The extra tracks from Dave’s Picks, Vol. 11 are from 11/15/72. I had heard the Wichita show prior to release but never the Oklahoma City show. My gut reaction the first time I listened to this version of Playing In The Band?
The PITB bonus track from DaP11 is basically 27 minutes of "holy shit!" sandwiched between a 4 minute song.
Jerry Garcia was undoubtedly the guiding light for the Grateful Dead but if anyone ever knocks Bob Weir’s playing, put on this song and all doubt should be removed. Bobby just blows my mind for the entire 30 minutes. That’s one of the great things about this version of Playing In The Band. It doesn’t wander or meander through the woods. This is like a sandwich from a good New York deli where there is about a pound of meat between two meager slices of bread. There is a consistency and focus throughout this Playing In The Band that makes the time fly by.
The execution in the early going is excellent. The mix is so good and the playing so precise you might think it’s a studio recording. The band churns out the first two verses in the about two and a half minutes and then they’re off to explore. Jerry meanders with a bit of wah for a while, searching for some undiscovered treasures. This groove continues unabated for several minutes. Looking for a good example that demonstrates that Weir is just as inventive of a guitarist as Garcia, albeit from a different approach? Listen to this Playing In The Band. Around the 9:00 mark Phil pushes to the foreground a bit more and pretty soon Keith adds some really cool ascending lines. This seems to spur Jerry and Bobby in a new direction as they pick things up a bit. This is short-lived and it’s back into the ether, searching for the sound. A mild frenzy emerges around the 12:00 mark and things continue to escalate. Weir continues to blow my mind here. Just wow. Jerry seems to mildly quote the Playing theme for a brief moment, but it’s so soaked in wah and effects that its barely recognizable. The recording is so visceral you can almost feel Weir’s palm mutes. Billy and Phil dominate the show for a bit in the sixteenth minute. Listen for the depth of the snare drum. It’s quite choice. Jerry switches the wah back on late in the 19th minute and is more of that crunchy Playing tone that was so common in this era. It just suits the material so well it’s no wonder he kept going back to it. The 23rd minute has Jerry nipping at the main theme at times. Very subtle but it’s there. About halfway through the 25th minute the feel really starts to pick up and the music works its way to a crescendo for about a minute. Now the main theme is clearly stated by Jerry. It seems the band is close to re-entry from the stratosphere, but not quite ready yet. Finally, almost at 29:00 on the dot the band hits the re-entry. What a ride. This version of Playing grooves throughout like no other I can think of. It spends a lot of time in the stratosphere, but never the cosmos, yet that is part of the appeal for me. This version is almost as much about groove as it is psychedelia. It’s totally worth the half hour investment of time.