We have a fabulously hot show – that turns a little bizarre at the end – for our Dead of the Day: March 8, 1970. A sharp, fine Cold Rain and Snow opens things before a long technical break where Bobby tries to entertain with one of his ridiculous long-winded jokes. But when the Dead come back, they tear up a China> Rider, making you forget all of Weir’s strange yellow dog tale and providing one of the many highlights of the night. Another comes a few songs later with a deep, bluesy Hard to Handle by Pig that has a down and dirty edge in the best possible way. The Black Peter is also incredible, just like the previous night’s version of the same tune. After that, the weirdness begins as Pig starts into a haunting acoustic Katie Mae. About halfway through, someone jumps up on stage and joins the band on vocals and harmonica, causing a shift to the “Impromptu Blues” of the set list. It is not very good musically, especially the vocals, but makes for an odd little segment. Apparently, over the course of the last three songs, fifty more people joined the Dead on stage, all doing their best to help the band, as if Jerry, Pig, and the rest of them needed any assistance at all. Fortunately, you cannot really here anybody but the boys on the NFA and Lovelight, the latter of which is short but completely smoking, just as you would expect for an early 1970 version.
There are conflicting reports on who exactly it was who joined the band on stage initially. Some say it was Elvin Bishop from the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, while others argue it was Wayne Ceballos of AUM. Whoever it was - perhaps just some random stoned concert-goer - one commenter on Archive described it accurately, saying “It's kind of like Bill Murray on peyote right off the range.” This was not the only time that a random person jumped in with the Dead, and it might not even have been the first time this dude did it. For instance, back on August 23, 1969 there is another unannounced and unplanned guest who some argue is none other than Wayne Ceballos. For his part, Wayne actually says on Archive that he was out on a West Coast swing with his own band in March 1970; I don't know if it is awesome or sad that he is defending himself on a message board forty-five years later.
For what it is worth, it is pretty clear that the first half of March is not the best time of year for the Dead. While there are some goods shows over the first two weeks of the month, none of them really rise to the truly transcendent level and make it into the conversation for best show ever. That will all change, though, as we pass the Ides of March, when the Dead, across the years, really ratcheted it up.