October 10, 1976
Oakland-Alameda County Stadium
Dancin’ In The Streets>Wharf Rat>Dancin’ In the Streets
By the mid to late 1970’s, disco music had begun influencing just about every major recording artist of the decade. From the Rolling Stones to Rod Stewart to Kiss and everyone in between. And the Grateful Dead were no exception. While the band had been playing this Martha and The Vandellas hit since the mid-60’s, by 1976 it had developed a bouncier feel and was undeniably improved by the addition of Donna’s vocals. And while The Dead hadn’t embraced disco to the extent they would on 1978’s Shakedown Street, you can hear the kernels of its influence in this version of Dancin’ In The Streets performed on October 10th, 1976 in Oakland, California.
Fun and lively with a tremendous guitar solo from Jerry, the first slice of this “true” sandwich bobs and weaves like a prize fighter in the prime of his career. But, it’s Billy’s shuffling drum cadence that keeps your feet moving throughout this one. He’s really in the zone as Phil lays down a groove so funky it’s bound to keep you swingin’ and swayin’. That is until they cool it down at around the 7:40 mark and slip into a jazzier vibe, not only allowing for more interplay and improvisation, but setting the stage for a magnificent Wharf Rat that will carry this sandwich for the next eight and a half minutes.
While these two tunes are polar opposites in almost every way, they work together in this context beautifully. Like a yin and yang, spinning eternally, the audio capture of this sandwich shows the full dynamic range of the Grateful Dead in just under 28 minutes. Like a musical roller coaster that starts at the top of a hill, dives to the depths of human heartbreak and ascends once again into exuberant joy.
One of the things that make the Grateful Dead the band that they are is their patience. They’re in no hurry to get to the end of a song. Whether it’s an upbeat rocker or a dirge-paced ballad, they take the time necessary to convey that song’s essence in a way that never feels rushed or frantic. They may be thinking two or three steps ahead, but they won’t tip their hand. The Grateful Dead is a band that lived in the moment and that shines through their live catalog.
This sandwich is a fantastic example of their ability to throttle back without losing an ounce of momentum. And as Wharf Rat winds down ,that momentum carries them right back into a jazzy Dancin’ reprise that starts with some dissonant chord play, but quickly simmers down to allow the crowd to join in the fun before melting away as Bobby announces that the band is taking a well deserved break.