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.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Sound and a side-band: Dan Healy

A handful of shows by the Healy Treece Band appeared a few weeks ago on Workingman’s Tracker. I didn’t have anything to listen to just then so I grabbed three consecutive shows from the end of May 1981. There is not much information available on the Healy Treece Band, but they performed with a variable lineup from 1979 to 1981, and did a one-off performance in ‘83 on the occasion of Kreutzmann’s birthday. At various times, the lineup headed by Dan Healy and Richard Treece (both on guitars and vocals) also included Bill Kreutzmann, John Cipollina, Keith and Donna and at least three bass players.

The shows I heard from 1981 featured Cipollina and Kreutzmann. The band was solid bar band; they played blues more than anything else and had some funk influence. Their repertoire was not very large (they played the same material on the three tapes I heard), but it covered a pretty wide range, from 50s pop to Santana. I have to assume that some of the material (maybe a quarter) was original, or at least I’ve never come across it; the rest included Hand Jive, Unchain My Heart, Truck Drivin’ Man, Mystery Train, Long Black Veil and Black Magic Woman.

The band played small venues with average sound systems, which could be detrimental to the overall sound. Nonetheless, the show on May 28th was definitely poorly performed. Perhaps from the sound system, perhaps from under-rehearsing, the band was occasionally out of sync and unclear on forms and intros. John Cipollina was a saving presence in the band. Healy and Treece didn’t take very many solos, but Cipollina’s distinctive tremolo cut through and there were some really fun leads on most songs. Over the three days, the band tightened up considerably so that by May 30th, in Pleasanton CA, they were sounding good and tight. A couple of songs in particular stand out: Rain Song (not the Zeppelin tune) and Magic Door are interesting, animated songs with space to jam, and I enjoyed their take on Unchain My Heart, especially Cipollina’s leads. Overall, they were a highly competent, though not particularly inspired band that could certainly liven up a room but did not have anything original enough to warrant an extended career.

The Healy Treece Band never recorded an album, but there survive at least a dozen tapes. Those that appeared on Workingman’s Tracker all came from Joani Walker and Paul Scotton by way of Charlie Miller.

Even if HTB is no great revelation, it seems to warrant a short bio on Dan Healy. He came into contact with the Dead in the very early days of the San Francisco scene and would remain with the band until 1994. McNally described him as being the next guy, after Robert Hunter, considered to be a member of the band. Healy’s first job in San Francisco was working in a recording studio and he was living in a houseboat on the marina next to John Cipollina, who was playing lead guitar for the Quicksilver Messenger Service. As a techie, Dan was instantly useful to anyone involved in making music, especially since rock and roll equipment was not highly developed and none of the bands had any money. This earned Healy a standing invitation to any and all Quicksilver shows, to act as technical assistant. He inevitably crossed paths with the Grateful Dead, one night at the old Fillmore when Quicksilver and the Dead were sharing a bill. He was volunteered to fix an issue with Phil's amp and after the show Garcia invited him to help out with the Dead's sound.

In the early days, the Grateful Dead scene was anything but organized; while Healy was certainly persona grata there were no guarantees. Various sources describe his affiliations differently, but it seems that he spent a fair amount of time with the GD during Bear’s early tenure and incarceration. He drifted back to Quicksilver for a while around 69-70. The guys running Quicksilver (not Cipollina) were not the easy-going, open-hearted communistic types, however, and Healy found himself back with the Grateful Dead for good in 1971. From then on, in close collaboration with Ron Wickersham (from Alembic) and Bear, he was part of the cutting edge sound/amp industry that really centered around the Dead in the early 70s. He was, of course, intimately involved with the development of the Wall of Sound, and to this day he seems to be best known for that.

Healy survived the ’74 hiatus and went on to head the sound crew for the next twenty years. At the same time, he appears as producer, mixer, engineer etc. on almost every Dead and Dead-related project since the 70s. Intimately involved with the workings of the band, he was, by all accounts, constantly pushing the envelope of sound quality. He also contributed to the band’s grass-roots popularity when, in 1984, he prompted the establishment of the taper section, which was a first in the music business. He did not personally establish the section, but his pro-taper stance had made them a fixture for years; it came down to either banning them altogether or letting them run loose: someone made the suggestion to have a separate section.

In a radical, if ultimately unpopular move, he proposed in May 1992 that they remove all amps and monitors from the stage. The reasoning was that there was only so much that an engineer could do if he was working with sound coming from a mass of speakers all lined up: bleeding between amps and mics and feedback issues from monitors placed a limit on the sound quality. All the amps were thereafter kept in isolated chambers under the stage, running from there to both the soundboard and the monitor mixing console. Unfortunately, replacing the stage equipment with customizable in-ear monitors ultimately led to musicians isolating themselves, and was unpopular with fans in the front who liked the palpable rush of sound from the stage amps.

While Healy was an integral element in the GD sound, he could rub some people the wrong way. Throughout the mid 80s he liked to interject noises over the PA - sometimes during tuning breaks but also occasionally during songs. He also took pleasure in screwing with Weir’s vocals, which, according to some was one of the reasons for his eventual departure. Phil Lesh has one version: In 1993, a serious problem came up when Healy was caught running the PA at less-than-full capacity during Sting’s opening set (Sting was understandably angry and the band was very embarrassed about it). Prompted by this, Phil describes how he and Garcia took a closer listen to the soundboard tapes and noticed that Healy was making some very questionable decisions about Weir’s mix. That prompted the band to fire him in mid-March 1994. However, it’s apparent that he was not really officially terminated (the band was notoriously cowardly in that department): rather, they elected to have manager Cameron Sears inform Healy of the decision. Healy, for his part, maintains that he quit, unable to stand Garcia’s despicable health, appearance and performances. We’ll never know for sure, but considering the drama- and rumor-mill that worked overtime in the GD world, Healy might have gotten wind of the impending decision and there is probably some truth to both perspectives.

Since leaving the Dead, Healy continues to work in music mixing and production. A life-long guitar player, he plays with the Sky Blue Band, based in Marin; he recently recorded and mixed their debut album. He was running sound for Dark Star Orchestra in 2008, he’s been overseeing an antique-radio restoration company, and was working on instructional videos with Tony Bennett’s drummer. He's been married 33 years and has a daughter.

On another note: Charlie Miller posted the Avalon Ballroom show from May 19 1966 a month or so ago. I just heard it and it sounds unbelievable. I have no idea how he got such crystal sound from a 45-year-old tape. It's really primal dead, the kind of stuff that came out on Rare Cuts and Oddities: three minute songs, no jamming, bar-band-Dead. I loved it. Highly recommended.

Up Next: Most likely Furthurfest.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Mid '85

I went looking for some bad shows this week. For a little while I’ve had a theory that shows are worse at the beginning or between tours; I’ve been meaning to listen to the infamous Boreal Ridge show; and I though 1985 was as good a place as any to find weak or sloppy playing. So, thinking I had a foolproof trifecta of negative circumstances, I listened to 5 shows from the middle of 1985: the last show of the short (9 dates) summer tour, the second of two Ventura shows (coming after a two-week break), Boreal Ridge (over a month after that), and two dates in the south in early September.

I don’t know quite why, but 1985 has always held connotations of heroin-wracked sloppiness, a period best forgotten, when Garcia spent his time nodding off against his amp and the others tried to compensate without excluding him. I suppose the January ’85 bust and the collapse in June of ’86 seemed like logical bookends for a really bad period. I consequently avoided that period like the plague, even though I had heard Dick’s Picks 21 and loved it. Well I’m here to set the record straight on ’85: Jerry’s playing was fantastic. His leads were powerful, he was precise and intentional with fills, transitions, he was on the ball with switching effects mid-phrase etc. No complaints there.

If there were shortcomings, they were in his singing. While the volume at which he sang was the same as usual, there are some moments when the smoke-damage to his vocal chords was painfully obvious. There were also definitely struggles with lyrics, on any number of songs: Big Railroad Blues, Cryptical (last one ever, and pretty bad – the reprise somewhat better), Ramble On Rose… However, this did not detract from the overall quality; unlike RatDog, for instance, the band did not loose steam when the vocals weren’t on point.

The overall sound they had developed was somewhat more conventional; songs tended to be shorter, and little effort was devoted to taking risks or improvising outside of defined jam segments (this trend continued for a few years). The result is that the tunes themselves were much tighter and could be played faster: the mid-80s have a certain energy, a certain accessibility that separates that period from any before or since. Nonetheless, the intricacy of the arrangements was the same as ever and careful listening is, to me, just as rewarding.

The Drums section in those days was really a lot of fun, more structured and rhythmic than later. There were a lot of alternative gourds and xylophones and things but the pre-recorded stuff had not made a noticeable appearance. Mickey bounced around on the beam a little in the middle of the solo rather than wait for the end, and there was some looping effects in use that provided a longer-sustained groove to build on.

Now, the Boreal Ridge show. There are no reviews in Deadbase but I have heard the same rumors as everyone else and the Illustrated Trip paints a sorry picture indeed. I was almost disappointed when the show wasn’t a complete train-wreck (except for the Day Tripper encore). The fact is, the band didn’t play that badly, and I imagine that the reputation it has gathered is, on one hand, more reflective of technical issues that musical ones, and on the other rendered disproportionate simply by virtue of the date being singled out.

The first set is indeed almost palpably trying for the musicians: the levels were off-kilter for the first few songs; a loud hum periodically emanated from Weir’s rack, something that sounded like false notes (loud, sustained ones); we can hear Mickey and Garcia griping about technical issues between songs; and Weir calls an end to the first set after seven songs, rather than the usual nine. There are the odd miscues and an awkward jammy segment in the middle of Bucket, but it’s not a disaster and songs were still tight and relatively intricate. The second set was better, with a solid Stranger opener, China-Rider (a bit ragged in the transition) and a nice He’s Gone before a huge Drums segment. Truckin’>Black Peter (with recurring sound issues)>Around and Around followed Space and the set closed with a solid Lovelight. The encore, a throwaway if there ever was one, was awful, sounding the way I expected the whole show to sound.

The band hadn’t played in more than two months, it was the first time they played that venue, and there were serious equipment issues that affected both the sound output and the ability of the band-members to hear themselves and each-other. All of this I knew, and I went into it expecting the worst show I’d ever heard. I won’t say it was very good – objectively speaking it was subpar - but it certainly doesn’t quite deserve the reputation it has. They actually scheduled a return visit to Boreal Ridge about a year later, but due to Garcia’s health, it never happened.

So, in retrospect, another myth busted. If I had to guess why 1985 is not a very popular year, I would venture that the lack of spacey exploration is a factor, as is the “Jerry’s drug issues” cloud that hangs over that period. And yet for the band, things were going rather well. It seems that Garcia’s bust in Golden Gate Park, coming directly on the heels of an intervention, did in fact prompt Jerry to clean up. They sold out 65 of the 71 shows they played that year and grossed a record $11.5 million, suggesting that their fanbase was not shrinking. Garcia commented later that the years were finally starting to pay off. They were still a few years away from Touch of Gray, but Phil quit cocaine a little while later, Bill started going to AA meetings, and Bonnie Parker, the last GD employee with real drug issues, was let go. Things were finally looking up.

All that to say that the mid 80s are seeming less and less frightening the more I look, which opens the door on a whole other period that has never been on my radar. I realize as I write this, of course, that for the first few years, anything outside of 1976-7 was not on my radar either… Well, live and learn.

Now. It has been brought to my attention that my entries are too damn long, that blogs should take five minutes to look over, and that nobody wants to read an essay every week. What do you think? I could just as easily break these up and post 500 words or so a week…

Up next. I’m going to listen to a few ‘81 shows from Healy’s band, when Kreutzmann was on board. I might post on those or just wait for Furthurfest. You’ll find out next week.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Further reading

I read two books last weekend: Sandy Troy’s Captain Trips and Steve Parish’s Home Before Daylight. They are different in a number of ways but have their focus on Garcia, their length and their scholarly weight in common. To be honest, someone lent me Captain Trips and I burned through it pretty quick, so I figured I was on a roll and dove into Home right away. Anyhow, for those of you who haven’t read them, here are my two cents.

Captain Trips, (Garcia’s prankster name, which he didn’t like) chronicles his life, like many other books, but was completed soon after Garcia’s February ’94 wedding to Deborah Koons and published later that year. It consequently lacks the fatalistic thread that runs through later accounts. It has the same chronological pattern as McNally’s and Phil’s books, which is that about half of the text addresses the period before 1970; it also completely skips over the early 80s, which were to my mind a pivotal period in the logistical dynamics of the band.

The factual content is, to my knowledge, perfectly adequate. Not that I know everything, but I didn’t come across anything I knew to be false. It did include certain pieces of information I appreciated: addresses of the Chateau and St. Michael’s Alley, gross earnings for a couple of years, release dates etc. Aside from the odd precision, however, the book rolls through events and facts without much commentary or reflection. On one hand, it keeps the author’s interpretation out of the way, but on the other it keeps things superficial.

The focus on Garcia and the simplistic approach to various events obscures the wider dynamics of his life. For instance, the evolution of the Jerry Garcia Band is described as though Jerry was singly responsible for the changing lineup. It does not address the logistics of the life of musicians, which is that people often simply drift to where there’s work, or get married, or move to Kansas, or whatever; nor does it discuss the trends of the music itself, which has no intentional guide but can make one person more or less suited to the slot or prompt a change in instrumentation. Likewise with the GD’s various side-projects: a passage on the establishment of the Rex Foundation mentions only Garcia, ignoring the untraceable, committee aspect of every decision. Finally, the departure of Keith and Donna is presented as a firing, whereas McNally paints a the decision as a mutual agreement.

Jerry’s personal issues are almost completely absent. In fairness, since the book was being written while he was still there to comment on it, it would have been disrespectful to delve into his issues with women in general or heroin in particular, areas that have since been addressed elsewhere. His 1985 arrest in Golden Gate Park is mentioned in passing, with details available in the arrest report, and an excerpt from an interview has him admitting that he had, at one point, gotten into some pretty nasty stuff. The book’s admission that there was, at one point, cocaine and heroin involved is mitigated by the suggestion that that problem had come and gone: “Garcia’s drug addiction was under control, the band was more popular than ever…”
As far as his many complex relationships, they are barely present in the story. I would speculate that Deborah Koons, a woman known for her close control over Jerry’s affairs, perhaps born of insecurity, had an editorial hand in the book.

Anyhow, in retrospect, this biography lite was perfectly well suited to the time and audience. Jacketed in tie-dye and titled to evoke Jerry’s counter-culture iconography, it provides a broad overview of his life and projects: his childhood, bands, recording gigs, etc, while avoiding deeper underlying processes and issues. For a deadhead in the 90s, I imagine this would have been everything you wanted to know.

A completely different picture is presented by Parish in Home Before Daylight. The book is an autobiography and is centered on Steve Parish’s experience as a central member of the Grateful Dead family, but Parish was one of the people closest to Garcia throughout the 80s and 90s. I should mention that at no point does it come across that he is trying to either exaggerate his involvement or capitalize on their relationship. His portrayal of Garcia is much more character-driven, and specific dates or facts are incidental to the story.

The story starts with Parish’s early adulthood: at seventeen or so, he hatches a plan to finance a relocation to the West Coast by selling a batch of LSD. He winds up at Riker’s Island. Eventually finding his way into the Grateful Dead crew via Weir’s ranch, Rex Jackson’s couch, Quicksilver and Alembic, he spends the first few years driving trucks across the country, then reveling in the non-stop party occasioned by Dead tours.

There is no shortage of drug-fueled-rampage stories. He flipped an equipment truck on a tight curve while driving wired on amphetamines; he had a four-way marriage going for a while; he used to sleep with every groupie he could get his hands on, he threw a promoter off the stage because he didn’t recognize him, he lived on nitrous and pot for years, and so on and so forth. The tales of his life on the road are exactly what you would expect, and Parish is unapologetic to the last.

Being intimately involved in the day-to-day life of the band and crew, he is more honest about the rampant drug use, especially cocaine, though he maintains he only liked the “occasional” toot. He details the end of Rex Jackson’s life in a months-long coke bender (fueled by a gallon-size ziplock of blow that he somehow scored), and the paranoia and irritation that infested the family in 73-74. Parish is reassuringly matter-of-fact on this subject; I say reassuringly because I don’t get the sense he’s exaggerating or glorifying the drugs they took; he is quite honest about the downsides of over-indulgence and the personal shortcomings engendered by their use. He especially bemoans the early-70s switch from communal drugs like nitrous, pot and LSD to harder stuff like cocaine and heroin.

His close relationship with Garcia developed in the 80s when he became manager of JGB along with being the main guitar roadie for the GD. His duties would evolve almost towards a personal assistant position by the nineties; the last time he saw Jerry, he was instructing Parish as to how he would like to see the new Club Front laid out. They traveled together while on the road, they went on vacation to Hawaii together with their families, he helped a very nervous Jerry get dressed for his 1994 wedding, and the only really emotional moment in the book comes when, standing over the casket, he absentmindedly brushes a little dandruff off Jerry’s shoulder, as he had so many times before.

Garcia’s use of heroin was constant, according to Parish, even if there were ebbs and flows, and it was an awful sight to see. He writes of being very conflicted about what to do; while his main job was to protect Jerry from the outside world, there was a grey line between protecting Jerry and letting him insulate himself. Whereas he had been able to refuse Jackson when asked to hold his stash, he found he could not refuse Jerry. The volatility and defensiveness that Garcia exhibited in response to any intrusion on his private life is pretty well documented, and applied as well to the outside world as to his closest friends. One aborted intervention saw him hold the door while everyone came in only to slam it behind them and walk off down the street. I have no experience with drugs of that sort, but it seems to me that on some level, he chose to stick with heroin, since no amount of interventions, arrests, health issues, friends, girlfriends or wives were able to stop him. Consequently, those close to him could either tacitly disapprove or risk further isolating him.

Parish does have a fondness for one member of the band in particular, and that’s Weir. It becomes apparent in his description of Bob as the most level-headed guy in the group, forced into an unenviable position of taking up Garcia’s slack when he started slipping in the late 70s, and who did more than anyone else to confront Garcia. He seems to agree with everyone else in that he describes Weir as an honestly kind, generous person who cares deeply for others; one who did the fewest drugs, who was always uncomfortable with the Hell’s Angels etc. The friendship seems mutual; the book has a foreword from Weir that is quite funny but conveys a real familiarity and affection: “Let’s be clear about this,” it begins, “Steve Parish is definitively a mixed blessing.” It goes on to reminisce about road trips and equipment snafus, and these memories are complemented in the main text with Parish’s memories of inadvertently getting Weir picked up for unpaid parking tickets, and later wrecking Weir’s BMW when he parked his truck uphill of it and the handbrake failed.

There are no major revelations in the book, but it certainly has a unique angle on the Grateful Dead. On a broad objective level, it’s really about a man who refused to grow up, one who got out of jail on a drug-dealing rap only to run off to the west coast to take a lot of acid, who drove a Harley as fast and as recklessly as possible until California passed a helmet law and he lost interest, who was content to get off the phone with his wife, who had just given birth to their daughter, and run upstairs to have a three-way, one who got stoned in a church with a guy about to get married. And yet he lived the rock-n-roll lifestyle to the fullest and came out just fine on the other side. He’s married now, to a wife who has no background in that world and no tolerance for his screwing around, and they have two kids. He’s still close to the GD family (I suppose those kinds of bonds don’t break easily). I couldn’t tell you what he’s doing these days, but he seems to have survived rather well, considering.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Odds and Ends

So I haven't written anything in the past few weeks for two reasons: primarily because I've been swamped with work, and also because I've been listening to disjointed, recently downloaded odds and ends, to kill time before Furthurfest without getting too deep into anything.

I heard a few shows from Mike Gordon's March tour. I don't know his solo material very well, and I was surprised not to to hear a single Phish tune, which is really to his credit. I should say I'm not an expert; there may have been some rarer Phish tunes in there, maybe Adelman's Yard, or Sugar Shack? His 5-piece band consists of two drummers, Todd Isler and Craig Myers (sp?), Scott Murawski on lead guitar and Tom Cleary on keys. Murawski is a force of nature, a monstrous player who can shred the fastest country I've ever heard, and Cleary can be really impressive as well. I don't know where he came from, but for some reason Gordon likes to say his name a lot.
The music gets really funky; there are a few songs that just shake your insides, as you might expect form Mike Gordon. As you might also expect, there are a few floaty tunes with mindless lyrics, but it's mainly really fun stuff. Each show I heard had one, maybe two songs by Cleary and Murawski, including Cruel World, which Murawski was doing regularly with Kreutzmann a few years back.
There is some Gordo banter, mostly platitudes "great to be here, shout out to whoever", but he does have a thing about "is" that he does a lot. Something about a cat named Is whose name should be called repeatedly and at random: "is is is is is is ..." The other thing I noticed was that he usually announces that he's going to go hang out by the merchandise table after the show. I was surprised to hear it simply because imagined that, being in Phish, he wouldn't need to push t-shirts, but considering that the material and the sound are so un-Phish-like, I suppose he is building a different audience.
My favorite show was on March 12th in Philadelphia. Most of the show was really upbeat and funky, and featured appearances by at least one member of the Chieftains. I say that because I only heard one guest intro, yet there was an accordion and a fiddle, and also a tap-dancer somewhere. There were three Murawski tunes, including Cruel World and one ludicrously fast country thing that I listened to twice in a row.
Overall, I like the band a lot. I don't know that I would listen to a whole tour (there is a fair amount of repetition from show to show), but I'm definitely learning some of those bass lines.

After the Gordon tour I picked up a series of Mickey Hart-related recordings that surfaced on Workingman's Tracker. The earlier one was a series of tracks dating from 1972 recorded at Mickey's barn in Novato. Mickey built a recording studio up there, and after leaving the Dead in February '71, he spend a lot of time there playing and recording. I knew that he had gone into Diga Rhythm in that time but I was surprised to hear the other material he was doing, collected under the title Mickey Hart and the Marin County Collective. First on the tape is Fire on the Mountain, which he apparently wrote himself. The groove is substantially different, even if it's definitely recognizable, and there were maybe a half-dozen alternate verses. At least one of these reappeared in the Other Ones/The Dead period when Mickey sang Fire. Other tracks involved a host of Bay Area musicians doing their own material, including David Freiberg, John Cipollina, Barry Melton and others. Some of it is really good, especially Speed Racer. Ghost Riders in the Sky stands out in the list, a slightly different arrangement than the final cut everyone knows.
Phil Lesh and Garcia show up on a number of tracks. Lesh is featured on one track about vampires that reminds me of The Who's Boris the Spider, and Garcia appears on both Fire on the Mountain takes as well as a few others. At the same time, there was some experimentation with swirly electronic noises and feedback, a sort of intermediary between Feedback and Seastones. It's not particularly pretty but it is a serious experiment with that sort of alternative noise music. One is a feedback/organ jam, one involves drums, harmonica, accordion and howling vocal stuff, featuring Ned Lagin, and one is straight space noise. Finally, there is a tune called Marshmallow Road (spacey psychedelia, as you might expect), which weaves in electronic sounds and sped-up vocals within the song.
Later, during the hiatus, Mickey was playing with Diga Rhythm Band (Diga meaning "naked" in Sanskrit). I have yet to find any reliable set- or show-lists for this band, so I have no idea how frequent these shows were, nor whether they involved only Diga or were part of a Bay Area lineup. There are only a few pieces on the surviving tapes, though they are soundboards, and I must confess I can't fully appreciate what's going on there. It all sounds well and good to me, frankly, but knowing the lineup, it probably involves complicated polyrhythmic patterns well outside the boundaries of western musical vocabulary. Son of Mickey's tabla teacher Usted Allarakha, Zakir Hussein headed and did the talking for the band, but Mickey got a few solo sections, and Hussein introduced him as a member of the Grateful Dead. It seems that Mickey retained all the cachet of a GD band member in his time off. The lineup of San Francisco musicians involved in the Novato sessions was pretty seminal, and he was still a musical celebrity in early '75, when he was not yet officially back in the band.

A month or so ago, an article appeared in the Atlantic Monthly which touched on the scholarly attention being paid to the Grateful Dead nowadays. The band appeared in various studies and such throughout their existence, but generally as a manifestation or example of hippie culture and rarely in terms broad yet clear enough to warrant much attention. The specific Deadhead phenomenon has been the subject of dissertations and college courses for a number of years, but it is only recently that doctoral and post-doctoral studies have focused on, say, the influence of the classical music structure in GD music, the nature of their brand of improvisation, or the place in the "Americana" canon of songs like Dire Wolf or Peggy-O. I poked around and came across a collection of essays written by PhDs in the past few years, called All Graceful Instruments. I bought it, mainly because I thought the title reference was satisfactorily obscure, and in spite of the high price tag ($40: it's a print-on-demand thing from Cambridge Scholars Publishing). I've only gotten through one chapter so far but it was very good, managing to discuss objectively the improvisational structure of Dark Star and The Eleven, and using that as a model to frame out the band's improvisational approach to their music in general. The components of the argument are relatively common knowledge to most deadheads, but they combine to make a scholarly discussion possible. I'm looking forward to the rest of the book.

Anyhow, I think that's it. I'm gonna read Sandy Troy's "Captain Trips" soon, so I'll post on that. Up next, I think I'll try to compare the P&F and Furthur versions of the Dead albums covered at Furthurfest.