Friday, March 9, 2012

Phil Lesh-Slide Bass (Henry J Kaiser Auditorium, February 20, 1985)

My notes for the Grateful Dead shows from February 18, 19 & 20, 1985
Around 1980 I realized I couldn't remember everything about every concert I had been to so I started writing everything down. Without an internet, or Deadbase, or anything, if you didn't write it down, it was probably gone forever. I wasn't enough of a dweeb to actually take notes during a show, because it wasn't as much fun, but whenever I got home, before I went to bed, I wrote down every detail I could remember. As time went on, more information became available, and some of the things I wrote down are easily accessible now, but here and there I still find some odd nuggets of information that I would otherwise have lost track of.

Looking at my notes for February 18, 19 and 20, 1985, I see that I wrote down that Phil Lesh played "slide bass" on February 20. I distinctly recall this. Of course, distinct as this memory may be, I recall that he played slide during "Minglewood," and of course they didn't play "Minglewood" that night. I didn't see fit to write down which song it was, but knowing how my memory works it was probably "West LA Fadeaway."

By 1980, I had been going to rock concerts for quite a while (at the time, 8 years and counting, as it happens) and once I had discovered the sound of a bottleneck guitar I had always wondered why no one ever used a bottleneck on a bass guitar. I was generally about 50 feet from the stage, so I was really excited when I saw Phil slip on a bottleneck during a song and play a little slide while Jerry soloed away.

Of course, I promptly found out why no one played slide bass: you can't hear it. Something about the sonic properties of a bass guitar insure that the swoopy low notes caused by the slide are lost in the general rumble of the band. The Grateful Dead had as good a sound system as their was, and if you couldn't hear it on their system, you couldn't hear it. But it didn't matter--I had seen someone play slide bass guitar, and I could check that off my list.

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