When it comes to this day in Dead history, there is not even a question about which would be our Dead of the Day. It is all 1969 at the Great Highway down by the beach in San Francisco. The show opens with a taffy-rich Cold Rain And Snow, sounding just a little like a ’66 or ’67 version with its poppy goodness. Up next, Midnight Hour starts getting into the funky, psychedelic-twinged blues that the band - and especially Pig - had more or less perfected by late ’69. After that, Bobby and the boys deliver a lovely version of the George Jones and Darrell Evans tune, Season of My Heart. It was the first of just seven times the Dead played the song, but they nailed it right off the bat. The next bunch of songs are all gems in their own right, but it is the last suite that is the real show stopper. But before you get there, make sure you take note of Good Lovin’ and the Dancin’ In The Streets. The latter is resplendent with its vocal harmonies and heavy organ, so different from later versions. And then the first magnificent notes of Dark Star will grab you, as the band slowly takes off on an absolutely epic musical exploration. By around the five-minute mark, the boys are so thoroughly into a tasty, productive stream of consciousness that is just mesmerizing. After the first verse, things get downright spacey, but then head off in another direction altogether, and all of it is pure unadulterated Dead goodness. For those keeping score at home, there is both a Feelin’ Groovy jam and a Tighten Up jam in there. Stephen streams out of Dark Star, rollicking onwards and then settling into a beautiful vocally driven section towards the end, which culminates in Jerry perfectly delivering the William Tell line, precipitating a inimitable transition into a scorching, fantastic rendition of The Eleven. It might not be as tightly wound or have that sing-song joyousness of other takes, but this version is as imaginative and tasty as they come. Eventually, The Eleven drops right into Death Don’t Have No Mercy, which Jerry utterly destroys with both his guitar and his vocals; this is some serious down and out shit.
Family Dog at the Great Highway
San Francisco, California