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Point of Light 32 versus 73

 
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Zephyr
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 15, 2014 1:42 am    Post subject: Point of Light 32 versus 73 Reply with quote


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Boulder. Berkeley. Booyah. Imma gonna put these two (of only six) China-Fire shows head to head and see which comes out the winner. Full disclosure: I attended Boulder, so all fair advantage (as Kesey would say) goes to Boulder.
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Other irrelevant facts to keep in mind:
9/12 - 12/9. Hmmm. Almost a heavy palindrome.
Swamiology: Berkeley: 32; Boulder: 73; Boulder is an instant underdog.

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Stats:
Berkeley: 10 songs in set 1, 9 in set 2, 2 in encore = 21 songs
Boulder: 12 songs in set 1, 8 in set 2, 2 in encore = 22 songs
Dueling double encores? Yes.

Openers: Berekely offers the opening combo of Shakedown into GSET, so I'll match that against Boulder's CR&S - Jack Straw, even though it isn't a genuine combo....
Berkeley: The Boys start strong with the one-two combo of Shakedown>GSET. The Shakedown is a smoker that has, as a bonus, Jerry booting up the Dancin' effect during the jam. Points: 2. The segue into GSET gets an extra half-point, but the song is a little on the mellow side. Points: .5 . Total points: 3.

Boulder: The band hits the stage in a state of semi-disarray: the CR&S is strictly warm-up caliber. Points: 0. The Jack Straw features a spectacular gaff as Garcia totally spaces out in the middle of the tune. Eyewitnesses state that Phil threw both arms up in the air in a universal gesture of WTF and Weir went into total discombobulation mode. Points: -.5. Total points: -.5

Score: Berkeley: 3, Boulder: -.5 Ouch.

Next up: a Friend of the Devil Face Off!!!
Berkeley: Nice, but nothing out of the ordinary. Points: 1

Boulder: The Boys finally get their scene together and pull off a nice recovery: the instrumental bridge has Garcia soaring high and low as Lesh puts in some noteworthy rafter-hammering punctuation. Points: 1.5

Score: Berkeley: 4, Boulder: 1

Next up: El Paso versus Little Red Rooster
Berkeley: The Greek scores a quick half-point by segueing straight into El Paso out of FOTD. It's a smooth rendition, like butter, with what seems like a nicer than average solo from Garcia and a solid carpet of accompaniment from Phil-Billy-Mickey. Points: .5 for the segue, 1 for the everything else. Total points: 1.5

Boulder: The Rooster was relatively new to the repertoire in mid-'81, and the crowd gives its opening measures a solid cheer. Garcia leans into the first solo nicely, and Brent provides smoldering keys throughout. Weir doesn't do any damage with his solo, but Garcia finishes things off with a ho-hum 2nd solo. Points: .5

Score: Berkeley: 5.5, Boulder: 1.5

Now we get our 2nd, and definitely more exciting, Face Off!!!: Birdsong versus Birdsong.
Berkeley: This recording has a really nice mix. I especially like how balanced Garcia and Weir are. This jam goes for a nice ride, going all the way out to a great Lesh-fueled crescendo at about the 8-minute mark. They give the song room to breathe, but beyond the one crescendo, the rest of the rendition is not distinctive. Points: 1.5

Boulder: Brent uncorks this one with an amusing organ riff that adds an immediate patina of uniqueness to this rendition. Lesh enters the jam early with a cool staccato attack, like a hatchet biting into cedar shingles. Garcia quickly finds a beautiful repetitive passage that rises and falls like a buoy in a slowly churning sea. A passage of freestyle swimming takes us to a second bit of classic repetition, followed by a crescendo that matures with excruciating loveliness. Classic playing here from the band, and from Garcia in particular. Points: 2

Score: Berkeley: 7, Boulder: 3.5

Now we get Cassidy in Berkeley, versus Mama Tried into Mexicali in Boulder. But I'm going to handle the situation by taking things a little out of order so we can do Cassidy as another face-off; so:
Berkeley: A solid reading. Getting combofied with Bird Song earns a quick half-point. Tight as [CENSORED] and all instruments coming through loud and clear. The band sounds great as they deliver a taut jam. Points: 1.5

Boulder: Lesh shows off more of his hatchet attack right from the get-go. Weir's vocal has bite to it; a real edge. Cowbell! The swirling laser-beam jam here is spectacular. Lesh is destroying dirigibles up in the rafters! Holy Moly! Fucking amazing. Whew! Points: 2.5

Score: Berkeley: 8.5, Boulder: 6

Now I'm going to put Berkeley's Tennessee Jed up against Boulder's Candyman:
Berkeley: This Jed has a good strut going on. Plenty of thunder from the rhythm section, with Lesh keeping a heavy throb going. Garcia's playing throughout the verses has exceptional punch. The jam is a nice blend of "taking our time" and urgently pushing the energy forward. Nicely played. Points: 1

Boulder: This recording has a great "in the venue" ambiance. Garcia and Mydland are harmonizing very well. Garcia's tone going into the solo is loud and clean. He develops a quick, liquid attack. It peaks, like daggers flying through the air, just as they launch into the vocals. It's all good. Points: 1

Score: Berkeley: 9.5, Boulder: 7

Now, to get back in sync (Boulder has 12 songs in the set while Berkeley has just 10), Boulder gets a free-throw with a polka-combo dedicated to the crew: Mama Tried into Mexicali Blues
Boulder: This combo makes for a solid cowboy-moment set-extender. Both tunes are high-voltage and cleanly delivered. Lesh and Garcia tangle pretty good in the instrumental. It's Lesh's accents and pizazz that make this Mexicali a keeper. Points: 2

Score: Berkeley: 9.5, Boulder: 9

Now we enter a streak of five face-offs in a row, including the near-mythical ˇChina-Fire!: a break-spanning Super Combo. First, though, the Looks Like Rain appetizer:
Berkeley: Garcia delivers a jaw-droppingly beautiful solo that makes this a must-hear version. So startlingly gorgeous! The whole tune is good: wonderfully mellow at the start, robust and triumphal at the end. The crowd gives a deeply appreciative roar at the tune's end. Added to the score is an extra half-point for the smooth entry out of Jed. Points: 2.5

Boulder: For starters, and as an aside, the sound of the recording is interestingly different between these shows: Back to the rendition. Lesh maintains his hatchety attack, Weir gives a sweet vocal performance prior to Garcia's solo. Garcia's solo is tattooed in my brain from listening to it so many times over the decades: that mesmerizing pattern he repeats over and over. I LOVE IT. Weir then comes back in with a fully stoked outro vocal that gets killer backing from Garcia and Lesh: it's a thunderous, ecstatic ending to a fantastically energized rendition. Weir's delivery is much more amped than the mellow approach he took at Berkeley, and he teaches us how to spell "rain": R-A-I-N. Points: 2.5

Score: Berkeley: 12, Boulder: 11.5

China Cat Sunflower
Berkeley: After a minute of dead air, China Cat kicks in. After a standard vocal portion, Garcia delivers a clinic in river-flow soloing. The ideas keep flowing, the jam keeps going. Really, really good. Points: 2.5

Boulder: A quick half-point for the seamless transition out of LLR. Like Berkeley, the vocals of China Cat go well, with just a hint of the savage edge Lesh was about to put on his attack. Once the jam gets underway, Lesh starts hacking into the musical zeitgeist using his bass like a musical meat-cleaver. Garcia responds in kind with a solo that's steely and sharp. Incisive. Cutting. It's very different from most China Cat jams, and well worth listening to (over and over). Points: 2

Score: Berkeley: 14.5, Boulder: 13.5

I Know You Rider
Berkeley: Consistent with the China Cat, the vocals come easily to Garcia and Weir, the sound is excellent, and it all punches in unison. Weir's rhythm is crisp and sounds good. This is a very strong, and tight, reading. Points: 1.5

Boulder: The tune arrives out of an unusually muscular Cat jam, and the energy carries right on into Rider. Bob is so excited by the middle of the tune that he finds himself extemporizing. His vocal flourishes, "Did my best, You know the rest," are both hilarious and totally awesome. :listen: Lesh is kicking unbelievable ass during the 1st instrumental, and he just keeps blasting away all the way through Weir's vocals. Garcia keeps sticking in tasty licks at every opportunity. The final instrumental is titanic. X-Factor up the wazoo. Weir's final blessing consists of spontaneous M.C.-lyrics before a well-earned thunder-ending. Epic. Points: 3

Score: Berkeley: 16, Boulder: 16.5


First Set Summary
Those were both spectacular sets. Whew! Boulder miraculously pulls itself out of the giant hole they dug with CR&S/Jack Straw and wins the match in a squeaker with a jewel of a Bird Song and an outrageously good set-ending of Cassidy, LLR-China-Rider. The Berkeley set was truly great, but it lacked the large number of memorable jams found in Boulder's set; Berkeley's highlights, however, include must-hear renditions of Looks Like Rain and China Cat Sunflower.

The face-off continues into set two with dueling Scarlet-Fires:

Scarlet Begonias - Fire on the Mountain:
Berkeley: They pick up right where they left off, both in energy and in the deliciously fat, coherent, well-defined soundscape: Lesh's thunder makes it easy for me to imagine myself in the pit, in the Phil Zone, with my entire body vibrating in sympathy with the sound pressure that's emanating from Lesh's Brain! The instrumental after the verses is like a balmy weather front that seems to both float and rush forward with propulsive energy. Garcia sails along effortlessly above a heady windstorm of deeply engaged accompaniment. Garcia punctuates the jam with several nice turns, a sustained passage of tasty repetition, a quasi-crescendo, and cowbell. Then they step it down in a long, quiet passage that becomes a prelude to Fire. FOTM slid into existence without too much fanfare: it just suddenly, perfectly naturally, pops into existence. Leisurely at the start, they roll along smoothly, though somewhat unremarkably, through the 2nd verse. In the 2nd second instrumental Garcia goes a little deeper, and they pull off a nice little cork-popping epiphany that opens a magical window for Weir. As a final treat, they essentially toss in a bonus jam after the 3rd verse; the jam morphs smoothly into a massive wind-up to a spectacularly elaborate ending jam. They saved the best for last.
:blazin': :shithot; :happydance: Points: Scarlet: 2; Fire: 3; total: 5

Boulder: They've got a wide-open sound on this recording; it's very different from the cloaked sound from Berkeley. It's all good right up until they sail right past the 4th verse. Oops! Not too much harm done, but it'll cost a half point. The outro jam features a couple of beautiful passages from Garcia as he plays off the spiky B3 from Brent. The segue into Fire culminates with some exquisite jackhammer accents from Lesh. In the 1st instrumental, Garcia goes for a brittle, staccato attack that pairs well with Lesh's driving punctuation. Brent warms things up with puttery, stuttery, organ fill. The 2nd instrumental is similar to the first, with no exceptionally heavy moments. The outro jam isn't equal to the behemoth at Berkeley, but they do plant some real TNT in the final punch.
Points: Scarlet: 1.5; Fire: 1.5; total: 3

Score: Berkeley: 21, Boulder: 19.5

Now it's Berkeley's turn for a free-throw due to an out-of-nowhere C.C. Rider:
Berkeley: The roll smoothly into the Rider riff as the crowd goes berserk at the end of Fire; they back-pedal until the crowd settles down, then Weir begins to sing. This turns out to be the ultimate C.C. Rider: a rock steady groove allows Weir some space for both singing and an OK slide solo; but it's Garcia's shredfest that puts us in "ultimate" territory. This is a notable exception to the "sleepy CC" syndrome. Points: 2

Score: Berkeley: 23 Boulder: 19.5

Another face-off: Estimated Prophet.
Berkeley: This is a solid version - there's absolutely nothing to complain about - but I didn't hear anything especially remarkable at any point. Points: 1.5

Boulder: The slightly hollow sound of this recording serves this track well: It somehow creates an in-the-arena sound, with Lesh causing the structure to vibrate and with Garcia "way up the middle of the air." They pick up a quick half-point with seamless transition out of Fire. The between-verse instrumental is killer: in addition to Garcia carving [CENSORED] up it features a perfect entrance by Brent near the end. Weir's outro vocals have an amphetamine edge - in a good way. Disappointingly, though, the concluding jam isn't as compelling as the rest of the tune. Points: 2.5

Score: Berkeley: 24.5; Boulder: 22

Now we get to a good chunk: Berkeley's Eyes - Space versus Boulder's He's Gone - Jerryless Jam
Berkeley: The entrance out of Estimated hits a speed-bump, or something, so after aborting a flying leap entry they start up the tune from virtually a cold start. That ends up being cool because you get to hear each instrument come back in. They like it too, and they serve up a sweet little intro, garnished with lovely lead from Garcia. The drummers have everything under control as Garcia goes long on both instrumental breaks. Lesh does some killer crushing right in the middle of the third verse. YesYesYes. The song floats ever onward after the verse until, at about 11:30, a warpy-wonderful thing happens: the jam begins to break loose of all restraints.

This, I think, is an opportune moment to discriminate between different levels of "Orbital Jams": There's Mercury Jams, which are exciting, and reach the edge of space, but remain sub-orbital; Gemini Jams, which reach orbit, but it's a low-Earth orbit; Apollo Jams, which last for days and visit other celestial objects; and Voyager Jams, which last forever and go fully interstellar (12/2/73 is a Voyager Jam). I would say the jam here in Boulder is a very solid Apollo Jam. Eyes of the World gets 3 points, and the Apollo Jam gets 4. Total points: 7

Boulder: He's Gone starts as smooth as can be, at a stately tempo. The song rolls out strongly and effortlessly: no gaffs, no blown or uncertain lyrics. Great outro vocals (which blew me completely away at the show since this was my first time seeing them play this tune). Sadly, though, Garcia lays down his axe as soon as the vocals end. The rest of the band keeps rolling for another five minutes as Weir and Mydland toss the ball back and forth. He's Gone gets 2 points and the jam adds another 1.5. Total points: 3.5

Score: Berkeley: 31.5; Boulder: 25.5

Drums.
Berkeley: A long, slow build hits paydirt starting at about 7:30: sustained thunder that had me thinking about me, at age 12, standing at a railing at Niagara Falls. I was half a mile upstream from the falls and yet. even at that distance I was watching a frighteningly large body of water moving downhill at a freakishly obvious downward angle. Equally important: I could feel the earth moving. A worthy drum solo. Points: 2

Boulder: Drums start at a fierce pace as Weir slowly evanesces into the aether. The front half of the duet reaches a throbbing crescendo about halfway through the track, at which point the jam goes deliciously post-coital: it's all cigarettes and pillow-talk. Then they go to complete silence as Garcia returns to the stage... Points: 1.5

Score: Berkeley: 33.5; Boulder: 27

Now Boulder gets a free-throw: post-drums Space.
Boulder: Garcia, Billy and Mickey find an immediate groove with some sort of Bedouin Shuffle. It's a magical 90 seconds that ends as the drummers evaporate off the deep end. Garcia then forges ahead with a delicate line. Mydland and Weir join, and then, apparently, Godzilla at about the 4:00 mark. At the 6-minute marks Garcia plays a line that's halfway between TOO and a Spanish Jam. The drummers come back in with another dose of Arabian wind. This Space session is a rich tapestry throughout. Points: 4

Score: Berkeley: 33.5; Boulder: 31

Next up: Not Fade Away versus The Other One!
Berkeley [NFA]: They elect to do a straight up, crisp start: no space. Weir, then Garcia, then Mydland, then Lesh.They're on mincing cat-feet until about 1:45, then the motor really starts to turn over. An early highlight is a rat of excellent slide and plain-old-rhythm from Wier. When the ball goes back to Garcia's court, he's really with languid lead. After muscular verses the jam matures quickly into a gently simmering stew of pulsating interplay. A gently delivered vocal outro lands the scene ever so gently into lovely segue into the Rat. Points: 2.5

Boulder [TOO]: The Other One arrives gently at first, but within seconds it's as though a door in the side of a volcano has opened: Brent's B3 is a big part of that, as is Phil's rumbling shudders and Garcia playing in all the lowest registers. After the verse Garcia zones his way into an electrifying passage of rising scales. Classic Weir throughout this jam, with excellent counterpoint from Brent. After the 2nd verse Lesh comes to a complete stop, as though spent, while Garcia gently wafts his way into Stella.... Points: 2.5

Score: Berkeley: 36; Boulder: 33.5

Next up: ˇBattle of the Ballads!: Wharf Rat versus Stella Blue
Berkeley [Wharf Rat]: I love when the Boys give the entrance to this tune it's full due, and this is a fine example of a great song being properly introduced. Garcia's voice is strong, and the recording serves the band well: it's so full and embracing! Hearing the audience getting off during the bridge is a treat. :yes: The best part of this rendition, though, is the 70-second instrumental before the last verse that Garcia crushes. Incredible, yet so concise. Genius. Points: 3

Boulder [Stella Blue]: The verses are delivered with confidence and emotion before they embark on a very well developed outro jam. In fact, it's nigh on spectacular. Points: 3

Score: Berkeley: 39; Boulder: 36.5

It's time to rock on out: Dueling Around and Around's capped by Saturday Night versus Good Love.
Berkeley [R&R - Sat. Night]: Nice clapping accompanies the start of this rich-sounding track. Consistent with everything that has come before, the best part of this track is the whole, not one or another of its parts. Points: 1.5. Saturday Night was fore-ordained, I suppose. They do the tune justice, but don't really set the joint on fire. Points: 1.5. Total points: 3

Boulder [R&R - G. Love]: A nice version, with Lesh still being a satisfying focal point. I can report, as an earwitness, that by this point in the show the sound system was at absolute maximum: 11. It was incredibly loud. Points: 1. Good Love takes the temperature up a couple of notches. Weir puts a savage edge on his vocals as he pours a landslide of energy into the vocals. They pull out the Vista Cruiser as they crush their way into a thundering conclusion. Points: 3; Total points: 4

Score: Berkeley: 42; Boulder: 40.5

The encores pit Baby Blue and Good Love against U.S. Blues into Satisfaction.
Berkeley [Baby Blue, Good Love]: They start a little tentatively, accounted for by the fact that this is just the third time they've played it since reviving it a month earlier on a Northwest tour. So it's the debut for the home crowd. Pretty quickly they relax and find a powerful groove. Lesh inhabits the tune like it's a long-lost home, and Garcia reels out a beautiful solo. Points: 2.5. The band gets called back for a second encore (according to comments at the Archive) and serve up a perfectly respectable Good Love for surprised tapers. It sounds to me like the taper is hand-holding the mics, having prematurely taken down his rig. Bob puts some effort into a low-key rap, and then they wrap it up. Points: 1.5 for the tune and 1 point for coming back for a second encore! Total points: 5

Boulder [U.S. Blues - Satisfaction]: Bob's au revoir to the Boulder audience, "We'll be back, 'cause we like it here," prefaces a solid reading of US Blues. It peaks with some kick-ass drums through the last verse. Points: 1.5 After a measure or two they launch straight into Satisfaction. Lesh is immediately taking advantage of the situation: last show of the tour? last song of the show? Then let's kick some fucking ass!!! Weir is totally up to the challenge, as is everyone else. This is a fantastic run-through and it was an incredibly good way to end a high-voltage concert. Points: 3. Bonus for the encore combo: 1. Total points: 5.5

Score: Berkeley: 47; Boulder: 46

It's Berkeley, by a nose. These are both awe-inspiring concerts. Having spectacular recordings of them is such a treat, too. Boulder has the edge in both the first set and post-drums, but Berkeley's powerful pre-drums extravaganza catapulted it back into first place and then kept it there.

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Kochman
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 17, 2014 12:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Interesting head to head face off on the songs... What are the metrics involved?

What about the show as a whole? You know what I mean, your visceral reaction to segments/sequences/sets/etc.
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 18, 2014 6:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ha now this is fun! Will review and edit this later...I need to get inspired to work on my POL revision for this Fall, which will be exciting.
Cool

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PostPosted: Fri Jul 25, 2014 12:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sorry for the post-and-bail; I was crazy-busy last week and then jetted off to a 5-day conference in Oregon.

Kochman wrote:
Interesting head to head face off on the songs... What are the metrics involved?

Metrics. Laughing That's just crazy talk.

Kochman wrote:
What about the show as a whole? You know what I mean, your visceral reaction to segments/sequences/sets/etc.

Berkeley had overwhelming consistency on top of impressive cohesiveness and virtuosity; it was a holistic bulldozer. Boulder was an adrenaline-fueled roller-coaster with a serious number of memorable peaks punctuating the performances.

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PostPosted: Fri Jul 25, 2014 4:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

swamiGD80s wrote:
Ha now this is fun! Will review and edit this later... Cool

I finally got this gentle bit of wit while eating a turkey sandwich today. Laughing

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PostPosted: Wed Jul 30, 2014 12:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hahahahaha, that was funny, but I don't think that's what he meant... assuming you meant he would come back and edit your opinion to be more like his.

I think it was a promisory note of a renewed Swami opinion after a re-listening though.
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 19, 2014 4:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Took at look at this, and a blow-by-blow comparison of the setlist is not really necessary, as most of it evens out.. except.. the Power Slot. Subjective element gives me Eyes as a superior choice to Gone coming out of Estimated for the main event of the show. Otherwise, similar quality of setlist and both very good performances.

And I will say that even putting Eyes even with Gone subjectively, the Eyes jam is longer and deeper than the Gone jam. I would still give a slight edge to the Berkeley show.

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