Grateful Dead

San Diego Sports Arena

San Diego, CA

[November 14, 1973 - Set 1]

First Appeared in The Music Box, November 1995, Volume 2, #10

Written by John Metzger


One of my favorite Grateful Dead periods is the '72 through '74 masterpieces featuring just about every song they were doing at the time. This month's tape is from that period. Recorded on November 14, 1973 at the San Diego Sports Arena, the band gets into a mellow groove early on, opening with Big Railroad Blues. A slow and easy Jack Straw fades into a truly mellow, but shakin' Sugaree.


After a brisk Mexicali Blues, the band powered by Jerry Garcia falls into a sweet Here Comes Sunshine. This version continues the mellow feeling of the show and embraces it. Keith Godchaux gently glides over the keyboard. The intensity builds as Garcia takes the band higher and higher, throwing notes to and fro over the syncopated rhythm created by Phil Lesh and Billy Kreutzmann. A mini-drum interlude ensues, and then Godchaux attempts to guide the band back into the song. Garcia doesn't follow, embarking on yet another timeless journey. This one, further than before, drifts up above the clouds where the sun never hides. Rest in peace, my friend. We all miss you.

Not to be outdone, Weir jumps in with an incredibly powerful version of Black-Throated Wind. This is a passionate version that has vast peaks and valleys of sound, featuring a perfect combination of Bob Weir's emotional singing, Lesh's thundering bass, and Garcia's floating guitar.

Sandwiched between trips to the Cumberland Mine and the Races, is a sweet Row Jimmy that unfortunately is tainted by some weird "tape bleeding." Unfortunately, this continues throughout this song as well as Brown-Eyed Women. While it adds some weird psychedelic element to the song, it eventually becomes downright irritating. But that's what happens with these old recordings!!

The rest of the set is well played, particularly the closing one-two punch of China Cat Sunflower/I Know You Rider and Around & Around. The 1973 and 1974 versions of China/Rider are some of the best combinations ever, and this one is no exception. Garcia and Weir creep in with their point/counterpoint melodies, as Jerry dreamily begins to sing. Each member of the band seems to take off on their own "lead," which fits together nicely as a package. This is what the Grateful Dead are all about. This is their trademark. Everyone taking the lead, and yet when it all falls together, there is still a melody with an underlying rhythm. First to leave the framework of the song is Lesh, thundering out on his own. Garcia follows suit, building a twin lead that stretches far out into that happy, upbeat, jazzy jam that characterizes the segue into I Know You Rider that was so common in 1973. Weir, Godchaux, and Kreutzmann do their own thing, laying down a solid foundation upon which Garcia and Lesh can build, and providing a net to catch you at the conclusion to the jam. Suddenly, there are voices. "I know you rider, gonna miss me when I'm gone." You bet, old friend. But I'll never forget you.


Set List

Side 1: Big Railroad Blues, Jack Straw, Sugaree, Mexicali
Blues, Here Comes Sunshine, Black-Throated Wind, Cumberland
Blues, Row Jimmy, Race is On

Side 2: Brown-Eyed Women, Beat It on Down the Line, Tennessee Jed, El Paso,
China Cat Sunflower, I Know You Rider, Around & Around


Copyright 1995 The Music Box