Sunday, April 29, 2012

4/29/72 Hamburg: "Chinatown Shuffle," Smoked Ribs, and the Pilsner

When: Saturday, April 29, 1972
Where: Musikhalle, Hamburg, West Germany
Setlist: (In order of the released CDs, stream the audio here.)
  1. Playing In The Band, Sugaree, Mr. Charlie, Black-Throated Wind, China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider, Big Boss Man, Jack Straw, Loser, Chinatown Shuffle, Me & My UncleBig Railroad Blues, Good Lovin', Casey Jones
  2. Greatest Story Ever Told, He's Gone, Next Time You See Me, Dark Star > Sugar Magnolia > Caution (Do Not Stop On The Tracks)One More Saturday Night, Uncle John's Band
As always, my personal highlights are bolded.

The liner notes on for this show come from the iconic Steve Silbermanan, author of Skeleton Key: A Dictionary for Deadheads.* He borrows images and words from Hunter's introduction to Hundred Year Hall in a stirring turn of phrase:
[Germany] was a land of dream castles shimmering on the Rhine that turned out to be real high-tech towers build upon bombed-out ruins, ghosts of Nazi kommandants sneering in old Pathé newsreels, and the gods in Phil's musical pantheon calling the fire of the muses down from Heaven or up from hell. It seemed Gothic, Romantic, and modern all at once; werewolves howling in Black Forests of the mind as the Bozo and Bolo buses passed through with their weird load.
He also notes Phil was tickled before the show when he learned Johannes Brahms conducted in this hall. No doubt! For those of you who haven't wasted much of your life learning as much as you can about this band (much of the foundational knowledge coming from Silberman's book, to be honest), Phil Lesh didn't come to rock 'n' roll - or even the bass - through the typical route. He grew up playing trumpet but learned music listening to the greats of Western classical music. He had ventured into avant garde composition by the time he met Garcia, who gave him an electric bass guitar, told him how it was tuned, and the rest is history.

It's my strong opinion that Phil's musical contribution to the band is what sets them apart from all other rock bands of their era and the jam bands that came later. For me, his roots in classical and experimental composition allowed him to move the band to new and unparalleled musical spaces. He relied on conventional musical ideas - particularly melody and counterpoint - that transcended the cubbyhole of rock-bass-as-rhythm-instrument, even given the jazz approach the band used in their performances.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again here: picking highlights from these shows is really splitting hairs. The performances are so consistently inspired and error-free, it comes down to personal preference and even your set and setting listening to them. That being said, please take my judgements with a grain of salt. However, any band playing 22 concerts in seven weeks while crossing (at least) nine international borders in the process is entitled to the occasional off-night. In fact, it's miraculous that it's taken this long to find one. Unfortunately, friends, this is one of those nights. I guess when "Me & My Uncle" is the highlight of the entire show, you get the idea.
Musikhalle, Hamburg

The entire first set here is played well, though there aren't any obvious standouts. No surprisingly extensive jams here (even the "Playin'" wraps up under ten minutes), just a series of tight, well-played songs with respectable (for the Dead) harmonies and reliable instrumental performances. Overall, it's quite good, but unremarkable. (Check out the "Worth mentioning" section below for details, if you're interested.)

From the "Greatest Story" opener, the second set tries desperately to shake off the "well-played but unremarkable" description of the first set. It starts ordinarily, but by the time Donna jumps in for some ear-splitting screams (again!), this one is off and running!! Searing leads from Jerry (Silberman describes it as his "'insect fear' guitar doing exuberant loop-de-loops in midair") and tight through the changes, they're clearly trying to turn up the heat here. Between songs, Phil makes some comment to dogs everywhere (the show, restaurants, boats), and Bobby tries to hawk GD wristwatches in the lobby. Jerry justifies the unfamiliar song selection by explaining they're recording an album, and "you can't do the same thing forever" (without going color-blind, according to Bobby).

Jerry delivers on the adolescent rendition of "He's Gone" that follows, but Silberman points out it contains the "chilly wind don't blow" bridge. After an excruciatingly sssssllllllllllooooooooowwwwww version of "Next Time" (more below), the band collectively says, "We love you, Pig, but grab a quick nap, and come back in 35 minutes," before launching into "Dark Star." This version isn't about playing tight, fast, or exploring the mind-melding changes of Frankfurt, it's about SPACE. Lots and lots of space - between notes, between melodies, between rhythms. Before they even get to the first verse, they veer into an exceedingly mellow, even sloppy "Mind Left Body Jam." Contrast this one to Copenhagen 4/14, it's like a different world. They quickly abort mission and head back to the forgiving expanse of space and stay there for a week or two (just like "Truckin'" atop the charts in Turloch, California). Let's just say I wouldn't want to be pulling a Roger Sterling at this show....** Unless you just woke up 23 minutes into the "Dark Star," in which case all is well! All of a sudden, the band tunes in, and away they go! Jerry scorching away, with Phil doing what he does, and Keith stepping to fill in the blanks. Where did this jam come from?!? Even the ensuing space is tighter and more frightening! Bobby tries to pry Jerry out of his pitter-patter corner of despair just to rock a "Sugar Mags" and move on.

Jerry letting it fly!
The "Caution" follows much like the rest of the show: well-played but nothing groundbreaking. Pigpen drops a decent rap, but in light of the performances over the previous two weeks, it pales in comparison. Towards the end, it gets a bit more raucous, with Phil and Billy pounding away at the rhythm. The tour-de-force gives way to a spacey, meandering segment, the highlight of which is Billy rolling across his toms like a prize-fighter training on a speed bag. Unfortunately, the song ends with a whimper, without any real closure, unless you count Phil's belated cadence. The crowd is not dismayed, however, and claps in unison for more. The Dead don't disappoint here, coming back with a surprisingly energetic "Sugar Magnolia." At one point, Bobby's screams are so loud and reckless, I almost expect him to rupture a vocal chord. The ending of the song is remarkably tight, with Jerry's scorching guitar leads matched only by Billy's frantic flurries. The band realizes they need to take it down a notch and come back with the first "Uncle John's Band" of the tour. Unfortunately there is a hiss on the recording as they start the song, but the performance mirrors the rest of the show: well-played, decent harmonies, no outrageous jamming to speak of, but a strong ending.

Worth mentioning:
  • Donna's howls are really growing on me. The one towards the beginning of the "Playin'" opener is a whopper!! After the opener, Bobby shows off his Deutsche: "Danke schön."
  • "Sugaree" isn't the most incredible rendition, but it's performed without frills, just how it was written - short and sweet.
  • Leaving "China Cat" for the transition, Jerry must have a finger on the volume knob to get it to meow like a (very loud) cat. This version of "China" > "Rider" is mellow and smooth as a tasty German beer cheese soup!
  • In the liner notes Silberman draws attention to a "New Speedway Boogie" tease around Pigpen's harmonica solo during "Big Boss Man." He also picks "Chinatown Shuffle" as the gem in the part of the first set.
  • Spooky version of "Loser" on this one! Love it!!
  • Talk about high energy, this "Me & My Uncle" smokes from start to finish! Though it starts off a bit slowly, the same goes for "Big Railroad Blues."
  • This version of "Good Lovin'" is a far cry from the maelstrom of energy in Frankfurt a few nights earlier, but like the rest of the set it's well played if a bit subdued towards the middle. Nice change of pace, actually.
  • The opening of "He's Gone" is getting closer to the final version, but it's still not quite there. They're not changing any lives with this version, but Jerry delivers the lyrics with longing, totally dialed in.
  • This is easily the slowest version of "Next Time" ever. It's like they're playing it in slow motion, and if it wasn't a release I would swear that someone's deck motor needed to be replaced. It sounds like Pigpen wants to just stop the song and try again. They manage to pick up the pace a bit, but WOW!! It sounds like Pigpen needs to get a breath in the middle of some of his harmonica notes.... Or, if you prefer, Silberman has another take: "One of the unheralded gems of this boxed set." To each his own!
  • I found these crazy cartoon CD covers, just wanted to share them:

Song of the Day: "Chinatown Shuffle"

The annotations for this song start with the title. A quotation from Bernard P. Wong explains the roots of the American urban Chinatowns:
Active prejudice and harassment stemming from mainstream American racism and fear of economic competition has resulted in the tightening of internal bonds within the minority group and the development of protective associations of one kind or another. The internal cohesiveness thus developed became the distinguishing characteristic of the Chinese American communities in cities like San Francisco and New York.
The shuffle is defined as a southern black dance step, though the rhythm comes from the sh of the snare coupled with the short couple of syllables uf-fle to form uneven triplets typical of swing or boogie-woogie.

Like "The Stranger" the music and lyrics are both Pigpen originals, though this one is far more lively the self-reflective ballad explored in my previous post. The lyrics in "Chinatown Shuffle" express more frustration or boredom than mourning or epiphany.
And I can't handle your problems
So don't try to handle mine
Get yourself a shotgun a pocketful of shells
And we can while away the time
The solution of course is shooting the shotgun for fun. The lyrics are playful on the surface - "Look up at the wall, you know you gotta crawl" - but hide an unexpected depth:
Before you start crawling get ready to fall
And if you fall in my direction
Don't expect no help at all
Get it right, do it nice
And if you make a mistake you're gonna pay for it twice
I interpret this lyric as another window into the unforgiving world of Pigpen's youth. The beginning evokes the what-do-I-care rebelliousness of an ostensibly middle-class young man choosing to live on the outskirts of society and outwardly compose himself as an existential youth out of Rebel Without a Cause. However, life on the skids, particularly when you spend over a decade chasing your next drink, would wear anyone out and leave them with a short supply of empathy.

This message is buried beneath an upbeat veneer of a swinging rhythm and simple, joyful chord progression. The composition sounds like the nearest berth that R&B takes towards old-time rock 'n' roll (pretty close, to be sure!), right in Pigpen's wheelhouse!

*     *     *     *     *

Smoked Pork Spareribs

My alternate topic today is brief and to-the-point: a recipe for smoked pork spare ribs. This recipe was originally for St. Louis style ribs, but I've done them with the whole spare rib before and they turned out delicious. You can do them either way. (You could use a similar approach to baby back ribs, as well, though they cook about 2 hours less than the spareribs. They can also benefit from some direct heat towards the end to give them a crispy, caramelized surface.)

Serves: 4
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Grilling Method: Indirect low heat (225°- 250°F)
Grilling Time: 5-6 hours

5-6 fist-size hardwood chunks, not soaked (mesquite, hickory, apple, etc.)
2 racks pork spareribs
  1. First, prepare your smoker for indirect low heat. 
  2. Next, we're going to prep the ribs with a nice rub. You can use anything you have handy (or the recipe from the BBQ Pit page of this blog). Or, if you want to mix up something different try this one:
  3. Just on the grill!
    • 1.5 tablespoons kosher salt
    • 1 tablespoon chile powder
    • 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
    • 1 tablespoon granulated garlic
    • 1 tablespoon paprika
    • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
    • 2 teaspoon ground cumin
    • 2 teaspoons celery seed
    • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  4. Season the ribs all over with the rub, putting more on the meat side than the bone side of the rack of ribs. Allow the ribs to rest at room temperature while you prepare a zesty mop. Try this simple recipe or use a vinegar-based BBQ sauce.
    • .5 cup apple juice
    • .25 cup apple cider vinegar
    • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  5. Start with two wood chunks on the smoker, and put the seasoned ribs on the grill for indirect heat. Add an additional chunk of wood to the side of the coals every hour or so, and regulate the smoker temperature (target: 225°-250°F) by adjusting the vents.
  6. Baste the ribs on both sides with the mop every couple hours. Cook the ribs until the meat has shrunk back from the bone at least a half-inch. Before removing the ribs, brush the ribs again, this time with a sweet, ketchup based sauce. 
    • Quick tip: if you don't have sauce handy, just make a bit extra rub and mop. While the ribs are smoking, combine them with a cup or two of ketchup and simmer them for 5-10 minutes.
  7. Cook the ribs for an additional 30-60 minutes. Remove the meat, and cut the rack into individual ribs. Serve with BBQ sauce on the side.
If you can keep the temperature down and take your time these ribs will be tender and fall right off the bone. One rack may cook more quickly than the other, so keep an eye on them so they don't dry out from being on the grill too long. 

- Morning Brewer

PS (Pairing Suggestion): 

To me, this show is fresh, if uncontroversial, and the perfect pairing is a Pilsen-style lager, familiarly known as the Pilsner. Please don't get this style confused with the American macrobrews that occasionally call themselves a pilsners (unfit for consideration alongside the capital-P Pilsners here).

Just found this shot, now included in
the post for 4/11/72, Newcastle.
Didn't want anyone to miss it!
The first clear, light-colored lagers were brewed in the Czech town of Pilsen in 1842. The water in that part of the Alps is very soft, meaning there are few dissolved minerals present. That trait allows brewer to use nearly as many hops as an English IPA without the overwhelming bitterness. Instead, the hop finish is peppery and crisp, perfectly matching the dry, light maltiness of the beers. Since the dawn of the style, it has become the most reproduced beer style in the world, particularly as the industrial revolution made cold-conditioning possible in any geographical area, any time of the year.

The brewing method for a lager tends to be more detailed than an ale, and it ferments more slowly at a lower temperature. After primary fermentation has completed, the beer is conditioned at very cool temperatures for several weeks, allowing the yeasts to process some of their chemical byproducts (like sulphur, among others) before dropping out of solution (known as flocculation). The beer drinker is left with a very clean-tasting, malty beverage, as the lower temperatures inhibit the production of fruity esters or spicy phenols. Basically, lagers are the opposite of the Belgian ales.

The style of Czech Pilsners are known as Bohemian Pilsners. They almost exclusively use the palest of lager malts, known as Pilsner malt, and the typical hop of the region, the Saaz. Not nearly as bitter as American hops (and totally lacking the piney, citrusy flavors and aromas), this is a subtle and spicy hop. The overall effect if of a crisp, dry, refreshing beer, about as pale and clear as can be. As the style became widespread, the Germans adopted the same brewing methods and yeast to their local ingredients and water chemistry, creating what is now known as the German Pilsner. As a result, there is some variation from location to location, but they all feature German hops. Often, the water is considerably harder than the water in Pilsen, and as a result there some German examples may have pronounced hop bitterness. In addition, it is not uncommon for German Pilsners to have a pronounced grassy or grainy flavor. Bohemian or German, pilsners are always sparkling clear, as pale as possible

As I noted in my previous post, I think these ribs would pair wonderfully with something big and hoppy like the Deviant Dale's, but most people responding to the poll about what beer people would prefer with their BBQ on the web version said they would prefer something lighter. So here are a few Pilsener suggestions that are pretty widely available.

  • Pilsner Urquell - The original of the style from Pilsen, where it's been brewed for most of two centuries, this beer embodies crisp and floral when fresh. 
  • Czechvar - This is the name you'll see here in North America, but in the Czech city of Budweis and throughout the EU, this one is called Budweiser Budvar.
  • If you can't find this one fresh, try these American craft examples of the style. Not the same, but pretty delicious, nonetheless!
    • Noble Pilsner - This Sam Adams offering nails the style, using all German noble hops.
    • PILS - Those on the West Coast are likely familiar with this one. Just what the doctor ordered - crisp and refreshing. I can drink a lot of these.
    • Mama's Little Yella Pils - Another fantastic offering from Oskar Blues, so of course this one comes in a can. Pack it in, pack it out!
  • Warsteiner Pilsner - If you prefer the German interpretation, you can go wrong with this classic. Again, freshness is key, so here are some American interpretations:
    • Braumaster Pilsner - This offering from Victory in the Philly area is a remarkable American example of a German Pilsner. It's a special release, but the brewery puts out the fantastic Prima Pils all year round.
    • Scrimshaw Pilsner - For those in Northern California, this German Pilsner comes from Lost Coast Brewing in Fort Bragg. Wonderfully refreshing on a hot summer day!!
  • American craft brewers have been playing around with the style and coming up with their own sub-styles. For a change of pace, see if you can track down any of these:
    • Summerfest - Clean and crisp like a European Pils, but this one packs in the American hops, in the aroma and flavor.
    • Hallerthau Imperial Pils - I've only heard tell of this beer, but it's supposed to be fantastic. Sam Adams was one of the first to take the style over the top with extra alcohol and a lot of hops!! If you find this one, please let me know how you like it.
    • My Antonia - Dogfish Head's interpretation of the imperial Pilsner is quite interesting, with far more sweetness than would be remotely acceptable in a traditional Pils. (For the sake of comparison, try to find the version of this beer they brewed at Birra del Borgo just outside of Rome.) It's pleasing, though, due to the balance of generous additions of hops and quite a bit of alcohol for a lager (7.5% ABV).
Cheers, everyone, and thanks for reading!!


* I'll never forget the image of Silberman wandering around on the Market Street sidewalk outside of the Warfield Theatre on 4/17/99 for Phil's special return to the stage (with Phishy friends Trey and Page, and the incomparable Steve Kimmock) after getting his new liver. Silberman didn't have a ticket but was holding an autographed copy of his book above his head in search of his miracle. 
** Best advice ever: "Don't look in the mirror." And while we're at it, we can all learn a lot from Roger.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

4/26/72 Frankfurt: "Loser," "The Stranger," Barley's Odyssey, & IPA

When: Wednesday, April 26, 1972
Where: Jahrhundert Halle, Frankfurt, West Germany
Setlist: (In order of the released CDs, can't find an AUD stream, but much of this show was released as Hundred Year Hall in 1995)
  1. Bertha, Me & My Uncle, Mr. Charlie, He's Gone, Black-Throated Wind, Next Time You See Me, China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider, Jack Straw, Big Railroad Blues, Playing In The BandChinatown Shuffle, Loser, Beat It On Down The Line, You Win Again, El Paso, Tennessee Jed, Greatest Story Ever Told, The Stranger (Two Souls In Communion), Casey Jones
  2. Good Lovin', Dire Wolf, Truckin' > Drums > The Other One > Comes A Time > Sugar Magnolia, Turn On Your Lovelight > Goin' Down The Road Feeling Bad > One More Saturday Night
As always, my personal highlights are bolded.

As noted above, much of this show was released as in the third installation of the From the Vault series (before Dick's and Dave's Picks), which has long been a personal favorite and source of countless fond memories by association. The liner notes of the first release, written by Robert Hunter, are masterful on their own. David Gans provides the commentary in the most recent release, which is far more descriptive than Hunter's artful exploration.*

For Hunter, the trip through Germany conjured anger over the atrocities of WWII, which he compares to America's military involvement in Vietnam. Of the Dead's Bozo/Bolo circus across Europe, he confesses:
We had lies of our own to tell, but not hateful ones. Told them with music. Had come to save the world but, starting in Germany, began to realize worlds cannot be saved. All are tentative. So we learned to dance on graves and be glad.... All were crazy. None were sane.
Gans recounts Bob Weir's description of the venue: "It looks like a regular concert hall, made out of wood and velvet and stuff like that, but it's entirely made out of plastic. It is a great-sounding little hall, too." John McIntire, who co-managed the band on the tour along with Sam Cutler, describes (via Gans) that the room's phenomenal acoustical properties were designed for concert orchestras, and the design and quality of sound affected the band's performance. "Phil was totally stoked on it, because he knew exactly what was happening there.... It was right down his alley."** Regardless of the reason, the band's performance in Frankfurt is inspired.

As with many shows on the tour, this one gets off to a hot start. The band is firing on all cylinders, as only the Grateful Dead can. Jerry, Bobby, and Pigpen each belt out an awesome first song ("Bertha," "Me & My Uncle," and "Mr. Charlie," respectively), though their second efforts ("He's Gone," "BT Wind," and "Next Time You See Me") fall a bit short. Don't get me wrong, they're good, but they had just set the bar so high. The rest of the set is great, but the final two songs take it all to another level.

First we have "The Stranger (Two Souls in Communion)," a rare Pigpen ballad performed for the first time of the tour. Truthfully, I haven't listened to all the versions from this tour yet, but I have a hard time thinking they can get any better. Pigpen sings this version as if it were his own elegy, and Jerry's guitar rips through the air with soulful precision to match. Jerry masterfully pushes the reverb to the tipping point of feedback, only to bring it back from the edge for another pass. The haunting refrain from Pigpen is delivered with soul-rending passion. How this song was left off the Hundred Year Hall release is beyond me, but it's a question I may be able to shed some light on below in the special, first-ever BONUS - SONG OF THE DAY, PART II!!

The "Casey Jones" that closes the first set is a scorcher! This song was played in all but three shows of the tour, almost always to close the first set. I haven't drawn much attention to it in previous posts, but this version is hotter than most. If you're only going to sing one, this could be it!
Pigpen howling his way through a song - I like to think it's "The Stranger'" - at Jahrhundert Halle, 4/26/72
The version of "Good Lovin'" that opens the second set is quite remarkable. (Again, I don't understand how it was left off the Hundred Year Hall release. Why not just release the whole show? Or the whole tour, while you're at it? Oh, that's right. Good save!!) While it's not nearly as long as the version from Copenhagen twelve days earlier - and Pigpen doesn't venture so far afield in his vocal improvisation - this is probably a better rendition all around. The best word to describe it is tight - in focus, in instrumental performance, and in Pigpen's vocals. There is plenty of exploration, but the pace is fast and relentless. The band isn't waiting for Pigpen's lead as they were in Copenhagen, though he tries to direct them at one point. He pulls out some of the raunchy stops, but the playing is just so fast that Pigpen hardly has time to extrapolate on his rap before the jam is squirreling off around the next corner. You can hear the overarching theme of the tour - the Primal Dead of their early career wrestling with the musically mature rock orchestra the band is quickly evolving into - play out in under 15 minutes of brilliance in this song.

The rest of the second set is just as good, if a bit more musically verbose. As many know from the previous release, the "Truckin'" has it all: the "numero uno in Turloch, California" intro, a few flubbed vocal lines from Bobby Ace himself,*** masterful piano fills from Keith, precision jamming led by Jerry and Phil, and deep space that falls off into Bill's drum solo. "The Other One" rumbles out of the drum break like a dragon rearing its head in preparation for flight. Soon after the first verse, the entire structure of the song (rhythm and melody) have been shed for pure instrumental improvisation. This is the Grateful Dead at their very best, exploring darkness and light with energy and touch, weaving from structured themes and lyrics to pure improvisation and back in fluid, mindless transitions. Before you know it, 36+ minutes have passed since "Drums!" Jerry ignores Bobby's suggestion of "Spanish Jam," instead strumming the opening chords to "Comes a Time." This song is very close to my heart, and while quicker than some of my favorite versions performed in years to come, Jerry delivers the vocals and lead with passion and precision that point directly to the emotional place of the song's conception. Bobby senses a need for release, and the band kicks it into high gear for a rockin' version of "Sugar Magnolia."

Oh, but the set isn't nearly over yet! The band launches into "Turn On Your Lovelight," which Pigpen sings well but sounds a bit subdued. After all he's sung so far, I wouldn't blame him for being a bit tired. The tempo is very fast, and the jamming is overall very good, if a bit choppy in the middle section. Jerry is clearly on fire, but it's the rhythm that drives this one, repeatedly changing directions on a dime. Bobby plays some of the best rhythm guitar you're likely to hear, and Keith adds some excellent fills on the breakdown towards the end.

The segue out of "Lovelight" contains a fascinating musical conversation, to the point of debate, between all members of the band. Start listening closely about 14:30 into the track on the release, and you'll hear Bobby suggestion "Caution" as the rest of the band builds tension around the theme. A minute later, Phil thumps the locomotive bass line, but I wouldn't be surprised if Pigpen simply didn't have it in him at that point. Jerry then strikes up the "GDTRFB" intro, playing at almost double time until the band finds a mellow release. Then the battle begins: Jerry continuing to push the "GDTRFB" theme struggling with Bobby and Billy, who begin playing the intro to "NFA." About a minute later, Jerry almost relents, and a fully formed "NFA" groove emerges. It only lasts a little while, however, until Jerry returns to "GDTRFB," and the rest of the band has no choice but to fall in behind him. After the vocals, you can hear why Jerry was so insistent, as he drives the jam into a full-throttle sonic explosion. Donna chimes in with perfectly outrageous screams, and the jam tops out before settling into the mellow "And We Bid You Goodnight" instrumental we all know and love. To cap off the amazing show, we're treated to a very high-energy version of "Saturday Night" before the inevitable grab-your-shoes moment arrives.

Worth mentioning:
  • "He's Gone" is still a work in progress, particularly the beginning and the ending. (Come to think of it, did they ever find a prper ending for this song?) However, the instrumental section is starting to gain some legs. Jerry hasn't found his signature lead into his main solo, but the groove is developing.
  • It's a decent version of "Big Railroad Blues," but considering the caliber of other versions on this tour I would have to call it "lackluster" in comparison.
  • This is the shortest version of "Playin'" so far on the tour, wrapping up in under ten minutes. Don't let the brevity fool you, though, as the band is tight from start to finish, and they didn't take anything off the intensity of the jamming. And Donna sounds pretty good when she can hear herself and sings on key!! (1978 would be a long year...)
  • Jerry's vocals on "Loser" are really special, delivering each line with passion.
  • No offense to "Dire Wolf," a great song in its own right, but I really couldn't justify highlighting the entire second set. This one's clearly the odd one out, but I'd still listen to it for its rarity on the tour.

Song of the Day: "Loser"

This is another classic Garcia/Hunter composition built around a down-and-out poker player looking for someone to stake him for another hand he is convinced will bring him back to his lost glory. While I didn't know it at the time, the first time I heard this song was on the album Low by the 1990s alt-rock/country band Cracker - a respectable interpretation but well short of the original.

The song starts with a bounding guitar line that drops into a slow, sorrowful groove with a bit of twang. The narrator draws on the Wild West history of Abeline, Kansas to illustrate how astoundingly bad his luck has been. He desperately begs his lover for ten gold dollars, relying on his (self-espoused) honesty. "Put your gold money where your love is, baby / Before you let my deal go down." Loser, indeed.

He finally gets the money he's seeking. Despite his running streak of losses, he's convinced that he has the upper hand:
Everybody's bragging and drinking that wine
I can tell the queen of diamonds by the way she shines
Come do Daddy on an inside straight
I got no chance of losing this time
In the end, he is convinced the card to complete his winning royal straight is waiting for him on top of the deck. How does the hand play out? To borrow from another Hunter lyric, "Since the end is never told, we pay the teller off in gold in hopes he will come back, but he cannot be bought or sold."

The annotations are minimal, but the published version includes a contribution from Hal Kant, General Counsel to the Grateful Dead.**** He contrasts the modern resurgence of poker the literary image of the gambler (Old West, life on the road, saloons, the frontier, etc.) conjured through argot (bluff, raise, ace, etc.) and place names (Abilene, Deadwood, Texas). In song, film, and books, gambling is about the action; all the gambler needs is one good hand to win self-worth.Today, however, poker is enjoyed  at home, on TV, and on the Internet. It's the man (and his books and algorithms) versus the house and the odds, chasing only the purse. "Co-opted by large corporate interests, all is safe, sanitary, secure, even respectable."

Kant - winner of a World Series of Poker bracelet - earned the nickname "Deadman" not just from his association with the band, but also because the loser of his championship held the dead man's hand (aces and eights), named for Wild Bill Hickok's final hand in Deadwood after cleaning up Abeline. Those days are gone, however, and there are few left who appreciate the roots of the game that is so commonplace today.

BONUS - Song of the Day, Part II: "The Stranger (Two Souls In Communion)"

This song is a Pigpen original, completely written alone - the way each of us will leave this life. Pigpen performed this song just three times previously, and the final version would be played at the last show of the tour. The Grateful Dead never attempted to resurrect this song after Pigpen's death,***** and a close reading of the lyrics give us an idea why.

From the online annotations, we learn that the simple question of authorship did not have an obvious answer as of 1997. Grateful Dead scholar David Dodd at the suggestion of Grateful Dead Hour host David Gans, posed the question to GD staffer Alan Trist (apparently keeper of copyrights for the Dead's publishing company Ice Nine, Inc.). Before getting back to Dodd, Trist asked official GD historian Dennis McNally, who didn't know the answer offhand. What next? McNally asked David Gans, of course!! Considering that this line of questioning occurred two years after the release of Hundred Year Hall, it's eminently possible that it was left off of the initial release due to uncertainty of authorship and the associated potential legal liability. However, they must have come to a conclusion by 2002, when Pigpen was given sole credit on Steppin' Out with the Grateful Dead: England '72.

Please excuse the length of this special bonus installment of the Song of the Day, but this is a rare song that I believe provides a unique insight into Pigpen's state of mind while coming to terms with his mortality. The lyrics below are complete and have been transcribed from the Frankfurt show (and the parenthetical segments are the pointed contributions of his musical comrades).

(Jerry starts out with a simple guitar line as the rest of the band falls into a patient groove behind him.) Pigpen quickly jumps in, posing inquisitive questions while observing lovers, clearly looking in from the outside.
What are they feeling, when they look in each other's eyes?
What are they seeing, in each other's smile?
Is it a love, I've never known - or an emotion that I've outgrown? 
Having turned introspective, the questions continue to go deeper until he finds self-realization: I cannot love another. (Meanwhile, Jerry milks his rig for every ounce of tension.)
Did I take a wrong turn on life's winding road?
Won't somebody help me find the right way to go?
(The beat drops, and the band builds steam.)
My life needs some correction, alteration in direction
Won't some one come with me - for a while, for a while
In case I fall, in case I fall 
He is lost and needs to change. But how? He cannot do it alone. (Jerry takes off on a solo to allow the message sink in, letting the feedback build a bit along the way but reigning it in just shy of abrasion. Sensing Jerry's apt phrasing, everyone arrives at the cadence in unison.)
What is the secret of this tie that binds?
Two souls in communion, both body and mind
Is it special magic, or just the nature of things?
Conceived of great spirit, not for beggars but kings 
The "tie that binds" is an allusion to a Christian hymn. This religious reference and the "great spirit" are atypical of Pigpen's songs, another indication of  Pigpen's unsettled heart and mind in facing death. What he needs most now is deep, spiritual companionship in facing life's final act we will each face alone. (Between Jerry and Keith, it almost sounds as if a harp is accompanying the religious allusions.)
You who have found it please help me along
I'm a man, I'm a man - I'm not made out of stone
My needs they are simple, I don't want many things
But I surely want to fly on them wings, on them wings of love one time  
He is vulnerable, seeking guidance from those - the dead? - who have found solace. He sees through the distractions of the world to discover his simple thirst for escape. (Pigpen's self-identification - "I'm a man" - is accompanied by a triumphant surge from the band, and Jerry's fingers explode, almost in contradiction, to {Pigpen's assertion of simple needs.)
Oh yes, I do
I'm a stranger, yeah, I'm a stranger in your town
Won't somebody please help me now
Let me find the right way to go
I just want to ride, I just want to ride, I just want to ride
On those good ole wings of love one time 
I'm a stranger in your town
Help me somebody, help me somebody
Help me someone take a ride on them wings of love
Just one more time, one more time.  
The simplicity he yearns for can only be found "on those wings of love," but his realization is completely incompatible with this world and those who live in it. He is a stranger. (The band steps into the background, providing the most basic instrumental accompaniment and emphatic punctuation with their own voices.)

As was his way, Pigpen would alter the lyrics from one version to the next. Other renditions have him confused and unsettled by his epiphany - even losing touch with the world as you and I know it - but in each he is begging for spiritual guidance and companionship. He wants to take a ride on them wings of love; "Fly up, fly home" is the refrain in some performances. No matter how powerful the realization, he feels afraid of the unknown and yearns for the familiar pleasures he remembers so fondly. It is here that I find some conflation of his memories of sexual pleasure/companionship (conquest?) and his thirst for the spiritual guidance/fortitude offered by another. To me, his desire not to be alone is in response to his fear of what is in store, but his epiphany of the smallness of this world's distractions expresses the wisdom he has gained in accepting his fate.

The alternate title "Two Souls in Communion" comes from the most stirring image in the lyric, but "The Stranger" is far more apt in my mind. To me, this song expresses Pigpen's personal struggle with dying alone as it has become increasingly clear to him that his death is imminent. This song is a brilliant flash of inspiration and light, gone more quickly than it came, but it leaves an indelible image of what is to come.

*     *     *     *     *

I'm a Barleycorn, Man - I'm Not Made Out of Stone

Two-Row (left) and Six-Row Barley (right)
I am a barleycorn. I grew from a seed just like me, planted in early spring. Today, in late summer, I stand tall on the tip of a tall blade of grass, immediately surrounded by my brothers and sisters arranged in two rows along our central grass stem. We have cousins (whom I've never met) that grow up in six rows to one stem. To me that sounds crowded, and they have the reputation of being scrawny and full of protein - not sweet like me and my siblings. They say our six-row cousins are primarily fed to beasts, but my brothers and sisters have a higher calling: fermentation!
*     *     *
It's a few days later now, and I have been through quite the adventure!! After being harvested from our childhood home, my brothers and sisters and I were all separated from our nurturing stalk. Our outer spikes, once so long and firm, were torn from us, leaving us naked and intermingled with other similarly nude two-row barley seeds. We were spread out and left for about six weeks. Separated from my nurturing stem, I fall into a period of dormancy, only to be awakened with a jolt.

A large handful of sprouted barley seeds, spires attached.
We were then plunged into water and allowed to soak for at least a day. I was so thirsty that I kept drinking up the water until I was nearly half-full of the clear, life-giving liquid. As I filled up, I experienced the weirdest feeling, a change stirring deep within my kernel. Before long, I noticed a growth protruding from my end. One of my new neighbors said she had heard this is called a "spire," and if left alone the spire would continue to grow until we became tall grasses like the ones we were plucked from. My spire grew along the outside my husk until it reached from one end to the other. Through those days, I felt strong and virile. I was filled with promise and pride of what the future held for me - to stand tall in the field and wave with the wind. I had lost sight of my higher calling.

Before long, however, we were all taken from our enriching water bath and again spread thin on the floor to dry. It has been five days now, and my spire has shriveled. It feels like it would fall off at the slightest touch. Oh!! What's happening now?!?! I can feel a rumble on the floor, and I can hear other dried barley seeds being thrown in bins!! Whhhhhhhooooooooooaaaaaaaahhhhhh! I've been swept up and dumped into a large bin, filled with other dried seeds. There are broken spires everywhere, and more kernels are being piled on top of us!! Everyone around me is asking the same question - what next?
*     *     *
Our narrator is upper left,
just below the topmost grain.
Whew!! I've gathered my wits again, and I'm still coming to terms with what has happened since I was swept off the drying floor. We were all crammed in there together, and the next thing we knew we were poured into a kiln. The first day, it was merely warm (about 90°F), but the next day the temperature was raised to 130°F for 15 hours, and then again up to 185°F for what must have been another day. Now that the whole "malting" process - germination, drying, and kilning - is complete, we're now called "base malts," the magical main ingredient of every beer! We were the lucky ones, kilned at low temperatures for a short period of time, but others were not so lucky. Kilned longer and/or at higher temperatures, those unlucky bastards are called "specialty malts," like caramel/crystal malts, toasted malts, or roasted malt. Sounds nice, but you should see those guys - nearly unrecognizable from the pale malted masterpiece I have become. My fellow base malts were packaged together in 55-pound sacks, where we now sit in cool, dark storage. I can smell the pungent roast of specialty malts nearby, but I am afraid that they have been forever hardened by the high temperatures they experienced in the kiln. I'm glad there aren't any in our sack.
*     *     *
I recently arrived at the brewhouse, sitting undisturbed for several days. Eventually the Brewer dumped the entire sack into a giant hopper, and we passed through what they call the grain mill. Now, it's not nearly as traumatic as the image you have in your head, as the mill rollers are set pretty far apart. All of us grains were merely cracked to expose our innards. It was then that the age-old question of consciousness was finally answered: a grain's being resides in its starchy germ, not in the course, brittle husk on the surface.

The Brewer then called all of us cracked grains "grist," and dumped us into a large vessel called a "mash tun" with a small portion of some of those specialty malts. I feel safe only because we base malts far outnumber them, but their caramelized and charred husks keep brushing against my delicate germ. What's this? Warm water is flooding the mash tun! The husks are being swept up in the flood!! My starches are dissociating from my germ!!! HEEEEEEEEELLLLLLLLP!!!!
*     *     *
At first I was afraid, but after the shock of the flood and terror of dissociation passed, I had the most amazing experience. The grains I had always seen as my base-malt brethren and sistren slowly began to feel more like me. Even the disfigured and frightening specialty malts lost their other-ness. After only a few minutes, the starches from all the grains were mixed in the solution. I soon realized that my earlier judgement of the specialty malts was entirely off-base!! Our cracked outer husks were shed to reveal very similar, though not identical, innards. Once our starches mixed in solution, we evolved the most inspirational groupmind (similar to what you'd find at a Grateful Dead concert, I'm sure!), and I had the epiphany of all epiphanies: WE ARE ALL ONE!!
Mash tun groupmind - alchemy in action! Photo from Barlow Brewing, taken at Starr Hill in Charlottesville, VA.

Still, there was some otherness still present in the solution: proteins. A bit of hot water was added to the mash tun, stabilizing the temperature at 120°F. After about 20 minutes an enzyme from our former husks called protease began breaking down the amino chains, which in turn began to form a gelatinous sludge that bound to the edges of the mixed grain husks. Before we knew it, the temperature in the mash tun again began to rise, this time stabilizing between 150°-154°F. It is in this "saccrification range" that we now sit as a "mash." We are unafraid of what lays ahead, for all the changes so far have been incredible.

We can sense a change in our constitution. The dissolved starches - essentially long chains of simple sugars - are being acted upon by two other enzymes, beta amylase and alpha amylase. One enzyme (beta) is a chopper, splitting the starches in the middle. The other (alpha) is a muncher, picking off a couple sugars from either end of the chains. As we sit in this hot mash being transformed by the very husks that protected us, we cannot help but be struck by the perfection of our creation. From stalk to germination to kiln to mash - the entire cycle contained in the same tiny seed that sprouted our parent-grasses!!
*     *     *
We are now feeling the real heat!! After mashing at saccrification temperatures for about 45 minutes, our conversion was complete: we are no longer starches but a mix of mostly mono-, di-, and trisaccharides. The Brewer determined it's time to "mash out" and yet again kicked up the heat. This time we reached about 170°F, and the amylase enzymes began to break down. The Brewer then gave the whole mash a hearty stir, and the husks settled into a thick bed with the most course fragments at the bottom and the gummy protein coagulation on the top. Over the next hour or two, the Brewer slowly and gently rinsed the grain bed with more 170°F water in a process he called "sparging." This leached as much of us simple sugars as possible without disturbing the grain bed, which acted as a filter to remove impurities like those pesky proteins and other solid particles that would taint the brew's clarity. He stopped the run-off before it was to diluted too far, which would have allowed harsh tannins into our sugary-sweet sanctuary, which he fondly called the "sweet liquor."

The Brewer captured all the sweet liquor runoff in the "brew kettle" and continued to heat it up to a rolling boil. Here we are, bubbling away, and more of the proteins and tannins that made it through the grain-bed filter float to the top in a foam called the "hot break," which the Brewer skims off and discards. The Brewer now calls the boiling sweet liquor "wort."

We have only been boiling in the wort for a short while when the Brewer tosses in dense, green pellets of processed hops, which dissolve on contact with the boiling hot wort. The processed pellets have less vegetal mass than the whole cones, which the Brewer will add later. As a result, the pellets contribute bitterness more efficiently without the risk of off flavors.

The hop flower cone, bisected to
show the yellow resin pouches.
Hops are the flower of the humulus lupus plant ("Wolf of the Woods," named by Pliny the Elder), an herbaceous perennial vine. It was first used in fermented barley drinks in the 11th Centruy, but its use didn't become ubiquitous in until the 16th Century, replacing other bittering herbs like dandelion, hoarhound, ivy, and many others in historic brews called "gruit." The flower of the hop vine produces resins that contain alpha-acids (and other flavor chemicals). The flowers are typically dried for storage or for processing into pellets. In addition to bitterness, flavor, and aroma, hops also help to stabilize beer by contributing antibiotic properties that favor brewer's yeast over other undesirable microbes.
Dried hop flowers (whole leaf hops)
and processed hop pellets

With the hop pellets dissolved, the high temperatures and agitating boil bring the alpha acids into solution. Over time in the boiling wort, these acids are isomerized, producing the bitter chemical compound iso-alpha acid. After about 40 minutes, the Brewer adds additional hops - this time, the dried hop flower. Since they aren't boiled in the wort for quite as long, fewer alpha acids are isomerized, and fewer of the other flavor and aroma chemicals (beta acid, humulene, myrcene, etc.) are broken down by lengthy exposure to boiling temperatures. The Brewer adds the final addition dried hop cones with just a few minutes remaining, and they contribute essential oils that give the beer its floral, spicy, or citrusy aroma.

Right now our collective consciousness is sublime, after over an hour being boiled in our dissociated, dissected physical state. The contribution of iso-alpha acids and hop-resin chemicals makes us feel euphoric yet bold. We can sense a change, and the level of the liquid is steadily dropping. Oh, well, we're so relaxed we could care less....
*     *     *
Brrrrrrrh! Suddenly we were awoken from our mellow, warm haze by a blast of cold rippling through the wort, and we realized we'd been pumped from the brew kettle through a "wort chiller." Within minutes, the entire batch of wort was been cooled from boiling to 60°F and placed in fermentation tanks. Oxygen was then pumped into the tank, a fair amount which was absorbed into solution at our cool temperature. The Brewer then "pitched" billions and billions of yeast cells for each liter of wort.

After all we've been through - harvesting, malting, mashing, and boiling - we are preparing for this final transformation without fear. The yeast cells have been steadily absorbing the oxygen, and they are now turning their attentions towards us, the simple sugars small enough to be absorbed into their cell walls.

The final epiphany dawns on our collective consciousness: We are to be processed by these yeast cells, providing energy and some raw materials for an awe-inspiring process called "fermentation." In the end, the yeast will discharge two primary byproducts, carbon dioxide and alcohol. We are ready to embrace our destiny and to become a prized and delicious beer, capable of delivering incomparable flavor and mild intoxication to those who choose to imbibe such an alembic brew!!

- Morning Brewer

PS (Pairing Suggestion): 

We need an epic brew to go with this epic show (and epic post, at least in length), so it's time to break out an old favorite: the India pale ale, or IPA. The apocrypha tells us that this style evolved to survive the long voyage from England to the colonial subcontinent. Pale ale was the favored style of the English upper class, so the military officers stationed in India demanded it be shipped to them, as ingredients and equipment for making quality pale ale were not available locally. Over the weeks (or months) it would take a ship to bring barrels of ale from England to India, the typical pale ale would stale and likely become infected with undesirable microbiota. As a result, brewer increased the amounts of alcohol (used more malt) and hops for their preservative qualities. (Interestingly, the porter style - typical of the working classes and thus the enlisted men - underwent similar transformation, though it was considered a "less refined" style to start with, and the "India" version did not survive.)

And then the Americans got a hold of it. And what did we do? The same thing we always do when we adapt a beer style to be our own - increase the alcohol and the hops to unrecognizable levels!! Thus, the American IPA is described as "a decidedly hoppy and bitter, moderately strong American pale ale." The American versions also tend to finish a bit dryer than the English versions, though there are plenty of malt-bombs that fall into the category, as well.

Relatively recently, Americans also developed an "extreme" version of this style, interchangeably using descriptors like "imperial," "double," or even occasionally "triple" to set particularly strong, extra-hoppy (even by American IPA standards) examples aside from their counterparts. It's a moving target, but anything above 8% ABV is probably an imperial IPA, at least in my book.

There are plenty of incredible versions of the American IPA available throughout the country, from the Hop Devil from Philly, the 60 Minute from Delaware, the Sculpin and Green Flash from San Diego, the Celebration from Chico, the Two Hearted ale from Michigan, the Blind Pig from Santa Rosa, and of course the Corruption from DC. But I want to focus on a new offering from Colorado that just hit the market: The Deviant Dale's, a super-charged version of the Dale's pale ale featured in the PS to a recent post.

This new brew is a favorite of the Morning Brewer.
Deviant Dale's pushes the upper limits of the style, clocking in at 8% ABV. It's served in 16-ounce tallboys, perfect for a hike, camping, a ballgame, or wherever. A couple of these after work (poured into proper glassware when at the house) gets me feeling just right for listening to a Dead show like this one in Frankfurt. As soon as you crack the can, the resinous, piney, and grapefruit aroma hits your nose. It pours a clear orange color, capped with a pillow of white foam on top. The aroma is truly astounding, and the longer you smell it, the more levels of citrus you pick up. Tangerine, orange, even a bit of lemon. This brew is chalk full of Chinook dry hops - added during secondary fermentation to only contribute aroma. It hits hard on the palate with a hefty amount of caramel malt sweetness, but there are plenty of hops to strike a drinkable balance. It's no wonder this brew took second place in the American IPA category at the 2011 Great American Beer Festival!!

A big, hoppy American IPA like this can stand up to a lot of flavor, so I recommend pairing it with something bold and flavorful. In honor of the blog's new "BBQ Pit" page, I'm pairing this one with the BBQ pork ribs I'm smoking this weekend!! (Check the new page for the recipe soon.) The beer's hop-bitterness complements the spice from the rub, while the smoke will help cope with the assertive malt that gives this beer a backbone as strong as Atlas's. Eat your heart out, Ayn Rand.


* All songs but the following were released on Hundred Year Hall: "Mr. Charlie," "He's Gone," "Black-Throated Wind," "Chinatown Shuffle," "Loser," "BIODTL," "You Win Again," "Good Lovin'," "Dire Wolf," "El Paso," "Tennessee Jed," "Greatest," "The Stranger," and "Casey Jones." Gans explains that the first vault release of this show should have been named Centennial Hall, as a proper translation of the venue's name.
** McIntire also recounts the whole Grateful Dead family discovering Phil Lesh's doppelganger playing cello with the orchestra when they first arrived at the hall. For what it's worth, however, Dennis McNally recounts this story as occurring at the Musikhalle in Hamburg in his book Long Strange Trip,.
*** Bobby Ace wrote the song, after all, so he can forget it if he darn well pleases!
**** The book is phenomenal and has tidbits like Kant's piece that aren't included on the website. I've merely summarized Kant's contribution, which is not just informative but also entertainingly written.
***** However, I have heard Phil Lesh & Friends (and/or the post-Garcia band The Dead) perform this song with Warren Haynes on vocals. Stunningly emotional, but still not the same.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

4/24/72 Düsseldorf: "China" > "Rider," Meet-Up at the Movies, & Altbier

When: Monday, April 24, 1972
Where: Rheinhalle, Düsseldorf, West Germany
Setlist: (In order of the released CDs, can't find an AUD stream, but here are some of the .shn files)
  1. Truckin', Tennessee Jed, Chinatown Shuffle, Black-Throated Wind, China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider, Loser, Playing In The Band, Next Time You See Me, Me & Bobby McGee, Good Lovin', Casey Jones
  2. Dark Star > Me & My Uncle > Dark Star > Wharf Rat > Sugar Magnolia, He's Gone, Hurts Me Too, El Paso, Not Fade Away > Goin' Down The Road Feeling Bad > Not Fade Away  E:  One More Saturday Night
As always, personal highlights are bolded.

The show gets of to an impressive start with an energetic, well played version of "Truckin'" to open the show. The band is clearly firing on all cylinders from the start, and the jam, while not profound, is definitely exciting. As Blair Jackson comments in the liner notes, "Let us now praise Keith Godchaux." I can't say a bad thing about any of the songs in the first set, but I need to draw particular attention to the "Black-Throated Wind" and the "China" > "Rider." Keith does a phenomenal job on "BT Wind" complementing Bobby's guitar work and vocals. It's almost like they reached a state of mind-meld on this song, one of my favorite Bobby tunes. The "China" > "Rider" is awesome!! They feel out new spaces on the transition, and over the course of the tour, I'm starting to think we're going to see the beginnings of the beautifully composed section that is showcased in '73-'74 versions. Though not as mature, these versions are certainly exploratory and exciting! Again, thanks in large part to Keith.
Not the Grateful Dead performing here, but this is the Rheinhalle in Düsseldorf. Impressive!!
The second set starts with another one of those mind-bending versions of "Dark Star," and if you've been reading this blog much, you know I can go on and on (and on and on and on...) describing these incredible feats of psychedelic improvisation. I'll spare you one today (there's more to come), but let me just say that in the first half, melody overshadows darkness. The jam gives way to a crazy version of "Me & My Uncle" that I can only describe as psychedelic country. It comes from all contributors: Jerry's guitar tone is dripping with lucidity as Phil dances across the fretboard, Pigpen pumps the organ at just the right moments to highlight Bobby's anything-but-standard rhythm guitar, and Keith's crashing piano chords seem to set Bill's rides off like a pack of coyotes. This is one for the ages, folks, not to be missed!
I didn't find this great shot from Tivoli
until now, so here's a bonus shot!
Finally, the country melody gives way to an astonishing jam. While not exactly "Dark Star," you know what they're getting at. Rather than some of the melodic jams of the tour, this one is definitely harmonic with Keith, Bill, and Bobby leading the way through many of the progressions. That's not to say Jerry isn't out front, but he seems to be following the rhythm as much as anything. The jam hits some frightening depths of space along the way, and a couple times I can almost hear them dropping into "The Main Ten" theme from "Playin'." They eventually settle effortlessly into an unhurried interpretation of the "Dark Star" theme - but only briefly. Within a few bars, they're playing the opening strains of "Wharf Rat" for the first time since the tour opener at Wembley. This version is very similar to the version released on Skullfuck, but that's no criticism. We're treated to a stellar vocal delivery from Jerry, and Phil's contribution captures the emotional distress of a wino seeking redemption and the suddenly self-conscious narrator. By the time they rock our socks off with a frantic "Sugar Magnolia," I've completely forgotten this we're just halfway through the second set!!

The rest of the show is wonderful but overshadowed by the inversion of jamming in the second set. As always, the "NFA" > "GDTRFB" > "NFA" delivers big time!! The opening "NFA" is a bit shorter than usual, but the entire segment is tight and fast. I can't get enough of this jam sandwich!! The "Saturday Night" encore is almost an afterthought, but I'm sure it was necessary to make sure everyone in the audience left the venue without incident.

Worth mentioning:
  • Excellent version of "Tennessee Jed" following the opener; so far, it's my favorite version of the tour. It's not "jammed" exactly, but the performance is stellar, particularly with the little flourishes that highlight the lyrics.
  • The liner notes from Blair Jackson do a wonderful job of showcasing Keith's (often overlooked) contributions to all components of a Dead show. In describing "BIODTL," he becomes "Jerry Lee Godchaux," and "Loser" is "oozing Old West atmosphere, and now Keith is the saloon piano player, in a haze of smoke at an upright in the corner."
  • This "Playin'" goes deep into space exploration, all in 11 minutes, 40 seconds. In Jackson's words, as the guitars "are playing in rhythmic unison, Keith is free to drift off on his own," setting up seamless symbiosis with Bobby during the jam.
  • Great stand-alone version of "Good Lovin'." Pigpen hits some of his usual grooves, but the band's playing behind him is tight and inspired. I'm starting to see how the Dead are often using this song to feel out the improvisational space a bit towards the end of the first set, clearly with their groupmind's eye towards the eventual jamming cataclysms that characterize the second sets.
  • In describing "Dark Star," Jackson draws attention to Keith's "full range of approaches to the piano, from great bursts of odd chords to percussive Cecil Taylor-ish clusters, bass-like bottom-end rumblings, and scattered notes that flit and drift like fireflies." On "Me & My Uncle," Keth is "at his Floyd Cramer best."
  • They're definitely still working out the kinks on the arrangement of "He's Gone." The intro is a bit flat, but it's getting there.
  • Bobby's voice must have taken a beating on "Sunshine Daydream" because it sounds completely shot when he sings "El Paso." I can definitely see why this one was a show-stopper rather than an opener....

Songs of the Day: "China Cat Sunflower" > "I Know You Rider"

This classic pairing was a regular staple of first-set jamming from 1970 through the rest of the Dead's career. At its face, it is a bit of an odd pairing: deeply psychedelic stream-of-consciousness imagery of "China Cat" paired with an energetically rearranged version of the folk classic "I Know You Rider." After so many listenings, it would be odd if the two were not played together. In fact once the two songs were performed together, the pairing was played 516 times in 29 years, and only twice in that span was "China Cat" followed by some other song than "I Know You Rider." Now that's a lasting relationship!

Robert Hunter said he has trouble taking credit for the lyrics to "China Cat Sunflower" (annotated here), as he has claimed they were dictated to him by a cat. As he explained to David Gans in 1977 (taken from Conversations with the Dead, p 22), he was in Mexico in 1967:
I had a cat sitting on my belly, and was ina rather hypersensitive state and I followed this cat out to - I believe it was Neptune - and there were rainbows across Neptune, and cats marching across the rainbow. This cat took me in all these cat places; there's some essence of that in the song. Oh, I wrote part of it in Mexico and part of it on Neptune.*
As you can guess, the images are fantastic and dripping with allusion: "Copper-dome Bodhi drip a silver kimono," "Krazy Kat peaking through a lace bandana," "A leaf of all colors plays / a golden string fiddle," "In the eagle wing palace / of the Queen Chinee," etc. Again, we find a recursive rhythm bouncing around in tight circles, and as you listen you don't worry about the meaning and just enjoy the images. As Hunter wrote in Box of Rain, "Nobody ever asked me the meaning of this song. People seem to know exactly what I'm talking about. It's a good thing that a few things in this world are clear to all of us."

The segue jam into "Rider" has always been the showcase of this pairing. It began as a rather simple yet energetic composed instrumental bridge on 9/30/69, but over the years developed into an exciting instrumental jam with a section featuring a rare Bob Weir solo. The apex of the transition jam was clearly in 1973-4, when there was an additional composed section that provided a springboard to the climactic transformation. There are countless excellent examples, but for me, the rendition from Dick's Picks, Vol. 12 (Providence, 6/28/74) captures the absolute quintessence of the pairing and the transition, with an added "Mind Left Body Jam" as the cherry on top. I hope someone collects every version of "China" > "Rider" from '73-'74 to explore the evolution of this amazing period in Grateful Dead history.

The jam gives way to "I Know You Rider" like a cresting wave surging upon the sandy shores. There is energy and a bit of chaos, but a persistent drive pushes on to a very non-traditional arrangement of this classic. To push this wave analogy a bit further, in the best versions of "Rider" Jerry's guitar leads move as a surfer does across the wave face, with his flourishes mimicking the turns and switchbacks of the surfer chasing the crest. The energy behind the wave, here, is the persistent rhythmic accompaniment of the rest of the band.

In exploring the lyrics of "I Know You Rider," Blair Jackson explains in Goin' Down the Road:
This traditional black song has been passed around in different versions (with different verses added and subtracted) for over a century, though it has been recorded relatively few times. The term rider comes up often in early blues, usually to talk about a woman, but in this case the song is popularly sung from each gender's perspective.
Jackson further notes that rider was also Texas prison slang for the guards on horseback who would supervise prison laborers. Whichever meaning you prefer, this song is clearly about escape (figurative or literal), seeking the freedom of geese on the wing, March winds, and the cool Colorado rain.

The energy built through the instrumental segue from "China Cat" carries throughout "Rider" on every version I've ever heard. The band has ironed out the kinks by that point, and it's downhill from here, as they say, all the way to the power finale, "Gonna miss your baby, from rolling in your arms."

*     *     *     *     *

Meet-Up at the Movies 2012: 7/18/89 Alpine Valley

Last Thursday was the second annual Grateful Dead Meet-Up at the Movies, a tradition I can certainly get behind. I'm very sorry I missed last year's event, as it was a screening of the original Grateful Dead Movie from the amazing October, '74 run at the Warfield. This year's offering was the middle night at Alpine Valley in 1989, the night after the bulk of the Downhill From Here DVD release. I'm not going to do a full review, just a quick run-down of my impressions and thoughts.
  • How fun to get together at the movies with a bunch of Deadheads to listen to the music we love!! Could it be in better setting? True, a movie theatre is impersonal, and the setting doesn't encourage dancing, but it sounded and looked great in pretty much every part of the country. I hope they can get it together to do Sunshine Daydream at some point....
  • I have no idea why this was rated PG-13. No cursing, nudity, overt drug use or references, or violence whatsoever. Some things are beyond me.
  • Incredible performances of "Cassidy," "Brown-Eyed Women," and "I Will Take You Home" included before the feature from the Dead Covers Project. (Also be sure to track down "New Speedway Boogie" - the bass player's a stud!)
  • From the get-go, Jerry is on point!! You can hear him enunciate the Ts from the opening "Touch of Grey" to the "Mighty Quinn" encore. And his guitar playing backs up the theory!
  • Amazing to think Jerry wasn't even 50 years old. He looked terrible!!
  • Bobby in tiny cut-off jeans, even got the VPL. Maybe this is why it got the PG-13 rating....
  • Solid first set. I loved the "Jack Straw" and the "Memphis Blues." Good jamming on "Bird Song."
  • It sure looked like Brent and Jerry were having a great time playing together. I have no idea if this was typical at the time, but they kept shooting each other smiles and beamed over one another's solos. It's great to see how they interacted on stage, how much joy they found together.
  • There were a few unusual occurrences that makes me think they were particularly conscious that the concert was filmed, possibly eyeing a release of something special.
    • "Sugar Magnolia" as a second-set opener?!?! To that point, the Dead played the song 444 times, and excluding encores, this was just the 13th time it opened a set (and just 8th since the beginning of 1972). I can see why, though - beautiful segue right into "Scarlet Begonias!"
    • The first "Scarlet" > "Fire" was played on 3/18/77. The Dead played the combo 181 times from then until this Alpine Valley show in '89. This was just the 22nd time in that span that "Scarlet" was followed by another song, in this case "Man Smart, Woman Smarter."
    • The Wolf.
      The Tiger.
    • Jerry played his Tiger guitar for nearly the entire show. He whipped out the Wolf for "Space," and he played it until it stopped working during "Dear Mr. Fantasy."
  • However, you can see why they opted to release the previous night instead of this show.
    • Jerry was done on "Promised Land." They might as well have been playing without him, as his mind was clearly elsewhere.
    • The "Drums" break was tough. They found a groove once in a while, but Mickey seemed to be having technical difficulties, and at one point Bill turned to the crowd and threw up his hands, as if to say, "What, am I doing this alone?
    • "Space" wasn't a lot better than "Drums," minus the technical difficulties.
    • As mentioned above, the Tiger pooped out on Jerry late in the second set, just as he was supposed to trade solos with Brent. Oh, well....
  • "Throwing Stones" was great!! I love that song, and it's a very rare example of the Dead trying to make some sort of political point in the lyrics of their songs. You could argue the same for "Man Smart, Woman Smarter," but I'd beg to differ.
  • The credits rolled before the encore, and where I was watching, the house lights came up in the theatre. The audience started shouting at the projection operator to turn down the lights, and the "Mighty Quinn" that followed was accompanied by plenty of singing and clapping (at least from me).
Great fun at the movies, and I can't wait to do it again next year!

- Morning Brewer

PS (Pairing Suggestion): 

The typical beer style of Düsseldorf is the altbier (alt being German for "old," not alternative). Like Kölsch, it is considered a hybrid style of beer, that is a beer fermented with lager yeast at temperatures typical of an ale. It also undergoes post-fermentation cold-aging called "lagering" that produces a clean palate similar to a lager. This is where the term alt comes from - the older technique of making ales that was replaced by lager techniques in the industrial age of brewing. As Düsseldorf is relatively near Cologne, the histories of their typical styles are entwined until relatively recently.

The biggest difference between the two styles is that, where Kölsch is light in color and flavor, the altbier has more hue and heft, owing to the slightly kilned malts used to supplement the grain bill. As a result of these malts, the altbier is light-orange to deep copper in color (and the full range in between), and the flavor is complex and occasionally nutty. There is no trace of roast in an altbier, however, and despite the maltiness, it has very light body and crisp finish. A well-made altbier leaves you craving another on even the hottest of days.

For the most authentic versions, check out the Im Fucshen, Zum Uerige, Schumacher, or the Schüssel from Alstadt (old city) of Düsseldorf. For a real Rheinland experience, listen to Keith rock out from the Rheinhalle while you pair your altbier with some Sauerbraten (roast beef, first marinated in vinegar and spices) and Reibekuchen (fried potato pancakes). When you're done, youll need to dance it off to the "NFA" > "GDTRFB" > "NFA!"



* In the interview, Hunter then picks up a guitar and sings an the full version, including four additional verses. Portions of the final two verses would make up the bulk of the lyrics to "The Eleven." Initially performed in 1968-9, "China Cat" was linked to "The Eleven," likely through their shared lyrical conception. As the classic Live/Dead set emerged, however, "St. Stephen" was used as a segue from "Dark Star" into "The Eleven," and "China Cat" formed its lasting bond with "I Know You Rider."

Saturday, April 21, 2012

4/21/72 Beat-Club: "Playin'" Baseball, Drinkin' Kölsch

When: Friday, April 21, 1972
Where: Beat-Club, Bremen, West Germany
Setlist: (In order of the released CDs, can't find an AUD stream, but looks like you can get the .shn files here. I linked to the songs that were broadcast below.)
  1. Bertha, Playing In The Band, Mr. Charlie, Sugaree, One More Saturday Night, Playing In The Band, Beat It On Down The Line, Truckin > Drums > The Other One
As always, personal highlights are bolded.

This 80-minute set was recorded for the German rock 'n' roll TV show Beat-Club, which aired one or two songs from the set just after the Europe tour ended. The fact that the Dead played an entire set indicates to me that they were thinking, "If we're going to make the trip all the way to Bremen, and the crew is going to set up all our equipment, we're going to give them a show so they feel like it was worth the effort!!" The result is a compact set with vast exploration in more than a few parts, and the nearly unheard-of mulligans and a total repeat. Like a studio session, but different. Way different!

At the Beat-Club in Bremen, 4/21/72.
The "Bertha" is very strong, despite Jerry missing on a few vocal lines. "Mr. Charlie" is as good as it gets, and the "Sugaree" is succinct and inspired. It better be: Jerry has to start over after someone plays the wrong changes! Then comes a second version of "Playin'" that Bobby takes issue with, introducing it as a "600,000-watt, clear-channel voice of treason." When he opens the lyric with, "Some folks trust in treason," it's too much for someone (I'm guessing Jerry), and they end up taking another mulligan.*

They end up re-starting the "Truckin'" as well because Bobby can't remember the words (surprise!), but Jerry leads us in an incredible instrumental section that falls into a quite interesting and energetic jam. Billy treats us to a quick drum break, and then the goods get delivered, courtesy of Mr. Philip Lesh. He drops the intro like a ton of bricks and proceeds to juggle the lead in perfect counterpoint to Jerry. This one is FAST for about five minutes until the jamming eases up long enough for Bobby to squeeze in the first verse. About 12 minutes out of "Drums," the band is exploring the mellow hinterlands of jam, bringing it back for a hard-rockin' jam with scorching leads from Jerry and power-chord bombs from Phil. Several minutes later, we get the ethereal release, and eventually a melody emerges. They play around with it as if to consider another song ("Uncle John's Band?" "Wharf Rat?" "Sugar Mags?"), but alas they are out of time. They stop playing for a few seconds before returning to their instruments for a cacophonous farewell to the studio in Bremen, surely leaving the recording techs scratching their heads, wondering what these Americans were up to, exactly. Surely they couldn't really believe we could air any of that rambling rubbish!

Worth mentioning:
  • There was no audience at this performance, only the recording studio employees. Considering the band's track record in the studio, they must have brought a bottle of magic for this performance. 
  • Either that, or their nearly 40-person entourage made it feel like they had an audience....
  • Or both.

Song of the Day: "Playin' In The Band"

"Playin'" grew out of the instrumental exploration aptly called "The Main Ten" for its unusual time signature. Only played five times over twelve months starting on November 8, 1969, "The Main Ten" emerged as a minimally structured theme squeezed into a larger jam that usually grew out of a song like "Uncle John's Band," "Good Lovin'," or "Dark Star." It was a part of Mickey Hart's album Rolling Thunder, released while the Dead were on tour in Europe.

Starting in early 1971, Robert Hunter's lyrics were added to the Weir/Hart collaboration, and "Playing In The Band" was released in September of that year on the live record Skull & Roses (aka Skullfuck).** This version is played "straight" despite the unusual beat, with a very restrained instrumental break. It was almost like they were trying to stretch the confines of commercially palatable song structure, but at just over four-and-a-half minutes it was Dead on arrival. Within a few months of the debut of "Playin'," the band routinely pushed the instrumental section well beyond even the initial, amorphous theme of "The Main Ten" into the depths of space.

The song itself has an ethereal quality, in part due to the continuous, recursive beat in an unusual time signature, typical of Bobby and Mickey. At times the emphasis is on the halting quality of the ten-beat, but at other times the emphasis makes it sound more like a waltz, and at still other times it is closer to a rock 'n' roll standard. This song works because the whole band is comfortable "finding the one" when exploring odd time signatures, but it's Phil Lesh's bass that is most impressive to me. His classical and experimental background in composition comes out when playing this song, as he is able to explore the beat with the rhythm section while still providing melodic counterpoint to the lead once the jam leaves the confines of the song. It's quite an accomplishment to do all of this while never leaving the ten-beat structure. Ladies and gentlemen, the Grateful Dead!!

As the lyrics go, they mesh with the music to bring a joyous expression of youthful enthusiasm. The opening invocation can be interpreted as the Dead's commentary on the political upheaval of the late-1960s and early 1970s:
Some folks trust in reason
Others trust in might
I don't trust in nothing
But I know it come out right
With a few exceptions (like the free concert at MIT on 5/6/70 following the Kent State shootings), the Dead avoided making political statements, particularly in their early years. However, this existentialist expression should not be confused with nihilism; trusting in nothing is not the same as believing in nothing. As the verses progress, the philosophy comes more clearly into focus.
I can tell your future
Look what's in your had
But I can't stop for nothing
I'm just playing in the band
Again, it's the joy and youthful enthusiasm that shines through in this verse. Your destiny rests in the palm of your hand, and all you must do is keep doing what you love. From controlling your own destiny, the next verse describes controlling the whole word. Worrying about the details would just distract you from - you guessed it - playing in the band. Oh, and someone's got a problem with this?
If a man among you
Got no sin upon his hand
Let him cast a stone at me***
For playing in the band
In his own mind, the narrator is beyond reproach by virtue of the nifty syllogism that no one is without sin; in a land full of sinners, there is no moral high-ground from which to loft criticisms.

Taken on its own, the philosophy espoused in this lyric could be troubling: pure hedonism with a willful disregard for the tenets of morality or any semblance of duty to society or individuals. As my explorations of the "Song of the Day" throughout this tour have indicated, the larger philosophy (or philosophies) to be gleaned from the Grateful Dead's songs - and Hunter's lyrics in particular - is far more nuanced that merely that.

I interpret this as a snapshot of a moment of excitement and freedom I remember experiencing particularly in my youth, a feeling that is so commonly held to make it nearly universal. This makes sense considering the song evolved over the time when the Grateful Dead were extensively touring college campuses across the country in 1970-1971 and they were musically exploring new genres, song structures, and vocal harmonies. Nowhere is this "snapshot" more evident than deep in second set of the epic show at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia on 5/19/77 (released as Dick's Picks, Vol. 29). As Tom Van Sant describes in his concert review in Deadbase IX (p 319):
[T]here is something mysterious and other-worldly about this song cycle ["Playin'" > "Uncle John's Band" > "The Wheel" > "China Doll" > "Playin'"]. Perhaps it has to do with the vision of Robert Hunter, who wrote all the lyrics in each of these songs. The journey begins normally enough, "Playing in the band, daybreak on the land..." but soon the structure dissolves, the space jam begins, and we arrive at a song evoking images of growth and celebration (Uncle John's), one symbolizing maturity and acceptance (The Wheel), and one describing decay and death (China Doll), making the cycle a microcosm of the life cycle itself. In the aftermath the formless space jam returns, and eventually were [sic] back to reality, the mundane fact that it's just a bunch of singers and musicians Playing in the Band. But, as we all know, it's more.
Well said, Mr. Van Sant! By 1977, "Playin'" was used as an invocation and beginning of the life cycle, owing to the combination of the beat, the lyrics, the song structure, and jam segment that evolved within it. In these seminal performances in Europe, '72 (they played it during the first set of every show on the tour), we can hear the band pushing the limits of the song to both feel out one another and the crowd in anticipation of the second set. These versions also serve as practice for the often-frightening, always-marvellous version from Veneta 8/27/72.

*     *     *     *     *

MLB Catch-Up

I've been out of the loop on the baseball season, so I spent a bit of time perusing the happenings around the league so far. Before I get into some impressions, I want to call attention to the retirement of Pat Summit, who led the Lady Volunteers to eight national championships in her 38 years as head coach of the University of Tennessee women's basketball team. She has been an incomparable leader and competitor in the game, and she won more college basketball games (1098 to just 208 losses) than Coach K, John Wooden, or any other coach in NCAA history. She was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's disease a little over a year ago, and she has chosen to be an outspoken advocate for herself and others suffering from the condition. Stanford coach Tara Vanderveer - who battled her for supremacy in the college ranks for decades before the rise of UConn - called her "a model of class and courage" in a statement trying to capture how she elevated the women's game. Pat Summit is a legend whose departure from the head of the most successful program in college women's basketball history comes all too soon. I wish her and her family all the best in coping with an incredibly challenging disease.

Now play ball!!
  • I watched the Phillies at Giants the first half of this week, a very fun early-season series. You can tell from the atmosphere in the ballpark that the Giants fans feel they still have something to prove against the incumbent best-team-in-the-NL visitors, even when they're missing their two best hitters. Both teams are offensively anemic and will be relying on their stellar starting pitching to be competitive down the stretch and into the postseason.
    • However, Tim Lincecum did not look like his old self pitching against Roy Halladay on Monday night. He gave up four earned runs in the first inning, and his fastball topped out around 92 mph. He was throwing a lot more change-ups than in years past, which is likely related to his fastball's velocity in one way or another. Scouts have long expressed concerns over his durability considering his "violent" motion, so keep an eye on him this season. I still expect him to work out the kinks and have a good year, though he isn't likely to win the Cy Young Award after his shaky start.
    • Roy Halladay is a machine once he finds his groove, and he had an RBI single in the 4th on Monday. If you're going to score, you better do it in the first inning and hope it holds up.
    • Going into Monday's game, the Giants had committed 14 errors in just nine games. In addition, on Monday there were three more that could have been ruled errors that ended up being scored as hits. On Tuesday, Brandon Crawford committed two errors in the first inning (one charged to the pitcher). Tough to win when you can't catch and throw the ball consistently....
    • Madison Bumgarner can pitch!! And since he's all that, he better win a matchup with Joe Blanton. And the Giants better hope he's as durable as they expect, or else they have a mini-Zito contract to deal with for years to come.
    • On Wednesday they played the first six full innings in an hour and wrapped up the ninth in well under two hours. The pitchers averaged a combined 20 pitches per inning through nine, allowing no runs. Flat-out dealing!! Cliff Lee ended up throwing ten scoreless innings on Wednesday night without surrendering a walk (or a run). The Giants took the game (and the series) in the bottom of the 11th, but both starters deserved the win considering the way they pitched.  
    • During the local broadcast on Tuesday, the announcers said Chase Utley was placed on the 14-day disabled list and may rejoin the team as early as late next week or the Phillies. Weird thing is, I can't find any mention of it from any other sources. I'm thinking CSN-Philly dropped the ball on that one.
  • At the beginning of the week, Matt Kemp of the Dodgers was leading the National League in every offensive category except stolen bases (his teammate Dee Gordon leads that one). It's early yet, so we shouldn't give too much weight to his numbers. However, he was darn close to the elusive triple crown (lead league in homers, RBIs, and batting average) last season. The last player to do that in the NL was the Cardinals' Joe Medwick in 1937, and in the AL it was Boston's Carl Yastrzemski in 1967.
  • Keep an eye those Dodgers. Hot starts don't always last all season long, but their 9-1 start was pretty hot!! And while we're at it, what about those Washington Nationals? Can they keep this up? Hard to think such a young team will be able to perform like this through the dog days and into September, but their starting pitching is very impressive!
  • The Rangers are on a tear! Their lineup has been dangerous, but they've come out of the starting gate looking like a well-oiled hitting machine. With the pitching staff they've assembled, they're going to be tough all year if they can stay healthy, and they're deep enough to absorb a couple injuries, too.
  • Boston still looks like they're dealing with the fallout from last season's September collapse, and I'm not sure if Bobby Valentine has helped his team much so far. On Tuesday against the Rangers, they looked sluggish - particularly Jon Lester on the mound - and they didn't give him much help in the field. 
  • It's hard to imagine, but I think Cody Ross made the fans on the Monster at Fenway wish JD Drew was still shagging fly balls in left when Ross missed a routine pop-up in the second inning, allowing a run to score. YIKES!!
  • Happy 100th birthday to Fenway Park!! I will never forget when my grandparents brought my sister and I there for a ballgame when I was about 13. Cecil Fielder hit a homer to right-center in a Tigers win.
  • After embarrassing the Red Sox on Monday, the Rangers broke out their brooms at Fenway. Then it was on to Detroit. Runs, runs, runs for those Rangers. Looking forward to how they handle Verlander tonight (unless last night's rain out impacts the rotation).
  • I am a huge Roy Halladay fan (and not just because I get to watch him regularly here in Philly), but anyone paying attention would agree: Justin Verlander is the best pitcher in the game. Despite a rocky ninth inning on Monday, he managed to get the complete game win on 131 pitches. Four of his final five pitches hit 100 mph.
  • I'm not surprised Ozzie Guillen found controversy and headlines in Miami, I'm just surprised the situation blew up so early in the year. I had expected them to get off to a hot start, only to be derailed some time after the All-Star break. It's just been a few days since he's been back with the team, but they're playing well. So far, it doesn't look like the players are too distracted by what we can assume is a very vocal group of Cuban ex-pats shouting their displeasure. The cacophony should continue through most of the season, so we'll see how the team handles it.
  • Tip your cap to Jamie Moyer, who became the oldest pitcher in league history to win a game at age 49. He signed a minor league deal in the off season, a year after Tommy John surgery, and asked for 20 innings on the mound in spring training to fight for a roster spot. Not just on the roster, he earned a spot in the big league rotation and won his start on Tuesday. If he can hold on a few more years, he may be able to pitch against his own son, a college freshman this year. Unlikely, but I wouldn't put it past the guy. I heard him on NPR explaining that his most effective strategy is using the hitter's ego against him. Priceless!!
  • Congrats on a great career, Pudge. I hope your numbers can stand up to the PED scrutiny they're sure to get in five years when you're eligible for the Hall of Fame. From Jayson Stark: "Our favorite Ivan Rodriguez tidbit, from ESPN Stats & Info's Jeremy Lundblad: All active catchers in baseball combined have won nine Gold Gloves. Meanwhile, Gold Gloves won by Pudge all by himself: 13." Impressive, to be sure. Too bad the surprisingly credible Jose Canseco fingered him on the 'roids.

- Morning Brewer

PS (Pairing Suggestion): 

Gaffel Kölsch in it's natural
habitat: the Stange
So, Bremen is not very close to Cologne, Germany, but the Dead didn't play there in 1972, so I'm taking liberties. Cologne (Köln) is home to a very interesting style of beer (one of my favorites), the Kölsch****, the demonym for all things and people from the region of Cologne. A true Kölsch is brewed at one of 20 or so breweries in the region, and it is typified by its clear golden-blonde hue, high carbonation, white billowy head, and crisp, dry finish. Light malts are featured along with more hops than many European beers (though not many by modern American craft standards), and a particular ale yeast provides some mild fruity characteristics. Overall, however, the Kölsch has a very clean profile, owing to the cool fermentation temperatures and cold-aging (lagering) that make this a "hybrid" style. This is a refreshing, low alcohol (by modern American craft standards) beer meant to be enjoyed amongst friends and in large quantities over an extended period of time. See why it's a favorite?!?!

Two modern Köbesses serving Kölsch at the pub.
In its native environment, Kölsch is typically served in a pub associated with or attached to the brewery where it was produced. The servers at the pub, called Köbesses, are typically male and have traditionally worn a blue knit waistcoat, a blue linen apron, and a leather money pouch worn like a fanny-pack. Kölsch is properly served in a thin-walled, cylindrical glass called a "Stange" that holds just 200-mL of beer. Since you'll probably enjoy several while at the pub, the server marks each customer's coaster with a notch for each beer ordered.

Through the Middle Ages, the brewers of Cologne formed guilds to gain some measure of political power in the face of their two sources of taxes: the King and the Pope. Closer to a manufacturers' association than a labor union, the guilds had economic, religious, and community functions all involving beer. The various iterations of the guilds maintained their presence through centuries' of the ebbs and flows of dominance in their region between the Germans, the French, and the religious powers that be to represent the brewers' interests in the grain and hops markets, regulation and taxation, and their consumer market, ensuring quality products at a fair price. In turn, this benefitted the farmers producing barley and hops, as well as the consumers and citizens, as the brewers understood that holidays and festivals were for the drinker, not the brewer! Following World War I, the immediate precursor to the current style began to emerge through industrial technology, taxation, grain restrictions, and economic depression under the Third Reichthe. After WWII, the guilds established the Kölsch style as their very own. In the global age, the Association of Cologne Breweries (alongside the Cologne Brewers Corporation) asserted exclusive ownership of the style by signing the 1986 Kölsch Konvention. Today, no brewer outside of the region can legally market a beer under the name of Kölsch, and none of the regional brewers can add descriptors such as "premium," "special," etc. to any of their Kölsch products.

I suggest you seek out a real Kösch to enjoy this show with an authentic and unique German taste. In and around Cologne, of course, you'll have plenty of options, but in the States your options are limited primarily to Gaffel and Reissdorf. (American copycats struggle to get it right, and tend to properly fall into the American blonde ale category discussed at the end of a previous post.) Pair your authentic Kölsch with the classic pub cuisine of the region like bierzupp (it's just what it sounds like), jestuvte murre met brodwoosch (braised carrots with bratwurst), the gourmet Kölsch caviar (actually fried blood sausage crumbs), or leading up to Lent, try the buttery, rich, almond-infused Muuzemandeln cookies. Delicious. Zum Wohl!!


 I agree with Blair Jackson in the liner notes that this is the hotter version of the two, but I can't call it a highlight if they took to shots at it!!
** Bob Weir's solo album Ace, which was recorded with the entire band backing Bobby on songs he wrote along with either Robert Hunter or John Perry Barlow, also included a version of "Playin'." Ace was released the same month as Rolling Thunder, while the Dead were touring Europe.
*** The allusion, of course, is to Jesus's Sermon on the Mount.
**** Information in this section comes primarily from Eric Warner's wonderful addition to the Classic Beer Style Series, Kölsch.