Carroll's 55th Street - Introducing Rags the Guitar and Version 9 of the Jerry Garcia Songbook
In a very cool and serendipitous coincidence, this week was the 35th anniversary of Jerry introducing his Tiger guitar at the Oakland Auditorium on August 4, 1979. It would be this day, August 4, 2014, that I would introduce my own clone of Tiger called Liger and now called Rags the Guitar which I recently received from Phred Instruments. What an unbelievable and strange parallel universe we are living in.
I had ordered this guitar about sight-unseen eight months ago without any thought or hope of it ever arriving, but about two months ago and it arrived on the shores of the United States from China and last Thursday, about four days before the jam, it arrived on my doorstep and I took possession of it.
The guitar is a very affordable clone of the Tiger and it is quite remarkable what I was able to get for the money I paid for the guitar and to finally feel like I have a guitar suitable and appropriate to play the Jerry Garcia role in Deadstein. I was so excited to take possession of this guitar that I took Thursday off to meet the UPS man at the door and have been playing it ever since for the four days leading up to the Monday night jam.
I put together a set list for the Monday night jam about five days before it so I had time to practice the songs I wanted to do so I could be prepared for the jam with my new guitar. This set list included a lot of classic Grateful Dead material, beefy stuff as Kevin calls it, as well as several new songs and songs we had only played once or twice before as a band. I was able to introduce these new songs because I also brought in the new Jerry Garcia Songbook, Version 9.
Version 9 of the songbook, available on Deadstein.com, introduced many, many new songs as well as many new improved tabs for the guitar parts throughout the repertoire of Jerry Garcia. Many of the new songs in this book have been played by Deadstein over the course of the last year or so by using individual paper sheets I provided which you can never count on people having week to week. Therefore, the book represents the first big assembly of all these new songs that I know we could play consistently from here on since everyone will now have them in front of them.
So the concept of having a brand-new guitar that makes me look and feel a lot more like Jerry, as well as sounding a lot more like Jerry, and you couple this with the new song book and the new tabs and probably a new zeal to practice on my part, and I'm looking forward to a new era of Deadstein. Beautifully it all started during this year's "Days Between" commemoration when we mourn Jerry's passing and we celebrate his life. And I broke out my guitar on the same day Jerry broke out his, hmmm?
Once again Scott is sidelined with his bum arm and Lee is drumming all by himself so we got set for the first set with the Feel Like a Stranger. This is a real Deadstein staple and something we've been comfortable with since day one October 9, 1990, but in the new era I am began to play new and different notes as I try to evolve into a more formidable guitarist. While my newly learned notes and riffs may be more correct, at this point they are not as comfortable and as fluid as my old lousy notes, so in some respects some of the jamming seemed a little hollow and not confident, but it's a new beginning, a new foundation something to build upon and will certainly lead us to a better place than the stagnation that some of my riffs and notes keep us in. But sometimes I sense that Kevin was paying attention and waiting for me to play my old standard crappy riffs and notes and may have been a little confused by what I was playing or the mistakes I was making and that led to some pretty serious flaws in the music for us as a band. The unfinished Loser is certainly the worst example of such a travesty.
Even with the flaws in the music, that'll always be there of course, the Feel Like a Stranger was an excellent opener, was pretty solid even though my first one or two notes were missed. I'm pissed off about that because of the they were pretty good ones and I just hit the wrong string. It was a bummer and got me off on the wrong foot, but I quickly recovered and the rest of the Stranger was pretty good. I thought my guitar and the envelope filter combination utilizing the effects loop of the Liger felt good during the song and gave me a good feel about the guitar.
One issue I did begin to notice though was that the guitar didn't give me quite the output that my previous Epiphone Les Paul did. I kept having to turn the amp up more than I had anticipated. This lack of output issue was something I was battling throughout the first set and probably even the second set I decided to change the battery and I thought that gave me another boost, I was using the original battery that came with the guitar, but it still didn't seem correct. I kept turning up the master on the Mesa Boogie Mark IV I was using during the first set to the point that I decided to switch back to the Fender Twin Reverb (Reissue) that was in the room for the second set. It was a good choice I think I sounded better for the second set.
The Good Time Blues, Never Trust a Woman, as the third song, was one we had played maybe once before as we did a tribute to some show with it a few years ago. We never really embraced the song nor added it to our repertoire. After using it in this week's set list it seems like it's time to add it to the repertoire. From the first moment it sounded pretty good and even though it's a 1-4-5 blues song, as Kevin calls it, it does have a twist to it it's got an F# diminished after three bars of the F of that which is a little different than the standard 4-bar to 2-bar to 4-bar set up it's more 4-bar on C then 4-bars on F with the diminished as the fourth bar in that F segment. So the Good Time Blues was a pretty interesting song and sounded pretty good and I enjoyed playing and singing it.
The Loser never made it to its final conclusion as during the lead we were just messing up structurally like you can't believe. It wasn't completed and that's what I get for not playing the cliche Loser riff during the lead to keep everyone on board and on track. As I play leads I think I need the ability to take risks and make mistakes while counting on the backup band; bass, rhythm, piano, and drums to be there playing a coherent song behind me so if I do stumble a bit, I have a place to land without twisting my ankle, so to speak. There's so much noise pollution, wasted notes, needless noises, hopeless ambitions, in everyone's music that really should be toned down and we should play with some structure integrity and modesty and compliance with the requirements of the song. In other words just play the fucking song correctly. Well enough of my soapbox.
The Fever was a new song to try and it was pretty good and enjoyable. The groove and the feel of it and that also should become another standard Bob blues that we could play during this first set slot instead of some of the other songs that we typically do there. I don't think it was relaxed enough. Not enough space. The Fevers another nice other one to have in our repertoire. What a lovely way to burn.
The new book contains has several corrections to standard old songs and the It Must've Been the Roses had a nice update. It was nice how we played the song correctly probably for the first time in a long time as there was no ambiguity in what to do during like the third verse and the lead. I also improved some of the chords that are listed in the verses song to that add a nice more subtle little passing tone to the song.
As I was trying to teach Kevin the base riff in the Cumberland Blues so we can finally have that in his quiver of tricks, Lee stepped in and grabbed the bull by the horns and charged straightforward had a very quick and incredibly deliberate pace with the Cumberland blues. In the end while the drumming may have been steady the song wasn't good if you just listen to it, it's a total mess.
The Sailor Saint was pretty good. It wasn't perfect and flawless but there were some new innovative things going on that sounded pretty good so I was happy with that experience. Certainly a lot more comforting than the totally uncomfortable Cumberland from where we came. The We Can Run, another Deadstein first, for the night try was pretty good; considering a song like that isn't ingrained within our brains like so many others. It's representing another Brent-song coming into the Deadstein repertoire; what the hell is happening to this world? But it's a song about waste and not using resources in a crazy way and so who am I not to sing it?
The second set wouldn't be a bunch of single songs played back-to-back but a bunch of musical passages connected with each other, but first we would start with a quick little Deadstein premiere of Louie Louie. It was pretty good, an enjoyable little song that even have a nice little lead which added to its fun.
I had some new Estimated material to work with this week, some of it worked some of it didn't. A lot of it's difficult to do, to play some Jerry riffs while I sing the song and sevens are difficult to coordinate, so I'm going to have to figure out how to hold those beats together. But that is certainly a situation where I could use a lot consistency of the band just to play simple stuff, not complicated stuff, not messy stuff, not noisy stuff, not a lot of notes, not a lot of just Woof behind it, just simple delicate music that keeps time, keeps a beat, keeps the pattern, stop filling the room with crappy noise pollution. For instance the beginning of the Estimated jam I get no sense anyone gives a crap about the time and it makes it difficult not to abandon the song itself right from the get-go. We seem to have no sense of structure and foundation behind the Estimated jam leads to a lousy jamming environment, it's just bad. Nevertheless, I was able to execute for the most part, the climb into the lead of the Estimated which is something new I learned over the last few days and you would think it would be pretty difficult but I almost hit it.
Likewise, while practicing and learning parts for this week's jam I discovered a whole big thing in the Eyes of the World I never knew about. It is that at the beginning of the song while you're playing Emaj7 you're throwing in E6 in between it. Not easy stuff for me to execute, but it's the right thing to play so time to start getting into that the E6 in the Eyes of the World, it's cool stuff.
After the Eyes of the World we transitioned into a Take Me to the River, that Al Green song that the Talking Heads made a little more famous. We stumbled into that about for five weeks ago that Rich found the words for on the Internet. I was hoping to sing it as it is really a Bob's song with the dead but Rich start to sing it my let them take it through its conclusion but I was disappointed when the guitar lead time came in I heard Rich singing the final verse in essence leaving me without a lead for that song which I was kind of psyched to play so that was a structural defect in the song which was kind of was a bummer.
Crazy fingers was okay, I wasn't able to execute some of the new things I learned. The Dear Mr. Fantasy, which usually sucks from us, I thought was some of the best stuff we did all night. We had the Hey Jude leitmotiv at the end of the song that was well done and not too cliche and sappy sounding, so I was happy with that and then went into the Stella Blue which I was also not able to execute my newly learned beginning riffs which I was also a little disappointed with. Regardless, this Stella blue did have a correction and its break that we finally did play correctly for the first times in a long, long time so I'm psyched to have that in the new book as a corrected Stella Blue break and I think the lead may have been okay. I forestall a quickening of the final lead once I sensed Lee taking off to the races immediately as a lead started, but it may of precluded anyone from playing with all their heart during the final lead.
The Stella Blue went into the Touch a Grey to close the second set and I tried to sing that without any of the words in front of me and I almost accomplished that by not missing any of the words. I was pretty impressed with myself as I did that as somehow they were just coming to me as I was I was singing them. Additionally, I did learn the "We ill survive" little Jerry riff which I was able to execute for the most part during the song. The Touch of Grey being a tricky delicate little lead, I think I was able to hit most of the things I was aiming for so I was relatively happy with that.
We did the so called encore of the Brokedown Palace and we played it in the lower key as opposed to the one where you start with A, even though I was really contemplating playing the one with the A since that is the way they would've played it during Jerry's Tiger era. Maybe it's something we should think about transitioning to playing the song whole step higher. In any case I think I hit the lead pretty well which I was happy about and that felt like the end of the night.
Lo and behold, what did we find after the Brokedown Palace was 15 minutes left in the night. Although Lee started the night exhausted I didn't think he would make it through the first song of the second set nor did I think he would make it through the six or seven song segment that we did for the bulk of the second set, but somehow he was still there like a trooper for the final two songs after the Brokedown Palace.
The final two songs are pretty new to Deadstein as well as the new Jerry Garcia songbook starting with Old and In the Way. We did it a few weeks ago. It's quick so it's difficult to get all the words. After playing it another couple of times the words will become more familiar and the song should be easy and a fun song to play.
To close the night we did the Beatles I Saw Her Standing There, which Jerry Garcia played on his Run for the Roses album. This is pretty new to us and new to the new Jerry Garcia songbook and as such, was a little tricky when it came to the guitar lead. While the song sounded pretty good during the versus the guitar leads seem to have a different structure than the rest of the song, I'm going to have to check this out before the next time we play it, and it through us for a loop. Nevertheless the final verse came up quickly and it ended on an high note and it ended the night for Deadstein.
While I may seem down on this jam from reading this post, if you actually got this far, it's probably more based on me just speaking into my dictation Siri, OneNote combination rather than being more disappointed this week than usual. I'm probably always as disappointed it's just that I can't type as freely as I can speak. But it's all about thinking about what we do right and wrong and hopefully just taking a few tidbits to heart and thinking about how can we improve ourselves . You could still have fun playing well and it's a lot easier to have a good time playing well than when you don't play well. With that I'll take it all to task and I'm sure I'll be listening, learning, playing, practicing in an effort to bring my best to the table. I can only hope the same for everyone else. Freak out!