Infrared Roses is famously known as the compilation album that brings together many crosssections of the Grateful Dead’s exploration of music through “Drums” and “Space”. Released in 1991, it is a track by track cut of the band’s most notable second set improvisational jams. Paired with album graphics designed by Jerry Garcia himself, Infrared Roses stands out as a peek into the inner-workings of the band’s primal performance mojo.
To commemorate a night with the theme of “Love & Roses” for Valentine’s Day 2020, an all-star band of celebrated musicians joined together to lead the crowd through “Infrared’s” space of dreams. Held at the Wisdome.LA in Los Angeles, CA, on February 14, 2020, ‘Dead in the Dome 3.0 brought Infrared Roses to life once again. Through the musicianship of Bob Bralove (Auxiliary Keyboard-Synthesizer), Tom Constanten (Keyboard), Steve Kimock (Electric & Hollow-body Guitar), George Porter Jr. (Bass & Vocals), Papa Mali (Electric Guitar & Vocals), Wally Ingram (Drums & Percussion), and Azar Lawerence (Saxophone & Clarinet), this immersive concert experience was truly eye-opening in both visuals and sound. It is of note that Bob Bralove had a significant role in assembling the original production of the Infrared Roses album, and Tom Constanten played with the Grateful Dead from 1967 to 1970.
The ﬁrst set began poetically with “They Love Each Other”, alluding to the romantic holiday. The dome structure that housed the show is a sight in-and-of-itself and paired well with the musical presentation. The projections oscillated between homages to Jerry’s original artwork, tapestry-like fractal patterns, and traditional Dead symbols of skulls and roses, encompassing the crowd in a 360° panorama of light and art. With a sax-heavy ending to “They Love Each Other”, the band barrelled high-tide into “New Speedway Boogie”, pairing with nonstop dancing from the crowd while New Orleans style graphics projected atop the dome. Papa Mali sang this tune with George Porter Jr. carrying it along via pungent, emotional bass notes and a mischievous creole feel. Leading next into “Smokestack Lightnin'” was a traditional blues style storytelling call and repeat by Porter. Initially recorded by Howlin’ Wolf and included on the live album History of the Grateful Dead, Volume 1: Bear’s Choice released in 1973, “Smokestack” allowed for a strummed, and yet, carefully picked solo by Steve Kimock on his hollow-body guitar followed by Azar Lawerence’s sax outro.
Like strolling into the abyss of space, the venue went dark with a blank visual slate projected onto the dome. Harrowing from the clouds, Kimock’s hollow-body guitar started “It Must of Been the Roses”. Papa Mali provided the vocals with a crooning and vibrato cadence. “Roses” had a soft and mellow ending. Next, the crowd heard overtones in the sounding style of orchestral tuning. Gearing up for “Eyes of the World” was a romantic and woodwind-ﬁlled presentation with George Porter singing. Kimock guided the band through the middle of “Eyes”, arriving on the other end to a saxophone solo.
Set two of Dead in the Dome was dedicated solely to the cosmic “Infrared Roses”. Airing in the realm of “Drums” and “Space”, this set was ﬁlled with improvisation, musical communication amidst the band, and overall transcendent jam-like feels. The ﬁrst movement of “Infrared” felt Egyptian, bouncing between the electric guitar and bass. Each was coaxing each other further into the inﬁnite potential of dead air. Keeping meter and ﬁtting composition, Porter’s bass kept time along with Wally Ingram on the drums. The sound was psychedelic with a deﬁnite reminder of the Dead’s “Dark Star”. The Egyptian segment of this portion was reminiscent of Jeﬀerson Airplane‘s “White Rabbit”, which made sense as Tom Constanten has recently been touring with the renamed version, Jeﬀerson Starship. The next movement of “Infrared Roses” had Kimock on a standard, yet uniquely shaped electric guitar. There are Kirtan-Indian soundings, as overlapping delay and tremolo eﬀects vibed-out Kimock’s guitar riﬀs. For this segment, Azar Lawerence played the clarinet. A slapjack echo on the guitar and a general doubled-sound of the instruments provided a thick and full jam.
Movement four was initiated via a kalimba and xylophone essence paired with a Native American shaker sound. George Porter Jr. added just about the only vocals set two sees with a birdcall and caws followed by a bass solo. Kimock was back on the hollow-body guitar while a thunder and rain sound sample looped. The band seemed as if they were leading a ceremony via long-form improvisation and culturally diverse genres. For movement ﬁve, the whole group joined back in with Porter’s bass as the cutting lead. The crowd heard bits inspired by “Smoke on the Water” and Led Zeppelin‘s “Whole Lotta Love” shining through. Synapses of the mind were ﬁring oﬀ, as shown in the repeating honeycomb-like structures projected across the dome’s ﬁrmament-type screen.
A keyboard lead intro into movement six of “Infrared Roses” began with heavy reverb from Kimock’s guitar and Lawerence’s saxophone dwelling throughout the song like a bagpipe in the distance. At this point, Ingram played percussion with mallets while Porter yelled in similarity to Pink Floyd‘s “The Great Gig in the Sky”. This led to a crescendo of the band stirring up to a jazzy and big-band movement seven with Ingram using brushes on the drums. Jerry Garcia’s original graphics of a butterﬂy ﬁnding its ﬂower danced across the screen as “Infrared Roses” proved to remain obscure and up to interpretation by each listener.
The encore began with Porter on the vocals for “Black Muddy River”, followed by a Valentine’s Day appropriate “Turn On Your Love Light”. Papa Mali joined Porter on the vocals for this song, which led the band into “Iko Iko” and its drum inspired middle section. The group communed to speak with one another, before ripping into the last song of the night. Played in a very upbeat manner, “Bertha” took centerstage, and Papa Mali heralded the closer with a solo on his electric guitar.
Dead in the Dome will return to Wisdome.LA tonight (2/15) for it’s second, and final, installment. Click here for tickets and more information.
Below, check out a gallery of images from the show courtesy of photographer Kendra Muecke.
Setlist: Dead In The Dome | Wisdome.LA | Los Angeles, CA | 2/14/20
Set One: They Love Each Other, New Speedway Boogie > Smokestack Lightnin’ > It Must Have Been the Roses, Eyes of the World
Set Two: Infrared Roses
Set Three: Black Muddy River, Turn On Your Love Light > Iko Iko, Bertha