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Dead of the Day: April 15, 1970

Winterland Arena
San Francisco, California

There are no great Dead shows on April 15th, only extraordinary ones. But that does not make it particularly difficult to the pick the best of them as this night at Winterland in 1970 is so tremendous it lords over the rest. The band makes it special from the beginning with a momentous Cold Rain and Snow, after which Bobby is so pumped that he lets out a loud, joyous scream. Just a song later, Pig leads the band in a phenomenal It’s a Man’s World, his fervor and pure ferociousness leaving no doubt that he was going to be a huge presence throughout the night. The Candyman, clipped Hard to Handle, and Cumberland are all legendary in their own right as well. But the show starts to get really intense with the Other One suite. Into the first Drums, things start to build up speed and power, heading off into a scorching jam that is intense and joyous at the same time. Never losing focus, the band cranks forth the Other One, leaving you absolutely mesmerized with the boys' power and ability to wield it. And after that display, a sweet and unexpected Dire Wolf emerges next. Then the Dead – Pig most prominently – ratchets things up again, with a Dancing> Lovelight> NFA> Lovelight to close it out. There is a point in the Lovelight where Bobby and the drummers are just going to town. Slowly, Phil comes in, bombing away, and then Jerry emerges right out of the ascending beast, blasting away into space. Then, as the music circles around and descends again, Pig busts out “Why don’t you get your hands out of your pocket, stop playing pocket pool, and have yourself some fun.” It – the mind-meld of it all – is a perfect late-60s/early 70s Grateful Dead moment. And that is what is so unreal about this show, how it is the sublime epitome of the band at that place in their evolution. They are still the masters of their late sixties psychedelic splendor, but are also well on their way to fully encompassing their early 70s blues, rock, bluegrass, Americana fabulousness that they would continue to explore and consummate over the next few years.

The Dead shared the bill this night with Quicksilver Messenger Service and Jefferson Airplane, making it a huge evening for San Francisco music. On Archive, Marleon comments about the experience,

This was my favorite night of music ever. Quicksilver played first and played the best set I ever heard them play. The Airplane were next, and played a great set, but my friends and I were convinced Quicksilver would be the best band this night. Then the Dead changed our opinion right out of the box with a great Cold Rain and Snow, followed by Weir yelling back to us. The rest of the music was great, particularly the Cryptical/Jam/Other One, and Dancin. There is a lot of speculation that other players were in on the jam. I don't remember anyone else playing, but I will never forget David Crosby standing with the roadies and others behind the Dead, with the most blissed out smile the whole time. Though I think if a picture had been taken of me, I would have had the same look.

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