Listening to everything, so you don't have to

All the new stuff will be here: RatDog, Furthur, Phil & Friends... I listen to the rehearsal tapes that surface on etree, I watch the videos from Dime and Trader's Den. I also occasionally post little research projects on various periods and people that were pivotal in the life of the Grateful Dead.
Everything you never got around to checking out, I did.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Garcia, Weir: Wavy Gravy's 50th Birthday

Wavy Gravy was born on May 15th, 1936 in New York State and grew up in Princeton, New Jersey. In the early 60s, he worked at the Gaslight in Greenwich Village, put Bob Dylan up for a while (Dylan began A Hard Rain on Wavy's typewriter), and then opened shows for Coltrane, Thelonious Monk and others as a "traveling monologist." He got involved in pro-bono work almost as soon as he got to the West Coast. He was part of the Berkeley/San Francisco scene in the sixties and remains an institution.
When he turned fifty in 1986, he organized a big "benefit for just about anything" and invited a dozen Bay-Area musicians to perform. The Dead, collectively and individually, had been doing benefits for Wavy since at least 1979, so it made sense that Weir, Garcia and Mickey would agree to perform.

The video I downloaded had the sets Bobby and Jer played that night. Garcia played four tunes with the inevitable John Kahn, none of which was particularly well executed: Ballad of Casey Jones, Jack-A-Roe (much too fast, with thoroughly ragged solos), Ripple and Goodnight Irene. That last one was stretched out a bit, and by the end of it, much of the crowd was standing (this was a seated kind of event, with short sets punctuated by Wavy's trademark bantering/bubble-blowing). Garcia has warmed up by then, but Kahn stumbled on the chord structure, which is a bit counterintuitive. With a quick "Thanks a lot", they left the stage.

Weir came up and started into Festival after a few cursory strums to test the sound ("Guess that'll have to do'). For his second tune he invited out a singer/guitarist named Kate McLean (who hasn't left any evident traces on the intertubes) to do a tune called My Blue Tears. Parenthetically, they pecked on the mouth when she left. Whether Weir is a peck-your-female-friends-on-the-mouth guy (which seems right, somehow), or whether they were an item, we'll never know. Naturally he threw Victim and Throwing Stones into the set, both of which were a bit frantic and lackluster. The last tune of the set featured (surprise!) Brent, on Hey Jude. The rendition was standard but they nailed those high notes.

The Grateful Dead were between tours; they had just done a few shows in Palo Alto and were looking at a month-long break. Weir didn't have a show slated until the end of the month. Garcia had a half-dozen JGB shows lined up, but they were mostly local, low-pressure gigs. Basically, both were in vacation mode and it showed. The show wasn't about them; they were really doing a cursory appearance for a buddy, so they could get away with half-assing it.
Oh well.

Next: May '92: Shoreline and Vegas. Wildly contrasting runs. Stay tuned!

1 comment:

  1. Wavy Gravy just announced his latest benefit concert! THIS VALENTINE'S DAY (FEB 14th)


    Hosted by Wavy Gravy himself!

    Get the details at:

    All proceeds will benefit the anti-poverty work of Seva, a great organization founded by Ram Dass, Wavy Gravy and Dr. Larry Brilliant.