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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

1985 June 30 - Merriweather Post Pavilion

Jerry Garcia 1985

Sunday, June 30, 1985
Merriweather Post Pavilion – Columbia, MD
Audience & Soundboard Recordings

1985 has an interesting reputation. Being the 20th anniversary of The Warlocks, the band seemed somehow inspired throughout the year, elevating their game with such sparkle (and a few tremendous breakouts) that most folks consider 1985 to be the highpoint of the 80’s. Regardless of that statement’s validity, ‘85 certainly holds a reputation of completely outshining the few years prior to it, and it is this attribute that feels somewhat strange to me. While clearly possessing something of an extra punch in energy, 1985 isn’t really something so staggeringly different than 1983 or 1984 that it could discredit these years as something less. But there’s no denying a certain sense of rebirth in the outpouring of music in ’85. And, while at times the extended jamming can seem to be getting cut short, 1985 has plenty to offer.

One show that has come to typify everything great about the year is 06/30/85 at the Meriwether Post Pavilion. There is an undeniable fun-loving vibe to this show, which then turns around and delivers some of the most intensely psychedelic journeying of the year. The show scores on all counts.

Grateful Dead 1985The first set is wonderfully upbeat, filled with a great stretch of songs. Things don’t go too over the top anywhere, but still, all in all, the music is satisfying. Set two, on the other hand, roars.

Shakedown Street gets off to its standard bluesy gate, strutting around in a high-stepping dance that opens the second set with a great Dead show energy. As the jam progresses along, Jerry lays down some nice leads, then Bobby gets off a great solo himself. This is followed by the music starting to surge in pulsing fractal pinwheels outward. Something has begun to infuse the music, and it sheds the garments of a straightforward song, leaving them to coil and eddy into vapor. Brent starts a slow organ swell, and the entire band bursts through the clouds, melting all colors into pure white sunlight. This pushes beyond itself as the drummers roll on their snares while the entire pavilion drops away in the burning light of music. This blistering crescendo sets this Shakedown into the “listen to this again” pile easily.

A rockin’ Samson & Delilah follows, and the entire place is hopping and bopping with the band. Next, another 1985 hallmark: the return of Phil to the mic. Okay, he actually started singing Gimme Some Lovin’ at the end of 1984, but another feather in 1985’s cap is Phil singing again. It’s really quite good, and very nice to feel the band really having so much fun of their own (another trademark of 1985).

Jerry Garcia 1985After this, the show is sitting at an absolute precipice of energy and power as we head into the meat of set two, starting off with He’s Gone. You’d expect the slow tempo of the song to bring the energy to a crawl, but far from it. He’s Gone is such a classic Dead tune by this point in 1985, that the entire audience is locked into a beautiful comfort with the music here. It allows for a breath, to be sure, but there’s no loss of attention.

As the song nears the end, after Jerry soulfully croons out the “nothing’s gonna bring him back” section in tandem with his lead lines, he flows into a lovely and lazy solo passage that eventually finds him playing the opening guitar refrain to Cryptical Envelopment again and again. Hearing it woven into He’s Gone is magical. Anticipation of the song coming mixed with how beautifully it threads its way into He’s Gone is a wonderful experience. *This* song (or, the return of this song, to be more accurate) really puts the icing on the 1895 cake. It’s hard not to be completely taken in by the return of the melodic lines of this old classic (it was last played on September 23, 1972, before returning, 791 shows later, on June 16, 1985). The short and darkly poetic story rolls itself out and is quickly whisked into Drums.

The Space on this night is extremely fine and worth a close listen. It’s an onslaught that leaves no footing whatsoever with which to remain upright. In fact, upright isn’t even on the list of options here. Sound comes at you from every angle, pushing and pulling perspective wildly in and out of your field of vision. It’s as if everything you see and hear is being reflected in a hall of mirrors, where all the mirrors rush toward you and recede in random patterns. Lights explode from behind the corners of your eyes like fires darting from view again and again. The pressure subsides and space opens up as things continue to breath and turn around you. Slowly the sea settles and then Garcia is working the volume knob while Bobby is groaning deep distorted chords. Phil walks bass lines around the stage in quiet circles, and Brent plays music box colors. For a time it is as if order is condensing and dissolving over and over out of chaos, the music being written at the hands of passing time’s fleeting interest. Then Garcia is hinting at Other One as everything begins to swirl up to a higher pitch. It’s daunting and magical as the music slowly but surely works its way closer to the song. This is one of the finest transitions out of Space you’re likely to hear. The Other One’s energy seems to have been there the whole time as the song draws its rhythms out of the primordial muse of musical expression.

The drummers return and immediately the pressure builds around them. We find ourselves fully locked into the song now, and it becomes an intense storm filled with rippling, rolling phrases which interconnect on and off most every beat. The first verse appears, and is gone. From here, titanic spinning wheels of fire consume the air around you. As the music reaches what seems like a natural summit, another wave drives itself up and out through the heart of the peak, raging into the crowd, whipping the musical energy higher still. Breathless and blinding, we find that the musical climax is an ever-moving, always expanding expression of energy with no end or beginning. It forever feeds back into itself, and here in Other One we come face to face with the highest cycles of this loop. Pushed further than we could ever expect, this Other One goes down as one of the most memorable moments of the year.

Stella Blue appears out of the chaos, and lightly wraps the crowd in loving arms. Keeping in step with most of the show, Jerry’s mid-song solo brims with energy. His exit solo find the band back in the most familiar of cool and gentle places. The family-like energy that pours out as the song closes is unmistakable Grateful Dead music. Like flags waving in bright sunlight, the music trumpets its own victory within your heart. All is good.

This show can be enjoyed in both SBD and AUD, and even in Matrix (SBD/AUD blend). There are actually quite a few versions to wade through. I would recommend the following:

06/30/85 Oade AUD etree source info
06/30/85 Oade AUD Download

06/30/85 SBD etree source info


  1. Sounds great! I was lucky enough to see all three "official" 20th-anniversary shows at the Berkeley Greek in June, and this show is very reminiscent of those, including Cryptical and Keep On Growin' (a tune I always loved). She Belongs to Me, another highlight. Anyway, lovin' the '85 vibe.

  2. This was one of the first bootlegs I got almost 20 years ago. To this day, I think that Shakedown Street stands as one of the best the band ever performed. The way Phil and Bobby rock out of the big organ swell from Brent just typifies the evening. Every time I listen to this show, it takes me back to high school, sitting on the hood of my car, basking in the sunshine. Just a great, great show.

  3. I have to recommend the Oade Brothers tape of November 1, 1985--God bless them boys;
    if only for She Belongs to me

  4. There's something about the description of the space segment that is reminiscent of erotic literature.

  5. Proper mention to the Oade brothers for capturing the energy of the crowd and band in their recording.... In the aftermath of that filthy shakedown under the roof of the shed.... The energy captured by the crowd in the early stages of GSL is rich! Chills with the clapping and do-do-do-do-do "Hey!"


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