Sunday, June 8, 1980
Folsom Field, University of Colorado - Boulder, CO
This is another Joani Walker recording, and you should be getting pretty used to the fact by now that this is a harbinger of quality goods. Joani was the wo-MAN! There’s no question about it. Heap whatever pristine AUD accolades you’d like here, they all apply. Again, one of her tapes captures not only the music, but the entire feel of an early 80’s outdoor show. Recorded eight rows behind the soundboard, you really couldn’t ask for anything better.
Opening up with a hauntingly accurate prophetic introduction, this 15th Anniversary show gets started with a totally unprecedented Uncle John’s Band > Playin’ In The Band > Uncle John’s Band. Clearly a nod to the proceedings (though understandably, as Bob Weir indicates in a post show interview, the band could hardly care about the recognition of the date), this “Uncle John’s sandwich” casts a guaranteed special sparkle to the event. You can be sure that news spread far and wide after this show about the unexpected opener.
The band pushes through some early sound system adjustments and reach the 7/8 time signature jam in full gear. Jerry is popping out notes like a string of pearls cast into the air. All the band members are coming through on tape beautifully, and while the jam is short, and perhaps only a 7 out of 10, it doesn’t matter. They’re opening with Uncle John’s Band! In the holographic memory machine of the future that allows us to be transported right back to this event, we will be exchanging glances at this point, shaking our heads in wonder and smiles that we could be getting an Uncle John’s in the opening slot. Lucky us!
Playin’ segues in nicely, and with Jerry’s very first note of the solo section, everything elevates. His tone has swollen to fill the sky, and drips with an electric intensity that spawns a psychedelic kaleidoscope of visions. For the first 30 seconds or more , he rolls out a string of notes that are channeled from deeply within and beyond thinking. It’s as if he’s completely lost - the music entirely taking over to play the band. Each note drops in perfectly, as if this is the Playin' In The Band jam that wrote them all, similar to how I found the Bird Song from 08/01/73 to appear archetypical. It gives the music a sense of divinely delivered perfection. The rest of the band is quickly absorbed into this energy, and you can feel the satori moment blossom around you. The note selection and the instrumental accompaniment could not be improved upon. There are many things going on in this jam as it progresses. Little things like passing visions in a dream. The recording being so good, complete surrender to the music is near unavoidable. The wonderfully recorded balance of instruments places everything directly within your field of aural vision. It’s juicy and succulent. They don’t spend too long in this zone, and eventually weave back into Uncle John’s to wrap things up.
At this point the desired affect has been reached. The crowd is completely done-in by the special twist given to the start of the show. The band follows with some straight ahead cowboy Dead and you can absolutely feel the joy and comfort of the crowd come through on tape. In different ways than the opening jam, the following songs burst forth with equal passion and pleasure. You get the feeling of being in a perfect spot, needing nothing else. There may not be anything insanely over the top, but the rest of the set just feels like a wonderful Grateful Dead show.
The second set opens with a nice Feel Like A Stranger. There are occasional and slight mis-queues here and there, and it seems to make Jerry want to make up for things through the solo section. A wonderful passage follows with the entire band playing off of one another, and Jerry’s tone takes on burning intensity which channels directly off the tape into your head. He takes acrobatic twists and turns everywhere, elevating the song above the norm. The beat pushes, punctuates, and slightly syncopates beautifully throughout.
Ship Of Fools is a very sweet with Jerry lending some extra expressive energy to his vocals which translate into a wonderful solo. The song always carried the sense of being a classic throughout the 80’s. It also provides a pleasant breather before the meat of set two.
In Estimated Prophet, Jerry spends only a short time in the jam noodling around before diving all the way into a rapidly picked string of arpeggios which swirl and unswirl into liquid color eddies. Eventually one of his eddies breaks us out of the song and begins to stretch out to infinity. That luxurious loss of footing takes over and we seem poised to be happily lost forever. But it really serves to inform the band that Eyes Of The World is on the way. A truncated Estimated jam slips sweetly into Eyes.
This Eyes Of The World is a firecracker. It blasts along at a stiff tempo reaching the solo section after verse one in under two minutes. The solo is full of razor sharp edges, like a fire formed of metal - crackling and glowing. The next solo section finds the same fire bathed in a somewhat ethereal energy. The flames seem to be smiling and relaxing, despite the fury of energy that sends them into the sky. The third and final solo section casts the fire out to the horizons. Jerry calls back the infinity stretching repetitions of notes again and again, and this is mimicked beautifully by the drummers. Slowly then, a vastly wide open space appears, and within it, ocean-sized pinwheels begin to slowly turn under foot. It’s a gooey jam, not too unlike some passages from 1976. The dissolve into Drums is slow coming, with Brent and Phil taking some time to stir the fire lazily along.
A little over half way through Drums, Mickey and Billy call up wonderful African/Egyptian rhythms, caught perfectly in the glorious recording quality that Joani is getting on tape. The Space that forms out of Drums is very nice, though short. Its goal is to bridge the way into Saint Of Circumstance, which exude from Space early on before hitting the song itself. The highlights for the duration of the set are more of the quiet nature. Black Peter, and the Brokedown Palace second encore give off more of that delicious energy of just being in the presence of the band on a good night.
You can add this one to your list of sensational recordings and often deeply rich and soul provoking evenings with the Grateful Dead.