The fandom that surrounds the music of the Grateful Dead- and in this case, the Jerry Garcia Band- is one for which context matters. As the Dead never played the same set from night to night, the what, the where, the when, and the how became integral to an understanding and appreciation of the performance. Look no further than May of 1977 in Grateful Dead lore for the proof.

So, too, context mattered in Garcia’s solo career. Perhaps not as much, as Jerry Garcia Band drew from a smaller repertoire than the Dead. Yet even with a show as loaded with JGB staples as this one is, the friends of this devil are in the details.

In June of 1982, Garcia and his band teamed up with a fellow Dead-on-a-summer-getaway, Bob Weir, and his group, the Midnites, for a joint tour. Garcia also brought along Dead drummer Billy Kreutzmann for the ride. And filled out a septet that partnered his longtime JGB keyboardist, Melvin Seals, with the electric piano of Jimmy Warren, in a unique lineup that immediately grabs the ear on this two-disc, full-show set from the Cape Cod Coliseum in Massachusetts.

Warren is front and center in the mix on the brightened bounce of “How Sweet It is (To Be Loved by You), as the opener bubbles away beneath Garcia’s ever-effervescent guitar. From there, Garcia saunters through “Valerie,” with a knowing bluesman’s lament; a scintillating rendition of the Garcia/Hunter original. Then, with skilled and patient aplomb, the ensemble injects reggae into The Beatles’ “Dear Prudence,” and then dazzles on the bluegrass undertones of Peter Rowan’s “Mississippi Moon.” Just four songs in, and this show feels very special.

Garcia and his band float into the minor-key space of “Don’t Let Go” for a healthy twenty minutes of interstellar travel, and contrast that with the gentle, earthbound flow downstream on the river of Dylan, for the disc-closing “Simple Twist of Fate.” The second-half opens with “Run for the Roses,” and its Bertha-like jangle, followed with the wonky, clavinet-led lope of “They Love Each Other,” (with Weir, Bobby Cochran, and Billy Cobham sitting-in, but unfortunately unheard). 

And then, poof, just like that, it’s over.

Those familiar with full shows from this exceptional GarciaLive series will not doubt notice the shift- sonically, and in personnel- to a four-song excerpt from a June ’81 set at The Stone that fills out the rest of the second disc. It’s a smartly-chosen fours songs, maintaining the energy and spirit of the Cape set; Garcia really stretches on “After Midnight” as it accelerates into cut-time. And while the continuity technically is broken, the mood is not.

This 8-song Cape performance by Jerry Garcia Band has all the invention and freedom of a classic show, packed into half the space. The jams are just as lengthy, but steam forward with urgency and intent. Garcia’s voice is particularly present and mystical, with a grand storyteller’s command of melody and cadence. 

Which leads back to context, and why this latest volume in the series is a must-have. As Garcia and his band were well-aware of the show’s parameters- sharing each night with Weir- and how much less stage time that equaled, they acted accordingly. This was a group comfortable and happy to play shows twice as long as the Cape appearance, but as such, paced those two-set shows as marathons.  This one, albeit in its own inimitable JGB way, is a single-set, magical summer sprint on the shore.