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Dead of the Day: August 23, 1969

Pelletier Farm
St. Helens, Oregon
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The great shows of late August continue, and we once again head back to some primal Dead, this time at a 1969 festival, Bullfrog 3, out in Oregon. Despite its clipped beginning, the Hard to Handle balls in psychedelic blues style, blasting the crowd with its thick, groovy, vaguely sexual jams. A few songs later, the Easy Wind is hot with Pig’s keys taking center stage while Jerry provides some enchanting runs in the background. But the show really turns at the Dark Star, which  is, from the very beginning, metaphysically fantastic. It covers relatively standard territory through the first seven minutes or so, but does so with flawless playing. Then, the boys – led by Jerry and TC – start to send out exploratory riffs that evolve into a bold and charging jam that, at the same time, contains a spacey otherness. Out of this, the Stephen bursts forth in full fury, as the boys bang and rage through, with occasional moments of sweetness, until they slide into The Eleven, which is nearly as wonderful, brought down only by a vocal flub. Following that, an inimitable, only from the god-damned Grateful Dead, thirty-minute Lovelight unrolls with peppery, calliope organ and relentless driving jams, backed up by Pig’s bawdy rapping, challenging people to come up on stage and testify. One person, particularly caught up in the spirit does make his way on stage, providing his own witness. After a show of this magnitude, of this energy, the band could do only one thing to close it out, send everyone home with a benediction in the form of We Bid You Goodnight.

Coming on the heels of Woodstock, Bullfrog was a relatively small affair near St. Helens, about an hour north of Portland. When the town refused to give the permits for the festival, "About 9 o'clock Thursday evening Mrs. Melvina Pelletier of St. Helens offered her property in the Happy Hollow area of Yankton for a festival."

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