Garcia said “We were great for seconds on end.” I was lucky to see Jerry play for about 1,000,000 seconds exactly. Thanks for your 1,000,000 views here . Dave Davis wrote this blog for 500 posts and 5 years from 2015 to 2019. Contact me at twitter @gratefulseconds

Saturday, March 23, 2024

The Sound Check for the Wall of Sound, March 23, 1974

otiginally publiched 2/28/19 3:49 PM
  The music is listening
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This is another in the famous show series aka Dicks Picks 24. AKA The Sound Check.
Sadly this is the last of the three Playin in the Band>Uncle John's Band>Morning Dew>Uncle John's Band>Playing in the Band shows.  They almost couldn't get the initial Playin out of first gear.

The other other show ever with Playin>UJB>songs>UJB>Playin (aka Double sandwich) will occur in six years up in Lewiston, Maine.

As with all 1974 shows this one is FAB. And it comes with lots of newspaper and magazine coverage which you can read here. Have fun as usual.

Healy and the Grateful Dead became willing guinea pigs for John Meyer, then of McCune Sound; Ron Wickersham of Alembic; and others on the scene who were looking for ways to deliver music painlessly and efficiently at the often ridiculously high SPLs of the San Francisco sound and rock music in general.
“Those guys were long in the design and prototype area,” Healy explains, “and we were long in the criteria. We built a system and scrapped it, built another one and scrapped it. We never had a finished system, because by the time we’d get one near completion it was obsolete in our minds, and we already had a new one on the drawing boards.”
The concept of speaker synergy and phase coherency in particular was understood by the early Seventies, and several designers had come up with ways of implementing it. John Meyer and McCune Sound developed a three-way, tri-amped single-cabinet system with crossovers that reduced phase shift considerably. It was a significant improvement, but there was plenty of work yet to do.
While Meyer was in Switzerland studying every aspect of speaker design, acoustics and the electronics of sound, Healy and Alembic and the rest took off in other directions.
The Dead debuted a new system at San Francisco’s Cow Palace on March 23, 1974, in a concert dubbed “The Sound Test.” Bassist Phil Lesh calls it the “rocket gantry” and maintains that it was the best PA the Dead ever had.
“It was the ultimate derivation of cleanliness,” Healy explains. “No two things went through any one speaker. There was a separate system for the vocals and separate systems for each guitar, the piano, and the drums. You could get it amazingly loud, and it was staggeringly clean, cleaner than anything today. It still holds the record for harmonic and most especially intermodulation distortion.”
Healy calls this system’s theory of operation the “as above, so below theory. If you stack a bunch of speakers vertically and stand close to one, you hear the volume of that one speaker. If you move a little farther away, you hear two speakers; move away some more and you hear three. If you have a lot of them stacked up high, you can move quite a ways away and the volume stays the same.”
There was no mixing board in the house. Each musician controlled his own instrumental volume, because his speaker stack was its own PA system.
Guitarists Bob Weir and Jerry Garcia each had about 40 12-inch speakers in vertical columns, and bassist Lesh had a quadrophonic system. Vocals also were delivered to the band and the audience by the same speakers. Each singer had a pair of mikes, wired out of phase so that background sound arriving equally at both was canceled, while what was sung into one mike was passed on to the amplifier.

Grateful Dead
Dick's Picks Volume 24

Cow Palace - Daly City, CA

[March 23, 1974]
(Grateful Dead)
First Appeared in The Music Box, June 2002, Volume 9, #6
Written by John Metzger
The subject of Dick’s Picks, Volume 24 is the Grateful Dead’s concert on March 23, 1974 at the Cow Palace in Daly City, California. It is a performance that is notable not only for marking the debut of the "wall of sound" — the band’s homemade state-of-the-art PA system — but also for being one hell of a show. From start-to-finish, the band was in top-notch form, fully exploring each selection with astounding curiosity — a feat that was remarkable even by 1974-standards, a year filled with one groundbreaking concert after another.
The "wall of sound" was actually a massive array of small hi-fi speakers stacked behind the musicians. The arrangement eliminated the need for individual monitors, and the band was able to hear exactly what the audience heard. In addition, each member was able to have total control over his or her volume in the mix. Perhaps, this is why the music contained on Dick’s Picks, Volume 24 has an almost Beatle-esque quality to it in the way that the instruments slip and slide around one another with studio-like precision.
Then again, the Grateful Dead were masters of improvisation, and by 1974, the band had fully fused jazz into its Americana-based repertoire. The breezy flare of Bill Kreutzmann’s percussion drove the songs, anchoring them to a sometimes solid (Promised Land), sometimes nebulous (Playing in the Band) foundation, while each of the other musicians layered their instruments accordingly. On Brown-Eyed WomenBob Weir’s rhythm guitar textures fed Keith Godchaux’s own keyboard accompaniment, and on Scarlet Begonias, all the sounds blurred together to form a joyously variegated dance. Deal began as a relaxed groove, but grew to a raging inferno, while on Cassidy, the band freely roamed in the space between each beat. And then there’s the breathtaking convergence of Playing in the BandUncle John’s Band, and Morning Dew — a highlight, not only of this concert, but of the Grateful Dead’s career.
In the end, the "wall of sound" proved to be too cumbersome to utilize. (It actually took three fully functional systems — one being torn down, one being set up, and one being used — to mount a tour). But for one year, at least, concert-goers stuck in the back of large arenas could actually hear what all of the musicians on stage were playing. Nearly thirty years later, we’re all still waiting for someone to top it. starstarstarstarstar
Dick's Picks, Volume 24 is available f

Read more: Grateful Dead - Dick's Picks 24 - March 1974 (Album Review)

Art by Gary Kroman
It’s spring of 1974, Daly City, Calif., at the famed Cow Palace where Ken Kesey and many Dead associates piled into the psychedelic Furthur bus to see The Beatles in Tom Wolfe’s famed novel, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. The date is March 23rd, and LSD guru, obsessive soundman, and all around freak Owsley “Bear” Stanley’s vision of a kaleidoscopic skyscraper of speakers is coming to fruition. Even for seasoned roadies RamRod and Kidd Calendario, positioning the roughly 50 JBL speaker cabinets was grueling, backbreaking labor, but it paid off. Not only in the several ounces of premium weed that would fill their cubbies at the office each month, or the eternal throngs of beautiful hippie girls thrown at them from every direction, but in the band’s sound, which attained a dynamic so clear and sustained, that each note was as clear as a freshwater stream or a blue sky of deepest summer. On this night, Owsley’s Wall of Sound would propel the evening’s proceedings, which included debuts of nascent material, some hints of the forthcoming records Wake of the Flood and From The Mars Hotel, and most importantly, absolutely ineffable improvisation.
Set one starts with a very strong “U.S. Blues,” before channeling Chuck Berry via Bob Weir via “The Promised Land.” After an exemplary “Brown-Eyed Women” and a happy-go-lucky-cowboy-Bobby “Mexicali,” the band takes a step back, and lets the music relax and open wide for a mellow, downright sexy “Tennessee Jed.”
The key word in this set is patience. While many 60s, 80s, and 90s Dead shows featured a non-stop percussive assault from dual drum sets with very little space or room to breathe, the early-to-mid 70s had very precise, carefully emphasized, beautifully understated drums, as Bill Kreutzmann adapted and grew more comfortable holding the percussion reins following Mickey Hart’s departure three years prior. The fairly new keyboardist, Keith Godchaux, also revved the band up in a powerfully uplifting way. Nearly every song from this show is a near-perfect, key version, the band’s persistent work and time on the road clearly apparent.
European tour staple “Black Throated Wind,” which would leave the repertoire later that year and would not reappear for two decades, followed, and then the first “Scarlet Begonias.” A strong, yet elementary version, the cadence and rhythm would develop further with time, however the choppy-yet-symmetrical vibe and danceability were certainly present. “BIODTL” nods to the Dead’s earlier days, with Donna Jean Godchaux, belting her heart out more-or-less in key (Although Phil is actually more in key.) A delicate “Must Have Been The Roses” takes us back to cowboy town with “El Paso.” Both were strangely omitted from the official live release of this show, Dick’s Picks Volume 24. Jerry digs into his solo repertoire for “Deal,” followed by the debut of  “Cassidy,” the Weir-Barlow ode to their fallen Prankster brother Neal Cassady.  Next up is a baby-making sequence of “China Cat Sunflower” > “I Know You Rider” in which Jerry and Bobby’s guitars offer a sprightly dance that mimics the early spring weather and surely reflects the loving vibe of the crowd and the early 70s in general. The major descending riff that often pops in “Dark Star” also makes a brief appearance here. A lovely “Weather Report Suite” and “Let It Grow” cap the first set, with pedal steel from Jerry sounding not unlike Zappa’s “Watermelon In Easter Hay,” and with four part harmonies, due in part to the band’s recent vocal work with Crosby, Stills and Nash.
Set two has a very rough but turbo-charged beginning. “Playin’ In The Band” has a false start, as if the band is so eager to dive into the colossal jams of the evening that they trip over themselves in a jumbled rush to the goal line. A mere five minutes in, the deep, psychedelic underbelly of this set begins to show, via fervent, wah-infused cyclical Garcia licks, perfectly articulated in context by a road-hardened beast of a band and the superb clarity of the Wall of Sound. Around 10 minutes, the musical quilt thickens, as each member’s thread intertwines deeper and further into the song, like the roots of a tree extending and braiding, giving a stronger form and stability to the music. “Playin’” also begins a type of passage that the Dead inadvertently pioneered: the musical palindrome.
In a recently refined ability, the Dead effortlessly morph into “Uncle John’s Band,” which in turn delves into the post-apocalyptic “Morning Dew,” before the final phrases of “Uncle John’s” resurface, along with frenetic dashes of guitar from a buzzing Garcia. The music gradually spaces itself out, with emphasis coming from different directions and hitting varied, sporadic intervals, as the “Main Ten” riff (As it was called before “Playin’” was built around it) emerges, before some Donna howling signals the refrain and the gorgeous sequence of “Playin’ In The Band” > “Uncle John’s Band” > “Morning Dew” > “Uncle John’s Band” > “Playin’ In The Band” comes to its beatific conclusion.
Set two finishes in a rather straightforward manner, hardly approaching the energy or all-encompassing depth of that first hour. Crooner Jerry and cowboy Bobby switch off one-after-another for the remainder of the set, with “Ship Of Fools,” “Big River,” “Ramble On Rose” > “Me and My Uncle,” more Chuck Berry with “Around and Around,” a particularly emotional, lilting “Wharf Rat” into a raucous “Sugar Magnolia.”
The band brings it home for a slow, sultry encore of “Casey Jones” followed by a shit-kicking “One More Saturday Night.” The Wall of Sound looming behind them like a massive robotic tower, it must have been clear to see that the Dead were no longer a group of acid-loving California hippies from the cozy Bay Area. Rather, this was a finely tuned machine; a behemoth rock band with a painstakingly and expertly developed sound and ethos that exuded sheer excellence.

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