Road Trips Vol. 2 No. 3: Wall of Sound

Jul 14, 2021
Web Exclusive

By Hays Davis

In 1974, Grateful Dead unveiled the massive “wall of sound” that had long been in the works to achieve how they could best present their live experience. Road Trips Vol. 2 No. 3: Wall of Sound is a two-CD set that offers highlights from two shows during that period, each on one disc: 6/16/74 at State Fairgrounds, Des Moines, Iowa and shortly after on 6/18/74 at Freedom Hall in Louisville, Kentucky.

The set’s booklet provides details and photos of the behemoth sound system, which came to be built as a wall behind the band due to some smaller venues on the ’74 tour being unable to otherwise accommodate the mountain of equipment. With audience members gazing up at the structure, Bob Weir noted at one show, “Yeah, and to think we once had to cancel a gig because we couldn’t find an extension cord.”

Turn up these discs and imagine standing before that sound monster. At the Des Moines show, Phil Lesh’s bass sounds are downright bulbous on their own during “U.S. Blues,” bumping out in a friendly thunder, as Keith Godchaux’s piano runs along with Jerry Garcia’s lead guitar. Garcia also tears into a particularly entrancing run as they stretch out on “Playing in the Band,” where the band jams like they had been waiting all day for that moment. As the song eventually reaches nearly a half hour, the Dead heads for space and orbits happily, seeming reluctant to reenter the atmosphere.

With a jam at the Louisville show that moves from “Weather Report Suite” through “The Other One” and beyond, this set makes a fine stop on the Dead’s Road Trips series. (

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