My (Virtual) Year On Tour With the Grateful Dead   1 comment

 

From Tape to The Internet

Crimson flames tied through my ears
Rollin’ high and mighty traps
Pounced with fire on flaming roads
Using ideas as my maps
“We’ll meet on edges, soon,” said I
Proud ’neath heated brow
Ah, but I was so much older then
I’m younger than that now

My Back Pages by Bob Dylan

I first heard the Grateful Dead live in Albuquerque in 1971.  Like many, this was a seminal experience for me, changing my understanding of the meaning of performance and of Rock and Roll.  That over weight, black clad, Prankster with a halo of unmanageable black hair playing guitar was clearly the center of the band and the performance.  I was young and was unaware that this was Captain Trips.   Captain America was more like it.  Nor was I aware of the mythical aura that was even then growing around the band and Jerry and their fans.  Like many, my first experience of the Dead was prepared only by my youth and The Bear’s  purple haze of the night.  In the intervening years I was more attracted to Frank Zappa who produced a consistent recording experience that the Dead never would achieve. After the (limited) success of the Grateful Dead Movie in capturing what the Dead were, the world moved on. But the band played on.  Perhaps it is better that way.  The early taping of Dead shows from  the sound boards (thank you Owsley) and later by dedicated deadhead tapers left us with a rich vein of music and magic in the over 3000 individual live performances available in one form or another.  Beginning in the last decade of the last century, the Dead organization began to issue live sound board recordings from this corpus. 

Dick’s Picks and Me

Half-wracked prejudice leaped forth
“Rip down all hate,” I screamed
Lies that life is black and white
Spoke from my skull. I dreamed
Romantic facts of musketeers
Foundationed deep, somehow
Ah, but I was so much older then
I’m younger than that now

While a great resource for those of us not conversant in bit torrent, these releases where frequently expensive and (to my ears) over produced which subtracted from the raw energy of the original sound board tapes.  I am lucky to have access to a great music store with plentiful numbers of used Grateful Dead CD.  If you are in Maine visit a local Bull Moose Music store.   I was luck to be able to pick up many Live Dead concert CDs at a reasonable price.  Thank you Bull Moose.  Although the official Dead releases enhanced my life, there are some problems:

I) The list prices are quite high (try to get used copies)

II) Selections for the Dick’s Pick Series seem to be primarily based on best complete shows (The Dead were often hit and miss in the same night and limiting yourself to the best complete show skips a lot of great music. This problem has been reduced by the newer Road Trips Series and specialty releases like Ladies and Gentlemen… the Grateful Dead which cooks down the best of a four night stand at the Fillmore, 1971).

III) The processing of the raw tapes, IMHO, sometimes cook the life out of some the releases.

IV) Some of the specialty releases seem to be picked more for the historical importance than the quality of the performance (Closing the Winterland, for example).

Having said all that, if you can get the official releases used, some of them are great.

A Short Divergence in Our Story

Girls’ faces formed the forward path
From phony jealousy
To memorizing politics
Of ancient history
Flung down by corpse evangelists
Unthought of, though, somehow
Ah, but I was so much older then
I’m younger than that now

I started to cooked down my copies of the official live releases into playlist CDs (favorites of 1974, Dark Star releases, etc.).  Then I had open heart surgery, caught a post operative wound infection and almost died.  Stephen Gould wrote someplace that the greatest species in evolution are Bactria.  They are everywhere.  There are more Bactria in your body than body cells.  And I was in the three month war between the bugs and myself ( to be honest I had massive antibiotic infusions on my side).  My day was composed of pain medicine, James Joyce’s Ulysses, The Bible, and my CDs of live Dark Star performances.  Let’s just say that Dark Star and the Gospel of Mark were more significant than Tramadol in my recovery.   Rehab consisted of countless hours of treadmill work.  That, and an MP3 player packed with Scarlet Begonia and Fire on the Mountain.

BTW: Tom Constanten said somewhere that they didn’t play Dark Star, it was always going on,  they just joined in.  Although T.C. recommends ‘any East Coast Dark Star’ my favorites are early West Coast versions.

The Internet Archive Connection

In a soldier’s stance, I aimed my hand
At the mongrel dogs who teach
Fearing not that I’d become my enemy
In the instant that I preach
My pathway led by confusion boats
Mutiny from stern to bow
Ah, but I was so much older then
I’m younger than that now

The Internet Archive, in early 2000 began collecting, digitalizing and making available for re-distribution the large body of Grateful Dead concerts made by independent tapers and sound board recordings (SB) which were in circulation.  By policy SB recordings are available for playing on the web site and non-SB recordings are available for downloading.  There are multiple recordings available for most shows and these vary in quality from commercially releasable to barely audible.  There are over 8,000 individual recording of about 1,900 shows.  About 1,000 of these are SB. While vast the Internet Archive is not the most accessible site. Like most people I started with the feature of the Grateful Dead collection called:

Click Me:

 Grateful Dead Shows on This Day In History 

(If you have never been there – try the link right now).

For 08-30 (today while I am writing this) the Internet Archive will display 30 recordings (for shows of this date in 1985, 1983, 1981, 1980, 1970 and 1969).  There are limited sort options of these results.  Selecting a given recording brings one to a new web page containing an online player and (if the show is not an SB) download options.  I was hooked on the musical possibilities but trapped  by the limited user interface of the Internet Archive.   I wanted more.  Much more…

Hacking The Internet Archive

A self-ordained professor’s tongue Too serious to fool 
Spouted out that liberty
Is just equality in school
“Equality,” I spoke the word
As if a wedding vow
Ah, but I was so much older then
I’m younger than that now

My goal was to have the ability to listen to ALL of the Dead’s concerts but using only the best recordings and to be able to move through the collection using a better user interface which would allow me to decide where and when to go to any individual date. My goal was to spend a year and at least sample all 1,900 concerts and listen completely to all SB concert recordings.  I decided to complete this project in 12 months.  To do this I would first need to wrestle the Internet Archive (IA) to its knees.  Little did I know that this would take me on a programming journey involving three programing languages (Ruby, Javascript and C#), two data specifications (XML and JSON), two database engines (couchdb and SQL Server) as well as understanding the (somewhat loosely documented) search engine of IA, and more….  Readers interested in the technical details should see my series of postings on Ruby on Rails and CouchDB.  Please see Part 5 has the details of how to hack the Internet Archive to get at the data for the Grateful Dead recordings on IA.  Thus armed with the complete dataset from the Internet Archive of Grateful Dead recordings and a new front end I was ready to begin my listening  project.  There are over 8,000 recordings of over 2,000 concerts on the Internet Archive.  My first cut on the recordings in to use an algorithm to select ONE recording for each recording date for review.  This is a very simple selection based on the first of:

  • Was processed by Charlie Miller (IMHO the BEST processor of Grateful Dead Tapes)
  • Is a Sound Board Recording
  • Is  a Matrix Recording
  • Is the most recently posted tape for a given date.

Does this process miss some gems? Undoubtedly but it did give me 2,000 tapes to review rather than 8,000. With this criteria in place,  my local copy of the IA database and my own UI for IA I started listening in July, 2011.  I did not attempt to listen to all 2,000 recordings completely.  If a recording was of poor quality or the band was out of tune or Jerry was ‘uninspired’ I abandoned the tape have brief samples of my favorite tunes.  In the end I reviewed about 1,000 concerts by in thirteen months (I finished during the ‘days between’ period;[August 1 and  August 9]).  I ended up with about 475  concerts on my personal playlist of ‘greatest concerts’.  Along the way I wrote several reviews on this blog of concerts which I thought were particularly of note. and compiled hyperlinked list of shows by year (the series starts here) and hyperlinks to Dark Star concerts and Scarlet Begonia –> Fire on the Mountain concerts.  All of these blogs contain links to jump right into the concert within the Internet Archive (but you still need to use the IA music player however).  Do I have a favorite sequence of songs, a favorite concert, a favorite era.  Yes.  Am I going to tell you? No.  Dig in visit the Internet Archive and start listening.  It could save your life.

 

Days Between Grateful Dead

and there were days
and there were days I know
when all we ever wanted
was to learn and love and grow
Once we grew into our shoes
we told them where to go
walked halfway around the world
on promise of the glow
stood upon a mountain top

walked barefoot in the snow
gave the best we had to give
how much we’ll never know we’ll never know

Days Between by Garcia and Hunter

 

 

 

 

Was It Worth The Trip?

 

Yes!

 

                                                               To Bear and Captain Trips, we say Thank You and Rest In Peace.

All photos by cloud2013 except Bear and Captain Trips Credit: Rosi McGee 

 

PS: Stupid Grateful Dead Statistics From the Internet Archive Database

Top 12 Most Played By Era (excluding Space and Drums):

Title 1967-1971 1972-1978 1979-1990 1991-1995
Althea     *  
Big River   *    
Brown Eyed Women   *    
Casey Jones *      
Cassidy     *  
China Cat Sunflower *      
Corrina       *
Crazy Fingers       *
Cryptical Envelopment *      
Cumberland Blues *      
Dark Star *      
Deal   *    
El Paso   *    
Estimated Prophet     *  
Eyes Of ThWorld       *
Good Lovin *      
Hard to Handle *      
I Know You Rider *   *  
Jack Straw   *    
Lazy River Road       *
Little Red Rooster     *  
Looks Like Rain     *  
Me and My Uncle *      
Mexicali Blues   *    
         
Not Fade Away * * * *
Playing In ThBand   * *  
Sugar Magnolia   * * *
Sugaree   *    
Tennesse Jed   *    
Terrapin Station       *
The Other One     *  
Throwing Stones       *
Truckin   * *  
Turn On Your Lovelight *      
Uncle Johns Band *     *
Wang Dang Doodle       *
Way To Go Home       *
Wharf Rat     *  
When I Paint My Masterpiece       *

Internet Archive:  All Recordings and Sound Board Recordings

image

Concert Length

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Song Counts By Year(Dark Star, Playin’ in the Band and Scarlet Begonia –> Fire On The Mountain)

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One response to “My (Virtual) Year On Tour With the Grateful Dead

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  1. Pingback: Scarlet Begonias, Fire On The Mountain and, Sometimes, Estimated Prophet | Cloud2013 Or Bust

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