Friday, May 18, 2012

5/18/72 Munich: "Dark Star," Living With The Dead, Cascadian Dark Ale


When: Thursday, May 18, 1972
Where: Kongressaal, Munich, West Germany
Easily my favorite release logo!
Setlist: (In order of the released CDs)
  1. Truckin'SugareeMr. Charlie, Jack Straw, Tennessee Jed, Chinatown Shuffle, Black-Throated Wind, China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider, El Paso, Hurts Me Too, You Win Again, Playing In The Band, Good Lovin', Casey Jones
  2. Sitting On Top Of The World > Me & My Uncle, Ramble On Rose, Beat It On Down The Line, Dark Star > Morning Dew > Drums > Sugar Magnolia, Sing Me Back Home  E: One More Saturday Night
As always, my personal highlights are bolded.

This show gets off to a hot start, with a "Truckin'" that sounds like it could be out of the fat part of the second set. The jamming is energetic and relentless, right up until they approach the ten-minute mark, and then it fizzles out quickly, almost as if they realize this is the first song of the show!! They finish the round through the vocalists with strong versions of "Sugaree" and "Mr. Charlie," the latter being one of my favorite versions of one of the most ubiquitous songs of the tour. The "China" > "Rider" is everything we would expect at this point in the tour, and I could listen to this version all day long!

The set really takes off towards the end with yet another deeply jammed "Playin'." Nothing out of the ordinary for the tour, and it picks up just where the "Truckin'" left off. They follow with another stellar "Good Lovin'," and it's clear this is a special night. The jamming is fast and tight, and Billy's drumming seems to push Jerry further and faster. Keith provides superb fills, and - oh, yeah!! - Pigpen is on top of his game. He lets the band jam to their hearts' content, but when he steps up every person in this hall snaps to attention, including the ones on stage. Get it while you can, everyone!!

The second set opens with an extremely rare version of "Sitting on Top of the World." It's great to hear Jerry circa 1972 belt this one out, with a bit more twang than the earliest versions and the same clear voice. As with "Promised Land" the other night, you can tell it's not a regular in the rotation, but the change of pace is noteworthy and welcome. They try to jump right into "Me & My Uncle," and Phil provides just the right energy, but they stumble on entry. Oh well, still an energetic version. The other shorter songs are excellent, as well, so check out "Worth mentioning" below.

Shredding!! (And re-treading)
Now let's get down to the business!! This version of "Dark Star" is spookier than most on the tour, with plenty of free-form, adventurous jamming. It's got is share of space, but overall the jams have rhythm and at least vaguely reference the song's main theme. At one point someone (Phil? Ten years later I'd say it was Mickey, but he's not on the continent!) creates this deep, pounding sound that must be a pick rubbed against a deep bass string. It's jolting because the jam isn't at that scary place yet, but the band certainly responds! The jam is extensive, with the first verse coming halfway through the 28-minute song, and the weird spacey segment after the vocal showcases Phil's aggressive and unorthodox bass voice. He even milks his amp for some harmonic feedback before dropping back down to the depths.* If you love disharmony and arhythmic improvisation, this is the jam for you!!

Out of the deepest depths of "Dark Star" space emerges that familiar ballad of nuclear winter, "Morning Dew." Already primed from their foray through the outer atmosphere (and beyond), the Dead make the most of this one!! Jerry milks the quite moments for every bit of emotion, then casts a clear note into the air before invoking spine-tingling crescendo. This combination - "Dark Star" > "Morning Dew" - captures a timeless, emotional adventurism that moved the Dead in their most inspired performances. After a jam like that, we need a rockin' booty-shaker so bad we can excuse Bobby completely flubbing an early lyric on "Sugar Magnolia." Apparently, Jerry isn't satisfied with the tone of the closing tune, so he rocks another death song - this time "Sing Me Back Home" - to bring the psychedelic life cycle (and the set) to a close.


Worth mentioning:
  • The entire first set is exceptional. Don't skip any of it!!
  • I keep marveling at Jerry's slide work on "Hurts Me Too," very fun!
  • I rarely draw attention to a performance of "Casey Jones" on this tour, but this one is excellent.
  • What a stellar version of "Ramble on Rose." I cannot believe my ears!!
  • "BIODTL" rages from start to finish!!
  • This is a very slow and moving version of "Sing Me Back Home," featuring at times near-silent harmonies from Bobby and Donna that rage towards the end.

Song of the Day: "Dark Star"

"Dark Star" is probably the Grateful Dead's quintessential jam vehicle. It's sparse lyrics and malleable theme provide just enough structure to provide points of reference without in any way restraining the band's improvisational prowess. I remember reading somewhere that Phil Lesh believed the transcendent and trippy lyrics were the inspiration for jams that came to typify the song, but Garcia (who sang the lyrics) dismissed the notion as coincidence. Just goes to show, perception is reality, right? If you've been reading my posts with any frequency, you've come to know that I love the jams this song spawns, and they leave all structure, melody, and rhythm behind, venturing into deep space. Others are energetic, with bass and guitar in intertwining counterpoint continually driven further by the rhythmic fills from drums, guitar, and piano. They are all quite long (15 minutes would be considered very short) and spill into another song, as the jam defies the resolution of a final cadence.


As we learn in the annotations, Phil Lesh and David Gans convinced the band to allow Plunderphonics mastermind John Oswald (who needed convincing himself) to re-create an epic "Dark Star" from the versions in their own vault of live recordings. The result is nearly two hours of "Dark Star" jams manipulated digitally so there are layers upon layers of sound, blending the Dead from different ears into one magnificent, orchestrated, time-travelling musical experience. While not classically the Dead, this is one of the most remarkable pieces of psychedelic music ever created. I strongly recommend the album, called Greyfolded. This website says it's out of print but downloadable. I recommend tracking down the print version, if only for the 16,000-word essay (and you thought I was verbose!) and the fully referenced sonic maps of each disc. You can read much, much more here. Truly amazing!


In Box of Rain, Robert Hunter says this was the first lyric he wrote actually with the band** It's succinct and dripping with lysergic innuendo. When asked to talk about it one time, Jerry responded, "I can't. It talks about itself." There isn't much to explain, but clearly the title is a contradiction, placing it solidly among many other references both scientific and artistic (see the printed annotations for an exhaustive explanation). Also, you will find a reference to the existentialist poem The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T.S. Elliot. Here are the complete lyrics:
Dark star crashes, pouring its light into ashes
Reason tatters, the forces tear loose from the axis
Searchlight casting, for faults in in the clouds of illusion 
Shall we go, you and I while we can
Through the transitive nightfall of diamonds 
Mirror shatters, in formless reflections of matter
Glass hand dissovling, to ice-petal flowers revolving
Lady in velvet, recedes in the nights of goodbye 
Shall we go, you and I while we can
Through the transitive nightfall of diamonds
There is also another verse that appeared on Long Strange Trip, read by Hunter himself:
Spinning a set the stars through which the tattered tales of axis roll
About the waxen wind of never set to motion in the unbecoming
Round about the reason hardly matters nor the wise through which
The stars were set to spin.
Now that we're clear on that, the magical truths of life and the universe unfold before us.

NOTE: Towards the end of the annotations linked to above, quintessential beer enthusiast and historian, the late Michael Jackson (not that one), noted an English dark old ale called Dark Star that was voted Champion Beer at the 1987 Great British Beer Festival. I can't tell if the brewery is Pittfield or The Beer Shop, but either way it's almost worth a trip to London to find it!!


*     *     *     *     *

Living With the Dead: Cashing In, Gatekeeping, & the Legacy of Jerry Garcia

A year or so after Jerry Garcia died, Rock Scully (along with David Dalton) published Living with the Dead: Twenty Years on the Bus with Garcia and the Grateful Dead. So soon after Jerry died, this book made quite a splash, in large part because Scully co-managed the Dead for a substantial portion of their illustrious career (including their tour of Europe in 1972) and told many tales of their careless lifestyle. I've largely refrained from quoting from this book because, upon release, it was highly controversial amongst the established Grateful Dead hierarchy. However, I've gotten several questions about it, so I thought it would be worth exploring the book and the controversy that has surrounded it through the lens of the 1972 tour of Europe.***

The book contains a significant segment from Scully's "road diary" on the '72 tour of Europe. No one disputes that he was there, playing a critical role as German-speaking co-manager, and I have no reason to doubt most of the brief tales he tells of the tour. In particular, he notes:

  • Flat audience response from the Wembley shows. He implies the Dead's sophistication is out of the league of the London audience, a judgement that I am wary of on the surface. The hall was clearly too big for the show and probably led to acoustical complications.
  • The stellar performance from Newcastle is lost on him; all he remembers is the boomy, concrete venue.
  • Fights in Copenhagen, particularly surrounding crew members who picked them.
  • The Aarhus show fell on Fasching, the Scandanavian Halloween. Fun, fun, fun!!
  • After an off day in Sweden, the return trip to Denmark featured a close call with customs officials and a bus driver convinced he wouldn't see his children until they were grown.
  • Phil flipping out in Dusseldorf over the Nazi history, and the show - again - being lost on the stoic crowd. However, Karlheinz Stockhausen brought a gaggle of students, who were (according to Scully) the only ones who knew what was going on. musically
  • He describes the Olympia Theatre in Paris being "just like the Fillmore East; if anything, a bit more funky. A tradition-riddled place.... Hallowed ground, but with insufficient electricity." Also from Paris, the classic story where they show up to the Le Grand Hotel with the staff expecting a 37-piece orchestra. Surprise!! The psychedelic circus has arrived from America!
  • In Amsterdam, Pigpen gives the house organ a whirl, the one built in 1640 and played by J.S. Back. As a thank-you, the gaffer's tape strips the gold leaf from just about every surface, and the band has to reimburse the hall as much as a quarter-million dollars. Ouch!!
  • The crew convinces the Radio Luxembourg techs to go full power for the show, and Bob Mathews calculates it's the strongest broadcast in world history, covering half the globe. The Deadheads in England may disagree....
The point I want to discuss is the "great drug drought" of Munich (this show), when the band and crew had a massive throw-down the day before that culminated in everyone burning their respective cocaine stashes (except for Scully). The next day, everyone is jonesing and calling Scully for a bump. Instead, he orchestrates a field trip for the band to the Deutsche Museum of German innovation, which houses a comprehensive collection of every item created by a German. He gives them strict instructions to rendezvous before the scheduled soundcheck before turning them loose in the museum. Garcia, of course, is lost when everyone else convenes, and eventually (hours later, supposedly) Scully finds him transfixed by a giant cocaine crystal measuring 15 inches across. "You could start a religion with that thing," is Garcia's tagline.

While I have no reason to doubt that the core elements of this story are true (I wasn't there and I haven't spoken to anyone who was there for their story), Scully's story doesn't match up. The book opens with the details of this story, and Scully insists they are playing at the Olympia Theatre, just twenty minutes from the museum. In 1972, the only Olympia Theatre the Dead played in was in Paris, not Munich. In 1974, the drug-riddled Grateful Dead returned to Europe with their epic Wall of Sound for a quick tour that was by all accounts a shit-show. On 9/14/74, the Dead played Munich's Olympiahalle, but that is clearly another tour entirely. The fact that Scully mis-remembers the location of the concert and/or the year within such a detailed telling of the story is troubling and casts some doubt on its validity in my mind. Could this be a simple mix-up? Absolutely, but this is one of several stories that defy their internal logic, let alone the scrutiny of others within the Grateful Dead Family.


However, I believe that much of the controversy around Scully's book from within the Family may also be attributed to the survivors following the death of their patriarch, Jerry Garcia. It was Scully who turned Garcia onto smokeable Persian heroin that offered a brief, brilliant period in 1977 but ultimately lead to his decline and death. Scully was dismissed from the band's staff in large part because of this, and so soon after his death, I'm sure many in the Family held a grudge. The book is clearly self-serving and riding the wave of publicity following the death of an icon, particularly in light of Scully falling out of favor with the business end of the band.

In addition, I'm sure there was a fair amount of gate-keeping involved in the reaction: Everyone involved knew of Jerry's addiction but depended on his continued performances for their livelihood. But this was an internal secret, one never spoken of publicly, let along PUBLISHED!! For someone who was once inside the circle to break that code of silence at a time when Garcia's legacy was being set in stone was an affront to the Family - all the members of that Family who relied on Garcia and his legacy for their jobs and the financial well-being of their families.

In the end, I have no reason to doubt much of the stories in Scully's book, though some of the internal logic doesn't stand up to scrutiny. However, he's an admitted recovering junkie, so who am I to question his rational processes? Memories get scrambled for all of us, and very few have had the kind of psychotropic adventures that Scully has had. Nonetheless, the book is entertaining as hell, and Dalton does a fantastic job of transforming Scully's colorful memories into fascinating prose. It's worth a read, but I recommend you do so with a healthy dose of skepticism and enjoy the ride!

- Morning Brewer


PS (Pairing Suggestion): 

Inspired by "Dark Star," the featured beer for this show has got to be something adventurous and, of course, dark! In the past several years, a new American beer style has begun to emerge, blending the floral, citrusy, bitter goodness of an American IPA and the dark color of a porter or stout. Some here in the Northeast claim the style originated in Vermont, but I believe brewers in the Pacific Northwest first pioneered the style.****

This style is still in its adolescence (no official BJCP style category, generally entered into competitions under specialty category) and evolving into its own. Therefore, I will describe essentially what I see as the best characteristics, at least to my tastes. Under no circumstances should this ale cut back on the hops at all. In that respect, it's everything an IPA is - bitter, floral, fresh, and flavorful. It's important that the beer has some substantial body to it, as well; none of those skimpy APAs-as-IPAs could qualify. The controversy is just how much body, roast, and color is enough and how much is too much.

To me, the best examples play contradictory expectations against one another. You order your Cascadian dark ale (or black IPA/American black ale) at the bar, and in a clear glass you're delivered a dark-as-night beer capped with a white (or possibly light tan) head. The point of reference is towards a stout or a porter (or a schwarzbier) that highlights roasty aromas and flavors like chocolate, coffee, or even dark fruits. As you raise the glass to your lips, however, your nose is assaulted by the unexpected resinous, piney, citrusy, and tropical aromas of the best and freshest of American hops!! Immediately your mind is in contortions as you take another whiff before diving in for your first taste. At first, you don't know what to expect - roasty malts or flavorful, bitter hops - but you're greeted with no roast and tons of hops!! Moderate maltiness will provide balance for a hefty hop bill (slanted towards late additions for extra flavor and aroma), but it will seem surprisingly light because of the expectation from a black beer.

To me, roasty versions of a Cascadian dark ale are too close to an American porter, and the dark flavors distract from the hop focus of this style. That being said, there are plenty of roasty versions out there, but I'll personally take a pass on those. The next question is the color, as the black color commonly comes from roasted malts that impart a lot of that flavor. Personally, I'd rather have a dark brown or garnet colored example that finishes clean than a black version with a much noticeable roast. The answer? The new(-ish) midnight wheat malt from Breiss, a unionized malster in Minnesota that supplies an exceptional portion of the grain that fuels the American craft beer industry. I'm not sure how they do it,***** but the result is color and some fermentables without the roast, leaving behind a clean, black beer-canvass for brewers to create masterpieces upon!!

And what masterpieces they are!
  • My absolute favorite that is the benchmark for the style (at least in my book) is Stone's Sublimely Self-Righteous ale. If you're only going to try one, this is it!!
  • Not as black, but Yakima Glory (sometimes Yakima Twilight) from Victory is an apt tribute to the valley that provides American craft brewers most of their hops.
  • From Heavy Seas in Baltimore we get an excellent example in Loose Cannon.
  • Deschutes' version is called Hop in the Dark, for those out west.
  • From 21st Amendment, check out the Back in Black, though I can say it's best fresh. Sometimes their cans can taste a bit off, at least to my palate.
  • I haven't had the pleasure of sampling this one yet, but I recently read a review of the Dubhe, an imperial version from Uinta Brewing in Utah. Not sure if I read it right, but I believe they added toasted hemp seeds to this one, too. This is a truly epic brew honoring the State of Utah finally lifting the ABV limit for beers produced and/or sold within the state!
There are plenty other examples I haven't had the pleasure to sample (yet), but as I said it's a burgeoning style that is growing into itself. Find what you like, and let me know when you find others I should seek out!!

As for pairings, anything that goes with an American IPA will work well. I recommend some spicy Thai food (pad Thai or my favorite - massaman curry) or Indian food.

---------------------------------


* I LOVE THE GRATEFUL DEAD!!!!
** I believe there were a few lyrics like "China Cat," "St. Stephen," and "Alligator" that he wrote separately and mailed to the band before he officially "joined" them.
***  Please excuse the lack of references, but I'm short on time. Most of the arguments for or against are fairly well documented elsewhere, but I just don't have the time to review the sources in detail. My apologies.
**** While it is commonly called a black IPA or an American black ale, I prefer to give a nod to is PNW roots and call it a Cascadian dark ale. Besides, how can an India ale be both black and pale? Nonetheless, the region rightfully doesn't have a monopoly on the style, so American black ale is probably the best name. I'm still partial to Cascadian dark ale, so live with it!!
***** If I had to guess, I think they would malt the wheat kernels like they usually do, then roast them at high temperatures for a considerable period of time. Before packaging them, though, they would remove most of the roasty husks, leaving the black color, a bit of fermentables, and next to no roast. From their website, it looks like they planned on this malt being used in schwarzbiers, but to me it's the perfect malt for a perfect Cascadian dark ale!!

2 comments:

  1. I've also read Scully's book and found some incongruities about Munich. He probably mixed up Munich 72, Munich 74 and Munich 81. The Munich 72 show was performed at the Deutsches Museum Kongressaal, the "great drug drought" of 1974 occured in Munich just after they left London to play at Munich's Olympia Halle. Then, He speaks of Garcia's being "lost" in the Deutsches Museum and mentions Mickey Hart several times, which could only be in 1981 when they played the Olympia Halle again.
    Yet his book is exhilaratingly funny!
    Too bad I can't go to your May 26 party as I'm in Europe.

    Philipe

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  2. We'll miss you, Philipe. I'll be honest, I was secretly hoping you'd find a cheap, last-minute flight and boogie down with us stateside! Such is life, maybe some other time....

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