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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

1980 September 6 - Lewiston, ME

Saturday, September 6, 1980
State Fairgrounds - Lewiston, ME
Audience Recording

Strip away time. Erase the day of the week, the month, the year. Tumble into a kaleidoscope of color. Pass through the membrane. Be the membrane. There never was a membrane. You're back at a Grateful Dead show.

When they did it well, it was all about the evaporation of everything that grounded you to the here and now, yet allowed you to slip all the way into the here and now just the same. The Dead's musical muse simply was. It didn't evolve so much as slowly turn, ever-present in the light. A telltale sign that the band was coaxing the muse out came with the strong impression that you were no longer hearing music being played right now. More often, the muse simply sounded like the Grateful Dead, echoing backward and forward, un-tethered to "today."

Here's a show with the opportunity to echo as far forward as it could backward. Played in 1980, it stands at the center of the Dead's 30 year career.  This is too coincidental a reason, I know, but the show is indeed packed with muse-infused moments. On 9/6/80 the music played the band.

Set One: Alabama Getaway > Greatest Story Ever Told, Sugaree, Me & My Uncle > Mexicali Blues, Tennessee Jed, Stranger, Fried of the Devil, Far From Me > Little Red Rooster, China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider > Promised Land
Set Two: Shakedown Street > Lost Sailor > Saint of Circumstance, Althea, Playin' in the Band > Uncle John's Band > Drums > Space > Not Fade Away > The Wheel > Uncle John's Band > Playin' in the Band > Sugar Magnolia E: One More Saturday Night> Brokedown Palace

The entire show is worth all of your ear's time. Yet, there are several highlights that bear mentioning – so many, that I'm quite sure I will overlook a few.

Sugaree plays on and on, Garcia speeding and swirling effortlessly. The band is locked in with him, everyone adding fuel to the fire. It's a healthy, long version, typical of the time period. Feel Like A Stranger is sublime. The jam is tossed into a heavy syncopation after Bobby missteps a "silky silky silky crazy night" line. It's impossible to tell who in the band slips with him, and who stays in the prescribed beat count of the song. But the result is an extremely extended jam that fires flares off in roller coaster streaming arcs for what feels like an eternity. The phrasing is filled with the standard Stranger themes, but it is peppered with so much more. When they somehow manage to pull together for the final refrain, it's like be shaken from an epic dream.

China>Rider had a wonderful tendency to catch fire in the early 80's. After just sort of reappearing in rotation at the start of 1979 (after a 4 year hiatus), the song duo had taken on a more upbeat tempo, and by 1980 it was a pure carnival of light and sound. The China>Rider here on 9/6/80 is flat out perfection. A wonderfully glowing solo section cascades into an I Know You Rider which finds Jerry's tone crisp and clean. He rounds corners and rolls over hills, spraying notes to the horizon. The last solo catches the light of the sun and soars like a bird. We slam into a Promised Land that punctuates the end of the first set with the same elevated energy that has permeated the entire show so far. It will blow your hair back and leave you breathless. And set two is still to come…

Leading off with a rousing Shakedown>Saint of Circumstance>Lost Sailor, the second set gets off to a fine start. But it's the huge meat of the show where the Grateful Dead's muse fills every pore. In case you overlooked it above, this is a very long ride: Playin'>Uncle John's>Drums>Space>Not Fade Away>Wheel>Uncle John's>Playin'>Sugar Magnolia. Within this roughly 60 minutes stretch of music, we find the Dead dipping deeply into the well of creative juices they've been tapping throughout this entire early September run.

Playin' quickly transports the band to no-time. Jerry's rapid staccato lead lines slowly swirling in and out of view are the only hint that it is still 1980. The jam flies down rails of light, banking around hillsides and tunneling through showers of rich watercolor rain. Footing is easily lost as perception is swept up into the buoyancy of music. When Garcia eventually directs the band into Uncle John's it rings with the message that we have arrived. There is a vast opening of hands and hearts here. You can feel it everywhere. The Dead have brought a crowd of thousands to trusted and familiar place. Here, the musical loping is timeless. As the song's joyful bounce tips over into the 7/8 time signature jam, the band is alive with light. Everything dazzles, and the music pulls into great tracks of ascending smoke. Before Drums, form dissolves into pulsing fragments and regressions.

Space is brief, yet bottomless. Phil hurls massive planets, churning with purple lava, over and into the body of the crowd. They take away the space to breathe, as the air is filled with magma over and over again. Suffocating, taffy-like moans expand to fill the fairgrounds.

Not Fade Away appears and ignites the crowd's energy. And while it arrives off of a Garcia hip check into the boards, The Wheel which follows swoons with that unmistakable Grateful Dead vibe. A timelessness is returning, and when they deftly transition back into Uncle John's Band, the segue jamming is sensational. The ever-present underpinning of joy and welcoming arms envelope the audience and it becomes easy to lose oneself in the long spiraling cycles of the music's structure. Another nice transition unfolds back into Playin' to bring things home. The music swirls between the 7/8 and 10/4 time signatures. Themes merge and the Dead's music elevates the senses. The song ends with a few extra refrains during which Jerry delivers some unexpected soloing sparkle just when you'd otherwise expect the song to be over.

Sugar Magnolia closes the set, and things end with a Brokedown Palace encore that further solidifies this show's ability to strike the chord of the timeless Grateful Dead muse. Jerry's short solo floats like starlight through a softly swaying summer breeze. It is enough. We are bathed in the band's pure lore of folk-psychedelic Americana music. It is everything Grateful Dead. Fare thee well.

09/06/80 AUD etree source info
09/06/80 AUD Download


  1. The intro to Playin' has such a cool, Middle Eastern feel to it. I've never heard them ease into a Playin' like this one. I only had set 2 back when I started collecting tapes in the 80's - need to listen to this whole show again.

  2. crookedman76 (Tommy in Tuskaloosa)November 9, 2011 at 11:42 PM

    Seems the "collective mind" has sent a few of us to the early 80's. Haven't heard this one but I believe I will now. Very nice to see that GDLG new post email in my box again... thx Noah.

  3. What a great show in a year chock full of them.

    As I recall, this was the first Wheel played on the East coast since 1977.

    The Shakedown is brimming with shockingly deep grooves and pockets. The Sailor/Saint is like a Swiss watch. Even the closing jam in Althea features an over the top Garcia solo. Yeah, everything is just exactly perfect.

    I love how Weir's voice is spent by the end of Sugar Magnolia. It nicely signals that they didn't hold anything back that night.

    I was only seven when this show took place, but it's always been a standout favorite of mine. In an odd twist of fate, my firstborn entered the world on this show's 25th anniversary.

  4. "Strip away time. Erase the day of the week, the month, the year. Tumble into a kaleidoscope of color. Pass through the membrane. Be the membrane. There never was a membrane. You're back at a Grateful Dead show."

    Your writing is fantastic.

  5. This Blog is THE BEST...what a fantastic resource....

  6. One of the greatest Greatest Stories Ever Told. Bob didn't attain true "Bobness" until the 80s. This is why some of us are inordinately fond of that part of the band's history.

    This blog is above all praise.

  7. How well I remember this day, a long one in the hot sun. We'd driven all day and all night from Michigan via Montreal, parked the bus in a field (of what later turned out to be poison ivy), and joined the giant crowd of deadheads and bikers (not without some tension there) at the dusty state fairgrounds site. Roy Buchanan and a band with Levon Helm opened. We were very high. The Dead's first set seemed to go on for freakin ever (check it: 13 tunes). Althea fit just right in the pre-Playin-in-the-2nd-set slot.
    The Wheel!
    Back into Uncle John's...and back into Playin.
    Staggering out after the completely draining Brokedown.

    The bus had been towed, with the dog still in it, and it was a long time to get home but wow.

    Thanks for posting this and jogging those memories.

  8. My cousin got married on this day - so I was unable to attend the show. I STILL haven't forgiven her! ;)

  9. Once again, thank you for your wonderful contributions to online tape trading community. I know at least personally that this website has helped me in unimaginable ways to navigate through the pretty extensive sea of live recordings. This one from 1980 is one among a few (including the one from June of that year in Anchorage Alaska) from the early 80s that is starting to broaden my listening perspective, from that of someone who said they'd only listen to the Dead before 77, to presently realizing that there's much more incredible music to be heard after the 70s passed into history. Thank you for turning me on to some 80s stuff! Keep it up.

    1. I can apreciate what you say Peter and am so grateful to Noah for making these superb recordings available to me and future generations of Deadheads. Diolch an fawr. (That's Welsh for thank you very much)

    2. Fabulous, thank you very much for all the great tapes.

  10. Noah, this is a great show. Your words were enjoyable to read. Concerning China Cat> Rider, didn't they bring it back into rotation on 12/29/77 (In the second set, the launched into it in the midst of Playing in the Band and then after Rider gently went into China Doll). I know the '79 versions probably get more press because they opened some first sets with the combo, which was very bold at that time. Sorry for the hair-splitting! This is a fab show I need to re-listen too. Thanks for sharing and the blog!

  11. Great show, wish I was there. My buddy's cousin gave birth to her kid in the parking lot.

  12. This was my first exposure to the world of the Dead... i grew up about 15 miles from Lewiston. In 1980 i was 12 and had tickets to see a Red Sox game on 9/7. There was a store located next to the Fairgrounds that had the best gas prices so my parents would always stop there on the way out of town on trips.

    So, we stop at the store. There's a line of colorful, bedraggled folks waiting to get into the door. I knew right then that there was something about the Grateful Dead that i wanted to know more about.

  13. A good friend of mine ended up meeting Jerry and ending up on the same flight after the Lewiston show.... but getting back to that whole time period there were some truly amazing shows. . . Hartford was great but so where some of those shows on that tour also rocked it seems they have only gotten better with time. @ anonymous I believe the "Bobness" peaked during that "Bobstar" period that i think was around 83 or 84.....

  14. Miss Jerry.Love the dead. Great post, keep up the good work. Thanks. IStillGotMyGuitar

  15. thought y'all might appreciate this. one of the best covers of the dead i've seen in a long time

  16. Eagerly awaiting the next post. Come on back soon!

  17. damn superior transition from me and my uncle into just doesn't get any better!

  18. This was I think, hard to remember, my fourth GD show. Had hitchhiked up from Natick Mass with a friend, wow, what longggg strange and wonderful trip it was. This has to be one of the most amazing performances I was able to catch of them and I managed to catch them 136 times.

  19. 80 was the last good year......

    1. Sorry but no it wasn't. Can't tell you how many fantastic shows I saw in the '80s. I admit there were a number of...less than stellar performances but the great outweigh the mediocre by a lot. All the Hampton shows, all the Portland, Maine shows, MSG, SPAC, etc, etc

  20. Walked to this concert from Bates College my junior year. Shit goddamn I think I can hear myself in the background. Very memorable. The fairgrounds are no longer there, a business/industrial park, but I may just find exactly where I was sitting in whatever building is there. I'm sure they will understand (like the funny 49ers ad on these days). Anyway, thanks so much to all of you who work hard to post this stuff. You have made me very happy.

  21. icepetal,

    a request from '80...

    one of my favorites of the shows I attended

    Only NOLA "Truckin" ever

  22. I was there, an incredibly beautiful Fall day, the Saturday after Labor Day. Levon Helm played an awesome set before The Dead took the stage for these two fantastic sets. One of the best shows I ever attended, I will never forget it!

  23. This was a fantastic show! Only me 2nd Dead show, the first being in the spring of 80. I knew I was hooked after the first show but this experience was...incredible. I remember it vividly despite...well, let's just say I remember it vividly. The vibe at this show and the vibe the band put off was amazing. This show was greatness from the first note to the last. About 4 hours I think. every Deadhead needs to know about and hear this one.


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