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Tuesday, September 9, 2008

1979 October 27 - Cape Cod Coliseum

Jerry Garcia - Early 1979
Saturday, October 27, 1979
Cape Cod Coliseum, South Yarmouth, MA
Audience Recording

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.

Jerry Garcia - December 7, 1979Almost 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:


  1. I like your assessment of 1979 in general, and Brett's effect on the band. Most of the shows I saw personally were with Brett, but I have heard many others from before he was with the band, and I think he added more depth and energy to the Grateful Dead than Keith and Donna did.

  2. Great show from my first year. I think a few of these tunes are on the first Road Trips compilation (mnaybe just the bonus disk?)
    Apropos of which, has just released two download-only complete shows from the Philly Spectrum from about a week after this Cape Cod show. They look tasty.

  3. Hey now! I'm commenting here because it's the top of your blog. If you see a increase in traffic it was because the link appeared on the the widely popular Pharyngula Blog, which is a science - biology blog! Anywho, I came to the Dead rather late in life, so my 100+ shows were all in the 90's. Living in SillyCon Valley meant I saw them at Shoreline, Oakland, Sacramento, and other west coast venues (Vegas baby!) This is an exceptional blog that I look forward to following in the years to come. Your writing style and enthusiasm is contagious and laudable, which deserves a wider audience; I hope they come.

  4. the link appeared on the the widely popular Pharyngula Blog
    You're welcome! :-)

    Listening to the matrix right now; icepetal, I'd be interested to know what you think of such board/aud blends.
    (Amazing, after all these years, "Staggerlee" still makes me have to pee!)

  5. Sven, I noticed that link you placed at that blog. I saw it in my stats software. Thank you so much. Amazing how much traffic that biology blog gets on an "open post." More so, yesterday was some sort of star aligning day for the GDLG. People posted about the blog on (thanks Caleb!), the forums, and I even showed up here: All in all I got a record number of views yesterday, second (by far) only to the day I showed up on the stumbleupon homepage or something. StumbleUpon drove a TON of traffic.

    I really appreciate the linking done by readers here. Traffic=GOOD.

    on Matrix shows:

    I come from the purist school of tape transferring, myself. In everything I did over the years, I would never use EQ or noise reduction. The most I would do, beyond cross fades, is normalize stuff.

    Given my pure view, the premise of a matrix is completely wrong. But those good ones that I've heard sound like the very best of both worlds. They end up equal to more than the sum of thier parts every time. I really like good matrix productions.

    While they do degrade the true nature of the tape document, the pleasure they bring makes recognizing that caveat worth while, IMO.

  6. wilde_yoh. Thanks, I knew it was Brent. Someone else thought I was wrong, and made me call him Brett, and once I got into that habit I have a hard time breaking it. I will have to write "Brent Mydland, 500 times" to get it right.

  7. Don't forget to listen to to Mississippi Half Step->Franklin's Towers opener from the next night. As a watch Teddy Kennedy's funeral on TV, I think of that weekend in Cape Cod thirty years ago with the two monster Franklins back when I was a wee lad of 20.

  8. When I first came to the Dead, I had a bad taste of '79... not sure why. Could be left over from my early teenage years when most I knew of '79 was what happened to Zeppelin and Yes. But more and more I'm coming to see '79 as sort of... the "other side" of '77, the alternate reality, later-night version, the "dark world," the flip side of a coin (with '78 being the rim, perhaps). the jams, the set structures, the "late 70s late night" vibes both feel to have in common to me. Going with Yes again, GD'79 is the Relayer to GD'77's Close to the Edge.

    Anyhow, this was the first show that made my ears perk up for '79. I'm glad to see it have the "GDLG treatment". And that Playin' / NFA > Morning Dew from RT 1.1? no turning back after that


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