Editor's Picks: 12/31/1978, The Closing of Winterland

“Now! Ladies and Gentlemen, yes! A momentous occasion! As we cruise into the 1980’s, here at Winterland, in San Francisco, 1978 going on 1981, what you see before you, is a ten, no! A twelve-foot-long burning ember of marijuana! Yes! Let us begin the countdown…” An insatiable beginning to a show, a fiery barn burner, a cacophony of noise and sound. I think every Deadhead out there has a show where it clicks. “Yes,” thinking to myself years ago, “this is what it’s about!” The Closing of Winterland on New Year's Eve, 1978, is definitely and easily one of the favorite shows. It’s the one where it all clicked for me. Sure, I’ve had my kicks here and there with the sounds of Jerry Garcia, but after this show is when the road of conventional blues and folk music that I was riding on completely changed. The sound is so crisp, the crowd rambunctious, and the music swell. Every song in this show is played to near perfection. They hit the nail on so many fan favorites. A lightning quick “Big River,” a powerful and screeching “I Need a Miracle,” and a wild twenty minute “Rhythm Devils” with harmonicas and steel drums, that segues into another twenty-minute number, a “Not Fade Away.” Jerry and the boys are truly in spirit this night, letting the four winds take their music to places only they can sail too. Perhaps the highlight of the show, for me at least, is the stretched out “Good Lovin.” This is the song that really drew me into the Dead. The constant speed, the rhythm, and the jams in this one made me realize what these guys were doing. Just when I thought they were done, they pick it up again, with Jerry doing improv lyrics on the fly, and letting everyone know, they just need a little love. I’ve half-heartedly tried getting into the Dead’s music up to this “Good Lovin’,” but I was surely hooked after hearing this version. So give yourself some time, enjoy the ride, and revel in this steamer from 1978.
 

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