The twenty smoothest Grateful Dead transitions

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One of the things that made the Grateful Dead so special was its ability to flawlessly transition from one song into the next, often taking the audience, as well as band members, completely by surprise. Masters of improvisation, these musicians had such great non-verbal communication on stage that they could follow any change and instantly fall into places. These are the twenty smoothest transitions they played through the years.

See also: The ten biggest jam-band scene stereotypes

20. "Lazy Lightnin'" > "Supplication"
The Mosque - Barton Hall, Ithaca, NY, 5/8/77

This is a popular transition played through the years. This version is a particular highlight, as Bobby's vocals are completely on, and the beat hitting in this sequence is total high energy.

19. "Lost Sailor" > "Saint of Circumstance"
Frost Amphitheatre - Palo Alto, California,10/10/82

Bob Weir's especially on at this show, and his vocals at the end of "Lost Sailor" are fantastic; he's giving it his all as the melody of "Saint of Circumstance" comes in perfectly over it, seamlessly transitioning between the two.


18. "Playing in the Band" > "Iko Iko"
Zoo Amphitheatre, Oklahoma City, OK, 8/1/82

This "Playing in the Band" goes into an eerie and, at times, dissonant jam, with Jerry throwing down some major chords and whipping the band right into a version of "Iko Iko" that quickly turns this into a funky dance party.

17. "Goin' Down the Road Feelin' Bad" > "Cold Rain and Snow"
Fillmore East - New York, New York, 4/29/71

Superb playing starting with "Alligator," this jam coming out of "Goin' Down the Road Feelin' Bad" is delicate, as Phil Lesh hits a few bass notes, and just like that, the vocals for "Cold Rain and Snow" start, effortlessly bringing the rest of the band in.

16. "Drums" > "Space"
Nassau Coliseum - Uniondale, New York, 3/29/90

This segment, unique to the Grateful Dead, gives the drummers a chance to really breathe while the rest of the band takes a break, and vice versa. Things can get very creative in the sometimes misunderstood "Drums">"Space" portion of the show, and this version with Branford Marsalis on saxophone has an extra level of weirdness.

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Jef RV
Jef RV

5-19-77, Fox Theatre Atlanta, the transition from Playin' into Uncle John's is mighty impressive.

Scott Raile
Scott Raile

"Truckin'" into "Nobody's Fault" was always super smooth in 1973.


Great job! Here are a few other amazing ones: 

11-6-77 Broome County: Mexicali-Me & My Uncle. Reversing the usual order of the pairing and they absolutely SNAP from one to the other, LITERALLY without missing a beat. 

6-7-77 Winterland: Terrapin-Morning Dew. Two HUGE Jerry tunes in a row, and the last note of Terrapin is the first note of Morning Dew. EPIC. 

1-22-78 Close Encounters Space-St Stephen. From the outer reaches of the universe, skipping the gentle intro and right into a soaring and celebratory, high-energy St Stephen, this one's Jerry all the way, but the band hops on the St Stephen with gusto too. Woohooo!!!

2-4-78 Milwaukee: Terrapin-Playin'. Terrapin lands sooo softly, Bobby counts it off and they launch into Playin', right on the beat, like these two had been linked together forever. 

11-24-78 Passaic: Estimated-Shakedown. The end of the jam out of Estimated swirls around a bit, JErry plays some fluttery leads, Keith taps the high notes on his piano repeatedly, Phil slows it down and Jerry leads the drummers as Bobby joins him, and they all slide into the Shakedown intro. building the tension, and positively SNAP into the groove all together. NASTY. 

3-28-81 Essen, W. Germany He's Gone-The Other One. The boys bring the vocal jam down and the beat leads perfectly into the intro for THe Other One, jerry starts, the drummers follow, Phil does his classic rumble as Brent wails on the Hammond and they're off!

10-4-81: Rainbow Theatre, London: Scarlet-Fire, While most of these transitions are fairly abrupt and succinct, this extensive jam between this tragically underrated Scarlet and Fire is some of the most beautiful Grateful Dead I've EVER heard. Its some sweet and funky early Brent, with Mickey riding the cowbell and Jerry at his tension building, soaring and fluttery finest and once they finally get close to Fire, there's some amazing interplay as Jerry, phil and brent positively LOCK IN. I think it's the best transition between the two I've ever heard. 

9-9-82 New Orleans, Uncle John's-Samson & Delilah-Uncle John's. This one is perhaps more of a novelty than perfection, but this on;y-time played sandwich is fiery to say the least. The band is really cranked up and having a LOT of fun!!!

I second 7-18-89 Alpine Valley: Sugar Magnolia-Scarlet Begonias, it's SO smooth and stealthy, on first listen it seems that you're just bouncing along in the Sugar Mags jam and all of a sudden Jerry starts in on Scarlet. Pure magic. 

And a couple of oldies to finish off...

11-8-69 The Fillmore: Dark Star> Other One> Dark Star> Uncle John's Jam> Dark Star> St. Stephen> The Eleven> Caution> The Main Ten> Caution> Feedback> We Bid You Goodnight. This neverending hour and thirty-five minutes of pure psychedelic BLISS contains many, many transitions, and is beautiful, floaty, rockin', spacey, groovy, loose, tight, slow, fenzied and nothing short of miraculous. 

6-24-70b Capitol Theatre: NFA>Easy Wind, Dark Star> Attics> Dark Star> (Tighten Up Jam) Sugar Magnolia> Dark Star> St. Stephen> China Cat> I Know You Rider. First the absolutely HUGE NFA-Easy Wind combo, then a brief break before psychedelic perfection ensues. Another amazing and seamless run of songs, primal Grateful Dead at their finest. Find the Ken & Judy Lee audience on this one. And read this, it's a wonderful review:

Hope you all enjoy these!!!!

Doug Cannon
Doug Cannon

Best Dead transition is the transition to the music stopping completely

Clayton Christie
Clayton Christie

Just a few of my favs that were left off. Solid list though!

Jt Colfax
Jt Colfax

John Rogers and by the way...whatever you sent me didn't work

Barney Dunwell
Barney Dunwell

9.13.93 Philly Spectrum Scarlet > Fire...give it a listen and get back to me. It's magic

Bob Knudsen
Bob Knudsen

None, they just keep following it around long after it burns out.

Bob Knudsen
Bob Knudsen

How many Deadheads does it take to change a lightbulb?

Jean Mott
Jean Mott

It is a decision worthy of King Solomon. I admire his decision and one day his daughter will know how much love it took to make the decision.


@Doug Cannon very original. Do you have a newsletter or something I can subscribe to?

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