here from the 12/5/71 show also at the Felt Forum in New York from the 10” reel-to-reel master.
The masterful Fall Tour of 1973 continued during this week, and amongst many highlights is the “Dark Star” from 12/6/73 in Cleveland. If not one of the best “Dark Stars,” it certainly is one of the longest and deepest spaces.
The 1989-1990 period is well-represented on official albums, with most of the June, 1989 to April, 1990 shows recorded to multi-track audio tape by our esteemed colleague, John Cutler. The first live document to be released from this period, of course, is Without A Net, followed by others including Nightfall of Diamonds and Dozin’ at the Knick. One run of shows recorded to multi-track was the LA Forum shows on December 8, 9 and 10, 1989, with the “Bird Song” well-known as the version on Without A Net. Just like the February, 1989 shows at the Forum, special guests showed up, including Bruce Hornsby and Spencer Davis. On 12/8, the band played a terrific version of Brent’s “Blow Away,” complete with end-of-song rap reminiscent of the stellar version on 7/7/89 in Philadelphia.
One run of shows that is unfortunately absent from the vault in reel-to-reel format is the December 4, 5 and 7, 1969 run from the Fillmore West. At least the run was recorded by Bear on cassette, and although the tapes mightn’t be of the quality usually associated with reels from the era, they do sound remarkably good considering the source format. Certainly good enough to study and analyze.
Feel free to get in touch with questions or comments, or if there is any particular show about which you’re curious about 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