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Thursday, September 23, 2010

1978 December 19 - Jackson, MS

Tuesday, December 19, 1978
Memorial Coliseum, State Fairgrounds - Jackson, MS
Audience Recording

A classic and fantastic audience tape from late 1978, the Mississippi State Fairgrounds show on December 19th goes well beyond showcasing stellar heights attained in ‘78. This show works that special sort of time travelling magic we occasionally find where the exact year of the performance becomes indistinguishable to even the most seasoned listener. And even before the knobs and dials are turned back to 1973, this tape will be knocking your socks off.

Set 1: Mississippi Half Step Uptown Toodeloo > Franklin's Tower, New Minglewood Blues, They Love Each Other, Me & My Uncle > Big River, Loser, El Paso, Row Jimmy, Lazy Lightning > Supplication
Set 2: Scarlet Begonias > Fire On The Mountain, Promised Land, Stagger Lee, Truckin' > Drums > Other One > Stella Blue > Not Fade Away > Around & Around E: Casey Jones

We are treated to a fine show opening Half Step > Franklin's with Garcia shredding his way into the transition and liquidly loopifying his way through the solos in Franklin's Tower. The show gets off to a delightful start.

The first set works its way along, establishing a quintessential Dead vibe. The set wraps up with an extended Row Jimmy (over 12 minutes) and a Lazy Lightning > Supplication which, while experiencing a drop in levels just at the transition that will force you to crank up the volume a bit, caps the set on a crest of energy sure to pour over into the second set.

That said, Scarlet Begonias has a somewhat shaky start with what feels like a dragging tempo and Jerry blowing lyrics. But things quickly pull together, and as Garcia plays his first solo he stokes embers into flames, and flames into shimmering heat. We come out on the other side for the song's last verse slipping directly into a sublime musical journey. The tape is sounding perfect. Everything spreads out for miles in all direction and each instrument occupies its own distinct space. The jam moves like wind over a gigantic sail. It ripples and swells, sometimes slowly, sometimes in gusts. The music pushes from several directions at once. Fragments turn and reflect light into unexpected colors and there is a subtle disjointedness to the otherwise rolling and rocking which provides brief secretive glances into a chaotic underpinning far below. Before we can truly grasp these secrets, Fire On The Mountain's theme appears, and we drift effortlessly toward a more familiar shoreline.

The solos through Fire On The Mountain soar. Jerry's tone cries with an emotional voice as Bobby indulges (over indulges?) his love of playing slide up over the 21st fret. Still, the song builds beautifully. Garcia's voice begins to roar and scream. He hits the final solo section and rides the song's theme into the sky. Everything begins to tremble and shake. Phil and the drummers crash and tumble. Jerry continues to burn as the song comes to a fine finish.

In Truckin' we find a full exploration of the secretive chaotic worlds hinted at earlier. The jam unfolds quickly into a swirl of Other One infused darkness. The downbeat slips completely from view and a sparkling canopy fills our visual field, full of slowly undulating clouds. A wonderfully extended jam ensues tinged with a delicacy that belies the typical themes of a 1978 Dead show. Slowly a creeping intensity floods the sky and we are being driven into showers of fire and glass. The chaotic underpinning of twisted roots gives way to Drums. They stand as tall as mountains before us, and the recording offers them to us as no soundboard could.

We come out of Drums not into Space, but rather into a lilting jam section that instantly transports us to the thick summer pastures of the jams found on June 22, 1973. The tone of all the instruments is warm and fluid. Phil and Bobby, especially, sound as if they have been grafted in from five years prior. And the music has an ease to it that is unmistakably 1973-esque. This haunting reminiscence goes on for what feels like forever and leaves us in a space of breathless joy. When Phil hammers us into Other One proper, caves and twisting fractal caverns spin us in all directions. Electricity pours through the outer layer of our skin. It is as if there are several versions of the song being played at once with multiple bands swelling in and out of view—cross fades pull in like tides, then recede like shadows. There is little room for anything but the music here. It is as if we've been absorbed by an enormous intake of the band's breath and will not return to our known place in the cosmos until they have finished with us.

This “finishing” actually transports us to as tranquil a setting as can be conceived. Stella Blue appears out of thin air, and Jerry has us huddled close to hear his story. And as we travel out of this songs into the next, we are treated to a segue of such magical intertwining that it feels almost criminal to realize the Dead never did it quite like this again, ever.

There's little point in trying to describe in words the way Stella Blue and Not Fade Away become one during this transition. It goes beyond most indulgent expectations related to the Grateful Dead's ability to weave one song to the next. If you've never heard it, this is a slack-jawed and drool producing passage of music that may amaze you in its having been hidden from your ears all this time. But such is the world of Grateful Dead concert recordings, is it not? This is really why we're here together now. And I'm glad to be able to pull little gems like this out from time to time, even years after starting us down this path of musical guidance and recommendation.

Enjoy. And enjoy again.

12/19/78 AUD etree source info
12/19/78 AUD Download


  1. Icepetal, Wow, your descriptions put into words what I feel like when I'm fully engaged in a show. Thanks for your ability to describe the almost indescribable. With the ability to download and listen to almost any show today (unlike in the past when you might have had only a few tapes), your guided tour has become incredibly important. Thank you for your time and effort. The community of Deadheads out here in Cyberspace truly apprecaite and acknowledge your work. May the sun shine on your back door some day.

  2. I wholeheartedly agree with the previous posters sentiments! (Beautifully put BTW )

    This show is special to me so thank you for adding it to your invaluable collection of reviews here. I really appreciate all that you do.

    The transition into NFA is indeed not to be missed but also worthy of mention is the sweet St. Stephen Jam within NFA that is slightly reminiscent of the 4/29/71 fillmore Jam.

    Thanks again. This site is just exactly perfect.

    "I had one of those feelings, I'd been there before."

  3. Icepetal,
    Thanks for directing us to this awesome show. The quality of the music is only matched by the quality of the recording.
    I find this show as good or better than some highly regarded 77 shows!


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