Lakeland County Civic Arena
May 21, 1977 - Set 1
First Appeared in The Music Box, March 1997, Volume 4, #3
Written by John Metzger
A big thank you is due to David Gans and Grateful Dead Merchandising for releasing this musical treat through Gans' Grateful Dead Hour. The show, performed on May 21, 1977 in Lakeland, Florida, is a companion piece to Dick's Picks Volume Three.
The set begins with a laid-back Bertha, followed by Me & My Uncle, both of which establish the tone for the first hour of the show. At this time, the Grateful Dead had begun toying with the pairing of Bertha and Good Lovin', and this version of Bertha takes place about two weeks before the songs became inseparable for more than two years.
They Love Each Other takes things to another level as Keith Godchaux's piano arpeggios give way to a short but inspired flurry of notes from Jerry Garcia's guitar. Cassidy bounces around the clouds, and Jack-a-Roe features the long introduction that was common in early versions of this song. Jack Straw continues the laid-back momentum of the tightly played set. The harmonies are outstanding throughout the set, but really stand out on this number.
Tennessee Jed pushes the boundaries a bit further, as Garcia's guitar solo soars higher and higher before returning for the song's conclusion. This is a strong indication of the music yet to come as is Row Jimmy, which also explores its boundaries.
The highlight of the act, without a doubt, is the set-closing pairing of Scarlet Begonias and Fire on the Mountain. This version is enormous, and it's hard to believe that Fire on the Mountain was so new to the band's repertoire.
Scarlet Begonias clocks in at nearly 11 minutes before the first note of Fire on the Mountain. Right from the start the band locks into a groove around a ballooning bass line from Phil Lesh. The lyrics conclude after about five minutes, but the ending jam develops in a slow, deliberate pattern similar to the way Playin' in the Band lets loose. Slowly, the rhythm mutates, providing the playground for Garcia's guitar solo. The transition into Fire on the Mountain is incredible. It seems to come out of nowhere, yet it flows from Scarlet Begonias so smoothly. Fire on the Mountain is as laid-back as the rest of the set, featuring some soaring guitar solos from Jerry. The vocals are solid as well, despite the traditional lyrical mistakes. I'm sure those hearing this for the first time were blown away and this was just the first set!!!
Of Further Interest...
Side 1: Bertha, Me & My Uncle, They Love Each Other, Cassidy,
Jack-a-Roe, Jack Straw, Tennessee Jed, Minglewood Blues
Side 2: Row Jimmy, Passenger, Scarlet Begonias, Fire on the Mountain
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Copyright © 1997 The Music Box