Today in Grateful Dead History: September 1, 1979 – Holleder Memorial Stadium, Rochester, NY

Dancing Skeletons

This is one of those 1979 shows that starts off with a bang and just keeps moving faster from there.  The bang I’m referring to is the Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo>Franklin’s Tower opener, which, like it typically does in 1979, signals a good show to come.

Lost Sailor>Saint of Circumstance closes out a well-played first set.  These songs are in their infancy at this point and the lyrics are much different than what they will become, so it’s a nice historical artifact and the playing is pretty good as well.

The Grateful Dead Listening Guide waxes poetic on the Scarlet Begonias>Fire on the Mountain that opens the second set.  I’ll add to that sentiment by focusing on Jerry’s use of repeating lines, something that he did with greater frequency in 1979 and 1980.  Here, subtle variations on the scales as he works through the solos hold the listener’s attention as we’re sucked into a vortex of guitar, especially during the middle part of Scarlet Begonias and at the end of Fire on the Mountain.

Don’t skip Space on this recording – it leads into one of the best versions of Wharf Rat I can remember hearing.  The transition between the two songs is worth hearing in and of itself, but things really take off when the band lays down a huge sound during the solo portion of the song.  It’s a fantastic voyage, and they even nail the switch into I Need a Miracle at the end.

According to the comments on the Archive, this show had to end early due to a curfew, so the second set feels truncated, even though that Scarlet>Fire is 30 minutes long.  Maybe that’s due to the perfunctory songs at the end.  In any case, everything through Wharf Rat is worth several listens in a row.

Here’s the link to an excellent audience recording:

PS- Yesterday was a busy day, so I didn’t have a chance to post this link to the 8/31/81 show at the Aladdin Theater in Vegas, the band’s first trip there since 1969.  In a nod to the venue, you get Loser and Deal.


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