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Dead of the Day: June 12, 1980

Portland Memorial Coliseum
Portland, Oregon
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For our Dead of the Day we go to a terrific show from 1980 in Portland, Oregon on the same night that Mount St. Helens erupted not too far away. The Alabama Getaway provides a smoking hot opening as Jerry and Brent light up the song in blistering fashion. The boys keep the pedal down as they blast through Promised Land, continuing the scorching opening to the show. A bit of technical difficulty finally slows things up, but the band still delivers with a lovely Peggy-O. A song later the Dead bust out Brown Eyed Women and toast it with some tasty licks from both Bobby and Jerry. Then the boys head into a resplendent Cassidy with some intense runs in between the lyrics. After that, Brent gets a turn on Far From Me before the band launches into Althea> Sailor> Saint, which is all great stuff, though not jammed out as much as it might have been. A Deal finishes off the set, raging into the intermission on the back end of the tune. For whatever reason, the drummers open up the second set with a short, subdued session before the rest of the band joins in on Scarlet Begonias. The boys – Jerry especially – rip through Scarlet, advancing into some noodling space towards the end before connecting into an outrageous Fire on the Mountain, made all the more so in hindsight because it was at that moment that Mount St. Helens blew its top. A monster Estimated follows, which enters into some deep space then finally, after eighteen minutes, gives way to Drums. Unsurprisingly, Space comes on the heels of Drums, with some meaningful noodling building to an unusual Not Fade Away that never really leaves the Space behind. A little more form arrives with the Black Peter, leading to a rocking Around and Around> Good Lovin’ closer.

As folks left the venue, they were greeted by what appeared to be a June snowstorm, but was actually ash from Mount St. Helens. The volcano had erupted catastrophically on May 18, 1980, launching a column of material 80,000 feet into the atmosphere and killing fifty-seven people. Eruptions occurred occasionally in the years afterwards, including on June 12th. On that day, a plume of ash billowed to 2.5 miles above the volcano at 7:05 pm, about the time the Dead first went on. At 9:09 pm, smack in the middle of Fire on the Mountain, a much stronger explosion followed, sending ash 10 miles straight up. The entire city of Portland was coated by the plume, including the lot of the Coliseum. People reported driving home from the show with ash on their windows, and the wipers and fluid doing little more than mixing it into a nice slurry. Some people who hurried up to Seattle for the next night’s concert ended up ruining their car engines by taking too much of the dirt into their manifolds. But the Dead’s trucks made it through, and the show went on as scheduled.

Other June 12th Shows and Recordings:

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