“I would like to thank everybody here for coming, thank you to the clowns for their nice entertainment. They were quite good. Thank you…”

Grateful Dead 12/6/80 Mill Valley Recreation Center, Mill Valley, CA

This is a pretty remarkable and strange little show. Just a couple months after their acoustic residencies at The Warfield and Radio City Music Hall, this great recording finds the band playing a Christmas party at the Mill Valley Rec Center for some kids and their parents. After a lady calls for quiet from the audience, she proceeds to introduce the band to hilarious effect. Before “Cassidy,” a young man can be heard saying “I want rock and roll,” to which Jerry replies, “You do? This is sorta like rock and roll.” Also I’ll be damned if I don’t hear a ping pong ball being volleyed around in the background.

Oh and the “Special Guest” the emcee lady mentions was none other than Santa Claus.

All novelty aside, this is a real solid performance (killer “Jack-A-Roe,” great “Cassady,” and check out that jam in “Bird Song”), and the sound quality is pretty good. Recorded by the famous Betty Cantor, it’s a Betty AUD tape, and when was the last time you came across one of those? And because it’s an AUD recording, you can go ahead and download the sucker!

For more acoustic Dead, check out:

“Phil and Friends” Berkeley Community Theatre 9-24-94

Bob: “I was plugged in, I was just plugged in backwards.”
Jerry: “Just like you always are man…”

Billed as “Phil Lesh and Friends,” this was a benefit show for the Berkeley High School’s music program. It’s late in the Dead game, but there’s some truly inspired playing here. The “Duprees” breakout suffers from some lyrical flubbery here and there, but everything else shines. Some interesting renditions of latter-day songs like “Lazy River Road” and Phil’s “Childhood’s End.”

Here’s a link to a great review of this special night.

To cap off this edition of TotB, here is Phil with (relatively) new friend Jackie Greene rehearsing “Brokedown Palace” at Phil’s house. It has just been announced that Phil and Friends will be performing a 14-night stand at New York’s Nokia Theater in October. I’ll have to be there in spirit, as I’ll be busy becoming a father that week. Fare thee well gang, and I’ll meet you here in a week.

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NEXT TEST: How to defeat a Rust Monster, emotional weather reports, and psychedelic Japanese drones from the deep space…

About the Author

Ben Wiser

Test of the Boomerang is an in-depth exploration of some of the best material found on the Live Music Archive.

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