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Dead of the Day: August 14, 1971

Berkeley Community Theater
Berkeley, California

We have four shows from this day in Dead history, but our Dead of the Day is the first of them, a 1971 gem. The Bertha opener blitzes from the beginning, but has a completely ridiculous jam in the latter half. After that start, great song follows on great song through the rest of the first set. But one of the absolute standouts is the lovely El Paso. Bobby’s pacing is perfect, and Jerry and him hit some beautiful notes. In the end, the boys evoke all of the cowboy awesomeness that is locked in the tune. The Hard To Handle is also so great, less because of Pig’s rapping vocals - which are always hot on this tune – but because of Jerry’s ridiculous guitar, backed by Pig’s keys and Phil’s bass. Cumberland also is on the list of highlights, if only because of the relentless energy the boys bring to the song; it never lets up, with hot picking, Billy’s ridiculous drums, and the sweetness of Jerry firing away on vocals. Really, though, every song in this first set is outstanding. But after set break, things get even better. A short, yet smoking, Truckin’ opens the action, followed up by a rolling Billy drum solo. Out of the drums comes one of the most intense transitions into The Other One the Dead ever played, as Phil lays down a quaking bass. After the first verse, the Dead continue to jam The Other One off into unknown corners of the universe before finally returning for the rest of the lyrics. It should go without saying that this Other One is not to be missed. Afterwards, Bobby comes right back with a sweetly melancholy Bobby McGee, perfectly situated in the set after the insatiable, jamming rowdiness of The Other One and before the mind-blowing Sugar Magnolia. After that Sugar Mags, some pregnant moments lead into a Not Fade Away defined by Phil’s bass, Billy’s drums, and Jerry’s occasional intense runs. NFA eventually segues into Going Down The Road Feeling Bad, keeping all the momentum and then crashing back into NFA to see out the set. And then two excellent encores come out in Johnny B. Goode and Uncle John’s Band. All told, it may very well be the best show of 1971, which is saying quite a bit.

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