Sunday, May 13, 2012

5/13/72 Lille: "Truckin'," Mother's Day for Peace, & Grand Cru

Before we get rolling on the post, I want to let everyone know that, as the tour draws to a close, we at the Morning Brewer household are looking to celebrate with you, the readers. We'll be hosting a dance party on the last night of the tour (Saturday, May 26th), serving home-smoked meats and hand-crafted brews. There's a new poll on the upper right section of the blog's web page (not available on the mobile version) for you to let me know if I'll see you there. If you need directions to the party, drop me an email. I know many of you are out-of-towners likely won't be able to make it, but if you're close enough to make the trip, we'd love to have you over!!

When: Saturday, May 13, 1972
Where: Lille Fairgrounds, Lille, France
Setlist: (In order of the released CDs)
  1. Tuning Rap, Bertha, Black-Throated Wind, Chinatown Shuffle, Loser, Beat It On Down The Line, Mr. Charlie, China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider, Me & My Uncle, Big Railroad Blues, Next Time You See Me, Playing In The Band, Sugaree, Mexicali Blues, Casey Jones
  2. Truckin' > The Other One > Drums > The Other One > He's Gone, Hurts Me Too, Sugar Magnolia > Not Fade Away > Goin' Down The Road Feeling Bad > Not Fade Away  E: One More Saturday Night
As always, my personal highlights are bolded.

This is the make-up show for the one they missed following Paris, when their equipment truck didn't arrive at the show, and from its absence in the Deadhead's Tapers Compendium (published in 1998), I can only guess recordings of this show haven't been in circulation for very long. In Long Strange Trip, Dennis McNally tells the tale of the lost first show, and its echoed by Nicholas Meriwether in the liner notes to this release and in the GD Comix below (my favorite frame is of the bug-eyed gargoyle as the ice cream flies past!). It started in Paris when a young radical, whose request for a free ticket was turned down, derided the band for their lack of political consciousness, prompting Rex Jackson to dump ice cream onto the jacket he was so proud of. The Parisian's revenge, however, was to sabotage their equipment truck, forcing them to cancel the next show in Lille.

While Jerry and Billy knew better and stayed in the hotel, Bobby and Phil going to the venue to deliver the bad news in person. This was a college town, engulfed in the radicalism of the time, and when it became clear the promoter couldn't refund the ticket price on the spot, Bobby described that the "crowd became very surly." Before long, they were out the dressing room window, shimmying down the drainpipe to the idling truck waiting for them. On his way out the window before the door gave way, Bobby left a rose on the windowsill and promised they would make up the show, and on the 13th, they did just that. McNally recounts, "Stunned by their honesty, the promoter was in tears as they set up in the town's fairgrounds." So the Dead played for real "for workers eating their sausages and baguettes, mothers with children in prams, and some of the students." The day was chilly with occasional showers, but the sun came out and all present enjoyed the show. Phil would later say that for those hours on stage after the rain in the north of France, he lived in a Cézanne. Meriwether closes the liner notes with this passage:
Hunter always said that a rose was one of the ultimate symbols, that when you put a rose in a lyric it will do what it's supposed to do. Lille put the band in a Cézanne. But for the audience it will always be the rose on the windowsill, the thorns of a missed gig redeemed by the stunning, delicate beauty of a day reclaimed and made magic in the way that only the Dead could do.
Thanks for snapping the shots, Philipe Andreiu,
and thanks for passing them along, Philipe S.
The band starts off with equipment problems, as Phil and Bobby show off their best potty-mouths, even with Phil's fake flatulence. Phil remembers to warn the gathered French that this is "NOT an attack. "Bertha" starts out with some feedback, but it's very well played. Each of the songs through the "China" > "Rider" is quite well played, and the only out-of-the-ordinary things are an emotional rest towards the end of "Loser," the false start on "BIODTL" and the notably moderate tempo of "Mr. Charlie." "China" > "Rider" is again excellent with great energy through the transition and a powerful delivery of "I Know You Rider." From there, they continue playing quite well, and we get Donna's Alabama twang introducing "Playin'.", and Bobby saying it's a lady's-choice polka ahead of "Mexicali."

Pigpen with the not-yet ubiquitous Steal Your Face loco on his organ.
The second set starts out with an energetic "Truckin'" full of interesting jams. After a few minutes of nose-down jamming, the band lets billy do his thing for a bit. He brings the solo to a complete rest and starts calling for Phil with the familiar rhythm. Phil drops this one louder and more abruptly than any so far on the tour, with Pigpen's organ adding extra weight to it. The jam that follows has tons of energy, and at one point they ease off the rhythm and begin whirring like a siren as one. Then it's down a spooky space/jam until Jerry erupts with screeching tone and thick, extremely rapid chords. The jam that follows is extremely rapid, but it doesn't quite round up as much as it sounds like it could. Before long they've wandered off into deep space. Phil conjures frightening explosions of sound that turn rhythmic, conjuring "Caution." Jerry responds with a lick that feels like "Dark Star," and the jam stays in space. A little bit later, Jerry plays a melody that reminds me of "Eleanor Rigby," though I never exactly hear the theme. They come back through "The Other One" proper, and again Phil erupts with a flurry, and an another energetic jam takes hold. This final venture is absolutely NASTY, with Phil and Jerry steering each other more and more recklessly. They arrive at the second verse, and I can't even recall if they bothered singing the first*, but they're soon closing the medley with "He's Gone."

The second set's notable finale begins with an excellent "Sugar Magnolia." Bobby starts this one off extremely fast with the opening chords, but Billy settles the groove down quickly once he joins in. The final "Sunshine Daydream" flurry cuts short, and the band is quickly into "Not Fade Away." The first part is unremarkable, getting off to a slow start, and Jerry sounds like he's noodling aimlessly for a bit. By the second half of "GDTRFB, however, they're firing on all cylinders again, and after a soulful rendition of "And We Bid You Goodnight" they jam the final section hard and make up for lost time, wrapping up "NFA" with a bang.

Worth mentioning:
  • I believe this is the first version of "He's Gone" that doesn't stand alone, though they insist upon the rough landing of these early versions instead of finding solace in something like "Wharf Rat" or "Comes a Time."
  • After "He's Gone," Jerry calls the band back from their tuning with a "Teddy Bear's Picnic" riff.
  • Listening to this slow and mournful "Hurts Me Too," I can't help but think this is one of Pigpen's final shows....
  • The encore "Saturday Night" is bursting with energy throughout, but the finish is one of the craziest I've heard, with Jerry not willing to let it go.
Enjoy these fabulous GD Comix telling the true story of Lille! Also, check out this interview of Mickey talking about the importance free concerts played for the Dead.

Pretty good, but unfortunately they didn't rock "Morning Dew" in Lille!

Song of the Day: "Truckin'"

The Dead started performing this song in August, 1970, and a succinct rendition appeared on their studio album American Beauty. It quickly became a classic for its unmistakable opening, autobiographical lyrics, and the energetic jam that became synonymous within a year of its debut. The versions from Europe in 1972 are blistering hot, and often introduced by Bobby, saying the single "reached the top of the charts in Turloch, California, and stayed there for a week or two." As they did in Lille, the band would often follow the jam into "Drums" and eventually give way to "The Other One," so when we hear the opening guitar lick, we know we're in for a ride!!

This is one of the rare times that Hunter focuses on the band as the subject of a lyric ("The Music Never Stopped" was penned by Weir/Barlow), celebrating their lifestyle on the road and the adventures they find along the way. Trucking was another, more vulgar, name for a two-step strut back in the 1920s and 1930s, and of course rhyming slang would conjure images of intercourse. Out of the gate, Hunter aptly describes the traveling circus as "Together - more or less in line." We're then transported from Chicago to New York to Detroit, on to Dallas, not Houston, and back to New York.

Why not Houston? Too close to New Orleans, where the band was busted ("down on Bourbon street / Set up - like a bowling pin / Knocked down - gets to wearing thin") for pot by the cops in January, 1970. They were playing the 30th and 31st at The Warehouse on Tchoupitoulas at Felicity** along with Fleetwood Mac and the Flock on the "Fillmore Circuit" tour, but having spent all their money on bail, they played a much-needed fundraiser again at The Warehouse with Fleetwood Mac on February 1st. Apparently, they were passing around electric Cold Duck (cheap sparkling wine) as a thank-you, and the cops who were swarming the place looking for tokers didn't take notice.

We're treated to some of Hunter's more resonant lines in this song, as well. Beyond , we're treated to these gems:
Most of the cats you meet on the street speak of True Love
Most of the time they're sittin' and cryin' at home
One of these days they know they gotta get goin'
Out of the door and down to the street all alone 
Truckin' - like the doodah man
Once told me you got to play your hand
Sometime - the cards ain't worth a dime
If you don't lay 'em down 
Sometimes the light's all shining on me
Other times I can barely see
Lately it occurs to me
What a long strange trip its been!
The first verse quoted above reminds me of J.R.R. Tolkien's song about the Road, offering a contemporary twist. At a certain point, we all must get out there and live life rather than just sitting back, lamenting its sorrows. The second verse above is steeped in Hunter's familiar gambling imagery, but the message is the same: take the plunge!! No matter how good you think you have it, you have to act on your assets.*** And the third is a bit melancholy, but still looking for positivity. It's punctuated by what has become the unofficial retrospective tagline of a generation: "What a long strange trip it's been."

*     *     *     *     *

Mother's Day for Peace

First of all, happy Mother's Day to my Mom and to all the mother's out there in reader-land. I wish you have a day of leisure surrounded by those you love most. My 8th grade math teacher Mrs. Holding,**** the coolest teacher I've ever had, said the Dead gave out roses to mothers coming into their Mother's Day concerts. But here I want to discuss the history of the holiday.

It was not simply founded to be a mirror to Father's Day, and in fact, the opposite is true.***** In 1870, author, activist, and suffragist Julia Ward Howe called for a "worldwide protest of women against the cruelties of war," specifically the contemporary American Civil War and Franco-Prussian War. As she explains in the Mother's Day Proclamation, Howe intended the holiday to be a protest against war in general:
Arise then, women of this day! Arise all women who have hearts! Whether your baptism be of water or of tears! 
Say firmly: "We will not have questions answered by irrelevant agencies. Our husbands will not tome to us, reeking of carnage, for caresses and applause. Our songs shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience. We, the women of one country, will be too tender of those of another country to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs. 
From the bosom of the devastated Earth a voice goes up with our own. It says "Disarm! Disarm! The sword of murder is not the balance of justice." Blood does not wipe out dishonor, nor violence indicate possession. As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil at the summon s of war, let women now leave all that may be left of home fro a great and earnest day of counsel. 
Let the meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead. Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means whereby the great human family can live in peace, each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar, but of God. 
In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask that a general congress of women without limit of nationality may be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient and at the earliest period consistent with its objects. To promote the alliance of the different nationalities, the amicable settlement of international questions, the great and general interests of peace. 
In 1908, Anna Jarvis began organizing for national recognition of the holiday, and in 1912 declared the second Sunday in May as Mother's Day. In 1914, President Woodrow Wilson officially enshrined the holiday as a peace initiative that fared better than his Fourteen Points and the League of Nations. By the 1920s, however, Jarvis was upset with the growing commercialism of the holiday, but there has been a contemporary movement to re-connect the holiday to its pacifist roots.

So this year for Mother's Day, call and/or hug you mother, and remember the origins of this holiday. No war.

- Morning Brewer

PS (Pairing Suggestion): 

Belgian and French ales frequently embrace the funk, creating a pair of unique categories of sour beer styles. There are two main styles typical of Flanders (red and brown), and both are noticeably sour, flavors come from byproducts of fermentation by the lactobacillus bacteria.****** Besides the color, the brown (or Oud Bruin) may be a bit stronger and tends to be maltier in flavor, reminiscent of raisins, plums, and figs. The Flanders red, on the other hand, is exceptionally dry and fruity, offering flavor of plums, oranges, and cherries, leaving the overall impression of a medium- to light-bodied beer that is exceptionally acidic and fruity, giving it a vinous quality similar to red wine. The practice of blending ales of different ages (typically one-, two-, and three-year-old brews, aged in oak barrels that are inoculated with lactobacillus). This practice of blending produces a beer that balances rich maltiness with a measured acidity that finishes dry, without overwhelming the palate. As with many Belgian styles, the hops are barely noticeable, as brewers often use aged hops that have lost much of their bittering qualities. They are used to for their antiseptic, preservative traits needed for these beers' extended aging process.

Grand Cru is an exceptional variety of blended Flemish sour ale, typically served over the winter holidays. Rodenbach, located about an hour from Lille in Roeselare, brews and blends possibly the greatest example. Its acidic flavor borders on vinegar, but there is a fruity complexity featuring both light (think lemons) and dark (think tart currants or cherries) fruits. It sits light on the palate, but there is a malty sweetness that creeps in under the tartness. As it warms, you can pick up vanilla notes from the oak, and when the glass is empty the palate remains refreshed, thanks to the beer's dryness. This range of flavor and perfect balance is only attainable by expert blending of properly aged beers, an art in itself. Rodenbach's Grand Cru embodies the best of this regional tradition, and it's worth the steep price tag here in the States.

Drink this beer with a heavy dessert to lighten the sweetness with the acidity, or enjoy it with sausage and baguette like the workers eating lunch in the fairgrounds when the Dead treated them to this great concert in Lille!


* Apparently Bobby did sing the first verse, but not until they had been jamming  out of "Drums" for over 10 minutes.
** This may be the club that was called The Venue when I lived there, but either way they're both closed now.
*** This verse was one of many that encouraged me in my courtship of my wife. Thank you, Robert Hunter, for reminding me that if it's that good, it's worth taking a leap of faith!
**** I actually saw her at the one actual Grateful Dead concert I attended, and she managed to siphon of my Mom so my buddies and I could pretend like we were old enough to be there on our own. Did I say she was the coolest?
***** Mother's Day was founded first, and the celebration of Father's Day that follows originally commemorated a West Virginia mining disaster in 1906 that took the lives of 210 fathers, so I guess this note rightfully belongs with the second Wembley post.
****** They other main sour microbiota is the brettanomyces yeast, used in funky, tart styles like lambics and gueuze.

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