Sunshine Daydream

I’ve been intending to post something about the GD May ’77 box set that arrived three months ago. It contains some great music (particularly on the more delicate songs) but this week’s arrival has rather put it (almost literally) in the shade.

The official release of the 1972 Springfield Creamery Benefit concert and the film made of it, Sunshine Daydream, is a marvellous thing. A long-available soundboard recording and bootleg copy of the film on YT have hinted as much but the properly-mixed 16-track sound and a beautifully-restored set of visuals confirm it in spades.

Jerry Garcia couldn’t understand why anyone would want to film the band on stage (“We just stand there. We don’t do anything.”) but, with the addition of Prankster animations and copious shots of roasting hippies, the film is a fantastic document of a communal celebration of life through music. For example:

(Warning: contains naked human wobbly bits)

The film shows the final Dark Star/El Paso/Sing Me Back Home sequence, in which a star dies, two cowboys are killed and a prisoner walks to his execution. Whereas much of the show is suitably sunny and joyful, this is not: it is difficult, harsh and desperately sad. Yet also wonderfully cathartic.

This is the end of Dark Star. It is some of the most involving and intricate acid jazz* collective improvisation you’ll ever hear. To watch it being constructed from thin air is a jaw-dropping delight.

*Acid jazz = jazz improvised whilst under the influence of LSD.

21 thoughts on “Sunshine Daydream

    • No showings in the UK, as far as I know (boo!). It was only shown in ‘selected theaters’ in the US, on Jerry’s birthday (aah!). Would n’t it be great to see it (and the excellent doc about the Creamery, the community and the day) on Beeb4 instead of a repeat of the stuff they usually show on Fridays (with notable exceptions, of course!)?

      I only posted an extract, to whet your appetite*, but all the music is on Spotty (here) so you can help yourself. The El Paso isn’t their best (but, considering where they’d come from musically, it’s pretty good); the one I put in this week’s RRbox is much better.

      (*and maybe draw a comment or two about what constitues ‘acid jazz’!)

  1. I’ve spent the summer grooving on the May ’77 sets. Totally besotted by versions of ‘Peggy O’, ‘They Love Each Other’ and ‘Cassidy’. Finally getting into ‘El Paso’ – a real showcase for Jerry’s pickin’, but much more than that. Never really listened to ‘Big River’, either, until this came along, and now I listen to it a lot.

    I’m waiting for my Sunshine to arrive from the DeadStore. including the DVD. What I’ve heard streamed so far is sunshine itself.

    • Hi Tempus! Totally agree about Peggy O, TLEO etc: there are some gorgeous versions of the more subtle songs (Donna’s Sunrise is rather good, too). But the return of Mickey, to my ears, removed an awful lot of the musical flexibility and agility. The only Other One in that set is not an open-eared, no-holds-barred exploration but a Jerry work-out (briliiant though it is) and many of the jams are a bit turgid (I’m thinking particularly of Dancing In The Street and Fire On The Mountain). Still, I love Terrapin and Estimated, and Supplication is darned hot!
      Imho, the best Big River is that on One From The Vault: Jerry is on fire!

      I guarantee you’ll love the film.

  2. Terrific music, indeed. Incredible! However, I couldn’t bear watching the film after a while because I could almost feel the sunburn. That Pacific Northwest sun was way too hot.

      • Oh, I’m sure. GD 1972 up there with Kesey and crowd. Wouldn’t that have been fun! But still, later that evening and the next few days, some may put the taking off the t-shirts in the category of, “it seemed like a good idea at the time…”

  3. I see that the 3CD + 1DVD set is selling for only £21 on, which is £15 less than I paid! You don’t get the booklet, documentary or tie-die case, however…

    £21!! For 3 hours of great music and a film of historic importance (and fun)!! Treat yourselves, people!!

  4. I’m currently very much enjoying Ladies And Gentlemen… on Spotify, which I found while listening to different versions of El Paso

  5. the Guardian Muisic site also have a review of this Sunshine Daydream release on their site today … but i thought, I’ll wait for Chris’s comment only to find you were two days ahead on the Spill .. and christmas coming up too

  6. Chris, the concert raised money for Kesey’s farm, did that turn out to be a happy association ?
    I can’t remember how or why, having never read any of Kesey’s stuff, I picked up his book about the farm
    It was long ago, so its very hazy, but my impression was that he didn’t come across as too jolly
    When Occupy did their tent city at St Pauls saying everyone welcome, they were swamped with the homeless looking for a bed & meal and ended up less a protest and more an alternative social services
    Obviously the farm became a magnet for drop outs dropping in. My memory of the book was that he wasn’t too keen on the social services side .. work your keep or get out
    Have I remembered correctly

    • Hi, alfie. The benefit was for the Springfield Creamery, run by Kesey’s brother Chuck, not for Ken’s farm.
      There’s a lovely documentary on the DVD (called, almost inevitably, Grateful Days) with many talking heads telling the story of these hippy types running a milk and yogurt plant in somewhat suspicious Veneta. The good townsfolk were ambivalent about the Ken Kesey connection (famous author/drug-guzzling anarchist).
      After an applejack-brewing mishap the Creamery lost its school-supply contract and was in dire straights, hence the benefit. Several of the Dead crew came from the area and they put the case to the band, along with Ken & Chuck.
      Collecting door money on the day wasn’t handled too rigorously, as you may expect, so they collected less than hoped. The Dead wrote a check to cover the shortfall.
      The Creamery is still going, run by Chuck & co, and they all seem quite happy. Ken’s relationship with the community isn’t explored in the doc but get the feeling, from other stuff I’ve read/seen, that he reverted to being a relatively conservative farmer-type.

  7. Hi Chris, saw the guardian write-up and several of your comments. good to see this post on the Spill and I will definitely take a listen as am enjoying the stuff you boxed a while ago and on the back of that bought the triple live LP.

    • Europe 72? If so, I’m sure you’ll enjoy Veneta, and get a better sense of what a complete show was like; the gradual shift of balance between straight(-ish) songs and elastic jams, up to the let’s-see-where-this-goes sequence and send-’em-home-on-a-high encore. And only a third of the songs also appear on E72.

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