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Dead of the Day: May 7, 1972

Bickershaw Festival
Wigan, England
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The show gets off to a mighty fine start with a smoking Truckin’. Then, after a bit of technical difficulties, the Dead come right back with a solid Sugaree. By the middle of the first set, things are out of control as a stunning China> Rider bursts forth, bristling with energy and pure excitement. A Playin’ in the Band two songs later continues the upbeat yet complex jam-centered joy. Pig finally really gets into the mix after that with a Good Lovin’. Intense and naughty as it is, it is really only a premonition of Pig’s heroics in the second half, though. And that second half gets off to an easy start with a few well-played tunes. But the fireworks truly begin with the Dark Star > Drums> Other One, which is clearly the crux of the night. It is also the only time the Dead played Dark Star and The Other One in combination during 1972. The boys do not waste the effort, performing a stylistic Dark Star that will make you shudder with some of its haunting licks. But it is The Other One that takes the day, heading off in a relentlessly ferocious manner and then spinning off into bliss during the second part of the tune. Right afterwards, the Dead bring it right back to Earth with a deeply sad and evocative Sing Me Back Home. The expected rocking Sugar Mags comes up next and is then followed by more quintessential Pigpen on Lovelight with Jerry adding some great slide guitar. Lovelight segues into a GDTRFB> NFA that sends off the show with the former’s driving blues and the Dead’s searing early-‘70s version of the latter.

The Bickershaw Festival brought together a number of West Coast American acts such as Country Joe McDonald, the New Riders, and the Dead with some of the big British names, including Donovan and The Kinks. The Dead played on the last day of the three-day festival. And by the time they came out, the crowd had been drenched and muddy for the entire time. Not had it rained throughout at the flood-prone site, but the organizers had emptied a pool used for a high-dive act - there were various circus-type performances - right in front of the stage. But none of this dampened the Dead's playing or the crowd's enthusiasm for it. Reportedly, Elvis Costello - just an eighteen-year-old unknown pub singer - stood in awe throughout the set and convinced him he should start a band.

Note that the rest of the recording here – after the encore of One More Saturday Night – is the New Riders’s set from that night. There is a DVD of footage from the festival, but the video is apparently poor quality and very episodic and incomplete. 

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