Jesse Jarnow

#deadfreaksunite 1979

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#deadfreaksunite 1979
tape-by-tape notes

An extended listening project tracking the Grateful Dead’s evolution, recording by recording. Originally posted on Twitter on each show’s 40th/50th anniversary and edited here for readability and occasional revision/correction and minor expansion. Many shows streamable via archive.org.

1/5/79 philadelphia: the 1st of 2 consecutive fridays at the spectrum, making up cancelled gigs from november. 14-minute SUGAREE opens the year, lazy & getting lazier until garcia kicks into gear for final solo, & unfortunately weir & his slide follow suit. blazing fast MAMA TRIED/MEXICALI BLUES with liquid garcia leads, carrying into BROWN EYED WOMEN. weir watch: GOOD LOVIN’ rap expanding for the new year with references to other pigpen standards (TURN ON YOUR LOVELIGHT & MIDNIGHT HOUR) & getting both dorkier & tighter. i’m pretty sure there’s some deadhead in the foreground of this audience tape occasionally punctuating songs with tambourine. audible during IT MUST HAVE BEEN THE ROSES & a few other quiet places. 60 minutes of ESTIMATED PROPHET > EYES OF THE WORLD > DRUMZ > SPACE > TRUCKIN’ > NOBODY’S FAULT BUT MINE > BLACK PETER. long descent into hopped up & slightly metronomic EYES that loosens a bit beneath garcia’s guitar chatter. most of DRUMZ/SPACE MIA. garcia steers TRUCKIN’ confidently into the always-rare NOBODY’S FAULT, 1st since 10/77 (& last ’til ’81), a leftover from the very early days, with a microcosmic turnaround into BLACK PETER.

1/7/79 madison square garden: the grateful dead’s madison square garden debut, the 1st of 2 shows, rescheduled from november. shredding JACK STRAW. after electric & acoustic outings in november, JACK-A-ROE makes a welcome & uptempo return to rotation. garcia’s voice is scratchy, but he delivers it confidently along with colorful & panoramic guitar breaks. 2nd set opening I NEED A MIRACLE cracks into small but real jam, shuffling & swerving, pushed by garcia & keith, before quick fade entrance into 1st MSG version of SHAKEDOWN STREET, a song built for ‘70s NYC. big cheers for “don’t tell me this town ain’t got no heart…” 59-minute ESTIMATED PROPHET > EYES OF THE WORLD > DRUMZ > SPACE > NOT FADE AWAY > BLACK PETER. a natural-seeming upshift segue into a hyperspeed EYES bearing little rhythmic relation to its original incarnation but possessing elegant garcia curls in outro. finally, mickey’s balafon spills into SPACE, a flowing flow with garcia garciaing before weir finds an unusually voiced path into NOT FADE AWAY, balafon continuing under song, which maintains its strange colors & keeps peaking. in a few places, tape preserves the clattering popping sound of fireworks with a nostalgic analog warmth, before one remembers that people are setting off fireworks inside. during last songs, tape also captures the sound of the PA trying to eat itself.

1/8/79 madison square garden: no, seriously, at almost any point during this tape, audience members are clapping along. 19-minute MISSISSIPPI HALF-STEP > FRANKLIN’S TOWER opener, with a big swell between, all filled with casually tidal garcia guitar. 21-minute SCARLET BEGONIAS > FIRE ON THE MOUNTAIN to open set 2. donna vocalizes far into transition, which isn’t great, but garcia pulls out bold high-speed threads. deep & present FIRE vocals, but garcia’s scratched voice is flickering in/out like a radio station. briefly starlit, TERRAPIN STATION glides into 40-minute PLAYING IN THE BAND > DRUMZ > SPACE > OTHER ONE > WHARF RAT.  PLAYING stays in one place but is a total ripper. crowd excitedly claps in 4, nearly blurring out extra 2 beats as mickey’s marching snare driving jam. only a wisp of SPACE before a compact & quickly churning OTHER ONE. GOOD LOVIN’ is still goofy af, but might prefer it to AROUND & AROUND as a show closer, if only for the variety & energy. but why so many oldies, weir?

1/10/79 nassau coliseum: more than 3 hours of music, almost single-handedly accounted for by semi-rare ROW JIMMY. MUSIC NEVER STOPPED burns slightly hotter than usual, middle jam turning liquid, with palpable sense of garcia surfing the outro. 51-minute DARK STAR > DRUMZ > SPACE > WHARF RAT > ST. STEPHEN, or just DARK STAR > WHARF RAT > ST. STEPHEN? DARK STAR is longer & more luminous than the new year’s bust-out, a patient flow around a pulse that never breaks open until just before the DRUMZ. most conversational balafon SPACE yet, flying bits of dialogue for a few enthralling minutes before mickey backs out & phil rumbles louder. also a reminder that weir makes better squiggly noise without using a slide. not particularly incendiary, but the last ST. STEPHEN ’til 10/83 & the last time DARK STAR & ST. STEPHEN appear in the same set.

1/11/79 nassau coliseum: weir’s clive davis-referencing JACK STRAW lyric mutates further, “used to play for acid, now we play for clive.” vocals are raw & jam overblows ending, but a ripsnorting melodramatic shoot ‘em up. not a great version of the song, but smokin’. to open the 2nd set, keith & jerry (especially) continue to push I NEED A MIRACLE into jam territory until weir pulls band back. maybe a slight instance of keith parroting garcia’s lines, but mostly just outward-looking chatter.
rare full band absurdity after weir wishes mickey & donna happy birthdays.
garcia: by the oddest coincidence, it’s also bob’s birthday!
phil: & mine too!
donna: & it’s keithy’s birthday, too!
weir: the birthday brothers band!
donna: the birthday brothers & SISTERS band.
fun 70-minute ESTIMATED PROPHET > HE’S GONE > DRUMZ > SPACE > TRUCKIN’ > THE OTHER ONE > STELLA BLUE. new spaces in long HE’S GONE, quiet floating garciaisms during intro & action-packed outro with garcia/keith dialogue & hideous weir slide guitar (with some efx?). hand-DRUMZ & garcia build to a super tight TRUCKIN’ which spirals into a graceful but inevitable slow motion fall into THE OTHER ONE. vocals aside, STELLA BLUE is a thing of a beauty, especially the whispered metallic blooms of garcia’s last solo. set-closing GOOD LOVIN’ & CASEY JONES encore both thunderously tight. enormous song-long CASEY JONES singalong audible on the soundboard, especially in the cracks between garcia’s vocals.

1/12/79 philadelphia: garcia’s voice is at seemingly maximum scratch, making this a pretty tough listen. semi-miraculously, they manage not to repeat anything from the previous weekend’s spectrum gig. 55-minute DANCING IN THE STREET > DRUMZ > NOT FADE AWAY > GOIN’ DOWN THE ROAD FEELIN’ BAD is multiple shades of choogle with no space-outs or ballads. DANCING is all high-speed jerry, culminating with 7 minutes of technicolor solo shredding over the drums.

1/14/79 utica: making up a cancelled show from 12/2/78. 1st COLD RAIN & SNOW since july opens, now with weir on slide, one more evolution for one of the oldest songs in their repertoire & not its best look. the last version with keith & donna. multiple accounts of keith nodding out at his keyboard & later fighting with donna onstage. audience tape quality makes it hard to listen closely, but neither is evident. repeated fireworks throughout, sometimes close enough to the mics to distort the signal. music picks up with spritely DIRE WOLF. still chuffed to have JACK-A-ROE back in play, both ‘cuz it’s great & ‘cuz it’s more variety for garcia. 2nd set opening I NEED A MIRACLE has short but still developing keith/jerry jam, leading to looser than usual BERTHA groove. 64-minute ESTIMATED PROPHET > EYES OF THE WORLD > DRUMZ > IKO IKO > THE OTHER ONE > BLACK PETER. audience clapalong in 4 creates wooziness in ESTIMATED jam, which breaks into cascades by end. EYES is hyperspeed caricature, occasionally impeding on garcia’s vocal phrasing. 1st IKO IKO since egypt is 13 minutes of sluggishness, after which garcia hits accelerator & goes screaming off towards a version of THE OTHER ONE exactly half that length.

1/15/79 springfield, MA: perhaps JACK-A-ROE works well ‘cuz it’s too fast for weir to attempt slide guitar? last ROW JIMMY of the godchaux era. when both garcia & weir play slide, it borders on theramin-like wooze, but locks later. clicked-in peaks during CASSIDY. “our bass player phil was last seen consorting with a couple of aliens. we are, of course, hoping everything turned out alright. anyway, if you see our bass player, won’t you please send him home…” keith/jerry I NEED A MIRACLE jams remain an unexpected treat. under 7 minutes, but garcia leads a nearly perfect segue into SHAKEDOWN STREET, complete with a pause for the doom chord, then blows the 1st lyric. 2nd half dives into pocket. garcia’s vocals are tough, but glowing improv in TERRAPIN STATION. the starlight jam crosses 2 minutes, with everybody contributing confidently & delicately. the outro, too, has surprising & dramatic full band zags. excellent 41-minute PLAYING IN THE BAND, breaking down into intimate garcia/weir/godchaux/lesh quartet jam, 1st DRUMZ segment with no kit thumping (atmospheric!), articulated balafon + band improv (weir’s slide borders on tolerable), & patient PLAYING reprise. CASEY JONES bypasses both the predictable jerry ballad & weir rocker slots & is a far better way to end a proper set than weir singing a ‘50s rocker (which he does in the encore anyway). weir watch: chuck berry gets birthday shouts before & after JOHNNY B. GOODE encore, despite it absolutely not being his birthday.

1/17/79 new haven: making up a cancelled show from november. both sets get straight to jams & 2nd is nearly all suite-ed. short SHAKEDOWN STREET opens show & 22-minute SCARLET BEGONIAS > FIRE ON THE MOUNTAIN begins 2nd half with especially potent weir/keith conversation during transition. 72-minute ESTIMATED PROPHET > EYES OF THE WORLD > DRUMZ > JAM > NOT FADE AWAY > BLACK PETER. more burbling weir/keith rhythms push subtly at ESTIMATED, bursting into another speedy caricature of EYES, garcia’s guitar sounding like infinitely skipping pebbles. post-DRUMZ starts unpromisingly with weir on slide, but stays fascinating & builds slowly. while mickey keeps drumzing, kreutzmann gets behind kit & jam gets delicious, early ‘70s quintet style, for a few minutes. an early ’79 highlight. weir watch: NOT FADE AWAY pleasantly fades instead of becoming a screamfest. forced segue from BLACK PETER into AROUND & AROUND falls/splats twice. on the other hand, admirably smooth move from AROUND & AROUND into set closing GOOD LOVIN’.

1/18/79 providence: excellent donna & weir blend on LOOKS LIKE RAIN, neither overpowering. RAMBLE ON ROSE, a song whose simple rhythm keeps it sweetly close to its original arrangement, is detailed & fun. garcia’s voice sounding as together as it has since summer. except for acoustic gigs, benefits, & miscellaneous one-offs, the last grateful dead show without a DRUMZ segment. old fashioned 44-minute HE’S GONE > TRUCKIN’ > THE OTHER ONE > WHARF RAT. OTHER ONE breaks open into mild churns & chaos.

1/20/79 buffalo: 1st (& increasingly rare) theater show of the year. donna has departed the tour. starting an hour late, apparently, a bit of a rough evening in erie county, at least until the jam suite. garcia often forgets that he’s the only backing singer, missing cues, energy, & small chunks of his vocal range. but then a 50-minute ESTIMATED PROPHET > OTHER ONE > DRUMZ > JAM > OTHER ONE > DARK STAR > NOT FADE AWAY with 2 “like whoa!” peaks. weir’s guitar sounds uncharacteristically warm, especially as ESTIMATED settles in. metallic billy/jerry wilding right before DRUMZ. 1st peak is 2.5 minute post-DRUMZ jam. mickey drops onto balafon, billy heads directly/confidently for the kit. brief quintet dead jam swells up, the balafon like a pinball. semi-graceful OTHER ONE wind-down, serving the same function as the long-forgotten written ending. 2nd peak is the 9-minute DARK STAR, the last ’til 12/81 & the final version with keith godchaux’s moody conversational keys. post-verse jam folds into rich density until weir utterly ripcords a moment of beautiful strangeness with NOT FADE AWAY. c’mon, man! but NOT FADE AWAY is also brief & unusual, barely 5 minutes, garcia latching onto a playful calypso-like melody during intro that informs the rhythmic feel of the solos/jams. great until the sickly slide guitar enters.

1/21/79 detroit: another rare theater show. part of it is the tiny, tinny audience tape, but band is at far from full sparkle. sleepy but rippling FRIEND OF THE DEVIL. without donna to abet, weir stays chill during the DEAL ending & it’s quite appreciated. no starlight jam in TERRAPIN STATION. 46-minute PLAYING IN THE BAND > DRUMZ > SPACE > TRUCKIN’ > STELLA BLUE. hard to make out details, but PLAYING melts forcefully &, in the last few minutes, breaks into cool rhythmic pixelations. rare night where SPACE is longer than DRUMZ, though each is barely 6 minutes. balafon/garcia jams mostly buried in tape fuzz. after this show, the band gets 3 weeks off, before improbably picking up the tour a few hours down the road in indianapolis.

2/3/79 indianapolis: opening what will be the dead’s final tour leg with keith & donna jean godchaux. 1st CHINA CAT SUNFLOWER > I KNOW YOU RIDER since 12/77, only 2nd since 10/74, back in rotation for good. not as vista-filled as early ‘70s, but in bright, triumphant shape even with a new weir slide part. satisfying rainbow peaks in MUSIC NEVER STOPPED. highlight is 22-minute SCARLET BEGONIAS > FIRE ON THE MOUNTAIN. song portion of SCARLET isn’t much, but fierce guitar break leads to unrelenting & nearly butterfly speed transition jam. 54-minute ESTIMATED PROPHET > EYES OF THE WORLD > DRUMZ > SPACE > THE OTHER ONE > WHARF RAT. a ruminative ESTIMATED flows, accelerates, & blooms with speedy drama into speedier EYES. SPACE is aimless autopilot, destination never in doubt. I NEED A MIRACLE jumps into a new late set spot, making it a very rare (& welcome) 2nd set/encore without any oldies.

2/4/79 madison: “st. paul, minnesota” gets semi-local cheer during BIG RIVER. especially leisurely turns on FRIEND OF THE DEVIL & TENNESSEE JED. blazing LAZY LIGHTNING > SUPPLICATION, perfect for garcia’s almost-the-‘80s shredding. exceptionally beautiful vocal performance by donna jean on FROM THE HEART OF ME, band sounds great, too, on an unfortunately chatty audience tape. nice fade, clean ending. 84-second starlight jam midway through TERRAPIN STATION.
overheard on the audience tape:
deadhead #1: DO ST. STEPHEN!
deadhead #2, clearly some distance away: OKAY!
52-minute PLAYING IN THE BAND > DRUMZ > SPACE > IKO IKO > BLACK PETER. hard to hear everyone during bopping & static-seeming PLAYING jam, widening at end. chattering garcia cut through. occasional keyboard sparkles & spacious jazzy comping suggest action under surface. balafon SPACE is mostly idle crosstalk before last IKO IKO of keith & donna era, disappearing ’til 8/80. audience tape ambience enhances the swampiness. donna’s voice sounds great.

2/6/79 tulsa: the final grateful dead show for which no tape has (yet) surfaced. the next-most-recent missing gigs are from ’71. setlist only.

2/7/79 carbondale: show starts on up note, cutting in midway through the 1st DON’T EASE ME IN since 8/74, another warlocks song returned to the songlist for good, sounding almost identical to when they last played it. according to roadie steve parish’s memoir “home before daylight,” this was the night garcia gobbled a lot of valium before the show. bad scene. garcia actually sounds fine ’til STAGGER LEE, ~35 minutes in, before the obvious wobbles start. then, yuck. all that survives of 2nd set is 18 minutes of the last keith/donna DANCING IN THE STREET > DRUMZ. garcia sounds slightly better, but maybe for the best that the rest is missing.

2/9/79 kansas city, ks: as band comes on for 2nd set, crowd starts clapping NOT FADE AWAY rhythm & band starts playing it. the 1st time that happened & definitely not the last. NFA’s only time as a set opener between ’70 & ’88. 53-minute HE’S GONE > DRUMZ > SPACE > TRUCKIN’ > COMES A TIME. long HE’S GONE jam starts awkwardly, but finds cool shapes as weir stays off slide & drummers make graceful switch to hand percussion. improv goes in/out of focus ’til it’s 5 minutes of just garcia & drummers. elegant chill/thump/chill DRUMZ before garcia picks up shredding. 1st COMES A TIME since 5/78, last with keith, disappearing again ’til 5/80. as in ’78, no donna. garcia doesn’t hit all the big notes, but it’s all beautifully damaged & spiraling.

2/10/79 kansas city, ks: weir watch: though it’s sorta mumbled, i believe @clivedavis has now been excised from the JACK STRAW lyrics. 2-hour 2nd set starts with the last SCARLET BEGONIAS > FIRE ON THE MOUNTAIN with keith & donna. 24 minutes & way sedate, even on the crisp audience version. jerry’s voice not helping. the transition jam goes deep, but FIRE is equally mellow. starting to cut to the wire: maybe the best FROM THE HEART OF ME yet in terms of donna vocal, band performance, & crispy recording quality. 63-minute ESTIMATED PROPHET > EYES OF THE WORLD > DRUMZ > SPACE > THE OTHER ONE > WHARF RAT. by now, EYES is more or less a different arrangement & everyone agrees on speedy tempo. a fairly tight specimen, with old-fashioned darting bass. DRUMZ starts/stays on hand percussion. full stop before long SPACE, starting drummerless, like “modern” segments. partially due to clean soundboard, it’s especially rumbling/dislocating. double encore is sweet, but they’ve really gotta both be weir songs?

2/11/79 st. louis: the end of 2 solid months of “shakedown street” touring in st. louis, keith & donna’s last road gig. 1st MIGHT AS WELL since 5/77, fit for garcia’s newer limited range, & still a good forum for keith’s boogie. 1st set is under an hour, despite weir’s two mini jams, LAZY LIGHTNING > SUPPLICATION & a wide, soaring MUSIC NEVER STOPPED. garcia is ready to chatter on 2nd set opening SAMSON & DELILAH. keith’s last CHINA CAT SUNFLOWER > I KNOW YOU RIDER is excellent. garcia finds nice floating melodies during the transition, somehow almost beatlesy. 47-minute PLAYING IN THE BAND > DRUMZ > NOT FADE AWAY > STELLA BLUE. the action is all in the PLAYING, which spiders & turns in place, breaking into freakiness for a few minutes at end. keith’s last STELLA BLUE, hanging in the song’s sad space, low in the mix as always. I NEED A MIRACLE gets a little happening, the last of the keith/jerry jams there, weir’s slide adding color, before an admirably slick turn into GOOD LOVIN’.

2/17/79 oakland coliseum arena: the show was a benefit for environmental cancer research, promoted by bill graham, with speechifying by jane fonda & tom hayden, as well as a pre-show screening of “fun with dick & jane” (starring fonda). beginning of the post-winterland era & bust-out city! 7 songs not in rotation when the band last played california over new year’s, more than half of those getting their 1st airing in a year or more. show opens with 1st GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD since 10/74 & it rips. garcia’s solo is a multi-stage flare. 1st HIGH TIME since 5/77 is reassuringly crisp & even jaunty, with confident harmonies, garcia navigating well. short potent LAZY LIGHTNING/SUPPLICATION. a fond farewell to donna jean’s FROM THE HEART OF ME, a song i’ve genuinely started to dig, specifically its delicate bounce & the way the melody lands on “safe & warm…,” & garcia’s squigglies of course. not the definitive version. 1st BIG RAILROAD BLUES since 10/74, folk stomping like 1970 again. busy & fun, with mickey’s locomotive snare drumming & phil’s bass leshing. fantastic TERRAPIN STATION with soaring starlight break & widening outro but garcia’s voice weakens by the end. 53-minute PLAYING IN THE BAND > DRUMZ > THE WHEEL > SHAKEDOWN STREET > PLAYING IN THE BAND. right-on free keyboard sparkles as PLAYING melts. stuttered entrance to the 1st WHEEL since 2/78 (& last ’til 8/80). now as ever, too short. half-graceful pause before SHAKEDOWN, which has some tempo issues at first. garcia rockets off when they hit the jam & all adjust around him, eventually melting, going bright, & reforming into PLAYING. weir & donna get one last SUNSHINE DAYDREAM together, but they really wail out & shriek & hoot & go screamo on the ONE MORE SATURDAY NIGHT encore. peace out godchauxs.

4/16/79 club front: nearly 3 hours of practice with new keyboardist brent mydland, running through core songs, but with a solid hour of jams that go way deeper than what the dead did onstage that spring. tape drops in mid-jam, band in a surprising, darting “blues for allah” mode, garcia & lesh bombing around & making high speed turns while brent finds space. drummers lose thread, but don’t give up & jam keeps moving before landing in NOT FADE AWAY. impressive deep space detonations. “war is hell,” notes weir. good callback by garcia a little bit later: “i lost my slide in the war.” weir suggests the jams are scaring his dog. brent works on synth drones underneath DRUMZ. nothing rom the tour was this noisy.
bit on-the-nose:
hart: we started that jam the other day… we went into THE OTHER ONE.
lesh: you did, i didn’t. (to brent:) it’s nice, sometimes we have half the band playing one tune & half the band playing another tune. it depends which drummer you’re listening to.
field recordings of weir & the drummers waging battle over the tempos of PASSENGER & I NEED A MIRACLE. weir trying to get the drummers to play faster & the drummers fucking with him. weir’s not havin’ it. pleasant 10 minutes of the band jamming on the SCARLET BEGONIAS > FIRE ON THE MOUNTAIN transition, with thrills as they veer off-course, before cursory but solid 20-minute version of the two songs, along with garcia sweetly going over the lyrics with brent. an oddity: GLORIA > LINDA LU, both led by weir. part of the warlocks’ early repertoire, GLORIA would turn up onstage in the fall. no hint that weir’s heard patti smith’s version. LINDA LU is by ray sharpe, from 1959, & the dead’s version is fun but generic bar blues. gorgeous 4-minute garcia/mydland/kreutzmann jam, brent taking moody rhodes leads, picked up by garcia. kretuzmann still sounding dope af as single drummer. working on a groove, brent adds busy keys, & turns into ranging 17-minute (mostly) trio jam.

4/22/79 san jose: the grateful dead’s 1st show with keyboardist brent mydland. bill graham-presented stadium bill with charlie daniels & greg kihn. on opening JACK STRAW, mydland switches between twinkly electric keys & hammond organ as rhythm section gets even more oversized. drum roll madness & cartoonishly emphasized beats & bass bombs. some rain during LOOKS LIKE RAIN. subtly new feel for SUGAREE with organ, but jam peaks are subverted by weir’s abrasive slide guitar, which maybe hasn’t gotten much off-stage practice. NEW MINGLEWOOD BLUES also extra-big, also with ugly slide. brent’s organ fits the power dead style more than keith’s keys. brent’s voice really makes its entrance on PASSENGER, stepping into donna’s part, duetting with weir. they sound pretty solid together. perhaps emboldened by the new percussion array, drums reaching tipping point of being over the top more often than not. set break swag watch: mickey hart can be seen sporting a promotional shirt for the band’s cancelled shows at madison square garden the previous year. (i saw one of these in dan healy’s stash, too.) 23-minute SCARLET BEGONIAS > FIRE ON THE MOUNTAIN, brent leading into jam with cool pitch-bending prophet-5 synth solo (thought it was guitar at first) while garcia lays back. mickey dabbles on extra percussion during transition, including seed shells. 63-minute ESTIMATED PROPHET > HE’S GONE > DRUMZ > OTHER ONE > WHARF RAT. nifty jam pockets on ESTIMATED & HE’S GONE when weir colors & flutters. such a great jammer when he doesn’t play slide. he & mydland seem to occupy closer tonal/rhythmic space than weir & keith did. DRUMZ is the debut of the beast, new circular array with roto-toms, hand percussion, etc.. according to some sources, this show was also the 1st appearance of the beam, but i hear no evidence. hart & kreutzmann (& maybe others) seemingly play everything else, though. enticing ARP synth blurps as OTHER ONE coalesces. tom-toms accelerate to ludicrous speed as garcia solos. speedy & semi-spaced 2-minute meltdown, brent on organ, bridges to WHARF RAT. double encore of SHAKEDOWN STREET, electric keys sparkling just right.

5/3/79 charlotte: opening a 9-show spring tour, brent mydland’s 1st road outing. phil joke: “what’s the difference between disco dancing & pea green paint? you can teach someone to disco dance.” audience tape captures array of “disco sucks” resopnses from crowd. the outro of ROW JIMMY switches to a double-time shuffle, like it’s ready to burst into FRANKLIN’S TOWER. doesn’t feel quite appropriate, but some of brent’s coolest keys of the night. gonna be a while before i’m used to having a hyper-masculine voice in the harmony mix. 59-minute PLAYING IN THE BAND > DRUMZ > SPACE > BLACK PETER > NOT FADE AWAY > PLAYING IN THE BAND. major change in PLAYING jam: starting with this version, the jam floats on the 10/4 intro groove instead of slashing into chaos, another step towards less far-out jams. weir watch: echoing delays & piercing lead figures, latter get big woos. garcia/band lock in cool spaces around both. brent lays back on B3, upping noise as jam dissolves. DRUMZ go from big to little. teasing ARP blurts as SPACE starts, but brent switches to keys/B3. dissolve back to PLAYING almost opens into starlight via garcia/mydland/weir conversation, plus perfectly obstinate lead bass counterpoint.

5/4/79 hampton: brent’s singing gets cheers on MISSISSIPPI HALF-STEP opener, but too amped for my taste, overpowering garcia. the keys open up the jam’s feel, closer to real segue into FRANKLIN’S TOWER. subdued jam, but brent’s comping finds new rhythmic corners. though there are a few exceptions, this is the 1st tour where both weir & garcia aren’t repeating songs on consecutive nights. garcia had been mostly doing this already but there aren’t really that many new (or revived) weir songs in rotation, so maybe it’s intentional? subtly new feels for lots of songs, even MEXICALI BLUES, less manic & overtly polka-like with brent on B3. even sprouts a mini-jam. maybe it’s that ol’ analog warmth of the vinyl transfer, but weir’s slide is almost enjoyable on DON’T EASE ME IN & other spots. 68-minute ESTIMATED PROPHET > EYES OF THE WORLD > DRUMZ > SPACE > TRUCKIN’ > STELLA BLUE > AROUND & AROUND. EYES no longer floats but is tethered by hi-hat, also giving everybody a pulse to bomb around, brent’s electric keys sounding warm & rhodes-like. the arrival of the beast drum array is perhaps unsurprisingly making DRUMZ a bit more bombastic. oh well. happiest surprise so far is the arrival of ARP SPACE, with 2 minutes of bleep grids. in virginia, “new york” gets a cheer in TRUCKIN’. phil has stopped singing on TRUCKIN’ with the arrival of brent. even with extraneous tom toms, STELLA BLUE is surprisingly restrained. solid acceleration/crossfade into AROUND & AROUND, a real segue.

5/5/79 baltimore: healthy 14-minute SUGAREE, weir’s slide a bit cushioned by brent’s new B3 part. an up note is that garcia’s voice is sounding better. a down note is that the amped mydland sometimes overpowers the softer garcia during group vocals. juiced up 11-minute DANCING IN THE STREETS set closer. i dig the percussive new electric keys. philly, baltimore, & DC shout-outs get predictably huge cheers but (as with TRUCKIN’ the night before) so does new york city. nyc dead freaks represent! 24-minute SCARLET BEGONIAS > FIRE ON THE MOUNTAIN has subtly new flavor. extra-busy drums during transition jam, the usual cowbell plus chattering snares/cymbals. brent’s B3 adds percussive color & sustain to garcia & weir’s weave. weir at his best. 51-minute HE’S GONE > DRUMZ > SPACE > THE OTHER ONE > WHARF RAT. finally, the 1st real jammin’ of the mydland era. HE’S GONE slips into prettiness as drums disappear, fading back with hand percussion. SPACE builds patiently/inevitably to THE OTHER ONE, nice float en route. weir watch: 1st tour where weir’s really started to affect his voice with precocious cowboy vocal fry/scratchiness/growls, adding “y’all” to OTHER ONE & elsewhere. SUNSHINE DAYDREAM is now a solo weir scream fest. duck!

5/7/79 easton: lightweight 1st set, but 2nd set gets going with 11-minute SHAKEDOWN STREET opener, engaging busy chatter from mydland’s electric keys, finding his own spot in the bounce. too short. extra-present bass this tour. maybe part volume, part player. 72-minute ESTIMATED PROPHET > EYES OF THE WORLD > DRUMZ > SPACE > NOT FADE AWAY > BLACK PETER. the swirling synth era arrives with the chorus of ESTIMATED. wild free jazz garciaisms just before threading into maybe the fastest/busiest EYES yet. thrilling, dense outro. DRUMZ is less interesting this tour so far due to the beast percussion array. more thunder, less textural weirdness. very much digging brent’s willingness to cycle through SPACE tones, though not feeling a lot of coherence to it yet. john cipollina makes himself known during NOT FADE AWAY, punching hole into cosmos with a silvery guitar burst. radical, rattling, & sometimes obnoxious basslines. cipollina shifts band into fantastic pocket, garcia tracing moody changes, just before fold into BLACK PETER. unusual & sometimes nice to have another lead guitarist in garcia’s ballad space, & cipollina outlines the chords in his own way, though weir is back on his slide guitar bullshit. with cipollina at full shred & playing little counterpoints, i’m into this version of AROUND & AROUND even before the double-time rave-up. brent’s big B3 swells get cheers.

5/8/79 state college: can hear practically hear the building bumping on opening PROMISED LAND. 26-minute SCARLET BEGONIAS > FIRE ON THE MOUNTAIN with enormous energy, dynamics a bit inaudible in places owing to hyperactive clap-alongs. scenic jam plateau with brent on B3. 55-minute PLAYING IN THE BAND > DRUMZ > SPACE > THE OTHER ONE > CHINA DOLL > PLAYING IN THE BAND. small but major change for brent’s 1st version of PLAYING (good ear @21stCenturyDead), jam floating on the song’s 10/4 intro groove, instead of dropping into the hard-slashing 7/4 time of versions through the godchaux era. though there will still be major versions, this is when/why/how it stopped going as far out. PLAYING jam is mostly garcialogue, opening up slightly during last segment, when mydland switches to electric keys. DRUMZ gets quiet, but lost in the crowd/clapping. ambient whooshes in SPACE, brent sketching shapes, before jam defaults to OTHER ONE. quick verses & nifty exit jam in progress when garcia speeds away. as band catches up (& hart, i suspect, quits with the repetitive hi-hat) improv opens into high-diving wonderment.OTHER ONE folds into 1st CHINA DOLL since 5/77. garcia’s voice has definitely been mending & this revival seems like he knows it. some delicacy is lost on the audience tape, but drumzers remain chill & song gets across, as does garcia’s beautiful, arcing solo. 10-minute SHAKEDOWN STREET is (as always) satisfying in the encore slot, one final boogie & just long enough to get a little zoned.

5/9/79 binghamton: 16-minute SUGAREE opener, fluttering upwards despite weir’s slide, brent’s B3 working wonders. lots of “take a step back” variations as slightly pissed lesh does crowd control. “you’ll be able to hear us. we’ll make it loud for ya, don’t worry.” weir announces phil is sporting a pigpen shirt. i wonder if it’s an original ‘60s model or newer edition? brent mydland’s 1st CHINA CAT SUNFLOWER > I KNOW YOU RIDER, mostly on electric keys, the transition subtly entering its own power jam phase, slightly more driving. 38-minute HE’S GONE > TRUCKIN’ > DRUMZ, followed by full stop & vague tuning before WHARF RAT. some disjointedness, but a few really great jam moments. HE’S GONE has minimalist, entwined garcia & weir leads during outro. lines in TRUCKIN’, ranked by loudness of cheer, 5/9/79: 1.) “new york,” 2.) “cocaine,” 3.) “buffalo,” 4.) “what a long, strange trip it’s been.” big peak early in jam also rightfully gets big woos. thrill-out exit jam is even better, overtaken by DRUMZ too soon. WHARF RAT has 2 really astonishing garcia-driven peaks, neither solos nor jams exactly, & a perfectly smooth segue into AROUND & AROUND that weir redirects into SUGAR MAGNOLIA.

5/11/79 billerica: i dig the space mydland is carving for himself in FRANKLIN’S TOWER with the electric keys, giving some internal movement to a jam that can often turn static/monochromatic despite its gallop. 59-minute ESTIMATED PROPHET > EYES OF THE WORLD > DRUMZ > SPACE > BLACK PETER. EYES is typical hyperfast specimen. busy drums subdivide it from big soaring flow into lots of unceasing miniature dialogues. short brent/drummers epilogue is 1st of many, kinda vanilla here. ultra stark SPACE, filled with quiet tones & fuzzy ambience. long BLACK PETER works well. garcia’s in excellent voice, weir’s slide guitar is mostly subsumed by the audience tape & even sounds tasteful, sad & sweet garcia tone on the solo, drummers stay calm. I NEED A MIRACLE/BERTHA/GOOD LOVIN’ combo jumps to set’s end for 1st time. garcia seems to dig into BERTHA solo slightly differently when not an opener. road manager (rock?) begs off encore ‘cuz brent is apparently sick, “so we can play tomorrow in style.”

5/12/79 amherst: a heady spring fling triple-bill at @UMassAmherst, with roy ayers’ ubiquity & the patti smith group, the biggest show of ’79.  a very mellow spring fling for the dead, though the far-off tape is probably accentuating that. slow songs abound. i’ve come around to the sleepy late ‘70s FRIEND OF THE DEVIL over the years, but it’s a bit of a buzzkill early in the 2nd set. the little starlight jam in TERRAPIN STATION has temporarily lost its sparkle, brent still figuring out the chords & kinda blowing through some changes. drummers seem eager to get drummering. 52-minute PLAYING IN THE BAND > DRUMZ > SPACE > NOT FADE AWAY > STELLA BLUE. during PLAYING, woman in the crowd screams (unintentionally?) almost right where a donna scream could go. exciting jam moments as mydland’s electric keys come to front, handing off with garcia. though a bad recording, early SPACE achieves a beautiful dissonant coherence. perhaps a whispering ghost of the MIND LEFT BODY jam as NOT FADE AWAY transitions to STELLA BLUE. serious missed opportunity not to have patti smith out for one of the oldies, at least. SHAKEDOWN STREET encore is so laidback it’s almost, like, ambient funk. not really embarrassed to admit that i only just noticed that ONE MORE SATURDAY NIGHT has been played exclusively on saturdays since 10/77.

5/13/79 portland, ME: tonight’s new song for brent is JACK-A-ROE, taking a lightly funky turn with bouncing electric keys & weir’s light rhythm. JACK STRAW is notably slower than other recent versions. assured 22-minute SCARLET BEGONIAS > FIRE ON THE MOUNTAIN opens 2nd set. subtle percussive keys at start of beautiful transition jam with lush, fresh feels before the segue via B3 colors & quick-dotting garcia figures. 57-minute ESTIMATED PROPHET > HE’S GONE > TRUCKIN’ > DRUMZ > SPACE > WHARF RAT. patient HE’S GONE stays compellingly lyrical through intro/middle/outro solos. action-packed 18-minute TRUCKIN’. brief NOBODY’S FAULT BUT MINE quotations. drummers split for 5 minutes of nearly solo garcia space & return for abstract weird-out. heavily cut DRUMZ sounds interesting, oh well. SPACE continues in lovely very jerry mode.

6/28/79 sacramento: a theater warm-up before a pair of big weekend shows in the northwest. tempos seem more languid, some arrangements more fluid. wasn’t even sure what NEW MINGLEWOOD BLUES was at first. brent gets another initiation into the dead when weir has the crowd wish him happy birthday on a day other than his birthday. STAGGER LEE stretches, weir’s slide almost erased by the tape. brent’s new song for the evening is MUSIC NEVER STOPPED, his new sparkly keyboards also erased in the murk. 22-minute SCARLET BEGONIAS > FIRE ON THE MOUNTAIN, brent jumping into the transition jam with joystick-bending tweedles & moans, while garcia gleefully skates, reprising the squigglies at the end of FIRE. prophet-5 or something else, @otdispace? 49-minute PLAYING IN THE BAND > EYES OF THE WORLD > DRUMZ > NOT FADE AWAY > BLACK PETER. harshly, the soundboard is missing the unique & smooth transition into a full-gallop late ‘70s EYES, which thins out & lands gracefully, too, brent doubling a garcia pattern. DRUMZ goes from big to little, beastly thuds dissolving to handdrums & a long obvious ascent into NOT FADE AWAY. creative acts of levitation by weir help shape the last peaks of the jam.

6/30/79 portland, OR: at the portland international raceway, with a reunion set by ex-byrds roger mcguinn, gene clark, & chris hillman, plus the david bromberg band. short 1st set hampered by technical problems. before the 2nd, weir dedicates proceedings “to the memory of lowell george, he was good while he lasted.” the little feat founder & “shakedown street” producer had died the day before. FRIEND OF THE DEVIL is sleepy as always, but clicks into some kind of slightly more uptempo magic for, like, 30 seconds near the end. “no nukes!” someone shouts between songs. 56-minute ESTIMATED PROPHET > HE’S GONE > DRUMZ > SPACE > THE OTHER ONE > WHARF RAT. best part of sequence is garcia spiraling HE’S GONE upwards into a coda that recalls the then-departed CRAZY FINGERS. almost no SPACE before THE OTHER ONE rises. like the set as a whole, it’s kinda paint-by-numbers. but it also still peaks impressively.

7/1/79 seattle: the last dead appearance by wolf, jerry garcia’s custom guitar, for nearly a decade. 19-minute MISSISSIPPI HALF-STEP > FRANKLIN’S TOWER opener, a decent segue for once. weir’s rhythm guitar is abnormally high in the mix & it’s a cool perspective on his playing, at least ’til he whips out the slide later in the set. 53-minute PLAYING IN THE BAND > DRUMZ > SPACE > STELLA BLUE > TRUCKIN’ > AROUND & AROUND. wild PLAYING stays interesting, even as DRUMZ encroach, garcia & kreutzmann digging in, brent jumping into conversation on B3. good specimen of early beast-era DRUMZ, big & powerful before move to hand percussion. finally, a somewhat developed SPACE. mickey leading with sandpaper scratches, before rhodes sparkles, garcia flows, ARP whooshes, & a sweet mutant descent into STELLA BLUE. miraculously smooth segues in & out of TRUCKIN’. still a shock to hear a B3, like howard wales on the album. the slowly coalescing jam into AROUND & AROUND is the textbook opposite of a ripcord transition. wow bob wow!

8/4/79 oakland auditorium arena: jerry garcia’s 1st full dead show playing his new custom irwin guitar, tiger, his main instrument for the next decade. band also debuts a new sound system with @MeyerSound, featuring (at least at these shows) the wall of sound vocal array. weir begins show by having the crowd wish a belated happy birthday to garcia, a rare instance of truthful birthday-wishing on weir’s part. subtle musical changes. NEW MINGLEWOOD BLUES slows down a few clicks, sounding close to the yet-unwritten WEST LA FADEAWAY. many songs sound thinner with mydland’s sparkle-heavy rhodes. garcia & weir debut 1st songs of the year. garcia/hunter’s ALTHEA is sly & wise, feels like new lyrical turf. alternate lyric: “honest to the point of innocence.” minus the drums & singing, weir/barlow’s LOST SAILOR almost sounds like a DARK STAR jam. i enjoy it some days. 58-minute SHAKEDOWN STREET > PLAYING IN THE BAND > DRUMZ > SPACE > STELLA BLUE. SHAKEDOWN slashes from funk into a jam with a smooth no-count-off segue into PLAYING. garcia plays in shorthand for the song but makes up for it in the jam. brent’s 1st huge PLAYING. jam is taut & weird, moving through pockets at convincing speed. garcia disappears for a bit & it’s almost easy to miss, returning for more quick guitar dots & freak sesh with drummers. mydland’s chiming keys fits in way better here. smooth DRUMZ deceleration to hand percussion features the return of what i think is a balafon, a nice sparse half-melody that gives shape & motion to blustery roto-tomming. STELLA BLUE is a fucking mess, not finding its pulse until garcia’s outro solo.

8/5/79 oakland auditorium arena: 20-minute MISSISSIPPI HALF-STEP > FRANKLIN’S TOWER opener is way less sleepy on the audience tape. why is brent’s rhodes so chime-y, though? aren’t rhodes usually full & warm? probably a good tempo to pace for a night of twirling. weir & garcia’s new songs get paired again. the rhodes sounds great quietly conversing with garcia’s soloing, but not enough sustain for songs. ALTHEA already settled into late 1st set slot, almost written for it. 23-minute SCARLET BEGONIAS > FIRE ON THE MOUNTAIN makes more sense on the audience tape, with bass & rhythm guitar, but still not a burner. big elevation when garcia goes surfing on smooth fuzz right after the transition. 66-minute ESTIMATED PROPHET > EYES OF THE WORLD > DRUMZ > HAMZA-EL DIN TUNE > SPACE > NOT FADE AWAY > WHARF RAT. garcia’s guitar butterflies crash upwards into a lightning EYES, more chaos splatter than grace. big bass non-solo at the end. nice non-bombastic middle zone in DRUMZ of chaotic bells & quick-moving percussion, prelude to an appearance by hamza el-din, who (over mickey & billy’s tars) sings a song that is neither OLLIN ARAGEED nor the others he sang with the dead in ’78. short deep SPACE. someone in crowd shouts for DARK STAR, which earns cheers. a pair of fuzz-tone power solos on WHARF RAT earn more. after a rare 2-song encore, band called back for rarer double encore.

8/12/79 red rocks: didn’t click ’til just now but, on the other 8/79 shows & tonight, but (besides ALTHEA) weir has all but ditched playing slide guitar! garcia’s LOOKS LIKE RAIN solos have been getting gradually fuzzier/bigger, but drummers really latch on here & break through. wonderful & brisk BROWN-EYED WOMEN with crisp lyrical solo. main items of deadhead lore: someone fell off a cliffside & died while trying to sneak in; on & off drizzles all night & distant lightning over denver account for various audible cheers on tapes; lots of red dragon LSD going around. also, of course, ken kesey & bill walton sightings. phil jackson, too. 69-minute ESTIMATED PROPHET > EYES OF THE WORLD > DRUMZ > SPACE > NOT FADE AWAY > BLACK PETER. busy dyno-rhodes solo by brent in ESTIMATED, like chattering vibraphone, later conversing with garcia. used on “so many roads.” stunning segue into speedy late ‘70s EYES. for 2nd show in a row, garcia sings EYES’ opening line as “sleepy summer home.” jam bursts open, led by butterfly garcialogues, band focuses, blurs, & melts into the far out as mydland dials in moog pans & bleeps, drummers go free & band stays noisy. i think this is the 1st show where sound engineer dan healy audibly tweaks DRUMZ with reverb. sounds rad & psychedelic as they shift to the big toms & more amazing during long bells segment (with ken kesey, according to one account), which leaks into SPACE. (cc @otdispace) snaking, unusual, & patient build to NOT FADE AWAY, continuing to develop ideas even as it normalizes. oh wait, false alarm about weir abandoning slide. it’s here soiling BLACK PETER.

8/13/79 denver: rained out at red rocks, the dead move to mcnichols arena in semi-nearby denver. 11-minute opening SHAKEDOWN STREET has some rockin’ bass fuzz. jam doesn’t go far, but then garcia locks into conclusive-sounding theme & it feels like it has. the garcia segments of the 1st set are pretty sweet. the dyno-rhodes twinkles on the slow FRIEND OF THE DEVIL are nice. CANDYMAN seems to have escaped late ‘70s cartoonificaiton. LOST SAILOR getting bigger, but weir’s starting to go screamo on the “driftin’ & dreamin’” ending, which is a bit harsh. I NEED A MIRACLE twists into a not-quite-jam & does a not-quite-segue into BERTHA. 59-minute HE’S GONE > THE OTHER ONE > DRUMZ > WHARF RAT > TRUCKIN’. a slow, gradual transition into THE OTHER ONE, but not much happening on the jam front tonight, at least with the full band. having dan healy add processing to the DRUMZ opens up whole new vistas. even when there aren’t effects, great stereo feel to the recording. no SPACE, but gentle swirl of bells & dyna-rhodes act as prelude to WHARF RAT. TRUCKIN’ opens up into a short & quiet NOBODY’S FAULT BUT MINE blues noodle, which would make a graceful landing/coda, but they jam for a few more minutes anyway.

8/14/79 denver: debut of brent mydland’s 1st grateful dead song, EASY TO LOVE YOU, co-written with john perry barlow. crowd cheers when he starts singing. but, yikes, a hearty no thanks. been years since i heard this song & still not really into any aspect of it. 66-minute TERRAPIN STATION > PLAYING IN THE BAND > DRUMZ > SPACE > NOT FADE AWAY > STELLA BLUE. garcia keeps at the starlight jam in TERRAPIN but mydland’s not there yet. garcia’s outro variations get closer to breaking free, flowing into a great no-count segue. PLAYING jam slashes & dances & slashes again, busy miniature conversations. healy adds dubby DRUMZ echo just before transition to hand percussion. mickey (i assume) stays active in SPACE, bells meshing with brent’s dyna-rhodes. gorgeous STELLA BLUE outro.

8/31/79 glens falls: 3 more new songs for mydland. DIRE WOLF & CASSIDY in 1st set, GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD in 2nd. sparkling dyna-rhodes opens up CASSIDY jam a bit. only 2nd GREATEST STORY since ’74, losing some of the manic urgency & detailing of the old PUMP SONG groove. 1st SAINT OF CIRCUMSTANCE, by weir & john perry barlow, following LOST SAILOR as it will for most the next 7 years. the band’s final intentionally constructed mini-suite. not totally finished, with alternate lyrics. 13-minute SHAKEDOWN STREET gets plunky as jam moves towards peak. garcia & mydland tease out an insistent groove the band doesn’t fully exploit, sometimes hard to tell what’s guitar & what’s keyboards. 58-minute ESTIMATED PROPHET > EYES OF THE WORLD > DRUMZ > NOT FADE AWAY > BLACK PETER. tape switches to audience source during garcia’s butterfly acceleration into EYES, making it seem even more caricatured. lovely, fast arpeggio flowers as it fades.

9/1/79 rochester: at john scher & WMJQ’s upstate jam at holleder memorial stadium. also with the greg kihn band & the good rats. odd pairing all around. heads really, really did not like the good rats. band threw rubber rats at the crowd, who threw the rats back & then some. languid 1st set, with some big sunshine during back of 20-minute MISSISSIPPI HALF-STEP > FRANKLIN’S TOWER opener. some tape speed issues there, too, or maybe it’s my brain. weir watch: LOST SAILOR deserves a better ending than these screams. SAINT OF CIRCUMSTANCE finding its legs, here with a relentless forward-driving beat by the drummers. weir gets the soon-discarded lyrics a bit better. weir, to local surveillance: “this set is respectfully dedicated to all the little mice & rats trapped in laboratories all over the world & also to the keepers of the peace up on that building over there with their cameras & binoculars. looking out for your best interests.” short 2nd set gets right to 61-minute SCARLET BEGONIAS > FIRE ON THE MOUNTAIN > DRUMZ > SPACE > WHARF RAT > I NEED A MIRACLE, but the jams peak early. chatty & uneven half-hour SCARLET > FIRE, weir’s slide very thankfully buried. after 2nd verse of FIRE, colorful & flaring garcia pyro show before he pops a string. short bass/keys jams, phil bellowing along on a chorus. mellower outro. confused plop into bland DRUMZ. what happened to all the echoes & spaced bells from august? hand percussion-laced SPACE coalesces into crashing density, disperses, then builds on weird pulse & soars into WHARF RAT with a big arcing solo & half-smooth charge into MIRACLE. after that, it’s rock medley time, apparently with the sun setting just as garcia hits the “…until the sun goes down” line in BERTHA.

9/2/79 augusta: mydland’s bell-like dyna-rhodes works well on ROW JIMMY, which has some nice quiet & almost spare guitar spaces. but one of those songs/versions where having a 2nd drummer borders on criminal. brent’s 1st RAMBLE ON ROSE. the song’s slow boogie-woogie piano (virtually built for godchaux) definitely doesn’t translate to the rhodes, sounding way dinky. besides various keyboardists’ sounds, though, one of the most unchanging songs in garcia’s book. w00! brent’s finally connecting with garcia during TERRAPIN STATION’s short starlight jam. lovely prelude to 52-minute LET IT GROW > DRUMZ > SPACE > STELLA BLUE > TRUCKIN’. 23-minute LET IT GROW is 1st since 5/78 & longest post-’74 version, i think. mydland starts on organ. the sustain (instead of keith’s conversational/percussive attack) gives jam a different & more generic feel. after eventual switch to rhodes, a delicious dissolve with ARP. aha, there are DRUMZ’s zoned-out bells, though they get swallowed up in under a minute. big bass & nice atonal zaps during haunted SPACE drift towards STELLA BLUE. NOBODY’S FAULT BUT MINE instrumental coda to TRUCKIN’ is oddly graceful landing.

9/4/79 madison square garden: fuego garcia throughout the 1st set, marred by weir’s slide on SUGAREE, obscured by ME & MY UNCLE, but building/soaring through 1st big LOST SAILOR > SAINT OF CIRCUMSTANCE. great 1979 model electric dixieland on slow bouncing TENNESSEE JED. big cheer for the lyric “where’s the dog star?” in weir/barlow’s new LOST SAILOR, the crowd presumably hearing “dog star” as “dark star.” as a side note, besides SAILOR/SAINT & the SHAKEDOWN STREET encore, all songs have been in the band’s repertoire for at least 7 years. audible “china cat!!” requests from multiple heads before 2nd set, which opens with the 1st NYC version of CHINA CAT SUNFLOWER > I KNOW YOU RIDER in 5 years can really feel the garden bounce, even on the soundboard but especially on the audience tape. 53-minute HE’S GONE > DRUMZ > SPACE > WHARF RAT feels like a complete statement. long HE’S GONE rolls patiently upwards into high-speed almost-OTHER ONE territory, starting a new era for the song as a 2nd set jam anchor. some shoes-in-dryer drumzing but gongs & chaos give the rhythm devils sequence a psychedelic edge as it crosses into hand percussion. purposeful, ruminative SPACE & properly arena-sized WHARF RAT, though almost crashes at the bridge.

9/5/79 madison square garden: short but pleasant 1st set, less than an hour. bouncy mid-tempo PEGGY-O. big cheers during LOSER & elsewhere, apparently the house lights being thrown on occasionally for crowd control. 2nd set is crisp & colorful, if a bit paint-by-numbers. 23-minute SCARLET BEGONIAS > FIRE ON THE MOUNTAIN, 59-minute ESTIMATED PROPHET > EYES OF THE WORLD > DRUMZ > SPACE > BLACK PETER, followed by typical late ‘70s I NEED A MIRACLE/BERTHA/GOOD LOVIN’ rock medley. improv highlight is 13-minute SPACE, building quickly to atonal symphonic chaos, it thins out into a jam tenuously threaded by floating drums, threatening to cohere but unspooling into garcialogue & more purposeful turn towards BLACK PETER.

9/6/79 madison square garden: house lights apparently left on for much of the 1st set & parts of the 2nd. harsh! phil makes an excuse about wanting to see the audience, but it’s seemingly to deter people from crashing the floor. enjoying LOST SAILOR > SAINT OF CIRCUMSTANCE as a peak-building set closer but lands abruptly here. 2nd CHINA CAT SUNFLOWER > I KNOW YOU RIDER set opener in 3 garden shows, 14 minutes & a joy. big cheers as it lands in RIDER, but that might be the houselights again. 54-minute PLAYING IN THE BAND > DRUMZ > SPACE > NOT FADE AWAY > STELLA BLUE. great PLAYING widens like waves in a storm, slowly getting more kinetic. chopping & busy improvisation, with all players adding busy detail & mostly staying clear of one another. the beginning of DRUMZ is action packed, with toms & gongs & the sound of revving motorcycle engine combining into glorious near-rhythmic chaos. doesn’t fully develop but tumbles out into a short SPACE without dissipating. during the descent into STELLA BLUE, garcia maybe almost/accidentally/kinda brushes into the MIND LEFT BODY progression for a few seconds & band follows. doesn’t quite soar, but a nice little clearing before a long, languorous STELLA BLUE.

10/24/79 springfield, MA: fairly biz-as-usual tour opener. SAINT OF CIRCUMSTANCE is one lyric draft closer to final form. no more alternate verses, though there’s still tweaking to be done. 24-minute SCARLET BEGONIAS > FIRE ON THE MOUNTAIN has subtle new colors. mydland moves to crunchy synth & takes dyna-rhodes solo, but weir is the hero with palm-mute delay pedal rhythms (during the transition especially) & big crashing chords under garcia’s finale solo. 37-minute PLAYING IN THE BAND > DRUMZ > SPACE > WHARF RAT > PLAYING IN THE BAND. PLAYING gets portentous with big bass melodies, but dribbles down into hand percussion. sweeping SPACE. phil has a sustain pedal! moar! further good news: the steel drumz are back. mickey (i assume) hits a hand percussion groove that sounds like an ARP pulse, ready for snaking guitar, but garcia’s already tuned into WHARF RAT.

10/25/79 new haven: great pacing in 2nd set, opening with 14-minute SHAKEDOWN STREET that dives into percussive crosstalk between garcia & mydland. rare 2nd set PASSENGER & FRIEND OF THE DEVIL, which manages slight punchiness in its slow arrangement via brisk rhodes solo. 52-minute ESTIMATED PROPHET > EYES OF THE WORLD > DRUMZ > SPACE > STELLA BLUE touches many satisfying corners. butterfly segue into EYES, which opens into ornery bass leads & ARP washes & thoughtful garcia squigglies & weir harmonics & pitch-bending prophet-5 mixed low. DRUMZ stays spaced almost the entire time, with synth noise starting under the hand drums. gongs & cymbals & rhodes twinkles trace a gentle path to whispered STELLA BLUE, with drawn-out satisfying peak.

10/27/79 south yarmouth: an offseason saturday at the coliseum owned by linda & vince mcmahon. major 2nd set dance party, opening with half-hour DANCING IN THE STREET > FRANKLIN’S TOWER dense with garcia/mydland laser beams & rolling bass, flowing via an outro chorus from DANCING’s disco-bounce right into FRANKLIN’S choogle. 50-minute HE’S GONE > THE OTHER ONE > DRUMZ > NOT FADE AWAY > BLACK PETER. HE’S GONE itself is a l’il wobbly but accelerates into churning not-quite-CAUTION jam. major! OTHER ONE doesn’t fully capitalize, though twists & turns convincingly after the 2nd verse. rare soundboard from the era with suitable bass, thundering properly & cushioning even weir’s scrawny slide guitar as garcia tears through a burning NOT FADE AWAY. unfortunately, the slide continues into BLACK PETER.

10/28/79 south yarmouth: 30-minute MISSISSIPPI HALF-STEP > FRANKLIN’S TOWER opens, garcia sounding a bit out of breath throughout. some good boogie, but listless playing, as garcia keeps going & going. smokin’ 15-minute CHINA CAT SUNFLOWER > I KNOW YOU RIDER, inventive co-leads by weir during conversational transition, busy enough that the dyna-rhodes sparkles properly. weir starts singing garcia’s “headlight” verse during RIDER, which is somehow charming. 38-minute PLAYING IN THE BAND > DRUMZ > SPACE > STELLA BLUE. group soars into jam, mydland’s B3 sustaining a dense atmosphere under garcia before switching over to more conversational rhodes rhythms & figures. stellar flow from PLAYING into concise & high-energy DRUMZ, hart going berserker on steel percussion while kreutzmann holds down kit. hard stop before SPACE, but makes musical sense, echoed percussion mixing with synth. great human-toned noises from lesh?

10/31/79 nassau coliseum: rare CHINA CAT SUNFLOWER > I KNOW YOU RIDER opener, markedly more languid than at previous show. less ecstasy, but a wonderful opening bounce. garcia’s voice is a bit trembly. weir apparently pops & changes string mid-jam. a packed floor at the coliseum. lots of “take a step back” variations, including from a mellllllow garcia. a number of surreal weir jokes: “what’s the difference between a frog? … and the answer is: one leg is both the same.” healthy 17-minute SHAKEDOWN STREET 2nd set opener turns briefly outward via garcia/mydland conversation, pushing & pulling to an indeterminate space that seems as if it could turn anywhere, so they head back into SHAKEDOWN. leisurely 69-minute ESTIMATED PROPHET > EYES OF THE WORLD > DRUMZ > SPACE > WHARF RAT > TRUCKIN’. speedy late ‘70s EYES is in full bloom with tasty garcia & a densely chirping dyna-rhodes outro that amps up into a weird, beautiful power jam as the drumzers try to take over. SPACE drifts with cartoon melodies, bass chords, rhodes cascades, & weary garcia themes. weir goes into WHARF RAT, but garcia isn’t done drifting. when the song reaches the “bonny lee” line, audible on the soundboard tape, a woman very loudly screams “THAT’S MY NAME!!!” TRUCKIN’ is a big exuberant mess, with an arcing garcia solo that fans into temporarily infinite open space before crashing into the coda, peaking again, & alllllmost landing smoothly.

11/1/79 nassau coliseum: sez weir, “i have it from a usually reliable source that russia just bombed staten island & if you live there, don’t bother to go home tonight.” not my era for LOOKS LIKE RAIN, but some gorgeous garcia curlicues. 35-minute SCARLET BEGONIAS > FIRE ON THE MOUNTAIN is longest ever & satisfying all the way. unhurried garcia/mydland/weir dialogues, bliss corners, minimalist delays, synth peaks, & general dreaminess. SCARLET tastier than FIRE. maybe a post-’77 template & def an all-timer. otherwise sleepy TERRAPIN STATION channels the LP version’s mystic energy during outro, prelude to 40-minute PLAYING IN THE BAND > DRUMZ > SPACE > BLACK PETER. brilliant weir rhythm colors during first part of PLAYING. mydland gaining confidence, jumping from keyboard to keyboard with busy conversational leads as jam melts. SPACE coalesces into brief triumphant theme in the MIND LEFT BODY/BEAUTIFUL JAM universe.

11/2/79 nassau coliseum: another seemingly infinite MISSISSIPPI HALF-STEP > FRANKLIN’S TOWER opens, a 29 minute warm-up that doesn’t quite bloom until the end. a nearby drum mic catches lots of between-song mickey chatter of the “hey weir!!” sort. all-transitioned 2nd set. weir plots 1st half just off-mic, culminating in not-quite-audible conversation with mickey about what it means to just go “out” on his new song. I NEED A MIRACLE > BERTHA has a short questing garcia transition, rock prelude to the main event. 59-minute LOST SAILOR > SAINT OF CIRCUMSTANCE > DRUMZ > SPACE > NOT FADE AWAY > STELLA BLUE. wild 19-minute SAINT OF CIRCUMSTANCE is a screamer, 1st jammed version & longest ever, staying high density & content rich while zoning & zipping inside the song’s atmosphere. excellent to have a new option for the deep jam slot with SAINT OF CIRCUMSTANCE, the 1st new song to move there since ESTIMATED PROPHET in ’77, though this is the only tour where that will be its semi-regular role. along with the reborn HE’S GONE, promising new fun. hand-DRUMZ punctuated by breathtaking zonk-sweep noise from lesh (i think), melting into SPACE. bells & gongs make it feel extra beautiful & alien, as they always do. encore is mydland’s 1st CASEY JONES.

11/4/79 providence: 2nd set opens with 1st ALABAMA GETAWAY, snarling southern rocker with ominous, biblical lyrics. garcia/hunter’s last dead song for 3 years. maybe not major, but a great addition to the set & perfect crossfade into 1st GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD since may. 67-minute ESTIMATED PROPHET > HE’S GONE > DRUMZ > SPACE > THE OTHER ONE > WHARF RAT. as HE’S GONE winds down. weir hits new changes &, impressively, the band charges headlong behind him for a good moment before dissipating into episodic bubblings. unfortunately, not much going on after that. SPACE is emptier than usual, volume swells & ambient organ, before barely a sliver of THE OTHER ONE, under 5 minutes. weir attempts his roger daltrey stutter during AROUND & AROUND.

11/5/79 philadelphia: another CHINA CAT SUNFLOWER > I KNOW YOU RIDER opener, garcia really starting to lean into the “i wish i was a headlight” verse. ALTHEA begins 2nd set, lazily slipping over 10-minute mark for 1st time. 78-minute EYES OF THE WORLD > ESTIMATED PROPHET > FRANKLIN’S TOWER > DRUMZ > SPACE > LOST SAILOR > SAINT OF CIRCUMSTANCE. nearly an hour of jams before DRUMZ hit. rare EYES at the top of the jam sequence throws the other predictable elements into glorious disarray. EYES breaks 20 minutes, new speedy backbeat thumpy & vaguely discoish, dripping into a pro no-count segue into the 7/8 time of ESTIMATED. garcia shifts & everybody follows. lovely to hear FRANKLIN’S in a prime 2nd set slot, soaring up & out into thick & thinning air. SAILOR/SAINT moves into the post-SPACE ballad slot for the 1st time. emotionally weird to hear a sensitive weir tune there, but it works & the crowd eats up the unreleased SAINT OF CIRCUMSTANCE, which drops almost too naturally into SUGAR MAGNOLIA.

11/6/79 philadelphia: the new ALABAMA GETAWAY, tight & vicious, drops into the show-opener slot for the first time, here moving on the next beat into THE PROMISED LAND, its most frequent pairing in the next years. only JACK-A-ROE of tour leg is bright with dyna-rhodes. prime specimen of the explosive ’79 JACK STRAW with over-the-top tom-tom shoot-outs, dramatic thumps on the bridge, & a big cheer when weir sings his “used to play for silver, now we play for clive” variation. guess clive davis was big in philly? short 2nd set jumps right into the ethereal with TERRAPIN STATION opener, the middle jam more like gathering mist than glowing starlight, but getting back to lovely indeterminacy. prelude to 47-minute PLAYING IN THE BAND > DRUMZ > SPACE > BLACK PETER. PLAYING rides upwards on slashing guitars with dive-bombing bumblebee rhodes twinkles. hart moves to hand percussion before miniature garcia/kreutzmann corner. desert-y SPACE & solid BLACK PETER.

11/8/79 landover: 23-minute SCARLET BEGONIAS > FIRE ON THE MOUNTAIN is modest compared to previous week’s epic & much more upbeat. skittish weir figures under the transition, syncing up on little rhythmic keyboard bursts with brent’s keys deeper into FIRE. 50-minute LOST SAILOR > SAINT OF CIRCUMSTANCE > DRUMZ > SPACE > NOT FADE AWAY > MORNING DEW. SAILOR/SAINT’s 2nd time in the jam slot isn’t as coherent, drums fizzling into the noodle sea. like many fall ’79 tapes, can hear mickey shouting for/at monitor mixer harry popick. only MORNING DEW of ’79 (& 1st mydland version) is successfully epic, to my very pleasant surprise. 1st since 4/78 & 2nd since 6/77. iffy early on, but it clicks, overflowing with lead bass, garcia’s voice & guitar both hitting the big notes, enormous end.

11/9/79 buffalo: top of 2nd set is A+. glorious 25-minute DANCING IN THE STREET > FRANKLIN’S TOWER. minus the beat, DANCING peaks are very bright & ‘69ish. ace segue via bouncing synth into focused FRANKLIN’S with ferocious rave-up end. garcia remembers all the words, too! 59-minute ESTIMATED PROPHET > HE’S GONE > DRUMZ > SPACE > WHARF RAT. instruments fit together well during spacious ESTIMATED. subtle delays on weir’s guitar. amazing what a little reverb will do to make the dyna-rhodes sound good, too. enormous HE’S GONE clicks upwards into a bright & constantly moving jam, never fully settling around a theme that’s not quite GLORIA. echoing SPACE percussion & uncharacteristically melodic bass before locked-in WHARF RAT.

11/10/79 ann arbor: brent’s 1st COLD RAIN & SNOW (weather appropriate, apparently) & 1st HIGH TIME (2nd since 5/77, powerful garcia vocals with the harmonies reshuffled slightly). LOOKS LIKE RAIN intro has a whooshy synth that i think is supposed to be wind/rain? 46-minute PLAYING IN THE BAND > DRUMZ > SPACE > NOT FADE AWAY > BLACK PETER. PLAYING jam works itself into a mild froth. wispy SPACE with occasional keyboard delays & big bass thromps as band settles into NOT FADE AWAY.

11/23/79 san diego: is ALABAMA GETAWAY the most dylanesque garcia/hunter song? made such wonderful sense when dylan covered it during the never-ending tour. weir watch: as 1980 primary season gears up, an announcement that “our drummer back here, billy, would like to announce his candidacy for the highest office of our land… don’t forget to vote for him, so thanks!” 2nd set starts with 21-minute MUSIC NEVER STOPPED > SUGAREE. rare MUSIC opener, the middle jam jams into a moment of indeterminacy & a nice unexpected segue. long SUGAREE gets harsh with weir’s slide guitar, but finds a wonderful gentle pocket when he switches to rhythm. very ’79 sequence, the 4th of the year, with 56-minute ESTIMATED PROPHET > EYES OF THE WORLD > DRUMZ > SPACE > NOT FADE AWAY > BLACK PETER. short but slashing mydland/weir jam after garcia exits early pre-DRUMZ. brief, tantalizing ARP/percussion duo in SPACE before faux-clav & slide-touched NOT FADE AWAY. encore shout-out from weir to “that tall guy over there for bringing us down here,” presumably @billwalton, doing that arms in the air thing.

11/24/79 san diego: last CHINA CAT SUNFLOWER > I KNOW YOU RIDER show opener for a few years, starting sleepy but finding a nice lowdown spot mid-jam. the ALABAMA GETAWAY > GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD pairing is my favorite new move. great miniature jam in GREATEST STORY, garcia turning out a beautiful & lyrical solo melody that could almost be its own song. 45-minute PLAYING IN THE BAND > DRUMZ > SPACE > LOST SAILOR > SAINT OF CIRCUMSTANCE > WHARF RAT. soulful moaning lead tones in PLAYING, loping into an easily conversational garcia/kreutzmann-led free space, chased by chattering weir. short SPACE is a moody, cloud-gathering prelude to LOST SAILOR > SAINT OF CIRCUMSTANCE, unreleased & new to most of the crowd. wish there was more SPACE, but a nice late show set-piece.

11/25/79 UCLA: weir issues stern tempo warning to the drummers before TENNESSEE JED &, indeed, it does come out at something like the just exactly perfect tempo, yielding a nifty curlicue pocket. on 2nd set opening 13-minute SHAKEDOWN STREET, betty’s well-balanced mix highlights everybody equally. great group percolation, the ball bouncing especially between weir & mydland while garcia weaves. jam sort of fizzles confusedly into a deflated BERTHA. 55-minute HE’S GONE > THE OTHER ONE > DRUMZ > SPACE > TRUCKIN’ > STELLA BLUE. abbreviated HE’S GONE compared to other monster fall versions, but OTHER ONE rolls deep & jagged & dense & wooly by ’79 standards. thromping bass-heavy SPACE turns into short, fascinating weir/lesh duo. jam abbreviated when weir ripcords to TRUCKIN’, which lesh has given up singing on, perhaps temporarily but definitely for the best. MIND LEFT BODY-like descent bridges to STELLA BLUE.

11/29/79 cleveland: occasional sound problems. near the start of the 2nd set, the revamped HIGH TIME sounds powerful & heavy in a centerpiece spot, garcia getting inside the vocal, sweet high harmony by mydland, the drummers never overdrumming. 50-minute ESTIMATED PROPHET > EYES OF THE WORLD > DRUMZ > BLACK PETER. great ESTIMATED, garcia alternating between butterfly shreds & slower phrases to subtle dramatic effect. EYES breaks apart into drones & moans & a short deep jam backed by hand drums.

11/30/79 pittsburgh: lots of not-quite-segues happening on this tour, as if the band finally read a review that joked about their tuning breaks. tonight, 15-minute 1st set-closing DANCING IN THE STREET doesn’t-exactly-tumble into DEAL. 25-minute SCARLET BEGONIAS > FIRE ON THE MOUNTAIN is front-heavy, which is ace by me, going deep squiggle. super-sleepy TERRAPIN STATION has with bonus mini-jam before last verse & extra-languid starlight transition. could use more twinkling dyna-rhodes. 52-minute PLAYING IN THE BAND > DRUMZ > SPACE > LOST SAILOR > SAINT OF CIRCUMSTANCE > WHARF RAT. slide-sullied PLAYING jam has big piping synth washes & bubbles, reprising in SPACE & turning into sirens. 1st DON’T EASE ME IN encore, a nice change there.

12/1/79 pittsburgh: mellow mood prevails, garcia singing extra-quietly throughout. 17-minute SUGAREE has a variety of spaces, flavorful garcia emerging from B3 solo. mix does mostly decent job masking weir’s slide, which sounds like a wobbly malfunctioning tape track. 67-minute HE’S GONE > C.C. RIDER > DRUMZ > NOT FADE AWAY > BLACK PETER. HE’S GONE spirals upwards rises easily, weir dropping into the GLORIA changes & kicking energy up further. prophet-5 solo sounds thin, but garcia joins & spins jam out further with much great invention. a smooth descent lands in the grateful dead debut of blues standard C.C. RIDER, sung by weir. hardly a hot take, but i’m way not into weir’s blues tunes. thankfully, unlike most, this version slips back into nearly 5 minutes of twisting non-blues jamming.

12/3/79 chicago: standard but also excellent* & joyous 27-minute SCARLET BEGONIAS > FIRE ON THE MOUNTAIN opens 2nd set. drums are less shoes-in-a-dryer & more bouncing superballs. after peak, garcia ends FIRE solo in lower registers. (* except weir’s slide. ew.) 71-minute TERRAPIN STATION > PLAYING IN THE BAND > DRUMZ > SPACE > LOST SAILOR > SAINT OF CIRCUMSTANCE > WHARF RAT > TRUCKIN’. mydland & the dyna-rhodes finally jump into TERRAPIN’s starlight jam with garcia. but, wow, what a sleepy climax. brief PLAYING doesn’t get too far out, though thoroughly enjoyable & subtle conversation bounces between drummers, lesh, mydland, & everybody, really. SPACE charges out of DRUMZ at full speed, briefly thrilling, but folds inwards after 30 seconds or so.

12/4/79 chicago: 2nd set opening CHINA CAT SUNFLOWER > I KNOW YOU RIDER is way mellow, drummers laying further back in the pocket than usual. perhaps because of this, the rest of jam feels less lyrical, too, with some confusion as they arrive in RIDER. 67-minute ESTIMATED PROPHET > FRANKLIN’S TOWER > DRUMZ > SPACE > NOT FADE AWAY > STELLA BLUE. i adore FRANKLIN’S in the jam slot, escaping its endless circular groove, drummers surfing, garcia pushing, & turning itself inside out without losing momentum. DRUMZ/SPACE transition is 3 minutes of stereo-panned rhythmic patterns that i briefly thought was ARP. beautiful echo effects & celestial dyna-rhodes. are those actual gongs? gorgeous cymbal mix. NOT FADE AWAY powers into monstrously weird thunder.

12/5/79 chicago: band leans hard on the new songs in the 1st set, playing 5 of the 7 originals that will end up on “go to heaven,” ALABAMA GETAWAY as opener & then 4 in a row to end. SAINT OF CIRCUMSTANCE feels a bit abrupt as a closer. enjoyable off-mic mickey hart in 1st set: “let’s go back into ALABAMA GETAWAY! let’s close it out with ALABAMA GETAWAY! ALABAMA all night!!”
weir, after GREATEST STORY: we probably won’t get that one right next time, either.
later on – weir: that’s right, practice makes perfect.
garcia: we’re gonna keep practicing ’til we get it perfect.
weir: that’s why they call us the just exactly perfect brothers band. [x/x]
18-minute SHAKEDOWN STREET opens set 2. long vocal exit & longer static bounce for dancers. garcia’s mu-tron tone sometimes hard to distinguish from mydland’s synth. the last chord tumbles into SAMSON & DELILAH, a recent pairing they’ll keep doing. 54-minute HE’S GONE > THE OTHER ONE > DRUMZ > SPACE > BLACK PETER. HE’S GONE feels extra stark, with fewer garcia flourishes/curlicues, & really taking its time, 12 minutes before it even gets to the jam, which heads swiftly & smoothly for THE OTHER ONE. band rushes through both OTHER ONE verses & dissolve, as usual in ’79, but tonight the jams keeps developing, cohering via hand percussion & free drums until suddenly they’re at full speed, then breaking down to sub-bands, musicians coming in/out briefly. beautiful flow into lovely stereo-mixed DRUMZ via some kind of drone/string percussion. it’s all vibey hand percussion, only moving over to the big roto-toms when the band comes back out. BLACK PETER, one day after its 10th birthday, sounds present & dynamic. garcia’s voice & guitar double each other during the “run & see” outro, dropping the words & sort of even scatting a little before a mammoth guitar bridge into a rock medley.

12/7/79 indianapolis: 13-minute CHINA CAT SUNFLOWER > I KNOW YOU RIDER opens 2nd set, feeling fresh, with none of the indecision of the weird chicago version. also a reminder that everything makes more sense when the bass is mixed this well. 51-minute EYES OF THE WORLD > LOST SAILOR > SAINT OF CIRCUMSTANCE > DRUMZ > SPACE > WHARF RAT. wonder of wonders, EYES is at its slower mid-‘70s tempo/feel! i think it’s cuz garcia started from a cold stop, but feels luxurious & ends with floating, swelling conversation. as soon as SAINT ends, the drummers immediately (& somewhat awkwardly) drop the pulse & leave everybody else in an ambient pool that drips into echo-laden DRUMZ.

12/9/79 st. louis: 58-minute TERRAPIN STATION > LOST SAILOR > SAINT OF CIRCUMSTANCE > DRUMZ > SPACE > BLACK PETER. beautiful starlight transition in TERRAPIN, longest yet i think, garcia & mydland fluttering into nearly weightless BIRD SONG-like territory. surprisingly natural dissolve from unresolved last chord of TERRAPIN into LOST SAILOR intro. mickey (i assume) stays off drum kit for most of the song & plays hand percussion with gently dubby echoes, which sounds really great. again, the drummers drop the rhythmic thread at the end of SAINT, but this time garcia accelerates. by turn, everybody else charges into high energy coda. it peters out, but they re-coalesce into a great kreutzmann-carried jam that descends gradually. DRUMZ builds, recedes, & carries into unusually well-developed & multi-sectioned SPACE, with stray percussion complementing ARP freak-outs. also unusually, everyone is still weirding when garcia slides into patient BLACK PETER.

12/10/79 kansas city, ks: under the “sweet william he is dead” verse of PEGGY-O, unexpected glassy, ethereal volume swells by mydland. 20-minute DANCING IN THE STREET > FRANKLIN’S TOWER. “winter’s here & the time is right,” but not for long. the last DANCING ’til ’81. too bad. half-smooth gearshift into FRANKLIN’S, which doesn’t quite unlock, but drummers find groovy plateau. 50-minute LET IT GROW > HE’S GONE > TRUCKIN’ > DRUMZ > SPACE > WHARF RAT is an old-fashioned sequence that could’ve happened (sort of) in ’73-’74. 2nd LET IT GROW of mydland era, still finding its legs. last peak of TRUCKIN’ is legit mammoth. band in-joke leaks into off-mic commentary during DRUMZ, kreutzmann: “this one’s for bobby, he’s running for president, too!” big SPACE synth washes resolve to pipe organ-like lead-in to WHARF RAT. mydland’s falsetto on JOHNNY B. GOODE is pretty, uh, extra.

12/11/79 kansas city, ks: entire show is deeply enjoyable because of weird ultra-democratic mix, all instruments basically as loud as garcia’s guitar, especially lesh’s bass. it’s pretty glorious! some good off-mic drummerly chatter throughout, too. 59-minute TERRAPIN STATION > LOST SAILOR > SAINT OF CIRCUMSTANCE > DRUMZ > SPACE > NOT FADE AWAY > BLACK PETER is a bit disjointed but has some brilliant jamming. cool echoed percussion during LOST SAILOR, buried in the psychedelic mix like a studio production. band kersplats on the transition into SAINT OF CIRCUMSTANCE, leading to half-effective improvised prelude. when song proper ends, drummers drop beat & band tumbles into kinda dinky groove but cohere into floating hippie reggae & eventually a keyboard/drummer jam. BLACK PETER is especially over the top with the new mix, but it sounds that way on stage, too. band empties the tank on rare double-barreled encore closing the tour with the usually show-opening pair of ALABAMA GETAWAY > THE PROMISED LAND.

12/26/79 oakland auditorium arena: big shows all around: a new healy/ultrasound/@MeyerSound PA (with parts of the wall of sound), DIY taper innovations, the unveiling of @SEVA_foundation with wavy gravy & ram dass, the birth of shakedown street (see below), & a late batch of betty cantor-jackson tapes. weir’s C.C. RIDER cover moves to its permanent home, adding blues-rock drag to 1st sets through much of the next decade. hometown debut for ALABAMA GETAWAY fares better. deep nonstop 2nd set led by 82-minute UNCLE JOHN’S BAND > ESTIMATED PROPHET > HE’S GONE > THE OTHER ONE > DRUMZ > SPACE > NOT FADE AWAY > BROKEDOWN PALACE, bookended by bust-outs. 1st UNCLE JOHN’S since 10/77 latches effortlessly back into happy garcia flows during solos, perfect segue. after well-developed ESTIMATED jam, garcia butterflies away & changes channels several times (shaking off lesh’s attempt to segue into HE’S GONE) while band catches up & attempts to re-shape behind him. cool co-leads by weir in places. following the thundery DRUMZ, echo-touched percussion leads into textured (& almost ‘90s-sounding) SPACE, cymbals tapping around feedback & beep-waves & blobs of decoherence. fresh-feeling alien solo variations in the back half of NOT FADE AWAY, swelling & speeding & pulling back kinda awkwardly into 1st BROKEDOWN PALACE since 10/77. rather different with mydland’s high harmony & B3. slightly faster & drummier, too. weir’s chuck berry double-shot feels extraneous, but the 17-minute SHAKEDOWN STREET > UNCLE JOHN’S BAND is just exactly generous. even if it’s more a burp than a segue, it feels like a summation of the new version of the band that solidified on fall tour. 40 years ago tonight, as well, was the unofficial birth of shakedown street, the vending/camping bazaar outside grateful dead shows. lots of big offstage action during the 1979 new year’s run, which i wrote about extensively in “heads.”

12/27/79 oakland auditorium arena: notably short 1st set, barely 45 minutes, a taste of days to come. BEAT IT ON DOWN THE LINE (with 12-beat intro) is mydland’s 1st. for a few minutes, currently the warlocks. 1st bay area CHINA CAT SUNFLOWER > I KNOW YOU RIDER since ’77. 52-minute EYES OF THE WORLD > LOST SAILOR > SAINT OF CIRCUMSTANCE > DRUMZ > SPACE > BLACK PETER. once again, garcia starts EYES from a clean break & once again it’s a nice chill tempo. doesn’t travel far (or segue well) but the conversation feels substantial & thoughtful. SAINT ends almost cleanly & after a pause everyone takes off jamming again, nearly 8 minutes of high-speed conversation, going back into SAINT briefly (sort of). when garcia exits, mydland/weir/lesh stay engaged & keep improvising on thick new dyna-rhodes-driven changes. during quiet parts of DRUMZ, mickey’s nagging of weir & monitor mixer harry popick come through the PA on audience tape. thought that was only a soundboard thing! bells & cymbals continue into short SPACE as lesh & weir (i think) layer on old-fashioned feedback & squalls.  2nd encore is BROKEDOWN PALACE, 2nd version in 2 days after being revived the previous night & it’s much tighter already. i don’t think anyone was complaining. garcia sounds great. hearing mydland’s voice in the mix is still weird, though.

12/28/79 oakland auditorium arena: beautiful SUGAREE opens with lush weir colors before & after atrocious slide. after listening to a bunch of HIGH TIME ’69, it’s striking how differently garcia occupies the song a decade later. different highs, different times. 50-minute TERRAPIN STATION > PLAYING IN THE BAND > DRUMZ > SPACE > UNCLE JOHN’S BAND. satisfying multi-section 17-minute PLAYING. weir & mydland dive into descending pattern that sets tone for high-energy jam that’s never quite predictable. deep in jam, weir uses slide with delay pedal & sounds alright. love all the beautiful bells (or little gongs?) that continue to show up DRUMZ as well as whoever seems to making shapes tonight on a pennywhistle. UNCLE JOHN’S doesn’t grow naturally from SPACE, but the ending is peak ’79 energy.

12/30/79 oakland auditorium arena: another short 1st set, contiguous & not-that-long 2nd set. 20-minute SCARLET BEGONIAS > FIRE ON THE MOUNTAIN reaches deep during SCARLET especially, garcia honing in on new space, switching over to rhythm for a moment, as if claiming it. 44-minute LET IT GROW > DRUMZ > SPACE > TRUCKIN’ > WHARF RAT. LET IT GROW dances through high-speed garcia/mydland needlework before winding down. hand percussion under SPACE swirls, garcia edging on middle eastern modes before good noise swells. after yet another chuck berry oldies twofer by weir to close 2nd set, garcia takes over encore & offers a much more elegant way to finish a show with DON’T EASE ME IN / BROKEDOWN PALACE double-shot.

12/31/79 oakland auditorium arena: after JACK STRAW opener, 16-minute FRANKLIN’S TOWER is perfect for the ratcheted-up new year’s energy, garcia surfing & soaring through sing-song melodies while heads dance into the ‘80s. 2nd set starts at midnight with SUGAR MAGNOLIA & bill graham descending from the rafters in a butterfly costume with stealies on the wings. SUNSHINE DAYDREAM will bookend the 3rd set, a classic new year’s move. straightforward show, chaotic mood. only jam is 3rd set 50-minute UNCLE JOHN’S BAND > DRUMZ > SPACE > NOT FADE AWAY > STELLA BLUE. UNCLE JOHN’S is keyed up, too, outro unfolding into triumphant mutant inversions & melts. hand-DRUMZ-y SPACE is pretty much NFA from the start, slowly cohering.

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