Grateful Dead – 6/23/74 Miami (Dave’s Picks 34)

With more than 10 appearances in 1973, Ramble On Rose starts night two in Miami by taking its final bow for 1974. It would be 15 months before the next one in Durham. Although Phil took a second to get right with his microphone, our mix is in good shape from the start.

I’m listening to this show not only on the anniversary of the show but on Robert Hunter’s birthday, so let’s take a second to celebrate a random (or is it?) couplet from Rose’s fine bridge:

I’m gonna sing you a hundred verses in ragtime
I know this song, it ain’t never gonna end …

Hunter might’ve been thinking metaphorically, but this particular song ended to make way for Black-Throated Wind. Has there ever been a capital-G Great version of Black-Throated Wind? Every time I hear the beginning, I just wish it were Jack Straw instead.

Has there ever been a capital-G Great version of Black-Throated Wind? Every time I hear the beginning, I just wish it were Jack Straw instead.

Next up, another great Hunter line, but this time to open.

On the day that I was born, my daddy sat down and cried …

Garcia’s vocal sounds a little distant here and there, probably his own fault. But it’s a well played Half-Step, including another Weir part in the verse the manages to contribute to the listening experience while calling almost no attention to itself. The coda is sweet if a little mellow.

Four snare hits and into Beat It On Down The Line to pick things up a little. It does, even if Jerry still sounds a little sleepy on the solo.

One-and-Done: Let It Rock

You’d think Row Jimmy would extend that sleepy vibe, but they actually proceed into it with a welcome little bit of tempo that some versions don’t have.

It’s a pleasure to listen to Phil’s bass and Bob’s guitar weave neatly around each other. Same with the wistful bridge.

That’s the way it’s been in town
Every since they tore The Jukebox down …

Seems like it should be The Jukebox, like a proper place, to me, anyway.

Row Jimmy certainly fits the mood, and its clean performance gives way to Jack Straw. The rhythm section sounds a little more caffeinated here, Phil percolating along and Bill plugging into a jazzier undercurrent in the middle sections.

It’s as brief as a second Jack Straw solo gets, but Jerry finally flashes a little panache and Keith gets in on the action briefly, too.

Is there a slower Chuck Berry song than Let It Rock? Would it have worked better if they’d moved it to a key that suited Jerry’s vocal range better? I’m not sure, and probably but we’ll never know, because this audience heard the only Grateful Dead performance of Let It Rock ever in three minutes flat.

Solos & Sparkle

Cumberland Blues leaves no room for laggards. Oddly, it sounds like they have a little bit of trouble finding complete consensus on where the “one’ is before the first verse.

The solo rolls around, and you would not know the first 45 minutes had been on the lackadaisical side as Jerry rips through it. It does still sound like Phil is playing a little, well, softly and the overall sound remains polite.

With a little adrenaline in the equation, a quick western waltz of “El Paso” starts up. Not befitting of the night so far, though, as Bob actually gives the others an “Easy, boys” mid-verse to slow it back down a little. As far as I can tell, his instruction is disregarded.

Ironically, the best performances in this very chill set are slower songs played a little quicker than they often were.

You’ve heard To Lay Me Down a lot slower than this, too. And it has the most involved Garcia solo so far, hands down. Ironically, the best performances in this very chill set are slower songs played a little quicker than they often were.

To tell sweet lies, one last time
And say goodnight …

Weather Report Suite signals that the end of the first-set setlist is near. Its last few minutes bring more signs of life – some of the Garcia/Godchaux interplay and dual soloing that is typically much more present, and Phil and Keith leading the charge down the backstretch.

As was common so far this year, it segued, this time into China Doll. Keith adds some unusual ascending figures on the back half to give this one some extra sparkle.

Those Dulcet Seastones Tones

Seastones. It’s been a long time since I’ve dialed up a Seastones. Not even sure I finished that one. But I’ve listened to a lot of further-out Wilco and other stuff since then, so I can make it through 9:45 of anything, right?

Maybe. Two minutes in and I think my heartrate has escalated as Ned Lagin futzes with sin waves and whatnot and synthesized screech-honks cast out across the audience like a flock of moody, increasingly agitated, and possibly sinister robot geese.

Highlights: Boats & Deathbeds

Really, the highlight of the whole evening is pairing of the beautiful, spontaneous prelude jam that edges into Ship Of Fools. While the jam was new, Ship Of Fools had received maybe one night off in the 15 shows that year, and the band had developed an assortment of tasteful fills to lift up the quality composition.

In the time since they recorded the song a few months earlier, the transcripts of Nixon’s secret recordings had been released, and the song was only gaining in relevance, intentional or otherwise.

Nineteen seventy-four was also a good year for Big River in quantity and quality, and 6/23/74 was no exception. It smoked through its five minutes and picked up a reaction as loud as anything that came through the recording to that point.

Black Peter, on the other hand, didn’t suffer in the quality department at all but had been dwindling in quantity. After falling back to five outings in 1973, the first of what would still only be three performances broke the song’s 0-for-1974 drought this night at the Fronton.

I don’t know how long the venue (which, as I understand it, is named generically, the same as if a stadium were  named “Football Field”) hosted shows in Miami, but Jai Alai Fronton sounds like a mid-‘80s French rock band, doesn’t it?

The people might know, but the people don’t care
That a man can be as poor as me

Listen to Kreutzmann put some personality into what’s happening behind the last set of “run and see” just before Garcia and Godchaux took it from there. Yet another nice version.

I’d normally skip Around & Around for my own listening, but since you’re here …

OK, it’s not bad. Garcia mixes the occasional jazzier run into a lead or two. Weir doesn’t go too totally nuts toward the end. Maybe usually I’m a little bitter that Bob stepped on the end of some beautiful last moment of a ballad to get started.

Year’s First Spanish Jam

Speaking of getting started, from there the Dead just step into Dark Star. After three or four minutes of very pretty intro, things remain quiet but get a little more angular. Bill picks it up to set the table for a nice stretch of simultaneous runs from Keith and Jerry.

Around 12 minutes in, a few strings get scraped and the moment gets more manic. The band evens out the beat but keeps the rolling boil of the energy. At 15, they turn it up another notch. At that point, they are not going back for any vocals, and any more aggressive destination in the songbook feels within reach.

It sounds like nobody has a strong opinion for once, and ultimately it’s Bill who briefly resets and chooses a flavor. The answer: the first Spanish Jam of the year.

The fuzz-toned martial jam builds to a quasi-major conclusion after about 4 minutes. Not all that interesting in my opinion, but the still-fuzzy transition to the boogie of U.S. Blues is pretty fun, if brief. It’s perhaps a shorter and somewhat sloppier run-through of a towering attempt to hit U.S. Blues on a dead run, which they would undertake just a few days later about 1,400 miles to the north.

At this point, the laid back first set is a distant memory and the band is cooking, as it seemingly always did when U.S. Blues rolled out of something else.

Back to back, Chicken Shack
Son of a gun, you better change your act …

Punctuated with Phil introducing it afterward by its formal name, “The UNITED States Blues …”

Buck Dancer’s Choice

The set’s not over. A little tuning all around and the crowd responds to the start of Uncle John’s Band. After appearances at two of the local concerts before From The Mars Hotel came out, it surprisingly had stayed on the shelf through all of May and this far into June before making its tour debut.

Phil and Bill alternately nudge and propel it along. Again, everyone seems to be playing and singing unusually quietly, but the mix is right on and the whole thing works.

Phil and Bill make the coda feel a little, well, funky before the a cappella break (the best part is always hearing the crowd clapping in unison bleeding through the vocal mic, isn’t it?).

Phil and Bill make the coda feel a little, well, funky before the a cappella break (the best part is always hearing the crowd clapping in unison bleeding through the vocal mic, isn’t it?).

Still not done, Weir takes his swing with One More Saturday night. The ensemble remains totally locked in, one of the tighter performances of the night.

After getting thanked by both Bob and then Jerry, the Miami crowd lights up (in the sonic distance, but you can hear it) when Casey Jones shows up to steer the encore. Not gonna lie, the song’s too repetitive for me, but they do the slow build and rock it out and up and into the rest of the warm Florida night as the Deadheads depart everyone’s favorite mid-’80s French new wave band, Jai Alai Fronton.

6/23/74 Miami (Dave’s Picks 34)
Jai-Alai Fronton

Set 1: ramble on rose / black-throated wind / Mississippi half-step uptown toodle-oo / BIODTL / row jimmy / jack straw / let it rock / Cumberland blues / el paso / to lay me down / weather report suite
Break: seastones
Set 2: jam > ship of fools / big river / black peter / around and around / dark star jam > Spanish jam > u.s. blues / uncle john’s band / one more Saturday night // casey jones

Visit the Grateful Dead 1974 Project main page.

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