I gave this show an anniversary spin yesterday and quite enjoyed it:
No rain check indeed. The Mississippi River Festival was an every-other-week-or-so summer concert series hosted by Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville, a half-hour outside of St. Louis (lots of info here, if you're really curious). "Maybe 3000 in a small outdoor shed close by the river," recalls an eyewitness at LMA, and "everyone except for the first 10 rows or so got soaked!" It was was the first show of their late summer 1980 run, and also their first show after the death of Keith Godchaux. It's a solid 1980 show, all good but not a lot of standout stuff, save for a couple of things that I submit for your consideration:
- Althea > Looks Like Rain is imho the most exciting thing in the first set. 1980 muscle!
- This China>Rider, however, is the most exciting thing in the show, a real all-timer. Sharp as a tack, with everything you want from this vintage: a very energetic but not rushed tempo; a depth-charging, fiery Garcia-led jam with a great peak; a belting "headlight" verse with a huge Phil bomb. The works, in other words.
- Joani Walker's aud tape is utterly fantastic all the way through, the work of a real master taper (Noah Weiner wrote a short but sweet ode to it at his great old blog), but the sound of the rain coming down hard, starting around 20 seconds into Ship of Fools, is one of those one-of-a-kind terroir moments that is magical and utterly unique to this recording. You can almost smell it.
- Tip of the hat to Brent Mydland for his keyboard work at the start of the Estimated jam. The sound of his electric piano, with a perfect mix of echo/delay and outdoor rainy ambience, is totally sublime.