Musings on the Most Ridiculous Band I Can't Stop Listening To

Real-Time Thoughts On The Dead’s Woodstock Set

  • I hate this already.
  • Damn you all, damn you all to hell.
  • I had a ’73 on.
  • Eh, this is not so bad.
  • St. Stephen, doodley-doo.
  • They could start singing any time.
  • Any time at…there you go.
  • Strong start.
  • Holy shit, that was an “>”.
  • That was the hardest > I’ve ever encountered in the wild.
  • The setlist makes no sense.
  • Woodstock was a TC show, and that is a rare show, indeed.
  • They do not 100% know Mama Tried yet.
  • The Dead took–at minimum–18 months to learn a song, and Mama Tried wasn’t there yet.
  • And now there’s what is generally referred to in the parlance as “banter,” and it’s…oh, holy shit ten fucking minutes?
  • Ten minutes in between songs?
  • I cannot sanction this buffoonery.
  • Oh, no.
  • Is that Ken fucking Babbs?
  • No.
  • I’m skipping ahead to Dark Star.
  • Fuck this noise; I am in the last half of my life, and I will not give it to Ken Babbs’ drug-drenched nonsense.
  • My God, the bush league of it all.
  • John Fogerty is right to be mad at you, Grateful Dead.
  • He laid out his expectations, that you kept on choogling.
  • He did not ask that you choogled poorly for a bit, then took a ten-minute smoke break, and then choogled a little bit more.
  • Dark Star.
  • I have not ever to my knowledge listened to the Woodstock set before.
  • Although I would have sworn that The Band did not play that weekend, so my memory is suspect.
  • But I bring to the show all the baggage of the expectation, so perhaps I’m picking apart the music with a butcher’s ear.
  • This is, we are told, the worst show the Grateful Dead ever played.
  • But they’re just playing Dark Star.
  • TC’s leading the way.
  • Heavy TC presence on this Upstate evening.
  • Is Garcia even on stage?
  • Where’s the Big Guy?
  • “Don’t call me that.”
  • Oh, there he is.
  • Who’s afraid of the Woodstock set?
  • It’s Dark Star!
  • Everybody loves a Dark Star, even the crappy ones.
  • And this is not crappy.
  • To us, Enthusiast.
  • Because we, you and I, love a spacey, shakey, sketchy Dark Star that falls apart once or twice.
  • But they’re literally playing Jazz Odyssey for a festival crowd.
  • Aw, they’re being all quiet and thoughtful.
  • The Dead simply could not have been more ill-prepared.
  • Think of how rarely they played outside the hippie circuit before 1969.
  • This is delightful music for a theater full of tripping kids.
  • But there’s 500,00 people there.
  • Not all of whom were Deadheads.
  • Lots of people hate this kind of bullshit.
  • We don’t.
  • But we are a minority.
  • Most people wanna hear songs.
  • And sing along with choruses.
  • If you can write a chorus that folks wanna sing along to, you will make great deals of money in the music industry.
  • Dark Star does not have a chorus.
  • And has now petered out into High Time, and there is all sorts of commotion from the crowd.
  • Settle down, teens!
  • Calm your tits.
  • Here is music to soothe yourselves to: High Time, which I think I hate.
  • Obviously, I’ve tried to like the song, but it’s a dirge with an awkward melody and clunky lyrics.
  • Billy’s going for it, though.
  • “Billy, it’s a ballad song.”
  • Why?
  • Why High Time?
  • This was not the time for High Time.
  • Casey Jones might have filled the spot in a more crowd-rousing fashion.
  • Cosmic Charlie!
  • Dead was kicking the shit out of Cosmic Charlie in the Summer of ’69.
  • Whoa, yeah.
  • No, no: High Time.
  • The slow one that nobody knows.
  • Sweet monkey Jesus, who is that?
  • Why has a rando been given a mic?
  • Unacceptable.
  • Okay, it was pretty cool in the end, but the general principle remains: randos do not get microphones.
  • The guy’s wrong, anyway: there are not three coasts.
  • There are infinite coasts.
  • Maaaaaaan.
  • Hey, Pig!
  • It’s the ol’ Pig, everybody!
  • Love me a good Lovelight.
  • Oo-ee, when the Lovelight is right, and she starts up to pumping on your johnson: that’s when you knew the nitties are properly box-backed.
  • Sometimes we get nitties that are carton-backed.
  • Can’t use those.
  • Not funky enough.
  • Oh, no, he’s back.
  • There are rules!
  • Where was the Road Crew?
  • This is 1/3rd of their job.
  • They unload the shit.
  • They protect the shit.
  • They load the shit back up.
  • This falls under the umbrella of “protecting the shit.”
  • Okay, he’s gone.
  • Gonna settle me into a nice, tight Lovelight.
  • Gonna eeeeease on in here.
  • Forty minutes?
  • For fuck’s sake, Grateful Dead.
  • I have told you this before: Lovelight only contains 12 or 15 minutes worth of music.
  • Dark Star contains multitudes, and may last for hours; it is a magickal invocation, and therefore subject to its own whims and becomes irritated at attempts of steering.
  • Dark Star c’est le roi.
  • Lovelight is a Bobby “Blue” Bland number.
  • Tom Jones did it in his Vegas act.
  • Pause the Dead and listen to this:

  • Tom Jones literally has Big Dick Energy.
  • (Those Vegas bands could swing, man, and they were enormous. Elvis’ assemblage was no anomaly. Full rock band + full orchestra + backup singers. That was for every singer in every showroom. And a smaller combo in the lounge. A good drummer who showed up on time and sober could make himself a lot of money in Las Vegas back then.)
  • Anyway, notice the time stamp?
  • Two minutes and twelve seconds.
  • And twenty seconds of that is Tom getting introduced.
  • The verse.
  • Then the part that goes BAH-BAH-BAH and the chords go down.
  • And you yell LET IT SHINE for a little bit.
  • Then the song is over.
  • That’s all there is to Lovelight.
  • You can’t build castles out of taffy, brother.
  • No one can see any of this, of course.
  • There were no video screens.
  • (Would someone PLEASE do some research about the introduction of video screens to rock shows? I’m fascinated, but don’t wanna do the homework.)
  • Thirty rows?
  • Forty?
  • How close do you have to be to the stage to see what’s happening on it?
  • Because most of Woodstock was farther away than that.
  • The lack of facilities cannot be overstated, but I suppose the promoters cannot be blamed for the lack of a Jumbotron.
  • I don’t even know if a Jumbotron was possible in 1969.
  • Obviously, it would have been impossible for Michael Lang and the other two rich kids who lured all those innocent youths into that barren, foodless field in Bethel.
  • Hey, guys, are the roads gonna be able to handle the volume?
  • Fellows, have you hired a medical staff?
  • A lot of the other festivals ended in violence, not just Altamont.
  • The crowd at the Miami Pop Festival tore down the bleachers and stage, burned them in a pyre, sacrificed the soft-tittied boys.
  • Jesus, are they still playing Lovelight?
  • It’s a lot of repetition.
  • Gotta be honest with you, Enthusiasts.
  • I get it.
  • There’s pleading.
  • And Pig demands to be my rider.
  • Fine, Pig.
  • You can be my rider.
  • Just play something else.
  • Lovelight is not a portal to sonic wavelengths beyond both our beck and ken; it is a soul single from 1961.
  • It should not be forty minutes long.
  • Meals aren’t forty minutes long.
  • 12 to 15 minutes is the perfect length for a Lovelight.
  • 30 to 50 is the perfect number of feral hogs, and 12 to 15 minutes etc.
  • Lotta repetition.
  • Again: being honest.
  • Not my cup of Lovelight.
  • Too much Lovelight in my Lovelight.
  • WAIT!
  • It’s over.
  • There is a God.
  • No, Garcia won’t let the Lovelight stop.
  • The man refuses to not solo.
  • THERE!
  • Ha ha, a rando yelled at the Dead.
  • “Do you guys know any more that two songs?”
  • Epic burn, rando.


  1. rico vanian

    It wasn’t that bad of a set if you don’t factor in the delay.
    Shit, I’ve been in bands that played Gloria for longer than that Lovelite. And we couldn’t even blame acid.

  2. The Central Shaft

    Big concert video?

    It was these guys, who started doing shit for Journey in the 80s and now basically corner the market. Click “video”

    In the tradition of no research, I can’t remember where I learned this

  3. Luther Von Baconson

    “Ooo you’d like to meet Wendell???”

    • mikemj

      I’m happy to hear Wendell’s stories but I’ll pass on personal interaction.

    • mikemj

      I’m happy to hear about Wendell’s adventures but I’ll pass on meeting him personally.

  4. Buck Mulligan

    Jazz Odyssey for a festival crowd!

  5. JES

    I have an illogical, inordinate fondness for TC Dead. You got most of the weird/variable bits (Mick, TC, Pig) together at one time, and I love me some Elevens and Other Ones and Dark Stars and Alligators, and if you gotta play studio stuff, then Aox and Anthem is the ones to spin, except for the times when Anthem and Beauty are.


    But as with much Keith era photography and video, it sure is hard from the visual evidence to know that TC is up there with the rest of them. Precarious and company must not have liked carrying those heavy keyboard any farther than the top of the stage stairs.

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