While some dislike the sound of this band, often because of Ozzie Ahlers' electric keyboard and synthesizer tones, I have big love for its, and especially Garcia's, playing during this period. The After Midnight release of the Kean College shows on 2/28/80 give an excellent representation of what the group was all about. Lots of very expressive Garcia guitar playing, by turns fast, fluid, cogent, energetic, inventive, plucky, pensive, burning and corrosive. His voice generally sounds pretty good, the repertoire mixes things up nicely, and everything cooks about as it should. I like lots of shows from the tour, with 2/15/80 (Orpheum Theatre in Boston) and 2/17/80 (SUNY Oswego) maybe topping the list, though they're pretty much all good. And, to repeat, it's mostly about energy and guitar playing.
The early (7 PM) show at UMass Amherst on Wednesday, February 20th has only a rotten multigenerated cassette tape in circulation. I must have listened to it at some point, but maybe not. Anyway, the 10 PM show is much better represented, by a recently-polished 1st gen cassette dubbed from an unknown taper's 2x Sony ECM-23f > Nakamichi 550 setup. It's a good tape. It's not great, cut up a little bit and with some overloading.
But it's worth a listen because it's a good show. I don't have a ton of specifics, see my listening notes below the fold.
I found archives for the UMass Amherst Daily Collegian, which naturally held a few ads, such as this one:
Dead's May 12, 1979 gig in the UMass campus stadium. Ex-post, one of staff photog Wayne Rosenberg's Jerry snaps appeared the next day, and then there was a review the next week.
In addition to confirming that Robert Hunter opened (which I did not have pinned down), and though not a Dead/Garcia fan, the reviewer (Alvord 1980) is mostly pretty impressed. Garcia is a
master of the fretboard … mesmerizing … Garcia did not get involved at all with the audience, although there was dynamic interaction on the stage between the band members, trading off exquisite solos and jovial expressions of delight and amusement between Garcia and the keyboardist, blank expression by the bassist, and multiple expressions of estranged nature by the percussionist. The bass solo was the only low point of the concert ... it sucked!I assume he saw the early show, since the bass solo in "Simple Twist" is presumably even more feathery and fluttery than the one in the late show's "Russian Lullaby" (which is, perhaps suspiciously, cut out of the tape under consideration). It is nice to hear that Jerry and Ozzie seemed to be having a good time, anyway.
Anyway, good show. "Sugaree", "Tore Up Over You", and even "Midnight Moonlight," which is too often Jerry starting to pack it in, especially impress me.
Alvord, Rick. 1980. The Dead's head plays it true to form. Daily Collegian (University of Massachusetts, Amherst), February 25, 1980, p. 7; via URL https://archive.org/details/massachuse19791980univ, accessed 11/9/2014.
Jerry Garcia Band
Fine Arts Center Concert Hall, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
151 Presidents Drive
Amherst, MA 01003
February 20, 1980 (Wednesday) - Late Show (10 PM)
Nak flac2448 shnid-131018
--10 PM late show (6 tracks, 63:17)--
l-t01. //Sugaree [#7:53] [1:00]
l-t02. [0:53] Sitting In Limbo [11:46] [0:34]
l-t03. [0:31] Tore Up Over You [8:57] [0:09] %
l-t04. ... Russian Lullaby [#4:17] [0:16] %
l-t05. [1:27] Harder They Come [14:30] [0:20] %
l-t06. [0:15] Midnight Moonlight [9:00] [0:25]
! ACT1: Jerry Garcia Band
! lineup: Jerry Garcia - el-g, vocals;
! lineup: John Kahn - el-b;
! lineup: Ozzie Ahlers - keyboards, vocals;
! lineup: John D'Fonseca - drums.
! Recording: symbols: % = recording discontinuity; / = clipped song; // = cut song; ... = fade in/out; # = truncated timing; [ ] = recorded event time. The recorded event time immediately after the song or item name is an attempt at getting the "real" time of the event. So, a timing of [x:xx] right after a song title is an attempt to say how long the song really was, as represented on this recording.
! JGC: http://jerrygarcia.com/show/1980-02-20-fine-arts-center-university-of-massachusetts-amherst-ma/ (early); http://jerrygarcia.com/show/1980-02-20-fine-arts-center-university-of-massachusetts-amherst-ma-2/ (late).
! db: http://db.etree.org/shn/29308 (degraded early+late shnf); http://db.etree.org/shn/30229 (mixed auds); http://db.etree.org/shn/131018 (this fileset).
! map: https://goo.gl/maps/O8CqD
! band: JGB #11a http://lostlivedead.blogspot.com/2012/01/jerry-garcia-band-personnel-1975-1995.html
! R: field recordist: unknown;
! R: field recording gear: 2x Sony ECM 23f > Nakamichi 550
! R: lineage: MAC > C1 (Maxell type I), playback on Sony TC-KE400S (no NR) > audiophile 2496 analog in > Soundforge 7 > recorded as 24 bit / 48 KHz WAV by transfer and processing by Chris Ladner. The raw 24/48 bit wav files used to make the 2nd set of shn shnid-30229 were burned to DVD and sent to seeder, who used them "to make this 24/48 flac version, August 23,2014."
! R: seeder notes: "This sounds very good with CLASSIC renditions of "Sugaree" and "Sitting In Limbo"."
! R: seeder notes: "from the original 16bit version, shnid-30229: "The previous version of this source suffers from multiple analog generations and poor quality digital transfer. This cassette is a first gen off the mystery taper's master and had much less hiss than the previous source without the phase/tape degradation on a source I previously encoded but never really circulated because i thought it sucked. The pitch issues with the other source are not apparent on the new source either.
! R: t01 Sugaree enters in progress, a good chunk missing.
! P: t01 Sugaree listen to Jerry sustain his notes @ 0:43 and throughout. This comes in absolutely smokin'. Big rounds late 4-minute mark, to scrubbing 5:09, very loud raunch, but digging down to swing into the "shake it up now, Sugaree | I'll meet you at the jubilee" piece.
! P: t03 TUOY Garcia is could be duck-walking over the rock and roll guitar he's playing late 2, into three. Long, expressive notes, hot, broiling around 3:37, pulling something strong, wailing! 4 takes another turn around the floor, big chunky rhythms, then fullness 4:14, raging rock guitar, steps back for Ozzie 4:20. Garcia's guitar was hitting some high peaks in that sequence.
! R: t04 RL enters in progress, sounds like coming in off the back end of John's bass solo. There is a good chunk missing here, maybe as much as 10 minutes. Things sound a little more oversaturated here, too.
! P: t06 Mid Moon I love this tempo! Garcia is playing unhurriedly and very fluidly. I love it. Very raunchy in 5:23, probably exacerbated by overloading on the tape. This is a very joyful sounding Mid Moon, excellent.
! random: note not even a "see y'all later".