In the Grateful Dead universe, few song pairings stick out with such adoration and favoritism amongst the band’s legion of fans more than “China Cat Sunflower” > “I Know You Rider”. The Grateful Dead performed the two-song combination over 500 times throughout their 30-year run, making it one of the more dependable mid-set segues capable of launching a show into orbit at any moment thanks to its dance-friendly tempo and lengthy jams transition jams.
It makes it that much more special to note that the “China” > “Rider” combination made its first appearance at the legendary Cafe au Go Go in New York City on September 30th, 1969—50 years ago today, and less than a month before the venue closed its doors in October of that year.
The performance of “China Cat Sunflower” into “I Know You Rider” opened up the band’s brief gig at the Greenwich Village night club. The show that night also included performances of “Alligator” and “The Other One” but is remembered fondly as the first-ever pairing of “China” > “Rider”, which boosts the performance into significant territory within the carefully cataloged history of the Dead.
The show that night was taped, but similar to many of the band’s pre-1970 performances, the audio quality isn’t very strong compared to the library of high-definition audio from the later years. Regardless, it’s still fun to listen back on how the band developed some of their earliest song pairings which would go on to become fan favorites as the band continued to grow out of their 1960s infancy and into their prime years of the 1970s.
Relisten to the Grateful Dead’s first combination of “China Cat Sunflower” and “I Know You Rider” from September, 30th, 1969 below:
Grateful Dead – Cafe Au Go Go – 9/30/1969
[Audio: Jonathan Aizen]