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Dead of the Day: May 14, 1974

Adams Field House, University of Montana
Missoula, Montana

For our Dead of the Day, we head off to the only Montana show the boys ever played, in 1974 at the University of Montana. Keith and Billy take the lead out of the gate, dominating a really different, but just as fine, Bertha. A song later, Jerry does a wonderful job with Loser; his playing puts a lovely spin on the forlorn hope of the tune. Bobby takes his turn next on Black Throated Wind, and the entire band keeps up the subtle, but terribly evocative sound that characterizes the show up to that point. During the song, though, the band gets fired up, which carries right on through to Scarlet Begonias. Just the second time they played the tune, it has the same tight feel of the studio version, but includes some of the incredible Jerry solos – and some banshee wailing from Donna – that would forever define the song. It is at about this point in the show where it becomes abundantly clear that you are in for an incredibly special night. From there, the rest of the first set continues to sparkle, leading into a fiery Deal where Keith and Jerry combine on some ferocious jamming. Keith continues with the lightning keys on Big River, as Bobby, Jerry, and him trade rapid-fire jams, eviscerating the tune while the crowd roars its approval. You can almost see the smiles on their face and the knowing looks they must have thrown each other as they get to the end of the song. After a strong Brown-Eyed Women, the Dead close out the first session with an amazing Playin’ that reaches into some trippy space over its twenty luscious minutes. The second set starts off with US Blues, but really gets going with the light and tasty Row Jimmy. From there, things head right off the hook with a full Weather Report Suite. Through the first half, the boys mix up a rich, layered, and finely textured bit of loveliness that serves as the base from which the face melting jam that dominates the second half of the tune emerges. What’s more, the Let It Grow sidles right into a complex, jazzy, and nuanced Dark Star that is a real treat.  At its end, a controlled cacophony suddenly quiets and coalesces into China Doll, which almost seems like it is trying to make sense of the awesome wonders of the Dark Star. After the China Doll, the boys only take a half second before storming in  with a Promised Land to change the entire tenor of the set. Then, they continue the high-energy rocking out of the rest of the way with a great NFA> GDTRFB and One More Saturday Night encore.

A reporter from the local newspaper, the Missoulian, commented the next day that “Garcia is one of the best musicians there is. He nonchalantly stood onstage, bracing himself on one leg as the other rose and fell with the tempo of the music. Garcia was at his peak in the half-hour “Playing in the Band” jam, when he took a foray into rock, jazz and finally an electronic neverness that left the crowd spellbound.” While he is right on there, he also said that Weir was “outstanding” on “Mama Tried” and that the out-of-sight WRS> Dark Star proved “the night was not all roses,” as it was the “one incoherent jam in the four-hour concert.” The story did conclude by confirming the story that Bobby was hit by a plastic pitcher right as they came on for the encore. Perhaps the “distasteful conclusion to the fine performance” was what kept the band from returning to the Treasure State.

The show was released as Dave's Picks Volume Nine.

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