Today in Grateful Dead History: August 17, 1980 – Kansas City Municipal Auditorium, Kansas City, MO

Dancing Skeletons

For those of you out there who still doubt the potential power of audience recordings, please take note of today’s show from the Kansas City Municipal Auditorium in 1980.  There are multiple patches in the soundboard, and every time we hear one, I want to keep listening to it instead of moving back into the soundboard.  These audience clips are clear, well-blended and capture the energy in the room.  The soundboard is muddy and doesn’t pack close to the same punch.  So why not link to the audience recording on the Archive?  Because that recording is not the one used for the patches on this soundboard – the AUD on the Archive is farther away and sounds like noise reduction was layered onto it.  Sorry to start off this review with a paragraph-long discussion of tape quality, but I think that I would have liked this show more if I was listening to the right recording.

That being said, I still enjoyed this one, especially The Wheel>Truckin’>Wharf Rat that comes out of Space in the second set.  The Dead had not played The Wheel since February 1979, so it’s a welcome return for this beautiful song, and it launches right into a furious Truckin’.  This Truckin’ doesn’t plumb the outer limits, but it succeeds in blowing the roof off the joint and sounds like a very early version of the tune combined with one from the 80’s.  The energy continues into a spirited Wharf Rat, too.

Aside from this three-song combination, the second set also holds a pretty good Scarlet Begonias>Fire on the Mountain.  There is nothing particularly unique about this version, but it has a lot of energy and will keep you entertained, at a minimum.

The first set is fine, but it’s marred (on the soundboard recording) by Jerry’s guitar levels, which are unusually low, killing Jack Straw and hurting Sugaree as well.  Friend of the Devil is a good version and the set-ending Lost Sailor>St. of Circumstance is nice too.

Listen to the (patched) soundboard here:

To get a better version of those first few songs, you can hear the audience recording here:


Today in Grateful Dead History: June 20, 1980 – West High Auditorium, Anchorage, AK

Dancing Skeletons

It’s day two of our Alaska journey here at the Daily Dose, and tonight’s show is a notable improvement over yesterday’s warm up.

For starters, the recording, a Matrix, is much better than any of the other offerings out there – on the soundboard recordings, the vocals are too high in the mix and the audience is a little muddy.  So this is the best of both worlds.

Second, the band’s energy is up.  The Jack Straw>Franklin’s Tower opener cooks.  Now, Franklin’s Tower isn’t going to win any awards tonight, but it’s still a zinger through and through.  Ditto the Bob Weir cowboy tunes that follow before we get a casual Friend of the Devil.   At this point, the show takes a dramatic left turn, with an unusual mid-set Let It Grow>Althea combination.  Everyone gives it their all on this Let It Grow and Althea, while not as good as yesterday, is still Althea and therefore almost always worth hearing.  Things meander a little from here until a slightly ragged Deal ends the first set.

The second set contains the meat of this show, but not before the upbeat set opening combo of Alabama Getaway>Greatest Story Ever Told and a great Ship of Fools with a two round melodic solo from Jerry.  Now that everyone is limbered up, the boys dive deep into Estimated Prophet>The Other One.  As far as I can tell, this is the last time that the band ever played this sequence, after visiting it occasionally between 1977 and 1980, and they really let us have it, with an intense, fire-breathing Estimated and a short but oh so sweet The Other One that hits all of the good notes right off the bat during the transition and doesn’t let up for five solid minutes of improvisational glory.

After Drums and a good Space, the band seems to want to let things rock, and they do so with gusto, playing a bunch of the expected rockers plus an up-tempo version of Black Peter.  The Don’t Ease Me In encore completes the party.

Tomorrow is the solstice and the final show of this little run.  But for now, listen to this fun night in Anchorage here:

Today in Grateful Dead History: June 19, 1980 – West High Auditorium, Anchorage, AK

Dancing Skeletons

Today is the first in a series of three concerts that the Grateful Dead played in a 2,000 seat high school auditorium in Anchorage, Alaska in 1980.  Now keep in mind, the band’s previous three shows took place at the Portland Memorial Coliseum (13,000 seats), the Seattle Center Coliseum (15,000 seats) and the Spokane Coliseum (8,500 seats), so it’s not like they were playing nightclubs during the summer of 1980.  So how did the Dead find their way up to a high school in Anchorage for three nights in front of a combined audience that didn’t equal the crowd in Spokane?  That, like many things about the Grateful Dead, remains spectacularly unclear.  (Although this article does set the scene pretty well).  Suffice it to say, the Dead’s only Alaska concerts make for an interesting story and for some good 1980 listening.

Today’s show is, in my opinion, the weakest of the three nights, but it’s still a fun show.  There are a couple of unusual second set quirks here.  First, we have one of five second set Peggy-O’s ever played out of a total of 264 performances of the song (not counting the ones that were played during the first electric set, and therefore the second overall set, of the three-set acoustic/electric shows in the fall of 1980), and it’s a good version with a sparkling Jerry solo.  We also have one of only 11 second set C.C. Riders out of a total of 127 played.  This one is also interesting, with Brent leading the way.  So, strange things were in the air in Alaska.

The rest of the night is straightforward 1980 Grateful Dead with minimal jamming.  There is some cool soloing on The Music Never Stopped to close the first set, and Jerry rocks on Althea, as usual, but, beyond that, things are pretty dialed down tonight.  Sound problems mar China Cat Sunflower>I Know You Rider, and everything else in the second set is pretty blase, except for the playing near the end of Wharf Rat, which is good.  But if you think of this as the warmup night, you can catch snippets of where we’ll be going later on in the week.

Till then, listen to the soundboard (with many patches) here:

Today in Grateful Dead History: May 30, 1980 – Milwaukee Auditorium, Milwaukee, WI

Dancing Skeletons

This tight show from 1980 flies under the radar but is filled with some really solid early-80’s Grateful Dead.

According to a couple of comments on the Archive, there was a very active police presence at this show, so much so that the Dead didn’t come back to play in Milwaukee until 1989.  You can definitely hear a tightness to the playing.  Now some of that is just because that’s how the Dead sounded in 1980, but if the commentators are correct, the vibe in the room probably contributed to the feeling on stage.  In any case, none of these songs get jammed out in any great depth, but the Dead, and Jerry Garcia in particular, make up for it with some great, muscular playing.

Franklin’s Tower, slotted into second place in tonight’s first set, is an example of this.  Jerry’s runs are tight and on point – no aimless meandering here during this hoppin’ twelve minute version.  Two songs later, the boys really dig into Big River, and a little later, Passenger also bores ahead.  The entire first set is in control but focused – good solos, not a lot of mistakes and a palpable drive to the music.  The Music Never Stopped closes off the first set, and while it’s not going to be on anyone’s top-ten list, it’s a rockin’, fun version.

The second set begins with a great sequence of Scarlet Begonias>Fire on the Mountain, Playin’ in the Band.  During the Scarlet>Fire transition, Bob Weir throws in all sorts of little bumps and bleeps that perfectly compliment what Jerry is throwing down.  The Playin’ is grounded and smooth throughout.  Drums/Space represents a pause in the action before the band bumps the energy up a notch and a half with a very spirited beginning to Not Fade Away.  However, the song quickly calms down while Jerry solos and Phil weaves his magic in between the drums, one of the first times we can clearly hear him in the mix as everyone plods into Black Peter.  As if to make up for the dip in energy, we get short, enthusiastic versions of Goin’ Down the Road Feeling Bad and Good Lovin’ to close things out.  The Alabama Getaway encore, one of only 13 ever played (all but one came in 1980), is clearly rushed and is kind of a mess.  But that would be the only time tonight where the band seems off – the rest is just good old Grateful Dead.

Listen to the serviceable, but not exactly pristine, soundboard here:

Today in Grateful Dead History: October 3, 1980 – Warfield Theater, San Francisco, CA

Dancing Skeletons

Last fall, when we spoke about the Grateful Dead’s 1980 acoustic / electric concerts, I mentioned that it was hard to review these shows because they are all fairly high quality performances and they feature a lot of the same material night after night, especially in the acoustic portion of the evening.  (These shows opened with a set of acoustic music – the Dead’s first since 1970 – and two sets of electric music).  Since this site forces me to listen to shows from specific dates, I haven’t listened to any shows from this run since last October, and I forgot just how great these nights are.

Tonight’s show starts with the standard 1980 acoustic set.  Heaven Help the Fool, Bob Weir’s instrumental track, gets a very warm reception tonight and for good reason – it’s filled with neat little runs and sounds fantastic.  But it’s the electric portion of the evening that really cooks.

You know things are about to go off from the very start of Jack Straw, the second set opener.  The band is chomping at the bit to get into this song and they rip into the second half with force.  Row Jimmy is another great tune in this set, clear and sparkling with plenty of space for Brent and Phil to operate.  The last two songs, Tennessee Jed and The Music Never Stopped, dial things up even further, with Tennessee Jed in particular rocking the auditorium to the limits.  Listen to how Bob and the drummers drive things into a frenzy about 2/3 of the way in.

The energy doesn’t dissipate as the third set starts with Scarlet Begonias>Fire on the Mountain. The transition here is not very long, but the playing on both is excellent.  After Samson and Delilah and Ship of Fools, the Dead dig deep into a really intricate, spacey Playin’ in the Band>Drums>Space>The Wheel>Playin’ in the Band.  It’s hard to pinpoint where the boys are heading at the end of this segment, but once they get into Black Peter, the give it their all.  As if to make up for the letdown that this lyrically depressing song can sometimes produce (even though the music at the end is really strong-willed), the Dead end things with a high voltage Good Lovin’ that gets everyone out of their seats where I’m sure they stayed for the Brokedown Palace encore.

So there you have it.  Another great show from the Warfield Theater in 1980.  They’re the gift that keeps on giving.

There is  a soundboard of the acoustic set here:

Or, you can hear the whole show as a pretty good audience tape (if you play with the levels at bit) here:

Today in Grateful Dead History: January 13, 1980 – Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Arena, Oakland, CA

Dancing Skeletons

The Dead performed this short, one-set outing as part of a Cambodian refugee benefit that also featured Joan Baez, Jefferson Starship, Carlos Santana and the Beach Boys.  Since this show was a fundraiser, we’re not treated to the standard lengthy improvisations and the songs tend towards the upbeat and rockin’.

The 12 minute Franklin’s Tower should be considered a highlight of the night, with some delightful solos from Jerry and impassioned stomping from the rest of the band.  The Dead do as much as they can with the short Playin’ in the Band, but again, no one is really setting the controls for the heart of the sun here.

Not Fade Away is interesting, with both Carlos Santana and John Cippolina sitting in.  At certain points, you have to listen very intently to pick up who is who in the mix, and the solo that sounds like it’s coming from Santana is incredibly faint, but there are some really cool licks here, with Billy and Mickey thumping away on that back beat like nobody’s business.  After Sugar Magnolia and U.S. Blues, all of the performers come out for a Joan Baez-centric sing along of Land of a Thousand Dances and Amazing Grace.  If Joan Baez = bad for you, then you’re going to want to cut things off after U.S. Blues.

This was the Dead’s first performances of the 80’s, and they wouldn’t go out on a proper tour for a couple of months, so it’s hard to make any statements about broad musical trends from this show.  It’s just a well-played rock n’ roll runaround that isn’t going to blow any minds.

Listen to the soundboard, with some drops and hisses, here: