Six weeks before the Grateful Dead rolled into Missoula, Montana for only their second out-of-town date of the year, filming began for Rancho Deluxe about 300 miles to the southeast in tiny Livingston, MT. Apparently, things were pretty happening in Montana that spring.
Not only did Rancho Deluxe star Jeff Bridges, Sam Waterston, and Harry Dean Stanton, but Jimmy Buffett contributed to the soundtrack, including “Livingston Saturday Night.”
Which is the roundabout way of saying the Dead’s gig was on a Tuesday.
They arrived at Adams Field House ready to play. Bill Kreutzmann kicks into the Bertha opener so energetically that I could have believed the tape was joining in progress.
On the other hand and not for the last time, Kidd Candelario uses the first song as a chance to dial in the recorded mix on the fly. At least he’s pretty quick about it tonight. Keith’s in a good mood right off the bat, too, rolling a glissando up the keys to raise the curtain on Jerry’s solo.
Around 4:38, hear Keith punctuate the “don’t you come around here” line (not once but three or four times) with a stair-skipping riff that is clearly the great uncle to the signature riff of “Foolish Heart” from more than a dozen years later.
Keith’s in a good mood right off the bat, too, rolling a glissando up the keys to raise the curtain on Jerry’s solo.
The next first set moment worth highlighting is the Scarlet Begonias. It hadn’t debuted in the Winterland run but instead at the 3/23/74 Cow Palace show (Dick’s Picks 24). It wasn’t played at the proper tour opener in Reno two days earlier, either, so the Montana kids who stuck around campus heard the second-ever live version.
It’s already around a minute longer since its debut. The important thing is that it percolates –- I’m pretty sure there’s a rule that you have to use “percolate” when formally discussing Scarlet Begonias –- with confidence. The Dead created the studio version in between its March debut and June tour, so maybe that helped it gel.
What had not gelled yet was the ending that circles back to the opening riff before the full stop. It just kinda winds down and segues into It Must Have Been The Roses, which does dilute some of the song’s impact.
Jimmy ‘n Jed
Speaking of arrangements and impact, the ability to create that build-up later in the song is where individual performances of Tennessee Jed or Ramble On Rose set themselves apart. This is one of those Tennessee Jed’s, and you can hear the audience’s agreement on the tape.
A Mexicali Blues with Phil really getting in the spirit with Bobby on the chorus vocals is followed by a solid Big River and slightly slower Brown-Eyed Women. The pace doesn’t hurt. Its MVPs are Bob for his half-rhythm/half-lead hybrid work in the verses and Phil for his “Clee-eee-eeean” in the chorus.
This is one of those Tennessee Jed’s, and you can hear the audience’s agreement on the tape.
Playing In The Band closes the set as would become usual. It has its moments but is not a keeper, mostly due to a rougher reentry after the jam.
Godchaux in particular is ready to roll for the second set. He rips it up throughout U.S. Blues as they play it to another unsuspecting audience. After El Paso, Row Jimmy raises the question: Was 1974 Bob’s best all-around year? His exceptional if subtle guitar work continues in what could be your perfectly decent default Row Jimmy from this era.
Dark, Heavy Star
An unusual Weather Report Suite > Dark Star commences, and I hate to say it but Keith’s electric piano work here is a little distracting, from the noodling in the intro to some ill-chosen wah pedal in Part 1. Then Garcia muffs the transition to Let It Grow a little bit and we can scratch this one off the “highlights” candidates.
The jam keeps a good rolling boil, but as with Scarlet Begonias, they don’t deliver what we know as the usual ending. Instead of the repeated-riff wind-down, they just quiet down some and set the controls for the Dark Star.
This is a Dark Star where they wander through assorted sonic neighborhoods, all interesting enough. They eventually arrive at the first verse and then the rumbles and high frequencies of Space, featuring a lead guitar tone reminiscent of an E-bow.
After that: Floor toms and harmonics and occasional insects and everyone messing with their tone who has a tone to mess with. One guy in the crowd has been waiting for the deeper weirdness all night (or maybe his entire life): “Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!”
After that: Floor toms and harmonics and occasional insects and everyone messing with their tone who has a tone to mess with.
Dissonance and tension accelerate as Garcia tries to create an actual screaming guitar.
Around 21 minutes in, Bill decides the band doesn’t have to go home, but it can’t stay here, and he picks a groove to get everyone moving. Still plenty jazzy and semi-coherent, it comes back together and cooks pleasantly for a longer while than some post-chaos sections of Dark Star.
It works and gives everyone a chance to regain their bearings. Garcia tries twice to instigate a downshift, the jam getting even heavier in between attempts. At last, Bill and Keith and Phil relent. It’s not the most elegant transition, but it’s an adequate way into China Doll.
Pretty, and Jerry puts a little fuzz on his solo. Then a little more fuzz. Sensitive single lines from Bob and practically a melodic counterpoint from Phil before they nail the minor-to-major, replete with harmonic from Weir. The closing harmonies sound unusually good, too.
From Dark Star to China Doll to Norfolk, Virginia and immediately out the door again. Jerry’s guitar sounds a little mellow for the moment, but the playing’s on target as they make their way to the “Promised Land”.
This NFA isn’t trying to pound anyone into submission. It’s more subtle as it gets going (and a little slinky, even, thanks to Keith). It maintains its energy, and the band eventually pick up their intensity around Garcia as he just keeps his head down and churns out his solo.
It’s a sort of unusual NFA as it escalates, but it totally works. Garcia concludes his lead, then he and Bill choose a road to feel bad on.
This NFA isn’t trying to pound anyone into submission. It’s more subtle as it gets going (and a little slinky, even, thanks to Keith).
Keith fires it up alongside Garcia around 5 minutes in. From there, Billy starts riding that cymbal a little more and hitting the snare a little harder, but then they break it down to great effect to return to vocals.
Sooner or later over the course of Dark Star / NFA / GDTRFB kind of landscape, the Dead would likely finally go a little overboard, like Bob and Donna often did in Sugar Magnolia. Here, they stop just short and slide on into the We Bid You Goodnight theme instead, much appreciated. Maybe Weir and Mrs. Godchaux were saving the histrionics for One More Saturday Night?
Not really. Phil is driving this song in his particular Phil way, while the others color in around the edges of the mix (which has been lovely ever since Kidd settled on it).
Bob and Donna do get raucous, but not shrieky, and that’s a wrap. I don’t know how many kids the band converted at that show, but I’m sure there were at least a few who, after that night in Montana, said there was no room for doubt.
5/14/74 Missoula, MT (Dave’s Picks 09)
Set 1: bertha / me and my uncle / loser / black-throated wind / scarlet begonias > it must have been the roses / jack straw / Tennessee jed / Mexicali blues / deal / big river / brown-eyed women / playing in the band
Set 2: u.s. blues / el paso / row jimmy / WRS prelude > let it grow > dark star > china doll / promised land / not fade away > GDTRFB / one more Saturday night
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