The Isle of Wight Festival – 1970

Isle of Wight Poster

Isle of Wight Poster

Imagine a festival with Jimi Hendrix, Miles Davis, The Who, Joni Mitchell, Sly and the Family Stone, Pentangle, Emerson Lake and Palmer, The Moody Blues and The Doors along with many many others.  On this day in 1970, the first of five days at the Isle of Wight Festival took place on a small island in England.  Largely considered to be the largest musical gathering at the time (until the Summer Jam at Watkins Glen in 1973) the attendance is estimated somewhere between 600,000 and 700,000 people.

This festival was from another time.  Performances were constantly interrupted by political activists trying to deliver their messages to the crowd.  Numerous musicians who were at the festival for their own enjoyment appeared on stage with other bands such as Zal Yanovsky’s appearance with his former bandmate John Sebastian (both members of the Lovin’ Spoonful).

The final day of the festival, Sunday August 30th was Jimi Hendrix’s final show in the UK.  His performance, which is one of his finest, is now considered to be legendary.  The Who performed “Tommy” in its entirety and later released their set as Live at the Isle of White 1970.  The album, although not as good as Live at Leeds, features some great playing and is packed with energy.

Miles Davis - Isle of Wight 1970

Miles Davis - Isle of Wight 1970

Miles’ performance shows his band in a very transitional phase making yet another stylistic leap forward (much to the dismay of his loyal fans), toward a concept that revolved around extremely loose frames that were mere starting points for improvisation in an electric context. The lineup consists of Miles, Dave Holland, Chic Corea, Keith Jarret Jack DeJohnette, Airto Moreira and Gary Bartz. This concert was one of the first live displays of his new style, which is wildly experimental.  Incredible footage of Miles from his performance at the festival is documented on his DVD Miles Electric. Other performances can be seen in the film Message to Love. Both are highly recommended.

Jimi Hendrix - Isle of Wight 1970

Isle of Wight 1970

The following videos from the Isle of Wight Festival, show how great this festival was, and they’re in amazing quality.  Jimi’s performance is absolutely mind-blowing with some of the finest guitar playing ever.  We love Jimi over here, and this is simply one of the finest examples of his God-like abilities. Miles’ show paved the way for improvisational music, and exhibits the style heard on Tribute to Jack Johnson (read our article on Jack Johnson here). Click here to check out Jimi’s setlist from the show. Enjoy these videos which help us relive the incredible music that took place starting 39 years ago today.

Listen to Jimi perform “Freedom” at the Isle of Wight Festival 1970-8-30.

Jimi performing Voodoo Chile (Slight Return).

Here’s Jimi performing a scorching version of “Machine Gun”, a political song about the Vietnam war (for some reason it won’t allow this video to be embedded, but I urge you to watch it on youtube. This version contains one of his best solos ever played).

“In From the Storm”, the final song Jimi performed at the festival.

Miles jamming on the “Bitches” medley. Absolutely phenomenal.

Miles performing “Bitches Brew”, this performance is wild. Jam music at its finest. Listen to the jam that emerges around 6:00 with a heavy bass groove.

The Who performing “Naked Eye”.

Miles Davis – A Tribute to Jack Johnson

A Tribute To Jack Johnson (album cover)

A Tribute To Jack Johnson (album cover)

After writing yesterday’s article, The Evolution of Trey’s Tone – Part II, I began thinking further about the factors that have influenced Trey’s most recent tonal change.  It is clear that at certain points in Phish’s career they have been influenced by certain musicians more than others.  However, there are certain influences that have constantly remained present in Phish’s playing.  A Tribute to Jack Johnson by Miles Davis is one of those influences.  Completely improvisational, and featuring only two songs, both over 20 minutes, this album  is one of the finest pieces of music ever recorded.

In 1971 Miles released A Tribute to Jack Johnson as the soundtrack to a documentary about the boxer Jack Johnson. The album defines jam music in the realest sense.  Miles’ band at the time featured Steve Grossman on soprano sax, Michael Henderson on bass, Herbie Hancock on the organ, Billy Cobham on drums, and the legendary John “Mahavishnu” McLaughlin on guitar. A stellar lineup to say the least.

The story goes like this: McLaughlin, Cobham, Grossman and Davis had scheduled a recording session at Columbia studio in New York. As per usual, Miles was late, and so the band began improvising without him. Herbie Hancock, who happened to be in the building at the time, was brought in at the last minute to play organ. The producers began recording, and when Miles showed up late, he liked what he heard. He stepped in the studio, and at 2:19 on the first track “Right Off” Miles begins his solo.  The album includes the recordings that occurred at Columbia studio on April 7, 1970 mixed with some of Miles’ solo recordings from 1969.

Miles Davis 1971 (J. Perrson)

Miles Davis 1971 (J. Perrson)

The music is a raw sounding improvisational form of fusion jazz.  Characterized by Miles’ outside modal playing and McLaughlin’s gritty guitar sound, Jack Johnson borders on funk-rock.  This album has always been one of my favorites, as it takes the listener on a transcendent musical journey. The chaotic highpoints blended together with the melodic plateaus provide contour to the musical landscapes.  The playing is tight yet highly exploratory. 

Jack Johnson, above all, is a timeless piece of music.  Even though it was released in 1970, the music sounds as though it is brand new.    The playing on the album was extremely groundbreaking, as it brought the spirit of both rock and funk music to jazz.  Using electric instruments in this fashion was nearly unheard of  at the time.  Very few, if any, jazz musicians were using distortion effects such as the one used by McLaughlin on the album.

The first song “Right Off” begins with an edgy, funky groove.  The groove never quite leaves the song, as it delves into ambiance, before returning back to finish the song off. The second song “Yesternow” lifts the bass line from James Brown’s “Say it Loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud”, and features some alternate musicians, such as Dave Holland and Chick Corea, in parts.  Miles’ playing on both tracks features some of his most complex and tightest music ever recorded.  This piece of music is loaded with energy blurring all lines between musical genres.

John McLaughlin

John McLaughlin

Beginning with Silent Way in 1969, and then Bitches Brew in 1970, Miles introduced a highly innovative sound to jazz music.  Using electric instruments and accompanied by a guitar, Miles’ bands were a cross between jazz, rock and funk.  Although not as commercially successful as the prior album Bitches Brew, Jack Johnson exhibits what many feel is the finest playing of all three. In a 1995 interview with Addicted to Noise, Trey said the following with regard to the album:

“Right now I think Miles is probably the cutting edge in every stage along his career. I’ve been really heavily influenced by this Miles Davis album, A Tribute to Jack Johnson. John McLaughlin plays on it, and he plays really differently from how he normally plays, he’s in a great space on that album, and I think that’s really affected me a lot, that whole kind of style. And Miles influenced a lot of these rock bands, like the Dead or something.”

Interesting little factoid: The intro music to disc 2 of A Live One is part of “Right Off”.

Listen to “Right Off”, the first track off Jack Johnson. Pay close attention at 2:19 as Miles comes in with his soaring modal solo (if you are unfamiliar with the modes check out our article on them: Modal Exploration). Give this one a bit of time to load, its quite long, but well worth it.

Also, in 2004 Trey recorded a session with Herbie Hancock at the farmhouse. Below is one of the recordings from that session showing some of the same type of improvisational playing as is heard on Jack Johnson.

Celebrating the Life of Jerry Garcia (1942-1995)

Jerry Garcia

Jerry Garcia

It seems as though some people are placed on this earth to fulfill a specific purpose.  Often, once their purpose has been fulfilled they are taken from us, serving a nearly prophetic role. Jerry Garcia is one of those people, and it was on this day, 14 years ago, that he was taken from us. Jerry has had a lasting effect on countless people, bringing joy to their lives through his music. Unable to fit within the normal grain of life, Jerry chose to live an introverted life focused mainly around his art and music. However, this was made difficult for him by the massive number of Deadheads who looked to Jerry as their leader. As Bob Weir said after scattering Jerry’s ashes into the Ganges River in India, “May you have peace, Jerry, and travel to the stars.”  Below is a quote from Bob Dylan that sums things up quite well:

“There’s no way to measure his greatness or magnitude as a person or as a player. I don’t think eulogizing will do him justice. He was that great – much more than a superb musician with an uncanny ear and dexterity. He is the very spirit personified of whatever is muddy river country at its core and screams up into the spheres. He really had no equal. To me he wasn’t only a musician and friend, he was more like a big brother who taught and showed me more than he’ll ever know. There are a lot of spaces and advances between the Carter Family, Buddy Holly and, say, Ornette Coleman, a lot of universes, but he filled them all without being a member of any school. His playing was moody, awesome, sophisticated, hypnotic and subtle. There’s no way to convey the loss. It just digs down really deep.”

-Bob Dylan

We have chosen 10 extraordinary Dead moments to celebrate this day (big thanks to Dominic!). Each highlights a different period in Jerry’s career.  There are also a number of other Jerry related downloads and videos below. By listening to his music, we keep the spirit of Jerry alive.

10 Extraordinary Grateful Dead Moments

1. 1969-02-22 -  Mountains Of The Moon> Dark Star> Cryptical Envelopment> Drums> The Other One> Cryptical Envelopment

Listen to the second part of Cryptical Envelopment:

2. 1970-06-24 – Darkstar>Attics of My Life>Dark star>Sugar Magnolia>Darkstar>St. Stephen>China Cat>I know You Rider

Listen to the intro to this epic Darkstar:

3. 1971-04-29 – The Alligator>Drums>Jam>GDTRDB>Cold Rain & Snow

Listen to the Jam in between Drums and GDTRFB:

4. 1972-12-31 -  Truckin>The Other One>Morning Dew

Listen to The Other One:

5. 1973-03-24 – Playin’ in the Band

Listen to Playin’ in the Band:

6. 1973-09-07 – Eyes of the World

Listen to Eyes of the World:

7. 1977-05-09 – Comes a Time

Listen to Comes a Time:

8. 1977-12-27 – Estimated Prophet

Listen to the Estimated Prophet:

9. 1982-09-21 – China Cat Sunflower>I Know You Rider

Listen to China Cat Sunflower:

10. 1987-03-02 – Feel Like a Stranger

Listen to Feel Like a Stranger:

Downloads and Videos

Jerry Garcia Band

DOWNLOAD 1978-10-07 Keystone Palo Alto, Palo Alto, CA

New Riders of the Purple Sage

DOWNLOAD 1971-04-28 Fillmore East, New York, NY

The Grateful Dead, Wharf Rat, 1981-03-28 Grugga Hall, Essen, Germany

The Grateful Dead, New Speedway Boogie, 1970-07-03 McMahon Stadium, Calgary, Canada

Remembering Dick Latvala

Courtesy of

Dick Latvala

For anyone scratching their heads when hearing the name ‘Dick Latvala’, he was the tape archivist for the Grateful Dead and creator of the “Dick’s Picks” series that, in 1993, began releasing high-quality live Grateful Dead performances. Today is the 10th year anniversary of Dick’s death, so it is only appropriate that we examine his impact and significance on the Dead and their fans.

Though Dick had only seen the Grateful Dead mostly in 1966 and 1967, he was an avid tape collector and was hired in 1985 to be the Dead’s official archivist. In 1996, when asked why he was chosen amongst the many people collecting live Grateful Dead recordings, Dick stated, “I got hired because I cared, and still, when I go in the Vault, I’m like a kid in Candyland. It takes my breath away.”
As the Dead’s career began winding down in the early 90′s, Dick thought it would be a great idea to release official recordings of the their best concerts.

Dick was thought to have fantastic taste on differentiating a great show from a mediocre one. Thus, in 1993, the show from 12/19/73 Curtis Hixon Hall, Florida, was released under the name “Dick’s Picks Vol. 1″. While there are 36 official “Dick’s Picks”, only the first 14 were selected by Dick himself. Moreover, while Dick was the leader in selecting which show would be chosen as a Dick’s Pick, Dick typically would ask for fans suggestions through the website.
Following the release the Dick’s Picks 2, Dick was interviewed about what makes the Grateful Dead such a special band, and came up with this answer:

“That’s what the Grateful Dead experience is for me: music that moves people as powerfully as they can be moved. Each person expresses it in a different fashion – some twirl around, some sit still as a rock. I’m the still-as-a-rock type. But everyone’s way of expressing it is just dandy, and that’s what it’s all about. I thought I was as hardcore as it gets – that no one could be as hardcore as me. But now there are thousands. Everyone in the building! This is energy in its highest form, in a group format. It’s better than sex, man. You can quote me on that.”

This statement shines light on what motivated Dick to be so altruistic. He collected endless Grateful Dead shows starting so he could share his euphoric experiences with the rest of the world, as they too could share in his feelings. He thought the Grateful Dead were life-changing and wanted each and everyone to be able to have the opportunity to bask in the glory of a Dead show.

Dick’s favorite tunes were “The Other One” and “Dark Star”, though he saw “Playing in the Band” as the ultimate indicator for a good show. At the end of the day however, Dick just loved the Dead regardless of song: “Every song has value. I’m for all the tunes – I never wanted to hear anything specific. All I wanted was for them to play it well.”

Dick's Picks 16

Dick's Picks 16

With every ‘Pick’, Dick opened his heart and soul to everyone as each one bore great significance to his life, as he was a very spiritual man. From a musical perspective, Dick was nothing short of a visionary. It takes time, effort, devotion, and critical listening to find those shows that have the power to effect people in the way they did for Dick. After all, as many know, Dead shows were not just about the music, and there was something much larger than the band itself, perhaps on a cosmic level. The power of the Deads music exceeds the norm of musical output, and Dicks Pick’s will continue to make that message clear.
Following a heart attack and subsequent death in 1999 at age 56, the Dick’s Picks series was handed over to David Lemieux, who who release another 22 DP. In memory of Dick, the Grateful Dead selected two of Dick’s favorite shows, 9/3/77 and 11/8/69, and released them as Dick’s Picks 15 and 16. To commemorate the man even more, it has been noted that the name “Latvala” (Dick’s last name) can be seen in different places of the Dick’s Picks album art.

Dick truly felt the Deads music in his soul, and saw their music as possessing spiritual potential. He knew how important it was do document this type of music that was having such a great influence in the Bay area in the 60′s, and soon enough, all over the world. Dick wanted people to be able to access the music themselves so they too could feel this spiritual climax. He knew that people will need to hear this music long into the future. Dick was truly the vehicle for that, the engine if you will. We thank him for all he has done. Dick – a great man and a true hero.

For audio interviews, pictures, letters, and hand-written setlists, please visit Dick

Listen to The Other One from 1978-10-21 at the Winterland.

Happy Birthday Jerry!

67 years ago today, Jerome “Jerry” John Garcia was born. Although his life was cut short at 53, Jerry will forever remain one of the most important figures in both musical and American cultural history. His work has had a lasting impact on a subculture that cherishes him like no other. Jerry is a cultural icon, as well as one of the greatest and most innovative guitarists to ever live. A man who never wanted to lead a single person wound up leading an entire movement, capturing the hearts and minds of countless followers. Almost 50 years ago, Jerry began making music, and until this day, the music has never stopped.

Jerry met Robert Hunter in 1960, and along with Dave Nelson (New Riders of the Purple Sage), they started a band called the Zodiacs. Performing mostly bluegrass and traditional folk numbers, Jerry would go on to join at least 3 other bands: The Thunder Mountain Tub Thumpers, The Wildwood Boys and the Black Mountain Boys. After meeting Bob Weir in 1963, Jerry formed Mother McCree’s Uptown Jug Champions. With the addition of Phil Lesh and Ron “Pigpen” McKernan, the band would become the Warlocks until finally settling on the Grateful Dead, a phrase from the Egyptian Book of the Dead. When the band began experimenting with electric instruments, they drew heavy criticism from the beatnik crowd, however, Jerry clearly saw the potential in the electric guitar and pursued it endearingly.

“I’m shopping around for something to do that no one will like.”

Using a combination of banjo picking techniques, and downhome style playing, Jerry created one of the most unique sounds yet to be heard on the guitar. In the Grateful Dead’s early years, heavy traces of Rolling Stones’ influence can be heard. As the band progressed, explored and experimented further, musically and otherwise, Jerry began to develop a unique style. Jerry’s guitar playing is unmistakable. Anyone who knows Jerry’s playing can pick out his trademark triple-pull-offs or mutron III envelope filter. His powerful lead lines are instantly identifiable, and are the driving force behind so many of the Dead’s live jams.

“And as far as I’m concerned, it’s like I say, drugs are not the problem. Other stuff is the problem.”

Jerry’s love for music extended well beyond the Dead. Jerry was constantly performing in one way or another whether it be in the Jerry Garcia Band, New Riders of the Purple Sage, Old and in the Way, with Merl Saunders or with David Grisman. In each side project Jerry played a different role. In the New Riders, Jerry played pedal steel. They would open for the Dead, and so Jerry would play in two bands on the same night. The day the Dead would come off the road, Jerry would be in a bar performing with one of his side projects.

Today, we celebrate the life of Jerry Garcia who has had such an impact on so many music lovers. Even though his life was cut short, his music has remained timeless, inspiring bands and followers alike. Many will agree that Jerry was cut from a fabric that is rarely seen in this world. His legacy will live on through the countless deadheads that cherish his every note, and through his impact in the world of music. Happy Birthday Jerry.

From the land of the midnight sun

where the ice blue roses grow

‘long those roads of gold and silver snow

Howlin’ wide or moaning low

So many roads I know

So many roads to ease my soul

Grateful Dead, So Many Roads

To celebrate Jerry’s music, here is a show from the Filmore East from May 15th, 1970. One of my favourite shows. This show really flaunts Jerry’s ability as a guitarist and that’s why I have chosen it. I’ve also included the February 18th, 1971 show from the Capitol Theatre. Both of these shows have incredible Darkstars, among many others. Enjoy both of these gems on this special day in history.

1970-05-15 Filmore East, New York, NY part 1

1970-05-15 Filmore East, New York, NY part 2

1971-02-18 Capitol Theatre, Port Chester, NY

Here’s a great video of the Dead performing Fire on the Mountain below from the Capitol Theater in Passaic, NJ April 27th, 1977.