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Dead of the Day: October 12, 1984

Augusta Civic Center
Augusta, Maine

There are not too many superlative ’84 shows out there; Jerry was in rough shape the entire year, and the band’s sound - from Brent’s vocals to Lesh’s bass licks to Healy’s mixing - was in flux and, often, completely up in the air. But there are some diamonds in the rough, and the Augusta Civic Center show from this date in ‘84 is almost certainly the best of those, marking the high point of the year. What’s more, the front of the soundboard audience recording that we have here is also incredibly crisp, making you feel like you have a front row seat to the concert. It all combines for a rip-roaring fine night of music. In fact, it is such a stratospheric show for the era that we passed up an unbelievable primal Dead show from this date in ’68 that is just sublime.

Things get going with a high-energy Feel Like A Stranger, and then a run of incredible tunes rolls out. First, a painfully beautiful Must Have Been The Roses, then a tight and juicy On The Road Again, and finally a Jack-A-Roe full of hot picking. The All Over Now that comes out next is very good, but the band seems just a touch out of step with each other. However, all returns to form with the Cumberland that comes next. Pulling their best version of rock-and-roll bluegrass, Phil drives a heady bass, the drummers go strong with the wire brushes and cymbals - evoking a washboard like sound - and Jerry blisters off like a squirrelly down-home musical frontman. The Music Never Stopped that finishes off the first set is no slouch either, especially with the haunting, slower interlude in the middle.

Any doubts about whether the energy could continue into  the second set were immediately put to rest with the Cold Rain And Snow second set opener, which is ferocious. Next, the Sailor> Saint - a tasty bit of Bobby’s most earnest cheese - and Brent’s very sweet Don’t Need Love both mark the show as right out of the eighties. Afterwards, a massive Uncle John’s breaks out, steaming off into some rambunctious territory between every verse before setting off into an awesome, lengthy jam, which gets spacier as it goes, finally dissolving into Drums and Space. That Space slowly gains form before clearly entering into Playin’. Even then, the band still takes their time organizing the sound around the theme while serving up some really tasty jamming treats. But, eventually, the boys come together and jump headlong into the marrow of Playin’, roaring through the vocals and then segueing back into Uncle John’s. Finally, the set caps off with a stunning, earth-rattling Morning Dew that comes to an incredibly powerful conclusion. Then, a fun, well-played Good Lovin’ caps off this gem from ’84.

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