November 14th, 1973
San Diego Sports Arena
San Diego, California
Truckin’>The Other One>Big River>The Other One>Eyes Of The World>The Other One>Wharf Rat
Kicking off this seven song sammy is a characteristically upbeat Truckin’ that features a jubilant Jerry punctuating Bobby’s tale of N’awlins woe with a “call and response” guitar approach during the verses and a sympathetic commiseration on the chorus. It’s a solid version of the song, nothing too ambitious or far removed from the version any casual fan would recognize from classic rock radio.
Performed at the San Diego Sports Arena on November 14th, 1973, the “meat” of this sandwich is certainly The Other One. The band weaves in and out of this tune no less than three times before it’s all said and done, the first excursion being the longest at over 14 minutes. With its pulsing groove, The Other One ebbs and flows like an angry sea with none other than the reliably unpredictable Captain Trips at the helm. One of the band’s earliest compositions, it served as a showcase for the exploratory proto-jazz fusion jams that would become a staple of The Dead’s live shows for decades. Just the kind of groove Phil Lesh seats comfortably in as it allows for the sort of experimentation only the most open-minded bands can pull off. And only the most open-minded audiences can digest. Billy focuses intently on the snare and ride as he tries to keep the festivities somewhat grounded, while the rest of the crew flail wildly from thought to thought until everyone’s minds meld back together for a brief moment before falling to pieces again. It’s oftentimes exhausting, frequently exhilarating and always a journey of discovery when the group embark on such a jam and this one is no exception.
As they wind down the first Other One, the shimmy and shake of Johnny Cash’s classic number Big River arrives with the kind of swagger the song’s narrator only wishes he could muster. Bobby Weir is right at home with this sort of cowboy elegy, a gritty poem of heartache dressed up as a hoedown hymnal. But, then we’re whipped back into experimental territory as The Dead careen left out of those dusty saloon doors and are plunged again, like a fever dream, into The Other One.
But, it’s once the group ventures into Eyes Of The World, that Phil proves just how in his element he really is as he attacks the upper register of his Alembic bass as if he’s trying to strangle it into submission. This fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants, avant garde noise-play is seemingly pulled out of thin air throughout the jam. Each note the band plays dances and flutters, reverberating around the arena, touching down to Earth momentarily only to take off in flight again. I think Eyes Of The World holds a special place in a lot of Dead Heads’ hearts because it feels so autobiographical. The Dead Head community personified lyrics like, “Sometimes we live no particular way but our own, and sometimes we live in your country and visit your home.” While it’s doubtful that Robert Hunter was describing the couch surfing lifestyle literally, the symbolism certainly does translate well.
After dipping once more into the cool, weird waters of The Other One for a few moments, it’s onto Wharf Rat. And the contrast couldn’t be more stark or more beautiful. It feels like a homecoming as the crew land this ship gently, down by the docks of that city by the bay where the Grateful Dead were born.