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Thursday, January 21, 2010

1979 September 1 - Rochester, NY

Saturday, September 1, 1979
Holleder Memorial Stadium - Rochester, NY
Audience Recording

You have to love the way that even after so many years, the riches of the Grateful Dead's concert catalogue can continue to bear fruit. It's not just the occasional previously unheard show coming to light, but as you get more than knee deep into collecting shows, you find that these riches can also come in the form of "upgrades" to classic tapes, let alone by bumping into a date that previously evaded your attention altogether. For me, this happened in spades with September 1st, 1979.

As much as it may have been new to me after so many years, there are, no doubt, scores of traders who have treasured this show for decades. Such is the nature of Grateful Dead tape collecting. There's more out there than could ever be universally experienced. In the case of 09/01/79, this is a wonderful show that I have now found represented by a stellar audience recording. And that sends it right to the top of worthy additions to the Grateful Dead Listening Guide.

Set 1: Mississippi Half Step Uptown Toodeloo > Franklin's Tower, Me & My Uncle > Big River, Friend Of The Devil, Looks Like Rain, Don't Ease Me In, Lost Sailor > Saint Of Circumstance
Set 2: Scarlet Begonias > Fire On The Mountain > Drums > Space > Wharf Rat > I Need A Miracle > Bertha > Good Lovin' E: One More Saturday Night

The show is chuck full of delights spanning a fine Half Step > Franklin’s opener, to only the fifth rendition of Lost Sailor > Saint Of Circumstance (still in it's formative stages). And the first set burns with the fire that we would come to associate with early 80's first sets in the years soon to follow. But, for me, the crowning jewel is the enormous Scarlet>Fire that opens the second set. Long enough to fill the entire pre-Drums portion of the set, this is an under appreciate version that can stand with the best of them.

Scarlet Begonias gets started in a somewhat standard fashion. We are bathed in audience recording perfection as the music pours into us. Brent is slightly out of the mix, but to mention it is to be overly nit-picky. This is one hell of a recording. The song finds its way into its extended jam, satisfying on all levels. Eventually Phil hints at the transition into Fire On The Mountain but Jerry will have none of it. Garcia proceeds to launch into a nearly cosmic level of playing, pushing his only weeks old Doug Irwin "Tiger" guitar into the heavens. His tone absolutely shimmers off the tape, and we are left slack-jawed as he drives himself into one amazing phrase after another. It goes on for several long minutes before the band finally does transition into the next song, and the cosmic level of playing only continues from there.

Fire On The Mountain – all 16 minutes of it – is a 1979 snapshot of the Grateful Dead's evolving essential core magic. Sure, there are folks who proclaim that there is nothing worth their ear after 1974. But this is the sort of performance that even these people would be delighted to hear. The pulsing beat and syncopated rhythms of this Fire On The Mountain display the voice of the band's primal groove in the late 70's. The magic is alive and well, and Garcia wastes no time riding the wave. All of his solos are tinged with something special, but his last efforts goes beyond all expectation. Amidst his inspired and passionate soloing, his exploration of tone via his collection of processing gear pushes his sound into something we might otherwise associate with his midi work ten years later. His guitar's sound pushes completely out of bounds as the world around us is alive in rippling waves and sparkling starlight. We are flashed directly into a singular experience with the music, like some tribal dance reaching its zenith.

The post Drums portion of the show seems to fit an outdoor football stadium party atmosphere perfectly, as the band delivers a nearly solid rockin' ride straight to the end of the show.

A good time had by all, with part of our consciousness left permanently in the outer reaches of the Grateful Dead’s cosmic muse-garden forever. A fitting resting place we’ll happily return to again and again for sure.

Enjoy this stellar audience recording.

09/01/79 AUD etree source info
09/01/79 AUD Download


  1. Nice leftfield pick, noah. I like this show a lot, but I'm biased in that I seem to like all Rochester shows a lot. Don't forget Bob's classic dedications to all the imprisoned lab animals in the world and the shout out to the cops on the rooftops watching the show (!?). Sounds like quite a scene, as usual.

  2. Holy cow! I can't believe I am only now discovering your wonderful webpage and podcast. I've been a regular browser of the LMA's Grateful Dead collection since 2005, and did manage to add a large number of soundboard shows before the fallout at the end of that year. I remember trying to navigate the large number of audience recordings once they were available for download again at LMA, but got discouraged at the massive numbers of shows and the difficulty I had finding high quality recordings. I've been kind of a soundboard snob when it comes to listening to the Dead, and would always prefer a soundboard copy over an audience. Your site has opened my eyes to the superb auds out there, up to now I've only heard a couple I would consider superior to a SBD. Your blog is a wonderful roadmap pointing the way to the best of the best. I have been having a blast reading your reviews and articles. Thanks so much and please keep up the great work!

  3. Thanks, Nick. Rochester was certainly a good home base for the Dead's magic.

    Jobygoob, welcome aboard. Very glad you found your way here, and happy to be of help concerning the road map to shows and auds. I think we'll keep you pretty busy now. :-)

  4. Noah, beautiful job describing the nuances of this show and the centerpiece S>F. I guess I'm one of those folks who've always loved this one, but once again your eloquence sparks a desire for me to listen again - with new ears. Keep up the great work.

  5. After a long rainy summer, it was a fun Labor Day Weekend afternoon in Rochester, with lots of sunshine and Genesee beer trucks. Greg Kihn opened, followed by The Good Rats, and then the Dead. Because of a curfew the Dead's second set was quite short, but none the less was pretty smoking. I forget exactly why the police were out in force that day, but someone fell off the parapet and died. Pretty tragic. We ended the day at a BBQ joint eating chicken and drinking warm Molson beer. There are some great photos of the band in Jay Blakesberg's book Between the Dark and Light from this date.

  6. A good time was had by all . . . except the poor bastard who fell and broke his back.

  7. This show was like a real mental roller coaster..Looks like Rain really stuck with me for some reason...Scarlet Begonias can still remind me of the titillating girl I was with...Wharf Rat just blew through me...great set list,having a high time, didn't even think about some of my pals being MIA...then right afterwords I found out the fucking cops took down a couple of my bros during the show and it was fear and loathing til we made it out of there...long time ago but it brings back potent memories.

  8. I remember it was hot....I was high on acid .....and the band was cooking.

  9. There were noticeable tensions that afternoon as we poured out in the surrounding neighborhood after the show. I do remember a commotion right behind me during the first set and hearing that someone had fallen from the top of the stadium....I was already kinda freakin, so I couldn't bring myself to turn around. It was already getting to be "too much". Band wailing, chaos all around, some hippie dude, vending ice cream on the field who was as high as I was, freaks painting with dayglo all over the wall in front of the band, no noticeable security anywhere to be seen.....The inmates have taken over the asylum!!

    This was my forth show, but the first one where I really "got it"....Never forget looking back to the soundboard during the second set and seeing the sister of a guy I went to high school with this guy from the shore...both just hanging in the shade with Healy....How'd they get up there I thought......hmmmm Been enjoying this show ever since. Always thought it was special. Thanks for the memories!

    Found this while goggling Holleder...
    The stadium was consistently losing money. Promoters were looking for different ideas to generate revenue. Enter the Grateful Dead.

    The hippie band was announced as the headliner for a show to be held at Holleder on Sept. 1, 1979. Neighborhood groups were up in arms over "concerns of rampant drug use and rowdy fans." A petition with 500 signatures was presented to city officials, who denied the permit two weeks before the show.

    A state Supreme Court justice finally told the two sides to work things out, and the show went on. Fears ran rampant beforehand.

    "I'm moving things in the house, getting ready," one Holleder neighbor said in a news story the day before the concert. "Maybe nothing will happen, but I feel like I'm waiting for a bomb to hit."

    The concert, including opening acts The Good Rats and the Greg Kihn Band, went off with few problems, save for some illegal parking. A review of the show stated, tongue-in-cheek, "The world, the city of Rochester and the neighborhood around the stadium apparently survived the experience."


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