Shortlist: Midwest Tour, February 1973

This mix combines performances from The Dead’s 2nd, 3rd, and 4th shows of 1973, in Madison, WI, St. Paul, MN, and Chicago. If I do say so myself, the result is mighty. "Bertha" starts smoldering around :38 and ignites at 1:20. It doesn't let up after that for more than 100 minutes. 

After five weeks off, The Dead started 1973 with a stand-alone show in Palo Alto, CA on February 9th. On the 15th, they began an eight-show tour with concerts in the wintery, upper Midwest. Nothing from this tour earlier than the 26th, in Lincoln, Nebraska, seems to have been released.

This mix pulls from those initial Madison, St. Paul, and Chicago shows, but it is also a companion to the mix I made from the year-starting show in Palo Alto (which has the greatest early “Eyes”). Together, these two mixes are my early ’73 Road Trip – the first four shows of the year in digest form. 

From a historical documentary POV, these early ’73 shows look exciting because they unleash seven new Garcia songs and a fun cover sung by Donna. From an aesthetic POV, not many performances of those new songs are worth hearing repeatedly. The really amazing parts of these shows are elsewhere. If you look in the right places, the band was extremely hot out of the gate in '73.

107-minute mix here (source dates included in mp3 tags). 

  • Bertha (5:22)
  • Here Comes Sunshine (instr.) > China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider (16:45)
  • Not Fade Away > Goin’ Down the Road > Not Fade Away (14:06)
  • Dark Star (11:42)
  • He’s Gone (14:11)
  • The Other One (18:55)
  • Playin’ in the Band > China Doll (20:35)
  • Birdsong (instr. 6:24)

Editing notes:

“Here Comes Sunshine”: The third performance. The verses/choruses still hadn’t come together (did they ever?), but the band had finally gotten comfortable with all the jammy parts, and they played seamlessly into “China Cat.” So, this is an instrumental edit of HCS, but it's otherwise complete. I judge this to be an "I fixed it for you" edit, since it eliminates a lot of vocal pain and turns this one-time-only transition into an extended jam. 

“Dark Star”: I’ve loved this performance for nearly 30 years, but several minutes of noodling between the two main sections has never risen to more than a boring delay to me, so I removed about 3 minutes of that. Now the first jam doesn't quite stop rolling before the second one starts pressing the accelerator. 

“The Other One”: I moved one part of this sequence to hide a painful cut (on every available recording) just before “The Other One” gives way to the song that follows it. It used to go “OO jam > bass & drums > OO/.” Now it goes “OO > OO jam > bass & drums.” While I view this as a forced edit, it's actually great to start the song - for a change - with Phil dropping the bomb, and instantaneous, sustained, full-shred playing. And this one is fierce!

“Playin’ in the Band” > “China Doll”: The 2/15 “Playin’” song (first 2.5 minutes) is tightly played and has well-mixed vocals, but the 2/17 jam is better (and is mixed better), so I spliced them together. There was never an early ‘70s “Playin’” > “China Doll” segue, but there is now. I was just trying to figure out how to start "China Doll" from a hard stop, and I discovered that there is a very natural transition between these two songs. 

“Bird Song”: There are sonic issues on some first set songs from this show that make the vocals on this song unpleasant, but the playing is really nice, so this is an instrumental edit. 

“Goin’ Down the Road”: There’s a little chunk missing in the middle that seems to be an issue with all the source tapes. I took a few more seconds out to make it less noticeable. 

Why no “Eyes of the World?” The 2/9/73 Palo Alto debut is beautifully played and sung, with a grand early jam. The early mid-west versions weren’t as good, but you can find their jams (only) here