On Saturday, July 8, 1978, the Grateful Dead played Red Rocks Ampitheater in Morrison, Colorado. It was the second night of two, and their debut there.
Located ten miles west of Denver, and owned by the city and county, Red Rocks has been a music venue since the beginning of the 1900s. It’s current design dates back to the New Deal, when it was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps. According to Wikipedia, the Beatles played the first rock concert at Red Rocks on August 26, 1964. Its capacity is a mere 9,525.
According to rumor circulated by blogger BourneDead, 7/8/78 was in the group of Betty Boards with 5/8/77 snagged at the storage locker auction that I mentioned in May’s GDM. The Red Rocks shows are now two of the five released as the July 1978: The Complete Recordings box set. As consistently good as most of 1977 was for the Dead, 1978 was more uneven. Some great shows, some not so great. 7/8/78 falls into the former group. It’s famous for a reason, guys.
The first set opens with the pretty common Bertha > Good Lovin’ segment. There’s a really nice versions of Bobby cowboy songs El Paso and New Minglewood Blues. And the Ramble On Rose has a sweet Jerry solo.
The second set, though, is where the magic really happens in two massive segments that bookend Drums > Space. There’s an atypical and fantastic Estimated Prophet > The Other One > Eyes of the World. Here’s LN’s own Dead guru ECM:
“In a show that has so many highlights, it’s difficult to narrow it down to one favorite. But if I were pressed to do so, I would pinpoint the smokey segue between Estimated Prophet and The Other One. Jerry uses his Mutron to create what I visualize being huge, groovy bubbles of musical notes that ring into the cosmos and carom off the majestic, jagged red rocks surrounding the amphitheater. Cymbals quietly splash about in the background. The drummers drop into the tribal drum beat signaling The Other One. The pace quickens and the tension builds until is is unbearable. Finally, Phil emerges with his signature entry by dropping a bass bomb of such cataclysmic proportions that it surely must have shaken a few rocks loose.”
There’s a great essay by Michael Parrish about the evolution of Drums > Space on the Grateful Dead Guide blog. The band had always been percussive, but the traditional segment that we all love to hate (and sometimes hate to love) became a second set staple during the Spring 1978 tour. Parrish explains:
“The beginning of the 1978 spring tour was the point when ‘drums’ became a ritualized part of the Dead’s performances. During that tour, the ‘percussion jam’ featured not only the two drummers, but also the other band members, roadies, and hangers on, all onstage banging on a variety of percussion instruments. These free-for-alls appeared to be fun for all concerned, but rarely made for memorable music. By the summer, the drum duels were stripped down to Billy and Mickey going at it furiously.”
The version here isn’t particularly noteworthy, but what follows is: an even more atypical and excellent Wharf Rat > Franklin’s Tower > Sugar Magnolia. The band closes with a rare triple encore, including a short, punchy version of the recent Terrapin Station.
7/8/78 wasn’t just a part of the July 1978 box set. It also got it’s own official release. You can find it on Spotify. Enjoy.