Monday, April 16, 2012

4/16/72 Aarhus: Tennessee Jed's Beginner Smoke Pit


When: Sunday, April 16, 1972
Where: Stakladen, Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark
Setlist: (In order of the released CDs, can't find the AUD online, sorry.)
  1. Greatest Story Ever Told, Sugaree, Chinatown Shuffle, Black-Throated Wind, Tennessee Jed, Mr. Charlie, Beat It On Down The Line, China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider, Mexicali Blues, Loser, Next Time You See Me, Playing In The Band, Dire Wolf
  2. Good Lovin', Cumberland Blues, El Paso, Deal, Truckin' > Jam > The Other One > Me & My Uncle > The Other One > Not Fade Away > Goin' Down The Road Feeling Bad > Not Fade Away
As always, personal highlights are in bold.

If I were to judge from the setlist, I would assume this is just another typical Dead show from 1972 (which, of course, entails tight performances of classic songs and superb jamming and exploration deep in the second set). Upon a close listening, however, this is definitely the most unusual show of the tour so far, and of all the '72 shows I'm familiar with, this is easily the most unique. 


Setting the scene in the liner notes is Palle Lykke, the official historian of Aarhus University, who was in attendance. Imagine a standard-sized university cafeteria, able to hold about 400 diners, but with bare, arching wood-beam frames giving way to the bare underside of the arched roof. (Stakladen is a combination of the Danish words for "barn" and "storeroom," as in for straw and grain. Excellent acoustics, I'm sure....) Now image all the tables and chairs pushed to side and about 700 Danes crammed into the space, sitting on every surface possible and climbing up onto the beams for a better view. Now imagine the Dead on stage, with an unreasonable amount of audio and lighting gear and dozens of crew and "family" along for the ride, not to mention that the band just came from Copenhagen and would pack up and turn around that very night for the next show back in the capital.

While well played and without any obvious issues, the first set gets of to a bit of a slow start. "Greatest" is fine, but a bit uninspired, and the same can be said until the second half of "Black-Throated Wind." It may just be my own listening state at the time - or the atypical acoustics and setting - but "Beat It On Down The Line" sounds like it could be straight out of 1966-7. Something about the tenor of Bobby's voice, some of Jerry's guitar tone, and maybe a bit quicker tempo than the rest of the tour, but it's got that raw, primal quality.

"Mexicali Blues" and "Loser" are both well performed. On "Mexicali," Phil gets a little experimental, dropping some rare polka-funk, and Bobby is spot on, though oddly laid back and seemingly relaxed. Jerry steps it up with a soulful "Loser," and I can't help but think they are competing with each other over who can sing the best cowboy/gambler song (more on that later).

Pigpen starts off the second set with an inspired rendition of "Good Lovin'" with all the regular (for the time) raps: he pulls the "bitch-dog in heat" routine, the "jump in the saddle and ride" rant, and of course the "turn your damper down" supplication. However, the rest of the band's playing is anything but routine. Phil and Jerry consistently push new grooves to the forefront, and as a testimony to the musical synergy of 1972, the rest of the band dares to challenge convention and explore unusual beats and tempos. There are so many great versions of "Good Lovin'" over the years, but this one stands out for its atypical grooves.

After Pigpen does his thing, Jerry and Bobby both pitch in vocals on "Cumberland Blues," and then it's back to the cowboy-gambler sing-off with "El Paso" and "Deal." I would have loved to have been able to hang out with the two guitar players from the end of the Copenhagen set on Friday night until the beginning of this show two nights later. It's pure speculation, but I'd like to think something went down that they're trying to settle by going back an forth on these motifs. However, both versions are fine but nothing special, leaving it a draw so far.

Not from the tour (you can tell from Jerry's guitar it's likely earlier), but it's something!
The massive jam at the end of this set is truly remarkable and holds with the weirdness of the night's performance. It starts out inauspiciously enough, with Bobby flubbing the words early in "Truckin'" only for Phil and then Jerry to almost hijack the in-song jam in favor of "The Other One." Bobby takes control for the second verse, and an interesting melodic improvisation leads to the final round of vocals. Then, it's on!! The tension/release duality starts again, typically subdued to start, but as the familiar strains of "Truckin'" fade away, the band delves into a particularly raw jam that isn't particularly spacey but is thoroughly dark. About ten minutes in, the darkness collapses into spacey chaos. Eventually, hints of the beat from "The Other One" are discernible, but despite Phil pumping the familiar bass runs this one remains a mellow, amorphous exploration of the theme without dropping into the groove completely.

It doesn't take long for Bobby to suggest "Me & My Uncle," and everyone falls into their parts. Phil, however, isn't ready to forgo the psychedelic for another cowboy tune just yet, and he embellishes the familiar bass line for a powerful, lysergic lead intro. Truly, there was something going on in that room on this special night!! With that, Bobby undeniably settles the cowboy vs. gambler shoot-out, suitably with a song where the cowboy grabs the gold from his gambling uncle, shot dead, and rides off to safety.

"The Other One" groove returns immediately, and Bobby falls quickly into the lyrics at last. Just as quickly, the driving beat morphs into the unmistakable rhythm of "Not Fade Away," and we're treated to (another) stellar version of the classic sandwich to end the night with the crowd in a frenzy and no room for an encore.


Worth mentioning:
  • "China" > "Rider" is excellent, and the crowd response is stunning after the final "rollin' in your arrrrr-arrrrrr-Arrrrrrr-ARRRRRRMS!!!" Same thing after the "Good Lovin'" Something in the air? Indeed.
  • Another solid "Playin'" from everyone. Bravo!! I can't get enough of the song on this tour. Good thing, too, because there are plenty more to come. Can it be a highlight if it rocks every show?
  • Oddly, the first set concludes without "Casey Jones," as Jerry decides he'd rather play a death song about a gambler, "Dire Wolf." While rare to play this song on the tour, it's not a particularly captivating rendition, but it's nice to get a break from the repetition of a cocaine-locomotive-death rocker at the end of just about every first set.
  • The show-closing "NFA" > "GDTRFB" > "NFA" has another hidden gem: Jerry teasing the Allman Brothers' "Mountain Jam" for a few short bars before the band launches headlong into the rolling "GDTRFB" tune.

Song of the Day: "Tennessee Jed"

"Tennessee Jed" is a singalong song with the rhythm of a leisurely stroll and a bit of country twang. The narrator tells quick snippets about reading the signs that all point him back home to Tennessee. The annotations suggest several references to old-time and nascent bluegrass songs, and the name is likely being borrowed from the title character of a radio show (see right) that aired on ABC from 1945-7, and sponsored by Tip-Top Bread ("when you get up you better butter my bread"). In his book Box Of Rain, Robert Hunter explains penning this lyric (p 217):
"Tennessee Jed" originated in Barcelona, Spain. Topped up on vino tinto, I composed it aloud to the sound of a jaw harp twanged between echoing building faces by someone strolling half a block ahead of me in the summer twilight.
I can only guess the association Hunter had to get from an echoing jaw harp in Barcelona to a radio program in his childhood, but maybe the radio show's theme included the instrument.

The most vibrant line often elicited loud cheers when played to an arena full of Deadheads: "Drink all day and rock all night / Law come to get you if you don't walk right." Whether you see it as cautionary or celebratory depends largely on your perspective, I guess, but either way the lesson is the same: "You better head back to Tennessee, Jed." And the most hilarious line is when Charley Phogg punches the narrator in the eye and kicks his dog, prompting the dog to beg his owner, "Let's head back to Tennessee, Jed." You know it's a bad day when your dog is telling you it's time to go!

From all the stories I've heard of the Europe tour in 1972, I would be surprised if they were yearning to head back to the States. Nonetheless, they played this song at all but two of the concerts on the tour, and anyone who has travelled for long periods of time would tell you that no matter how much you're enjoying yourself, there are days (or maybe just moments) when you think about the comfort and familiarity of home.

*     *     *     *     *

Meat Smoking for Beginners

I love eating BBQ and smoked meats. The depth of flavor and succulent texture are a wonder to behold. Recently, I've learned that cooking your own BBQ and smoked meats is easier than I thought, and you don't need to go buy a designated smoker if you have a charcoal grill. Below are some basic instructions for setting up your charcoal grill. If you only have a propane grill, many manufacturers also sell a "smoker box" attachment or grill addition that can be used to impart the smoke flavors from smoldering hardwood chips in a safe, efficient manner. However, I am not personally familiar with this method. A simple barrel grill can be easily found for under $100, though some smokers are that cheap as well. I'm guessing the more expensive ones are more durable and may have other features.


Whether your charcoal grill is a barrel- or kettle-shaped, you can easily use it as a smoker. I recommend that you have the following items on-hand before getting started:
  • Charcoal - I avoid the self-lighting briquettes because I don't want my meats to taste like butane. I use a chimney to get them started and will add additional briquettes as needed to maintain the grill temperature. If you are willing to spend a bit more money, some people prefer lump charcoal (or "charwood") to briquettes because it burns hotter and creates a bit more smoke on its own. However, briquettes will burn more slowly, requiring fewer additions of charcoal. Advanced grillers often swear by pure hardwood, or "all-natural" charcoal that burn at high temperatures without any filler, though I'm sure these are even more expensive (and harder to find).
  • Chimney starter - In case you don't have one, this is a metal cylinder with a handle attached. There is a metal grate inside that gives you room to put wadded newspaper below the charcoal, and once the paper is lit, it allows the hot air to circulate through the coals. Be sure you have an oven/grill mitt, as the handle can get quite hot, even if it's made of wood or some other material.
  • Charcoal shovel or long-handled BBQ tongs - You can use one of these instruments to safely move hot coals to get the proper charcoal arrangement for the type of preparation you are using.
  • Wood chunks - Make sure they're hardwood (mesquite, oak, fruitwood, etc.), as soft woods like pine will burn too quickly and give you harsh flavors. You can find medium or large bags in the grilling section of a decent hardware store (or supermarket/big-box store if necessary). You may also use wood chips, though they need to be soaked prior to use and burn more quickly. They are best suited for smaller meats, fish, poultry pieces, and veggies.
  • Disposable metal pan - This will be partly filled with water to ensure consistent temperatures and indirect heat, so the size will depend on the size charcoal grate. You don't want it to take up much more than half of the space used for the charcoal, if avoidable. While they can be re-used, I usually buy several in case one gets punctured.
  • Meat thermometer - In order to ensure your meat is safe to eat yet still moist inside, you will need to know the internal temperature. I use a meat thermometer with a metal probe on the end of a three-foot lead, attached to a digital display. I can set this up so I can see it from the window, and it also has an alarm function to warn me when my meat hits the target temperature. I spent under $15 for it at the supermarket, and you can use it in your oven too.
"Low and slow" is the mantra of BBQ and smoked meats, and indirect heat is often necessary to coax the best flavors out of meat without drying it out or burning the outside. Sometimes, you will want to use direct heat (the food cooking directly above the heat source) for all or a portion of the time, but I've had the best success cooking larger meats (ribs, whole chickens, brisket, and roasts) over indirect heat, where the heat source is off to the side of the meat and heating the entire grill chamber like an oven. You can control the amount of smoke flavor in your final dish by more or less of the wood chunks (or chips) and how frequently you add more wood components. First, let's get set up:
  1. Always follow your grill manufacturer's instructions, particularly when it comes to safety. Set up your grill on flat ground, and be sure you have the ability to put out smoldering embers that may fall out of the grill, if necessary.
  2. Safely start your coals. I prefer using the chimney starter because it safely, quickly, and easily allows me to heat my coals and deposit them in the part of the grill I want them. Depending on my grilling temperature, I will start with different amounts of charcoal:
    • Low heat - fill the chimney about a third full with charcoal (approximately 25-30 briquettes)
    • Medium heat - fill the chimney about two-thirds full with charcoal (approximately 50-60 briquettes
    • High heat (more likely for direct heating than smoking) - fill chimney completely (approximately 80-100 briquettes)
  3. Place bunched newspaper in bottom of chimney, and set the chimney on a flat, non-flammable surface. Light the paper. Once the briquettes are covered with a grey dust, they are ready for the grill.
  4. There are many different charcoal arrangements you may use depending on the shape of your grill and what you're cooking, but I'm going to assume we're smoking some larger meats for now. Before pouring the coals into the grill, place the disposable metal pan to one side and fill it about half way with water. Then pour the coals beside the pan and use the shovel or tongs to arrange them, and place the cooking grate in place. If possible, leave a way to access the coals easily and safely. This is particularly important if your cooking time is over an hour or so, as you will need to add additional charcoal.
  5. Close the lid and allow the grill chamber and cooking grate to warm up, about 10-15 minutes. Test the heat of the grill. If you have a thermometer built into your grill, this is simple. If not, place your open hand about five inches above the cooking grate (about the height of a soda or beer can), and see how long it takes for the heat to make your palm uncomfortable.
    • 2-4 seconds is high heat (450°-550°F)
    • 5-7 seconds is medium heat (350-450°F)
    • 8-10 seconds is low heat (250°-350°F)
  6. Once you are in your desired cooking range, add one or two chunks of wood on top or just beside the coals (make sure they're touching). Wood chunks will take about an hour to burn on low or medium heat, and if you like strong smokey flavor you may add additional chunks for longer cook times. 
  7. You will also need to add coals to maintain the temperature of the grill. If you must remove the cooking grate to do so, be sure you have someone to help you and each person has oven mitts or thick hot pads. You may need to place the meat aside (or hold it in place) during this process, so be exceptionally careful. No matter how delicious the meat is, it's not worth a trip to the burn unit! My grill is barrel-shaped, with two cooking grates, so it is easy to remove one side for ease of access to the coals. If you have a kettle grill, you may consider investing in another cooking grate and modifying it to access the coals.
Now we're ready to smoke some meat!! I'm still a beginner, but I've been happy with the results from using a dry rub to season my meats. I've seen many recipes for BBQ rubs (they're easy to come by), but they usually have a significant portion (a quarter to a third) of brown sugar, several types of pepper (white, black, cayenne, paprika, ancho, chipotle, etc.), a generous portion of garlic and/or onion powder, and a savory herb (oregano, thyme, etc.). Hungarian paprika is new (and wonderful!) to me, as the peppers are smoked before they are ground to a powder. This is a quick and easy way to add a little smoke flavor if you're not using the method above. I leave the salt out, as I sometimes use my rubs to season meats overnight. Salt extracts moisture when left on the meat for more than a half-hour or so, and it's easy enough to sprinkle an addition onto the meat shortly before cooking.

Here's an example (from Elizabeth Karmel's Soaked, Slathered, and Seasoned - a gift from my sister!). You can easily modify it to suit your palate and spice cabinet, and it will still be delicious.

Grilling Guru Rub (makes 1.25 cups, good for poultry, pork, ribs, steaks, burgers, potatoes)

  • 3 tbsp sweet smoked Spanish paprika
  • 3 tbsp kosher salt (leave out if seasoning meat ahead of time to avoid trying it out, in which case add salt just ahead of cooking)
  • 3 tbsp sugar in the raw
  • 2 tbsp dark brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tbsp granulated garlic
  • 1 tbsp granulated onion
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire powder (optional)
  • 1 tbsp celery salt
  • 2 tsp cayenne powder
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
Mix thoroughly (or use spice grinder - or clean coffee grinder - for a finer grind), and keep sealed for use over as much as 6 months. Sprinkle on chicken, other meats, potatoes, eggs, whatever!!

A good place to begin smoking meat is with beer-can chicken. Here's a simple recipe you can do on your grill or in your oven (though my mother says it's a bit messy for her oven!), and it leaves the chicken magnificently moist and tender!

  • Rinse whole, thawed roasting chicken (~5-7 lbs.) and discard liver, gizzards, etc. Pat dry with paper towels
  • Lightly coat with 1/4 cup of salt all over (including cavity), wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate 90-120 minutes.
  • Rinse off salt, pat dry and coat outside with rub (add some salt if you left it out originally, and let the bird stand at room temperature for 20-30 minutes.
  • Prepare grill to for indirect medium heat (or preheat oven to 400°F). Add two hardwood chunks to coals just before the bird goes on the grill.
  • Open beer can, pour out half (into a glass and drink, of course!). Use a can opener to puncture the top of the can twice more. Slide the bird cavity over the top of the beer can, and use the legs to prop the bird upright like a tripod in a pan. Tuck the bird's wing tips behind its neck (as much as possible) to keep them from burning while cooking.
  • Cook over indirect medium heat on your smoker/grill (or bake at 400°F) for 75-90 minutes (or until the internal temperature at the thickest part of the thigh reaches 170°F).
  • Remove bird from the oven/grill. Have someone help you, it really takes at least three arms. Use a spatula under the beer can, and use an oven mitt or meat fork to place chicken with beer can still inside on a pan or plate. Allow the bird to cool for about 10 minutes before removing and discarding the beer can. Carve bird and serve while warm. (I also like to sprinkle some unsalted rub on top of the chicken on the platter for a bit of extra flavor.)
  • I will refrigerate the carcass and any bones/skin to later use in making my own tasty chicken stock. 
Voila!! Enjoy, and let me know how you like the recipe. If people want more or have their own recipe to share, please leave a comment or drop me an email.

- Morning Brewer


PS (Pairing Suggestion): 

We're going to need a beer to go with that BBQ chicken, huh? Before we get there, though, we should do some slow-cooked collards in the skillet. Once the bird is cooking, you can start the prep for the greens. As with all my favorite greens, start out by frying up 3-4 strips of bacon in a skillet. If you've got the time to cook the collards slowly, you can leave the stem attached and just cut the leaves into bite-sized pieces (after washing, of course). Once the bacon is nice and crispy, take it out and discard any excess fat from the skillet. It's helpful to have some for a good sauté base, but never pour it directly down the drain unless you want a visit from your favorite plumber. Add onion slivers and rough-chopped garlic, as well as crushed red pepper to taste. Chop the crispy bacon into small pieces and add them back to the skillet. While the onions are cooking to transparency, mix up about a third of a cup of sauce. The book the rub came from above has great sauce recipes, too, but lately I've just eyeball a fair amount of apple cider vinegar, quite a bit of yellow mustard, a dash of Worcestershire sauce, a generous amount of brown sugar, and several big pinches of the rub (or a mix of ground peppers - black, smoked paprika, ancho, etc. - I have on hand). Once the sauce is mixed, throw the sliced collards into the skillet with the onions, etc., and stir until they have all started to cook. Then add the sauce and cover. Turn down the heat very low (low and slow, remember?), and just let it cook till the bird's ready, stirring every 10 minutes or so.

Oh, yeah, we need a BEER to go with our fabulous BBQ meal!! Hmmmmm, I think I'll go with a standard American pale ale, or APA, on this one. As discussed in a previous post, this style was made possible by new hop hybrids created at Oregon State University, and the style's pioneer, the Sierra Nevada pale ale, spawned the craft beer movement in America. As the style and consumer palates have developed, it's a bit of a junior version of an IPA: hoppy but not overwhelming, supporting malt but overall light and dry, and "sessionable" (or lower alcohol). The hops will mesh well with the kick from the rub on the bird, but it's light-bodied enough that it won't overwhelm the lightest of light meat. Plus, it goes down easy!!

There are plenty of regional examples, so this one should be easy to find, and freshness makes a big difference here. Please don't feel constrained by the following suggestions:
  • Philly, I'm going to have to go with the Philadelphia Pale Ale. Just head to the tasting room and buy a case there - it's pretty much as fresh as you'll find. And when this beer is fresh, it's fantastic!! Same goes with the offering from Tröegs, so if you're in Harrisburg area, check out their new brewery in Hershey and grab a case.
  • For our friends in DC, grab a fresh case of the Public from the brewery when they have growler hours, typically on Saturdays. This one features the pine and citrus of Cascade (and likely other) hops.
  • In Chicago, stop in at the Half Acre Beer Company for a fresh batch of Daisy Cutter. Or you can take a road-trip to grab a fresh case of the Alpha King from Three Floyds in Indiana.
  • On the west coast, there are simply too many options to count. The Liberty Ale from Anchor is a favorite. And while it's from Colorado (not the coast), a fresh Dale's pale ale is an awakening, and it's worth a trip to the brewery the next time you head to Rocky Mountain National Park. And I can't let this style go without a special nod to the beer that got me into craft beer (thanks, Sam!): the Mirror Pond from Deschutes in Oregon.
  • If I didn't hit your locale, please let me know where you are, and I'll do my best to accommodate. 

2 comments:

  1. Hey,

    I just stumbled across this amazing blog while searching for further information on the show in Aarhus. I'm quite envious that you have the box set, but quite interested to listen to it vicariously through your impressions of it. Thanks for all the work you must have put into this blog, and when I get home tonight, I'll delve into it deeper with a homebrew helping me along, while listening to Disc 3 of Aarhus.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks, Smitty! Glad you like the blog,, and a homebrewer no less!! I hope you have a nice APA to enjoy with this show, it's a doozie. The insanity that Phil brings leading into "Me and My Uncle" is a time-capsule moment! This show marks the point in the tour when (to my ears 40 years later) I realized they came to PLAY each and every night. For each performance, the hall and the crowd influenced the groove, but these seven incredible human beings were absolutely locked in at this point in their history. Amazing stuff.... In fact, I'm going to pop this show in right now!

    I've been working on compiling pristine complete recordings of other tours to keep the bus rolling. Check the final post for details, and feel free to email me if you can help with any of the targeted tours (or others of your favs!).

    ReplyDelete