Today in Grateful Dead History: August 28, 1982 – Oregon Country Fair, Veneta, OR

Dancing Skeletons

Did you know that the Grateful Dead played a second show in Veneta, Oregon almost ten years to the day after their triumphant August 27, 1972 performance?  Not only does the band pull out all of the 1982 stops for this festival performance, but they also debut two early-to-mid-80’s staple songs; the much maligned Keep Your Day Job and the more respected but still under-appreciated West L.A. Fadeaway.

I’m not even going to try to compare this show to its more famous older cousin – too much has changed over the ten years between stops in Veneta.  But looking at this performance in relation to other 1982 shows, I can say that we have a good early 80’s show on our hands.  You wouldn’t know it from some of the vocal flubs in Bertha, which gets things rolling, but everyone sounds psyched and it’s clear the band is having a good time.  The first hint of that “special something” takes place in Tennessee Jed, when Jerry and Bob play off each other for over a minute at the end with Brent joining in for good measure.  It’s All Over Now, usually nothing special, is something great today, as is the set ending China Cat Sunflower>I Know Your Rider.

The second set opens with Day Job>The Women Are Smarter.  On paper this looks terrible, but today this combination smokes, especially The Women Are Smarter.  (Remember, this is the first Day Job ever.  And speaking of Day Job, I think most of the problem with the song comes from the lyrics, which, as someone with said day job, I don’t find offensive.  Musically, I’ve always liked this tune, and have frequently found myself humming it hours after hearing it).  The meat of this show is a thrilling sequence several songs later:  Playin’ In The Band>Drums>The Wheel>The Other One>Truckin’>Black Peter>Playin’ In The Band.  The Dead must have channeled the ghosts of 1972 for this section – the jamming in Playin in the Band is fantastic, the transition into The Wheel is top of the line, The Other One is fun and Black Peter is a tour de force.  The Dupree’s Diamond Blues encore, which hadn’t been played since 1978, caps off a great day.

When I posted this I forgot to link to the show.  Here it is, a week later:


Today In Grateful Dead History: August 27, 1972 – Old Renaissance Faire Grounds, Veneta, OR

sunshinedaydreamThis is one of the canonical shows and has been commercially released as a CD/DVD combo that you can purchase here.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with the story, the Dead played this show as a benefit for Ken Kesey’s Springfield creamery in front of thousands of delirious hippies on one of the hottest days of the year.  As I’ve done with a couple of other important shows, I’ll give you a list of the highlights:

  1. China Cat Sunflower>I Know You Rider is spectacular, with fluid runs throughout the transition and a powerful ending.
  2. Playin’ in the Band is an all-time great performance of the song, twenty minutes of power that never lets up, even in the quieter moments.  There is nothing subtle about this version, just a band at the top of its game wailing away.
  3. The middle/end portion of He’s Gone features that beautiful crescendo that pierces right through your soul – it’s crystalline.
  4. The Bird Song from this show is often listed as the best Bird Song ever.  I think the 6/22/1973 version from Vancouver is better, but this one is definitely one of the best.
  5. Where to begin with Dark Star?  I’ve listened to this version more than 100 times and it blows my mind every single time.  Just listen.
  6. After the madness of Dark Star we get dumped into El Paso and that flows into Sing Me Back Home, which is a sentimental, mournful version that, in a perfect world, would have ended the performance.  To me, that would have been perfect.  But if we stopped here, we wouldn’t get to . . .
  7. Blazing versions of Sugar Magnolia, Casey Jones and One More Saturday Night.
  8. The stage announcements are all incredible.  Take your pick.

There are a number of versions of this show online, but the best one is the official release, which is well worth your hard earned money.  In any event, here’s one option for online listening:

Today In Grateful Dead History: August 26, 1971 – Gaelic Park, Bronx, NY

yankeestealie I know Gaelic Park is nowhere near Yankee Stadium, but since this 1971 show is the only time the Grateful Dead played in the Bronx, I’m posting this picture anyway.

Musically, there isn’t much to report from this particular date in history – there’s not a lot of jamming, that’s for sure.

We do have good versions of Hard to Handle and Good Lovin’ in the first set, even though Hard to Handle is somewhat marred by tape problems.   The highlight of the second set (and the whole show for that matter) is The Other One which is really on fire with monster licks from everyone and huge Phil Lesh runs all over the place.  Speaking of Phil, this is one of those shows that features him high in the mix throughout, so if you’re looking for the Phil Zone, look no further.

This soundboard is the best of the recordings, but it’s still not great:

P.S. – I didn’t have time to post yesterday’s 1993 show from the Shoreline Amphitheater but it’s a good one with pretty awesome 1993 versions of Scarlet Begonias>Fire on the Mountain and Estimated Prophet>Terrapin Station making it sound like a strange alternate 1977 performance.

Today In Grateful Dead History: August 24, 1972 – Berkeley Community Theater, Berkeley, CA

dancing-bearI messed things up a little by listening to the Dead’s 8/27/72 Veneta performance over the weekend, so today’s show, while really really good, seems a little less powerful than it probably should since I’ve still got the 8/27 monster on my mind.  However, I wanted nothing to do with listening to what many consider the worst Grateful Dead show of them all, 8/24/85’s Boreal Ridge Ski Resort disaster, so here we are.

As I said, this is a really great show, with a mammoth Dark Star>Morning Dew cementing the second set.  This Dark Star never loses its momentum over 27 minutes until we arrive at Morning Dew, which is chock full of incredible playing.  I would hold this Dark Star up favorably against any other one from 1972 – it’s a perfect combination of incredible jams and tight, listenable playing.  If you throw in the mighty version of Truckin’ that precedes it and Morning Dew, you’ve got over 50 minutes of exceptional music without even having to partake in the first set’s bounty.

There are a couple of cool moments scattered throughout this show in songs that don’t usually get a lot of mention on this site.  For instance, at the end of Tennessee Jed we actually get to hear Donna Jean speak more than one sentence from the stage.  The beginning of Greatest Story Ever Told has some crazy Phil Lesh bass thumps that I’ve never heard before and the organ work on One More Saturday Night is not unique but it’s still rare.  Sugar Magnolia also comes with the good stuff tonight.

If you listen to this show without trying to compare it to its neighbors, you’re going to be delighted.  (Even if you do, it still sounds great).  Audio note – part of Sing Me Back Home is distorted – the rest of the song is fine.  Here you go:

Today In Grateful Dead History: August 21, 1980 – Uptown Theater, Chicago, IL

stealie I know that there are two epic shows on this date in history (Berkeley Community Theater ’72 & Fillmore West ’68) but I wanted to finish up this three day run of Chicago shows from 1980, so those other dates will have to wait for next year and the year after that.

Today we have a short but sweet capper to a fun run of performances at the Uptown Theater.  The second set is a keeper, and it starts off with Drums, so you know things are going to be interesting.  Once the rest of the band gets settled in behind Mickey and Billy, they launch into Uncle John’s Band, with some great guitar work from Jerry and cool Brent keyboard fills backing him up.  The drummers remain at the forefront in this mix and it’s interesting to hear them go back and forth during the transition into a standard upbeat version of Truckin’.  (Jerry’s pretty high in the mix and solos over almost all of Bob’s vocals).  Once we’ve explored that song, it’s off to The Other One, again upbeat, before more Drums lead us into a beautiful The Wheel.  The band brings us full circle with a return to Uncle John’s Band and everyone should be very happy with the results.  Sugar Magnolia ends the set in typical rockin’ fashion, and we get Alabama Get Away as an encore, which is as weird as choosing to end the second set with it like the band did on the 19th.  But what the hell, we started the set with Drums . . .

Oh yeah, the first set.  High Time was good – I love Brent’s harmonies on this song.  Shakedown Street was also ok.  Otherwise, nothing of note.

We’ve got a soundboard for this show – it’s not great, but it’s definitely the best recording out of the three shows that make up this run:

Today In Grateful Dead History: August 20, 1980 – Uptown Theater, Chicago, IL

stealie After yesterday’s incredible performance, and having taken a glance at the setlist for today’s follow up show in Chicago, I was a little anxious to see what the Dead had in store for us on this day in 1980.  I don’t know if it’s just a case of expectations influencing reality, but this show never achieves full flight.

The biggest problem is the second set – the first set is chalk full of good songs, well played but otherwise pretty boring, save a very good Let It Grow near the end of the set.  But here’s the rest:  Greatest Story Ever Told>Althea>Lost Sailor>Saint Of Circumstance>Terrapin Station>Drums>Not Fade Away>Morning Dew>Good Lovin’, E: U.S. Blues.

Today’s version of Althea doesn’t quite match yesterday’s intensity, and Lost Sailor/St. of Circumstance is inconsequential.  The breakdown before the second part of Terrapin Station is beautiful, with Brent playing soft runs that accentuate the transition, but otherwise the song doesn’t do much.  The big highlight from a setlist perspective is the Morning Dew, which was only played four times in 1980 (if you believe the comments – again, DeadBase doesn’t work).  However, just because it’s there doesn’t make it great, and the performance itself is pedestrian.  Ditto the rest.

At least the recording’s sound quality issues have improved.  While we don’t have a soundboard recording for this show, the audience recording is better than yesterday’s effort, even though you need to do some playing with the equalizer to get there.  This version, to my ears, is the better of the two available sources:

Today In Grateful Dead History: August 19, 1980 – Uptown Theater, Chicago, IL

stealie This is a great show from a venue that always seems to bring out the best in the Grateful Dead.  In fact, I would go so far as to say that this is a pretty exceptional 1980 show, and might end up as one of my favorites from that year when all is said and done.

The opening Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo>Franklin’s Tower>New Minglewood Blues is fantastic – high energy, great solos and (if you’re listening to the soundboard) Phil bombs everywhere.  It easily competes with, and often exceeds, the 1979 Half-Step>Franklin’s Towers that the Dead frequently played throughout that year.  Althea is another first set highlight, with Jerry sending sparkling solos across the sky and Phil continuing to play his ass off.  The first set ends, unusually, with Feel Like a Stranger, and while it’s not a total jam out, it’s an interesting way to end a set.

The strangeness continues at the start of the second set with an opening Little Red Rooster, a song that the band hadn’t played since the Pigpen days (since the online Deadbase hasn’t worked in months, I can’t give specific dates).  This slips into a thrilling sequence: China Cat Sunflower>I Know You Rider>Estimated Prophet>Eyes Of The World>Drums>Space>Playing In The Band>Comes A Time>Playing In The Band.  I don’t know where to start, since this is all incredible music.  The Estimated>Eyes is epic, with continuous shredding from both guitarists and Brent throughout both songs.  Things get really weird and far out there at the end of Eyes, pre-Drums, and the sparse, eerie Space continues the journey.  There is a great transition into a low-key but well played Playing in the Band before we get to an incredible version of Comes a Time with a huge solo from Jerry that sounds more like the Jerry Band than the Dead, in the best possible way.  Then we’re back into Playing with another great transition.  Wow.  To cap off the weirdness, the band plays Around and Around but instead of stopping (which you would expect), chooses to end the set with a typical opener – Alabama Get Away.  Pretty cool.

As great as this show is, the recordings are all pretty bad.  The audience tape improves as it goes on, but it’s still pretty rough, and the soundboard is patched all over the place (including a big portion of the second set) with the audience recording.  The patch in Playin’ in the Band is particularly tough and the levels frequently top out.  Don’t let this dissuade you – this is an incredible show.