Today in Grateful Dead History: October 27, 1979 – Cape Cod Coliseum, South Yarmouth, MA

Dancing Skeletons

Today is the second day in a row that I’m writing about a show that is featured on the 30 Trips Around the Sun box set.  This time, the show is one that I’ve listened to for a while and am very familiar with – the Dead’s 1979 performance at the Cape Cod Coliseum.

Let’s get right to the heart of the matter – the ridiculous sequence of songs that begins the second set:  Dancin’ In The Streets>Franklin’s Tower, He’s Gone> Jam>The Other One>Drums>Not Fade Away.  This is the Grateful Dead at the height of their 1979 powers, with a completely charged up Brent, an on fire Jerry Garcia and two drummers who are ready to knock the hell out of anything in their path.  Dancin’ in the Streets is the band at its funky best, and you can tell right away that Phil Lesh is ready to throw down with some incredible bass licks.  But then the Dead drop the bomb on the Cape, a 20 minute bonanza of a Franklin’s Tower that just keeps going and going and going through measure after measure of Jerry guitar solos so liquid and so fast that your head is guaranteed to spin.  This is one of the epic Franklin’s of all time, if not the ultimate version.

After that thunderstorm, the boys decide to slow things down for a little while with a great version of He’s Gone, however three quarters of the way through that tune, everyone decides that enough is enough and they end up jamming their way right into a furious The Other One that tears the roof off the place.  Things are going so well that Phil sits in with the drummers during Drums and guides everyone back in for a ripping Not Fade Away.

And that, friends, is all you’ll need from this show.  As some of the negative Nellies on the Archive have pointed out, the rest of the second set is take-it-or-leave-it stuff, and the first set, while well played, is not going to win any awards, either.  But I don’t care.  For about an hour of the second set, the Dead are playing as good as they will ever play in 1979, and that’s a pretty high bar.  (For instance, tomorrow’s show at the same venue is also off the charts).

If you’re interested, the Grateful Dead Listening Guide has a nice essay about this show.  Otherwise, get right to it with this exceptional Matrix:


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