Friday, July 29, 2011

December 31, 1977 Winterland: New Riders of The Purple Sage with Spencer Dryden

Marin County Line-The New Riders Of The Purple Sage (MCA Records 1977)
The Grateful Dead show at Winterland on December 31, 1977 was a great show, and it is usually remembered for the Grateful Dead starting their second set at 12:30 instead of midnight, because Bill Graham was over with Santana at the Cow Palace and he wanted to participate in the Grateful Dead's New Year's Eve celebration as well. While it has been famously reported that little flyers were handed out at the door that said (I paraphrase) "Good things come to those who wait. New Year's Eve will start at 12:30 tonight," those flyers were not handed out to everyone. Certainly I didn't get one, nor did anyone around me (about 60 feet back on the floor, Phil side-stage right), so we had no idea why the start of the set was delayed. But that's not the purpose of this post.

The New Riders Of The Purple Sage opened the show, and performed a fine set. The Riders had undergone a Renaissance of sorts, with new bassist Stephen Love and drummer Patrick Shanahan. Love had replaced Skip Battin, and Shanahan had replaced Spencer Dryden, who had become the band's manager. The New Riders had a pretty good new album, Marin County Line, their best album in some years. You don't have to take my word for it--in 2009 the New Riders released a Betty Board tape of the set as part of their archive series. I admit, I haven't gotten around to getting the cd, although I will eventually. But this too is not the purpose of the post.

There was certainly quite a party on the Winterland floor that night, so I assume the party backstage was pretty good, too, and probably better. However, because I'm me, I actually wrote down the fact that newly promoted New Riders manager Spencer Dryden sat in on drums that night. So for the only night that I'm aware of, the New Riders had two drummers. Since Dryden knew all the songs, he played more confidently than some friend who would have just been grooving along, so the Riders had a much more active Dead-style rhythm section than usual. The lively drumming made the Riders rock a little harder than usual, just what the doctor ordered for opening a New Year's Eve Dead concert at Winterland.

Noting the fact that I attended one of if not the only show where the New Riders played with two drummers is exactly the sort of trivia that this blog was intended for, and I would have posted it anyway. Nonetheless, in looking at all the promotional material for the album on the website, and various other places, nobody seems to have mentioned that Dryden sat in with the Riders that night. I have a feeling that everyone just forgot. Now, possibly its alluded to somewhere on the album, but I don't know that. In any case, even if it was announced from the stage (I no longer recall--I knew what Dryden looked like, so I didn't need to be told), it may not have been clear that Dryden sat in for the entire show. Dryden died in 2005, so he's not around to check in with--although of course for all we know, since it was New Year's Eve, he didn't remember either--but at least for the record I wanted to mark down that the Riders were six strong that night and the better for it.

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