Saturday Dead: Zimmer's Picks
Words & Pick By Andy Zimmer
Grateful Dead Live at West High Auditorium on June 21, 1980.
Spring of 1980 found the boys in the Dead making the long trek up to the Land of the Midnight Sun. The band only played the Great White North a handful of times, and this three night run may represent the best of what they offered-up to the fine folks in Alaska. I’ve heard rumors that the promoter of the shows threw in a hunting and fishing trip to sweeten the pot and get the band to make the pilgrimage. Whether it’s true or not, I’ve always liked the mental image of Jerry and Bobby huddled together in matching camo, tucked behind a hunting blind, shotguns resting across their laps.
The shows may have been held at a local high school auditorium, but the music produced by the band was a step or two above your average high school musical. The entire three nights are fantastic, but it’s the final night that really shines for me. The show opener of “Sugaree” is a strong candidate for “best version ever”. Garcia’s singing is strong, and his guitar work drives the song into crescendo after crescendo. “Sugaree” slides into a nice, rocking version of “Minglewood Blues”, complete with the requisite Bobby whoops and yelps. Also, make sure to give a listen to a quality version of “Loser”.
During the second set, the band must have conjured-up the Northern Lights inside the auditorium because there was some serious cosmic energy going down. The “Terrapin Station”>”Playing in the Band” is fantastic, and the last few minutes of the “Playing” jam is some of the most intense playing from the post-70’s Dead that I’ve heard. The band was truly firing on all cylinders. The second set also has a beautiful “Stella Blue”, and the show wraps up with one of my personal favorites, “Brokedown Palace”.