Saturday, October 27, 1979
Cape Cod Coliseum, South Yarmouth, MA
1979 often gets overlooked. It sits in the gargantuan shadow of 1977, and somewhere lost in the pre-dawn twilight of the early ‘80’s. This year might easily qualify as the very best year you fail to think of at all. And, failing to listen to what ’79 has to offer would be unfortunate; bordering on tragedy. It’s as if the entire year is hiding like so many individual shows lurking in so many years.
It was a transition year (the Godchauxs left the band, Brent Mydland joined in the Spring), and clearly a rejuvenating time for the group. By the end of the year, probably due to Brent’s infusion of musical craft and quickness to develop comfort with the band, the group was getting deeply into their own music; jammed out songs were getting a lot longer, and there was an obvious energy growing that shows the natural bridge from the ‘70’s to the ‘80’s.
It’s really hard to find a bad show from late 1979, and most any night holds at least something spectacular, even if in only a song or two. This show on October 27th is a classic example of everything great that was happening toward the end of the year.
Steve Rolfe’s AUD captures the magic energy beautifully on this night, and I recommend playing it loud. It lets more of the full spectrum (both sound and vibe) come off of the tape and allows it to fully pack its punch.
While most of the highlights are in set two, it would be unfair not to mention the first set Big River. It’s good enough to make you always make sure to listen to Big Rivers in the future because of Jerry’s potential to really get off in the song. Also a nice early Lost Sailor > Saint of Circumstance is worth hearing. The song pairing was only two months old at the time.
But it is in set two where things really come together. The set opens with a 14 minute Dancin’ In The Streets that lifts the crowd. The jam is tight, and the music swirls like a sea of city lights seen from above, dancing and weaving together. Bobby’s guitar cuts out momentarily deep in the jam, and this provides a cue for the band to let things loosen up some. The music starts to slip out nicely, eventually coiling around Phil to the delight of the crowd. From here the syncopated end section of the jam picks up, and the song is back on its tight track. A beautiful set opener, the energy is set for a real good time. The smooth as glass transition into Franklin’s Tower elevates things to an even higher level.
Frankin’s was getting a major workout in the Fall and Winter of 1979 too. Here, a very typically long 17 minute version ignites the audience as a song that in four short years had already become an absolute classic. Now you can tell that the second set is touched with something special. The audience is fully engaged and loving it. As the solo sections build, the drummers punctuate the beat beautifully, clearly having one heck of a time leading the groove. And this is not wasted on Garcia, who elevates his solos with them all the while. The song burns and burns, lavishly long. The solos become towering trumpets that howl at the sky, punctuated by the intimacy of Jerry’s voice in the verses. Now, with this 30 plus minute two song set opener over, the room is fully electrified.
Almost seeming out of necessity, everyone gets a breather with He’s Gone. That often noticeable feeling of complete comfort and relaxation takes over as the crowd enjoys the presence of an old friend. But the cool thing about He’s Gone in 1979 is that it was also getting a workout, often finding the end jam portion evolving into a more intense exploration of music – often Caution-esque. And tonight is no exception. After the crooning vocal section of the song, the familiar sense of spinning, galaxy-huge, wagon wheels of light and color begin their slow turn across our entire visual field. Like waking up to a dream you’ve had before, this soft caressing turn of time, space, and music is a staple of the Dead experience. Here, things slowly weave to and fro, and before long the energy is picking up. The tempo increases, and the pace of Jerry’s lines quickens. Something is waking up underneath. It’s as if the heart rate and breath of the music are picking up speed. There’s also something a touch more sinister on the air. The jam catches fire and He’s Gone is left in the distance. We are now in a mostly free form improvisation that allows the band to stretch its legs.
The Other One appears like a stalking beast, eyeing us through the bars of a cage throughout the end of the He’s Gone jam. The song’s theme slowly takes over and the monster is casting a dark hypotonic power into the emotions of the entire audience. When Phil crushes the entire building with the true opening line, the beast has broken free, and there is no place to run. Phil is so loud, it is a wonder that the entire sound system didn’t topple over. The raging monster is now more a sea of serpents coiling throughout the air of the hall. Useless to resist, surrender becomes the only option. The first verse comes and goes without a warning - you barely notice. It passes, and with it was your only chance to catch a breath. Phil attacks with the theme-roll again, and the world is cast into flame. The second verse comes, and directly after it nothing is the same.
Space appears without transition from the verse. The band absolutely disappears completely into a formless charge of energy. It is as if we’ve been pushed through a membrane barrier, appearing in an entirely new world - like falling off the true edge of the flat earth into a unfathomable expanse of open space. It’s a humming, coursing, burning vacuum that extinguishes breath. The entire Space portion of music could be occuring between two heartbeats. There is no time here. No music. No escape. You can’t help but come out of it dumbfounded that this is happening in 1979. Drums slowly appears with Phil beating out the rhythm on his strings, setting sparks off with every stroke.
The Drums is alight with a dark tribal energy, never really letting up. The Not Fade Away that finally forms comes stomping into the room – it too, alive with this dark energy. Eventually we get a really fine Black Peter to bring us back to some semblance of normalcy. But this show manages to leave its mark in the pit of your soul.
1979, go for it.
10/27/79 AUD etree source info
10/27/79 AUD Download
This show also exists as a Matrix (AUD and SBD blended together), and might make a fun listen too: