Jerry Garcia - guitar, vocals; Bob Weir - guitar, vocals; Phil Lesh - bass, vocals; Keith Godchaux - keyboards; Donna Godchaux - vocals; Bill Kreutzmann - drums; Mickey Hart - drums
1976 was a transitional year for the Grateful Dead. They had re-formed, after retiring from the road in October of 1974; drummer Mickey Hart had returned to the fold after a 5-year absence; and the group was just beginning the second major phase of their touring career. The new material developed for their Blues for Allah album (released the previous year), in addition to new songs recorded for Garcia and Weir's side projects, infused the band with new energy and furnished plenty of fresh material through which to explore and redefine themselves.
This Day on the Green concert was presented by Bill Graham and features both the Dead and The Who. The show provides excellent examples of the Dead at the time, as they labored to create a less complex sound (a tendency that would inevitably disappoint many older Deadheads). After years of further development, this new, more accessible style would eventually open the doors to a much larger audience.
Sunday's Dead sets are a completely different affair that Saturday's, with only two songs being repeated. This day's show leaned heavily on their more rocking material and could be considered a study in surprising song transitions and juxtapositions. They kick things off with a loose but rousing version of "Might As Well," a new song incorporated into The Dead's repertoire from Garcia's 1975 solo album, Reflections. As would become standard practice form '76 on, the first sets would usually alternate between Garcia and Weir fronted songs, and the latter continues to lead with a cover of "Mama Tried," which surprisingly segues into Garcia's "Ramble On Rose," the only time these two songs were ever paired.
Weir's tribute to their fallen friend and hero Neal Cassidy is up next with "Cassidy," followed by "Deal." For the next tune, Weir leads the band through a cover of Mart Robbins' "El Paso," a song still unreleased by the band at the time. Garcia again digs into his solo album material for "Loser," slowing things down a bit. They pick it up again with the raucous, rocking "Promised Land."
Next up is "Friend Of The Devil," a song, ont might say, that epitomized the divide between old and new fans. Here, the song is slowed down to a plodding crawl, in direct contrast to its original perky, up-tempo arrangement. "Dancing In The Street" follows, which had long been a mainstay in the band's repertoire, and was always a vehicle for infectious jamming; this reworked version, however, seemed all too infused with the pervasive sounds of disco. To make things even weirder, "Wharf Rat," one of Garcia and Hunter's most introspective songs, surfaces in the middle. (There is an obvious splice during this song due to a reel change). If they were consciously trying to be unpredictable, they certainly succeeded. Spontaneous as ever, the Dead bring an abundance of conceptual energy to the performance, and subsequently take a well-earned break to gear up for the second set.